On her first full day in prison Piper (Taylor Schilling) manages to make some innovative flip-flops out of maxi-pads (apparently a go-to staple in a woman's prison) in order to take a shower and avoid getting foot fungus. But she doesn't avoid making an enemy of Red (Kate Mulgrew, but you'll have to do a double-take) who runs the kitchen, and ends up with a used tampon as the healthy part of her breakfast sandwich. So we’re curious to see if Season 2 has an official feminine hygiene product company as a sponsor, because of all the multi-purpose ways they can be used.
Piper is an upper-middle class thirtysomething whose career involves a bath product line with her pregnant friend Polly. Piper, who loves her cellphone and her fiancée Larry (Jason Biggs) both very dearly, is used to having the finer things in life, like regular eyebrow waxing and mani-pedis. But she ends up serving time because of a crime that she committed in her misspent youth. See, she was part of a drug smuggling ring in her twenties and due to the fact that the statute of limitations is 12 years and it has only been ten since the incident. When she was discovered, her lawyer advised her to turn herself in. So she's got a little over a year to serve at a woman's prison, and in that time she plans on catching up on her book reading and getting totally in shape.
In flashbacks (that are often clumsily tied to the current events that are happening in Piper's life), we find out that Piper's crime was out of passion (and stupidity). She was in a relationship with Alex (Laura Prepon, perfectly cast as Piper's drug-smuggling lesbian lover), and through a series of traveling events, Piper ended up knowingly carrying a large amount of illegally gotten money across international lines because she was just so smitten with Alex. But Piper was nervous the entire time, so her stint as a drug-mule was limited to just this one experience.
In more recent history, we see Larry finding out not only about her criminal past, but also her same-sex experiences. He takes everything in stride -- in fact, he proposes to her after he knows she's headed to the slammer. He genuinely seems like a good guy, content with the pig--roasting box that she got him a gift before her imminent departure, and gamely goes along with her plan to make some memories for his "spank bank" while she's away. Though we've had no indication in this premiere that his intentions are anything less than honorable, there's something I just don't trust about him. Who could be that nice? He's entirely comforting to her after a rough first few hours in lockup, when she makes a pitiful call from Caputo's (Nick Sandow) office to talk about how she isn't supposed to eat the pudding since it went to Desert Storm and she doesn't have shampoo and her spending-money check hasn't cleared yet so she has no supplies. Larry's completely kind and supportive, telling her to consider this all a big adventure, while Caputo uses this same conversation as fodder for jerking off (he's even got lotion at the ready) the second she walks out the door.
After she goes through the check-in, she gets her orange jumpsuit (and makes reference to Toms shoes that go over the clerk's head), has to squat and then spread her legs and cough, meets some fellow newbies and gets complimented by the in-house doctor who is impressed by her lack of track marks. She gets a speech from a case worker type named Healy (Michael Harney), who advises her to keep her head down and has some issues with the entire sentencing system that the government has in place. He also tells her "you do not have to have lesbian sex." She gets assigned a bunk in a room with many other roommates, learns the ropes about check-ins and sleeping, has dinner and finds out that there is a distinctly racially split divide in the prison when she's told by other white people that they look out for their own. At dinner, she insults the food, pissing off the aforementioned Red, and learns a bit about the people she'll be spending the next several months with.
We finally catch up to the shower scene (and even get a shot of Natasha Lyonne's Nichols going down on another woman in a stall), before we see Piper finally flip out about her circumstances as her new reality finally sets in. And before she can even catch her breath from that, we see that good old Alex is locked up, too. Awkward.
While this show is far from Oz (and even cracks a joke about the fact that this prison bears little resemblance to the tough Emerald City), they don't make Piper's time adjusting to life on the inside particularly easy. There is some violence simmering beneath the surface (one inmate gets smacked by her mom who is also in jail), there are a lot of class and race issues to be dealt with and Piper has to adjust to living without the comforts of home. Amidst the drama, there's a bit of humor, with cleverly written lines like "don't let anyone into your granny panties" and "It's tribal, not racist." Dramatic situations mixed with dark comedy and a quirky sensibility, along with a whole host of weirdly interesting characters, is pretty much everything we'd expect from Weeds creator Jenji Kohan.