This week’s Orange is the New Black episode is “Comic Sans.” It opens on the black women working on rolling cigarettes to sell.
Caputo chastises the C.O.s about letting Cavanaugh wander off on Valentine’s Day and reinforces the shot quota. They leave feeling the pressure to be strict and one C.O. immediately writes Black Cindy a shot for being late although she’s not actually late yet. She points out that it’s racist when he lets White Cindy walk by without stopping her and he gets stricter, making her lie on the ground. Then we get a flashback of Cindy working at the TSA. I felt pleasantly surprised when I realized this was going to be an entire episode about Cindy — she’s one of the characters who has always felt very tertiary, but that’s one of fun things about this show; everyone gets their moment.
There’s a fun montage of Cindy just being a terrible, irresponsible employee. Her poor work conduct escalates from being rude to a traveler, to stealing someone’s iPad, to blatantly groping a traveler.
Bennett shows up with the things the Latina women requested in exchange for not telling anyone about Daya. Flaca tells him that next she wants porn—but only porn with guys in it because “it’s hot and I don’t want to be exploiting women and shit.” Well, someone just skyrocketed up my list of favorite characters.
We see Cindy doing what we now know she does best: gleefully exploiting any small amount of power she has. She’s making women who want cigarettes clean for her and sneak her food from the kitchen. In a flashback, we see her visiting her 9-year-old little sister and giving her a birthday present. The present is the iPad she stole from the airport. Her sister complains, “I wish you were here for all my birthdays.” Cindy suggests they go get ice cream, just the two of them. Her mom doesn’t trust her with her little sister and suggests they all go together, but Cindy insists she’ll look out for her. As soon as they’re out the door, Cindy’s mom investigates the iPad and quickly finds that the photo roll is full of pictures of someone else’s family. She looks exasperated, not surprised.
Nicky asks Poussey for a cigarette, and Poussey gets annoyed and lets her know she’s not part of Vee’s operation and she thinks she’s just using her friend. Nicky tells her “you know that thing that happens to lesbians in high school…”, going on to describe what it’s like the first time your best friend gets a boyfriend and you resent him for no reason because what’s really happening is you’re in love with your best friend. The first time I watched this episode, I was so stunned by the accuracy in this monologue I immediately had to message a friend of mine about it. It is a prime example of how well this show captures queer existence. It all ends with Nicky saying that in order to not drive your friend away, you have to make the boyfriend like you (“watch The Godfather ten times, whatever”).
When the Latina girls keep trying to blackmail Bennett, he writes them all shots. Maritza says she’s going to tell Caputo that Bennett raped an inmate and Bennett takes her to solitary, saying he’ll find a reason why later. It’s an intense scene and Diane Guerrero, whose performance as Maritza has mostly been comedic so far, does a beautiful job of portraying Maritza’s disbelief and fear.
In one of the funniest scenes of the season, Piper, Daya, Flaca and Lorna all work on Piper’s newsletter. Daya shows a cartoon she drew that portrays prison using animals at the zoo. Piper asks her, “Why is the walrus in such a bad mood?” and she says, “Oh, that’s Mr. Healy.” Piper happily says, “This is fantastic.” Let’s all admit that this show completely earned all of its Emmy nominations in the comedy category. The fact that it’s also great at portraying drama doesn’t change the fact that it’s one of the most joke dense shows I’ve seen. Speaking of which, immediately after that Flaca yells at Lorna for saying “I could care less” instead of “I couldn’t care less”, cementing her status as MVP of this episode. Lorna explains, “No, what I’m saying is, however little you could care, I could care less than you.” Credit where credit is due: that’s the best defense of “I could care less” I’ve ever heard. They ask Piper to settle it and she says that Flaca is technically correct but this is one of those instances “like ‘literally’, where the colloquial usage of the word wins out.” Piper, you are literally wrong and literally going to stop being my favorite character on this show if you don’t quit it.
Vee asks Cindy if she’s collected what she owes from selling cigarettes. Cindy responds, “Oh, here’s the thing … no.” I’m glad this episode came along to remind us that Adrienne C. Moore is a treasure. Since Vee, like the audience, is quickly realizing that being completely irresponsible is kind of Cindy’s thing, Vee asks Poussey to replace her. Poussey looks to Taystee and, keeping the talk she had with Nicky in mind, agrees to help sell the cigarettes.
In a flashback, we see Cindy and her sister happily driving down the street together. Cindy sees a guy she recognizes and pulls over (kind of, it’s more just parking in the middle of the street). The guy invites her to come upstairs and Cindy tells her sister she’ll only be gone for ten minutes or twenty minutes tops, then ditches her in the car. They cut back to the present, leading us to wonder exactly how bad Cindy’s backstory will end up being. It’s very tense.
There’s a surprisingly cute scene of Bell and O’Neil making up. In a callback to Sophia’s presentation earlier, he tells her, “I’ve learned some things about the female anatomy I think you might enjoy.” If you’d told me before I started Season 2 that this show spends any amount of screen time on a relationship between Bell and O’Neil, I would be annoyed, but I actually love it.
Daya confronts Bennett about locking up Maritza. Daya calls him a pussy and shoves him, asking him if he’s going to write her a shot. He says that he’s not going to do that and she responds, “But you could if you wanted to. Because you have a choice. You’re an officer. You have power. I’m an inmate. I have nothing.” It is an absolutely incredible moment for Daya. This moment draws attention to the potential for abuse in the prison system and I don’t want to take away from that, but at the same time I think it captures a feeling many women can relate to. It’s a feeling of knowing someone cares about you but also realizing they are fundamentally more privileged than you and will never be able to fully understand this.
Vee visits Cindy’s bunk in the middle of the night. Since she’s sneaking around under cover of darkness, you have no idea what kind of violent revenge she’s going to get. But she actually just calls Cindy a loser and then walks away. It’s … anti-climactic but sort of terrifying in its way? Basically how I feel about every Vee scene. She’s obviously very reminiscent of Gus Fring but so far she’s like Gus Fring if we never actually saw him stab a guy in the neck. At this point they’ve spent so much time on her bark you can’t help but wonder if the bite will ever come. And if it eventually does, will it be big enough to warrant the build up?
In a flashback, we see Cindy getting lectured by her mom after not bringing her sister home until midnight. I know that Cindy’s irresponsibility is still terrible, but I felt a big rush of relief that everything was okay, at least for now. When Cindy gets sick of the lecture, she says, “I can do whatever I want with my own damn daughter.” Ooh good twist. Cindy says they should tell her daughter the truth and see who she chooses. Her mom tells her that if she tells her the truth, then she really has to take her and take care of her. She says that if she can handle taking care of her, then she can go ahead and tell her the truth. Cindy tears up and the scene ends there. So, this backstory has two great cliffhangers in just one episode.
After giving us that glimmer of Cindy actually wanting to be responsible and not goof off all the time, we see Cindy returning to Vee in the present. She tells Vee she’s ready to take her medicine and then finds out that her new job is cleaning out used tampons so they can use them to hide cigarettes in. That’s disgusting and seems unnecessary? But Cindy is willing to do it. I wonder if Vee has actual mind control powers.
In the final flashback, we see Cindy at her job. She smiles at a little girl and the girl’s father asks her, “Do you have kids?” Cindy hesitates and then says, “No.” It’s an understated moment but with the full context it is emotionally wrenching. A great ending to this surprisingly compelling story about what seemed like a minor character.
Photo Courtesy of Netflix