It could be argued that the Forever Family is a societal myth. Parents get divorced, while other parents give up raising their children altogether (for many reasons), and the concept of a nuclear family has been all but done away with in 2014. At the very least, there is a new normal in town and it’s a bit more complex. Even so, we all still pretty much want and need the same thing—someone who cares deeply about what we eat… and what we sh—.
The first episode of OITNB Season Two caught some flack from our TV critic Amy Amatangelo for focusing entirely on Piper Chapman. Once again, it was made obvious that the protagonist of the series is often the least-compelling character, but it could also be argued that Piper’s suburban upbringing (in which the greatest tragedy she experiences growing is the revelations that her father cheats on her mother) is just as necessary a story as Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson’s.
“Looks Blue, Tastes Red” brings us back to our beloved Litchfield prison inmates, opening up with a flashback on young Taystee who is “auditioning” for the perfect family. She sings Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful,” and when another cutesy prospective adoptee gets in her way, she hilariously barks, “Brichelle—you back the f— off!” Ah, yes. OITNB is back in full effect.
It’s a great scene and an excellent critique of the the American adoption system, where most people only want the babies, or—at most—the very light-skinned, curly-haired black girls. Someone like Taystee is destined to be a Group Home kid forever. The great Lorraine Toussaint is introduced as a Mama Bear, streetwise hustler-type (Vee Parker), who eventually takes her in. She tells young Taystee that, sometimes in life, you have to make your own Forever Family. We can almost smell the dysfunctionality therein, and you just know these two are both going to end up behind bars.
Back in present-day, the Dress For Success storyline plays a little strangely at first. It’s fun to watch the ladies do the dress-up thing, but it initially feels like an easy way to get some cheap laughs. Still, it functioned as a means of further villainizing the Litchfield administrator Natalie Figueroa, and exploring Taystee’s storyline. She gets to show off her excellent work ethic (even if most of what she’s learned stems from her time helping Vee sell heroin), and she also gets a huge disappointment when she “wins” in the end. There is no fancy job waiting for her on the outside. Never has been, never will be. The message is that, essentially, these women can play dress-up all they want, but they will most likely never have careers, never have a reason to incorporate what they supposedly learned from the Mock Job Fair. “Mock” is absolutely right—it’s just another way for Figueroa to pacify the masses.
Another seemingly strange storyline is the constipation situation with Dayanara Diaz. Her performance feels a little off in this episode (which could be attributed to the ridiculousness of it all), and—even though constipation is a fact of life—does it really need to make up a whole plot point?
As it turns out, yes it does. Dayanara’s mother Aleida becomes insecure because she’s been in the dark about her daughter’s troubles. Gloria has known, and even goes so far as to say that Aleida is becoming more of a cool “aunt” than a mother. Aleida shuts this all down with a boatload (crapload?) of yogurt, which helps Dayanara um, let loose. This is only interesting if you consider the family dinner flashback scene with Taystee and Vee. Forget about the fact that she’s got these young kids in the drug game (one of whom is killed by cops in the end)—she sounds like a true Mommy at dinner time. The new flaxseed bread she bought has plenty of fiber, and she wants the kids to eat up.
There is only one human being on the planet who cares equally and deeply about what you eat and what you sh—. Her name is Mom. Everyone wants and needs a Forever Mom, and when you don’t really have one, you’ll invite makeshift versions into your life. Now both Taystee and Dayanara are behind bars with their mothers (and/or mother figures). Expect more Mommy issues on a whole ‘nother level.
“Here. Take this child before I drown him in my tears and sweat.”—Piper’s friend Holly is done with this Attachment Parenting movement. You know it’s bad when you can carry on whole conversations with your entire breast hanging out.
Speaking of makeshift families, Red’s new “old and invisible” crew is great.
So Big Boo apparently got it on with her dog and some Peanut Butter? Nice.
Pennsatucky returns… and those teeth! Somebody pray for her!
“I can promise you that I’ve never felt more saner than I do now.”—Pennsatucky
“Instead of saying that you ‘helped make sure that no one stole sh—,’ you could say that you monitored inventory and provided security.”
“I want the kind of job where I can just chillll, you know?” Don’t we all, Poussey? Don’t we all…
More Laverne Cox, please!
Shannon M. Houston is Assistant TV Editor at Paste, and a New York-based freelance writer with probably more babies than you. You can follow her on Twitter.