It’s not like Vee was all sunshine and roses before this, but “It Was the Change” revealed just how horrid she truly is. Flashbacks take us to happier days of R.J. and Taystee living with Vee. They argue over chicken wings, and tease Vee that she’s going through menopause. We learn that R.J. has always had a bit of a crush on Vee (“If you weren’t practically my mom, I don’t know what would happen”).
Later, Vee learns that R.J. has been trying to branch out on his own. She’s furious, and goes to see him, at first angry but then seemingly mollified by R.J.’s assurances that he’s not encroaching on her business and that he wants her to share in the profits. They sleep together (blech!), and Vee sends him out to buy her popsicles. But the cop Vee has working for her shoots R.J., and plants a gun on him. So this is how evil Vee truly is—not only will she have the man she practically raised killed and framed, but she will sleep with him first. Why? Because she always wanted to? Because she could? To prove that she’s still all woman even though she’s going through “the change?” We’ve seen Vee do this before—lulling her enemy into a sense of calm. Clearly this is part of her M.O. But killing R.J. is beyond horrific. And I have to wonder if Taystee is at all suspicious, or if she believes R.J. was killed by the cops.
Vee uses this same approach with Red after Red attacks her and attempts to strangle Vee. She asks for a truce, even joking, “You just tried to strangle me with plastic wrap so you can sell mascara in jail.” The duo shake hands, but you know it can’t be that easy. By the end of the hour, Vee is viciously attacking Red in the greenhouse. I didn’t exactly believe Vee’s plea for a truce, but still—her takedown of a defenseless Red was devastating.
Once again Poussey gets drunk on her own hooch, and ends up trashing all of Vee’s tobacco supply. Vee is furious and blames Taystee. “I seem to recall you saying she wasn’t going to be a problem,” she tells Taystee before casting her out, saying she needs to “neutralize” the situation. As long as Taystee’s working for Vee, Poussey is going to be a problem. “You said you would protect me,” Taystee pleads. Taystee shows all the signs of an abused child—she still wants to be with her abuser no matter how awful she’s been treated.
Meanwhile, the long-promoted super storm Wanda finally hits Litchfield, flooding all the bathrooms and taking out the power. The inmates must all camp out in the cafeteria, trying to entertain themselves with games of “f—, marry, kill,” participating in a Soso-lead sing-along, and getting high on nutmeg.
Like Taystee, Pennsatucky is looking for someplace to belong. She tells Healy that she might try to get in with the lesbian crowd which, of course, leads to another homophobic rant by Healy. “No offense, but men being in charge has never done me any good,” she tells him. Boo sees this as an opportunity to have fun with Pennsatucky, and regales her with stories of how to become “initiated” into the lesbian community and the “gay agenda.”
While Litchfield is drowning, Fig is off to a glam fundraiser for her husband. She refuses to return Caputo’s calls and then when he finally gets a hold of her, she tells him he has to deal with it on his own. We learn that it was Fig’s husband’s idea to embezzle money for his campaign through Litchfield. Clearly her husband doesn’t take her career seriously. But still Fig is feeling mighty pleased with herself until she sees her beloved husband making out with his campaign aide. Many viewers have suspected Fig’s husband was gay ever since he spurned his wife’s advances a few episodes back, but to Fig this is a devastating revelation.
Piper comes out of her self-absorbed shell to realize that her transfer is not just affecting her, but also the other inmates who are being transferred with her—particularly Ruiz who has a baby and worries that when she comes home, “my baby will be in first grade calling some other punta mommy.”
The best part of the episode came with the apparent reconciliation of Taystee and Poussey. They’re in the library trying to save the books, when Taystee begins to attack Poussey before she becomes horrified by her actions and the two collapse, hugging each other through their tears. I really can’t say enough about Danielle Brooks and Samira Wiley’s performances this season. Of all the characters on the show, I care about them the most.
In the episodes final moments, Piper breaks into Fig’s office looking for proof of embezzlement. She’s caught by Caputo just as the lights come back on. With only one episode left this season, all the story lines are moving nicely into place. Will Diaz convince Bennett to tell the truth? Who will be the ultimate victor in the Vee vs. Red takedown? When will Cindy and Janae reach their limit with Vee? Will Piper get transferred? Will Caputo find a way to bring down Fig now that Piper has proof? Let’s hope all these questions get answered.
Other thoughts on “It Was the Change:”
• I loved Red’s instructions on the correct way to kill a person. “Step 1: Pick a person to kill. Step 2: Kill That Person.”
• No Larry in this episode (Yay!).
• Rosa just breaks my heart. “It’s not the dying that’s bad. It’s that I gotta do it here. Last thing I’m gonna see is you assholes.”
• Apparently the promise of meeting Tiki Barber is enough to stop any inquiries about missing expenses.
Amy Amatangelo is a Boston-based freelance writer, a member of the Television Critics Association and a regular contributor to Paste. You can follow her on Twitter or her blog.