‘Orange Is the New Black’ Season 4, Episode 12 Recap: ‘Prison Wasn’t Built on Humanity’

Kimberly Potts
Writer, Yahoo Entertainment

(Photos: Netflix)

Warning: This recap for the “The Animals” episode of Orange Is the New Black contains spoilers.

If only… If only Bayley had listened to Caputo. If only Humphrey hadn’t forced Suzanne into that fight. If only Caputo had made sure his guards were well-trained. If only MCC saw the inmates as humans and not dollar signs, and weren’t willing to hire a staff of thugs to guard them. If only Soso and Poussey hadn’t fought, maybe Poussey would have already been sitting at their regular cafeteria table with the rest of their friends, instead of in the food line with Suzanne.

So many what ifs, any one of which could have changed the tragic ending of this episode: Poussey Washington, one of the most beloved Litchfield inmates since Season 1 of Orange Is the New Black, is dead.

Because… Litchfield was taken over by a private company that only sees the inmates as profits. The more bodies they jam into the building, the more money MCC makes. What happens to those inmates, especially when there are far too many of them crowded into a building, is far from at the top of MCC’s list of concerns. The company only agreed to add on correctional officer staff when warden Caputo suggested they hire military vets, therefore earning them credits from the government. That those guards turned out to be disturbed individuals who have to be reminded over and over again that the inmates are humans — and still don’t get the message or believe it — is of even less concern to MCC.

Treatment has included making women stand on tables for hours without a bathroom break; preventing one of the prison’s more, ahem, mature inmates from sleeping, while still making her perform work duties; putting a gun to an inmate’s head until she swallowed a live mouse; and forcing one mentally unstable inmate to beat another mentally unstable inmate nearly to death.

That last act, which has left Suzanne in a catatonic state and her beating victim, Kukudio, in a state described by white supremacist leader Sankey as “ain’t pretty,” leads the inmates to band together — even the ones, sorta, whose hatred of each other sparked a season-long race war — to demand the sadistic guards’ bully of a leader, Desi Piscatella, resign.

Hapakuka had suggested the idea of a peaceful protest, something that helped the inmates at her previous prison, in Honolulu, push their demands about job hiring. Continuing squabbling among the different prison cliques nearly derailed a plan to roll out a similar protest at Litchfield, but when Pisctella, who has been physically preventing Red from sleeping, shoves her so hard that she falls down in front of a cafeteria full of inmates, they’ve all had enough. Blanca starts it by tossing off her kitchen staff hairnet and climbing back onto the table Stratman had made her stand on for a couple of days.

Piper joins Blanca on the table. Then Taystee climbs on top of her table. Hapakuka does the same. So does Sankey. The protest builds, with everyone, even Poussey, who had earlier fought with protest-loving girlfriend Brook about a potential protest being a waste of time, climbs on a table with Suzanne. “We are not going to move until you no longer work at this prison,” Maria tells Piscatella.

But this is the man who, just before pushing Red, had told the gathered inmates, “It seems that, somewhere along the way, everyone around here forgot the only thing that matters: you’re criminals, and you deserve nothing.” In his twisted mind, the very fact that they dare to protest his staff’s wicked ways proves they don’t deserve anything, including protection from the seriously disturbed treatment from Stratman and Humphrey and fellow CO Dixon.

It’s at this point that Piscatella radios for all the guards to come to the cafeteria. “We’re not going to do anything other than stand here,” Hapakuka tells Piscatella. “You don’t need more men, you just need to resign.”

But the rest of the guard staff arrives, and Piscatella simply tells them to start “clearing.” One by one they begin pulling the women off the tables. True chaos erupts when Suzanne, no longer completely catatonic, but very on edge after the fight with Kukudio, sees Humphrey walk into the cafeteria. “I did a bad thing! I did a bad thing!” she begins yelling, and she jumps off the table and begins banging on the fence wall of the cafeteria, and the trash can. Poussey, the closest member of Suzanne’s group to her, jumps off the table and tries to calm Suzanne down, as Piscatella yells for CO Bayley to “get that f–king animal out of here now.”

Bayley tries to subdue Suzanne. Poussey tries to help him control her. Bayley takes Poussey down to the ground and puts his knee on her back to contain her while he tries to fight off Suzanne, who’s attacking him.

The other guards are dragging other inmates off the tables. The cafeteria is in total chaos.

Bayley still has his knee on Poussey’s back. She’s not trying to resist, but she is trying to tell him she can’t breath. He doesn’t hear her. He’s still trying to fight off and then subdue the out of control Suzanne. McCullough tries to subdue Suzanne, too, but can’t, and Suzanne goes back to attacking Bayley, whose knee is still on Poussey’s back. McCullough calls out for Piscatella, who finally grabs Suzanne and takes her away from Bayley and Poussey and McCullough.

Taystee, who’s being dragged along the floor by another guard, spots Poussey, and notices she isn’t moving. Bayley’s knee is still on Poussey’s back. CO Coates notices this, and runs to Bayley and drags him off Poussey. But it’s too late. She’s not moving, Suzanne has started screaming again, and Taystee runs over and throws herself on the ground beside her best friend, sobbing, and stroking Poussey’s head and back and grabbing her sweatshirt.

The guards hold back the rest of the stunned inmates, who’ve formed a semi-circle around the late Poussey Washington.

Elsewhere in Litchfield (and beyond):

— In flashbacks, we get some history on guard Bayley, a nice local kid who graduated from high school and seemed committed to nothing more than hanging out with his similarly unambitious friends. Bayley got fired from the King Kone ice cream hut — the same one Healy visited while MIA from the prison lockdown in “People Persons” — for giving away ice cream to pretty girls every day, and he and his pals got revenge by egging his (now former) boss’s house. They move on to toss eggs at other homes, lawn ornaments, and even a group of inmates doing cleanup work on a patch of public lawn. One of the inmates Bayley’s friend hits, Freida, yells at them, “You think that’s funny? I’m a f–king human being!” The words resonate with Bayley, who stops laughing along with his friends.

At Litchfield, Bayley is horrified by Humphrey’s Fight Club-ish antics with Suzanne and Kukudio, and he’s waiting by Caputo’s car to tell him about it when the warden arrives for work the next morning. Later, when an FBI visit drives home to Caputo just how poorly he has run certain aspects of the prison, he runs into Bayley and issues him a heartfelt bit of advice.

“Listen to me. This isn’t for someone like you. This place crushes anything good. It’s like a monster that’s grown too big for its stubby little legs, and now it’s stumbling around, crushing whole cities. You can’t survive it, Bayley,” Caputo warns. “Working here changes who you are. I’m stuck here, you’re young. Get outta here. Go travel. Go back to school. Go work in Home Depot. Anything but here.”

If only Caputo had shared this advice earlier.

— At least Soso and Poussey made up before Poussey died. They fought earlier in the day about the potential protest against Piscatella, but with Brook already standing on her table, Poussey jumps up on a table near where she was in the food line, looks over at Soso, and mouths “I’m sorry, baby” to her.

— Sophia’s out of the SHU! She looks sick, and stunned, especially when she walks by her salon and sees the “Burset has a d–k” sign outside. She also has a bandage on her wrist. Gloria is the only inmate who seems to notice Sophia’s back, and given Gloria’s involvement in Sophia going to the SHU in the first place, she’s understandably dismissive of Gloria’s friendliness at first. Later, when Sophia stands meekly outside the salon, her stomping grounds, in need of a brush, Gloria marches inside, makes Maria’s crew leave, and sits Sophia down while she helps her freshen up her wig.

— Lolly’s doing time in Psych for the Aydin situation, but the FBI is still spending time at Litchfield for an investigation. And the agents seem particularly interested in Caputo’s hiring practices, especially since Aydin — or the body thought to be a man named Aydin — has four social security numbers attached to his name.

“What a nightmare,” Caputo says.

“For you, especially,” FBI guy responds.

So, there’s that on Caputo’s plate now.

— Healy sat in his office all night after helping get Lolly into the Psych ward. Then he checked himself into the Eastern Psychiatric Institute.

Questions: We Got a Few

— There’s plenty of blame to go around, but who will become the main scapegoat for Poussey’s death?

— Caputo is finally realizing just how bad he’s been at his job, which seems to coincide with a desire to actually make the place better, more productive, for the inmates, and that internal clash sent him to former warden’s executive assistant Natalie Figueroa for a listening ear. Did anything more than talking happen when he agreed to go inside wine-happy, lonely Figueroa’s house?

— What will the status of Piscatella and his guard staff be after Poussey’s death? Piscatella had already intimidated Caputo into backing down when Caputo tried to suspend Humphrey for making Suzanne and Kukudio fight, but will he finally push back and make it stick now that an inmate has died?

— Judy gave Poussey her (allegedly) real phone number, and promised to help her get a job when she got out of prison. Do we believe Judy was sincere? Would she have remembered Poussey, or taken her call, or helped her land a job in the kitchen of some fancy restaurant?

— Will we ever see Sam Healy again?

She Said, He Said 

“We need to take care of that pus hole of a man.” — Sankey, trying to forge an alliance with enemies Poussey and Taystee, to get rid of CO Humphrey after he forced Suzanne and Kukudio to fight.

“If you were gonna rank our hate, you guys are here (holds hand in the air) and [Humphrey] is here (moves hand up higher).” — Sankey, still trying to sell that alliance with Poussey and Taystee.

“Stratman’s an a–hole, but Humps is dangerous.” — Sankey, ranking the relative scariness of Piscatella’s COs.

“The enemy of my enemy ain’t my enemy, right?” — Taystee, trying to forge a temporary peace, or at least anti-Piscatella alliance, during a meeting of all the inmate groups’ leaders.

“A murder day.” — School kids get snow days off. When the inmates get the day off from prison construction work because of the ongoing investigation into Aydin’s death, Piper says it’s a “murder day.”

“Doomed to be together.” — Alex, telling Piper the two of them would have ended up together, in prison, even if they had taken different paths a decade earlier.

“We could be like old people who talk about articles, and eat soup, and hold hands on the slow stroll to the a– doctor for colonoscopies.” — Piper, to Alex, who says she’d just like for their lives to be easier for a bit. And yes, the couple appears to have officially recoupled, as per their makeup sex in Lolly’s time machine.

“An inmate is in Medical because an ape had a tantrum.” — Humphrey, responding to Caputo’s anger that an inmate, Kukudio, is in Medical because of a fight Humphrey instigated.

“We should start taking vitamins… and, like, the swallow kind that smell weird. Not the gummy bears.” — One of Bayley’s fellow recent high school graduate friends, in flashback, on what they should do now that they’re adults.

“Death is more permanent than getting fired.” — Red’s suggestion for dealing with Piscatella.

“Like on Lost?” — TV drama fan Sankey, when Hapakuka tells a gathering of inmate leaders that she’s representing “the others,” i.e. the inmates who don’t belong to any certain clique.

“Husky hula doll.” — Maria, rudely addressing Hapakuka.

“What you gotta say about eight years of Obama, you racist Nazi ho?” — Taystee, after Sankey suggests people will listen best to a white leader.

“Molly burned through your serotonin. Give it a month, and everything will be rosy again.” —Judy to Yoga, who’s remorseful about the night of drugs and three-way sex she shared with Judy and Luschek.

“I wish I didn’t know that.” — Poussey, after Judy points to the exact spot where her wild night with Yoga and Luschek took place.

“You know, all that yoga she supposedly does… she is not all that flexible. Couldn’t get her foot behind her head.” — Judy, sharing yet more information Poussey didn’t want to know about her night with Yoga and Luschek.

“I think he’s the hottest Holmes since John.” — Morello, on her appreciation of Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes. And porn, apparently.

“Did you hear about last night? The white girl is all messed up and Crazy is even crazier.” — Taystee’s pithy version of the previous night’s fight for Caputo.

“Pain is always there… but suffering is a choice.” — Pennsatucky, finally making Boo understand why she forgave Coates, so she could move on with her life without allowing herself to feel bad all the time.

“One step closer to that apartment.” — Poussey to Soso, about the apartment they plan to share, after Judy promises to get Poussey a job when she gets released from Litchfield.

“I did closure things.” — Judy, referring to her night with Yoga and Luschek, while she’s berating her $1,800-an-hour attorney for not getting her an early release like he said he would.

“Oh, my God, you’re crazy.” — Poor Vinnie, realizing just how complicated his prison wife is when Morello accuses him of having an affair with her sister because she finds out Vinnie and Francine both like caramel.

“Think of me as your prison psoriasis.” — Red, to Healy, apologizing for constantly coming to him with favor requests.

“I guess I know what that’s about.” — Coates to Boo, after she slaps him. She also warns him he’ll be dead if he does so much as hurt Pennsatucky’s feelings ever again.

“I hate prison.” — Alex, after she finds out Angie and Leanne are sitting outside the time machine, with snacks, listening to her and Piper have sex.

“Prison wasn’t built on humanity, inmate.” — Piscatella. Of course.

“I almost got a hand job from an inmate. And I was part of an illegal panty-smuggling scheme.” — Bayley to Coates, who laughs.

“They broke you, too, huh?” — Figueroa to Caputo, when she opens the door to find him on her doorstep. She also mentions to him that MCC plans to load a lot more inmates into Litchfield, especially once the new dorm is complete. Caputo had assumed the new dorm — which his current inmates are building for free as part of construction “education” — would help alleviate the current overcrowding situation at the prison.

“We’re gonna start trying to have a baby.” — Morello, lying to her friends about her and Vinnie, and neglecting to mention that she accused him of cheating because of caramel.

Behind Bars:

— Song playing across the end credits: “The Pattern of Electricity” by Corrina Repp.

Orange Is the New Black Season 4 is streaming on Netflix.