‘Orange is the New Black’ season 4, episode 9 review: A battle of wills for Blanca; Piper and Alex break bread

The darkness is creeping through the halls of Litchfield this season on “Orange is the New Black” in sinister, foreboding ways. Everyone seems unsafe from it’s reach, as we are inching towards something big. It’s been hanging in the air like the Smoke Monster from “Lost” all season long, omniscient and omnipresent. It’s only a matter of time before it claims its souls, we can feel it. It’s dreadful and powerful, and we can’t look away.

Red is aware of Nicky’s lapse in sobriety, and that she’s been stealing from her to bankroll her addiction. If this were anyone else, they’d be running to the loo with eye-drop inspired diarrhea by now, but it’s Nicky. Red loves her like her own child, so we expect her to worry more about helping Nicky than getting revenge. Caputo is in a powerful position, and he’s getting lots of Gold Stars from MCC, but at what cost? Will the rewards of a corrupt system corrupt the man, too? If his excitement over Linda’s confrontation with Crystal Burset is any indication, it’s not looking good. Maria’s face each episode looks more angry, more resolute. It’s hard to believe she’s the same girl who only a few episodes ago was trying to be the peacemaker. Piper has gone and messed up big. Will her old friends stick by her, or are they just sort of tolerating her for now? Power struggles. Who will end up on top when it all goes down?

At the start of episode 9, titled “Turn Table Turn” Suzanne, Watson, Taystee, and Black Cindy are watching the news story break of Judy and her new lesbian lover in prison. They are all thrilled, except for Cindy, who seems equal parts embarrassed about being in the photo and annoyed her face has been pixelated. She’s irritated that the other women get a cut, but only she deals with the negative fallout, if any. Meanwhile, Piscitella is trying to get to the bottom of it. The guards all deny any knowledge, so he orders a phone sweep. He orders Luschek, who he seems to recognize is a glorified slacker, to head it up. Luschek manages to find dozens of phones, pleasing Piscitella. He lets the guards know that there are only two beds left at SHU, so they’ll need to go “freestyle” in order to punish the women. Uh oh. Knowing this group of men, this can’t be good. Luschek meets up with Judy in the halls, and we learn that his phone is the one Judy used for the scandalous photo op. He’s scared it’ll get traced back to him. Caputo confronts Cindy and Judy, who double down on their lesbian angle. Caputo says they better be legit, or he’s going to come down on both of them. Cindy is included in the perks of Judy and shares with Watson. Yoga is worried about their nice things being stolen, which Judy teases her is racist. Trouble in paradise when Judy says all the Jesus believers need to do is apologize, and they’re forgiven, which leads Cindy to point out their many hypocrisies. Soso is jealous of the attention they’re getting.

Maria continues to bark orders to the Dominican women, and they seem less enamored by this new version of her. Blanca is sick of the stop-and-frisks, but Maria isn’t worried they’ll find anything. It’s not about that for Blanca, she is sick of being treated like that. Maria tells her she stinks and go shower. She has discovered that smelling bad is keeping the guards from frisking her, so she comes out with unique ways to stink. It’s effective, and the other women start to follow suit. Blanca is the focus of this backstory. The peace of her warm shower is interrupted by a shrieking, shrill voice commanding Bianca. She barks orders at her, and is a very negative and unpleasant elderly lady whom Blanca is caretaker for. She treats Blanca like a slave, even though she appears to depend on her for literally everything. Blanca spots a handsome man outside doing landscaping, and they exchange smiles. The man, named Dario, flirts with Blanca in Spanish, irritating the old woman. Blanca seems to have lived a pretty responsible, squeaky clean life. This new, bad boy is influencing her in ways her boss doesn’t like, so she fires him. Blanca is furious, but the woman explains that she’s considering giving Blanca her home in her will. All Blanca has to do is give her the keys to her life. Back in present day, the guards have gotten wise to the stank scheme to avoid the frisking. Blanca, and all of them, are warned that there will be consequences if this doesn’t stop. Even though she knows this, she uses oyster juice to stink again. She is caught, and told to stand up on a table until she agrees to fall in line. Back to the past, the elderly lady is woken up by loud moaning sounds. Blanca is having sex with the gardener, in the lady’s bedroom, looking her dead in the eyes and smiling. The next morning she makes it clear who the new boss will be. Blanca. Not Bianca. At Litchfield, Blanca is still standing strong in her punishment. In a battle of wills, she will not quit.

Piper and Alex bond over their borderline sexual lust for a burger from Shake Shack. Nicky is continuing her downward spiral, clearly strung out almost perpetually. She lashes out at Morello, who retaliates by letting Red know Nicky is using again. Red already knew this, of course. Morello spots Angie and reads her the riot act about the poop in the shower. Later,Piper and Alex approach the “sweet” guard, Bayley, and ask him for a couple of burgers. He agrees. For a handjob. Piper taught him well. They decide against it. Alex isn’t handling the guilt well, but it is nice to see she and Piper confide in each other again, even over burgers and handjobs. Red is devastated by what has become of Nicky, and feels she has failed her. Later, Nicky comes to her and says she wants to get clean.

Sister is uncharacteristically saucy with the guards, and it occurs to us what she’s up to. She’s trying to get sent to SHU to check on Sophia, but unbeknownst to her, the beds aren’t available, and she’s just about the last person they would send. Sister tells Gloria her plan, so she helps her get tossed in SHU by letting Sister assault her.

Maritza and Flaca are playing a game they call “Gun to Your Head” where you give two impossible choices and have to choose one. Maritza wants to know…eat ten dead flies or one live baby mouse? Flaca chooses the flies, but Maritza disagrees, saying she would just swallow the baby mouse whole. Yuck. The super creepy guard who has had his eye on her is listening, and leans in to tell her he’s on to her scheme in the van. She’s terrified. Knowing Maria won’t let her quit, she sets up her cousin at the pick up location. Maria lets Maritza know she’s not stupid, and knows she was behind it. Creepiest guard is riding with Maritza today. He orders her inside and says he has a game for her to play. Yes. There is a live baby mouse, and ten dead flies waiting. She must chose. She reminds him she’s clean of the scheme now, he’s got nothing on her. Click. Except that gun to her head.

Daya and Aleida are clashing over her impending release. They’re each struggling with their emotions, which they deal with by using insults and sarcasm. She asks Gloria to please look after Daya when she leaves. She gives her word, Daya will be her daughter in Litchfield. Pennsatucky tells Boo about Coates apologizing. She wants to forgive him. Boo tells her if she does, their friendship is done. Pennsatucky tries to get back in with the meth/white power crowd, and they laugh when they notice Judy and Cindy flirting. Morello’s sister visits and has been to see Vinny. Morello loses it a little and thinks her sister is hitting on him. Man, she is a stage 5 clinger.

We loved Blanca’s back story, and how it revealed to us why being disrespected is such a huge sin for her. She is hardcore. It took us a while to warm up to her, but we have definitely sat up and taken notice. It was kind of sweet to see Piper and Alex interact warmly for the first time this season. They have each been through a lot, and are finding comfort in the familiarity of each other again. Nicky appears to be ready to get back on track with her sobriety, and Red is prepared to be there by her side every step. We worry about Pennsatucky falling back in with Coates, who we are certain is truly sorry, but cannot be trusted. The worst moment for us was Maritza. We had to take a moment to pause after that, and we didn’t even see anything graphic. Sometimes, what you don’t see happen is worse. We look for the next episode to go darker again, as this was mostly about smaller storylines wrapping up fairly drama-free. All except for the guards, and Maria. We can’t wait for what is next. Grade: A

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.

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