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Series / Orange Is the New Black

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"Remember all their faces
Remember all their voices
Everything is different
The second time around"
Regina Spektor, "You've Got Time"

Orange Is the New Black is a dramedy series 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 women's 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 New York City 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.

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.

Debuting in 2013, the series ran for seven seasons, 13 episodes each, and ended in 2019. At 91 episodes, it is Netflix's second-longest original scripted programme, behind Grace and Frankie.

Now has a recap page (under construction).

Not to be confused with Blood Is the New Black, or with orange morality replacing black morality.

Orange is the New Black provides examples of the following tropes:

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  • Accidental Murder:
    • Norma recalls how she became one of several wives to a hippie Cult leader back in The '70s. Two or three decades later, her husband's influence began to wane, the Cult disbanded, and all of Norma's sister-wives had left. So he was feeling distressed and purposeless, urging Norma to leave like all the others. Norma replied that she wouldn't leave him, and he responded by verbally abusing her. Norma became angry, called him a son-of-a-bitch, and gave him a shove... and ended up pushing him off of a cliff to his death. She is currently serving a sentence for manslaughter.
    • It's revealed in Season 4 that this is the reason Suzanne aka "Crazy Eyes" is in prison. She invited a small child home with her to play video games, unaware of the potential problems this might cause. The more time the kid spends with her, the more nervous he gets until he tries to leave and Suzanne flips out. He climbs out onto the fire escape to get away from her — and falls off to his death.
    • Poussey's death, though her friends firmly believe it was deliberate.
    • Piscatella is mistakenly shot in the head by a CERT member inside the prison.
  • Actor Allusion: Nicky tells Trisha she annoyed the nurses in rehab by pretending she was the girl from The Exorcist. Natasha Lyonne played Megan in Scary Movie 2, parodying Reagan from The Exorcist.
  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • Larry; he and the real Piper had little romantic turmoil during her prison sentence and remain married.
      • In the show, Larry writing about Piper's experience/profiting off of it was considered a Jerkass move and drove a wedge between him and Piper (as he was writing it to improve his career). In real life, his memoir brought them closer together and she considered it a wonderful Christmas present, since his intent was honoring her fortitude and commitment to serving her time.
      • The real Larry was noted as being quite popular among the inmates and had "fans behind bars," and the woman who Red is based off of became quite suspicious when Piper was visited by an apparently single man and grills her to see if "Larry knows about [him]."
    • Pennsatucky, the primary antagonist of the first season, is only mentioned a handful of times in the memoirs, and never in an antagonistic context. She even shares a heartwarming moment with Piper, who helps her write an appeal letter, and Pennsatucky thanks her for understanding her situation.
    • In the show, Lorna saying Mr. Healy "does his paperwork" is a Damned by Faint Praise indication that there is little to like about him besides his work ethic, and Foreshadowing that he is not to be totally trusted (yet). In real life, it was an unambiguous compliment and assurance that he is a diligent worker and will take care of Piper's needs — unlike others in his position who make prisoners languish. His role in the memoirs is also very minimal, and while Piper doesn't hold back criticism about the bad guards and officers who tend to seek and obtain employment at women's prisons, she did get sincere assistance from some workers in power, including him.
  • An Aesop:
    • The biggest moral of the show in the last couple of seasons is that our society often sets up ex-cons for failure by hindering their ability to obtain lawful employment and housing and generally treating them like pariahs even though they've paid their debt to society. As the show portrays it, ex-cons who don't have supportive family or friends can end up homeless or trapped in unsafe living situations, and many return to crime because they can't get a job that pays a living wage.
    • One of the main themes of season 4 is racism, and how pervasive and harmful it continues to be in society, with prison being no exception. The minority inmates (the Latin-American prisoners in particular) are singled out by the guards for frisking after Piper tips off Piscatella, and the white inmates are completely above suspicion despite the fact that Piper herself had been running a criminal enterprise for a while before the guards got there. In the midst of worrying about the prisoners forming gangs, they completely ignore the creation of a white supremacist gang which frequently agitates and provokes the other prisoners.
    • The aftermath of Poussey's death show two sides of the controversy of Black Lives Matter as it shows on one hand the business execs who own the prison don't allow Caputo to call the police and leave the body there for hours all so they can come up with a good cover story to protect the prison's reputation. Basically the plot ends up showing how sometimes those highly publicized deaths of African-americans/black people were really accidents and how easy it is to paint everyone in a position of power as the villain and let your emotion get the best of you.
  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: Poussey does some really stupid stuff after taking to constant drinking when Taystee stops talking to her entirely.
  • All Gays are Promiscuous: Nicky and Big Boo both seem to have very high sex drives and though they both were monogamous at some points (Nicky with the 'prison gay' Morello, and Boo with a series of 'Mrs. Boos'), they start to sleep around a lot after that, often causing 'cliterference' between them, which resulted in staging a fucking contest. That said, there are also plenty of lesbian characters in the series who aren't promiscuous at all.
  • 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. In Season 3, Caputo has another example shown in a flashback.
    • 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.
    • Also, Nicky is very much in love with Lorna but despite their hooking up occasionally, knows Lorna doesn't have the same feelings for her. By season 5 she accepts it and even helps pave the way for Lorna to be happy with her new husband.
    • Poussey had feelings for Taystee for the first seasons but eventually accepts that it will never happen.
  • 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. In Season 3 Coates rapes Pennsatucky. 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. In season 4, it shows that the new guards seem to be worse than the last ones. Throughtout the season, the guards are shown to be frequently giving unnecessary "pat downs" just so they can feel the girls up.
  • 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 indiscriminate 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 License – Biology: A sadly large number of inmates have no idea that the vagina and urethra are separate. This comes up is Season 2, and Sophia helpfully explains the entire landscape and hands Taystee a mirror.
  • Artistic License – Medicine: In Season 5, if Daya had shot a major artery in CO Humps' leg like several medical professionals claim, he would have bled out in seconds.
  • 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.
  • Artistic License – Music: You can't stage an all-white production of Dreamgirls. Concord Theatricals, who own the rights and license the show for performances, would never allow it; as their North American licensing agreement clearly states that the lead roles have to be played by Black actors. The prep academy that Janae tours while in middle school would have been sued for breach of contract (and would almost certainly have lost) and blacklisted from performing any other show owned by Concord (which is virtually everything in the English language musical theatre canon) if they tried to perform Dreamgirls with white students in the lead roles.
  • 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.
    • There's no way Black Cindy giving Suzanne a few lithium pills should have had the effect it did in season 5.
  • Asian Rudeness: Chang is definitely not interested in making friends with any of the other inmates.
  • Asshole Victim: Several, mostly in the backstories of the characters of the Sympathetic Murderer variety. For example, 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.
  • Back for the Finale: Everyone. The entire main cast is seen in Grand Finale.
  • Baffled by Own Biology: "A Whole Other Hole" reveals that many of the inmates are unaware that the "pee hole" and the "main coochie hole" are two separate orifices. Even Black Cindy, who has given birth, was surprised to learn this. By the end of the episode, former firefighter Sophia offers some basic sex education to her fellow inmates.
  • Bait-and-Switch: In the show's penultimate episode it appears that Taystee, who has been spending the whole season circling the Despair Event Horizon, will finally be Driven To Suicide after nearly doing so earlier in the season but not being able to go through with it. And then, just as she's actually about to do so, she comes across the body of Pennsatucky, who has just died from a drug overdose.
  • Beard of Sorrow: Vinnie shows up to a visitation with Lorna sporting an unkempt beard, which she immediately comments on. He's in mourning for their child, who has recently died.
  • Beauty Inversion:
    • An Enforced Trope with most of the women, given their living conditions, though some of them pass with Unkempt Beauty and some (like Sophia and Morello) maintain their feminine looks. Special mention of this trope goes to the members of Pennsatucky's group, who are given bad teeth, skin problems and perpetually dirty hair. Flores is especially badly groomed, with a big unibrow - even during flashbacks when she's not in prison - although the actress who plays her is quite attractive.
    • The actor portraying the crooked prison guard George "Pornstache" Mendez (Pablo Schreiber) is not nearly as creepy looking in reality 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.
  • Becoming the Mask: In both directions at the end of the third season.
    • Danny Pearson initially pretends to be on Caputo's side to make it easier for MCC to get their brutal corporate agenda across. He eventually realizes how evil his bosses - among them his father - are, following the transphobic attack on Sophia. He tells his father exactly what he thinks of punishing Sophia for the attack, and quits his job.
    • Caputo, meanwhile, is cosying up to Danny in order to keep the prison open, while secretly genuinely attempting to make things better for his staff. When he gets Danny's newly vacated job, he starts taking Fig's advice and acting in his own interests for the first time in his life, which essentially involves doing what MCC want for real.
  • 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 insult Red's cooking.
    • 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.)
    • Don't threaten Chapman's illegal underwear smuggling ring.
    • Don't piss off the Spanish Harlem.
  • 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.
    • In season 3, Alex becomes Betty to Stella's Veronica for Piper.
    • Suzanne's erotica novel features such a choice for the female protagonist, prompting the newly founded fandom to go into a shipping war.
  • Big Applesauce: The lion's share of Larry and Piper's outside life takes place in New York City.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Barbara and Carol, the respective leaders of C & D blocks, take this role in season 6. Their mutual conflict, which they ensure extends to as many people within their blocks as possible, drives the main plot for the season.
  • Bisexual Love Triangle:
    • Between Piper, her fiancee Larry and her ex lover Alex.
    • Between Morello, her fiancee Christopher and her prison lover Nicky.
    • Eventually, Morello with her husband Vince and her prison lover Nicky.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Good and bad endings abound for the cast in the end: Alex is transferred to Ohio, but meets up with the other former Litchfield inmates who appear to be doing well. Taystee is still in prison for life, but decides not to commit suicide and starts a fund providing microloans to former inmates. Gloria is released, Cindy reconciles with her family, and Blanca is freed and reunites with Diablo. Piper finds peace and visits Alex in Ohio. However, Pennsatucky is dead, Red has developed dementia, and Morello has lost her grip on reality following her infant son's death. Maritza, Shani and Karla are all deported, and Karla is injured and left behind in the desert trying to make it back to the US. Aleida tries to strangle Daya after learning she recruited her younger sister into her drug ring. And of course, there are no big changes made to the prison industrial complex or to ICE. On the contrary, Ward is fired and Hellman replaces her as warden.
  • Black Comedy: Frequently, particularly season 5 is heavily loaded with whis with the inmates Abusing the prison workers taken hostages.
  • Black Comedy Rape: While sexual molestation of the hostages by the inmates is portrayed as disturbing, two cases (Luscheck's and Stratman's) are in the same time Played for Laughs.
  • Black Dude Dies First:
    • Discussed by Josh from MCC and Caputo while the black inmates are holding them hostage during the riot.
      Caputo: Hostages never die. Air Force One, they're safe. Speed, they're safe.
      Josh: What about the black guy driving the bus?
      Caputo:That's one
      Josh: And the black guy in Assault On Precinct 13? And the black guard in Dog Day Afternoon that has an asthama attack.
      Caputo: I'm sensing a pattern here...
    • Invoked with the black guard in season 5, as Maria pulls him to be the first for torture, pointing out how it's payback for the racist bias of the guards. Ultimately averted, since the inmates don't hate this particular guard too much, and the "honor" goes to Dixon instead.
    • A black prison inmate gets tagged out first during kickball and gripes that this always happens to the black person.
  • Bland-Name Product: In season 6 Aleida gets caught up in a MLM company called NutriHerbal, which is an obvous Take That! against Herbalife, one of the major players in the field of "network marketing" a.k.a. pyramid schemes preying on the gullible and desperate. In a twist, she actually makes money once she starts using the products to smuggle drugs into max.
  • Body Motifs: Bennett's fake leg comes up in several conversations with Daya and her family.
  • The Book Cipher: The "circle letters to spell and send the book to another cell" version shows up in Season 6. Page 69 seems to be the default page to use, partially to be "clever" and partially because that's just how you do it.
  • 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.
    • Season 3's first and last episodes have multiple different characters shown in flashback.
    • Piper's voiceover in the Pilot starts with "I've always loved getting clean," and her last voiceover starts the same way.
  • 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.
    • In "Don't Say Anything," Caputo has a date at the restaurant Donaldson is working at—one of three jobs he's taken on post-walkout. Donaldson takes the opportunity to tear him a new one, blaming Caputo for all the things he and the other former guards have suffered since losing their salaries and benefits. Though rightfully ashamed, Caputo fires back that Donaldson and the others walked out on the worst possible day: almost the entire inmate population had escaped right as the new prisoners had arrived and nearly doubled the numbers, with only the poorly-trained new guards to help. Donaldson and the others might have been justified, but their walkout could have caused an incredibly dangerous situation.
    • In the Season 4 finale, Caputo confronts Piscatella for his behaviour. Piscatella points out that his methods, which border on torture, revealed Aydin's killer and put away the suspect Subverted, however since nothing Piscatella did led to the inmate's capture, but Healy told Piscatella about Lolly's confession earlier in the season.
  • Break the Haughty: Red's arc from the beginning of the first season to the beginning of the second. Piper, to varying degrees, as well.
  • 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.
    • "Full Bush, Half Snickers" is very light-hearted, focusing on the ways various characters are killing time during the riot, such as opening a makeshift coffee shop, giving makeovers, and toying with the guards to calm down Suzanne.
    • "The Tightening" is also rather light-hearted. The episode is one big parody of horror movies. At least until the last few minutes.
  • Brick Joke:
    • Vee and her gang bully Rosa out of her table, and Rosa says that Vee is very rude. In the last episode of season 2, Rosa runs Vee over in her getaway car, casually remarking, "So rude, that one."
    • During a discussion of how to pass the time, it's mentioned briefly that the only book left unburned in the prison is a bed bug infested Quran. A few episodes later, Alex mentions that the Quran is actually rather interesting.
    • In Season 2, the inmates learn that the urethra and vagina are separate holes. In Season 3:
    Leanne: "If you say "bean leaves" one more time, I will punch you in the fuckhole. …One of your fuckholes."
    • Surprisingly, the chicken when Caputo sees it in Season 3 and winds up finding the hole in the fence it uses to get in and out.
  • Brown Note: Luscheck tries this on Stratman in season 5.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Danny Pearson is teased as one. He's clearly different from the other executives we see from MCC. He's young, very casual, socially awkward, and has authority over Caputo. Some of his tactics use clever mind games to get things done. This all makes him seem like some sort of business savant. When he talks to Caputo, it's not clear whether he's acting ignorant about various prison realities to keep the other man placated. Ultimately it's revealed that he's just the Executive Vice-President's son and doesn't know what he's doing.
  • Butch Lesbian:
    • Big Boo refers to herself as a "diesel dyke" and has "Butch" helpfully tattooed on her arm, with short hair plus very masculine attire. She seems to be in high demand given her many conquests throughout the show.
    • Downplayed with Nicky, who is not very feminine in personality nor appearance—she has wild hair and isn't overly concerned with personal appearance—but thanks to being played by Natasha Lyonne, she still has natural good looks and has no problem attracting the likes of Morello.
    • Suzanne is a lesbian and also rather masculine. One of the COs even explicitly calls her this trope, with great distaste.
    • Downplayed with Poussey. She is a lesbian and both her looks — even by prison standards — and mannerisms are conventionally unfeminine, but she still appears more androgynous than butch and apparently doesn't identify as the latter.
  • But Not Too Black:
    • Discussed by the girls in the third season when they are looking at the fashion magazine and comment how the "token blackie" inside is fairly light.
    • Also stated by Vee when she is talking to the young Taystee: the latter's dark skin tone is supposed to undermine her cuteness in the eyes of the potential parents at the Black Adoption Fair.
    • Poussey also jokes that she's short and can't play basketball.
  • 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. Luscheck tells the same joke in season 5. Frieda tells the beginning of the joke in Season 7.
    • 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.
    • In Season 2, Poussey invented a stand-up pee device. We see it again in "Fake it Til You Fake it Some More." It's mentioned in the Season 4 finale when Watson and Black Cindy reminisce after Poussey dies.
    • When Taystee becomes Caputo's assistant, she immediately asks "Is this because I won the Job Fair?"
  • The Cameo:
    • Tiki Barber of the New York Giants. Figueroa even uses the chance to meet him to distract the accountant sent to review her budget.
    • In Season 3, Pornstache appears for one scene talking to his mother, prison clearly disturbing him a lot.
    • Pornstache another one in Season 5, out on probation and now apparently living with Delia, briefly overhearing her phone conversation with Daya.
    • In one of Caputo's flashbacks to his first day at Litchfield, Rosa appears with a full head of hair, commanding her dominion over the TV.
    • In Season 4, Stella reappears in max, where she has briefly become lovers with Nicky, who spurns her when she receives drugs from a guard.
    • Larry unexpectedly pops up three seasons after leaving the show, in one of Piper's flashbacks to the time he got a butt tattoo.
    • Meredith Vieira appears in season 5.
    • In season 6, during Suzanne's hallucinations while off her meds, she sees both Alex Trebek and DJ Casper (creator of the dance song "Casper Slide Part 2" aka "The Cha-Cha Slide") entertaining her.
    • The real Piper Kerman and her husband are seen in the final episode as an inmate and visitor when Show!Piper visits Alex at FCI Ohio, she's the blonde inmate. Kerman is also one of the faces in the opening credits, the one who blinks towards the end.
  • 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 the 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. It was later revealed she killed herself rather than go back and die from cancer in prison.
    • When Litchfield transitioned from government to private operations, MCC accidentally reassigned the wrong prisoner ID numbers to the wrong inmates. Angie Rice is then mistaken for Sara Rice, the latter of whom was due for release, and Angie gets as far as a bus stop in Utica before she is caught and sent back to Litchfield.
    • Exaggerated in the final episode of season 3. When workmen come to replace part of the fence with no guards around dozens of inmates run through the gap out to have a swim in the lake.
    • In the Season 4 premiere, Suzanne and Maureen run off into the woods after the other prisoners are put into lockdown. Suzanne returns but the guards have to chase Maureen.
    • Pennsatucky escapes with Coates following the chaos of the riot, but returns of her own volition during season 6.
  • 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.
  • Cassandra Truth:
    • Poussey figures out pretty early what Vee is really like, but everyone assumes she's just jealous of the time and attention Vee is getting from Tastee.
    • Christopher knows it was Morello who broke into his house and vandalized his stuff, but he doesn't know how and can't prove it. Then again, she's in a minimum security prison and is trusted to drive the van (including taking Rosa to the hospital and being allowed to sit in the parking lot unsupervised), so with even a little research the cops and/or prison staff could figure out when and how she snuck off to do it, but no one will put in even the token effort.
    • Lolly tells Healy she and Alex killed Aydin and buried him in the garden but the information is so buried in her paranoid conspiracy theories, he not only doesn't believe her, he convinces her she made it up.
    • In season 5, Red becomes convinced that Piscatella is already inside the prison and is kidnapping her girls one by one but no one takes her seriously because she is still coming down from being high on speed.
  • 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, Tricia, Nicky, Poussey, and Big Boo are all bona fide lesbians in or out of prison, and Piper and Suzanne are likewise genuinely bisexual. There are also plenty of named and unnamed characters who probably are just settling.
  • 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. In particular, Suzanne gives brutal beatdowns to both Poussey and Maureen during different fights.
  • Caught on Tape: Gina gets a cell phone video of Piscatella breaking Alex's arm.
  • Celebrity Paradox:
    • Sophia mentions Omar from The Wire, but doesn't seem to notice that one of the prison's COs looks just like the character Nick Sobotka (Pablo Schreiber). Rhonda Pearlman (Deirdre Lovejoy) also turns up as Healy's therapist, and Detective Sydnor (Corey Parker Robinson) is a police detective here too.
    • In Season Five, Boo gets hold of a cell phone and plays the theme song from Law & Order (which exists in in the same universe as The Wire - blame John Munch), which means the series exists in-universe. Yet no one comments how nearly every single person at Litchfield looks like someone on the show. Could also double as an Actor Allusion for most of the cast.
  • Cessation of Existence:
    • Taystee asserts that when you're dead that's it and ghosts aren't real as Suzanne tries to call up Poussey's spirit in a séance.
    • Possibly averted in the final episode when after Pennsatucky dies from a heroin overdose, we see her ghost standing outside the prison before turning around, waving goodbye, and disappearing into the horizon. Whether this was literal or just simply representational is anyone's guess though.
  • Chekhov's Armory: The contraband items, including the Jolly Rancher shiv.
  • 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. It makes a reappearance in season 3 when Piper plants it in Stella's bunk to have her sent to max.
    • A literal one in season 5.
  • 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. We later see Sophia start a fire in SHU by breaking her light bulb and holding her towel in it. As a former firefighter, she knows how they start, too. In season 5, she is able to give first aid and professionally handle Humphrey's shot wound.
    • In "Fuck, Marry, Frieda" Frieda demonstrates a talent for making blow darts, which she uses on CO's Stratman and Blake to make them think they've been poisoned so they'll release her, Sankey, Brandy and Helen from the kitchen. In "The Reverse Midas Touch" she uses another dart on Piscatella, which this time actually contains poison.
  • Character Development: Many characters change or at least become more self-aware as the show goes on. Notable examples include:
    • Piper becomes more hardened and confronts various ugly aspects of her character.
    • Pennsatucky drops her fundamentalist, gay-bashing schtick and even befriends Boo.
    • Caputo grows from a closet perv and opportunist to a more principled and mature man.
  • 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.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: In Season 6, revealed as the reason why a serial killer, and cop killer like Frieda is in minimum security. In prison she keeps her nose relatively clean, selling out more pressing and dangerous threats to the authorities.
  • Clear My Name: Most notably with Chapman and Healy, however.
  • Clear Their Name:
    • Chapman does it for Pennsatucky.
    • Taystee, Janae, and Black Cindy attempt to do this for Suzanne.
  • Cliffhanger: Every season manages to end on a cliffhanger of some description;
    • Season one sees Piper and Pensatucky fighting one another in the snow while Healy watches impassively and refuses to intervene. The tide turns in Piper's favour, thanks to the advice she got from Taystee and company, but the last we see is her hitting a barely conscious Pennsatucky over and over again. In an interesting twist, both Piper and the viewer don't find out what happened until the end of the first episode of the next season, with Piper worrying that she may have killed Pennsatucky.
    • Season two has the terminally ill Rosa escaping from Litchfield in the prison van and we see her hitting Vee who has also just escaped to avoid facing those she had upset on the inside. The season ends up Rosa's smiling face as she drives down the road, with sirens that may or may not be real sounding in the background. It isn't until the next season that we find out that Vee did die from being run over, and that Rosa herself took her own life by crashing the van into a quarry.
    • Season three ends with Alex trapped alone in the greenhouse with one of Kubra's men, who had been sent to kill her, while everyone else has escaped the prison through a gap in the fence. The next season reveals that luckily Lolly had stayed behind because she was trying to find Alex to invite her to the lake, and she's able to help her.
    • Season four has Daya end up with a gun. The entire inmate population is crowded around her, shouting and trying to tell her what to do. Meanwhile CO Humps is slumped on the ground and the episode ends with Daya focusing the gun solely on him. Whether she shoots him or not is only revealed at the start of the next season.
    • Season five sees several inmates being taken out of Litchfield and sent to other prisons, while Red, Nicky, Piper, Alex, Frieda, Taystee, Black Cindy, Suzanne, Blanca and Gloria are found by the SWAT team ordered to do everything necessarily to bring a stop to the riot. It ends on the inmates holding hands with one another and their fates aren't revealed until the next season.
    • Season six has quite a few things going on when it comes to the ending; namely Piper and Sophia finally being released, Blanca ending up being taken away by ICE and Lorna going into labour worryingly early. But the final, final scene is of Taystee at court, waiting to see if she's been found guilty of Piscatella's murder or not. The sound fades out for the actual verdict, but Taystee's devastated reaction tells the viewers exactly what was said.
    • The seventh and final season has Karla breaking her ankle while attempting to re-enter the United States, subsequently being left behind, and Aleida trying to choke Daya to death for using her little sister as a drug mule. Word of God states that Daya survived.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience:
    • Orange scrubs mark new inmates, while khaki is worn by those with assigned bunks.
    • Psych inmates wear blue, and are further distinguished by wearing jumpsuits.
    • Max inmates are color-coded by block. B wears pink, C has dark blue, and D remains khaki.
    • ICE detainees in Season 7 generally wear orange, with anyone who committed a felony wearing red.
    • FCI Ohio wears dark green.
  • Comic-Book Time: Piper states in season 7 that she was in prison for 18 months. The show started in 2013, however season 7 addresses late 2010s current issues such as the #MeToo movement and ICE detention centers.
  • Comically Missing the Point:
    • This exchange:
    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 Gandhi 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.
  • Commonality Connection:
    • Alison and Black Cindy spend a couple episodes hating each other, and then immediately bond over the horribleness of Scientology and other fun subjects.
    • Ouija and Brandy bond over their interest in coffee, crime, and hatred of the guards.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Alex thinks one of the new inmates, Lolly, was sent by drug kingpin Kubra to kill her, after Lolly starts following her around. However, it turns out Lolly is just mentally ill and thinks Alex is working for the CIA and spying on her. In an ironic twist, Lolly ends up saving Alex from the actual hit man sent by Kubra.
  • Contrived Coincidence: In season 5, of course Piscatella holds Piper, Alex, Red, Big Boo, Nicky and Flores captive directly above Frieda's bunker where she is hiding out with Yoga Jones, Gina, De Marco and Norma.
    • Might not actually be; it's implied Piscatella found Frieda's "looking for your people" map and delivered it to red after assembling the inmates
  • Conveniently Cellmates: Piper and her on-again-off-again paramour Alex; Daya and her mother Aleida; 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.
  • The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much: When framing the pool-bunker inmates for Piscatella's death, one of the CERT officers notes the need to make sure "their" tame coroner does the autopsy, as the frame job is not very good.
  • 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.
  • Custom Uniform: While the official uniform is a khaki shirt and pant, several inmates find ways to stand out.
    • Frieda wears a button-up shirt rather than the t-shirt style, as do the Golden Girls. This the mark of The Old Convict, as that was the issue uniform long ago (as confirmed by Season 6 flashbacks). The button-up is no longer authorized in Max by Season 6, and Frieda is back to the regular shirt in Florida.
    • Big Boo, as benefiting a Butch Lesbian, favors a wifebeater.
    • Pennsatucky and Nicky favor hoodies and are almost always seen in the issue grey version. As part of Pennsatucky's wake, most of the Florida inmates wear hoodies, hood on.
    • Alex is nearly always seen wearing a long-sleeve thermal undershirt beneath her khakis.
    • The Weeping Woman only seems to wear a blue tunic.
  • Dating Catwoman : Caputo and Fig. Well, banging anyway.
    I relish the fact that you hate me, yet you can't resist me.
    I still loathe you...But I'm not really close to you right now.
    Do you have any idea how pathetic you are right now?
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Multiple characters have dark pasts that are explored to show how they came to be in prison.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • Leanne gave up her life of doing drugs to return to her Amish community, then turned over on her meth-head friends. It backfired.
    • Nicky grew up with a neglectful (possibly even emotionally abusive) mother. This made her turn to drugs, and is the main cause for her issues with her masochistic and self-sabotaging tendencies, and tumultuous relationships (both romantic and otherwise).
    • Flaca wanted more from life than her mother's sewing business, so she sold fake drugs to a boy who flung himself off the school roof. Ironically, she ends up sewing clothes in prison.
    • Norma got involved with a hippie cult, then pushed her cult leader husband off a cliff.
    • Boo has a long history of lesbian activism, to the point of violence. She was also shown to run a sports gambling ring, which is possibly what got her incarcerated.
    • Healy's terrible upbringing, including his schizophrenic mother and homophobic dad.
    • Suzanne is shown as having terrible social skills and some sort of mental illness, and her flashbacks show her as desperately trying to make friends. Then we see why she went to jail. She met a little boy whom she was acquainted with through her job as a big box store greeter. When her sister left her alone for a weekend vacation, Suzanne found the little boy at the park and brought him home to play video games. When the boy got scared and tried to leave, Suzanne tried to convince him to stay. In his panic, the boy climbed out of a window and fell off of the fire escape.
  • A Death in the Limelight:
    • Tricia Miller dies at the end of her flashback episode.
    • While not a death per se, the episode in which Nicky gets deported to max was one of her flashback episodes.
    • Also not a death, but the episode where Bennett skips town, never (or at least not yet) seen or heard from again is his flashback episode.
    • Poussey gets hers flipped, with a posthumous series of flashbacks in the series 4 finale.
  • Darker and Edgier:
    • Season 3 features a subplot about prison rape via guard, violent transphobia, and Piper kicking the dog quite a lot.
    • Season 4 is the darkest yet, veering into full-on Cerebus Syndrome.
    • Season 7 is also much less comedic than usual, with the ICE storyline being particularly grim.
    • Season one is this when it comes to the inmates; they come across as being a lot more violent and unfriendly as they would be in the later seasons. Of special note is Red, who coldly tells Piper that she'll leave the prison as a bag of bones and Suzanne, who is extremely sexually aggressive when compared to her more childlike personality later on. Arguably it could be because we're seeing everyone from Piper's point of view, which is why they become a lot friendlier once she gets to know them in the later seasons.
  • Defiant Captive: All the prisoners to an extent in "The Animals", where everyone stands against the guards for their horrible conduct and mistreatment of the inmates.
  • 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.
    • The MCC representatives in Seasons 3 and 4 have never even set foot in a 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.
  • 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
    • The COs as a whole in season 4 to the point that Poussey is killed.
  • 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.
    • Piper, who has never fought in her entire life, finally squares up to Pennsatucky who is trying to kill her and subsequently beats the shit out of her.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Female: Judy King seducing Yoga after getting her high on molly is played mostly for laughs. Nicky pushing Morello against a wall and shoving her hand down her pants is also easily forgiven.
  • Double Standard Rape: Female on Male:
    • In Season 5, Judy King blackmails Luschek into sex after doing him a favor, then later gets him high on molly and has sex with him. Both times he is clearly uncomfortable with the encounter afterward, and is also clearly uncomfortable being around her in between both incidents, particularly registering panic upon learning that he will be required to be isolated with her. In Season 7, she is shown to be actively and explicitly harrassing her male employee and laughing it off when he calls her on it, but it's played for laughs; this stands in stark contrast to Caputo's status in the same season as irredeemable for having hinted several times at romantic interest in CO Fischer.
    • Boo gives Coates a massive "The Reason You Suck" Speech during which she extensively harps on the fact that he has committed rape and repeatedly threatens to murder him for it ... and does not seem to realize the irony of her high horse when she goes on to gloat during that very same conversation about the fact that she recently drugged him with the intent to anally rape him herself.
    • In Season 5, Angie and Leanne force Stratman to finger Leanne, which is Played for Laughs. Later Angie casually mentions that she has raped men before, but Stratman seemed into it.
    • CO Dixon is shown to be severely traumatized by being publicly raped by Maria during the riot; when she finally apologizes in Season 7, he shrugs it off saying that we all make mistakes. This happens in the same episode in which Caputo tries in good faith to apologize to CO Fischer, who recently destroyed his life in the #MeToo movement in reference to events that the viewer witnessed not to reasonably have the connotations she perceived; his mild flirtation is treated as unforgivable.
  • Downer Ending: Applies to several characters:
    • Red has advancing dementia and Litchfield no longer has the mental health facilities to treat it.
    • Lorna is now completely insane and refuses to accept the death of her infant. Similar to Red, she needs mental health treatment but will not be receiving any.
    • Taystee is likely to be in prison for the rest of her life for a crime she didn't commit.
    • Pennsatucky ODs before discovering she had passed her GED exam.
    • Aleida is back in prison and her teenage daughter, who Aleida had desperately tried to keep away from criminal life, is being used as a drug mule by her older sister Daya.
  • The Dragon: Daddy and Badison respectively serve as this to Barbara and Carol for most of season 6. In flashbacks, Frieda is shown as having played the role for the latter in the past.
  • Dramatic Irony: Poussey's flashbacks in the season 4 finale are ironic because she died in the previous episode. Furthermore, it becomes increasingly clear that in spite of having a transformative experience and finding her place in the world, it's also the night that she got arrested for the drugs in her backback.
  • Dramedy: A lot of people get confused when the series gets nominated for comedy award categories, given its seriousness and intensity.
  • 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.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Played with; Tricia overdoses on the drugs that Mendez gave her, but it's uncertain whether she did it purposefully or not given how excited she was to get out of prison and make amends for all the bad things that she's done. Either way, Mendez stages it as a suicide to avoid any implication, and makes it look as if Tricia hung herself.
    • Soso steals a lot of pills from the medical bay and tries to overdose in the library. It turns out she took allergy medication rather than painkillers, which means that Poussey, Taystee and Suzanne are able to make her throw the pills up before they can do any serious damage to her.
    • CO Bayley tries to commit suicide after accidentally killing Poussey by drinking the dye that his father uses to dye dogs; though it's non-toxic and doesn't have any long lasting effect on him.
    • Healey is ready to walk into a lake and drown himself when his phone rings and interrupts him at the last minute.
    • Taystee thinks about doing this when she learns that she'll be in prison for the rest of her life for a crime she didn't even commit, but is convinced not to on reading the GED results. Sadly, Pennsatucky successfully overdoses because she's convinced that she failed her GED, making it all the more heartbreaking when it's revealed that she passed.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Poussey constantly does this from when she's on the outs with Taystee and her crew. After Poussey's death, Soso finds her hooch and gets plastered.
  • Drugs Are Bad : An over-arching theme of the show. Everyone who does drugs or is involved in the drug trade is punished.
  • Due to the Dead:
    • Trica is honored with a wake in the White dorm, and the other dorms provide food. Gloria and the Hispanics drop by microwave nachos, Poussey contributes her hooch on behalf of the Blacks, and Chang drops by with contraband oranges, Boo pouring one out for her.
    • After the library books are burned due to the bedbugs, Taystee and Poussey hold a funeral for the books. The ashes are dumped by a tree.
      Poussey: Books are made of paper, and paper from trees, so we though they should be returned from whence they came.
      Taystee: The ultimate book return.
    • The utter disrespect of Poussey's body, being left on the ground for hours, contributes to the inmates's rage.
    • Utterly averted with CO Humpphrey, whose dead body to tossed in closet and ignored. Leanne outright denying his humanity when she finds him.
      Leanne: Don't be stupid, he's a guard, not a person.
    • Pennsatucky is honored with a wake in Florida. A toast with her signature Yellow Drink, while wearing hoodies. Suzzane then sings the Mountain Dew jingle. CO Dixon steps in when she can't bring herself to finish it, resulting in the entire block joining in.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The first few episodes of the show feel like more of a Fish out of Water comedy with some drama elements thrown in. As the first season progressed, the drama elements became much more pronounced, and the series began commenting on social justice issues a lot more, eventually leaving Piper as only nominally the main character by about the third season.
  • Easter Egg: According to the credits, one of the nuns from "Take a Break from Your Values" is named Sister Mary Eunice.
  • Eating the Eye Candy: Piper walks into a naked Stella in the bathroom and suddenly feels the need to initiate a conversation with her — which allows her to stand there and check the other woman's body up and down for several minutes.
  • Enemy Mine:
    • In season 4 the different racial factions eventually team up to try to get Piscatella fired. It doesn't end well.
    • Played for laughs in Season 5 as the Hispanics and Nazis team up to make lattes after the guard's coffee stash is found.
  • Ensemble Cast: Piper is undoubtedly the main character in the first season, with Daya serving as a Deuteragonist as they're both newcomers to the prison. Their storylines are separate from one another but they have similar struggles with fitting in. By the second season, Piper's role has lessened, and she's not even a part of the overarching storyline with Vee and trying to take over the prison. From there on out, there's a main cast that takes turns in the spotlight throughout their various storylines.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: Although divides among what vaguely qualified as gangs in minimum were racially based, in season 6, it is revealed that Max has two gangs divided by cell block since the 80's. Both are fully inclusive in terms of ethnicity.
  • 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.
    • The executives of MCC might be soulless, profit-focused corporate hacks, but when one of them makes an inappropriate Holocaust joke, she's fired before she leaves the room.
    • Beth Hoefler, a Max inmate in Season 6, killed her own children. Absolutely everyone hates her for it, and she managed to get shived a week into her sentence. Truth in Television- child-killers are already unpopular and a woman who killed her own children even more so.
    • Fig is notoriously cold-hearted, but even she is visibly shaken by the treatment of the ICE detainees, particularly after watching children on trial.
  • 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.
    • Barb and Carol are this to their respective blocks in Season 6.
  • 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.
    • In the season 3 finale, the inmates are excited at the prospect of Litchfield getting new beds. Little do they know they're not getting upgraded beds, rather more of the same beds are being brought in. They're getting bunk beds in order to accommodate dozens of new inmates.
  • Expy: 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.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: Season 5 takes place over the course of three days.
  • 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. Played straight at the end of "The Animals", after Poussey's death.
  • 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.
  • Fake Orgasm: In the episode "Trapped in an Elevator", Alex records a video of herself faking it for Piper to enjoy.
  • Famed In-Story: Taystee, as a result of the Season 5 riot. When finally released from AdSeg to a Max cellblock, she is greeted with universal applause from the immates.
  • Fan Disservice: Realistically, just because someone is nude doesn't mean they're hot. Plenty of unattractive woman are seen topless or nude in the bathrooms. The issue underwear is also highly unflattering.
    • Hits hard in "Bed Bugs and Beyond" (3x02), as the aforementioned bed bugs result in everyone striping to panties and bra while all clothes are washed. Even Maritza looks bad in the issue granny panties.
      Alex: Some things are better left mysteries.
  • Fanservice:
    • Taylor Schilling engaging in a striptease in a flashback.
    • 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.
    • In a season 3 flashback, John Bennett, played by professional body builder Matt McGorry, dances shirtless with his army buddies to Hollaback Girl.
    • In season 3, a bedbug infestation leaves about half the inmates with only their bras and undepants to walk around in, leading to a mix of this and Fan Disservice, depending on the viewer's preferences.
    • Stella, who likes to "air dry" after showering.
    • Most of the lesbian scenes, which are featuring the characters from the hotter end of the spectrum. The scene with Big Boo with a strap-on being presumably a major exception for most, despite the hotness of her partner.
    • CO Stratman gets an extended striptease scene in season 5, down to just a sock on his penis.
    • Luschek gets stripped/strips down to his tighty-whitey briefs for three seasons in a row for those that are into that sort of thing.
  • 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.
  • Fetish: Black Cindy comments on how The Internet Is for Porn results in Rule 36 being normalized in 'Tongue-Tied":
    Black Cindy: See, that's the thing with the internet. Nobody's a freak no more. See, it used to be all these weirdos sitting all alone in their houses, jerking it to buggs or falling in love with their toasters, feeling all creepy and sad. Now, all they got to do is log on and find the same-minded toaster-loving peeps and bam, suddenly shit be perfectly normal!
  • The Fellowship Has Ended: Red's family is shattered after the riot, and the remaining friendships are destroyed over Season 7 as transfers, mental issues, and releases send everyone their separate ways. Lampshaded by (who else?) Nicky:
    Nicky:So this is it, huh? The band is broken up.
  • Fingore:
    • Coates accidentally shoots Leanne in the finger in season 5.
    • Later in season 5, Red cuts off one of Humphrey's fingertips so she can use it to unlock his phone.
  • First Period Panic: Pennsatucky recalls when she got her first period at age 10, and thought she was dying. Her mother hadn't told her anything, because she didn't think a girl that young could start menstruating. After getting over the initial shock, she tells young Pennsatucky that she isn't dying, that this is completely normal... and also that now men and boys are going to start looking at her differently, and might rape her... and that's normal, too.
  • Flashback B-Plot: Characters' backstories are explored in flashbacks.
  • Flashback Echo: Pretty common. Most notably is Piper's flashback juice cleanse in "Tit Punch" mirroring Red's starving her out.
  • Floating Timeline: Despite less than 10 months passing between seasons 1 and 6, the sixth season sees references to the border wall, ICE raids, the MeToo movement, Puerto Rico's damaged power grid, and other topics only relevant well after 2014. Technology doesn't seem to be locked to 2013-2014 either.
  • Fluffy the Terrible: The much-feared boss of D Block is know as...Barbara.
    Black Cindy: Ain't no gangster named Barbara!
  • Foodfight!: Flaca and Maritza start one in season 5.
  • 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.
    • After getting stuck with awful prepackaged prison fare, the inmates moan with longing while watching No Reservations (2007).
  • Four-Philosophy Ensemble: With the Black clique, Janae is the Cynic, Taystee is the Realist, Poussey is the Optimist, and Black Cindy is the Apathetic.
  • 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 and Taystee laughingly suggest that what Pennsatucky really needs is new teeth. The episode ends with Piper brutally pummeling Pennsatucky's face, knocking her teeth out. Healy later 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.
    • In "Trust No Bitch," Lolly warns Alex about the "toothpick man" who has been hired as a new CO and that Alex'll "be dead." Towards the end of the episode, Alex is cornered by an assassin posing as a CO—and it’s the same one with the toothpick in his teeth.
    • In the first episode of the fourth season, the guards wear riot gear to go collect the prisoners from the lake. By the end of the season, the inmates start a riot over how Poussey's death was handled.
    • About midway into the fifth season, an expert on prisons mentions that riots tend to never last beyond four days, and they don't end well. This is what ended up happening at Litchfield, though the casualty count was far lower than those he mentioned.
  • Frame-Up: After they accidentally shoot Piscatella, the CERT team makes it look as if he was really shot by the inmates. At first it doesn't implicate any single person, since multiple inmates' prints were on the gun, before Taystee is implicated with false witness statements.
  • Freeze-Frame Ending: The season 4 finale, focusing on Poussey's backstory in light of her death, ends with the image of her by the river in New York City, smiling into the camera. The actress noted how that's not a thing that OITNB does, but after seeing it knew that the producers and directors were right to do it. Aside from ending the story well, the set-up of the shot evokes The 400 Blows, and so may be additionally referring to and invoking a lot of the unfair judicial practices and discrimination.
  • From Bad to Worse:
    • SHU. Even worse than SHU, Psych Ward. And past Psych, Max. There's always something worse.
    • Naturally, the prison wasn't the nicest place to live beforehand, but after the MCC takes over in season 3, budget cuts take another massive toll on the quality of life.
    • By the end of season 4, Litchfield's overcrowded conditions, sadistic guards, and ineffectual staff lead to heavy race tensions that lead to Piper getting branded, and a protest that leads to a death that in turn incites a riot. They've gone full Oz by the finale.
    • Come season 7, now that most of the main characters are in Max, we get a look at an ICE detention center.
  • 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.
    • Taystee's various antics outside of Caputo's office after she becomes his assistant.
  • The Fundamentalist:
    • Pennsatucky in the first season to Ax-Crazy extremes.
    • Boo meets with an anti-gay religious activist who preaches hatred for homosexuals and drops slurs casually in his speech.
    • Cindy's father is revealed to have been one, delivering fiery orations about damnation around the dinner table that reduce his young daughter to tears. This is apparently what drove her away from Christianity.
  • Funny Schizophrenia : After a drone is spotted above the garden, Lolly has a psychotic break. It's Played for Laughs when the guards watch her in amused amazement, then quickly subverted when it's shown just how tormented she is and how her illness has ruined her life.

  • 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.
    • When Lorna accuses her new husband of cheating with her sister, he says she's crazy. She says she knows what that is, but can't remember the word "gaslighting."
    • Lolly tells Healy she and Alex killed Aydin and buried him in the garden but the information is so buried in her paranoid conspiracy theories, he not only doesn't believe her, he convinces her she made it up.
  • 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. An earlier flashback shows Piper and Polly dealing with the same issue the first time around, though it doesn't go so well for them that time.
  • The Ghost: The warden. Never seen, but by most accounts a total hard ass. Put on a Bus without ever making it onto the screen.
  • 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.
    • In the third season Piper cheats on Alex with Stella, simply saying that she is "past" feeling guilty over cheating. All of the justifications similar to the time when she cheated on Larry are also absent. This time is quite clear that Piper is being an ass.
    • Zig-zagged in season 7. Alex gives Piper permission to sleep with other people while she's still in prison. Piper tries, but isn't into it and tells Alex she doesn't want an open relationship. However, Alex becomes jealous of Piper's friendship with Zelda and begins secretly hooking up with McCullough... which leads to a drunk McCullough confronting Piper, and Piper sleeping with Zelda for the first time. Piper comes across as more sympathetic since Alex was lying to her, but one could argue that Piper was emotionally cheating for quite some time before actually sleeping with Zelda.
  • 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:
    • Norma was part of a hippie commune/cult when she was younger.
    • 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, to an annoying extreme, going so far as refusing to shower.
    • Piper potentially qualifies as a mild example, considering she was obsessed with being environmentally conscious, trying out vegan diets, and trying to get a soap-making company started. Arguably, this makes her more of a Hipster or a Bourgeois Bohemian.
    • Yoga Jones practises yoga and follows its new age philosophy
  • Greedy Jew: When Cindy doubts that a fellow inmate is Jewish, she relents upon hearing that the woman is in for money laundering. In Season 4, her Muslim roommate accuses her of being this when Black Cindy sells tampons at a premium.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: One of the absolute hallmarks of the show. Few character are wholly a saint or wholly a jerk, and may receive or hand off the Villain Ball within the same episode or even the same scene.
    • Veers toward Black-and-Gray Morality in later seasons. The show throws several unambiguously evil characters like CO Humphrey into the mix, and even the established main characters become significantly more aggressive.
  • Grief-Induced Split: In Season 7, Lorna Morello and Vince Muccio's baby died of pneumonia in the NICU and Lorna pretended it didn't happen by setting up a fake Instagram account and putting up pictures of other people's babies, pretending they are of her baby. The account gets taken down by Vince and he suggests that they should get a divorce. This causes Lorna to have a mental breakdown and try to escape from prison.
  • Groin Attack:
    • Chapman, on the advice of some of the other inmates, pulls this on Pennsatucky when they fight in Season 1.
    • Daya shoots Humphrey close to the dick in Season 5.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: There were several instances of incompetence from the beginning (the most egregious instance resulting in Jimmy walking out of the prison), but after the occurrence of Lowered Recruiting Standards in the third season it's taken to the new extreme. By the end of the fourth season, they're down to actually torturing prisoners.
    • Exaggerated in Season 5. The guards outside utterly fail to secure the camp perimeter. This despite a presence of heavy equipment perfectly capable of knocking down the fence. Even after the hostages escape through a hole in the fence, no one bothers to so much as watch said hole.
  • Had to Come to Prison to Be a Crook: All over the place.
    • Piper is in prison for a drugs charge that was on the brink of running out, and which she was only involved in due to falling in love with Alex. She commits perjury, runs an illegal panty business, and runs a neo-Nazi gang (although she eventually sees her mistake and tries to change.
    • Daya is in prison for a relatively minor drug offence. By the end of Season 7, she has shot and killed Humphrey (albeit unintentionally) during the riot, gotten a much longer sentence for murder, and become one of the most chaotic and cruel characters, running her own drug ring by the end of the show.
    • Leanne gets busted for drugs having already decided to quit and go back to her community. Being seriously influenced by prison, she gets addicted, steals from people during the riot, and sexually abuses Stratham.
  • Half-Breed Discrimination: Brook, who's half Japanese and half Scottish, suffers this from other inmates, either disclaiming her Asian ancestry entirely or simply hurling slurs at her over it.
  • Happy Ending Override:
    • What often happens to inmates after they get released, like for example Taystee. Even as a technically free woman, you're still an ex-con without any notable allies or education.
    • The social injustices inherent in the prison system, and society generally, means that affluent white inmates will consistently receive better/fairer treatment than poorer inmates or those of other ethnicities.In later seasons, Taystee is again one of many victims of this.
    • 30 years may have passed since you sold your psychotic, drug-dealing, murdering cellmate out to the authorities in exchange for a better life in prison. As Season 6 reveals, they may not have forgotten this, and will likely try to kill you as though it happened yesterday.
  • 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. He continues to have a shifting agenda throughout the series.
    • Caputo starting in season three. His heart is generally in the right place, but he has difficulty in finding the right balance between principles, practicality and ambition when it comes to the prison's budget and conditions.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Used regularly, not as a character development (though that happens as well) but as we get to know characters from different perspectives.
    • 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 who is adamant that "her girls" stay away from drugs.
    • Big Boo first appears to be a terrifying Psycho Lesbian intent on shanking someone, but much of that is just an image she's trying to project.
  • Hellhole Prison:
    • The Psych ward is treated as a fate worse than death, Piper can't stomach even Pennsatucky being trapped there.
      Suzanne: Psych's so bad, I wouldn't even wish it on the people running it.
    • 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, although she slowly gets over it.
    • The "Eastberg" Baptist Church that Boo clashes with in Season 3.
  • 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. Although we're not treated to it, Poussey also speaks French.
    • Leanne is also fluent in German, being from an Amish community.
    • 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 Atheist: Averted. Piper is an atheist, but this isn't shown to affect her character, while Boo is an atheist because she lacked a religious upbringing, and she claims to have "seen nothing" when she once electrocuted herself as a teenager.
  • Hollywood Law: A number of inmates are in Litchfield despite not committing federal crimes.
    • Watson was arrested for armed robbery in New York City of an ordinary store (not say a bank, which is indeed a federal crime).
    • Maritza is a con artist who committed grand theft auto.
    • Lolly assaulted a police Seattle. Not only should she not be in federal prison, there isn't even a reason to send her to New York - there are many federal prisons much closer to Seattle they could send her to.
    • Further, the "Department of Corrections" is repeatedly referred to. In fact, it's the Bureau of Prisons which controls federal ones (which is also referred to, inconsistently, as well).
    • The New York state governor would have no control over the situation, as this is a federal prison. It would be the US President instead, with federal agencies like the US Marshals used to storm the prison.
    • There's also mention of parole for federal prisoners. Since 1984, there's no parole (although they can still get their sentences reduced by good behavior) so only inmates convicted before 1987 are eligible for it, but they say this in regards to ones convicted long after that too.
  • Hollywood Voodoo: Mendoza practices Santeria. A flashback reveals that her mother was a practitioner, and she followed suit after a spell seemed to miraculously work.
  • Hot for Preacher: Crystal, Sophia's wife, seeks her blessing to pursue a relationship with her church's new pastor in "Fucksgiving."
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • From "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.
    • Danny Pearson mentions shameful activity from previous MCC staff such as viewing porn on company computers and masturbating in the office. Caputo reacts with disgust, but we've seen him do both of these before.
  • I Call Him "Mr. Happy": We learn in season 5 that Taystee calls her vagina "Duchess", and Figueroa calls hers "Tracy."
  • 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.
  • If It's You, It's Okay: Morello for Nicky. Morello is entirely heterosexual prior to her incarceration, and after Nicky is sent to maximum security in season 3, she begins corresponding via snail-mail with men in the outside world in order to fill the void, and adds these male pen-pals to her visitation list, rather than attempting to find a new girlfriend within the prison. She even breaks down and cries in front of one of her male visitors and tells him that the one girl she cared about got sent away.
  • 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."
    • Pennsatucky is taught this from a young age, leading to her prostituting herself for drugs and Mountain Dew as a teenager and later being the victim of rape, several times over.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One:
    Daya: "You think I want to end up with five different baby daddies and an ass tattoo of a dog?"
    Aleida: "It's a WOLF!"
  • It's Not Porn, It's Art: Suzanne's view of her story:
    Suzanne:"It's not just sex, it's love. It's two people connecting. With four other people. And aliens."
  • 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:
    • Taystee, to Poussey. Vee later uses this to her advantage to turn Taystee against her friend.
    • Figueroa's husband is gay, but they stay together to further their careers.
  • Informed Attractiveness:
    • Played for comedy with Donaldson, a middle-aged, bald and stone-faced CO who is nonetheless used as the basis for Suzanne's sex-god hero Admiral Rodcocker. The inmates henceforth call him handsome.
    • CO Ford is said to be a handsome, strapping man.
    • A number of people comment on Piper's wholesome, blonde good looks.
    • Luschek calls Maritza "the hot one" of her duo with Flaca.
  • Inept Talent Show Contestant:
    • Deliberately invoked by the woman giving the "Dress for Success" presentation to provide examples of what not to do.
    • Luscheck and Caputo during "Litchfield Idol," although they were forced to perform.
  • 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.
  • Insistent Terminology:
    • Sankey claims she isn't a Nazi, she's a "white nationalist."
    • In Season 5, Taystee is determined to refer to Poussey's death as a "murder." She never actually gets corrected despite the fact that she is surrounded by people, both criminal justice professionals and probably some of the prisoners too, who would know very well that the term refers to a very specific legal scenario under a set of conditions that simply do not apply, emotions notwithstanding.
  • Instant Web Hit: Multiple times in season 5. Averted with the video of Caputo's statement about Poussey, aside from the "black lattes matter" meme of Black Cindy. Played straight with Flaca and Maritza becoming YouTube stars over the course of the season, and Played for Drama with the video of Piscatella breaking Alex's arm, although that was leaked to the press.
  • Institutional Apparel: The standard uniform is a khaki scrub top and pants. Orange is reserved for new inmates and those being transferred.
    • Flashbacks show a different button-up shirt, and Frieda retains hers until Season 6, as the uniform is no longer authorized in Max.
    • Psych inmates wear blue jumpsuits.
    • In one of Aleida's flashbacks, she is seen in juvenile detention wearing old-school black and white stripes.
  • Intoxication Ensues: Red and Flores spend most of season 5 high on "vitamins" that are actually speed.
  • Invisible President: The Warden in the first few seasons is never seen.
  • Irony: One of Vince's friends wipes his feet before stepping inside Christopher's house for the beat-down and home invasion.
  • Jerkass: At times, this series feels like World of Jerkass. There are many 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 is a pervy and fairly caustic Director of Human Activities at Litchfield when he's introduced. However, his sappy pining for Fischer reveals a softer side, and ultimately experiences some Character Development over seasons 5 and 6. He backslides a bit in season 7 following Fischer's #MeToo post about him - turns out she didn't think his behavior was so charming - but he eventually recognizes that her feelings are valid, and resigns from teaching his restorative justice class.
  • 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.
    • In series 3, Leanne makes a point of doing this to Soso every time she sees her. When she's not publicly humiliating her, and turning her attempts to defend herself as proof of what an awful person Soso apparently is, she's doing things like cutting off most of her hair while she's asleep.
  • 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.
  • Knuckle Tattoos: Stella Carlin (JUST LOVE).
  • 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.
  • La Résistance: The ICE kitchen crew becomes this in Season 7, becoming an unofficial information pipeline to help the detainees find their families and legal help.
  • Last-Name Basis: Most inmates are referred to only by this (not counting nicknames).
  • Latino Is Brown: A discussed trope. One of the Latinas asserts that there are many different Latino ethnicities. She says that a blonde woman in a lingerie brochure might be Latina for all they know. Likewise, the red-headed CO Alvarez is accused of being a fake Latino, but he counters that there are many Latinos who look anglo and points to Martin Sheen as an example. Mendez too could be considered a Latino due to his last name, and having a Cuban father, though neither he nor anyone else identifies him as such.
  • 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 between inmates is consensual and, in most cases, relevant to the characters and not just there for titillation.
    • Suzanne's line in season 5: "Now we settle into a witty banter that is insightful, but also comically aloof."
  • 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.
  • Libation for the Dead: Boo pours one out for Trica at her wake.
  • Lighter and Softer: Although season 7 is pretty dark overall, Max becomes less harsh thanks to Carol and Barb being dead, ending the war between C and D blocks, and Ward shutting down the SHU and instituting various educational programs.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Franzizka (Poussey's German girlfriend shown in flashbacks) and Shani, an ICE detainee who gets involved with Nicky. Both are very feminine, in contrast to their lovers.
  • List of Transgressions: Tricia keeps a list of every item she's ever stolen, with the intention of paying for all of her thefts.
  • LOL, 69: When Red sends Piper a message via a The Book Cipher variant (circling letters to spell), Piper's cellmate tells her to check that page.
    Beth: Try page 69. They're always putting it there, think they're so tricky. Lame.
    • Nicky sends Red a message the same way, and it is again page 69.
    • Zirconia gets a 69 on her GED practice exam and invokes this trope.
  • Looks Like Jesus: In flashback, a young Healy briefly mistakes a passerby for Jesus.
  • Love Triangle: Several in the series.
    • The two major ones are Piper/Alex/Larry and Daya/Bennett/Mendez.
    • Piper/Larry/Polly.
    • Nicky/Lorna/Christopher
    • Nicky/Lorna/Vince
    • Alex/Piper/Stella
    • Red/Healey/Judy
    • Big Boo/Mercy/Tricia
    • Alex/Piper/Zelda
    • Piper/Alex/McCollugh
  • Lover, Not a Fighter: Boo claims she is this.
  • Lowered Recruiting Standards: In Season 3, they're forced to hire new COs and it's quite clear that they are not cut out for the job. In fact, one of them is Kubra's assassin. He even says, "This place would hire Forrest fucking Gump."

  • 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 fiancée 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 fiancée.
  • The Mafiya: Red has ties to the Russian mob.
  • Mail-Order Bride: Healy is married to a mail-order Ukrainian bride, though she sneers at the term. It's a troubled marriage, and he often seeks Red's advice and language skills.
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places:
    • Nicky and Morello get it on in the shower, and again in the prison chapel. Later, Morello gets married, and the guards agree to allow her to have sex with her new husband in the visitation room-just this once, and only because it's their wedding night, and (since federal prison has no conjugal visits) the last time they'll get to do it for a while. Officially, there is No Sex Allowed, although plenty of inmates (not just Morello and Nicky) have it anyway. Indeed, Nicky and Big Boo actually have a contest to see who can screw the most women there!
    • Daya gets into a Secret Relationship with a guard and becomes pregnant by him. When her attempt at abortion is thwarted by her mother, she faces a dilemma: she knows the baby will be taken from her after it's born, and she also knows that her boyfriend will lose his job and be convicted of rapenote  and sent to prison himself. So she conspires with her mother to make everyone think it's someone else's: she has sex with Pornstache in a broom closet, and arranges for them to get caught so he's blamed instead.
    • The prison chapel is hands down the most popular place for flings between the inmates.
    • In Season 4, the time machine in the laundry room seems to be the most popular destination.
    • Nicky starts having sex with her Season 7 girlfriend in the kitchen. Slightly justified as the girlfriend is detained by ICE and they can only be together while cooking.
  • 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.
  • Masculine–Feminine Gay Couple:
    • Nicky and Lorna are Friends with Benefits (though Lorna later cuts off the benefits). The former is a loudmouthed Lad-ette with Messy Hair and the personality of a frat boy, the latter is a sweet, cheerful, idealistic, always dolled up Girly Girl.
    • A downplayed example with Piper, a privileged, somewhat naive, self-described WASP, and her regular Love Interest Alex, a street smart Aloof Dark-Haired Girl and former drug dealer who grew up poor.
    • Piper also serves as the feminine to her Love Interest in season 3, Stella, an androgynous girl with Boyish Short Hair and many tattoos.
    • Poussey Washington is a Sassy Black Woman who keeps her hair buzzed. Her looks and mannerisms are conventionally unfeminine. Her German girlfriend who we see in flashbacks, however, was very feminine. She later falls for Brook Soso, a bubbly, insecure Granola Girl. They become a happy couple... that is, until Poussey's death in Season 4.
    • Season 5 has Big Boo, a Brawn Hilda who is by far the most butch character on the show, having a sexual relationship with Linda, a very elegant businesswoman (who is pretending to be an inmate.)
    • Season 6 has the long-haired, conventionally feminine Daya romantically involved with the short-haired pimp/drug dealer Daddy who is clearly a Butch Lesbian (although for Daya it's Sitch Sexuality, and Daddy may be transgender).
    • Nicky briefly has a relationship with Egyptian ICE detainee Shani, who's very feminine.
  • Masturbation Means Sexual Frustration:
    • Caputo after he meets Piper for the first time. In Season 3, he recommends masturbation as a way to prevent inappropriate contact with female inmates.
    • Pennsatucky takes advantage of having access to a vibrating cell phone in season 5.
    • Nicky is fond of noting that "anything is a dildo if you're brave enough".
    • Boo uses the handle of the screwdriver that Piper accidentally took for this purpose.
  • Mathematician's Answer: "How long am I going to be in here?" "Until we let you out."
  • Maybe Ever After: In season 7, Piper and Alex's relationship goes on the rocks when Alex cheats on Piper with McCullough and Piper cheats on her with Zelda in return. At this point Alex breaks off the relationship, saying she is transferring to a prison in Ohio and she and Piper need to end their Masochism Tango. However, by the end of the series we learn that Piper has moved to Ohio and is visiting Alex in prison regularly.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The chicken in the yard that Piper sees. It's revealed in Season 3 that it gets in and out through a secret hole in the fence used to import contraband.
  • Meet Cute:
    • We see Piper and Larry's meet cute in flashback; she went to a friend's apartment for first aid while he was house sitting.
    • We also see get a flashback of Morello's meet cute with her fiancee; he accidentally runs into her and makes her drop an armload of packages at the post office. Morello even compares it to Notting Hill. Then the show brutally subverts it as we find out that they only ever had one date, after which Morello became a violent, delusional stalker.
    • Maria and Yadriel met a few years before Maria's incarceration: she helped Yadriel hide some drugs from the police without him even knowing, because he was being chased under her window. She then went to give them back to him.
  • Meta Casting: Natasha Lyonne does have a scar on her chest, like her character Nicky, and for the same reasons: a bacterial heart infection caused by using a dirty needle.
  • Military Moonshiner: Poussey makes pruno and stashes it around the prison.
    • In Season 2, Nicky notes that the fuel tanks for the emergency generator would be perfect for this and notes that they even have taps, though nothing comes of it.
  • Mirror Character:
    • The flashbacks often reveal parallels between the experiences of inmates who probably assume that they have little or nothing in common.
    • In a specific variant, it is shown that Bayley the (white, male) CO who kills Poussey in season 4 has been held, but released, for trespassing and possessing small amounts of weed. These are the exact same crimes as Poussey. He is a prison officer and she is an inmate. In fact, he becomes involved in smuggling illegal items out of prison and Poussey claims that for some of her charges she "wasn't even there", so Bayley could be considered more criminal.
    • Season 5 delivers it to a great scale with the inmates and the guards. When the guards are taken hostages, some of the inmates resort to torture, rape, molestation, beating or even murder.
  • Misaimed Fandom: Hilarious in-universe example when Healy warns Pennsatucky of a lesbian conspiracy/agenda - par for the course for Healy's absurd reaction to lesbians, but Pennsatucky decides if there's an all-female conspiracy headed by lesbians, she certainly knows some very prominently lesbian individuals and she might be able to get in on this action. It ends up leading to genuine friendship with Boo after she inquires about how to get in on the conspiracy, and Boo plays along for laughs.
  • Miscarriage of Justice:
    • Averted, interestingly. With a cast full of inmates, there's not a single one among them that has been shown to be actually innocent of what they were accused of (though some probably should have gone to therapy rather than prison).
    • Played straight with Taystee at the end of season 6, who is wrongly convicted of murdering a guard, while he was actually killed accidentally by Firendly Fire, with other guards framing her to cover it up. She gets life without parole.
    • In season 7, Suzanne is slow to accept that the judge and jury were wrong, and likewise realizes that she should be in a psychiatric facility rather than prison.
  • Mob War:
    • Season 2 is primarily concerned with one between Vee and Red for various prison perks and contraband.
    • In Max, C and D blocks have been locked in one for thirty years as a result of two rival sisters running the blocks. It collapses with their deaths, as they were the only ones really running it.
  • 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.
    • Officer Coates and Pennsatucky are on a fun date by the lake. Then he in a suddenly aggressive manner orders her to crawl in the dirt like a dog, revealing that he's a whole different person than he appeared to be and this special relationship might turn out to be a ticket to Hell for Tucky.
    • During the Season 4 finale, Watson and Black Cindy discuss Poussey's "she-pee" invention. Their laughter quickly turns to tears, then Watson punches out Sankey.
  • Moral Luck: Played for laughs when Cesar tries to comfort Daya after Bennett abandons her, saying that he always found Bennett untrustworthy because he was missing a leg... which he lost due to an infection he got in a dirty spa.
    Cesar: I mean, going around losing limbs... that's irresponsible.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Writers and literature pop up quite a lot for a show about a prison.
    • Piper correctly explains some misconceptions about Robert Frost's famous poem "The Road Not Traveled."
    • Larry is a writer and spends Season 1 trying to exploit Piper's situation to promote his writing.
    • Suzanne quotes some of the more obscure Shakespeare plays.
    • Suzanne's storyline in Season 3 has her writing an erotic epic. The rest of the prison pesters her about what's going to happen next and when she's going to finish the next chapter. One can easily see the writers of the show venting some of their frustrations in these sequences.
  • 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.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Many of the inmates wolf-whistle when they are introduced to the construction foreman brought in as part of Litchfield's new vocational education program in season 4.
  • 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!
  • Must Have Caffeine: I, Season 5 running out of coffee sparks a second riot by disappointed caffeine junkies. Indeed, the coffee was so important that the Hispanics and white-supremacists joined forces to produce lattes.
    • Later a pair of Hispanics find more coffee...and start doing lines.
  • Mutual Kill: The ultimate end to the rivalry between Barbara and Carol in season 6. After a brief stand off and an off-screen fight, the former is shown with a Slashed Throat and the latter with a shiv In the Back.
  • 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: Most of the older inmates are serving long sentences for serious crimes and have spent most of their lives in prison, so they're surprisingly scary. Basically, if you're looking for gangsters, murderers or just someone who lives by the philosophy that Murder Is the Best Solution, the 50+ years old demographic is the one to go to. And in season 5 it's the gang of older ladies (plus Gina) who takes down Piscatella.
  • 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) 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. The word "bi" is first heard in 2x02, with Larry wondering if she was lesbian before, then switched to straight, then back to lesbianism or if she was bi all the time.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: In season 3, the celebrity chef and cooking show host Judy King is a composite Expy of Martha Stewart and Paula Deen; she is sentenced to prison due to insider trading in a very public trial, as did Stewart. At the end of season 3, she arrives at Litchfield to serve her sentence, even though she was originally assigned to a different prison, and complains, in a thick southern drawl, of it being a mistake to have come all the way to "upstate Jew York," recalling Deen's antisemitic remarks in response to a scandal. Her racism is explored throughout Season 4, in turns both appalling and hilarious.
  • No Communities Were Harmed : While the real-life Kerman served her sentence at FCI Danbury, Litchfield is fictional.
  • 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.
    • Lolly beats Aydin nearly to death when she discovers him in the midst of strangling Vause.
    • The guards incite Suzanne and Maureen into a fight, resulting in Suzanne smashing Maureen's face. She only stops when the others pull her away.
  • Non-Indicative Name: A flashback reveals Tastee working at a drive through called Storky's, which does not serve storks or any other kind of poultry. Tastee's reaction to customers requesting stork suggests that this happens all the time.
  • 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.
    • In the series finale, we hear the beginning of the joke
    Frieda: Do you want to hear a joke? About a penguin, a farmer, and an eggplant?
    • Taystee lists a few items involved in her getting thrown back in prison.
    • No one knows exactly what Suzanne's story is about, just that it is ridiculously hot and involves, among other vague details, an alien being made entirely of vaseline; Admiral Rodcocker, who has two penises; and it garnered a nearly instantaneous following in the 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!"
    • In "The Chickening"
    Taystee: " there I am, topless, sitting on this bulldozer, like, in a construction site. So I'm sitting there, barbecue sauce on my titties, and I'm like "What the fuck, again?"
    • We aren't exactly sure how Taystee gets herself deliberately re-incarcerated, but we know it involved a can of Rockstar and 100 paperclips...
    • In "Thirsty Bird," Cal in one of Piper's flashbacks. During a conversation between a young Piper and her grandmother, you can hear a firework going off, immediately followed by a cat yowling in the background, followed by a young Cal running into the room.
    Cal: "Um, Grandma? I was trying to launch Whiskers up into outer space, and now my room is kind of on fire."
    • The story of why Boo lost her therapy dog nearly qualifies.
  • Not Helping Your Case: Played with. After Poussey breaks up with Soso after the later's unfortunate racial steryotyping, Soso attempts to fix things via a Say Anything... Serenade Your Lover prison-style, holding a tiny radio over her head in the hall...playing Eminem.
    Soso: It's not a presumption about you liking rap. Its just, AM 700 The OG is the only station that comes in clear.
  • "Not So Different" Remark:
    • Dixon tries to use this on Gerber, after the latter accidentally kills Poussay. Dixon recites several horrific deeds he himself has committed, hoping that this comparison will cheer Bayley up. It obviously doesn't.
    • Taystee argues that the only difference between her and Tamika is that Tamika was lucky enough not to get caught when she broke the law as a teen. Tamika refuses to buy it.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: In his first appearances, Healy seems like a nice man whose revulsion about lesbians is Played for Laughs, considering with whom he's talking about it. Then comes Fucksgiving where he has no qualms about throwing Chapman into the SHU after watching her dance in a suggestive way with Vause, commenting it "looks like attempted rape to [him]", for which even Pornstache calls him out. Taken to the maximum in the season 1 finale, when he walks away from Chapman and Pennsatucky when it's clear the latter is preparing to shank the former.
    • Pescatalla at first seems like a big teddy bear, then he gets increasingly sadistic by the end of Season 4.
    • Angie and Leanne are difficult to be taken seriously, but give them a gun....
  • 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.
    • Alex, when she returns to the gardening shed and finds Aydin there.
    • Veering between Oh, Crap! and My God, What Have I Done? when Piper inadvertently starts a White Power gang.
  • Obfuscating Disability: Cindy and Suzanne pretend they're deaf in the wake of the riot to explain why they didn't come out from hiding before. The CERT team, who don't know otherwise, buy 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. Beth is also in Max for killing her kids. The other inmates despise her for this-she's called "Baby killer" and gets attacked quite often.
  • 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.
    • Frieda, who nonchalantly helps Alex and Lolly bury Aydin's body in the garden.
  • Once a Season:
    • The fifth episode of every season features flashback for one or more of the Hispanic inmates (Daya and Aleida in S1, Gloria in S2, Flaca in S3, Maritza in S4).
    • The penultimate episode of every season features flashbacks for a villainous character (Pennsatucky in S1, Vee in S2, Aleida in S3), although in the first and third seasons the character did not become overtly villainous until that episode, and their villainy was only limited to the storylines of one or two other characters and not the whole prison (Pennsatucky only goes after Piper, and Aleida only goes after Sophia and indirectly antagonizes Daya). The tradition continues in Season 4, when Bayley, who's young and a relatively Nice Guy if a bit crooked, accidentally kills Poussey during a prisoner protest.
    • If Miss Rosa's death is considered to have happened in the third season (it is revealed in the premiere episode, but technically happened off-screen between seasons), then each season features the death of one inmate (Tricia in S1, Vee in S2, Miss Rosa in S3, Poussey in S4).
    • Season 5 breaks all three of these rules. The fifth episode is a flashback for Janae (a black inmate), the twelfth episode is a flashback for Piper and Alex (the season's main antagonist, Piscatella, had his flashback in the tenth episode), and, while there are a few casualties during the season, no inmates are confirmed dead by its end.
    • Season finale cliffhangers have become a tradition since season 3, which is especially cruel in a Netflix series which begs to be binge-watched in a few days (or less) per season. Have fun waiting an entire year to see if someone dies!
  • 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 Mendez's name to be revealed. Even the captions call him "Pornstache".
    • Taystee is this so such an extent that in the fourth season Suzanne is shocked to find out her real name, and even the guards know her only as "Taystee".
      Guard over PA system: Inmate Tasha Jefferson to the warden's office aside Who is Tasha Jefferson? Oh, Taystee! Taystee, go to the warden's office!
      Suzanne: Your name's Tasha?
  • Only Sane Man:
    • Poussey fulfills this role towards the "Praise Norma" crowd after having pegged them for being members of a hypocritical Cloud Cluckoo Lander cult who claim to be all about acceptance and forgiveness while rejecting Soso to the point where she attempts suicide.
    You're worshiping a piece of toast!
    • Sophia Burset. Many, many times. She is the only inmate who is fully aware of female anatomy. She warns Pennsatucky to not put up such a heavy cross in the auditorium. And so on, and so on.
  • Oppressive Immigration Enforcement: ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) is the overall villain of Season 7. The women are crammed into tiny bunk beds close together, the hotline (and only route to the outside world) is very expensive, and people are depicted as being deported without even having their rights correctly explained. When they finally find a phone card, the phone is broken.
    • Kids (clearly under the age of 10) are shown being forced to listen to immigration tribunals without lawyers. Babies are also crying without parents.
    • Pregnant inmate Santos Chaj is Guatemalan and is potentially miscarrying. ICE drags their feet on getting her medical attention and can't communicate to her that she hasn't miscarried because they can't be bothered to find a translator for her. Fig, usually an Ice Queen, is visibly shaken and insists on getting her a translator. Then, it turns out that Chaj doesn't want the child, but ICE refuses to take her to have an abortion. Fig has to break the rules to sneak the abortion pill to her.
    • Maritizia is picked up by ICE during a raid at a nightclub. She is deported in the middle of the night and without saying goodbye to the other inmates, despite knowing nobody in Columbia; she didn't even know she was born there (her mother had told her that she was born in the US).
    • Karla is a Struggling Single Mother to her two sons and an illegal immigrant from El Salvador. Her (now deceased) husband was a journalist and risked being murdered by gangs. However, Karla is detained by ICE and separated from her kids. She pleads to be allowed to raise her sons in America, who would be at risk of having to join murderous gangs (and she may be murdered by criminals who wanted her husband dead). Her sons are abandoned in foster care begging her to come back to them, the judge doesn't listen to Karla's pleas or her valiant efforts at an appeal, and she's deported to El Salvador where she knows no-one. She is next shown on a long hike through the Mexican desert to get back to the USA, but falls off the trail and is injured. That's the last we see of her and, though the coyote promises to come back for her, it's likely that she either died of dehydration or was killed by an animal attack.
  • 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!"
  • Pants-Positive Safety: Gloria and Pennsatucky store guns in their waistbands in season 5.
  • 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.
  • Passing the Torch: With Red senile, Nicky takes over running the kitchen and helping other inmates get clean.
  • Pervert Dad: Alex has one, in the form of a rockstar named Lee Burley. The first time he meets his daughter Alex, he cannot stop making inappropriate comments about her having great breasts and how awkward it would've been if he had sex with her without ever meeting her first, much to Alex's shock and embarrassment.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Mendez is a nasty and brutal rapist with little to no respect for the inmates he's supposed to be taking care of, but he's notably less bigoted towards Sophia than others, although he does fetishize her to a disgusting degree, and he appears to genuinely be in love with Daya in his own twisted little way. Also of note is when he stands up for Piper when she's unfairly sent to SHU for the crime of dancing with Alex and when he pulls Bennett into a Cooldown Hug 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.
    • Daya takes one on Season 6, pleading to second-degree murder for life in prison. While partially to avoid the possibility of the death penalty, a more important factor is that it gets her out of AdSeg and into GenPop, where the guards will have less opportunity to beat her in revenge.
    • Taystee's refusal to plead out on the charge of killing Piscatella gets her a second round of applause from her cell block. She loses the case at trial though and is sentenced to life.
  • Please, Don't Leave Me: Alex says this to Piper, when Alex's mother dies and Piper breaks up with her. Piper leaves anyway.
  • Pop-Star Composer: The theme song "You've Got Time" was written and performed by indie musician Regina Spektor.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Understandably, the show diverts from the memoir in order to add conflict and tension.
  • Present Absence: The Warden is never seen. even after they're replaced during the privatization in season 3, the new one is referred to, as per company policy, as the 'Director of Human Activities'.
  • Prison : The fictional Litchfield Correctional Facility.
  • Prison Changes People: This is the character arc of quite a few characters. Zig-zagged and possibly deconstructed with protagonist Piper, who comes to question whether prison has really changed her, or just brought out her true self.
  • 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.
    • It's also averted with Daya and Bennett. Their relationship is portrayed as entirely consensual, even though legally it's considered rape since an inmate can't consent to sex with a CO. This is why even though Daya seduced Mendez, he ended up in prison for rape.
    • 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.
    • Played straight in season 3 when Officer Coates rapes Pennsatucky, proving that there could be worse than Mendez.
    • Also played straight in Piscatella's flashbacks in season 5, when several inmates gang rape Wes Driscoll, whom Piscatella was in love with.
  • Prisoner Performance:
    • The final episode of Season 1, "Can't Fix Crazy", centers on the Christmas pageant. It has the characters sing Christmas songs and also perform a Nativity pageant.
    • Downplayed during the improv class in "Empathy is a Bone Killer", which involves everyone performing in pairs for the rest of the class. Alex and Piper get paired together for a symbolic argument about their romance.
    • Inverted in the episode "Litchfield's Got Talent", where the guards are forced to put on a talent show when they are held hostage at gunpoint during the riot.
  • Prisoner's Last Meal: In "Minority Deport", Daya and Taystee talk about what they would want for their last meals. Daya suggests a never-ending pasta bowl from Olive Garden and a Crave Case from White Castle. Taystee says she'd rather have a Storky's supreme meal.
  • 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.
    • Averted in Lichfield; it was only at the time of "Blood Donut" when they opened the track, and Janae in order not to "let herself go soft" had to exercise in her bunk, during nights (irritating the other inmates). Although they do have yoga classes, courtesy of Jones.
    • One of the plotlines in season 6 is the prisoners' insistence that they be given their 30 minutes of daily exercise, which becomes an aerobics class.
  • Private Profit Prison: In season 3 Litchfield Federal Correctional Institution is sold to private investors to prevent its closing. Several cost-cutting measures (such as prepackaged meals) are instituted in short order, and the inmates are able to apply for jobs making lingerie for the investors' business. They're paid far below minimum wage, but still much better than the jobs in prison operations.
  • Promotion to Opening Titles: Suzanne, Taystee, Nicky and Pennsatucky in Season 2; Gloria, Black Cindy, Daya, Caputo, Morello and Poussey in Season 3; Flaca, Big Boo and, after a few episodes, Aleida in Season 4.
  • Pronouncing My Name for You: Poussey. "Accent a droite, bitch!" And "What is Poh-pee?" "Popi."
  • Psycho Lesbian:
    • Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren is gay, and also definitely has mental problems, as her nickname might suggest. She is also a deconstruction, in that she is not a bad person, per se, nor is she even a full-blown psychotic, although the prison does periodically have to confine her in the psychiatric ward.
    • Kukudio, who ends up in a relationship with Suzanne, is shown to be even more mentally unstable than Suzanne herself. Kukudio is Not Good with Rejection and gets into a fight with Suzanne over it when Humps goads them on. She then later forces Humps to have a stroke by blowing into his IV tube for his sadistic and homophobic actions, which leads to his incredibly painful and drawn out death.
    • Mazall in season 2 is friendly towards Piper, but in a very intense manner. Upon Piper's arrival, Mazall immediately asks her the details of her birth, as she is heavily into astrology. After Piper, following a signal from Hill, refuses to tell Mazall the time she was born, Mazall climbs into Piper's bunk during the night and licks her face until Piper gives away the information. The next morning, Mazall admits she has "manic rage" issues and once bit off her ex-girlfriend's tongue and swallowed it.
  • 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.
    • "Poo" in Season Five is a port-a-potty. Several inmates and all the guards wind up in it at various points.
    • Administrative Segregation in Max. Part punishment, part protective custody, part holding (at least for the rioters being interrogated), AdSeg doesn't even have privacy, as the entire front of the cell is a large window. On the upside, you might end up with a roommate.
  • 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 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.
    • Bennett disappears in "Bed Bugs and Beyond" and hasn't been seen or heard from since.
    • Nicky is sent to Max after Luschek rats her out during a drug sweep in "Empathy Is a Boner Killer". The Bus Came Back in Season 4 after Luschek strikes a deal for her, much to Caputo's surprise.
    • Stella is also sent to Max after what Piper does in the season 3 finale.
    • Sophia is transferred to SHU at the end of Season 3 but gets transferred back after her wife demands it, and Caputo figures out what a mess Litchfield is.
    • In season 5 Sophia learns that Sister Ingalls got pneumonia while in the SHU and was given a compassionate release.
    • Between Seasons 5 and 6, about half of the cast, including Boo, Janae, and Maritza takes a literal bus to another prison in Ohio.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Red getting her kitchen back, immediately before it makes the switch to pre-packaged, heat and serve meals.
  • The Queenpin: Befitting an a women's prison, all gang leaders are (of course) female.
    • Red is a sympathetic figure who runs the illegal smuggling operations, having run her Big, Screwed-Up Family's crimes on the outside.
    • Red's Evil Counterpart, Vee, is also this on both the inside and outside. She adopts children solely so they can act as drug runners for her, deals with all the money, has many corrupt cops on her payroll, and kills anyone who steps out of line.
    • Piper herself becomes this (reluctantly) to the White Power Group in Season 4 over her underwear empire, though she later turns her back on it after being punished by the Dominicans.
  • Race Lift: An In-Universe example in Season Five's "Sing It, White Effie," when Janae goes to a nearby private school and witnesses the rehearsal of a high school performance of Dreamgirls. With white girls. She's very upset by this.
  • Rage Quit:
    • In "Tongue-Tied," after having her visitation with her son Benny cut short, an already stressed Gloria returns to find her kitchens in shambles and quits as head of the prison kitchen, allowing Red to take back her original position.
    • As of the end of Season 3, most of Litchfield's COs.
  • 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.
  • Rape as Backstory:
    • Pennsatucky. In the episode "A Tittin' and a Hairin'", we see her at ten years old getting her first period. Her mother gives her a disturbing sex talk that condenses to saying rape is okay. It's implied it's happened multiple times, beginning in her teen years.]
    • We see that in McCullough's past as a Marine, one of her squad mates had sexually assaulted her. Once she reported this, all the rest of the squad believed him over her, causing her not to help after they come under fire.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • Caputo isn't a saint by any means, but he genuinely wants to provide a safe, clean environment for the inmates at Litchfield, and tries to be a good custodian. Healy becomes this somewhere between the second and third seasons, though he's not perfect.
    • The Deputy Marshal working Con Air in "Thirst Bird" proves to be a remarkably decent person. While he can't tell Piper where they're going for security reasons, he is polite and makes sure she gets to the bathroom. He's even respectful enough to try to get a female officer until Piper clarifies she needs to go now. His standard for decency is pretty much 'don't spit on me and we're cool"
    • In season 7, Ward is inexperienced and limited by a lack of budget, but she genuinely wants to improve conditions at Litchfield.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • The one Chapman gives to Healy when she's in solitary confinement.
    Piper: The only sicko here is you. And under different circumstances, what? I'd be your girlfriend? Is that it? Did I make you jealous? You put me in this hellhole for no reason. Wake up, Healy! Girls like me? We don't fuck ignorant, pretentious old men with weird lesbian obsessions! We go for tall, hot girls, and we fucking love it! So, that leaves you on the outside, living your sad, sad little life. You don't get me! Ever! So, go fuck yourself!
    • 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 gives one to Katya in the third season when she says that she deserves a better man than Healy.
    • Soso gives one to her friend Meadow in the third season, because she completely misunderstands what being in prison means. Her friends apparently really don't realize that her life has been effectively ruined by her sentence. She also delivers one to Healy in the season finale after her suicide attempt.
    • Danny Pearson gives one to his father, having come to realize that Caputo is right, and that MCC's strategy of "make a profit for 6 months, and let the next guy take care of the mess" is heinous. He does it at a whiskey tasting and quits his job in the process, probably humiliating himself more than his father, but he gets his point across.
    • When Caputo finds out that Donaldson is now bussing tables, he tries to leave him a big tip, but Donaldson fires back a speech about how he won't accept this lame apology for selling out the guards to MCC. Caputo responds with an even bigger speech about how Donaldson's walkout endangered countless lives and he doesn't regret firing him for a second.
  • 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.
    • In season 3, Alex is convinced that a newer prisoner, Lolly, is stalking her every move and has been sent by her former drug lord to assassinate her. Turns out Lolly is just a spacey conspiracy theorist. On the other hand, Kubra took advantage of Litchfield's prison staff shortage and sent someone to get hired as an officer to do exactly that.
    • That darn screwdriver. Every time it looks like it'll be used as a deadly weapon (when Boo gets her hand on it, when Piper carries it around to defend herself against Pennsatucky), it winds up instead being used as a dildo, knocked aside, or what have you. Averted when Piper plants it in Stella's cell, blowing Stella's parole and getting her sent to max after Stella steals all her money.
  • Refuge in Audacity: In the first episode Nicky is shown having sex with Lorna. Specifically, she is shown engaging in a sex act known as "fisting". This is the first American-produced TV series to show this sex act (albeit not in hardcore detail), and qualifies for this trope considering that as of 2013 when the episode aired, this act is actually still technically banned from mainstream porn, and as recently as the late 1990s porn directors were being prosecuted for depicting it.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Apparently there's been a tatted-up Australian model who walks around naked in the bathroom all this time and no one noticed until episode six of Season 3. Discussed earlier in Season 3 (as if to get us comfortable with the idea of accepting Stella) when Alex and Piper talk about it being common in prison to suddenly take notice of someone who has been there all along. Invoked and lampshaded in season 5 with Nicky's one-episode hookup.
  • 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. She gets much more development in Season 3, when she gets hit rather hard with the depression stick.
  • Replacement Goldfish:
    • After Taystee is released, Poussey is shown hanging out with Black Cindy instead.
    • Black Cindy is this again in Season 6, this time to Flaca due to Maritza being transferred to a different prison after the riot.
  • 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.
    • Poussey being accidentally suffocated by a guard is very similar to the real life death of Eric Garner, who was killed in much the same way. The subsequent protests and riot are obviously taken from the riots in Baltimore and Ferguson as well as the Black Lives Matter movement. One black inmate complains "Our lives don't matter to them!"
    • Also referenced is the case of Sandra Bland, who died in jail after being pulled over on a traffic stop. Taystee yells to the waiting press that she will keep saying Poussey's name. And in Season Five, as part of Piscatella's back story, we see a version of the Darren Rainey case, wherein a prisoner was left to die in a hot shower.
    • The ICE storyline in season 7 is obviously inspired by real events, including children being put on trial without a lawyer, and rape victims being denied abortions. In general, the living conditions depicted in the detention center may actually be better than in reality.
  • 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. And after starting showing up in other contexts than making a phone calls, The Weeping Woman still cries in almost every of her appearances.
    • The Eggplant Joke is repeated several times by different characters over the course of the show.
    • In case you haven't heard it yet, RED DIDN'T HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH THAT FOOD! ANYTHING!
    • Janae spending half of her time in SHU is a Black Comedy case and eventually starts being treated as such even in-universe, though it dies off in the third season.
    • Alana (Red's bunkmate that wouldn't stop snoring) keeps getting her nose broken in season 5.

  • Sanity Slippage: Piper is going a bit nuts in "Thirsty Bird" after a month in SHU. She's resorted to note-keeping in an attempt to keep track of time (and actually has the guard scheduled worked out) and is painting the walls with eggs.
  • 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.
    • In Season 6, Taystee is made into this for the entire riot, particularly Piscatella's murder. Other inmates are also scapegoated for various things, including those done by the incompetent/corrupt riot police.
  • 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.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here:
    • In the third season, the prison COs want to unionize and select Caputo as their rep. When they find out that he took on a promotion with MCC as the Director of Human Activities, the senior COs walk out on him.
    • In Season 5, Alex and Piper find the riot mob and promptly go the other direction. Red suggests this to Frieda as they watch Daya hold Humps and McCoullogh at gunpoint. Frieda waits until Daya fires
      Frieda: Ok, now we can go.
    • Frieda proceeds to ditch the riot entirely, preferring to hole up in her secret bunker with a few friends to wait it out.
  • 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, which is the stuff of legend at Litchfield.
    • CO O'Neil and doughnuts. Don't offer him a red velvet.
    • The Harry Potter books in Tastee's library. You can work your up to them after you've proven you're responsible with less important books, like The Odyssey or something.
  • The '70s: In season three's "Tongue Tied," a younger Norma's backstory starts in this decade. Also in season five's "The Tightening" Red's life in Soviet Russia is shown (circa 1977), and how she ended up in America with her husband Dimitri.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Flores, Nicky and Alex get makeovers from Flaca and Maritza in season 5.
  • 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.
  • Ship Tease:
    • Red and Healy get this through the latter half of Season 3.
    • The end of said season also hints at a possibility of a relationship between Poussey and Soso.
    • Suzanne and a new girl Maureen receive this in the same season.
  • 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?"
    • Bell calls Caputo a "pod person" when he tries to talk the COs out of forming a union.
    • The character who is able to smuggle contraband into the prison for other inmates is named Red.
    • Suzanne asks whether they should give an overdose victim a shot to the heart, but is told that this is not Pulp Fiction.
    • Tastee is a huge Harry Potter fan. Naturally, Harry Potter references get brought up a lot by her and the black clique.
    Suzanne: If only we had an invisibility cloak.
  • 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.
    • If you freeze-frame on Nicky's bat mitzvah speech notes, you can see that "God" is written as "G-d," something that many observant Jews do, since writing God's name on something disposable is considered disrespectful.
  • 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. In the third season, Piper finds a shiv made of Jolly Rancher when searching for a cell phone and later uses it to send Stella to max.
  • 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. Linda strikes up a relationship with Big Boo while pretending to be an inmate and seems to enjoy herself. Daya lampshades the trope in Season 6 after getting involved with Daddy.
    Daya: You never heard of "gay for the stay?" Cause I'm gonna stay in here forever.
  • Sleep Deprivation: Starts being coming an issue in Season 5 during the riot. Between drugs, coffee, adrenaline, and general excitement, several characters go the entire season (roughly three days) without any sleep.
  • 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).
  • Smash to Black: Every episode ends on a Smash to Orange.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: Piper names her used-panties business "Felonious Spunk," a pun on the name of jazz composer Thelonious Monk. Quite a high-brow reference for a sex fetish business.
    • Adeola, a Max inmate, is an anthropologist perfectly capable of Piper-level intellectual dialog...but she "will fuck up a bitch when necessary."
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: "Stormy Weather" by Etta James plays as the SWAT team raid the prison in season 5.
  • The Sponsor: In the Grand Finale, Nicky becomes this as part of Passing the Torch. Clean seven times, she is last seen advising one of her kitchen crew on dealing with withdrawl.
  • Stalker with a Crush:
    • Suzanne to Piper.
    • It's revealed that Morello was this to her "fiancé" 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.
  • Super Cell Reception: Cell phones always work just fine, even in Max where the sheer mass of concrete and steel should block the signal. Especially egregious given that Season 4 establishes that the prison can only get one radio station clearly.
  • Take That!:
    Vee: It's about kids with cancer. I don't know why the sick fuck wanted to write about this.
    • Boo to the representative of the "Eastberg" Baptist Church. In no uncertain terms.
    Suck my big fat dyke dick, you fucking hateful piece of shit. Jesus was a fag. He said 'This is my body. Eat me!'
    • The "Florida" cellblock leads to some good jokes at the state's expense.
    Morello (after Daya explains Florida): Don't look at me. I might be crazy, but I'm not Florida crazy.
    Baddison(after Florida inmates sway the vote to elect Piper as captain): This is bullshit. Fuck'n Florida, always messin with the vote.
  • Teeth Flying: Piper punches out Pennsatucky's teeth during their fight.
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!: Appears throughout the series, considering this is a show set in a women's prison.
    Alex Trebek (in Suzanne's Jeopardy! hallucination): Let's go again. 'The Fonz may have been the coolest guy around, but a lot of sand has fallen through the hourglass since he last appeared on television.'
    Piper: Where is Alex??
    Alex Trebek: I'm here, bitch!
  • Title Drop: Pretty much every episode's is either completely dropped or at least referenced.
  • Token Minority: Chang is the only Asian inmate in Season 1, though Soso shows up on Season 2. Being Asian, Soso doesn't fit into any of the established "tribes" and is thus fairly isolated. She bemoans this in "Ching Chong Chang".
    Soso: You know what sucks? Belonging to a race that doesn't commit enough low-value crimes to be relevant in a place like this. Where's my big Asian prison family?
  • Took a Level in Badass:
    • Piper is a pretty meek and harmless woman when she enters prison. By Season 3, she starts running a contraband syndicate and enacts some terrible vengeance on someone who crosses her. This is both deconstructed and subverted in Season 4, when the ramifications of her actions are explored.
    • Subverted hilariously in the Season 4 premier when the Litchfield guards suit up in their riot gear, ready to storm the campus...and then the real SWAT team shows up.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass:
    • Though already a Jerkass, Luschek becomes even more so when he lets Nicky take the fall when Caputo finds heroin in his desk.
    • Piper does this when her position as the capo of her dirty panties ring is threatened. See Piper's character sheet; by the end of Season 3, her manipulativeness and selfishness are bordering on sociopathy. She just doesn't seem to care anymore.
  • Toxic Friend Influence: Sophia thinks that Gloria's son is influencing her son to commit crimes; completely ignoring the fact that Michael's family situation and some terrible advice from Sophia herself might have contributed to the problems more.
  • Trans Nature: 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.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Pennsatucky's very dark flashbacks reveal that Mountain Dew is hers. Her mother forces her to drink as part of a con on the Department of Child Support Services. When she gets her first period, her mother gives her a half-empty bottle to "celebrate" while delivering a pessimistic speech about life. Later, it's revealed that she offers sexual favors for the price of a six-pack, though she'll settle for off-brand.
    • Suzanne sings the jingle at Pennsatucky's wake
  • Truce Zone: B Block of Max, aka "Florida".
    Flaca: The only good way out is getting moved to Florida.
    Morello: Technically, its "B" Block. Neutral territory.
    Black Cindy: So how we get in?
    Daya: You don't. Florida don't let normal people like us in. Only grannies, trannies, and loonies.
    • Sophia, Frieda, and Suzanne end up there in Season 6. Pennsatucky, after turning herself in, blackmails Linda into transferring her there. Carol and Bab's willingness to violate said truce has Frieda very paranoid.
  • Twofer Token Minority:
    • Towards the end of season three, Black Cindy decides to convert to Judaism. One of the Jewish inmates who is mentoring her wonders why she wants to go from one hated minority (Black) to two, but confirms that she apparently really does want to convert, and supervises Cyndi's ritual bath in the river.
    • There are also black lesbians Poussey and Suzanne, half-Asian bisexual Brooke, and black trans woman Sophia.
  • 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."
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Piscatella shoving Red to the ground in front of the entire dining hall in 4x12 kicks off a standing protest that leads to Poussey's death, setting in motion the riot and influencing the entire rest of the series.
  • Urban Legend : In season one, the chicken is an in-universe example. Season three proves this one to be true. 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.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: The prisoners will often hide contraband in their bras when they need a quick hiding place. McCullough also hides a phone and charger in her bra when smuggling them into the prison.
  • Visual Metaphor: In Taystee's flashback episode in Season 6 about her crazy night with Tamika, the last shot is them walking at right angles down two different crosswalks, symbolizing the diverging paths their lives will take, one becoming a prison guard and the other becoming a prisoner.
  • Visual Pun: In season 5, Taystee lights a pile of Flaming Hot Cheetos and Takis on fire. Lampshaded in the episode title.
  • Wacky Marriage Proposal: In season 5, Piper gives one to Alex involving a can of corn as they're trapped in the prison basement hiding from a riot. Alex accepts.
  • Wardens Are Evil: The prison's original 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. Zigzagged when Caputo is promoted to warden. Fig even comments on what it's doing to him. He's a Reasonable Authority Figure who believes in and defends the inmates' humanity. Yet he's under tremendous pressure from both his corporate bosses and his insane guards.
  • Webcomic Time: The series starts in September 2013, and by season 5, Piper still has three months to go on her 15-month sentence, which would suggest that it's September 2014, though it's unclear whether Piper's sentence has been extended due to lying on the stand at Kubra's trial. Season 5 itself spans only three days.
  • 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 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.
    • Poussey delivers several to Norma over the course of season 3, but turns it up to eleven after Soso's attempted suicide.
  • 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 Male Lead: While Piper is female, as would be necessary for a show set in a women's prison, showrunner Jenji Kohan reveals in an NPR interview that Piper is an example of the trope.
    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.
  • Woman Scorned: In an early episode, Boo is implied to be one of these. She's not.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: In the end of season 5 the guards are repeatedly ten prisoners short in their count. Given that ten are hiding in the basement (Frieda, Red, Gloria, Flores, Nicky, Piper, Alex, Suzanne, Taystee and Cindy), two've gotten out (Dogget and Chang) and there is one additional (Linda), it should be eleven.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy:
    • Piper reads a book about prison life before going in, but most of what she reads is inaccurate.
    • In season 2, Mendez seems to be under the impression that he and Daya are Star-Crossed Lovers, indicated by his sending her a Valentine's Day card and having an Anguished Declaration of Love when he is arrested.
  • 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.
  • Yandere: The reason Morello is in prison is for planting an IED on the car of her "fiancé's" (who is really just a guy she's been stalking after going one one date and falling in love with) real fiancée, as well as trying to strangle her and bothering him even after he got a restraining order. She later steals the prison van and breaks into their house. As of Season 4 she's starting to show signs of this with her new husband.


Video Example(s):


Stop trying! Stop hoping!

After being picked up, detained by ICE, being separated from her boyfriend due to ICE deporting him because of his expired green card, Blanca lost hope in ever being free. Her friend Maritza tries to get her to be positive and not give up, but Blanca refuses to and shouts at Maritza to face reality.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / DespairEventHorizon

Media sources: