(Warning: this post contains spoiler alerts for "Orange is the New Black." Proceed with caution if you haven't watched the season-three episode 9, "Where My Dreidel At.")
In the third season of “Orange is the New Black,” we learn more about some of the supporting characters before they were locked up: from how Big Boo’s love life evolved to how people like Nicky and Marisol went to prison.
In episode 9, we learn Leanne grew up Amish and partied pretty hard during her rumspringa.
Does her story fit into the reality of young woman in Amish churches?
Actually, the story rather fits the fiction of reality television involving the Amish, said Jeff Bach, director of the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College.
“It is highly unlikely that an Amish youth would join the church and be involved in extreme rebellious behavior like this show suggests,” Bach said. “Because this is so unlikely, the rest of the plot twists after this are fictitious speculation.”
"Orange is the New Black" is a Netflix series about life in a women's prison. The third season launched in June.
Leanne's Pennsylvania Dutch background was hinted in an earlier episode, when she speaks what sounds like German to Poussey. Actress Emma Myles talked to her dialogue coach about the line and learned more.
"It's not German, it's Pennsylvania Dutch," she was told, according to an interview in Cosmopolitan. "You're Amish."
The episode shows Leanne’s rumspringa as a time where she leaves home, goes to live with other Amish teens who do drugs and drink. Disillusioned with this life, she returns home to her family in a community that isn’t named and joins the church.
Rumspringa is much different from this portrayal, said Bach, who also is an associate professor of religious studies at Elizabethtown. He has not seen the episode, but said the plot sounded unlikely.
“Most youth groups are well-supervised by parents,” he said. “Occasionally extreme incidents occur, but it is not typical and it is not a pattern for most Amish youth. Amish youth tend to join the church about the time of marriage, at which point they do not participate in the youth group any longer, so are not involved in the rumspringa time.”
As Leanne leaves the church she has just joined, law enforcement show up with her meth-filled bag from her former life. She’ll be free from jail if she wears a wire when returning to the rumspringa spot. Leanne reluctantly does just that and the visit leads to the arrest of several of her former friends.
Later, her Amish community shuns her for this betrayal and after hearing her father’s business is hurting, she runs away.
Bach describes this plot as “next to impossible” and difficult to comment on the shunning.
“It’s hard to reply to how real people would respond to an unreal situation that could virtually never happen,” he said.
Bach noted Leanne’s pink dress and white head covering is not correct for Lancaster County Amish women.
Myles, the actress, told Cosmo she still doesn't know how her character ended up in prison.
"We still don't know, and that's the saddest thing — because it would be one thing if she was on a rumspringa and she got arrested," she said. "But she decided to not have that be her life, she decided to commit to her religion, to commit to her community. I want to know what happened to her in between when she left her family to where she is now. Because I still don't know how old I am in jail."
She had just a week to learn Pennsylvania Dutch lines, she told Page Six.
“I got the episode and then I was going to be shooting it in a week,” she told the New York Post. “I was Skyping with the dialect coach . . . every single day. The inflections, you think you have it . . . Then you’re like, ‘Ahh, I can’t learn languages! It’s hard!’”
Myles told the paper she was a fan of the show “Breaking Amish,” which helped prepare for the flashback scenes.