Orange Is the New Black "Fool Me Once" / "Can't Fix Crazy" Review: A Visit from the Xmas Tooth Fairy

By Tim Surette

Aug 21, 2013

Orange Is the New Black S01E11 / S01E12: "Fool Me Once" / "Can't Fix Crazy"

First things first, everyone please stand up and give Orange Is the New Black the standing ovation it deserves and throw some bras on stage (you too, guys), because Season 1 was fantastic and a visual handbook on how not to screw up television. The Netflix series, an underdog in some folks' eyes, managed to evoke every single emotion on the human spectrum in a way that felt true and respectful to its wonderful and diverse cast of characters. I laughed! I cried! I worried! There are probably more emotions than that, and I'm sure I felt them, too. But the important thing is that I never wanted a "Get Out of Jail Free" card because I was perfectly happy being cooped up with the female felons of Litchfield. Give me a life sentence, throw away the key, I'll confess to blowing up an orphanage if it keeps me around. Orange Is the New Black is one of the best new shows of the year.

Okay, now everyone put their bras back on, because I'm here to talk about the final two episodes of the first season and not the season as a whole. We're going to work this one backwards, because honestly, that final scene of "Can't Fix Crazy" meant a lot more than the entirety of the 1.9 episodes that preceded it. Piper taking Pennsatucky to Poundtown... prison-style... was a fight-or-flight response on Piper's behalf, and it couldn't have been avoided. The whole sequence was terrifying. 'Tucky left the pageant to follow Piper outside,'Tucky stalked up behind her in an angel costume (how cool was that?), 'Tucky brandished a crucifix-shaped stabbing instrument, Healy willfully ignored the whole confrontation and Piper's pleas for help, blood dripped into the snow, and then Piper erupted. Brutal as it was, it was also a beautiful scene with amazing contrast between the serenity of the blanketed-in-white prison grounds and the whirlwind of fists and flying teeth. Brutal-ful. 

Yet Pennsatucky deserved every lick she took, even if that wasn't the Piper we know who was dishing it out. The Piper in that scene was a Piper twice dumped, once by Alex and once by Larry. The dumpage was still raw and fresh, and it forced Piper into a vulnerable and unpredictable state, because nothing is scarier to Piper than loneliness. Then, all that anger and fear manifested itself in the resulting dents in Pennsatucky's face. I was simultaneously feeling shocked by the violence within the Barney's soap-maker and praising her with "You go girl!"s for finally putting that Jesus freak in her place, and that's exactly what the show wanted us to feel. And hey, the girls said Pennsatucky could use some new teeth anyway, so Piper was just granting her wish. Don't you kind of hope that Pennsatucky returns with a Moonraker-Jaws grill next season? I do.

How will this "incident" affect Piper going forward? It could stretch her 15-month prison sentence out a bit and guarantee that she won't be released for good behavior anytime soon. Maybe she'll suffer another stay in the SHU. But as far as prison politics are concerned, she was just defending herself, and she's got more people on her side than Pennsatucky does. Even Taystee told Piper to throw down! And it's that darker side of prison life that Orange Is the New Black really concentrated on in the later hours of Season 1.

But the most fascinating part of the whole ruckus was Healy's reaction when he acknowledged Piper's calls for help but didn't respond. His character arc has been been completely unpredictable, and it's one of the most spectacular downward spirals in recent TV history. The guy went from lovable grandpa figure to spiteful dick in a matter of a few episodes, and in "Can't Fix Crazy," he made the most despicable turn we've seen on the series so far. Wasn't this the man we all put our faith in to see Piper through this mess? And he left her to *gulp* die? I never would have guessed that it'd come to this when we first met the sweet, gentle Healy of 12 episodes ago. Now, no amount of domestic turmoil can save him in the eyes of the audience. Healy broke bad.

However, while Piper beating the meth teeth out of Pennsatucky's face was great exclamation point to conclude Season 1, the rest of the Orange Is the New Black universe slowed down or changed direction building up to it, like the show had run out of steam and was antsy to get a head start on Season 2. The much-anticipated showdown between Red and Mendez never really happened, as they played games while buffered bye Red's fellow inmates. Mendez deservedly got suspended for slippin' the sausage to Daya after becoming a pawn in Red's gutsy plan to transfer the punishable burden of paternity from Bennett to Mendez with the help of a few swabs and a pregnancy test. I still don't know how that's really going to work; I agree with Bennett, it's a half-baked idea. And Mendez got his revenge from beyond the gates by getting Bennett to bust Mendez's own drug operation, which would naturally be pinned on the queen of the kitchen, Red. 

Red's demotion opened up the kitchen to Gloria, and she brought her chicas in to help. (Is this how prison jobs really work? One position changes and all of a sudden that person can install a bunch of her friends?) Thus began the feud between Gloria and Red, which involved Red sabotaging Gloria's kitchen and (unintentionally) shooting a giant fireball at Murphy. Gloria vs. Red is a fine rivalry, but kickstarting it in the season finale and leaving Mendez roaming around the parking lot feels ill-timed. 

The same can be said about the sudden interest in Figueroa's budgetary siphoning or Taystee's return; as standalone stories, they're fascinating, and I can't wait to see how they play out. But starting them now is almost cruel to binge-viewers. Launching a bunch of new arcs in preparation for Season 2 took some weight out of the finale, don't you think? With Red and Gloria now at each other's throats, Figueroa about to be the target of a New York Post investigation, plus a few other nuggets (Yoga Jones' tearful admission, Mendez's obsession with Daya, Caputo's decision to report the drugs), it feels like we're ending things right in the middle rather than concluding a chapter. 

For those of us who finished watching the first season of Orange Is the New Black in the span of a month or less, that means an extra long waiting until the show returns. This is just my personal opinion, but I think the Netflix model should steer showrunners toward making more self-contained seasons, as Netflix originals are consumed differently. Shows that "compartmentalize" their seasons, like The Wire and American Horror Story, would make excellent Netflix series because they have very clear beginnings and endings for each string of episodes. I'm envious of the viewer who starts watching Orange Is the New Black in Season 4 and can settle in for marathon, to bridge the show's plots without a wait. 



CONJUGAL NOTES

– I should also note that Taryn Manning was fantastic in that final scene, to the point where I even felt sorry for her while she spewed the type of religious fanaticism that sometimes results in a lot worse than someone their face crushed in. Pennsatucky may be an ignorant, mean hag, but she's such a solid character and Manning has owned her. 

– Pennsatucky's flashback was one of the best of the season, hands down. I finally got my "this woman is in prison because she's crazy" flashback, instead of another heart-tugging, wrong-place-wrong-time story. And the development that her Jesus-freakishness began when a magical Christian defense attorney appeared out of nowhere and support of anti-abortion pro-lifers coupled with the irony that she had just gotten an abortion was fantastic in showing just how lost and starved for support Pennsatucky was.

– I hope we're not automatically taking Red's side in the Red-Gloria showdown. Gloria is the beneficiary of a unfortunate situation, through no action of her own. She's not the bad guy here. Besides, her spicy eggs are delicious.

– Even scarier than that final scene was the first confrontation between Pennsatucky and Piper in the shower. With Pennsatucky's flock in tow, that could have gone a lot further than what would have happened outside.

– Mute inmate Norma finding her voice at the pageant felt a little trope-y. Sorry! 

– And the pageant, while a nice little shindig, never felt that important to me. After a very strong four-episode run, it seemed like the season ran out of story.

– To add a smidgen of a happy ending, we saw little snippets of Sophia receiving a letter from her son while she sat in the chapel producing the pageant. Good for Sophia, but not exactly the sharp storytelling we're used to from Orange Is the New Black. It just felt tacked-on and lacked depth.

– Boo saying "Jesus F*cking Christ" during the pageant was everything that's right about this show.

– I understand what Larry was trying to do in meeting Alex: He wanted her to see that she was hurting a real person. But boy, did that turn out to be a bad idea. Alex was more than happy to tell Larry that Piper initiated their tryst. Anyone can argue that attempting a relationship while one party is in prison is a proposition that's doomed from the start, but it's hard not to place the bulk of the blame on Piper. She did betray Larry. But that's what I like about Piper as a character; there's a good person inside of her, but she's flawed and she makes bad decisions just like the rest of us.  

– One of the things I'm most looking forward to in 2014, in addition to finding the cure for cancer and winning the lottery, is a flashback to Suzanne's story. That is going to be amazing. 

– Even though the final two episodes of the season weren't Orange Is the New Black's best, I can't emphasize enough how incredibly strong of a series this is. What was your favorite episode? Mine was Episode 11, "Tall Men With Feelings."


What did you think of the finale, and Season 1 overall? 


PREVIOUSLY:

– Orange Is the New Black Series Premiere Review: Fresh Meat (S0E01)

– Orange Is the New Black "Tit Punch"/"Lesbian Denied" Review: Love and Lunch (S01E02 / S01E03)

– Orange Is the New Black "Imaginary Enemies"/"The Chickening" Review: Hope and Toxicity (S01E04 / S01E05)

– Orange Is the New Black "Wac Pac"/"Blood Donut" Review: Political Animals (S01E06 / S01E07)

– Orange Is the New Black "Moscow Mule"/"F*cksgiving" Review: The SHU Doesn't Fit (S01E08 / S01E09)

Orange Is the New Black "Bora Bora Bora"/"Tall Men With Feelings" Review: Scared Straight? (S01E10 / S01E11)

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  • mrramirez26 Jul 23, 2014

    I am so fond of this show. I absolutely love it - and I'm usually NOT a fan of "raunchy" shows at all so it's been a surprise. (HIMYM was as raunchy as I ever get, which isn't much, in the scheme of things; just a lot of sex-related jokes.)
    I just feel like...the characters are just so dynamic, and three-dimensional - even the supporting characters - that it's hard for me not to root for them. Even when the lesbianism gets to be a little over-the-top; it's the characters that drive the show, and their stories keep it interesting.
    I always thought of Pennsatucky as an annoying fanatical Christian; but after watching her flashback and getting her background; the scene when she was discussing forgiveness with Piper was so interesting. It even elicited a small "Aww!" from me once Piper concluded her prayer for forgiveness, and Pennsatucky hugged her. And her character never makes me go "Aww!", but this episode did, so that was a first. And while I certainly don't condone Pennsatucky's actions pre-prison, (Five abortions did give me pause, though. Five??) that nurse at the abortion clinic was harsh...her comment was seriously hurtful. Ouch.
    Pennsatucky is definitely a hard-nose, no-bull**** type, but given background on her character; I'm a bit more sympathetic toward her now. Except that planning and acting out Piper's murder is going a bit too far. As episode 12 concluded, and Pennsatucky was all "Well, I'm just gonna have to kill her," I was all "She can't do that! Can she really do that??" but then I realized: these women can do whatever they want...and I'll stick around to watch. :)

  • LukeTaylor0 Sep 08, 2013

    I was so disappointed when we didn't get Suzanne's flashback. The episode title was a complete red herring.

  • ElisaDiaz Aug 31, 2013

    This happens when you release all episodes at once - you see the "christmas" episode in the middle of August.

    So Piper betrayed Larry, and Larry is an axxxhole, and Alex is not someone you can trust, and everybody loves everybody, but they are far too selfish to behave properly with anyone. Don't like or share or justify their bad reasons for missbehaving... none of hem. The show is entertaining, though, more about the "other" stories for me, but also the humour that comes here and there and the good acting. So I will defenitely continue watching and look forward to it.

  • Hakkeboef68 Nov 20, 2013

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  • Full_Bleed Aug 24, 2013

    Great new show. Seriously looking forward to the next season. Excited that Netflix can produce this level of programming.

    One comment on this review. At one point Tim mentions, "Mendez's obsession with Daya". I don't think Mendex is obsessed with her at all. She was just another piece of meat to him. He's faking the obsession to manipulate Bennett, to make the whole "affair" with Daya look less like rape or an abuse of his position, and to get back at Red. He's a very dangerous man who's obsessed with his own gratification.

  • dov_amc Aug 23, 2013

    To me, Orange felt like a serialized version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. I guess locked-up people makes for good drama. Can't wait for season 2.

  • bruno_fmenedes Aug 23, 2013

    Great read Tim! For me season 1 of OITNB was one of the top 10 best seasons of any TV show I've ever seen! And I've seen plenty of them! Can't wait for season 2!

  • FilmFanatic Aug 23, 2013

    I started watching this show yesterday and I am already in episode 11. This show is excellent and I am loving every minute of it. I never thought I would say this for another Kenji Johan series but so far season 1 of Orange is the new black is better than season 1 of Weeds. The show manages to highlight so many characters each and every one with a different storyline and it does so brilliantly. The use of flashbacks is done in such an excellent way that you are actually curious as to what happened to every one to end up in prison. Go Netflix for recognizing this show's brilliance before any of the actual TV stations.

  • Boogiebilly Aug 23, 2013

    Hi Tim,

    OITNB is superb and Kenji Johan has gone above and beyond in terms of a quality production, great cast and superb storylines...
    Netfilx appears to be the future already!

    Just quickly though - what has happened to What To watch On TV Tonight?
    have asked several times with nobody able to provide an answer.
    helps me program my DVR as I travel a lot.

    Great work Tim - your stories are always fun!

  • LaurenLS Aug 23, 2013

    I thought Pensatucky was in the clinic for an overdose or at least drug treatment. It doesn't make any sense for the nurse to have "disrespected" her for having an abortion. It was a women's clinic but she was probably there because its cheaper for someone who spends all her money on meth.

  • BriannaKirkla Aug 23, 2013

    Watch that episode again. She was clearly there for an abortion. The previous scene with the boyfriend established that she was pregnant, and needed a ride to the clinic. The nurse disrespected her by saying they should give her a punchcard to get the next one free since this was her fifth abortion.

  • Full_Bleed Aug 24, 2013

    Yeah, even abortion providers don't like abortion being used as basic contraception. That reveal about Pensatucky was all about the crazy she's made of. Her religion, like all the abortions she got, are simply conveniences that she never really learns anything from. It makes her an even more desperate character because, in those shadows, we see a woman who is not going to learn anything from her stay in prison either. That is one very sick and hopeless character.

  • LaurenLS Aug 23, 2013

    Thanks. I guess I didn't catch that in the first scene or connect the two.

  • Adokensan Aug 22, 2013

    I usually don't like shows like this at all, but OITNB is just too phenomenal. Every episode was great. Even though the finale wasn't MUCH better than the rest of the episodes (like they usually are in other shows), it's kind of okay. This is a show where the entire season is meant as one big experience, and when you look at the entire season as a whole... it's just perfect.

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