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Orange Is the New Black S01E04 / S01E05: "Imaginary Enemies" / "The Chickening

We're now four and five episodes into Orange Is the New Black, and Piper's practically an old vet in prison. Not to the point where she's got a teardrop tattoo on her face, but she's definitely gotten past the initial shakes of the squat-and-cough and petri-dish showers. And the series has smartly moved on from those newbie shocks as well. We're seeing fewer flashbacks to Piper's life on the outside, which pretty much confirms that Orange Is the New Black is committed to telling stories about all the wacky women in this prison and not just Piper, as if that wasn't clear enough already. 

This pair of episodes used Piper as a lens to explore how the entire "system" works, both in terms of the broken rules and regulations enforced by the guards and the unwritten rules that exist between the prisoners. And it's a crazy system! The missing screwdriver of "Imaginary Friends" wasn't just a problem for Piper, who accidentally stashed it, it caused collateral damage for everyone. And how was the problem solved? Leschak bought an identical one from a hardware store and replaced it because his job was on the line, but mostly he just wanted the problem to go away. And when Piper unknowingly set off a chicken-finding frenzy, the guards just wanted everyone to calm the F down. Prison is all about maintaining the status quo, and Piper keeps messing that up. She's our fish out of water and our entry point into this fascinating place, our cautionary tale of how not to behave in prison (rule number one: Don't end up there in the first place).

But as much as Piper's in the clink to ruffle things up through the kind of misfortune that could only befall a ditzy bad-luck magnet, I'm really liking how she's not just there to make others' lives better and be their Dr. Phil. It would be easy to throw her into this looney bin and let her be a savior to all the women inside, but that would do a huge disservice to the rest of Orange Is the New Black's characters. Piper is our de facto protagonist, but she's merely a visitor to this place that can so clearly function and exist without her. 

Case in point, in "Imaginary Friends," Ms. Claudette's journey actually had nothing to do with Piper. And in "The Chickening," which gave us some background on Daya and her mom Aleida, I'm not even sure that Piper and Daya ever spoke a word to each other. These women—all of them coming from more troubled and disadvantageous situations than Piper—don't need some Barney's-shopping blonde girl to be their great, white salvation. Yes, we saw Piper solve a problem for Red with some jail-made back cream, but that's when we were still settling into the universe of Orange Is the New Black. We needed to slowly disconnect from Piper as our anchor, and we did it in maxi-pad-covered baby steps. Now, just like Piper, we're getting slightly more comfortable, but we still have lots to learn. I'd expect that soon, the perspective will shift again and we'll see stories that show Piper establishing more solid relationships within her new world.


If Sophia's story from "Lesbian Request Denied" was about maintaining a sense of self while incarcerated, Ms. Claudette's story in "Imaginary Friends" was about getting back to who you are after losing sense of yourself. In flashbacks, a young Claudette was taken aback by Baptiste's kindness, which rubbed off on her. But her life was changed when Baptiste showed up with his new pretty wife, transforming her into the hard, controlling, sourpuss of a woman we know today. And yeah, it was a major contributing factor in her decision to kill that jerk who abused one of her young cleaning ladies, because Claudette had been extended a kindness when she was just a young girl, too.

But lo, her heart was not completely blackened; when Baptiste sent her a letter saying his wife Josephine had died and he desperately wanted to see Claudette again, it gave Claudette something she had been missing since she'd been locked up: hope. She told Healy she wanted her case opened up, something she'd previously opposed because she felt like there was nothing left on the outside for her. And that newfound glimmer of hope changed her outlook on life. All of a sudden, Claudette didn't mind Piper's "book-mess" and arranged the books nicely on her table. All of a sudden, Claudette had a reason to attend Mercy's farewell party and wish that one day she would be the one leaving. That final shot with Claudette staring right into the camera as Mercy left? Gorgeous, emotional, and staggering. We didn't see the rough Claudette worn weary by years of prison, we saw a remorseful woman who wanted to give life another chance. If you teared up, you weren't alone.

"The Chickening" delved into the troubled relationship and backstory between Daya and her mom Aleida, and played it against the cute, burgeoning schoolyard/prisonyard romance between Daya and Bennett. The combination of nasty and nice was almost uneasy to watch, and as much as we wanted to believe things were going to turn out okay, I couldn't shake the feeling that they wouldn't. Daya and Aleida are stuck in a spiral of one-upping each other (Daya slept with Aleida's drug-dealing boyfriend when Aleida went to jail, and Aleida duped Bennett into meeting her in the utility closet as payback), but there's no way this is anyone but Aleida's fault, thanks to her terrible behavior as a deadbeat mother while Daya took care of her sisters. The lack of closure for Daya and Aleida's story sets up plenty for the two to do down the line, and this is going to be war. 

But what I really liked about "The Chickening" was its theme of toxicity, which was spread throughout the hour. Prison is a poisonous environment and "The Chickening" set out to prove that, but family and relationships can be just as toxic. First there were physical poisons: the asbestos and mold from the broken ceiling in the chapel, and the drugs from Daya and Aleida's flashback. And then there were the stronger, metaphorical poisons: Alex and Piper couldn't even be in the same room together, and Aleida was slowly destroying her own family with her selfish behavior. They all glued the episode together quite nicely. 

However, the message that I took away from "The Chickening" was the idea that everything is just out of reach for Piper. The mythical chicken became her White Whale, a symbol of a better life. And at one point, she had everyone in prison searching for that bird, even though of course none of them were going to find it. The closing shot of Piper, just one chain-link fence away from the chicken, summed up her situation: She won't be able to find that better life until she does her time. 



CONJUGAL NOTES

– "He's not an eggplant, he's retarded!" I can't wait to hear that whole joke, though I think it will be even funnier if we don't.

– "This is more depressing than a Tori Amos cover band."

– "I have been here for less than two weeks. I have been starved out, felt up, teased, stalked, threatened, and called Taylor Swift." Taylor Schilling delivered that line perfectly. 

– The saucy exchange between Nicky and Morello in the chapel was too good. Morello: "I need to start tightening up, you're making me feel like a cave." Nicky: "Baby, it's a cunt. It stretches." Morello: "Sometimes I feel like you're trying to climb into my womb." Nicky: "What can I say, I got mommy issues." 

– "Almost the same thing happened to me, but it was tuna salad." Crazy Eyes is the best!

– As great as all the ladies are, we shouldn't overlook the guys. All the guards, with a special nod to Pablo Schreiber as Pornstache, convey the irritation, exhaustion, and power trips that come from being in control of so many bad girls.


PREVIOUSLY:

 Orange Is the New Black Series Premiere Review: Fresh Meat

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

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Crazy Eyes is the best.
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Miss Claudette is queen. Watching her story was almost more painful than watching Sophia's.
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The Chickening somehow how managed to feel completely different to the previous episodes and still remain great. What I took out of the episode the most was Piper starting to descend into a dangerous prison mentality to the detriment of her business, it might prove a turning point for her character.
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Crazy Eyes has to be my favorite. I actually like Miss Claudette, as well. She is a complex character and pairing her with Piper is good TV for me.
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I understand what they wanted to say with the whole chicken story, but I found it silly and boring. The show is fine, but there are quite a few points that I don't get. Some characters are very well constructed, but others are empty (like all of Piper's family and friends). Worth watching, though. Except for the chicken episode, in my opinion.
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At this point in time in the series how can you say "Barney's-shopping blonde girl"? She was (had been) selling her and her sister's home made products to Barney's to make money. Up until this point in the series, we just know she was a waitress who fell for the "wrong" woman who took her traveling (drug trafficking ring) and later she left that scenario and eventually got with her fiancee and they have both borrowed $ from their families....

So far, she comes off as a naive thrill seeker who later tried to settle down...
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i've watched all the episodes in less than a week (which is impressive cosidering that it took me several months to finish house of cards). I really like it, it's smart, sad, quirky, obscure and warm, all at the same time.
I don't hate Piper, but she's not my favorite either (i think is Red, followed by Nikki and Morello).
"Imaginary Enemies" sets up something very important for the future, and also showed us Piper adapting to her life in prison quite well.
"The chickening" was a little silly, but i think we've all have done something like that (the sort of thing that you keep saying to yourself "i can't believe i'm doing this") and also showed us how different is the scale of values inside and outside prison, with Piper finally letting go her business for the pursuit of a mere chicken, which in a perfect ending, she didn't managed to catch.
This shows hits all the right notes, and if you don't like it my guess is that you are not paying attention at your whole feelings and the ones of the people that surround you (ok maybe that was a little too much, but you can get the idea...)
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Same here, I started watching last Sunday and will watch the last two episodes today, and as with you, House of Cards took be several months to get through.

I was conflicted about Piper's character at first, but I think episodes ten and eleven, clarify some things about her characters behaviour, and while she's still fundamentally flawed, I love that in television leads. She may just replace Walter Walt as my favourite anti-protagonist when Breaking Bad finishes.
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This show is just too ugly and depressing. It's a constant entropy spiral. There isn't anyone to like and the more they make PIper into a criminal the less you want to see her side. I'm supposed to want Claudette to get free and make a life with a guy who had every chance to love her and instead married a pretty young thing? She's a murderer, not quirky, but an honestly bad person who was in a human trafficking ring and killed somebody in cold blood. They are for the most part disturbed awful people who deserve what they have.
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Yeah, but they're still people, and things happen to them that, in some level, are the same that happens to us. And that is why this show is great. Although i must admit that sometimes it depresses me too,nobody is saying that these women are good exemplary people, they've made a lot of mistakes and that's why they are imprisioned, they just have to keep on going, doing the best they can, just like the rest of us...
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Sorry, I don't buy into that sort of blind humanism. While I agree the point of the show is to take someone who societally speaking "shouldn't be there" and showing how she ends up in a bad situation--and spirals out of control from there. But, they've strayed too far from showing she has a good heart, and they never showed she had any brains or moral center. The minute she went back to the manipulative drug dealing ex who put her there in the first place, she lost all claim to the "I was young and didn't understand consequences." I liked her making a mistake and then winning over Red, but after that all things have been have been sending her further and further down the rabbit hole until there is nothing redeeming or likable about her.
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Blind humanism? Jesus.
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OMG!!! Love this show totally would make a great new character thats how i starte watching lols and fell in love plz plz plz make a season 2 and give us some teaser trailers cuz 2014 is a long time to wait on the edge of ur seat i may get Rigor mortis by then aha !!!
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Wasn't planning on watching the show, but I'm so glad I did, it might even be giving Hannibal a run for it's money as the best new show of the year.

I wasn't a fan of Netflix's binge watching idea either, but I've watched nine episodes since Sunday and I wouldn't want it any other way.

The show is so relatable, heart-warming, gut-wrenching and funny... And those are just the parts in which Jason Biggs discusses masturbation.
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Even then, whose to say her life will be better when she leaves? If you've watched ahead, you already know what I'm talking about.
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Tim, are you really watching this show two episodes a week? That would be torture for me.
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Some of us suffer from patience although it ain't easy...
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Another great review of another couple of amazing episodes of this brilliant series. Keep it up Tim! Even though I've already seen all the episodes a week ago, I will definitely continue to read and comment your reviews of the rest of the episodes ;) Orange is the New Black FTW!
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1. When a man goes to a prison he has to watch out for other inmates at the showers so they don't rape him. When a woman goes to prison she's at the mercy of abusing male guards and she can't do anything to protect herself. The truth is - Men are Pigs (or at least some of them are)

2. Taylor Schilling is just gorgeous as Piper.

3. Nicky and Lorna scene at the chapel deserves Emmy Award.

4. I really hate Pornstache.

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That guard crushin' on Daya didn't actually have sex with her deadbeat, skanky mom, did he? That would be messed up, and a little contrary to the nice guy character he seemed to be.

I don't know about other guys, but a naked woman in the dark doesn't automatically mean my pants come flying off.
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Since you asked, I'll let you know that he doesn't have sex with her. They talk about it in a future episode.

I'm with you, a naked woman in the dark doesn't automatically mean my pants flying off. Sometimes I let them take it off me. :P
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Hey-oh!
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No she asked him and he said of coarse not
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While still a very good episode, I thought The Chickening may have been my least favorite of the season. It works as an analogy of sorts, but I thought of Orange is the New Black as real enough that a plot involving a mysterious and sought-after chicken felt too nonsensical to me. I feel like rewatching both episodes later so I'll see if I feel different about it now after watching the whole series.
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Totally agree with you. I enjoyed the episode while I was watching it, but once it finished I was like: Did I really just spend an hour watching female inmates try and catch (a possibly imaginable) a chicken? Too nonsensical for my taste.
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I ended up watching the every episode except 12 and 13 and will admit I like the series. However as time went along, I found myself not liking the main character, Piper. The good thing is this show have other characters I really enjoy. If this series goes another season, hopeful Piper will be released and the show concentrates on a new inmate or one that's already on canvas.

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I doubt that since the story is based on The life of the real piper. She wrote the memoir, that became the show.
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Oh well thanks for the info. Guess I'm stuck with her, I'll just enjoy the other characters than.
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What? Is she getting life for shanking a guard if this goes on for a while? And if she does, wouldn't she be upgraded to maximum security? The only way this goes multiple seasons is if they slow the clock down...
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Technically the first season doesn't even equal a month of her being in there. so if every season equalled a month, we can get at least another 12-13 seasons of it. Lol :-P
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I don't want to spoil anything for those who are watching concurrent with the reviews, but I'm pretty sure that was the intention of the show.
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Cool, way to go Netflix. I'm really enjoying House of Cards as well. As for Arrested development, it's definitely not as good as the show we fell in love with.
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I would episode 6 is the best so far but I am still stuck after episode 8, just don't feel so excited to watch it and with so many other shows to catch up on, I still have not gotten to episode 9. I have started on Broadchurch and found it very interesting. I am on episode 4 for Broadchurch.
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I just watched the season premier of Weeds final season and it was much better than I expected. Orange is even better than I expected as well, while being so different from Weeds. It's all I can do not to gobble this show up with a satisfying burp at the end. This show has miles and miles of heart. Why do you hate on it so, Tim? *wry smile*
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I love it too. I mean, how could you not, right?
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I thought The Chickening was by far the funniest episode of the entire first season. Everyone had some great lines but Red had the best one. It's been a while since I've seen it so I'm paraphrasing but "I just want to catch that chicken that is smarter than other chickens and eat it's flesh to absorb it's powers". Or "Don't be racist, it's because it's filled with heroin". I had to pause a few times for laughter here. These two episodes were what officially sealed the deal for me that I was going to have to binge watch this whole show.
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"If she hasn't been scared off, the Spanish or the Blacks have her. Those Spanish probably won't even eat her, just cut her throat and drink her blood, or something else superstitious. All I wanted was to eat the chicken that is smarter than other chickens and to absorb its power... and make a nice Kiev."

Totally agree. Biggest laugh of the series so far!
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Now I don't have to watch it. Hells yes I do...

Still don't know what happened to Red Broyles though...
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Thanks for that FF. Got to laugh at that all over again. For that one episode, Red almost beat out Taystee and Crazy Eyes for funniest character.
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No problem!
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