The Hot Shower Death in 'Orange is the New Black,' Explained

Netflix/Orange is the New Black

The acclaimed prison dramedy Orange is the New Black is back, and the goings-on at Litchfield Penitentiary are more intense than ever. On Friday, Netflix released the entirety of season five, which centers around three days of prison riots. What goes on during those 72 hours is brutal, but in episode 10, we learn that the histories of some of these characters is terrifyingly violent as well.

Caution: Spoilers for season five of Orange is the New Black ahead.

Desi Piscatella is the sadistic captain of the guards at Litchfield, and as the riots continue, his treatment of the inmates becomes increasingly inhumane. In episode 10, we learn that he has pain in his past as well: At a men’s prison, he had a romantic relationship with an inmate, who was later beaten when the other prisoners found out. As an act of revenge, Piscatella chained the perpetrator in the shower and turned up the hot water tap to a scalding degree, ignoring the man’s screams of agony. He literally burns him alive.

This kind of death isn’t unrealistic. Scalding injuries — those caused by hot liquids — typically cause deeper damage than burns that result from dry heat, and every year approximately 3,800 people are injured and 34 die because of water scalding. Adults can suffer from third-degree burns if they’re exposed to water that’s 150 degrees Fahrenheit for just two seconds, while five minutes in 120-degree water can result in a third-degree burn as well. The hottest shower temperature that most people can stand is thought to be 105 degrees.

Thin and delicate skin will burn faster.

American Burn Association

When someone experiences a third-degree burn, the entire depth of their skin is destroyed, and sometimes they sustain injuries to the fat, muscle, organs, and bone beneath the skin as well. Crucially, the burn can also destroy major blood vessels, and the resulting damage to the circulatory system can cause dehydration, oxygen deprivation, and complications from blood loss. Unless the victim is given immediate treatment like intravenous fluids, antibiotics, and a skin graft, these injuries can result in death.

Gruesome as it is, death by hot liquids hasn’t been uncommon throughout human history. Boiling was a common method of torture in Europe and Asia, especially during the medieval era. Numerous people have been scalded to death by falling into the hot springs at Yellowstone National Park, and in 2012, an inmate in a Florida prison died from the injuries he sustained while being trapped in a hot shower for two hours by prison guards.

Orange is the New Black is a fictional show that’s been praised for doing a good job of representing real-life struggles and atrocities. The horrific shower scene in season five, unfortunately, continues the tradition perfectly.

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