I was always curious if we'd get to know Sister Jane at some point, and I'm happy to report that her part of her flashback episode doesn't really disappoint. Her history starts out fairly cute—young nuns, peacefully protesting Viet Nam—but descends into a cult-of-personality egotism that leads all the way to a ghostwritten tell-all (Nun Shall Pass!) and eventually activism as such an addictive drug that it gets her jailed for however long: Nuclear sites, the usual. Whatever hogs the most attention and makes her look like the all-time best and most moral person.
I've always liked Sister Jane, because she is the exact same kind of asshole I am. So I hoped they'd do her justice, and they do. Yoga and Soso's hunger strike nonsense has picked up those two gross laundry girls—they have that white-girl hair where it's like, always somehow wet?—and Sister Jane is only Too Cool for it until she feels outcooled and then she decides to join in, accidentally taking over basically without even trying, because she is the only person who has ever done anything in the actual world. She's also specifically angry about how Figueroa sometimes strands old crazy ladies on metaphorical ice floes, which honestly nobody feels great about. Soso is fine with letting somebody else steer regardless, because she likes ideas more than work, but the gross laundry girls aren't having it.
By episode's end, Sister Ingalls making unilateral decisions—the episode's title, "Take a Break From Your Values," is a quote from the Sister as she urges the gross girls to cut themselves loose from her Movement—and eventually scaring the piss out of everybody around her as her body begins to shut down. Of course she feels particularly holy due to the attention/anorexia/blood sugar of it all, and eventually Sophia marches at her side to the infirmary, past rows of adoring fans. Pretty fucking gross, altogether. (And goes a long way toward explaining how she got herself excommunicated, which retroactively parallels her narrative with Morello's lies about marrying Christopher, minus the –opher.)
Usually I think the show errs on the side of South Park Republican, but I must admit that this episode nailed absolutely everything that sucks about martyrs and activists, while still avoiding selling the other side, which is a hard dance to dance. Anyway, it ends on a characteristically bathetic note, as we fade to orange over Sister Jane's hunger-artist screams at being force-fed, yadda yadda. I don't actually think it's that complicated: If you were cutting yourself or setting yourself on fire as protest, it's kind of my duty as your fellow human to stop you doing that, so maybe drop the drama down a notch or two and have a sandwich. (Or as Golda Meir would say, "Don't be humble, you're not that great.")
Speaking of: Alex is living in a rathole in Queens, having been abandoned by the system, and also their old drug kingpin is free. Hilariously, Piper's like, "Wait, so I'm the only one that's still in jail?" and then they bitch at each other and whatever, Alex is scared because she has no protection, but also Alex can't leave the state, so... Poor Alex? (And yeah, kind of. It is somewhat mystifying to me how she can garner sympathy from the fictional people she has fucked over, but feeling bad for her from just the perspective of a viewer who hates her? That shocks me every time.) Piper is in love with Alex, but check back in a minute for updates to that breaking story.
Worse than Alex of course is Larry, who joins Polly for a talk with her husband Pete that first he thinks is an intervention ("I'm not an alcoholic, I'm Australian!") and then thinks is a come-on for a threeway, which he's into until it's time for him to pretend he isn't, and then he hits Larry, but Polly knows he's secretly relieved to be off the hook. She means the "hook" of parenting, but I think if you asked Pete he would say it's also nice to be off the "hook" of spending one second more with these abysmal fucking people.
Fig notices the pattern of resistance again with Piper, this time connecting the hunger strike to her newsletter—which is becoming more and more of an outsider-art samizdat—and she gets right up the asses of all the strikers and basically anybody with any kind of self-respect in that whole place. By episode's end, she's put both Piper and Sister Ingalls on a list of prisoners to be transferred out of her jail, just for being pains in the ass. Needless to say the struggle between Caputo and Figueroa is getting so intense you kind of wish they'd just cut to the chase and have him ally with Piper, or Healy, or both, but either way Figueroa is continually more of a monster.
Just like Vee, who formally charges Taystee with "responsibility" for Poussey just as the latter attends the first and basically last session of Pennsatucky's sad little group-therapy meetings, Safe Place. She doesn't speak up about her feelings or the million awful things Vee is up to, first because the Eyes of Crazy Eyes are upon her and thus the Place is not Safe, but mostly because—as she explains beautifully—prison is no kind of location to process and experience your touchy-feely depths of emotion, due to: It is prison.
And finally, Black Cindy dicks Red's group around for like ten hilarious minutes before shrugging and fingering Boo as the snitch who told Vee about the greenhouse tunnel. Boo goes to Vee and gets frozen out on that side too, which means she's now all alone, which is fine because she is the most worthless person on the entire show. Red's people talk about their options, since this latest thing—like all things—is somehow a declaration of war, and that one old lady that looks like the ghost of a witch is like, "I will shank her no problem," But then she fully stabs just some random lady and not Vee at all. Which is both racist and hilarious of her, because why would you trust a ghost of a witch.
[Images via Netflix]