A few things came to mind while re-watching the last few episodes of the first season of Netflix’s women-in-prison dramedy “Orange Is the New Black.” First: Wow, this show is good. Second: Taystee GIFs will never get old. And finally: A year between TV show seasons is a really long time and it’s easy to forget almost everything.
A more responsible TV watcher may have spaced out the 13 episodes, but some of us flew through them the first week they were available last summer. And with dozens of storylines, multiple flashbacks and more than 50 characters to recall, it’s a challenging task to figure out what’s important on the brink of the upcoming second season.
Therefore, here’s everything you need to remember from the end of last season to make the return to Litchfield in Season 2 — which became available Friday at 3 a.m. ET/midnight PT — a more delightful experience. (See below for a character index for more reminders.)
* The Piper-Larry-Alex love triangle. This whole thing imploded, pretty much the moment that at Litchfield that Piper laid eyes on Alex, the ex-girlfriend that got her sent to prison in the first place. Needless to say, the two resolved their issues in the form of one steamy night in the prison’s chapel.
Meanwhile, Piper’s fiance Larry had grown increasingly paranoid that Piper would cheat on him with Alex (his fears were in fact very accurate), and tried to pressure Piper into marrying him. Desperate not to lose him and to get the destructive Alex out of her life for good, Piper agreed. She told Alex things were over: “I pick him. I pick Larry,” Piper said. “I love you, too. But we both know I don’t have the [courage] to freefall through life with you.” Alex looked devastated — Piper had been the love of her life — and told her, fuming, “You may never come to me again. Ever.”
Undaunted, Piper set about getting a marriage request form. That was more difficult than expected given that her counselor, Mr. Healy, hated her (not only is he deeply homophobic, but they had several run-ins throughout the season).
Luckily, Larry had just given an interview to NPR about Piper’s experience in prison where he said some very unflattering things: among them, that Litchfield cut its GED program, switched to generic medication, etc. The shady prison administrator, Natalie Figuero (“Fig”), was not pleased, and gave Piper a set of positive talking points about the prison she should give to Larry if he ever got the urge to talk to the media again. That’s cool, Piper said sweetly; but she would be much more inclined to do so if Fig could give her a marriage request form.
Unfortunately, it was all for naught; Larry set up a meeting with Alex (for some reason curious to meet his fiancee’s ex-girlfriend), who spilled the beans about their chapel rendezvous. Larry dumped Piper, who went running to Alex, who, as promised, told her to get lost. And so, Piper lost both of them.
* Piper and Pennsatucky’s showdown. Pennsatucky — the crazy, God-fearing meth addict who became Piper’s enemy last season — decided that she was going to kill Piper. After all, Piper disrespected her. After Piper found a dead rat in her room and Pennsatucky confronted her with a knife in the shower, Piper was ready to go to authorities — but her fellow inmates told her that it was the least productive way to deal with the problem, and she was going to have to fight Pennsatucky herself. And Pennsatucky confronted Piper outside in the yard at the exact wrong time: Just after Larry and Alex had effectively dumped her.
So when Pennsatucky came after her with a sharpened cross and said the words, “You ain’t worthy of God’s love, you ain’t worthy of nobody’s love. I think it’s time that you die,” is there any wonder Piper attacked her with all her might? We ended last season as Piper was punching Pennsatucky in the face as hard as she could. (Meanwhile, Mr. Healy came outside and saw what was about to happen, and simply left. That should come back to haunt him this season.)
* The Daya-Bennett situation. An inmate and correctional falling in love might make a good romance novel, but not when the C.O. gets the inmate pregnant. That’s where things stand now, as Daya is pregnant with John Bennett’s baby. If anyone finds out, he could go to jail for sleeping with an inmate, so some of the women hatch a complicated plan. Daya will seduce C.O. Mendez (a.k.a. “Pornstache”) and get caught, accomplishing two goals: 1) Getting the horrible Mendez fired and 2) Having people assume it’s Mendez’s baby, so Bennett won’t get in trouble.
Unfortunately, even though Daya is forced to go through with it and they do get caught, the plan isn’t foolproof. First of all, Fig doesn’t want authorities finding out, so she simply puts Mendez on unpaid suspension. Second, Mendez took Daya’s advances seriously and falls deeply in love with her, meaning he will be far too excited if he thinks the baby is his. So, they’re back to where they started, even though creepy Mendez is at least out of the picture temporarily.
* Red’s fall from grace. Well, “grace” might be too generous — after all, the feisty Russian cook may have been Queen Bee, but that just meant being the chef in prison. However, she lost that perch after Mendez framed her, making it look like she was smuggling drugs in through the kitchen. (While she had plenty of contraband items, she flatly refused to take part in his drug operation.) So she was ousted from the kitchen, and to get back at Gloria and the other women who took over, she secretly sneaked in and poured tons of grease in the oven. Only Gloria didn’t open the oven — it’s Red’s friend, Gina, that was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and got badly burned. Red felt horrible, but it was too late. Her friends started freezing her out, and the kitchen workers started to starve her out, too.
* Figuero is embezzling from the prison. At least, it’s heavily implied. The administrator made many shady moves throughout the season, including quashing the Mendez situation and also ordering Bennett to not file a report about the drugs found in Red’s kitchen.
But it all comes to a head when Fig gets a call from a reporter, who heard Larry’s NPR interview and was wondering: Why was he describing how the prison had cut so many programs when budget documents actually show that Litchfield had received $2.3 million in funding over the last few years? Where was the money going? Fig smiled tightly and promised to find out, hanging up the phone and getting into a shiny new Mercedes. Guess we have the answer, but where will it lead?
Character index — here’s a brief description of all the main characters from last season.
Piper (“Chapman”): Lead character, upper middle class hipster from Brooklyn sent to prison for 15 months for a decade-old money laundering incident
Alex: Piper’s ex-girlfriend, got her involved in money laundering and drug dealing
Nicky: The comic relief of the Litchfield crowd, a former drug addict with a heart of gold
Suzanne (“Crazy Eyes”): Brilliant woman who happens to be mentally ill, made Piper her prison wife
Taystee: Briefly got out of prison and had a miserable experience in the outside world, and seems happy to be back at Litchfield.
Poussey: Taystee’s best friend
Black Cindy: Taystee and Poussey’s other friend, usually has a good one-liner
Red: Feisty (former) head of the kitchen who virtually ran the prison before being framed
Lorna: Talks incessantly about her wedding to her fiance, Christopher, though was sleeping with Nicky Mendez
Sophia: Transgender character who now works as the prison’s hairdresser
Tiffany (“Pennsatucky”): God-fearing meth addict
Miss Claudette: Elderly woman sent away to solitary confinement after attacking a guard when she was having (to put it mildly) a very bad day
Daya: Having an affair with C.O. John Bennett, pregnant, once slept with her mother’s boyfriend
Aleida: Daya’s absentee mother who will never forgive her daughter for sleeping with her boyfriend
Leanne: Pennsatucky’s friend in the laundry room
Sister Ingalls: The nun; have not yet heard her back story
Miss Rosa: Battling cancer, Piper’s first roommate
Janae: Wildly talented runner who got mixed up with a terrible boyfriend
Big Boo: Also comic relief and tells it like it is, was able to talk her way into getting an adorable therapy dog
Gloria (“Mendoza”): Mom of four kids in her previous life, acts as the surrogate mother to many, new head of the kitchen
Norma: The woman who doesn’t speak a word, but can let out a gorgeous Christmas carol if need be
Gina: Norma’s friend in the kitchen, gets badly burned by Red’s oven fire
Yoga Jones: Has a very devastating backstory, leads all the yoga classes
Chang: Frequently seen not caring about anything
Marisol: Attached at the hip to Maritza
Maritza: Has a young daughter, attached at the hip to Marisol
PRISON GUARDS AND STAFF
Natalie Figueroa (“Fig”): The evil prison administrator who is embezzling funds
Joe Caputo: Figueroa’s deputy, pretty gross guy but also seems to genuinely want to help inmates
Sam Healy: Deeply homophobic counselor to the inmates, seems kind at first but winds up being a horrible person
C.O. Mendez (“Pornstache”): The worst creep of the bunch, running a drug smuggling business that leads to the death of addict Tricia last season (but was staged as a suicide); framed Red for the drugs; overall disgusting.
C.O. Fischer: Very sweet and kind to everyone, was accosted by Miss Claudette last season; object of Caputo’s affection.
C.O. Bennett: Solid guy except he had an affair with Daya and got her pregnant; also known for having a prosthetic leg after a hot tub incident
Larry: Piper’s fiance who seems to be a pretty lazy/lackluster guy, starts exploiting Piper’s prison sentence to get stories in the New York Times
Polly: Piper’s best friend, they were going to start an artisanal soap business together
Pete: Polly’s husband
Cal: Piper’s brother, a man with nature