"Remember all their faces Orange Is the New Black
Remember all their voices
Everything is different
The second time around"
is a dramedy from Netflix
based on the book of the same name. Loosely based on the memoirs
of Piper Kerman
, the series follows her incarceration in a female prison.
Starting as a 30-something yuppie, Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) has it all: a degree from a prestigious college, a cushy job making artisanal soaps, and a faithful fiancé in Larry Bloom (Jason Biggs). But it all collapses when Alex Vause (Laura Prepon
), a member of an international drug ring, is brought to trial. Alex was Piper's college girlfriend, and Piper became an accomplice when she carried a suitcase full of money, once. Sentenced to 15 months for her crimes, Chapman must trade her life in The Big Apple
for a stay in Litchfield Federal Correctional Institution with a motley crew of inmates, each with her own story—a Russian mobster (Kate Mulgrew), a Hispanic woman (Dascha Polanco) whose first act is to get slapped by her angry mother, a trans woman who committed credit card fraud to finance her operations (Laverne Cox), and more—not to mention her own personal nemesis, Alex Vause.
Each episode is a look into life at the Litch. Chapman is largely the focus character, the center of Flashbacks
depicting her life before prison, but more often than not one of the other cons shares the spotlight. The politics of prison life dominate most episodes, and Piper has to navigate her way through its world of work, power structures, death threats, and lesbians. And there's always the actual wardens to think about.
First running for 13 episodes from July 2013, the series is now ready for a third season, which will debut in June 2015.
The show is remarkably similar in setting to the Australian drama set in a women's prison, Wentworth
Now has a recap page
Orange is the New Black provides examples of the following tropes:
- Abhorrent Admirer:
- Subverted by Suzanne, who pursues Piper. Piper is terrified that Suzanne will force herself on her or become violent if she rejects her. While Suzanne does have emotional problems, she turns out to be much more mature than Piper thought, and the two form a bit of a friendship for a while.
- Piper accuses Healy of having a crush on her and using his power to try to control her to fit his fantasy impression of her.
- As it turns out, Morello is this for Christopher. She stalked him after having only one date with him, and she's in jail for planting an IED under his real fiance's car.
- Absurdly Youthful Mother: Daya (who has to be about 17 or 18 if she's in prison, not juvie) is currently pregnant.
- Adaptational Villainy: Larry writing about Piper's experience/profiting off of it was considered a Jerk Ass move in the show and drove a wedge between him and Piper. In real life, their relationship was understandably put to the test but never seriously suffered as it did in the show; his memoir brought them closer together and she considered it a wonderful Christmas present.
- Adult Fear:
- Yoga Jones's crime. Drunk, she shoots and thinks she hits a deer, but kills a neighbor's kid who had run away from home because his father took away his video games.
- Even though Red's sons are all grown men, they're still her babies, and she doesn't take Vee's threats against them well.
- The Alcoholic: Luscheck seems to always be this trope. Poussey later on as well.
- Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: Poussey does some really stupid stuff after taking to constant drinking when Taystee stops talking to her entirely.
- All Love Is Unrequited:
- Occurs early with Suzanne falling for Piper, despite the latter not being interested.
- By the end of Season 1: Piper is left (again) by Larry, and Piper left Alex which means she won't even speak to Piper.
- Daya, John and Mendez are in a love triangle. Mendez loves Daya, but she hates him and loves John, who is having second thoughts about their relationship.
- Caputo has a crush on the new recruit, Fischer, who remains oblivious and has a boyfriend. Although she later breaks up with him, she instead moves on to a short-lived relationship with Luschek.
- Both Boo and Tricia are in love with Mercy—who broke up with Boo a while ago, and doesn't speak to Tricia after she gets out of prison.
- Morello is desperately in love with her fiancé Christopher, but he doesn't appear to be as keen, given he apparently hasn't visited her since Morello's third week inside—despite Morello's wedding plans and decision to remain faithful to him. It turns out Morello has actually been stalking Christopher after they only had one date together, to the point where he had to move house several times to get away from her. He eventually puts a restraining order on her, and Morello is arrested when she plants an explosive device underneath Christopher's actual fiancée's car. Despite this, Morello still considers herself to be in love with him, and he in love with her. She's definitely got some sort of mental illness, most likely Delusional Disorder.
- Poussey has feelings for Taystee.
- All Men Are Perverts: The male staff of the prison tend toward this. Healy is sexually frustrated, paranoid about lesbians, and has a creepy crush on Piper. Caputo masturbates in his office after having conversations with attractive inmates. Bennett and Mendez both have consensual sex with a female inmate, which is legally considered rape. Luschek has no qualms about hitting on or discussing sex with inmates. There are a few exceptions, such as O'Neill, Donaldson, Gallego, and Ford. Then again, the latter three lack as much characterisation as the others.
- Amazing Freaking Grace : During Season 1 episode 13, "Can't Fix Crazy."
- Analogy Backfire: Pennsatucky refers to a traitor as a "Judas", and Alex responds "So in this analogy, you're Jesus Christ?" The reference still makes sense, to be fair — the criticism is merely that it's a little self-aggrandising. There's a Call Back to this exchange featuring Red and Nichols in "Take a Break from your Values".
- Appeal to Worse Problems: Polly has a great rant on the concept in "Blood Donut".
You know what? Fuck Piper. She's in prison and it sucks. Let's also stipulate there are children dying of diarrhea in Malawi. That doesn't mean we don't get to complain about our lives. I am pregnant and the heat of our apartment is always too high and it gives me nosebleeds and that is happening. Pete isn't getting laid and he's grown that horrible beard. You look like a loser. We're all allowed to feel shitty about things in our lives that are shitty.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
- "I have been starved out... felt up... teased... stalked... threatened... and called Taylor Swift."
- "I could tell you that I'm going to make you my prison bitch. I could tell you that I'm going to make you my house mouse. That I will have sex with you even if we don't have an emotional connection."
- Brook Soso leads a small group of inmates on a hunger strike to protest the excessive and indescriminate use of the SHU, the state of bathrooms, and lack of real maple syrup at breakfast.
- Artifact Title: Only new inmates still being processed wear orange uniforms. Most of the population wears beige, and Piper gets beige clothes of her own as early as the third episode. But because Reality Is Unrealistic, people imagine all prisoners wear orange.
- Artistic Licence Law: Not so much the law itself, but the the logistics of how it is practiced. In the Season Two opener, Piper is brought in to testify about Alex's supplier and gives some very unhelpful testimony. In the real world this might possibly happen, but a prosecutor would never in a million years put a witness in its case on the stand without thoroughly deposing them beforehand.
- Artistic License – Military: In Season 2, Episode 6, the father of Poussey's girlfriend, an Oberstleutnant in the German Army, walks in on them having sex and unmistakably has the collar insignia of an SS-Oberstgruppenführer.
- As Himself: Tiki Barber of the New York Giants. Figueroa even uses the chance to meet him to distract the accountant sent to review her budget.
- Artistic License – Pharmacology: During the Season 2 finale, a subplot involves two inmates stealing nutmeg from the kitchen to get high off of it. They proceed to act like classic examples of The Stoner. It's possible to get high off of nutmeg in real life, but consuming enough to do so is extremely difficult (plus nutmeg tastes pretty awful) and it often causes one to have VERY frightening hallucinations, nothing like any of the ones the inmates have.
- Asian Airhead: New inmate Brook Soso is very spacy. Most of the other inmates wish she would just shut up.
- Asshole Victim:
- The man Claudette killed was abusing her workers.
- As the Good Book Says: Pennsatucky uses the Bible many times, most dangerously to justify her attempts to kill Chapman.
- Beauty Inversion:
- An Enforced Trope with all of the women, given their living conditions.
- The actor portraying the crooked prison guard George "Pornstache" Mendez (Pablo Schreiber) is actually extremely attractive in reality and is not nearly as creepy looking as his character. Schreiber actually refuses to grow his own mustache and admits that the trademark facial hair sported by Mendez is actually a prop that is glued onto his top lip.
- Because I'm Good at It: The inverse of this is the reason given for Alex seriously contemplating going back to dealing drugs after getting out of prison - she doesn't know how to do anything else.
- Bechdel Test: The cast is almost entirely women, so it passes easily.
- Becoming the Mask: Pensatucky is heavily implied to have been a nihilist before being treated as a hero by religious fanatics for shooting a nurse at an abortion clinic.
- Belief Makes You Stupid:
- Seemingly played straight with Pennsatucky and her followers, but it turns out that Pennsatucky was already dumb and unhinged before she found religion. Meanwhile, Sister Ingalls is one of the smartest and kindest characters in the cast.
- Played straight in Chapman's eyes, since she claims that she believes in "science and evolution ... and Neil deGrasse Tyson" and that religion is more or less comfort food for those who need something invisible to believe in, rather than "feelings."
- Berserk Button:
- Don't tell Chapman that she doesn't deserve to be loved by anyone.
- Don't disrespect Pennsatucky.
- Don't insult Red's cooking. Or hurt one of her girls. Actually, don't do anything to piss Red off at all; you will certainly regret it.
- Suzanne has a few of these. The fact that nobody is quite sure what they are just makes it more exciting.
- Don't touch Daya around Bennett.
- Don't threaten Vee's heroin gig.
- Don't take Morello out on a nice date and then break it off. (Really, if you want to play it safe, don't take Morello out on a date at all - that one is sweet, but that one is delusional.)
- Betty and Veronica: Larry and Alex, respectively, for Piper. Deconstructed in later episodes, when Larry and Alex get tired of Piper switching between them all the time. Piper ends her affair with Alex to marry Larry, but Larry later ends it because he doesn't trust her anymore. Alex doesn't accept her back, and is in fact furious that Piper had the nerve to try to come back.
- Big Bad: Vee, the highly manipulative and psychopathic inmate introduced in season two.
- Big Applesauce: The lion's share of Larry and Piper's outside life takes place in New York City.
- Bilingual Bonus: You're perfectly able to treat yourself to this, since foreign language dialogue is sometimes left untranslated unless you turn on the full subtitle track.
- Bi the Way: Piper and Morello. Piper actually mentions the Kinsey scale and the spectrums of sexuality when accused of "turning" gay or straight.
- Body Motif: Bennett's fake leg comes up in several conversations with Daya and her family.
- Book Ends:
- At the beginning of Season 1, Piper is being starved out by Red. At the end of Season 1 Red is being starved out by the new head cook.
- Episode 1 opens and closes on the same scene of Piper being pulled out of the shower by Taystee.
- Both Sides Have a Point: Happens often in the show, the complexity of the characters and the Grey and Gray Morality meaning that most characters have a background that explains or excuses their Jerkassery and gives them a sympathetic point of view. Except for Vee.
- Boyish Short Hair: Pennsatucky gets a haircut in the second season so that she can get in on "the gay agenda". Healy doesn't approve.
- Break the Haughty: Red's arc from the beginning of the first season to the beginning of the second.
- Breather Episode: "The Chickening" is probably the most comedy-heavy episode of the series, which largely revolves around the search for a legendary chicken that each inmate wants for different reasons.
- Brick Joke:
- Vee and her gang bully Rosa out of her table, and Rosa says that Vee is very rude. In the last episode, Rosa runs Vee over in her getaway car, casually remarking, "So rude, that one."
- Butch Lesbian: Boo, by her own admission. She even has a forearm tattoo that helpfully reads, "BUTCH."
- Call Back:
- Cesar repeats Red's "he's not an eggplant, he's retarded!" joke in episode 5. Nicky does it again in episode 13.
- Vause and Nichols both point out (to Pennsatucky and Red, respectively) that to refer to a betrayer as a "Judas" is by implication to compare yourself to Jesus.
- Cardboard Prison: Justified in that the prison is minimum-security, and attempting to escape will triple an inmate's sentence. Even so, at least four inmates have gotten loose (at least temporarily) by the end of the second season:
- Jimmy simply walks out through a door that was mistakenly left unlocked, only to be seen shortly afterward by Caputo at a bar.
- Morello drives prison van to Christopher's house during a trip outside the prison to transport Rosa to a doctor's office. She returns to the hospital's parking garage before her absence is noticed.
- Vee escapes using the sewer grate in the greenhouse Red had her son saw through. In the confusion caused by Vee's escape attempt, Morello has Rosa steal the van they're in and she flees the prison, in the process running over Vee and killing her. The season ends before Rosa has been caught.
- Career Building Blunder: Red trusts Nicky after finding out she snitched to Pornstache because she knows Nicky will feel guilty and want to make amends.
- Cartwright Curse: In Rosa's backstory, the first two fellow bankrobbers she hooks up with die immediately after a bank robbery. The remaining man in group refuses her advances due to her "curse," and he survives. Much later, Rosa thinks that the curse has affected even the teenage cancer patient who helped her with some petty thievery, but he is unaffected.
- Cast Full of Gay: While it's hard to be absolutely certain how many of the characters are actually gay or bisexual or if they're just settling with what's available, there is an overwhelming amount of lesbian sexcapades going on in the show. For what it's worth, Alex, Suzanne, Nicky, Poussey, and Big Boo are all bona fide lesbians in or out of prison, and Piper is likewise genuinely bisexual. There are also plenty of named and unnamed characters who probably are just settling.
- The Cast Show Off: The Christmas pageant was an excuse to show off all the talents the actresses had. Including the normally silent Norma.
- Cat Fight: Averted. Given the setting and despite it being a minimum security prison, violence between women in the show is usually brutal and unsightly.
- Chekhov's Gun: The missing screwdriver, which frequently disappears and reappears due to its offensive uses. It turns out to be a Red Herring both times, however, as Big Boo steals it simply to masturbate with the handle, and Piper drops it before she can use it.
- Chekhov's Skill:
- During Piper's introduction, the inmates are shown a toothbrush with a razor melted into the handle. By the end of the first season, Pennsatucky is shown to own one.
- The black inmates tell Piper to just fight with a kick to the groin then an elbow to the back. During her fight with Pennsatucky, she uses it to take her down when attacked with a crucifix shiv.
- It's subtle, but in an earlier episode, we're shown Sophia's past as a firefighter. In "The Chickening," she says to Doggett, "That's not a load-bearing pipe." Doggett questions what Sophia knows about it ("I just told you"), just before the pipe comes down. Sophia's "I told you so" smirk is priceless.
- Churchgoing Villain: Pennsatucky.
- Character Focus: Every episode, for the most part, focuses on a new character to flesh out.
- Christianity Is Catholic: Averted. There is a nun, but when Chapman prays at the insistence of Pennsatucky, she prays to Jesus specifically. The nun remarks she might have thrown the virgin in for good measure.
- Clear My Name: Most notably with Chapman and Healy, however.
- Clear Their Name: Chapman does it for Pennsatucky.
- Comically Missing the Point:
Caputo: This place fuckin' stinks.
Bennett: We'll open some windows, sir.
Caputo: That's not what I meant, Bennett... that's not what I meant.
- Chapman asks Soso if she's ever heard the Ghandi quote, "Speak only if it improves upon the silence." Soso thinks she's starting a conversation, which is the exact opposite of what she was doing.
- Conspiracy Theorist: Season two reveals that Healy’s issues with lesbians stem from having read Hanna Rosin’s The End of Men.
- Conveniently Cellmates: Piper and Alex; Aleida and Daya; Taystee and her mother-figure Vee.
- Cooldown Hug: When Bennett violently loses his temper in front of the inmates he gets one of these from Mendez, of all people.
- Crash-Into Hello: Morello and Christopher, which Morello compares to Notting Hill and sees as a sign. Subverted: they have one date, then she turns into a crazy stalker, tries to kill his new girlfriend and gets herself locked up.
- Crisis of Faith: Pennsatucky has one after Chapman and Alex get the inmates to pretend Pennsatucky has faith-healing powers, then pulls the rug out from under her.
- A Date with Rosie Palms: Caputo after he meets Piper for the first time.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Multiple characters have dark pasts that are explored to show how they came to be in prison.
- Piper had to spend most of her adolescent years plainly aware that her parents didn't love each other. When she was 13, she caught her father kissing another woman while she was sneaking out to see Dazed and Confused with a friend; when she tried to tell her mother about it, her mother ignored her husband's infidelity and instead punished Piper for seeing an R-rated movie.
- Alex grew up in a poor single-parent household, constantly teased by the wealthy children at her school and never knowing her father. When she finally got to meet him as an adult, she found out that he was a drug-addled, womanizing rock musician who couldn't care less about the fact that he had a daughter.
- Nicky spent her entire childhood in a separate house from her parents, raised exclusively by her nanny and ignored by her wealthy socialite mother. She became a drug addict as a teenager, eventually leading to a near-fatal bout of endocarditis, and had to go through a hellish detox period when she was sent to prison.
- Red and her husband both wound up involved with the Russian Mafia while struggling to keep their small supermarket afloat, and eventually wound up in debt to them after Red lost her temper and punched off a mobster's wife's fake breast.
- Suzanne has struggled with mental illness ever since she was a child, and she was treated like an outcast by nearly every child her own age that she ever met.
- Taystee was trapped in the foster-care system until she was 10, and she got pulled into drug-dealing by her manipulative surrogate mother figure Vee. When she's briefly released in Season 1, it becomes clear that Vee is the closest thing in the world that she has to family.
- Morello seems to subvert this, as she has a stable relationship with her fiancé Christopher, and she was sent to prison for the relatively harmless crime of running a mail-order scam. But as we eventually find out, she's dangerously delusional, and she hasn't actually been in a relationship with Christopher for years. She's so desperate to have him that she's willing to resort to obsessively stalking him, and trying to murder his actual girlfriend.
- It's heavily implied that Tricia's father sexually abused her, which led to her living on the streets and resorting to petty crime and shoplifting to survive.
- Miss Claudette was forced into working as a maid from childhood to pay off her parents' debt after they smuggled her into the United States from Haiti. When she became a supervisor for the maid service as an adult, she found out that one of the girls in her charge was being violently abused by the family that she cleaned for (which was implied to be a regular hazard of the job).
- Sofia had to resort to stealing credit cards to pay for her hormone treatments, and believes (with good reason) that she probably would have committed suicide if she hadn't been allowed to go through gender reassignment therapy. Though her wife supported her transition, it irrevocably shattered her relationship with her son, which led to her son turning her in and getting her sent to prison.
- Daya was criminally neglected by her mother Aleida—as were all of her younger siblings—and had to spend most of her childhood with a house full of drug-dealers. Even when Aleida was busted from drug-dealing and sent to prison, she apparently barely gave a second thought to leaving her children motherless, instead accusing Daya of trying to steal her boyfriend.
- While growing up as an Army brat, Poussey fell in love with a German girl at the military base where her father was stationed, but was forced to leave her against her will when her father was transferred. It was heavily implied that her girlfriend's homophobic father tried to have her "reeducated" to stamp out her homosexuality.
- Gloria was trapped in a relationship with an abusive boyfriend while raising four children, with the police repeatedly failing to come to her aid whenever she asked for help. She was arrested for accepting food stamps as payment at her shop—leaving her children motherless—just as she finally made plans to escape her boyfriend and skip town.
- Yoga battled alcoholism before prison and had to grow marijuana to support herself, but ultimately wound up in prison when she accidentally shot and killed a young boy who ran through her cannabis fields one night after running away from home, thinking he was a deer. That one mistake has haunted Yoga since she came to prison, and it scared her into giving up alcohol.
- A Death in the Limelight: Tricia Miller dies at the end of her flashback episode.
- Deggans Rule: A good portion of the cast is made up of women of color, and the show is not primarily about race (racism is a theme, but it's only occasionally at the center of the story).
- Demoted to Extra:
- Sophia has a significantly less development/screentime in Season 2. Her main interactions outside of her hair salon are wearing a cocktail dress to the job fair, giving an anatomy lesson, and one visit with Crystal and their son. Her friendship with Sister Ingalls falls to the side except for a few minutes after Ingalls collapses from her hunger strike and she doesn't really face the inter-inmate conflict she faced in the first season. Somewhat surprising given her popularity.
- Alex is noticeably absent for most of the second season despite arguably being the second most important character in the first season. Larry has no plot importance whatever in the second season and Piper herself is out of focus so much of the time that those who only watched season 2 may not even realize she is the main character.
- Denied Food as Punishment: How Red punishes Piper for insulting her food. Later in the same episode, it is heavily implied that Alex receives the same treatment for trying to give food to Piper. Later in the first season, Red is given the same treatment by the new kitchen staff after she Sabotages the kitchen, inadvertently causing another inmate to receive severe burns.
- Desk Jockey: Caputo calls out Figueroa for being completely out of touch with the actual workings of the prison.
- Dirty Cop:
- Everyone working in the prison is corrupt to some extent, and if they do treat an inmates like human beings, they are explicitly ordered by higher ups to start treating them more like animals. Even the best of the guards are shown to be apathetic or incompetent.
- While on the outside, Vee had at least one on her payroll, and had him kill RJ for daring to start his own heroin operation.
- Dirty Old Man:
- The CO in the first episode.
- Piper implies that Healy is one.
- One of the Latina women mentions a pervy uncle.
- Disability as an Excuse for Jerkassery: The girl in the wheelchair in "Bora Bora Bora," who brags that she did criminal things because people said she couldn't.
- Disproportionate Retribution:
- Red makes sure that Piper has no access to food whatsoever until she finds some way to make amends for saying that her cooking is bad.
- Healy sends Piper to the SHU for an imagined slight in episode 9.
- Pennsatucky is apparently made of this trope, as she shoots an abortion nurse and decides to murder Piper, both for 'disrespecting' her.
- Vee rudely takes Rosa's table in the cafeteria, so Rosa hits her with a van
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: In episode 6, season 1 - when Figueroa discusses with Caputo about the compromising picture someone took of her intimates, he holds the picture and looks at her in the eyes, saying:
Caputo: I will get to the bottom of this, ma'am.
- The Dog Bites Back: Vee learned the hard way not to be rude to Rosa.
- Dramedy: A lot of people get confused when the series gets nominated for comedy award categories...despite the seriousness of the setting and dramatic moments, it's has quite a lot of silly moments and dialogue that keeps it from being a total serious work.
- Dropped A Bridge On Her: At the end of season 2, Vee breaks out of prison just to get hit by a van driven by Rosa who just happened to come around on her own breakout attempt.
- Drowning My Sorrows: Poussey constantly does this from when she's on the outs with Taystee and her crew.
- Dumb Muscle: Suzanne considers herself this for Vee
Suzanne: She's the brains. I'm the muscle.
- Easter Egg: According to the credits, one of the nuns from "Take a Break from Your Values" is named Sister Mary Eunice.
- Even Evil Has Standards:
- Mendez threatens to effectively torture Morello for information. When Morello refuses to comply, he backs off and gives up, revealing that his threats were empty. In Season Two, he also realizes when Bennett is being too aggressive with the inmates and gives him a Cool Down Hug.
- When Healy pulls an act of Disproportionate Retribution on Piper:
Joe Caputo: Christ, even Mendez said it was uncalled for, and that guy lives to throw people in the box.
- Ensemble Cast: though Chapman is ostensibly the main character, there are a lot of storylines being reeled out. Daya's plotline is the most significant one next to Piper's tribulations; she serves as deuteragonist despite only sharing scenes with Piper in about five episodes (of the 26 produced so far). And in the second season, the show just goes for it without abandon: its main Story Arc (Vee and her smuggling ring) basically doesn't involve Piper at all.
- Everything Is Racist: The prison is divided into cliques along racial lines. People generally refer to the cliques as "tribes" and insist that it's not racist. The "tribes" will compete with each other and make disparaging comments about each other, but there is plenty of friendly interaction between groups as well.
- Evil All Along: Vee seems like she could be the kind of alternative, tough-love matriarch to bring the black women together, but it's ultimately revealed that she's just a murderous, petty tyrant.
- Evil Matriarch: The dramatic type with Vee.
- Exact Words: Caputo is able to use this against Fig. She told Bennett that he could not file a report on the drugs bust; she didn't say Bennett couldn't write the report and give it to Caputo so he could file it.
- The NPR host Maury Kind and show are pretty clear Expies of Ira Glass and This American Life, mixed with some Fresh Air for flavor (unlike TAL and like Fresh Air, the show is on NPR and not PRI and the show seems to be focused on interviews with the host, but like TAL the show is focused on a theme rather than Fresh Air's focus on one guest answering whatever questions Terry Gross has in store). Apparently, they tried to get the actual Ira Glass to show up, but he declined.
- Morello's accent and endlessly planning a wedding with "Christopher" recalls Adrianna from The Sopranos.
- Fade to Black: Played with. The end of each episode fades to orange before going black for the credits. Because, well, Orange Is the New Black.
- The Fagin: Vee takes in neglected children, treats them like her own family, and turns them into drug dealers. It's revealed that she's just exploiting her wards and will even kill them if they become her business rivals.
- Laura Prepon in the shower has to count.
- There a few scenes with topless women, though the context could easily transform them into Fan Disservice.
- Matt McGorry, who plays John Bennett, is a professional bodybuilder.
- Fashion Show : Of a practical sort. The inmates try on outfits for a "dress for success" presentation.
- Faux Affably Evil: Vee acts like a motherly crime boss who treats her associates like extended family. In reality, she's a manipulative and power-hungry backstabber who uses and discards her associates like kleenex.
- Fee Fi Faux Pas: Piper complains about the prison food to a nice woman who just gave her a free yogurt cup. This woman is Red, who is in charge of the prison kitchen. Things get worse.
- Flashback Echo: Pretty common. Most notably is Piper's flashback juice cleanse in "Tit Punch" mirroring Red's starving her out.
- Food Porn:
- Larry describing his groceries to Piper. Quickly subverted when he tries to turn it into phone sex and Piper shoots him down.
- Played for a bit of comedy when the inmates react to common donuts with orgasmic pleasure.
- Force Feeding: Sister Ingalls is force fed using an intravenous tube when she becomes ill from her hunger strike, despite her protestations.
- Foreshadowing: In the last episode of the first season, Piper asks her fellow inmates how she should deal with Pennsatucky, and Black Cindy laughingly suggests what Pennsatucky really needs is new teeth. The episode ends with Piper brutally pummeling Pennsatucky's face, knocking her teeth out.
- When Pennsatucky gets back, Healy gets her new teeth.
- Early in Season 2, Red's son comes to visit with a black eye from his wife (who hit him in the face with a bag of change for being drunk). What method does Vee use to brutally attack Red without having access to any contraband weapons? A lock in a sock. Foreshadowed a second time when Flaca prepares "advice" for how to deal with a bad bunkmate, in which she word-for-word foreshadows the method of attack!
- In Gloria's flashbacks, her boyfriend Arturo always enters her bodega through the back room, tells her that she needs locks on the doors, and says that he'll install the locks himself. Come the end of the episode, after Gloria's arrest, he returns to the shop through the back room to steal the food stamp money she had been saving up and leaves his keys on the counter. He gets locked in the room, knocks over some candles, and starts the fire that burns him alive.
- From Bad to Worse: SHU.
- Funny Background Event: If you look at Healy's monitor the scene after Sophia snaps off his toy dog's head you'll see he's looking online to buy a replacement.
- Nichols and Morello sneaking out of the chapel after their Sunday-morning tryst is interrupted, in Season 1, Episode 5 – "The Chickening".
- After Fig complains about getting gum on her shoe in Season 2, she can later be seen googling ways to get it off.
- The Fundamentalist: Pennsatucky, to Ax-Crazy extremes.
- Gaslighting: How Alex gets Pennsatucky into the psych ward—convincing a bunch of other inmates to pretend to be cured by Pennsatucky's faith healing, then having it fail miserably, getting her committed as delusional. Piper even calls it that.
- Genre Savvy: The host of "Urban Tales" asks Larry about prison tropes.
- Polly. Sees a burning bag on her doorstep, and immediately knows what's in it. She puts it out with a fire extinguisher.
- The Ghost: The warden. Never seen, but by most accounts a total hard ass.
- Girls Behind Bars: The whole premise of the show, albeit in a minimum security prison. Going for a higher level of security would have made the show more akin to Oz
- Glory Seeker: Sister Ingalls is in jail for indulging these tendencies, and was excommunicated for it.
- Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: Generally pretty grey, with different cases of adultery being committed for reasons of varying levels of sympathy
- Piper cheats on Larry because she's lonely and going through a rough spot with him, whereas her relationship with Alex is initially portrayed as a romantic (if selfish and destructive) love story.
- Larry subsequently sleeping with Polly ticks some Good Adultery boxes in that he and Piper have recently broken up, he's "getting even", they're two lonely and frustrated people comforting each other, and Polly's husband is extremely unsympathetic; but on the other hand, it's his fiancée's best friend and, of course, she's stuck in prison.
- In flashback, Piper justifies coming on to Alex when she knows she has a girlfriend by saying that she shouldn't cheat on the other girl if it's true love, but otherwise she doesn't care.
- Got Volunteered: Piper "wins" Healy's vote for the white representative on the WAC board, despite that she didn't enter the election and specifically told Healy that she didn't want the position. A lot of people resent her apparent special treatment, particularly Pennsatucky.
- Granola Girl: Yoga Jones. Piper too was this, considering she was obsessed with being environmentally conscious, trying out vegan diets, and trying to get a soap-making company started.
- Cal's fiancée Neri is an interesting example in that she's extremely militant about it and is totally fine with eating meat as long as she hunted it herself.
- Brook Soso is one as well, going so far as refusing to shower.
- Grey and Gray Morality: One of the absolute hallmarks of the show. No character is wholly a saint nor wholly a jerk, and may receive or hand off the Villain Ball within the same episode or even the same scene.
- Groin Attack: Chapman, on the advice of some of the other inmates, pulls this on Pennsatucky when they fight.
- Healing Hands: Subverted. Alex convinces Pennsatucky that she has faith healing powers. Needless to say, she doesn't.
- Heel-Face Revolving Door: Healy is introduced as a kind and paternal man to Piper, then is slowly revealed to be a sexually frustrated and bigoted jerk with anger issues and a vicious propensity to abuse his power. In season two, Healy still has all of his preexisting problems, but makes a concerted effort to be a better person.
- Heel-Face Turn: Red is introduced as a vindictive petty tyrant who starves Piper for an unintentional insult. Later episodes flesh her out as a stern but caring matriarch.
- Hellhole Prison:
- The Psych ward is treated as a fate worse than death, Piper can't stomach even Pennsatucky being trapped there.
- The prison Piper visits in Chicago is much, much harsher than Litchfield, filled with murderers of both sexes around every corner.
- Hero of Another Story: Larry's main role in the story, besides being Piper's love interest, is to show that even though Piper and the rest of the main cast are in prison, life still goes on for the rest of the world.
- Heteronormative Crusader: Lesbianism is Healy's Berserk Button. Pennsatucky's too.
- Hidden Depths:
- Suzanne, despite her erratic behavior, is revealed to have a classical education coming from her upper-class upbringing. She quotes Shakespeare monologues from memory.
- The Christmas show allows many inmates to reveal some surprising skills.
- Poussey is revealed to be fluent in German. It's eventually revealed that she grew up on a military base in Germany.
- Taystee is a math whiz and much more intelligent than she generally lets on.
- CO Fisher knows Spanish, but deliberately keeps it a secret.
- Holier Than Thou: Pennsatucky, first to Alex, then Chapman.
- Hollywood Voodoo: Mendoza practices Santeria.
- Hot for Preacher: Crystal, Sophia's wife, seeks her blessing to pursue a relationship with her church's new pastor in "Fucksgiving."
- Hypocritical Humor: Two examples from the episode "The Chickening":
Red: Black girls hear about a chicken, of course this will happen.
Chapman: Why? Because all black people love chicken?
Red: Don't be racist. Because they're all on heroin. Somebody's been telling them there's heroin in the chicken.
- Later, from that same exchange
Red: Those Spanish probably won't even eat [the chicken], just cut her throat and drink her blood, or something else superstitious. All I wanted was to eat the chicken that is smarter than other chickens and to absorb its power. And make a nice Kiev.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Most episode titles are taken from somewhere in the episode, either from an innocuous line that takes on a more significant meaning ("I Wasn't Ready", "It Was the Change") or an innocuous line that sounds cool but doesn't really mean anything ("Thirsty Bird", "Low Self Esteem City"). Episode titles that don't fit this pattern are usually Intentionally Awkward Titles ("Fucksgiving", "Tit Punch").
- I Gave My Word: Subverted with Healy and his promise to reopen the track.
- I'm a Man, I Can't Help It: Believed by Fig. Daya seduces Pornstache Mendez so that she can claim that he is the father of the baby she's actually having with Bennett. When this comes to light, Mendez is jailed—CO-on-inmate action is legally rape under 100% of cases because inmates do not retain the right to give consent—but when Figueroa asks if Daya flirted with him, Daya says that she did. Fig then pronounces, "Congratulations, you've ruined a man's life."
- I Take Offense to That Last One:
"You think I want to end up with five different baby daddies and an ass tattoo of a dog?"
"It's a WOLF!"
- I'm Not Hungry: Brook Soso leads a small group of inmates on a hunger strike to protest the excessive and indescriminate use of the SHU, the state of bathrooms, and lack of real maple syrup at breakfast. Their hunger strike is deflated when Caputo informs them that the issues they had (that he could take seriously) were being addressed already... only for Sister Ingalls to go on hunger strike demanding better treatment of elderly inmates.
- Incompatible Orientation:
- Figueroa's husband.
- Taystee, to Poussey. Vee later uses this to her advantage to turn Taystee against her friend.
- Inept Talent Show Contestant: Deliberately invoked by the woman giving the "Dress for Success" presentation to provide examples of what not to do.
- Insecurity System:
- The prison seems to have no video cameras anywhere. A tremendous amount of the plot hinges on this. Caputo acknowledges this in season 2, telling a guard "the security cameras are always on... as far as they know."
- A senile inmate actually manages to walk out of prison through a couple unsecured doors.
- Institutional Apparel: The show is called Orange is the New Black, after all (though the orange jumpsuits are only temporary until an inmate is assigned their beige prison wardrobe).
- Invisible President: The Warden is never seen.
- Its Pronounced Tropay : Poussey. "Accent a droite, bitch!" And "What is Poh-pee?" "Popi."
- Jerkass: At times, this series feels like World of Jerkass. Loads and Loads of Characters and only a handful are truly likable, though the show does go out of its way to portray almost all of them as sympathetic.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Watson, being a track star wanting popularity instead, tries hanging around thugs for friendship, only to get chewed out for risking her potential by falling in with the wrong people.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Caputo, who is a total asshole when he isn't acting neutral when Healy won't and being totally infatuated with new officer Fischer. He even ends up buying flowers for Fischer right before he meets her boyfriend.
- Justified Criminal: Many of the inmates are depicted this way, resorting to crime due to a need to make money ( Taystee), to keep from becoming a victim of organized crime ( Red), because of mental illness ( Morello), or for an honest mistake ( Yoga Jones), to point out a few.
- Karma Houdini: Pennsatucky's belief that Piper is one of these leads to her Crisis of Faith.
- Kick the Dog: Mendez, Mendez, Mendez. His ruining of Red's kitchen whenever she defies him (pissing in the Thanksgiving gravy might be the most egregious example) and leaving Tricia in the closet as she overdosed and faking her suicide to cover up his actions are only some of his worst.
- Kick the Son of a Bitch:
- Deconstructed. When Piper gets Pennsatucky sent to the psych unit, the damage it does is not played for catharsis but for sheer horror. Pennsatucky deserved to be punished for what she did to Piper, but the repayment was absolutely brutal and assured that things would only get worse.
- The day after she found out her husband was cheating on her with his male staffer, Fig has to deal with Caputo telling her he has evidence of her embezzlement. After she gives him a blowjob hoping to keep him silent, he reveals that he already gave the evidence to the warden.
- Laser-Guided Karma: After denying food to Piper after she disrespects her, Red suffers the same fate in the finale when Gloria takes over the kitchen, denying Red food over her revenge attempts.
- In Season 2, Gloria's abusive husband, who enters her convenience store to steal her money stash, then becomes trapped in a burning locked room after knocking over a candle.
- Last Name Basis: Every inmate is referred to only by this, (not counting nicknames).
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Healy's message to Piper in the first episode that this is not Oz and how she doesn't have to have sex with anybody if she doesn't want to seems to be directed at the viewer as much as Piper. While it's not a light show by any means, it's not as horrific as Oz and all of the sex depicted is consensual and, in most cases, relevant to the characters and not just there for titillation.
- Lethal Diagnosis: Rosa, who mentions in the first episode she has cancer, is told in the second season that chemotherapy isn't working and she has only weeks left to live. This is a huge factor in her decision to escape in the second season's final episode.
- List of Transgressions: Tricia keeps a list of every item she's ever stolen, with the intention of paying for all of her thefts.
- Loads and Loads of Characters
- Love Triangle: The two major ones are Piper/Alex/Larry and Daya/Bennett/Mendez.
- Lover, Not a Fighter: Boo claims she is this.
- MacGuffin: The Chicken.
- MacGyvering : At least once an episode. The inmates are very handy at making necessities out of strange items, such as the battery-operated cigarette lighter.
- Mad Love: People point out that Morello keeps talking about her fiancee Christopher despite the fact that he's never visited her once. In season two, it's revealed that they only went on one date before she started stalking him, and he's filed restraining orders against her. She even tried to kill his real fiancee.
- Mail Order Bride: Healy is married to a mail-order Russian bride. It's a troubled marriage, and he often seeks Red's advice and language skills.
- Making Use of the Twin: Laverne Cox's (Sophia) twin brother was used to portray her before her transition from male to female.
- Malaproper: Daya says that she falls asleep so often that she feels like a "necrophiliac."
- To an even greater extent, Morello, as discussed in the episode Bora Bora Bora.
- Manipulative Bastard: Vee. Treats Suzanne like a human being enough that she is fiercely loyal, forges her own band of drug dealers within the prison, then turns on all of them, throws Suzanne under the bus, and escapes the prison when her grip on power is waning.
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: the chicken in the yard that Piper sees.
- Mathematician's Answer: "How long am I going to be in here?" "Until we let you out."
- Military Moonshiner: Poussey makes pruno and stashes it around the prison.
- Money Fetish: Rosa has this, and it is shown in flashbacks to be her downfall.
- Mood Dissonance: Gets used a lot, with the show often switching from comedy to tragedy very quickly. This trope is especially pronounced in the very last scene of the last episode of season one: Everyone except Chapman is having a great time at the Christmas pageant, inmates and guards all together. Even Doggett, who gets to perform in the pageant, is happy. Chapman meanwhile, is totally alone and friendless, and goes outside in the snow, where Doggett follows her to kill her. The switch from the warmth and happiness of the pageant to Chapman fighting for her life alone in the cold winter darkness is very jarring, and very effective.
- Mood Whiplash:
- "Bora Bora Bora" contrasts Alex's hilarious trolling of Pennsatucky with Tricia's gut-wrenching life story.
- Happens extremely rapidly in "Low Self Esteem City" when Piper is psyched about winning Cal's guessing game a split second before it sinks in that her grandma is dying.
- Up until the scene in the chapel, Jimmy's senility is Played for Laughs. It's set up this way, when she believes she's at a swimming pool and then jumps several feet and lands on the floor, breaking her arm.
- Mother Russia Makes You Strong: Red, a tough Russian woman, is the most powerful inmate in the prison during the first season. This appears to have less to do with her nationality than that she had to become tough to fight back against Vee.
- MST: In Season 2, Episode 5, Caputo and Healy riff on a campaign commercial for Fig's husband.
Caputo: Look, the reason I'm the only one with a helmet is 'cause I'm richer than you.
Healy: Hammering that nail was hard! I'm pooped!
Caputo: [as Mr. Fig rides a forklift] Whee!
- My Greatest Failure: Obviously a lot of the women have stories like this, but Yoga Jones shooting a child by accident might be the worst.
- My Nayme Is: Brook ("Like Brooke Shields, only without the 'e' because it's cooler")
- Naïve Newcomer: Piper, for at least six episodes. Susan Fischer for the guards. Soso, in Season 2.
- Never Mess with Granny: There is a reason Red hangs out with the older inmates. They're really scary. Mess with Red, and they'll casually shank the shit out of you. Pity they got the wrong inmate.
- Never My Fault: Alex calls Piper out on this several times.
- Never Trust a Trailer: Advertisements for the show only shows sassy one-liners from the characters to make it seem more like a standard comedy series like Gossip Girl or Desperate Housewives, with her lesbian affair mentioned as though it were just a silly joke.
- No Bisexuals: Played with. While the word bisexual is rarely, if ever, mentioned in the series. Only "straight" and "lesbian" seem to be mentioned by inmates as options. But Piper repeatedly mentions that she isn't straight and she isn't entirely lesbian, and likes attractive people. And her brother calls Larry out on trying to force Piper's identity into a specific label anyways.
- No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Piper admits to her part in getting Pennsatucky shipped to Psych and accepts punishment to get her sent back. In thanks, Pennsatucky demands that Piper get saved or face retribution.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown:
- When Pennsatucky tries to kill Piper in the season finale, Piper snaps and knocks her down, before smashing her face until she knocks out her rotten teeth.
- Red was given one at the hands of Vee's goons the first time Vee was incarcerated.
- Poussey gets one from Suzanne on Vee's orders.
- And again after Red tries (and fails) to kill Vee, with the blame being pinned on Suzanne this time around.
- Noodle Implements:
- The joke in several episodes, first told by Red in "Tit Punch". Only certain parts are heard, including that it involves a penguin and a farmer.
Nichols: ...And so the penguin says, "Dude, he's not an eggplant — he's retarded!"
(Burset and the Chaplain laugh)
Sister Ingalls: You lost me at the umbrellas.
- Taystee lists a few items involved in her getting thrown back in prison.
- Noodle Incident:
- "Maple syrup is now contraband due to last night's incident." It even earns a Call Back in a conversation between Caputo and Figueroa, and again during Season 2's hunger strike.
- Alex (as Piper runs away, having just found the screwdriver in her pocket: "Afraid I'll tell them about the pork chop?" Nicky: "This is fucked up! I have a pork chop story, too!"
- Not So Different: The flashbacks often reveal parallels between the experiences of inmates who probably assume that they have little or nothing in common.
- Oh, Crap:
- Most notably when Piper insults the food in front of Red in the first episode and Mendez finds Trisha dead of an OD on his heroin in the closet after having locked her in.
- Chapman has a minor one when she is "elected" to the WAC board - when she didn't even run and didn't want to - and her associates are clearly not happy about it.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Vee pulls this on Gloria to get her own girls moved to custodial so she can both build up her "family" and start a cigarette-selling operation. Gloria doesn't realize it until Red comes and tells her exactly what Vee did.
- Offing the Offspring: Vee does this to RJ when she feels her business is threatened by him.
- The Old Convict:
- Claudette, Chapman's bunkmate, although she has no interest in showing Chapman or any other younger prisoners the ropes.
- Yoga Jones is perhaps a more straight example of this trope.
- Also Anita, one of Piper's roommates in the first couple of episodes.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Tasha "Taystee" Jefferson, Galina "Red" Reznikov, Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren, and Tiffany "Pennsatucky" Doggett. It also took a few episodes for Mendoz's name to be revealed. Even the captions call him "Pornstache".
- Orphaned Punchline: A Running Gag is that we hear only hear the end of a joke with the punchline: "And the penguin says, "He's not an eggplant, he's retarded!"
- Parental Incest: Not literal, but effectively the case, since it's an instance of an unofficial surrogate parent rather than an actual one. Vee, when she comes over to RJ's house and tries to intimidate him out of running his own heroin business. This is part of her plan to get him killed.
- Pet the Dog: Mendez generally comes off as a sexist, petty, corrupt bully, but he is notably less bigoted towards Sophia than Bennett (though his fetishization of her is gross on a whole different level), and his head-over-heels love for Daya is both pathetic and adorable. Also, he calms Bennett down and drags him away when he loses his temper with the black inmates.
- Plea Bargain: The entire reason Piper convicted is because someone else in the drug ring named her as a part of a plea bargain. She later discovers that the person who named her is Alex.
- Please Don't Leave Me: Alex says this to Piper, when Alex's mother dies and Piper breaks up with her. Piper leaves anyway.
- Pragmatic Adaptation: Understandably, the show diverts from the memoir in order to add conflict and tension. Jury's still out, for instance, on whether or not Larry and Piper will ever end up together as they did in real life.
- Prison Rape:
- Subverted, as sex between inmates seen on the show is consensual. Discussed during "Bora Bora Bora" when the guards and inmates giving the tour pretend it's common, and also when Alex plays with Pennsatucky's fears of this.
- On the other hand, Mendez routinely trades drugs for sex, and attempts to pressure Sophia into this in exchange for hormones when the doctors cut her prescription off. Morello is terrified of him for this exact reason, and Diaz takes advantage of the popular opinion of Mendez to seduce him and then claim he raped her to cover up her pregnancy.
- Prisons Are Gymnasiums: Before Piper goes to prison, she and Larry joke to each other that she'll be in better shape when she gets out.
- Promotion to Opening Titles: Suzanne, Taystee, Nicky and Pennsatucky all get one in Season 2.
- Punch a Wall: Piper unloads on her cubicle wall after she realizes that Larry and Polly slept together.
- Punishment Box: SHU is depicted as such. Both times Piper is put in the SHU, she's depicted as desperate and even slightly crazy from the isolation. As if that's not enough, the food is even more disgusting and inedible than the usual prison fare.
- Punny Name: Red's nickname fits her dyed red hair as well as the fact that she's Russian.
- Put on a Bus: A few times. Notable examples:
- Claudette is put on a bus to Maximum Security after attacking a guard in "Fool Me Once."
- Watson goes to the SHU in "Imaginary Enemies," but gets out in "Blood Donut."
- Blanca Flores (the woman who talks to "Diablo" in the toilet stall for several episodes) is sent to Psych in "Blood Donut" after kicking in the stall door when her phone goes missing. She isn't seen outside of Psych again until she gets sent back loaded up with medications in "Looks Blue, Tastes Red."
- Fischer is fired for overstepping bounds in "Appropriately Sized Pots."
- Jimmy, who is literally put on a bus and dumped by the system as a "compassionate release" on account of her Alzheimers.
- Rape and Switch: Invoked when Vause threatens to do this to Pennsatucky, claiming that the latter will become gay once someone like Vause is done with her. She's only bluffing, annoyed at Pennsatucky deriding Chapman, but the homophobic Pennsatucky believes it.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Caputo is hardly without flaw, but he genuinely wants to provide a safe, clean environment for the inmates at Litchfield, and tries to be a good custodian. He reins in Healy's homophobic vendetta against Chapman and objects to Figueroa's neglectfulness.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
- The one Chapman gives to Healy when she's in solitary confinement.
- Vee's girls give her a spectacular one after she kicks Taystee out of the family, makes them falsely accuse Suzanne of beating Red, and threatens Cindy with a broken (and very sharp) mop handle.
- Poussey gives Vee one in the second season, calling her out on her manipulative behavior and telling her that she's like a pedophile without the sexual abuse.
- Red Herring: It was hinted that Morello was in prison for a white collar crime. In her flashback episode, we see her committing mail fraud, calling online retailers to say she didn't get what she ordered and asking for a refund while enjoying her products. However, that is not why she is in prison. She met Christopher and went on one date, and despite his repeat insistence he wasn't interested in a relationship, she continued to stalk him until she was finally arrested for planting an IED under his fiancee's car.
- Replacement Flat Character: Brook Soso in Season 2. When introduced, she is very much like how Piper was in the first half of Season 1. She evolves a bit throughout the season, though not as drastically as Piper.
- Replacement Goldfish: After Taystee is released, Poussey is shown hanging out with Cindy instead.
- Riddle for the Ages: The chicken. Did it really exist, or was it all in Piper's head? And if it did exist, how did it get in and out of the prison yard?
- Ripped from the Headlines: Sister Ingalls' protest at the nuclear facility is very similar to a break-in at the Y-12 complex in 2012, especially the amount of time before security had noticed they broke in.
- Rule of Funny: GIF files do not actually make sounds, but it's simply funnier if the porn gif Larry saw made sex moans.
- Running Gag:
- Almost every time Piper is on the phone, the same woman is on the phone next to her sobbing. To the point where the sobbing woman starts offering Piper tissues if she starts crying.
- The Eggplant Joke is repeated several times by different characters over the course of the show.
- The Scapegoat: Vee manipulates Suzanne into becoming one of these after her attack on Red. It would have worked too, if not for the efforts of others in the prison.
- Scare 'Em Straight: Invoked in "Bora Bora Bora" where the inmates try to show how horrible prison is to convince a number of delinquents to give up crime. It proves very effective on most of them, but the girl in the wheelchair is unimpressed. Piper then tells her a few home truths, mainly once when in prison you will be forced to realize "how weak you really are".
Piper: It's the truth that will make you her bitch.
- Self Restraint: Taystee gets herself shipped back to Litchfield shortly after her release because she prefers prison life to the outside world.
- Serious Business: The chicken.
- Shiksa Goddess: Larry's father accuses Piper of being this for Larry, saying that his love for her is a result of her natural blonde hair being "exotic" for him.
- Shout-Out: Between Red and Nichols.
''"I thought I was, like, your Spock.
- Larry references his American Pie character in the first episode
"I tell you everything! The webcam horror, the penis shaving incident. How do I not know this?"
- Shown Their Work: Piper gives a very accurate analysis of Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken" in which she addresses the widespread misconception about its meaning.
- Sinister Shiv: On multiple occasions. During orientation, inmates are shown a toothbrush with a razor blade melted into the handle (later, a similar implement is used by Pennsatucky in the shower). Pennsatucky also has a wooden crucifix that has been sharpened to a point. At one point, Piper accidentally takes a screwdriver from the electrical shop that causes the prison to go into a panic due to its potential use as a weapon ( and later, the same screwdriver is returned to Piper specifically to be used as a weapon). In the second season, one of the elderly inmates repeatedly stabs another inmate with a shiv after mistaking her for Vee.
- Situational Sexuality: Particularly Morello. Subverted with Maritza and Flaca. While discussing how much they miss men, they attempt a half-hearted kiss, but it just doesn't appeal to them.
- Sliding Scale of Adaptation Modification: Probably about a 2.8. The main differences between the series and Piper's real life are that she never cheated on Larry while in prison(in fact, she never disclosed her previous lesbian relationship to anyone while she was incarcerated), and Larry did not leave her(they married after she was released).
- The Speechless: Norma. Until the Season 1 finale, anyway.
- Stalker with a Crush: Suzanne.
- It's revealed that Morello was this to her "fiance" Christopher.
- Star-Crossed Lovers:
- Daya and Bennett. Inmates lose the right to give consent, so they have to sneak around or else he'll be charged with rape. Things get more complicated when Daya becomes pregnant with his child.
- In a flashback, it is revealed that Poussey’s father is a military officer who was stationed in Germany, where Poussey had a local girlfriend. The girlfriend was the daughter of a homophobic German officer who happened to be Poussey's dad's superior. When the officer caught his daughter with Poussey in bed, he arranged for Poussey’s father to return to the States.
- Statute of Limitations: Discussed. Piper's crime was committed ten years prior to her conviction. The statute of limitations for her crime is twelve years.
- Sticky Fingers: In Tricia's back-story, she stole even while trying to pay a store back for something else she stole.
- Take That: Rosa's response to Vee suggesting she read The Fault in Our Stars:
Rosa:I don't know why the sick fuck wanted to write about this.
- Probably unintentional, but funny: the film adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars came out in the U.S. on June 6, 2014 — same day that the show's second season became available on Netflix.
- Title Drop: Pretty much every episode's is either completely dropped or at least referenced.
- Transsexual: Sophia is considered by many to be a groundbreaking example, both for being a sympathetic portrayal of a trans woman, as well as being a rare example of a trans woman played by a trans woman.
- Triang Relations: Piper, Larry and Alex start off as Type 7 and are at Type 1 by the end of the first season after she breaks both their hearts.
- The Unfair Sex: Piper cheating on Larry with Alex is portrayed as a climactic, romantic, fist-pumping moment; Larry sleeping with Polly is more or less portrayed as a nadir and a sign of his selfishness and immaturity.
- Unnecessary Time Precision: Alex does this when Nicky asks her how much time she has left.
- Unspoken Plan Guarantee: In the Season 1 finale, after losing the kitchen, Red gives Gina and Norma detailed instructions on how to sabotage meal production. When she's done, it cuts to Gloria chewing out the two before they were able to perform any sabotage.
- Unusual Euphemism: Chapman lists several threats she might use to scare Dina, the last of which, riffing on a Pablo Neruda quotation, is "I'm going to do to you what the Spring does to cherry trees, but in a prison way."
- Urban Legend : In season one, the chicken is an in-universe example. In season 2, the dog and the peanut butter.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Loosely based on the memoir of the same name by Piper Kerman, on whom Piper Chapman is based. Some lines of dialogue are lifted directly from the book, but no characters save for Piper and Larry have the same names as they do in the book. In Real Life, Piper and Larry's relationship remained stable, while the show takes some liberties like breaking them up. Her family was also very supportive and loving during her time leading up to, in, and after her stay in prison, quite unlike the snooty WASPs Piper's family is depicted as in the series. And "Alex," called "Nora" in the book, was not housed in the same minimum-security prison as her; they only saw each other during the trial of their drug kingpins.
- Wardens Are Evil: The prison's warden is often discussed and referred to, but never seen. The assistant warden, however, is a cold-hearted and self-serving woman who frequently turns a blind eye to the prison's problems or covers them up, blames the rest of the staff for everything that goes wrong, and is embezzling money from the prison's budget.
- What Are You in For?: Asked multiple times throughout the series. Occasionally, new inmates like Piper will be under the impression that it's taboo to ask this question.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: As of season 2, several characters have not had anything specific said about how they ended up in prison. The set-up is typically enough to make inferences (Red stored corpses for the Russian mob in her restaurant; Poussey was spotted by her father, a member of the armed forces, attempting to kill a German military officer in cold blood; Suzanne is mentally ill, but in at least one case the set-up was also a Red Herring (Poussey was actually jailed for dealing drugs, according to Taystee).
- What the Hell, Hero?:
- Pennsatucky delivers a fairly epic one to Piper in episode 12, when she points out that by Gaslighting her, Piper (and Alex, although Pennsatucky chooses to put all the blame on Piper) pretty much completely destroyed her life, and very nearly destroyed the faith in God that was getting her through prison.
- Piper gets a few of these, with a few memorable ones coming from Suzanne/Crazy Eyes, Larry, and Alex.
- Norma delivers one to Red, despite the fact she doesn't talk.
- What's an X Like You Doing in a Y Like This?: Used on Piper to ask what a yuppie like her did to end up in prison.
- White Collar Crime:
- Figueroa is shown to be embezzling money from the prison.
- Also the reason that a fair number of the inmates are there.
- White Female Lead: Showrunner Jenji Kohan reveals in an NPR interview that Piper is an example of this.
Kohan: In a lot of ways Piper was my Trojan Horse. You're not going to go into a network and sell a show on really fascinating tales of black women, and Latina women, and old women and criminals. But if you take this white girl, this sort of fish out of water, and you follow her in, you can then expand your world and tell all of those other stories. But it's a hard sell to just go in and try to sell those stories initially. The girl next door, the cool blonde, is a very easy access point, and it's relatable for a lot of audiences and a lot of networks looking for a certain demographic. It's useful.
- Will Not Tell a Lie: Piper tries to live up to this. It gets Pennsatucky out of Psych.
- Piper has lived up to this for most of her life. She is faced with a difficult choice when she has to testify at the Chicago trial of the drug kingpin Alex worked for. Going against her usual instinct and the advice of her attorney, Piper ultimately decides to lie by omission, resulting in dire consequences.
- Piper averts it again later in Season 2. After getting a 48 hour furlough, Piper chooses to ditch her family and friends and travel to check in on Red's old shop, which Red is concerned about in her absence. With Red having lost the kitchen and thus the ability to funnel contracts to The Mafiya, they retaliated by scaring off her customers and the place is shuttered. Piper lies upon her return and insists that it is flourishing and that the food is delicious as ever.
- Woman Scorned: In an early episode, Boo is implied to be one of these. She's not.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Piper reads a book about prison life before going in, but most of what she reads is inaccurate.
- Xanatos Gambit: Pornstache, of all people, sets up a fine one against Red, when he forces Tricia into withdrawal. Not punishing Tricia for her relapse would have been a sign of weakness, and throwing her to the wolves turned her "daughter" Nicky against her.
- Your Cheating Heart:
- Piper cheats on Larry with Alex. Alex pokes fun at this trope when she asks "Are you cheating on me and Larry with Crazy Eyes? Because there is not room for the four of us."
- Morello, who cheats on her fiancé Christopher with Nicky while in prison until her conscience burdens her. Made even worse when it’s discovered she wasn’t actually in a relationship with him, she’s in prison for stalking him and attempting to murder his real fiancée; in her mind, she probably assumed this amount of dedication was reciprocal, and she still cheated on him!
- Polly cheats on her husband with Larry.
- Alex originally cheated on her previous girlfriend with Piper before breaking up properly to be with Piper.
- Daya cheats on John with Pornstache, admittedly to get caught and explain why she's pregnant.
- Figueroa finds out that her husband is cheating on her with a dude.
- Actually, you know what? Just consider monogamy to be on very thin ice in any romantic relationship on this show.