How to talk about ‘Orange Is the New Black’ without ever watching an episode

Orange Is The New Black cast members as prayer candles

It’s too late to start binge-watching now, so just read this guide to get all caught up.

This post contains copious spoilers for the first two seasons of Orange Is the New Black.

I knew there were other people like me—people left in the dark, people who had to sometimes smile and just pretend they knew what the hell people were talking about whenever Orange Is the New Black came up in conversation. I had to deal with it when season 1 was released, and it was hailed by every person I knew as the best thing since [insert whichever Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The Sopranos, Game of Thrones–esque show strikes your fancy]. And then I had to deal with it even more when season 2 came out, because there were even more fans by that point.

Well, no longer will I have to be in the dark—and neither will you. Because, as of 72 hours ago, I began watching OITNB in its entirety, and, like Moses from the mountaintop, I have brought forth the information I found, so that you won’t have to watch the whole show in the next 26 hours—because I know you’re thinking about it.

Because I know that you don’t want to be left in the dark, yet again, when your friends/significant others/roommates are watching and discussing the show. I know you want to be included. I know you just want to be part of them.

And so, below, I have recorded my findings from being extremely stupid and watching 26 episodes of an hourlong show in a single sitting. I’ve done this for you, and I know this is true because—between you and me—I’d rather be catching up on Game of Thrones. So skip the binge-watch session, and just load up this page. Don’t let my pain be in vain—let my suffering be your aide, and trick those close to you into thinking you’ve kept up with this show, and that you know what the fuck is going on in it.

Because this is an ensemble program, I’ve broken down the plot by the currently important characters and have detailed where they are in the show’s plot. I’ve also called them by their last names or nicknames—why? Because this is prison, bitch, and that is how things are done in prison. (This is but one of the show’s many teachings.)

Without further adieu: 

Chapman

The show’s main character, Piper Chapman is serving a 15-month sentence for

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her involvement with an international drug ring, which was more a case of her hanging out with her girlfriend at the time, Alex Vause, who was the one truly running things in the drug operation. As she tells her extended family before heading off to prison, Chapman didn’t hang around the drug ring “for the money” (her grandmother grimaces, because she infers this means Chapman just liked having sex with her girlfriend a lot)—but we later learn via flashbacks that there were many other nonsexual pluses to hanging around the ring and her girlfriend, such as a giant pools and cool restaurants.

The show starts with everybody making fun of Chapman, because she’s pretty and white and her face has RICH FAMILY tattooed on it with invisible ink, but this is pretty much all forgotten by season 2’s end—she’s just another inmate at this point.

As of the season 2 finale, Chapman is still serving her sentence, and everything is pretty much cool with her and the staff. Her main conflict, going into the third season, will be the fact that she gets Vause thrown back in prison at the end of season 2 final episode. Although they do still deeply love each other, Vause is likely to be unhappy about this.

Vause

Chapman’s ex-girlfriend (then fuck buddy, then girlfriend, then ex again,

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then… I don’t know). At the start of the second season, she ratted Chapman out in the last moments of her trial. As the second season closes, she warns Chapman that her ratting didn’t work, and that the dangerous drug ring dude ended up having a mistrial and is now trying to kill her (for the whole ratting thing—you just can’t do that sort of thing in the Big Heroin Trade).

She tells Chapman that she’s planning on fleeing the country to stay alive, and Chapman tips off her parole officer about this, who has her re-arrested, so expect to see her a lot more in this season, and expect to see her very, very upset (at the beginning—then things will be resolved and you can probably expect to see her naked).

She’s played by Laura Prepon (Donna from That 70’s Show), and is one of the few faces in the show that you’ll likely recognize from somewhere else.

Bloom

Chapman’s ex-fiancé, played by Jason Biggs. “Will they make it through this” was a major

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question for the first two seasons, but after he learns about Chapman cheating on him with Vause in the slammer, he eventually ends up getting together with Chapman’s best friend at the end of season 2. So the fact that he won’t be around in season 3 is fine by me, because he kind of sucks.

In season 1, he wrote an article about his relationship with Chapman that landed him in The New York Times. He was then on a radio show (to talk about Chapman, of course). As season 3 goes on without him, he’s probably going to be all out of the money from those two gigs and more likely deeply in debt—not that we’ll probably be shown this, but, for this reason only, he’s the character that I most identify with on the show (which isn’t to say that I like him).

Morello

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Morello’s been the passenger van driver for the show’s duration, but probably won’t be anymore (see the above character for why). We learn in season 2 that a fiancé she’s obsessed over for the whole show is actually somebody that she went on one date with, and then stalked, and then tried to blow up with a homemade explosive device (which is why she’s in the slammer). So, she’s crazy. But she’s also awesome, as one of the sweetest and kindest inmates. She dresses and talks like she’s in Mad Men, and it’s a shame that she wasn’t born in the early ’30s—a woman’s life in the 1950s would have been quite kind to her, contrary to how 99.9 percent of women probably feel about that time in history.

Cisneros

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After her doctor guesses that her cancer will kill her within three to six weeks, Morello—whose job is to drive the prison’s passenger bus—lets her “overtake her” (she can barely breathe, so we’ll see in the next season if that claim is kindly overlooked) and make off with the prison van, so that she can go and die somewhere with dignity. We may not need this entry at all—Cisneros may be long gone and never mentioned again—but she’s fucking awesome, and I’m crossing my fingers that the third season opens by showing us how she decided to die with dignity. Surely, as an inmate, she won’t have her pain meds on her, so my guess: She robs a pharmacy (she’s in the joint for being a prolific bank robber in her youth, but in her current state, this robbery would probably be done from the drive-thru window), takes a bottle of morphine tablets, and then parks somewhere and peacefully fades away. She deserves as much. Also, at around hour 22 of binge watching the show, I started to confuse her with Varys from Game of Thrones (possibly because I really wanted to be watching that show instead).

Nichols

Nichols is in jail because of something having to do with drugs, and that’s

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all we really know about why she’s there—she’s about halfway through a five-year sentence, which seems like a drug-related sentence, but this show could jump the shark in season 3 and show us that she was actually a murder accomplice. That’d be stupid, but shows have done worse things to their characters in their third seasons (I’m looking at you, every show that’s ever been on Showtime).

As for now, she’s pretty friendly with everybody, because she’s a friendly person. She pissed off Red once, but that passed pretty quickly. 

Season 3 should deal with with an issue that any Lost junky is familiar with: the dilemma of an ex-junkie discovering a huge amount of heroin. See: Part of the plan for getting season 2’s villain—Vee—out of the picture was to rat on her massive heroin stash, which led to Nichols hiding the stash—but then Vee was serendipitously run over by Cisneros as she fled the compound (Cisneros never liked her), which leaves Nichols basically stuck with tons of heroin hidden in a vent that only she and one other person knows about. 

So expect season 3 to open with Nichols figuring out if she’s going to destroy that stash, or if she’s going to do it until she’s dead (which would mean that Nichols will die by the second episode of the third season).

Also worth noting: Nichols and Morello had a sexual relationship at the show’s start, but it was pretty brief, as Morello was still convinced that she was engaged to that dude she was stalking, and so she ended things to not cheat on him. So maybe that’ll come back in season 3 (if Nichols doesn’t overdose immediately).

Red

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Red is Russian, and she’s scary as all fuck right off the bat. She has a history of running non-narcotic contraband into the prison—makeup, good shampoo, stuff like that. At the end of season 3, she’s in a hospital bed after being “locksocked,” which is where you put your combination lock inside of a sock and beat the ever-loving shit out of somebody with it, by Vee. So who knows what she’ll be doing in season 3—probably putting a business of running harmless contraband back into the prison, though.

Red was also in the kitchen before the administration dicked her over and booted her from the job. So maybe she’ll end up getting that position back this season.

Doggett

Doggett came into prison because she was a meth head that was insulted

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by a nurse during her fifth abortion, and therefore carried a rifle back into the clinic and killed her. She’d be in a maximum security facility, but the Christian-right backed her case and paid for an excellent lawyer for her (she’s inadvertently become something of a hero for the community), so she’s at Litchfield instead.

The anti-abortion group that paid for Doggett’s expensive defense resulted in her believing everything they believed in. After all, it’s easier to believe that God picked you to murder somebody than it is to just think that you’re an asshole.

Throughout seasons 1 and 2, she’s gone really off the rails on a few occasions, but she seems more level now. She’s even formed a friendship with Boo, who’s a lesbian, so maybe she’s finally getting underneath all that religion/amphetamine-fueled baggage to become an actual person. Season 3 should let us know if that’s the case pretty quickly.

Caputo

Along with a few other male characters, Caputo partially represents

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what’s wrong with our current state of patriarchy. He has a good heart, and he wants to make the prison a better place, but he’s still pretty sexist, despite the fact that he doesn’t realize it.

He’ll start season 3 off as the new assistant to the warden—whom we haven’t actually met yet. He took the old assistant, who was terrible at her job, down by bringing to light case files that proved she embezzled money. He told the ex-assistant (who who’t be getting a separate mention here, because she’s gonzo—I think) that she could save her job, and get the incriminating files back, by giving him oral sex. When she finished, he told her they were only copies and that she was still going down. Haha, funny joke, Caputo! So, he has a good heart, but he’s still a male pig that’s running a women’s correctional facility, and that spells trouble. He also fired one of the most compassionate correctional officers because she didn’t recognize his advances or just plain wasn’t interested in him. 

Now that he’s in charge, expect to see him fucking up a lot while trying to do the right thing in season 3. The show’s already been greenlit for a fourth season, and he’ll probably be facing a lawsuit by then.

Mendez aka Pornstache

Mendez is a Corrections Officer. In season 1, he

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took pleasure in making the inmates’ lives hell. For this reason, he was chosen by some of the inmates to take the fall for another CO’s dilemma—after this other CO, Bennett, got an inmate he loved pregnant, the inmate (under the advice/pressure from other inmates) seduced Mendez, and plans were organized for Mendez to be caught having sex with her in a broom closet. Those plans worked, but instead of being arrested (sex between a CO and an inmate is automatically considered to be rape), he was simply put on leave to sweep a potential media frenzy under the rug.

When Mendez actually falls in love with the woman who duped him, he starts to come across as more sad and pathetic than an all-out asshole.

Yeah, he’s done horrible things in the past: He sold drugs to the inmates, made Red’s life hell to find out how she was sneaking cosmetics in (so he could use the same methods for drugs—something Red is dead set against), and gave drugs to a girl that Red had previously gotten clean (which resulted in her death, so he staged the scene to make her death look like a suicide).

But now, the inmate he was framed to sleep with has been discovered to be pregnant, which means his sex with her can’t be swept under the rug, and he’s been arrested for rape and lost his job. To make things worse: He really believes the kid is his, and he’s madly in love with the inmate that set him up. So… you kinda feel bad for this asshole. All that said, let’s tackle the inmate that set up him up next….

Diaz (Daya)

She gets a first name in parentheses because she’s in there with her

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mother, who of course shares her last name. She and Corrections Officer Bennett are in love with each other, and she’s carrying his child. It was her mother (and Red’s) idea to frame Mendez for rape and pass the baby off to the authorities as being Mendez’s kid. It’s a smart move, until you factor in that DNA tests exist and that Mendez’s trial for rape will probably call for one. To make things a tad worse, nobody told Bennett about the plan to frame Mendez before it was executed.

Diaz is in jail for taking the fall for her boyfriend’s drug manufacturing/distribution ring that was housed in her apartment’s kitchen. The reason her mother’s in jail? She took the fall, too, for the exact same reason, and with the exact same boyfriend. Is Daya a bad person for sleeping with her mother’s boyfriend after she went to jail? Probably. But her mother’s super shitty in every way possible, so… whatever. Her mother would get her own section, but all you really need to know is that up until now, she hasn’t really had any importance to the plot. She’s just a background shitty mother that pops up for bad advice now and again.

Bennett

I feel bad for Bennett. He’s a CO, and the father of Diaz’s child (sex in the

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broom closet is the thing to do in jail, apparently), and after she gets cold feet about sending an innocent (although still a total asshole) man to jail and ruining his life, she gives Bennett a lot of guff, toward the end of season 2, for not stepping up to the plate and claiming that the child is his.

The thing is: Nobody told Bennett about the plan to frame Pornstache for the baby’s existence in the first place. In fact, he was extremely butthurt about the whole ordeal when he was told about it (after it had already happened). The fact that she’s now demanding that he get himself arrested for rape (remember, all sex between CO’s and inmates is automatically considered rape) because she feels bad about Mendez is pretty fucked up.

At the very end of season 2, Bennett steps forward to Caputo and admits the child is his, but this is only Caputo’s second day as the assistant warden, so naturally, he tells Bennett to please keep his mouth shut and to leave his office. For all Caputo cares, this is all already handled: Mendez has taken the fall for it, and plus Caputo hates Mendez, so as far as he’s concerned, everything’s fine.

But, as we all know… when there’s a third season, the writing staff is going to make damn sure that all is not well. Not at all. So expect all this Mendez/Bennett/Caputo baby shit to play a major role in the upcoming season.

Burset

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The breakout star of the show, she’s the prison’s unofficial hair stylist. She usually plays the voice of reason, and she does a good job of staying out of trouble. She has natural leadership qualities, although she doesn’t seem to be rightly affiliated with any one particular gang. She’s kind of like that kid in high school that wasn’t popular, or unpopular, but everybody seemed to know and like them.

Burset’s character is trans, and is portrayed by real-life transgender actress Laverne Cox. In her flashback, pre-transition scenes, the character portrayed by her real-life twin brother. That has no bearing on the show—it’s just cool as fuck.

Luschek

Pronounced, as he says at one point, “loose check,” he’s the prison’s

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electrician, and he’s also in charge of supervising the women as they fix lamps and other electrical stuff.

He’s used in odd ways—sometimes he’s a racist, sexist, alcoholic asshole, and sometimes he’s there for comic relief—so it’s tough to say what his role will be in the third season. Just know that anything can happen with this guy (including being fired, since Caputo seems pretty serious about cleaning the place up). 

Toward the end of season 2, he’s seen eating lunch and being quite nice to Nichols, so there’s also the possibility that he’ll start going into a nicer direction this season. It’s surprising, after seeing him as an asshole on several occasions, how incredibly likable he is when he’s being nice—so it’d be cool if that’s the direction they take him in.

Warren aka Crazy Eyes

At the start of the show, Crazy Eyes falls in love with Chapman—she

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wants her to be her Prison Wife. When Chapman refuses multiple times, Crazy Eyes retaliates by squatting in front of her bunk and peeing all over the floor. This, for Crazy Eyes, makes things even, and (after a brief period of caution from Chapman) the two are friends for the remainder of the show.

At the end of season 2, Crazy Eyes almost goes down for attempted murder, which would have landed her in a maximum security prison (we see this place in season 2’s opening episode, and it really sucks). The reason she almost ends up there? She’s gullible enough for season 2’s villian, Vee, to convince her that she was the one who nearly beat Red to death, when the reality is that Vee did the act herself. 

Crazy Eyes believes that she’s crazy enough to have committed the locksocking without remembering it, and she even confesses to it, but Healy convinces Luschek to fake a work order form that places her in the electrical room during the time of the attack, thus giving her an alibi. See how cool Luschek can be? And, speaking of characters that can jump from being totally cool to being complete assholes and back again…

Healy

Sam Healy forms a close bond with Chapman upon her arrival, seeing

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something special in her that the other inmates don’t have (which is probably just a way of saying that she’s white and educated). They fall out over some stuff, though, when she swings left when he wants her to swing right, and they become enemies for a while. Then they become cool with each other again. Going into season 3, they seem to be on friendly terms.

Healy’s a tough case: He cares about his job, but he bounces back and forth between trying to give 110 percent and not giving a single shit whatsoever. I think he’s a counselor—or at least, when he’s trying, he counsels inmates—but most of what he does is paperwork and other bureaucratic stuff that seems to have killed his spirit.

He also has a Russian mail-order bride. When we see him at home, it’s always at the dinner table, with his mail-order bride talking to her mother in Russian (I guess her mother was part of the whole package deal). At one point, her mother reminds her that it won’t be too much longer until she can get her green card and divorce him. He spends his free time trying to learn Russian, presumedly so that he can know how much shit they’re talking about him at the dinner table.

Going into season 3, Healy will probably be at least somewhat in Give a Shit mode, because Doggett tells him that his counseling is the best thing in her life in season 2’s finale, which leads him to find Luschek to get the proper forms forged to get Crazy Eyes off the hook for Red’s locksocking.

Jefferson aka Taystee

In all honesty, I can’t remember anything that Taystee did in season 1,

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but she’s partly responsible for Vee’s rise to power in the second season. Evidently, Taystee is a complete genius with math and numbers, but she also grew up as an orphan, which gave Vee an opportunity to recruit her into her drug game and give her life a purpose. She goes all Good Will Hunting on Vee’s heroin operation, but it’s a heroin operation, so her talents eventually land her in jail. Fortunately, it must have been a rather light sentence, because she gets out in season 1.

But, once she’s out, she has nowhere to go, so she hooks back up with Vee and quickly finds herself arrested again. This time, though, Vee is also arrested. Vee’s been to prison before—fun fact: she taught Red how to run the contraband game when she was a newbie to the prison—and with Taystee in there with her, she quickly brainwashes her (and a lot of other people) into selling narcotics for her.

I apologize for this inadvertently becoming Vee’s section, but the truth is: They haven’t done a whole lot with Taystee yet, outside of defining her as a possible genius and then having her brainwashed by Vee, anyway.

Well, there is one other thing, and it might pop up in the third season…

Washington

Serving a six-year sentence (estimated by fans to be for selling

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marijuana), Washington (who’s first name is Poussey, which has caused her a bit of ridicule throughout her life) is a genius with producing hooch, and is also in love with Taystee, who does not return her affection. Other than working in the library, being extremely nice, making great hooch, loving Taystee, and being the only person to refuse to be a part of Vee’s operation, the writers haven’t done too much with Washington thus far. I expect her feelings for Taystee to once again come into play in season 3.

Parker AKA Vee

It seems silly to make a section for Vee, because she’s

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dead, and this article’s purpose is to catch you up for things you need to know for the third season. But! This show has a way making you think characters are dead, when they’re in fact, well… not dead. Yes, she was hit by a van that was going a million miles an hour. But I’m going to include her photo and give her a section anyway—just in case

I really do hope she’s dead, though. She seriously sucks—she’s just an awful person, and I hope her story (and life) has run its course. 

Season 3 of Orange Is the New Black is now streaming on Netflix.

Photo via Orange Is The New Black/Netflix

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