Orange Is the New Black Season 4, Ep 5 – Maritza (Review)

Piscatella and Chapman

Last week focussed more on Lolly, Judy King  and Sophia Burset.  Orange Is the New Black “We’ll Always Have Baltimore” zooms in on Maritza Ramos (Diane Guerrero), Caputo (Nick Sandow) and Chapman (Taylor Schilling).   Flashbacks reveal what Ramos did before she entered the corrections system. Caputo attends the conference in Baltimore and Chapman starts her plan to put Maria out of business. 

At the conference, Joe Caputo is captivated by Linda Ferguson (Beth Dover) and motivated by MCC legend Kip Carnigan (Chris Sarandon). There is a budding romance between Ferguson and Caputo that reaches fruition when he is arrested by a Baltimore “rent-a-cop.” She believes he stood up for her when Danny Pearson (Mike Birbigliabegan heckling Linda during her panel.

As the cops come in and start escorting Danny out of the room Joe intercedes for his boss’s son. One officer grabs Joe and he puts the man on the floor. It is an automatic reaction and he immediately begins apologizing. Caputo and Pearson are taken out of the panel room.

Linda vouches for both men and using the plastic promotional handcuffs makes Joe her prisoner. They kiss and things heat up considerably in a matter of seconds. Caputo switches to a different kind of oral action.

Back at the prison: Suzanne (Uzo Aduba) and Lorna (Lorna Morello) team up to catch the “shower pooper.” Taystee (Danielle Brooks)  discovers the Judy King drone picture while looking for celebrity gossip Suzanne requested.  Chapman goes to see Piscatella and complains that she does not feel safe and tells the new captain of the guards that there is gang activity in Litchfield. 

She gets permission to start a group to help stamp out any gangs. Piper calls her new organization the Community Carers and at the first meeting she loses control.  It quickly  turns into a white supremacist meeting.

Maritza volunteers to help Maria’s panties get outside the fence by using her van.  Ramos drives the guards to their homes and she arranges to drop the lingerie off to Maria’a cousin Alonso.

The plan works well, even after Alonzo gets spotted by Dixon.  Thinking quickly Maritza tells the officers that Alonzo is the gardner. In Spanish she tells the pickup man to follow her lead. One of the other guards, who speaks Spanish tells the young inmate that she is more clever than he thought.

As this episode of Orange Is the New Black progresses, Maritza remembers her life before the prison. She was a small time con artist who broke bottles of Vodka (filled with water) and conned the customers into paying for the lost “booze.”

Ramos worked at a club and made pretty good money out of her small  con. One of her victims  tells her that instead of making $50K a year she could make that amount in a day. Maritza responds angrily. “Hey I ain’t no prostitute, even if the guy looks like a [sic] mean dad guy.”

Later we see her all dressed up and in the backseat of her victim’s car. He and a friend are teaching Maritza how to steal cars off the sales lot. She is to pose as  a salesperson and take a rich “old guy” out for a test drive. Picking her mark (What if his name is Mark?) she sets up the test drive only to be joined by a real salesman.

On the drive,  the intrusive sales rep plays 20 Questions asking more and more about the “couple’s” married life. As things begin to get increasing uncomfortable for her, Maritza asks Edward “Teddy” to stop the car.

She rushes out of the vehicle and feigns throwing up. The two men follow and as they ask if she is alright, she leaps to her feet and steals the car.

Orange Is the New Black does these flashbacks extremely well.  We are allowed to see more of the inmates’ backstories and what motivated them to commit crime.  (In Maritza’s case it appears to be pure greed.)

Chris Sarandon was brilliant as the sage Gandi-ish MCC  legend and Dover is excellent as the barracuda that Caputo is falling for.  Guerrero kills it as the cute criminal who got in over her head prior  to prison and may be doing the same thing again with Maria’s panty business.

Once again the writers have given us a taste of working  in a prison.  Caputo’s reflexive move against the cop was spot on, if not a little “loose” but regardless it was a moment of truth.  Perhaps the only complaint in this episode is the depiction of most  of the correctional officers as being bullying douchebags.

As in any job there are a few that fit that bill but most, like Healy from last week, are just trying to do their job properly. (Speaking of properly, those searches were incorrectly done. In real life each of those inmates could have smuggled a bazooka around and not been found out.)

Orange Is the New Black is streaming on Netflix. Stick with the show and see how Chapman’s new group fares.


I Smile Back: Sarah Silverman Nails It

Adapted from Amy Koppleman’s book of the same name, by Paige Dylan and Koppleman, directed by Adam Salky and starring Sarah Silverman, I Smile Back looks at a suburban familial nightmare of mental illness and addiction.

Sarah Silverman as Laney Brooks

Adapted from Amy Koppleman’s book of the same name, by Paige Dylan and Koppleman, directed by Adam Salky and starring Sarah Silverman, I Smile Back looks at a suburban familial nightmare of mental illness and addiction. Where one partner suffers from bipolar disorder and opts to self medicate with cocaine, vodka and sex with a variety of partners and objects.  The main character, Laney Brooks, is a woman with issues. 

Brooks has deep set and disturbing mental abscesses that she fills with an affair, an over abundance of self medication and delusional ramblings. Silverman sells her version of an emotionally immature and mentally ill wife and mother of two.  Not having read the source material; Amy Koppleman won raves of approval from literary critics for her book, it is difficult to discern just where Laney’s problems begin.

It is mentioned that her father, played with a mixture of world weariness and a wounded soul by Chris Sarandon,  deserted Laney and her mother when she was a small girl. However, it is also brought up, firstly by Laney herself indirectly at a school meeting and later by her father Roger, that her grandmother had  issues as well.

I Smile Back seems to be saying that the old mot of money not buying happiness can also apply to its inability to fix mental illness.  Laney Brooks is in a relationship where her “provider” and enabler earns very good money. This allows Laney to snort cocaine and drink hidden vodka, while ignoring her prescribed medication.

Silverman’s character also has extra-marital sex, on a regular basis,  and seems to be attempting to replicate what she believes to be her father’s past behavior. Things come to a head when she overdoes her drinking and coke snorting after a family meal. After making an abusive call to another parent, she then masturbates with her daughter’s teddy bear on the floor by the bed while the child sleeps.

She goes through a meltdown and her husband sends her to detox at rehab.  Part of Laney’s problems stem from the bipolar but the rest appear to be from her lack of focus and refusal to accept culpability for her actions.

Laney “plays” at being mommy while ignoring the realities of parenthood. Later in the film, Eli (played brilliantly by Skylar Gaertner) begins exhibiting compulsive disorder symptoms at home and school.  During  a parent teacher meeting to discuss a plan of action, Laney blames the problem on her genes.

This is a moving drama filmed with emphasis on the uncomfortable “realities” of living with a loved one who suffers from mental health issues and is addicted to their own self medication.  Silverman gives this role her all and does not hesitate to show the pathos under the calm exterior of her character.

There are a few sex scenes that rely less on “in your face” techniques and more on making the act feel real. One scene features sex that turns into an assault as Laney’s world spirals out of control.

I Smile Back is evocative of  a “reality” documentary. Interactions are filmed with minimal music, focussing instead on the dialogue and the set’s ambiance.  This gives the film a “fly-on-the-wall” feel that is not too overpowering as music is used to an extent to underscore certain scenes.

Overall, this drama has equal amounts of sadness and loss. One gets the feeling that despite the love that Bruce (Josh Charles) and Laney have for one another, their relationship is doomed.  Her issues run too deep and Laney continues to deny her true feelings while refusing to take her medication. 

The ending is ambiguous; a nod to  real life where solutions are not nearly so cut and dried and innocents often suffer from their loved ones problems. Director Salky has given Silverman a chance to show that her unique brand of comedy is not the only thing that this performer has to offer.

Apart from the money not equating to happiness dictum, the film’s other message is that mental illness, or issues like bipolar or depression, is not affected by social status, success or parenthood. The root of Laney’s problem, apart from her manic depressive issue,  lies in her inability to “grow up,” she plays at being an adult with severe lapses into the emotional state of a fractured child. Nothing can “take her out of herself” long enough to fix her problems.

I Smile Back is a splendid vehicle for Silverman. It is a bit “heavy” but manages to give a human touch to all the issues faced by the Laney and her  family.  Not a film to watch if easily depressed but it is a film that should prompt discussion and not a little deep thinking. This is a 4.5 out of 5 star film and Silverman nails it as the woman who is driven to extremes by her inner demons.

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