#OrangeHeads, I think I’ve figured out why this season feels off. The problem is the an episode will be dedicated to a character like Big Boo or Flaca and then for the next several episodes, those characters will fade back into the background. By doing that, Orange Is the New Black is effectively erasing any sort of momentum and emotional stakes that the viewer may have in the a particular inmate. We finally learn something about Bennett only for him to vanish. We get to see the full extent of Nicky’s complicated relationship with her mom and now Nicky is gone. We learned that Poussey’s mom died long ago, but not the how, why, or when. The questions are mounting and without a central plot to keep the majority of the inmates in the same orbit so we can continue to delve deeper into the characters’ lives, it’s really difficult for this season to make any sort of impression.

You are watching: Orange is the new black season 3 episode 6

I know, I know. We have the matter of MCC taking over Litchfield, but because the inmates are mostly oblivious to the corporate takeover, this storyline seems to be only affecting Caputo, who should have a flashback of his own, and the COs, most of whom we haven’t had the luxury of getting to know. Anyway, not all is lost with the show, so let’s try and forge ahead and discuss what works and what doesn’t in the sixth episode, “Ching Chong Chang.”

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This episode is all about Chang, which is a welcome surprise since we know nothing about her and have only seen her in action delivering one-liner gems. Well, we did know one thing about her prior to this episode: she’s a loner, and that’s reinforced in Litchfield. She doesn’t play any recreational sports with the inmates as she is content with just watching from the sidelines, and she sneaks off to watch TV on a smartphone that is stashed away on prison grounds. It turns out, via her flashbacks, she was always on the quiet side.

Her brother tried to pawn her off in an arranged marriage, but when the man arrives and sees her with acne, he’s all like, “I took one look at her face and my boner pressed the snooze button. No. Thank. You.” Ooof, as we can see, life was hella hard back in the day when a dame had bad acne. I will remember that next time when someone asks me where I would time travel back to. Before, I used to say nothing prior to the Civil Rights Movement, but that is now amended to nothing before Proactiv was invented in 1995. Why? Because the grown-ass woman, who was trying to arrange this marriage, had this to say to Chang:

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Poor Chang, but also, probably a good thing to not be forced to marry a douche nozzle. Anyway, she ends up working at her brother’s store, a store which is only staying in business because he’s selling illegal things like bear bile and rhino horn to men under the promise that it will improve their sex lives. Or these dudes could learn how to go down on a lady instead of focusing on making their dongs rock hard and using them for unsatisfying jackhammer sex, but I digress. The police have been cracking down on the sale of these products, so Chang’s brother decides to have her sneak the product from the warehouse (with a guy named Fu) to the store because no one ever pays attention to her. Again, rude as hell, bro. Just say she’s “stealthy.”

So Chang and Fu are about to finish the deal when she discovers that she’s being sold wack product. The dealer and Fu fight and she stops the dealer from shooting Fu by hitting him with a crowbar. Fu says he owes her, and she says she knows what she wants:

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There are enough stories out there where a woman’s worth is defined by a man, where a man rejecting her puts her in a hysterical state. OITNB is too progressive of a show to have to rely on this tired old trope. And yes, I do understand that a lot of the time people wind up in jail because of a lack of love — platonic, parental, romantic — but I’ve really only seen romantic love heavily explored on this show, which is problematic to me because typical female representations are that a woman is purely driven by becoming somebody’s somebody. OITNB has the opportunity explore the complexities of women and how they define themselves outside of the male gaze. And even when they do that, in the case of Poussey and Taystee, there is still the underlying tension of Poussey having feelings for Taystee. Anyway, I know I keep asking for friendship bonds to start being the focal point of this show numerous times, so I won’t belabor the point further. You know where I stand. Let’s move on.

Meanwhile, Lorna is answering prison letters sent from men because she is trying to get one of them to fall for her and give her money. (And also because she’s lonely and misses Nicky, but mostly because of money.) Yes, this is gross, but now Lorna has something to do on the show. Unfortunately, it’s the romance stuff, but I think there is something else going on here. Lorna, based off what we know about her, is lonely and desperate for a connection with anyone, so having her cope with feeling alone could potentially be a good sub-plot to explore.

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Right behind her in the sadness department is Poussey. Taystee tries to get her to go to AA, but Poussey wants a girlfriend; since she can’t have that, she drinks. While this storyline is depressing, I like the way they are showing how prison eats at the inmates, as this sense of “Who am I and where am I” grounds the show in some sort of reality. This season has had a little too much comedy and can come off as silly at times. Now, I’m not demanding that OITNB go the way of the HBO male prison drama Oz, but I will say that heavier stakes and taking the show and the characters more seriously will put the show back in the “must-see-TV” category instead of where it is right now: “I-guess-I-have-to-watch-because-everyone-else-is-and-I-don’t-want-to-be-left out.”

Phoebe Robinson is a stand-up comic and writer who’s been on Late Night with Seth Meyers, is a consultant for Broad City, and whose debut book, You Can’t Touch My Hair, comes out Fall 2016. Her website is blaria.com.

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