The heavily foreshadowed hurricane finally arrives at Litchfield, forcing everybody into various absurd, scary, or mortifying configurations as they batten down the hatches. Meanwhile, Figueroa finally notices her hot gay husband is gay, and Piper takes her shot at bringing the monster down.
Before the groups face off once again in a fight over that darn tunnel—and Vee threatens Red's sons outside the prison, which is an actual declaration of war—Red's response to last episode's operatically failed assassination is pure gold:
"You want to assassinate someone? Vision is a basic requirement. It's like, Step one: Pick a person to kill. Step two: Kill that person."
Meanwhile, we get a series of flashbacks on Vee, finally, and confirm some terrible shit we hoped weren't true. After a sweet, funny family scene of her days with Taystee and RJ, in which she has a sudden horrible epiphany that she's going into menopause, Vee learns from her contact in the PD that RJ is trying to start up his own drug business on the side. After some very creepy sex with her ersatz adoptive son, she calls in the hit, which is delivered by that same cop. Taystee never learns this secret, as far as we know, but it does inform a lot of what follows in this episode and the finale.
Power's out, pipes are flooding, there's no gas in the generators, and the inmates are all forced to piss in buckets and wait out the storm in the cafeteria. Figueroa's trying to get pregnant while trying to hide her embezzlement while trying to throw a fundraiser while trying to ignore the fact that her husband is clearly fucking that aide from a while back, but eventually the whole thing caves in on her head. I like Figueroa more than I think I'm supposed to, so it's kind of a weird revenge-fantasy drag to see all of her shit unravel so nastily at once, but it's nothing compared to the next episode, so we'll just say she is a champ at ignoring her prison as it's drowning, and has no concept of just how much ill will this is continuing to engender in Caputo.
Poussey destroys Vee's entire stash of tobacco, which causes Vee to go almost entirely insane and eject Taystee from the group, since she's "responsible" for Poussey's actions—and, more logically, because Vee's only a target of Poussey's rage because she stole Taystee away and has been torturing her since day one. So now Taystee's all alone too, which makes it awkward when the hacks send the two estranged besties down to rescue the library's floor-level stacks. After some incredibly awkward emoting, the ladies decide to make up and hopefully save the rest of the black inmates from Vee's weird hypnosis.
Pennsatuckey has her best episode, and scene, of the season, first trying to schmooze snacks out of Healy and in the process getting a strange idea from him about how the lesbians are trying to kill off all the men and establish a matriarchy. For Healy, it's the missing piece of his lesbian obsession—he feels obsolete and left out, as he's said, everywhere he goes; the existence of lesbians cancels out his own—but, in her twisted way, Pennsatuckey decides to befriend Big Boo ("She's the worst one!" he yells, correctly) and join the Gay Agenda without actually having to do any gay stuff. Fantastic line readings and faces throughout.
Up in the caf, Red is going crazy with fear from Vee's threats, and eventually tries to beg a knife off Gloria in the kitchens. When that doesn't work, she stalks Vee outside during the storm and tries to strangle her with a knotted-up plastic bag. Eventually Vee cries uncle, and they agree to a truce. Because it is Vee, this is a total lie, and the episode ends with her beating the shit out of Red with a "slock," or a locker-lock inside a sock.
And Piper—after trying to connect with that one girl who is always in the Visiting Room talking to her teardrop-tattoo babydaddy that never speaks—finally realizes it's her chance to steal a whole file proving that journalist's suspicions about the Figueroas and their shell corporation deals, but the power comes back on before she can sneak them back to the cafeteria, and she's discovered by Caputo.
Marred by some over-the-top performances and a little bit of show-don't-tell, it's still a very fun episode, in some ways a counterpoint to the similarly structured Valentine's Day episode earlier in the season. It's graceful in the way it moves so many stories forward, while still keeping the left hand moving with a lot of wonderful dialogue and character moments. Most of all, this one replaces some of the momentum we lost coming into the back half, by putting everybody's storylines on a very obviously penultimate shout: Whatever happens next, that's all we're getting for the season, so it's best that the powder keg not blow quite yet.
While I found the Taystee/Poussey reconciliation to be a little amateur hour, that's very subjective and perhaps seeing that scene on another day would provoke a different or stronger reaction. Red's meltdown, while believable, was a bit overdetermined, even though the eventual fake truce—as seen through the eyes of either Red or Vee—was a pretty subtle journey overall.
Did you like it? Do you like those bottle-episode situations where strange bedfellows are both the rule, and generally never spoken of again? Do you enjoy seeing the girls peel away from Vee one by one, or are you so frustrated by the spinning wheels of that story that you just find them all exhausting by now? And what on earth do think is happening with all-important, ever-scintillating Larry? Didn't you miss Larry so, so much in this episode?