‘Orange is the New Black’ season 4 episode 8 review: Crack Piper; Is Judy King a racist?

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The times, they are changing in season 4 of “Orange is the New Black“. Prison overcrowding has brought in a new crop of ladies wanting to etch out their place among the originals. We were a little bit concerned about the confusion keeping track of them all, but it’s been surprisingly easy to follow. Piper is branded and broken. We wondered if this moment would ever come, but she finally got back what she dishes out. She’s been left friendless, but Nicky is characteristically accepting of imperfection, so there might be opportunity for Piper to make amends with her old group, including Alex Vause. Since this episode is titled “Friends in Low Places”, I am betting we are about to find out.

There’s a thief afoot at Litchfield, and they’ve swiped several of Red’s beloved vanity items. If we know Red, this will be dealt with swiftly. Judy is still under constant guard protection, even in the showers. She scoffs at the suggestion that it’s necessary, up until Crazy Eyes saunters past singing a provocative song for her. Yoga Jones continues to act appalled by the perks and luxuries afforded to Judy, which she is directly benefiting from as well. Judy wants to squash the suggestion that she is racist, and is thinking up ideas how to do so. She approaches Poussey for help smoothing things over with the other black women. She still believes they’re trying to jump her, which Poussey points out is a racist assumption in itself. Poussey is no longer awestruck, she now sees Judy for who she truly is. She agrees to talk to them and find out what’s going on. She discovers that all they want is a photo of Judy. A genius plot is formed. Judy gets Poussey access to a cell phone, and takes a photo of herself kissing Black Cindy on the mouth. “Lesbian interracial love affair in prison” headlines will make her racist problem go away, and the girls a lot of money. Both of their problems, solved.

Piper craves a piece of home, and reaches out to her brother. She spares him the truth of how she’s doing when she learns his wife is pregnant and she will soon be an aunt. Nicky attempts to rekindle her romance with Morello, who is standing by her vows, although it’s clear she still loves her. Nicky moves her attention over to Alex, who isn’t interested in hooking with her, but is interested in escaping reality for a while when Nicky offers to share her drugs. Piper interrupts Alex and Nicky smoking crack, and we are as stunned as Alex is that she decides to partake. It’s equal parts hilarious and disturbing, seeing how low these three women have fallen under the pressure. Nicky mentions trading Angie lipstick for the crack. We know it has to be Red’s lipstick. This is going to rip Red’s heart out when she makes the connection, and she will. The high immediately makes Piper confess how she’s truly feeling, and the crack exposes that she actually is quite capable of introspection, but usually just doesn’t care. Her confession inspires Alex to get her secret off her chest. Piper tries to comfort her, but she pushes her off. Nicky’s protests about the legitimacy of Morello’s marriage have infiltrated her mind, and she confesses to her sister that their contact is waning. She asks for her help finding out if Vinny is cheating or not. Red sees Blanca using her mirror in the kitchen, and realizes Nicky is behind it. When Alex informs Red that Piper and Nicky know about the dead man, she threatens Piper not to tell. This secret gives Piper leverage getting back into the good graces of the people she wants around her. The truth about her arm injury comes out, and Red feels pity for her and comes up with a solution. They brand her again, changing the swastika into a window. Let’s hope she climbs through.

The new program, which is really just a chain gang, has kicked off. The ladies learn they’re losing their $1 per hour job for an unpaid position doing construction on the grounds for an unspecified project. Everyone blames Piper. The ladies swoon over the sexy foreman on the construction project. Alison still needs to find a power source for her phone to get the photo of Judy sold. Boo has been assigned the role of mechanic, and Pennsatucky her apprentice, but neither of them has any idea what they’re doing. As the ladies work hard, Flaca brings up the rumor she’s heard that there’s a time machine in the basement. They talk about what point in time they would each go back to. Pennsatucky asks Coates where he would go, he chooses a missed Judas Priest concert. He later follows her and confesses all of the regrets he has about what happened between them. He tells her how sorry he is, and it seems genuine. You can’t apologize away sexual assault, but hearing it impacts her greatly.

Maritza is still running the panty scam, and she is really jumpy about it. She wants out of the business. Maria won’t let her. Or else. Aleida is doing nails in the newly re-opened salon. Daya visits, and disparages her mother’s hopes for the future and her business. It hurts Aleida deeply, and while Daya can be vicious, she does love her and suggests she learn the business by working for someone else first. Nicky shows up at the salon to score drugs, and Aleida notices. She asks Maria to hold off until she leaves, but Maria refuses and dismisses her from working there.

Caputo is still spending time with Linda, but things are fizzling out because he’s angry at her for what happened to his idea. She’s her typical cold fish self. Bottom-line Linda. A knock at the door interrupts them. It’s Crystal Burset, there to demand answers about Sophia after MCC denied her Freedom of Information Act request. Caputo assures Crystal that Sophia is safe, but she needs proof. Out of nowhere, Linda points a gun at her and demands she leave the property. This, of course, makes them both hot.

We like Caputo, but we really aren’t loving Linda. This storyline so far isn’t very exciting for us, but we do recognize the value and relevance of them to the overall story. We wonder if Aleida will attempt to get Daya’s baby back, and we think she will. Daya expects nothing of her mother, and I think her mother will show up for her this time. Maria is getting scarier, and meaner. What is going on with her? Remember what Red warned Piper about: when you start to alienate those around you, you become vulnerable. Piper seems to be atoning for her sins. We were impressed with her self-reflection during her crack party in the cornfield. Maybe she finally has learned something useful that is greater than herself. Time will tell. Grade: A.

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This review was written by Michelle Wilmot and if you’re not already following her on Twitter, you can do so at the link here. (Photo: Netflix)

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