‘Orange is the New Black’ recap: Season 2, Episode 1, ‘Thirsty Bird’

Taylor Schilling in a scene from Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black.”  Photo credit: JoJo Whilden for Netflix.
Taylor Schilling in a scene from Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black.” Photo credit: JoJo Whilden for Netflix.

The hit Netflix original series “Orange is the New Black” debuted its second season on June 6 outside of the stark confines of Litchfield Penitentiary, focusing entirely on Piper Chapman’s transfer to a Chicago prison to testify against the drug lord that prompted the WASPy blonde’s unlikely incarceration.

Loyal viewers may recall that Piper (Taylor Schilling), has spent months behind bars for smuggling drugs as a favor for her former lesbian lover Alex Vause (Laura Prepon) a decade prior.

Schilling, who has been lambasted as the comedy-drama’s least interesting cast member, is underrated. With a stone-faced comedic delivery, Schilling has evolved Piper’s character from a fat-free sherbet to a darker shade of orange, embodying rage, lust and alpha attributes.

And in this season, it seems she will continue her descent into that dour personal dungeon.

Oscar winner Jodie Foser directed the hour-long pilot episode of season two, “Thirsty Bird.” It opens with Piper in SHU; punishment for her violent Christmas night fight with Pennsatucky (Tiffany Doggett). But we are soon swept away as guards yank Piper from the hole, and put her on a bus, refusing to answer her pleas for answers.

“…Are you taking me to Mass?” she cries, assuming execution awaits.

The bus ride ends at an airplane, ala Con Air. Unfortunately, Nic Cage is no where to be seen.

Piper confesses to her new travel companion, Lolly [AKA Kit from "A League of Their Own"] that she may have killed a woman – Pennsatucky – during the cliff-hanger prison brawl.  She assumes the transfer is part of her punishment for Pennsatucky’s assault, and possible death.

“She was relentless,” Piper laments. “I mean just crazy; so, so crazy, and I completely lost it. I went to that dark place that place that let me just keep on hitting her, and hitting her, and hitting her… I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t stop.”

After the emotional performance Lolly cuts the silence: “That’s some shit, man.”

Later, the plane descends over a new city. Piper, in keeping with her cultured and well traveled persona, recognizes the skyline instantly.

“Chicago,” she says.

Piper is processed into the new detention center, still in the dark about why she’s been transferred.

Shedding light on her transfer

The new pen isn’t quite as homey as Litchfield. Piper starts off on the wrong foot – literally – when she steps on and kills a cockroach named Yoda. The pet was beloved by her new cell mates, who have trained the bug to smuggle cigarettes and other tiny contraband.

One cell mate has an astrological obsession, and resorts to licking Piper’s forehead in her sleep when she becomes so excited at the prospect of reading Piper’s chart. Another roommate proudly “takes four shits a day. Out in the open.” How fun for everyone involved.

But on day two, Piper is shocked to see Alex making her way through the common room. Having only caught a glimpse of her,  Piper bribes a perverted male inmate – who she later discovers is a hit man – to pass a note to Alex arranging a meet up. The price? Some rank panties Piper has been wearing for four days.

“Even better,” her cohort quips.

Alex and Piper meet face-to-face, albeit through bars that keep them segregated – and Piper finally learns the reason for her transfer.

Alex reveals that they are both there to testify against against Kubra Balik, her former cartel boss.

But Alex also has some good news – Piper didn’t kill Pennsatucky, but merely busted up her already rough face. 

A bitter betrayal

En route to court, Alex begs Piper to lie during testimony, and claim she never knew Kubra. The lie would protect them both from Kubra’s notorious wrath, Alex insists.

Break another law? Piper is in a tough place. Viewers get glimpses into her character’s past with a series of flashbacks to when Piper, then a young girl, sees her father kissing a woman who is not her mother. When her mother meets the news with ambivalence, young Piper seems to realize that lying isn’t so bad – “as long as we all smiled for our Christmas photos.”

So she does it – she covers for Kubra during interrogation. She claims she never met him – a blatant lie. And when the prosecutor asks if she understands the consequences of lying under oath, Piper tells him with a whimsical look in her eyes, “I was there for Alex. She was what I paid attention to. Everything else was just background.”

After lying under oath and being shamed by her attorney, who is also the father of her ex-fiancé Larry Bloom (Jason Biggs), Piper doesn’t just get a slap on the wrist, but rather a knife in the back.

While sitting in a holding cell, Piper sees Alex being led out in street clothes.

“Piper, I had to tell the truth,” Alex says, and then she’s gone.

Needless to say, a rage envelops Piper that is sure to boil over throughout the rest of season 2. #Giddy.

Grade: A

Follow Morgan Rousseau on Twitter: @MetroMorgan
Follow Metro Boston on Twitter: @MetroBOS


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