We are our own worst enemies—even in prison when there are lots of people who could be enemies. And even once you’ve made it out of prison where you had a lot of enemies, whether because you once ran a profitable contraband panty business, or because you ratted out your best friend, earning her a life sentence.
On the out-of-prison side in Orange Is The New Black Season 7 Episode 9, I’m talking about Piper, and now Cindy, who’s now moved in with her mother and Monica, her biological daughter who was raised to think she’s Cindy’s sister. Cindy is eager to become a contributing member to her home, cooking breakfast in the morning and doing the laundry at home, and interviewing for jobs in a smart blazer. She impresses the head of an assisted living home by talking about how she learned to be accountable for her actions in prison, not to mention how it perfectly prepared her to clean up gross stuff, maintain very close quarters, and deal with all kinds of screaming…
Cindy gets the job, and returns home thrilled, but it’s no longer the happy scene she left that morning. I had forgotten all about the letter Taystee mailed on the day Cindy left prison, and it has its desired effect on Cindy’s life once read. Monica is furious with her mother and Cindy for lying to her, and feels like she doesn’t have a mother at all now. Cindy swears that she had nothing to do with the letter, and she didn’t want to bring any trouble. “It’s never your fault, is it Cindy?” her mother asks once Monica has stormed off. “But somehow, every time you show up, there’s a whole new mess I’ve got to clean up.”
It is a real emotional roller coaster, especially once Cindy decides that everyone will be better off without her and tries to leave the house. But her mother catches her and tells her she’s dropped a bomb, and she needs to stay there and deal with it. And even though her mother is explicitly saying that they’re better off with her staying and working through this, Cindy still believes the opposite: “It doesn’t matter what I do, or how bad I want to change, all I ever end up doing is making things worse.” She leaves and her mother tells her she can never come back. Walking down the street, she looks long and hard at a homeless man, and I won’t be able to stand it if that’s where things are headed for Cindy.
I wish she could get in touch with Piper who is finally doing well following her transformative wilderness retreat where a sheep named Freckles was murdered. Piper knows how it sounds, but she tells Alex at their visitation that before the retreat, she was hiding a part of herself, but now it’s like a weight has been lifted from her shoulders and the urge to act out is totally gone. Indeed, she’s found a friend she can be honest with in Zelda, and she finally tells the women at work that she wasn’t in Peace Corp and she wasn’t in rehab, she was in prison. She says it in front of her father, which stands to go over poorly, but she tells him later that this is just who she is—and he seems to finally come around to accepting it. And then he shows her the security footage of her eating the cookie cake on the floor of the break room.
And while Piper is telling Alex about this honest, out-loud-life she’s living now, Alex is glancing over Piper’s shoulder at McCullough who she is now having a full-blown affair with. For unclear reasons! McCullough gives her yet another opportunity to stop selling chargers this episode, but Alex says she wants to, and she wants to keep kissing McCullough in closets too, although who knows what will happen now that Piper has told her she’s not interested in the open relationship Alex offered her.
Inside the walls of Litchfield, Daya and her crew are trying to figure out a way to get drugs into the prison before Aleida and Hopper corner the market on their own. Daya says all the COs are a bust, so they decide to target Mr. Fantauzzo, the adorable GED teacher who certainly wouldn’t sign up for a drug ring. But he might if Adeola holds a shank to his crotch and Daya tells him he needs to start doing regular book pick-ups from her friend and bringing them in with his GED books, or else.
Mr. Fantauzzo doesn’t play along though—he quits. Poor Doggett can’t catch a break, nor can Ward. When she enters her office and sees Caputo there having a sweet reunion with Taystee, she says she can’t take any more bad news. So Caputo says he just remembered a lunch meeting he has to get to given that he was, in fact, there to get out in front of Susan Fischer’s accusations against him.
Ward may be having a tough go of it, but the real drama of this episode is going on over at the ICE detention center. Flaca has just discovered that the head ICE agent who deported Martiza is named C. Litvack, aka, Clitvack, so that is fun for her. But it’s no help to Karla, Blanca’s new friend, who just received a letter that she has to be at a custody hearing for her children next week or she risks losing them. It’s her legal right to be provided transportation there, but Clitvack tells her she “should have thought of that before she came to this country illegally.”
Blanca thinks Gloria might be able to help at least locate Karla’s children so they’ll know their mother hasn’t abandoned them, but for now, tensions are running distractingly high in the kitchen. Nicky’s is in full heart-eyes mode for Shani, and it seems that Shani returns the sentiments. But when Nicky tries to return what Shani as previously gifted her in the walk-in freezer, Shani rejects her and says they need to get back to work. Later, she tells her why: as a young girl, she was subjected to gentile mutilation, and as much as she wants to, fooling around with Nicky isn’t really an option for her.
The entire time that Shani is telling this heartbreaking story, Lorna is yelling at Nicky to hurry up from the van because she has a visitation with Vinny today. But what happens there is just as tragic.
The last time we saw Vinny visit Lorna, he told her through tears that their baby Sterling died from pneumonia in the NICU. And now, at this visitation, Lorna is rambling on to a rough-looking Vinny about how the Instagram she keeps for Sterling—the one where she googles photos of other babies and pretends they’re hers—keeps getting shut down. Vinny finally shouts, “Jesus Lorna, it was me!” He was the one who reported the Instagram accounts because it’s hard enough grieving the loss of their child without her pretending he’s still alive. “I miss him so much; I think about him every day, but I thought at least we could help each other to get through this,” Vinny pleads.
And then she asks if Vinny left the baby with her sister. Vinny says he can’t do this if she can’t live in reality, and tells Lorna maybe they should get a divorce.
Lorna’s face goes blank like she’s fully disassociating. In her flashbacks this episode, we see a time when she’s done something like this before.
After a night out at a bar where young Lorna oohs and ahhs over the story of two friends who have just gotten very romantically engaged, a man offering to drive her home gets aggressive with her, so she walks instead. The next thing she knows, it’s morning and someone is asking her to please clear the roof deck of the Pelican Hotel, the place where the couple told her they got engaged. Lorna has no idea how she got there or even where she is. She’s wearing all of her clothes from the night before except with sneakers now. She goes to the store from the sneaker receipt in her pocket and finds that she left her purse there with her cell phone…
When her sister comes to pick her up, she has no idea what happened the night before or how she ended up 15 miles from home.
But we see the moment when Lorna completely rejected reality: thinking that the car honking at her while she was walking home from the bar was the man who got aggressive with her, Lorna throws a rock at the windshield. This unexpectedly causes the car to swerve into some nearby construction equipment—and the engaged couple to go through the windshield, seemingly dead on impact. Lorna can’t handle what she’s done, and so, she starts walking.
It’s unclear whether current Lorna remembers this happening, but something about the ending of her idealized happy life with Vinny now triggers a similar reaction; the episode ends with Lorna walking so far that the guards can’t find her and Litchfield goes on lockdown.
Jodi Walkerwrites about TV forEntertainment Weekly, Vulture, Texas Monthly,and in her pop culture newsletterThese Are The Best Things. She vacillates between New York, North Carolina, and every TJ Maxx in between.
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