Orange Is the New Black "WAC Pack" / "Blood Donut" Review: Political Animals

Orange is the New Black S01E06 / S01E07: "WAC Pack" / "Blood Donut"

Wow, Piper. How long has it been since you arrived in prison? A few weeks? And you're already looking like a pro, minding your own business, staying out of people's wrecking-ball paths, trying to make this time inside go by as quickly as possible. And the immediate threats are mostly gone: No one is trying to hump your leg (though I really miss Crazy Eyes' crazy eyes and pet name of "Dandelion"), you're getting fed and doing your job, and semi-regular visits and phone calls are connecting you to the outside world. 

There's no avoiding the monster that is the system, though, and now that Piper is no longer fresh meat she's become a part of that system. I'm talking about politics, people! Kind of actual real politics. The WAC (Women's Advisory Council) is the closest thing this prison has to elected representatives, and like our government, it's flawed and full of shit. But while it figured into both of this week's episodes and was central to many of the storylines, it was nothing more than the start of a relationship-building mini-arc to further explore the dynamics of the prison. And that's good. 

Shaking up the ant farm is always a great rule of thumb to keep a drama moving right along, and seeing otherwise lower-rung characters crawl up out of the drain to jockey for power while the pack leaders stood aside was a fantastic way of setting fire to previous character connections and gluing together new ones. For example, Red sat this one out because she's wise enough to know that the WAC and its requisite campaigns mean nothing, but Pennsatucky came in as a real contender. There was no real changing of the guard, but the WAC storyline provided an opportunity for OITNB to elevate those who would otherwise not have a turn in the spotlight, and to establish some history for characters down the road. It also served as a way to pit the cliques against each other, as each race group would get one representative, which is as good a way to split up prisoners as any under the circumstances. 

This sort of device works best with large ensembles because it continues to individualize characters. Just look at that picture above. There are tons of extras in there for sure, but we've met almost half of them in some context or another. When we started this series, it was Piper versus the world; then, the authority figures were established, and then the groups were made distinct, and now we're on an individual character level. We're chipping away at the slab and getting a feel for every little piece that comes off, as well as seeing the larger picture. ONITB's handling of its cast and characters has been remarkable, and it's definitely one of the show's greatest strengths.

But okay, enough about characterization and Tim's attempt at the writer's workshop. These two episodes also felt a little lighter, as though Orange Is the New Black was taking a breather from the nightmares of prison. The last pair of episodes we talked about featured two pressure-cooked stories: the missing screwdriver and the legend of the chicken. This time around, there was nothing quite as threatening on the docket. Yeah, there was the missing phone and poonanny pics, but it was far from the witch hunt of the screwdriver. And maybe that's what OITNB needed during its difficult midseason stretch. 

While I wouldn't call the backstory we saw for Nicky in "WAC Pack" a break from the show's M.O., she certainly got shafted in comparison to previous flashbackees. Two measly rewinds, that's it? One was with her mom after Nicky had just gotten out of surgery, and the other was with her prison mom when she had a bad case of withdrawal right after entering prison. There was no story to them, just quick check-ins that told us what we already knew: Nicky has tangled with drugs, and it sucked. And that's probably the toughest part, because we didn't learn anything about the character at the center of the flashback, which is my favorite part of this show. 


In contrast, "Blood Donut" completely turned the tables on what we knew of Janae Watson. We met her as the angriest woman in the joint, but found out that she blew a promising future as a collegiate track star after trying to fit in and landing with the wrong crowd. And what a transformation from actress Vicky Jeudy, who traded tight dreads for long, straight locks and a sneer for a smile. She was almost unrecognizable in her old days, a perfect example of how Orange Is the New Black plays with the inside/outside versions of its characters. 

Maybe I'm being a big of a jerk here, but there's still one thing I'd like to see from future flashbacks. I want to see more women who 100-percent completely deserve to be in prison because of their choices. A lot of what we've seen so far has deflected the characters' responsibility in being behind bars. It's always someone else who got them there. Russian mobsters, a lesbian drug dealer, an unrequited love, a bitch of a mom, or, in Watson's case, a thug (we didn't see enough of Nicky to really get her story). This show has played fairly with everyone and every type so far; now I'd like to find out that one of these characters is truly awful just because some people are truly awful. Not everyone can pass the blame on someone else. That's probably why Sophia and Claudette's stories hit me the hardest; they're the closest to being entirely responsible for their incarceration, and they not so coincidentally, gave us the best look at who they are (and used to be) because they took actions into their own hands. It's the old proactive vs. reactive argument. Wouldn't you want to see Yoga Jones' flashback paint her as an out-of-control maniac who was the bad influence instead of just a product of another bad influence? She gets busted, finds yoga, and *bam!* she's transformed her life for the better. Let's see the prison system work, people! 

We're halfway through OITNB's first season and things are looking as sharp as ever for the series. Honestly, I'm not seeing much a need for improvement anywhere, and aside from Nicky's criminally miniscule backstory, all my other quibbles are just items to put on my wishlist. Keep giving your characters their due and you'll be great, Orange Is the New Black.



CONJUGAL NOTES

– How are you feeling about Larry? To me, he's coming off as one of the most realistic characters. As he said to Piper, her imprisonment doesn't just affect her. He's on the outside, alone. His career is in a sorry state, and he might get his big break if he quits writing about masturbating and starts writing about why he's masturbating: because his fiancee is in jail. I like this angle on his plight as a left-behind man rather; it's more compelling than the immediate temptation of other women. Through this struggle, the other problems of living life as a lonely male will surface more naturally. Let him figure out what he's going to do with The New York Times, have that experience shape him some more, and then throw another woman at him. Because that will happen, right? 

– Mom theme all over "WAC Pack"!!! Piper and her mom, Nicky and her mom, Nicky and Red, Aledia and Daya, and whatever else I missed.

– Some of that lightness of these two episodes may have accidentally carried over to some of the stories. In "Wac Pack," there was an early scene where Piper, Alex, and two others are sitting in the cafeteria together. But why were Alex and Piper sitting at the same table? This was way before Piper's half-apology to Alex in the laundry room. Yet here they were, just sitting together even though they couldn't be in the same room together before. I was also surprised by how little time the episodes spent on Piper believing Alex didn't rat her out after Larry lied to her. I figured we'd see much more of Piper digesting that information.

– Also related to the above: The big turn at the end of "WAC Pack," when Piper was announced as the rep for the white girls, wasn't as big as I thought it would be. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to label Piper as a total outsider, since Morello, Red, and the rest of the Caucasian group had a reason to be upset with her. But other than putting her head-to-head with Pennsatucky, her "victory" was largely ignored by the others.

– We met a new character in Lauren Lapkus's Susan, a new guard at the prison. What do you think of her so far?

– Daya and Bennett's relationship continued to slink along at a leisurely pace. It's still sweet and a cue for that adorable piano score, but I'd like to kick it in the ass a bit and get it moving. I want to know how Aleida reacted to Bennett turning her down (if he DID turn her down; we're taking his word for it). Maybe that's coming down the line? The closet time between Daya and Bennett where she pantsed him and found out he had a prosthetic leg was an effective way to reveal that detail, but I'm not sure where it's going or how it factors into their love story. This could be set-up for a flashback where we see how he lost his leg below the knee, but for right now, it's "Okay, he's part plastic."

– What did you make of Healy's home life? He's married to a woman who's looking for a green card and there's zero love in the room. Plus he has to share his wife with her mother and listen to them speak Russian while he shovels his mashed potatoes around with his fork and looks sullen. It's heartbreaking because the guy has been such a great presence in the prison lately. But in these two episodes we saw that he's getting fed up with everyone's sh*t and he's close to losing it. The inmates are rowdy, Caputo is all over his ass, and his home life is his own personal prison. He also gave Piper an odd stare at the end of "Blood Donut" while she ran the track. He seems like a nice guy on the outside, but I think he's being set up for something drastic. 

– Pornstache! Mendez is still the show's funniest caricature. What an ass. But Pablo Schreiber is owning the role. What kind of transaction do you think he's working with Red?


PREVIOUSLY:

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

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

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

Comments (44)
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Sep 08, 2013
I keep getting the feeling that Tim has no idea the characters are all based on real people.
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Staff
Aug 05, 2013
Lauren Lapkus was great in that Snickers commercial. She's ok on OITNB I guess.

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Aug 04, 2013
A truly great show, like most here I've watched the whole series and it's fantastic. If you'd have told me I'd enjoy a prison drama so much I'd have laughed but Orange has just the right blend of humour and touching drama. Great characters and back stories mean that it can always surprise.
If you haven't seen it just watch a couple of episodes and you'll be hooked.
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Aug 03, 2013
Great article.
I've always loved prison drama's because it offers one of the few opportunities to have so many different characters experiencing the same life. It's a genre that can dedicate each episode to a new characters back-story and still feel natural. Because of this, I'm surprised there isn't more prison dramas.
I've enjoyed ONITB and I can't wait for season two.

OITNB has also helped me realize that NetFlix is a game-changer for the television networks and they should take note because releasing all episodes at once is the way it should be in 2013.
OITNB and House of Cards have both impressed me and I can't wait to see more original Netflix shows.
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Aug 04, 2013
I am in the opposite side of the track, tried HOC, Hemlock and Orange thought they simply sucked I could not make thru the pilots
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Aug 30, 2013
I got about halfway through the Orange pilot, lost interest, and turned it off.

A month and a half later, I watched the rest of the pilot, and by night's end, I was through 6 episodes. Sometimes, especially with new shows, it just takes courage and patience.
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Aug 13, 2013
Also, another point...
Even if OITNB was totally crap, which it wasn't, the fact that the smoking HOT Taylor Schilling is in it and she goes topless and nude should be MORE than enough for any red-blooded bloke to tolerate the show. Trust me.
(I made very good use of my screen capture software during OITNB and created a 'Taylor Schilling' folder on my desktop but I've always been a bit sick and weird in the head like that. Haha. Schilling turns men into perv's)
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Jun 01, 2017
I've seen your comments in other recaps. You have some unhealthy obsession with Schilling lol. I don't think she's that good looking really. She's rather bland.
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Aug 07, 2013
Really? I guess we have different taste. I thought House of Cards was AWESOME, in fact, I watched every episode back-to-back over a weekend and then I downloaded the original British version and watched that back-to-back as well. I thought they were both amazing and I can't wait for more. I must admit, house of cards was a bit of a slow starter so maybe you should give it another go because it is a fantastic show and just watching the pilot isn't enough to judge it properly. It has some great cliff-hangers and plenty of shocking scenes. Kevin Spacey was the perfect choice for playing this narcissist/psychopath politician. Also, because I watched the British original version after the NetFlix version, it was interesting to see the similarities and differences between the UK and US politics. The similarities being, they both demand deep corruption, zero loyalty and a total lack of empathy to succeed. Anyway, I hope this changes your mind and you give it another go because I absolutely loved it.

I haven't seen Hemlock yet. I haven't even read a synopsis of the show yet so I no idea what it's even about but I have seen it advertised on TV.com. If our taste in shows are so different, maybe I'd enjoy this too so I'll have to look into that one. Cheers

Currently watching:
> The Returned (UK)
> Southland
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Aug 14, 2013
unfortunately I canceled my netflix subscription with no desire to renew it!!
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Aug 02, 2013
Loved the show and I couldn't only watch two episodes at a time. I love Taryn Mannings character Pennsatucky I think she does a phenomenal job I lmao at her Holy Ghost inspired rants.
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Aug 01, 2013
Larry is ok. I could take him or leave him.

I never liked Healy. He was way too nice to Piper. It was creepy. The way he handled WAC and the position he put Piper in irritated me, too.
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Aug 01, 2013
HA HA! Mendez keeps nunchucks in his trunk.

Fischer the new guard is the female version of DJ Qualls :)
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Aug 01, 2013
I thought the reason Nicky's story didn't get a lot of screen time was because there's not much to tell about it. She's been pretty upfront about her story and has talked about it quite a bit (I've seen the whole season so I don't know if she already started talking about herself or if that comes later) but I think they're trying to stay away from rehashing information you already know.
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Aug 01, 2013
def need to see yogas backstory.
the wife and I finished ep 10 last night....such a great show so far, so glad we already know a season 2 is in the works. too bad it'll probably be a yr until it's out

hurry up with the reviews!!!!
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Aug 01, 2013
No way you haven't watched all the episodes yet Mr. Reviewer sir! No one has that much self control. Time for a binge-review methinks.
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Aug 01, 2013
I think all the women we've seen so far do deserve to be in there. Sure they made bad choices but isn't that what happens most women. Plus isn't this prison meant for smaller crimes, it's not a maximum security prison. Getting to know the women before their backstory kind of throws my opinion too. I want to like some of them, despite what they have done, so I have more empathy for them
I did not feel sorry for Vicky, and from her flashback I can see why she is so angry. It is 100% her own fault for ending up in prison. The guy told her stay away, and be a track star, but she wanted trouble and she found it. Now that she is older and has hindsight, she's angry at herself for being so stupid.
As for Nicky, I think they are keeping back on the more prominent characters flashbacks. I think they will flesh her out more in the future. The same with Red, we know she was involved with the mob but not what actually send her to jail. And Red looked pretty comfy sitting with all the men at the table in her flashback.
I don't like Larry at all, I hate when they go to his character. I feel irritated every time he comes on screen. Stop moaning and stop whining. I don't care what he is going through. Pipper is in prison, she wins hands down, no contest. She is only gone a few weeks and he is pathetic without her. I don't even know what she sees in him. He is a grown man with no job living off his parents. His biggest complaint so far is he isn't getting sex. Wow poor guy, well at least he has his luxurious home, and friends, and nights out, and family around him to support him, and he can sleep at night without wondering will he be violated physically or mentally the next day.
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Aug 01, 2013
I share the sentiments of whoever said on last week's review that you can't possibly be watching these episodes as you go, can you Tim? OITNB is just way to good to do that. I assume you're writing these reviews as you watch them, and are being a total jerk and making us wait for a weekly update, when I want to discuss all of it right now! I finished watching it on Sunday, and I would have watched these episodes not a week ago, but I've already forgotten so much. I would have much preferred to discuss them fresh in my mind, but anyway, at least tv.com is actually covering this (which is more than I can say for Ray Donovan!).

Anyway, to these episodes/ your review. The individual character focus on these two episodes didn't really do it for be. As you said Tim, the major problem with Nichols was that there wasn't much of it. That one scene with her mother was great though, but I found that it didn't really relate to the overall episodes plot though (despite all the loosely linked Mum references of which you speak). So overall it was disappointing.

Similarly,
I didn't like how Watson's story was so straight forward. I felt that this is a backstory that could of been developed over a couple of episodes. Instead what we got was. Talented and no the rise athlete throws away her life because she never feels wanted, included, or loved. I don't know if others sympathised with her, but I certainly didn't, and I think it was because the backstory felt so rushed.

You make an interesting point about the show deflecting the characters responsibility in being behind bars, Tim. I find this odd because from what we see in the present time, some of them are truly awful people, yet the flashbacks try so hard to explain why they are the way they are and that the had a legitimate reason for doing what they did, when in actuality, as you said, some people are truly awful.

I enjoyed the WAC Pack story enough, it was since to see a bit more about how the prison is segregated into groups and how they all work/ what they all want/ how they all clash with one another. You raise another interesting point about the ending though, other than putting Piper head-to-head with Pennsatucky, her "victory" was largely ignored by the others. This is an occurring (possible problem?) OITNB has gotten into a habit of doing. There's a game changing moment at the end of most episodes, and you think: 'Wow, Piper has really gotten herself in trouble now, hasn't she?', but by the beginning of the next everything has seemingly blown over and there is no real threat for Piper to overcome. They're almost overdramatised cliff-hangers (although I do love them, so I'm not complaining, just pointing out that it's something the show does often).


I quite enjoy Larry too, which is surprising because I thought he would just be whinging all the time, which he sort of is, but its not too self-absorbed, and I actually feel for his side of the story. I was also afraid his outside story would clash horribly/ slow down with the main plot points at the prison throughout the season, but I think overall his story on the outside is woven in nicely.

Yes, I do feel for Healy with his Russian wife. But at the same time he gets everything he deserves, WAC Pack was the beginning of us seeing what a spiteful and sadistic person he is, and unfortunately it only gets worse. And to think I actually liked him in the first couple of episodes!

Okay, I think that's everything I've got to say, and a pat on the back to whoever read all of my comment (if anyone). I thank you muchly.
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Aug 01, 2013
Hello, my name is emmiegirl and I'm a binger. I cannot seem to help myself; I have no self control. One episode draws to a close, I know the next episode is available and I cannot delay gratification. If the show is good and the episodes are there, I watch.

Great review. Just a couple notes:

Healy's wife and her mother are Ukrainian rather than Russian.

"Maybe I'm being a big of a jerk here, but there's still one thing I'd like to see from future flashbacks. I want to see more women who 100-percent completely deserve to be in prison because of their choices. A lot of what we've seen so far has deflected the characters' responsibility in being behind bars. It's always someone else who got them there."
I gave this some thought and I can see your position, but something about it felt a little out of sync to me. It doesn't feel to me as if they were giving these woman a pass on culpability, but rather I think OITNB is attempting to put a human face on crime. Take Janae for instance. My take on her story was how many Americans, especially blacks and Latinos, can wind up in prison for a single stupid decision. How terrible was her public defender, anyway?

I looked up some available data on female incarceration in the US. Thus far the series presents a pretty accurate picture of female offenders in the Federal system. More than half of the women in Federal prison are serving for drug-related offenses, and a third are in for violent crimes. I may be naive but I think, in a minimum security facility, it will be difficult to present a woman in gen-pop who "is truly awful just because some people are truly awful" and still come across as plausible, unless my idea of truly awful is something terribly worse than your own. Although if I'm being honest, I think maybe Daya's mother might qualify as truly awful.
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Aug 01, 2013
I agree... It's a minimum security prison and federal too... Truly awful stories probably aren't gonna be found here.
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Aug 01, 2013
I want to talk about the season finale! This two episodes a week is painful.
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Aug 01, 2013
I really love this show, it feels so real and the characters are so believable.
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Aug 01, 2013
Oh and I just found this out a few days ago and I kicked myself for not recognizing the voice quicker:

Did you know Yoga Jones, played by Constance Shulman, was the voice for Patti Mayonnaise from Doug?! I know right?! That's awesome! I loved Doug so much. Hell, Shulman even kinda looks like Patti.


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Aug 30, 2013
While we're DYKing (swear to god, no pun intended)...here's Lea Delaria (Big Boo) doing a jazz cover of Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun" from her covers album, "Double Standards.":


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Aug 01, 2013
This makes so much sense. I knew her voice sounded vaguely familiar.
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Aug 01, 2013
I completely agree with your point about the transition between Wac Pack and Blood Donut. I remember being a bit disappointed when I first saw the first 10 minutes of Blood Donut because I fully expected it to focus on Red and Morello and whoever else shunning Piper and turning on her. Instead, they didn't mention their reactions at all, really. Ah, well.

Other than that, I loved both these episodes. Sure, Nicky could've done with a bit more backstory considering she's one of the bigger characters in the present, but it didn't detract anything for me.

I like Larry. I saw people in previous articles commenting about hating Larry and that he's an ass, but I never found him to be all that bad even with the bigger moments that come up in later episodes. The one thing that does make him an ass, though, is writing that article about he and Piper's lives without getting her permission (which he originally gave her time for). Making Piper's incarceration so public is a BIG thing that should get her blessing and the fact that he wrote it up without her approval is a douche move. Then again, if he had waited and she had said no, I'd likely have called her a bit selfish.
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Aug 01, 2013
Well, I'm actually following the right pace, it seems... Those are the two last episodes I have seen.

I don't like Larry. Tim pictures him as a realistic character, but I don't see it that way. I mean, they could have chosen to portray him as an ashole that abandones her fiancee because she goes to prison and he doesn't want to wait. But they seem to want us to see him as the good guy (they are in love, they have that special relationship, he's ready for what's coming, he's the more stable part of that couple and he's ready to give her some support, etc). But he didn't even take 5 minutes to put himself in her shoes. They didn't show it to us. They just showed him complaining about his own situation, being quite the pathetic writer that doesn't have any ideas coming (I mean, what was he writting about before she want to prison?), and selling his fiancees privacy to the newspaper. Is that realistic? Seriously? :) That's not a proper character, but just a conduct to add more drama to the story.

I agree with Tim in the fact that they are not showing us back stories about people that are in jail because of their own bad choices so far. The show seems to have a fixed idea on showing that going or not going to prison is just a matter of luck and circumstances. And while that is a big factor, that cannot be all that there is.
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Jul 31, 2013
I have to confess that I binged on the series as well... :-s Now everything is a single story since I cannot tell any more when an episode started or finished and whose flashback we see when.... am I making sense?

***** Warning might be spoilerish************

But I do want to say a couple of things here:
1. Tim when you say: "...one thing I'd like to see from future flashbacks. I want to see more women who 100-percent completely deserve to be in prison because of their choices" There are at least two flashbacks, that I am not sure if they have happened yet, but we are talking manslaughter and murder.
2. I think Larry is coming off as realistic as you say (and by the way I didn't know Biggs could do some actual acting) but to be honest I haven't seen really cartoonish characters so far...
3. I found absolutely hilarious the way Healy played his cards with the donuts... Blood Donut was a great name for that ep.
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Aug 01, 2013
Tim mentioned Miss Claudette, which I think might be one of the characters of which you speak.
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Jul 31, 2013
I am loving your reviews Tim. About the track, I feel like it was a loss of power for Healy. His wife is with him for a green card. Piper deals with him because she's a prisoner. Yet when he denied her the track, she just went around it and got it anyway. She does not need him as much anymore and I don't think he likes that.
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Jul 31, 2013
"How are you feeling about Larry? To me, he's coming off as one of the most realistic characters."

I think all characters are coming off as pretty realistic. I met a lot of people like that in real life.
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Jul 31, 2013
Now I regret binging this show during one weekend. It deserves to be savoured slowly, there are so many layers to it that you might miss otherwise. Secondly, I have already forgot a lot of it, so it's difficult for me to comment on these reviews.
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Staff
Jul 31, 2013
Re-watch! Re-watch! Re-watch!
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Aug 01, 2013
I don't think I have enough time to re-watch the entire series with all the other stuff I watch/ want to watch, but I'm definitely re-watching 'Tall Men With Feelings' (Episode 11) before Tim's review. One of the best episodes of television I've ever seen in my opinion.
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Aug 01, 2013
Yep, I've been doing the same. I saw the whole series within the first 4 days or so after it was released, but I've been re-watching two episodes a week in line with these reviews.
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Jul 31, 2013
That's always the answer to everything.
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Jul 31, 2013
Great review as always Tim! Although not very entertaining, it was fair, balanced, thoughtful and unpretentious. Keep it up! OITNB FTW!!!
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Jul 31, 2013
Oh boy. You want responsibility then just wait for Pennsatucky's flashback.

Also, nice fair analysis. Personally, I'm looking forward to your review of the Solitary Confinement episode.
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Aug 01, 2013
I'd argue with that. Pennsatucky is held liable for her actions, but she is not viewed as a bad person and the show doesn't try to make her so in the flashbacks. And in fact, the in turns out the only reason she's in the current situation she's in is because of the kindness of some very misguided people.
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Aug 01, 2013
Um... Pennsatucky is absolutely painted as a truly awful and completely deluded person. Those last few episodes definitely made me feel like she was a bad person with no excuses for her actions... But I guess it's up for interpretation.
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Aug 01, 2013
Exactly. "Turns out the only reason she's in the current situation she's in is because of the kindness of some very misguided people." She shot an abortion Doctor; she was clearly warped already.
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Aug 01, 2013
Did you watch to the end of the season? She very clearly is a bad person.
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Aug 02, 2013
I do understand that she's a bad person, sorry, I mustn't have explained myself all that well... What I meant was that she never really gets to have to take the entire responsibility for her actions because the lawyer she is unintentionally provided with gives her faith, and presumably greatly lessens whatever she would have been charged with. Pennsatucky is lucky to even be in the same prison as Piper, and to have found faith in God to essentially forgive her sins. Don't get me wrong, she's a bad person, but I don't think OITNB ever shows her having to bear the full grunt of what she has done.
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Aug 02, 2013
She absolutely would have, had Piper left her in Psych. Of course she gets her comeuppance anyway, as we both know.
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