Orange is the New Black

Orange is the New Black – Tit Punch Two Review: Excellent, Humorous, and Aptly Paced

Orange is the New Black continues to set the very large table it has in its second episode, titled “Tit Punch,” establishing more of Litchfield’s social systems, while exploring Red and her past as well. Tit Punch is another excellent episode that focuses the whirlwind pacing of the premiere, moving slower and more methodically than “I Wasn’t Ready.” Tit Punch ultimately feels more complex, helping explore the social mores and the small-town feel of Orange is the New Black.

That is a key aspect of Tit Punch as well: Litchfield, despite all the aggressive and threatening women forced to live their lives there, is very much a community functioning as a small, secluded town. The scenes in which inmates interact–Sophia the hairdresser doing Tastee’s hair, Miss Claudette and Red sharing a single malt, and the numerous dinner table conversations–all reinforce that these women are stuck together and, in a natural social response, become friends with some and enemies with others. Because this is repetitiously reinforced it is easy to see Piper struggling with the established order in the prison; however, it also helps to show that she is savvy, quick to learn where she sits in the hierarchy of Litchfield.

The other key aspect of the small town atmosphere established in Tit Punch is that the power dynamics of the town are laid bare, revealing the true depths of Red’s power. Red’s grasp over Litchfield extends from the kitchen and the white prisoners (as shown in I Wasn’t Ready), beyond into almost every area of Litchfield. Red is a powerful figure because of her control over the kitchen and her ability to deny food to those out of favor with her is shown throughout Tit Punch.

As the episode begins, the punishment for Piper’s disrespectful attitude towards Red’s food becomes clear: Red intends to starve Piper until she is able to make things right. This lesson, one that emphasizes the importance of appearing strong and never weak is vital for Piper, though she originally misinterprets what the lesson means. Piper tries to apologize, only to be sent away. On the advice of other inmates, Piper tries to fight with Red, though this is also ignorant of the point Red is making. Finally Piper creates a jalapeño back rub for Red, one that takes a significant amount of effort. Piper learns that this is as much about providing something tangible and learning her place as it is about being forgiven by Red.

This conflict is the major force in Tit Punch, as it fuels both the majority of the flashbacks and the present moments in the episode. The flashbacks show Red’s history, one involving Russian Mafia figures who support the business of Red and her husband, who run a restaurant. Trying to impress the mobsters by developing a relationship with them, Red’s husband suggests that Red become friends with the wives of the Mafia figures by going for walks with them. This proves costly, though, as the class divide between Red, who has a lewd sense of humor and clearly doesn’t fit in, and the upper class wives who flaunt their wealth, is too great. The wives abandon Red, who then witnesses them walking without her. Offended, Red confronts the women, eventually being taunted into hitting one, unintentionally destroying her boob job.

This flashback is comically resonant, but it also reveals a major aspect of Red’s psyche, showing why her food being insulted is so offensive. Forever meant to bake the bread, yet never eat it, Red despises upper class lifestyles (which Piper clearly embodies), instead favoring hard work and acts of kindness. Red’s past perfectly explains her desire for power and a social hierarchy that favors her. Tit Punch clearly establishes Red’s power, reaching throughout the prison to vending machines, spies, and the kitchen. Red has built her empire in prison by being invaluable and never showing weakness while operating it.

However, Tit Punch also begins to introduce a hierarchy among the prison COs, officials, and the warden’s assistants during orientation, a comedic series of lectures on various topics including why not to commit suicide or what a razor blade can do when melted into a toothbrush. This segment continues the slow boil of the premiere, showing a startling amount of apathy from those in charge of maintaining the prison, a common theme in Orange is the New Black thus far. The prison is filled with these complexities, impacted by the apathy and greed of the people guarding the prison, which starkly contradicts the very involving and challenging society of the inmates. The exception to this contrast lies with Daya and Officer Bennett, who have sparked a romance. While this is limited in Tit Punch, it is apparent that this relationship is bound to return, challenging the normative relations between COs and inmates in Litchfield.

Piper’s flashbacks are also on display in Orange is the New Black, showing her vanity once again. Piper’s attempts to do a cleanse with Larry and her building a business with Polly serve to misdirect expectations of her. The shocking apathy of prison guards and the overwhelming complexity of inmates in Litchfield are emphasized, while Piper begins compiling the ingredients needed to reconcile with Red. The result is touching, as Piper’s starvation and her established vanity belie the fact that she is sacrificing her hair and the ability to eat to make things right with Red. The scene when Piper’s intentions are finally revealed ties each moment together expertly, reigning in the seemingly vain flashbacks, focusing on Piper’s ability to grow and adapt into the small community of Litchfield.

Tit Punch then closes with two key instances of television watching. The first, which shows Larry watching Mad Men alone, establishes his first step towards moving on, as he defies Piper’s wishes for him to wait for her to leave prison before watching the show. This is contrasted by the second instance of television viewing, in which the inmates watch the notoriously awful Good Luck Chuck. The inmates appear to join and set aside their tribal differences, apparently happy to even have a movie, laughing outrageously loud at every joke in the film and sharing their headphones with each other. Larry, meanwhile, indulges in his loneliness, setting in motion a path towards his independence from Piper.

These final scenes hone in the larger ideas of Tit Punch and I Wasn’t Ready: Piper and, to an extent, Larry, are of a self-indulgent world, one Piper has been removed from. Piper has been abruptly transposed into a social space that must maintain class structure, but also must enjoy the smaller, joyous moments. Tit Punch’s meandering pace is vital in emphasizing this, as Piper slowly learns her way through Litchfield, connecting the final scene in the movie room to Larry slowly giving in to his desire to watch Mad Men in a resonant and delicate way. Unfortunately for Piper, this warmth she feels while watching Good Luck Chuck is short-lived, as Crazy-Eyes, the person who aided Piper in getting jalapeños for Red, makes a move on Piper, which is a central conflict in next week’s episode.

Tit Punch builds off of I Wasn’t Ready in unexpected, exciting ways, smartly dialing back the frenetic pace of the premiere to deeply explore the social norms and power spheres that exist within Litchfield, while also establishing flashbacks for fellow inmates, creating vast and deeply constructed characters. Tit Punch is a poignant and intelligent second episode, one that is better than the already brilliant premiere because it takes its time to establish those who are only secondary at this point in the show, telling the stories of many inmates stuck in the small town of Litchfield.

Tit Punch smartly dials back its frenetic pace to explore the social norms and power spheres that exist within Litchfield.

Review Overview

Review Score - 9.5

9.5

Summary : Tit Punch is an excellent, humorous, and slowly paced episode that depicts Piper's growth, all while developing the supporting cast of inmates and guards, establishing the power relations inside Litchfield.

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