Orange is the New Black: Season 1 Episode 5, “The Chickening”

Now this is an episode that was made for me. Why? Because I grew up on a chicken farm. Okay, it’s slightly more complicated than that. When my great-grandfather built the house (and forgot a bathroom – I’ll tell that story if there’s an episode without a bathroom) it was just a regular farm. Then I-95 got built and cut the property in half, so it wasn’t really big enough to be a full farm anymore, but my mother liked to keep chickens, so we had two chicken houses and a pen and about 50 birds at any given time. (More in the spring, when the chicks arrived; fewer after a raccoon attack.) Chickens seem to be one of those animals that everyone is aware of, but no one really knows anything about. For instance, they frequently give hens boy names. Not that chickens really care.

Plus, the name is a pun on “the quickening,” which is what the thing was called when the Highlander killed another immortal and took all his power. It’s also the word for when a fetus starts to move in the womb, but I don’t have a personal connection to that one except for the time I was a fetus in the womb, but I don’t remember that. Also, neither of those things have anything to do with the episode. Except when Red talks about eating the chicken to take its power.

Piper wakes up in the morning and the background music tells us that she’s feeling okay, like she belongs and fits in and has everything figured out. She grabs a cup of coffee from the cafeteria and takes a book outside to read. And that’s when she sees the eponymous chicken in the yard. Piper is still basking in the glow of reading a book outside when she wanders into the break room and mentions she saw a chicken. This immediately draws attention and she’s informed that she needs to talk to Red. Red and her crew run through all the possibilities – is Piper sure it wasn’t a pigeon? A quail? A bald eagle? Piper knows what a chicken looks like but not why it’s a big deal (although frankly, the way she claims innocence would have me wondering if she made it all up too). The other inmates tell Piper the legend of the chicken that lives off the land. Nichols is skeptical because how would a chicken get over the fence? Chickens don’t fly! (Note: in fact, chickens do fly. Not far, and not high, but they can get airborne. They can certainly make it over that fence.) Red offers a reward to anyone who brings her real, fresh chicken to make Kiev. Piper excitedly tells Polly and Larry on visiting day, but is more than a little concerned when she finds out Polly is happily letting their business die. They decide to arrange a conference call during the week so Piper can try to fix Polly’s mistakes, then Piper makes her own mistake when she lets slip that Alex is in prison with her.

Nichols and her girlfriend are having hot lesbian sex in the chapel pre-religious services, but immediately after the girlfriend gets off she declares that they can’t have sex anymore because she’s saving herself for her fiance. Nichols suggests at least some last tit-for-tat but her girlfriend (seriously, I looked everywhere and can’t find the character’s name. She’s been in every episode!) says without a trace of irony, “that wouldn’t be very classy.” (Oh, it’s Morello!) They took too long anyway and the religious services are about to start so they hide under the podium. Before it can get too Police Academy in there, Tucky declares her intentions to hang a life-sized, homemade cross on the walls and is turned down. She hoists the cross over her shoulder and carries it down the aisle, imagining herself as Jesus the whole time. She’s totally one of these.

Boo (the ex girlfriend from the last episode who ended up with a screwdriver-dildo) is discussing Sophia’s medication problems with her and suggests she bum some estrogen from the old lady nun inmate. Sophia is intrigued. She starts hanging out with the nun and kissing up rather blatantly. Which is how Sophia and the nun are both in the chapel to witness Tucky tear the chapel apart trying to hang her cross. The inmates who are assigned to the electrical shop are brought in to fix the place. Tucky insists that Sophia not help, but the nun stands up to her while Sophia hilariously “mmm-hmmm!”s next to her. While they’re working on demo, Piper tells Nichols that some inmates are going to search the yard for the chicken later.

While they’re searching, some of the other “tribes” see what’s happening and decide this has to be about more than chicken. The chicken must be full of drugs, or candy, or guns. The rumors fly much faster than chickens do. All of the inmates looking turns into near-riot conditions, which means everyone gets into trouble. Judging by the reactions of the other inmates and guards, Healy is cracking the whip on everyone except Piper. He goes easy on her, suggesting only that she not see any more chickens. None of the other inmates believe that Piper didn’t start all of the rumors herself, even if they were there when the rumors started.

Since the chapel is in pieces, the AA meeting happens in the same place and time as yoga. Alex being in AA chases Piper to the other side of the room in yoga. Tastee tells the story of hitting rock bottom, which manages to involve barbeque sauce, construction equipment, and a dead John. When you can’t think it can get any better, Crazy Eyes calmly says, “almost the exact same thing happened to me, but it was tuna salad.” HA! Alex shares, targeting Piper with her words of being abandoned and having to turn to heroin.

Larry’s father confirms that Alex was the one who fingered Piper for the courts, but advises Larry not to tell Piper because these women all have to live together and it’s exactly as condescending as it sounds. Larry doesn’t just not tell her the truth, he outright lies. Piper’s already had her whole world turned inside out, but having this basic truth taken away breaks her down even more. On the conference call about her business with Polly, Piper sees the chicken in the yard and abandons the phone to Crazy Eyes because her priorities have shifted and prison is her life now. The chicken, of course, escapes the yard because that’s what chickens do. You cannot follow the chicken, Piper. You must find your own, human-sized path.

Sophia hints closer to the nun about getting what she wants, but the nun is way ahead of her and shoots her down. The nun tells her that women are never happy with their bodies, but she’s truly unhappy because she feels guilty about leaving her wife to raise her son alone. This sets Sophia off the deep end and she runs out. The nun goes to get her hair done by Sophia and smooth things over.

The flashback story is Dayonara’s, but since her mom is also in prison, it’s a little bit both of theirs. Basically, Mom has “better things to do” than raise her children, like go on dates and eat oysters. Dayonara’s stuck taking care of the kids, which is especially hard when no one can go in the kitchen because her mom’s cutting drugs for her new boyfriend on the table. Nobody, including Mom, seems to like him, yet he’s calling all the shots. Even after Mom’s in jail, she spends the entire visit with the kids bitching about him instead of asking how they’re doing. As it turns out, her boyfriend is still running his drug business out of their kitchen and is charming Dayonara. It’s revenge, it’s the only female role model she knows, it’s many layers of messed up.

In the present, Dayonara is having an adorable courtship with Bennett, the guard who is not pornstache. They slip each other notes and gum. Mom notices and suggests that Dayonara should be aiming for a fat guard because “maybe he’ll bring you McDonalds.” If you wondered if it’s any better when women say crap like this about men, it’s not. Bennett goes to meet Dayonara in a supply closet, but instead Mom is waiting there for him. Was it really just about sex, or does he like Dayonara for herself? We’ll find out!


About Generation Coax

I am an aspiring TV writer, amateur photographer, and craft hobbyist.
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