Episode 101 — “I Wasn’t Ready” Featured Inmate: Piper
The pilot quickly sets up the series: Piper, our main character, begins serving a 15-month sentence in a women’s federal prison. The episode sets up the outside characters (her brother, her best friend, and her fiancé Larry, who is more often known among fans as “The Worst”) and introduces a few of the inmates (Morello, the adorably accented inmate obsessed with planning her wedding, and Daya, who soon finds out she’s in the same prison as her mother — when her mother waltzes up and smacks her). There is Sam Healy, Piper’s absolutely terrible counselor with an unnatural vendetta against lesbians, a vendetta that is so comically upsetting that it’s as if lesbians murdered his childhood dog.
By the end, Piper has accidentally insulted Red (the prison cook) by bad-mouthing the food — “an epic fuck-up,” someone points out — and is punished with a used tampon hidden in her breakfast sandwich. It’s too much for Piper to deal with and she rushes outside, struggling to regain her bearings as the world spins around her, and then the big twist of the series happens: she finds out that Alex, the ex-girlfriend who landed Piper in jail, is in the same prison.
Episode 102 — “Tit Punch” Featured Inmate: Red
The punishment continues as Piper is being starved by the prison kitchen, denied food at every meal while the other inmates are too scared, and generally unwilling, to help her out (except for Alex, who sneaks her some bread). She tries again and again to make things right with Red, but Red isn’t interested in apologies. Red’s backstory shows her attempt to fit in with the other Russian wives in the neighborhood, only to accidentally alienate herself. Eventually, she pisses off the Russian mob by popping a woman’s implant.
Piper’s prison starvation is contrasted with her flashbacks in which she’s embarking on some hippie, yuppie juice cleanse. It’s too precious and on-the-nose for Orange Is the New Black, but it doesn’t take up much time. After learning about the prison bartering system, Piper concocts a lotion to help Red with her back pain. There is the introduction of Crazy Eyes, everyone’s favorite lovestruck inmate. We learn that prison is a place that’s so awful, so isolated, so cut off from the real world that a movie like Good Luck Chuck is uproariously funny. Meanwhile, Larry watches Mad Men without Piper because Larry is awful.
Also, according to a very scientific Twitter poll, Episode 2 is when most fans started skipping past the theme song. Sorry, Regina Spektor.
Episode 103 — “Lesbian Request Denied”Featured Inmate: Sophia
Budget cuts are effecting everyone at Litchfield. Piper can no longer take jogs on the track, the only time when she feels like a normal person. More pressing is the fact that Sophia can’t get the right estrogen pills and resorts to swallowing a piece of a toy to get an emergency doctor visit.
As for Sophia’s backstory: she committed fraud by using bad credit cards to pay for everything from her surgery to her son’s sneakers. She easily has the most heartbreaking story so far — and Laverne Cox plays her brilliantly — and this episode is when OITNB really starts to make viewers feel sympathy for prisoners. In an act of desperation, Sophia asks her wife to smuggle in the pills, and the entire scene subtly shows the deterioration of their relationship.
In a flashback, we learn how Piper met Alex: A bar, of course, and it’s very easy to see why she fell for her. “I work for an international drug cartel,” Alex says coolly. In Litchfield, Piper “breaks up” with Crazy Eyes and finally gets her bunk assignment — but it’s with Miss Claudette, the menacing prisoner and rumored voodoo expert everyone is scared of. Piper tries to lay low, but her plan goes out the window when Crazy Eyes pisses on the cubicle’s floor.
Episode 104 — “Imaginary Enemies”Featured Inmate: Miss Claudette
This is where Orange Is The New Black got really interesting to me. It’s an episode that makes great use of the suspense, the tension, and the claustrophobia of Litchfield. Piper accidentally steals a screwdriver during her work assignment and sends the prison into a frenzy (and accidentally gets Watson sent to the SHU). She fails to return it (luckily, her alcoholic boss buys a new one to save his own ass), and it ends up stolen by Boo.
“Imaginary Enemies” also remarks upon the quick and deep relationships that form in prison through the release of Tricia’s girlfriend, Mercy. There is Boo, Mercy’s ex, who is so jealous of their relationship that everyone worries she may jeopardize Mercy’s release. Tricia herself is so broken up about losing Mercy — especially because it’s easy to see how Mercy could forget about her on the outside and begin dating someone who, well, isn’t locked up — that she actually does try to keep Mercy in jail but is caught by Miss Claudette.
As for Miss Claudette, what a fascinating backstory with a fantastic reveal: the careful, characteristic washing of a knife before stepping past the bloodied, stabbed body of the man who abused one of her young girl employees! OITNB delights in complex characters like these, ones whose crimes aren’t entirely black and white.
Episode 105 — “The Chickening”Featured Inmate: Aleida and Daya
The chicken episode! Daya’s relationship with prison guard John Bennett is one of the strangest things about Orange Is the New Black. It’s not portrayed as acceptable, but the show sure does love to romanticize it with twinkling music cues and everything. There is some insight in her backstory and relationship with men, particularly men in positions of power, and the rivalry with her mother, which extends to prison when Aleida tries to seduce Bennett.
The majority of the Litchfield inmates have become obsessed with a chicken that may or may not actually exist (and that may be full of heroin, candy, money, or guns depending on who you ask, or may be a good meal, but really is a false representation of freedom). Piper is also caught up in the madness because, as Larry’s father puts it, prison is a fishbowl. It’s a small place where you walk in circles, locked out from the real world, and become obsessed with anything and everything that you can just to pass the time. Larry finds out that Piper is in jail with Alex, and also that Alex names her in legal documents but keeps the news to himself so Piper doesn’t obsess over it.
Other developments: We meet the trashy religious obsessive Doggett, aka Pennsatucky, whose cross destroys the chapel’s ceiling; Morello breaks up with Nicky because she’s worried about her fiancé; Piper ruins her meeting for her artisanal soap company; and Miss Claudette looks into an appeal.
Episode 106 — “WAC Pack”Featured Inmate: Nicky
After a nude photo taken in a Litchfield bathroom ends up on a website, an internal prison investigation is launched, without success. Piper later finds the phone. A dispute over the television leads to the reinstatement of the women’s council, and the inmates, separated by race, run for spots. In a way, “WAC Pack” remarks on how prison is similar to high school with the different factions and hierarchy in the cafeteria, though prison is more reliant on race and stereotypes. Also this episode features arguably the funniest scene in the show.
It’s telling that Nicky’s flashback only briefly takes place outside the prison — in the hospital after drugs lead to surgery, fighting with her mother — spending more time on her early life within the prison (detoxing) and showing that she sees Red as a better mother figure than her actual mother. She’s hurt that Red chooses Morello over her to run for WAC, but it doesn’t matter: Healy rigs it so Piper wins.
Outside of the prison, Larry’s pitch about “edging” is denied by an editor who instead encourages him to write about his relationship with Piper. Larry whines a lot about not getting laid.
Episode 107 — “Blood Donut”Featured Inmate: Watson
We haven’t seen much of Watson since she was sent to the SHU in “Imaginary Enemies.” She’s back and upset that the track is closed. Prior to jail, Watson was an impressive track and field star who broke her high school’s record but soon got caught up in trying to prove herself to be someone different and tougher. She ignored the good opportunities presented to her and instead embraced trouble until she was caught robbing a store.
In the WAC meeting, the inmates all have simplistic requests — pillows, 50 Shades of Grey — while Piper has her eyes on legal counseling, clinic hours, and a GED program. They all settle for donuts. A guilty Piper gives up the cell phone (which she was using to play Snake) to Healy in exchange for him reopening the track for her and Watson.
There are plenty of other conflicts: Alex is at war with Pennsatucky over her anger with Piper; mild-mannered Yoga Joan punches Watson after being egged on too much; Larry is in a one-sided war with Piper, awkwardly flirting with bartenders; and Mendez (Pornstache) tries to convince Red to smuggle in drugs.
Episode 108 — “Moscow Mule”Featured Inmate: Red
Larry’s article in the New York Times comes out and angers Healy when he learns that Piper has a history with women. Piper isn’t happy with the article, either, but the news is dulled by Polly having her baby. There are a lot of big plot developments in “Moscow Mule,” such as the news that Taystee was granted release and the reveal that Daya is pregnant with Bennett’s child.
Alex and Piper work together to fix a dryer, only to have Pennsatucky lock Alex inside of it, causing both Piper and Alex to get in trouble with an increasingly wary Healy.
Mendez goes around to different inmates to try and figure out how contraband is smuggled into the prison. Most are tight-lipped — including Morello, who is the victim of a pretty scary drive alone with him — but Nicky spills the beans to retaliate against Red.
Episode 109 — “Fucksgiving”Featured Inmate: Alex
Finally, we get Alex’s separate-from-Piper flashbacks. As a child, she was often bullied for not having money or name-brand sneakers, which is likely why she was so drawn to the drug trade. Later, she goes to meet her father for the first time and ends up meeting the guy who gets her into the business.
In Litchfield, Piper gets dolled up and ready for her Thanksgiving visitation with Larry. At a party celebrating Taystee’s release, Alex and Piper get caught dancing together — thanks to Pennsatucky, who runs to tell Healy — and Piper is thrown in SHU for such a stupid reason that even Mendez protests.
Taystee remains the absolute best, and this GIF is perfect.
In SHU, Piper understandably begins to lose her mind and switches from angrily yelling at Healy, calling out his lesbian obsession, and sharing her own love for women to suddenly realizing the repercussions of her actions and making promises to stay away from Alex when she’s released.
“Fucksgiving” is the most packed episode, both in and out of the prison. Daya trades Snickers for a fake homemade abortion cocktail, only to then decide she doesn’t want to terminate the pregnancy; we meet Crazy Eyes’ quiet, white parents, who scold her for cussing; Sophia (who gets her pills back) finds out her wife has feelings for a pastor; and Pennsatucky and her crew begin torturing Alex.
Outside, Taystee, who feels as if she isn’t able to exist in the wild anymore, is having a tough time adjusting to her new life. Larry ends up at a Thanksgiving dinner with an Ira Glass clone — and if you already thought Larry was insufferable, you probably didn’t enjoy the dinner scene featuring two boring white guys blabbing about NPR — and talks his way into a segment.
But who cares about Larry! Piper is released from SHU and immediately starts making out with Alex. Shippers everywhere rejoice.
Episode 110 — “Bora Bora Bora”Featured Inmate: Piper and Tricia
Just when you thought the “scared straight” trope was becoming overdone, Orange Is The New Black flips it with a juvenile delinquent in a wheelchair. The prisoners are hesitant to “scare” her, and their mild tactics don’t work, anyway. At least they don’t until Piper, who is now in a semi-relationship with Alex while Larry is doing a radio show about how Piper’s jail sentence impacts him, steps in with a revealing speech. Then Pennsatucky tries her healing powers on the girl, resulting in a trip to the psych ward.
Bennett finds out Daya is pregnant through one of her family friends and guns for an abortion, but Daya’s adamant about having it, saying she can figure it out. Bennett also admits that he didn’t lose his leg in the war but in a hot tub in Orlando.
Piper’s flashback reveals how she met Larry, a chance meeting after a dog bite leads her to Polly’s place. More interesting, we learn more about the very young Tricia and her old life on the street, sleeping in parks, stealing to survive but keeping a log of her debts to pay everyone back. She’s a drug addict who is now clean — after Red refused to help her, she was forced to confess and temporarily sent away — but Mendez takes advantage of her. Tricia overdoses on drugs (accidentally or on purpose?), and Mendez stages it as a suicide-by-hanging.
Episode 111 — “Tall Men With Feelings”Featured Inmate: Piper and Alex
There is no official investigation into Tricia’s death, so no one finds out about Mendez’s drugs, but now Red is intent on making sure he pays. Daya is to have sex with Mendez and tell the officials it was rape, which will both put Bennett in the clear for the pregnancy and punish Mendez. The plan backfires when he wears a condom.
The flashback deals with Piper and Alex’s break-up (which occurred when Alex’s mother died). In the present, Piper’s guilty about getting Pennsatucky sent to psych and confesses to Caputo, who releases her.
The big moments come at the end, when Terrible Larry does his NPR-like interview and tells secrets about the inmates that anger them — revealing Piper’s earlier negative feelings about Claudette and Crazy Eyes, in particular — before hinting that he knows about Piper and Alex. He admits to Piper that Healy told him about “lesbian activity” and tells her that Alex did name her in the trial.
Episode 112 — “Fool Me Once”Featured Inmate: Pennsatucky
So much is revealed in the penultimate episode of Season 1. With the “help” of scheming inmates, Caputo catches Mendez having sex with Daya. Yoga Joan explains she was sent to prison after accidentally killing a child and later bonds with Watson. Taystee commits a crime to return to jail because she can’t exist outside. When Claudette’s appeal is denied, she attacks a prison guard and is sent to maximum security. (I’ll miss you forever, Claudette!) Piper and Alex argue, and break up, and Piper and Larry decide to get married while she’s still in prison.
Pennsatucky finally turns out to be more than just a religious prison stereotype. In her backstory, she is a meth-addicted hick who, after getting her fifth abortion, kills the doctor who “disrespected” her. Anti-abortion groups hail her as a hero, and she gets free legal counseling from a Christian who effectively converts her (in return, her sentence is shortened). When Piper refuses to let Pennsatucky baptize her, Pennsatucky vows to murder her.
Episode 113 — “Can’t Fix Crazy”Featured Inmate: N/A
Centered around a Christmas pageant, “Can’t Fix Crazy” ends the season on a cliffhanger. First, Piper gets approval for marriage after a tit-for-tat blackmailing meeting with Natalie, but after meeting with Alex, Larry breaks up with her again. Red loses her job as head cook and is replaced by Gloria, who starves Red out. Red sabotages the kitchen and causes a small explosion.
Pennsatucky is out for blood — even her own; she cuts herself with a shiv and smears it all over Piper in the shower — and obsessed with killing Piper. After the pageant, while Piper goes outside to find privacy, Pennsatucky follows and attacks her with another shiv, this one appropriately made out of a cross. Healy wanders outside, ignores Piper’s cries for help, and wanders back in.
“You ain’t worthy of nobody’s love,” Pennsatucky says — which is a fucked-up thing to say to anyone but a dangerous thing to say to a narcissist like Piper. The episode ends with Piper on top of Pennsatucky, punching her in the face as blood flies everywhere, the fate of both of them unknown.