Few shows are as daring as Netflix ‘s Orange Is The New Black. The show expounds upon its original source material, Piper Kerman’s memoir of the same name. The series gives fictional characters dimensional backstories, all while highlighting the problems with the prison industry that Kerman and so many others experienced firsthand.
In the show’s fifth season, the inmates at Litchfield Penitentiary have had enough of being treated without dignity. As was hinted in the season 4 finale, they’ve staged a full-on riot, with Daya (Dascha Polano) pointing a gun at CO Humphrey (Michael Torpey). The inmates are storming down the hall from all directions, and a riot is brewing.
Scroll down to see our recaps of the prison drama’s fifth season — all 13 episodes take place over a three-day period.
We didn’t have to wait long to find out if Daya actually fired the gun. She shoots Humphrey, but not fatally. The shocking moment comes after Humphrey pleads for his life in Spanish, only to learn that Daya doesn’t speak the language.
The other inmates are quick to start kicking Humphrey — after Poussey’s (Samira Wiley) death, tensions between the prison’s inmates and guards are at an all-time high. But Gloria (Selenis Leyva) stops Daya, saying it’s not too late. Gloria brings the wounded guard to Sophia (Laverne Cox) for medical attention. She wasn’t a doctor, but she has emergency training thanks to her previous career as a firefighter, which means Sophia has more medical knowledge than any of the other inmates. Sophia helps Gloria take Humphrey to the medical unit, where he’s placed under care, in a bed between Suzanne (Uzo Aduba) and Maureen (Emily Althaus).
Meanwhile, the rest of the inmates start carving out places for themselves to hunker down during the riot. Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning) and Big Boo (Lea DeLaria) stake out the commissary. Nicky (Natasha Lyonne) and Morello (Yael Stone) find themselves in charge of the medicine supply, despite Morello’s warning that it’s probably not a great idea for Nicky, an addict, to be around drugs. Red (Kate Mulgrew) is in Piscatella’s (Brad William Henke) office, determined to find something she can use as leverage against him. And Brook (Kimiko Glenn) is in the library, mourning Poussey’s death, when Judy King (Blair Brown) joins her, terrified after the riot interferes with her planned release.
And Taystee (Danielle Brooks), Cindy (Adrienne C. Moore), Allison (Amanda Stephen), and Janae (Vicky Jeudy) have serious beef with Caputo (Nick Sandow). He’s just wrapped up the press conference in which he said Poussey’s death wasn’t Bayley’s (Alan Aisenberg) fault — even though it definitely was. Devastated at the loss of her best friend, Caputo’s former assistant wants justice, as do the other Black women.
“You done our girl wrong, Mr. Caputo, and you gonna fix it,” Taystee tells him, before punching him in the face. Using an iPad taken from MCC’s PR rep, Taystee and the others force Caputo to read a statement they wrote about Poussey’s death. They post it on Twitter, hoping to go viral.
“She didn’t deserve to be in here, and she definitely didn’t deserve to die in her,” Caputo says in the (forced) statement. He leaves off the next line, which names Bayley as her murderer, but Taystee repeats it to the camera.
Over the course of the episode, it becomes clear that Daya didn’t realize what she was getting into by firing the gun. She points it at her fellow inmates, including Maria (Jessica Pimentel) when she offers to help. To the guards’ knowledge, though, she’s not responsible for the gunshot they just heard — the inmates use the guards’ walkie system to spread the rumor that Humphrey was planning a mass shooting. (There’s a deeply depressing theme throughout the episode as various characters name different mass shootings to describe what Humphrey’s allegedly doing.)
And where is Piper (Taylor Schilling) throughout all of this? She and Alex (Laura Prepon) are determined to lay low — there are only a few months left in Piper’s prison sentence, and they don’t need to call any more attention to themselves. There’s a wrinkle in their plan, though, when they find MCC’s Linda (Beth Dover) in the bathroom and decide to take pity on her.
“She’s so pathetic,” Piper tells Alex of Linda. “She reminds me of me.” At least the show has caught on to the fact that many of its viewers don’t love its protagonist.
The episode ends on a cliffhanger, with a shadowy figure knocking the gun from Daya’s hand and rendering her unconscious.
Frieda (Dale Soules) finally became a series regular this season, and the second episode opens with a flashback about her growing up during the Cold War. Her father taught her to be prepared for the worst, which, in his case, meant having a bunker in their home, stocked with emergency canned goods and other supplies. His mindset towards young Frieda was harsh — he abandoned her in the woods to see how long it would take her to find her way home — but it also made her the best Nature Scout in her troop.
That sense of preparedness has carried over into Frieda’s current life, too. She grabs peanut butter and other supplies before two guards trap her, along with the prison’s three white supremacists/neo-Nazis, behind a grate. And while it’s hard to feel sympathy for Litchfield’s skinheads, it’s uncomfortable to see the guards lord their power over them, at one point playing “fuck, marry, kill” and saying one of the women has “dick-sucking lips.” Eventually, Frieda outsmarts the guards with her survivalist skills, though, pretending to poison them and then offering to make an antidote so they’d release the four women from the grate.
Meanwhile, the video Taystee, Cindy, Allison, and Janae made of Caputo still hasn’t gone viral, much to Taystee’s disappointment. But outside the prison, things are getting serious — guards from a maximum-security prison, as well as police, have arrived at Litchfield.
Inside, Maria’s still trying to take control of the riot, given Daya’s insecurities and fears about being sent to a maximum-security prison. She gathers the inmates in the chapel to hold a meeting about “Litchfield 2.0.” To emphasize that the inmates are in control now, the women bring the guards onto the stage, and the inmates begin throwing things at them. They force the guards to strip down to their underwear, take one guard’s insulin, and force another into a “cavity check” as he cries in front of the crowd.
Many of the guards have mistreated the inmates, but it’s hard to watch. At one point, even Flaca (Jackie Cruz) whispers that what Maria’s doing is “kind of messed up.” Eventually, Alex tells Piper that the gathering is “fucking insane” — just as the crowd dies down, and Maria hears her. Alex tells Maria she’s not going to be a part of the torture and walks out of the room. Gloria, meanwhile, encourages her peers to “come together.”
Eventually, the video of Caputo does go viral — but not for the reason the group intended. Cindy was drinking Caputo’s iced coffee in the background of the clip, and internet users started sharing her image with the hashtag #BlackLattesMatter. It appears the women have been imprisoned since before the Black Lives Matter movement was created in 2012, as they don’t understand the “joke” behind the meme.
Taystee is affected most of all, lamenting that “people don’t care” about Poussey’s death. It’s only the second episode, but Danielle Brooks’ powerful acting is already a highlight of the season.
During all of the commotion, Suzanne, Maureen, and Humphrey are still in the medical center, and Suzanne ponders if they’re in purgatory. She halfheartedly questions whether they can kill Humphrey again, if the three of them are already dead. Rather than being scared, the CO is intrigued by the discussion, offering his own morbid ideas about how best to murder someone. It’s not the first time we’ve seen these tendencies from him — he forced Maritza (Diane Guerrero) to eat a live mouse — but it’s still disturbing.
And while it doesn’t seem like Maureen actually believes they’re in purgatory, she still decides to give killing Humphrey a try. She blows oxygen bubbles into his IV when no one else is looking, sending him into a stroke that leaves him paralyzed.
Check back later today (June 9) for the rest of our recaps!
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