Warning: The following contains spoilers from Orange Is the New Black Season 6, Episode 1. Looking for the previous Orange Is the New Black recap? Click here.
Orange Is the New Black heads to max in Season 6, which was first released on Friday. The premiere episode, titled “Who Knows Better Than I,” catches us up with most of the inmates we last saw awaiting capture in the basement bunker. They’ve since been placed in administrative segregation since getting caught.
The episode starts off on a playful note. We pan in on Suzanne, who’s in her cell talking to an imaginary friend. She makes her bed, then asks if she can watch TV. She flips on the nonexistent tube, then goes channel surfing through a series of shows featuring her fellow inmates. These include a children’s show featuring Nicky dressed up as a piano-playing dog, cracking wise about the handsy uncle who molested her as a child; a violent interpretive dance program featuring Daya and a pair of aggressive COs; a magic show hosted by Freida, who slits her wrist with a playing card; another children’s show in which Red plays a demented Soviet clown; a boxing match between Gloria and Maria; a black-and-white musical starring Cindy, who plays a gumshoe with a secret to hide; and a prison edition of Jeopardy, during which Piper keeps answering, “Where is Alex?” Host Alex Trebek then snaps and says, “I’m here, bitch!”
Suzanne’s “TV time” is interrupted when two guards enter. She imagines herself dressed as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, but quickly snaps out of it once she’s removed from her cell. As it turns out, some of those make-believe shows are based on actual things happening to her fellow prisoners. Freida’s in her cell, having actually slit her wrists, while Alex is nowhere to be found. Cindy, meanwhile, signals to Suzanne that she’s keeping a close eye on her.
We then cut to our next scene. Suzanne is seated in a room with an FBI agent, who has questions about the night that Piscatella was killed. Both her attorney and her mother are present. The attorney says he has a signed statement from a licensed mental health professional, and insists that Suzanne be sent back to GenPop. It’s been a week in AdSeg, and it’s contributing to her current instability. The agent initially scoffs at the statement, and says Suzanne faces life in prison if she doesn’t cooperate. And so, Mom tells her to take a deep breath and try to remember what happened. She recalls the moment after Season 5’s cliffhanger, as the SWAT team entered to take everyone in the pool into custody. Alex is seen unconscious, being dragged away by her feet, and the guards capture everyone but Suzanne and Cindy.
Afterward, we get another flashback to fill in the missing pieces. Time has passed since most of the inmates were retrieved, but Suzanne and Cindy are still hiding. Guards have come back down with Piscatella’s body, which they intend to plant to make it look like the inmates killed him. They come up with a story involving a gun they find in the basement — the same one that Taystee had pointed at his head before Red untied him and set him free. A guard takes a few more shots at the wall to make it look like there was a battle between the inmates and the feds, then shoots Piscatella in the face once more so the bullet matches the weapon. After the guards exit, Suzanne starts freaking out. Cindy tells her that they’ve got to let the guards find them, but not here. They can’t know that they were in the basement… or else.
A third flashback shows that the guards track down the inmates in a custodial closet. They pretend to be deaf, then get loaded onto a bus with the others. On the bus, Cindy warns Suzanne that she has to maintain the lie that they weren’t in the basement, or the guards responsible for Piscatella’s death will kill them both. We then cut back to present day. During phone time, Cindy calls her rabbi and says she needs a lawyer. Suzanne, meanwhile, is in the throes of a panic attack. The FBI agent agrees that she needs to be evaluated.
Later on, Freida is wheeled to psych; her suicide attempt failed. Lolly, who we last saw back in Season 4, is waiting in line for her medications when she suddenly notices Freida from afar. She then spots Suzanne, who’s meeting with a doctor, and exclaims, “This like Old Home Week ’round here!” She claps to get Suzanne’s attention, which triggers her fellow inmate’s heightened imagination. Suddenly, all the prisoners are dancing to “Cha-Cha Slide.” The doctor then determines that Suzanne needs to stay in psych, but Suzanne argues against it. She says she’s not crazy, simply chemically imbalanced. And so, she’s put back on her meds and sent back to AdSeg. Freida is also sent back, but strapped to a chair in her cell to prevent any further suicide efforts.
After some time has passed, Suzanne and her attorney meet with the FBI agent again. This time around, he comes bearing White Castle hamburgers and asks how she’s feeling. She’s had her meds and no longer sees her mother in the room. Turns out she, too, was a figment of Suzanne’s imagination. When the agent then asks Suzanne if she was in the basement the night the riot ended, she tells him she was in the closet with Cindy, and only knows about the basement because she heard the others talk about it on the bus. After he’s done with his questioning, Suzanne is taken out of AdSeg and placed in GenPop.
Elsewhere in the episode…
* As foreshadowed by the aforementioned dance sequence, Daya is getting beat up by the COs as payback for Humphrey’s death. She’s later brought outside to the yard, where a fellow prisoner named Daddy (Voice alum Vicci Martinez) wanders over and slips her a Snickers. She says it’s a token of appreciation for killing a CO, and suggests that she wants to get to know her.
* Taystee, who also gets a serious beatdown, discovers that Tamika Ward (Vinyl‘s Susan Heyward), a childhood friend, is now a CO. When Ward pays her a visit, Taystee tells her old pal that she’s working for the enemy. Ward snaps back, telling her that the inmates are responsible for the death of two guards. Taystee, still in the dark about Piscatella’s death and the cover-up that followed, has no idea what she’s talking about.
* Red gets a new bunkmate: Madison Murphy aka Badison (Last Man Standing‘s Amanda Fuller), who’s first seen returning from medical with a cast on her hand. Red warns Badison about messing with her prison family, but the inmate doesn’t scare easy.
* Piper phones her dad and tells him that Alex is missing. She has him do an Internet search for any information about the riot, which leads him to an article about a reported casualty. Later, she makes the mistake of asking Badison if she saw Alex in medical. Badison in turn tells her to check for herself. She trips Piper, who falls flat on her face and chips a tooth. Piper wakes up in medical, where a fellow inmate tells her that another prisoner died earlier that day.
* Gloria attacks Maria during rec time. As punishment, the guards abuse their power, handcuff the inmates in the shower, hose them down and force them to make out.
* Gloria also learns that Benny’s surgery was a success. She manages to get her son on the phone midway through the episode.
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