5:53am PT by Jackie Strause
'OITNB': Where Things Left Off and What to Expect in Final Season
[This story contains spoilers through season six of Netflix's Orange Is the New Black.]
Orange Is the New Black will be serving out the remainder of its sentence when the Netflix prison dramedy returns for its seventh and final season on July 26.
The final 13 episodes of Jenji Kohan's Emmy-winning series from Lionsgate Television will cap an acclaimed run for one of the streaming giant's most-watched original series. Since debuting in 2013, OITNB has been a platform for timely topics and modern human stories while exposing the injustices of the criminal justice system and prison industrial complex. The final season will continue to do just that, while also focusing on recidivism and reentry now that Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) has joined those who have been released from Litchfield Penitentiary.
Following the fifth season's prison-wide riot over the series-shifting death of inmate Poussey Washington (Samira Wiley), the sixth season narrowed the sprawling ensemble cast as it followed a core group of inmates down the hill to the maximum security prison of Litchfield. Other characters were bussed to separate destinations and either briefly shown or not seen again. After doling out consequences to the organizers and violent offenders during the riot — including the group of high-profile inmates who hid out in the prison pool — the "riot girls," as they became known, were faced with abusive guards, inmate gang leaders and worsened conditions as the private Max prison revealed itself to be a much more treacherous and corrupt home than the "camp" Litchfield to which they had grown accustomed.
In addition to the game-changing release of Piper in the season six finale, Blanca Flores' (Laura Gomez) transfer opened up the world to include an immigration detention center and Tasha "Taystee" Jefferson (Danielle Brooks) returned to Max to face life in prison for a murder she didn't commit. The final season will continue to follow the lives of the OITNB inmates — whether in or out of prison — but who exactly will appear during the final run will be up for viewers to discover. The trailer and first-look images of the final season reveal that not much time has passed when many of the characters from season six return.
With an ensemble this size, The Hollywood Reporter rounds up where all of OITNB's surviving inmates were last seen going into the final season and takes one last look ahead at what to expect based on season six conversations with the OITNB team.
Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) — The finale of the sixth season set Piper free on early release. When the owners of Litchfield, the re-branded PolyCon, tasked Litchfield Max with releasing 25 inmates early, Piper's file jumped to the top of the heap when head guard Rick Hopper (Hunter Emery) thought she might uncover the drug smuggling business he has going with his newly released girlfriend Aleida Diaz (Elizabeth Rodriguez). Piper, who had five months left on her sentence because of her riot participation, celebrated her last day at Litchfield with a surprise prison wedding to Alex Vause (Laura Prepon) and a brief, revelatory moment of seeing the warring inmates put their cell-block colors aside to enjoy a game of kickball. When picking her up from prison, Piper's brother Cal Chapman (Michael Chernus) asks a question that will be answered in season seven: "So, what are you going to do next?" The final season will continue to follow Piper just as much on the outside as it did on the inside when the show parallels her journey against less-privileged inmates to tackle recidivism and reentry into society.
Alex Vause (Laura Prepon) — Alex still has four years left on her sentence when she says goodbye to Piper at Litchfield. Though the kickball game turns out less deadly than anticipated (season six villains the Denning sisters, played by Mackenzie Phillips and Henny Russell, kill each other and end the Max war), Alex has already offered up her skills in the drug trade in a bid to save Piper, who was being targeted by roommate Badison (Amanda Fuller). Alex ends up ripping up her grad school application and appears to commit to doing what she needs to survive while still on the inside. Alex and Piper's relationship will remain central to the story in the final season.
Tasha "Taystee" Jefferson (Danielle Brooks) — After losing best friend Poussey Washington (Samira Wiley) in season four and fumbling the riot negotiations in season five, the sixth season began without much hope for the inmate who once served as the light of Litchfield. When pitted against each other by the riot investigation team, best pal Cindy "Black Cindy" Hayes (Adrienne C. Moore) names Taystee as the inmate who shot and killed corrections officer Desi Piscatella (Brad William Henke). Despite having former warden Joe Caputo (Nick Sandow) and the ACLU and Black Lives Matter movement on her side, Taystee is convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. While Caputo suspects the truth, only Cindy and Suzanne "Cray Eyes" Warren (Uzo Aduba) witnessed the riot team killing Piscatella and plotting to blame it on an inmate. In the season six finale, Taystee is returned to Max just as Piper is being released. Taystee's wrongful conviction and hopeless situation ahead will continue to reflect reality in season seven.
Cindy "Black Cindy" Hayes (Adrienne C. Moore) — Cindy struggled with keeping the secret about her betrayal from Taystee all season long. She stopped short of admitting what she had done, and instead opened up to Taystee about her little sister actually being her daughter. It wasn't until Cindy joined Taystee on the bus to court and when the former took the stand that Taystee realized why she was going down for a murder she didn't commit. The friends had yet to confront each other when season six ended, saving the fallout for season seven.
Suzanne "Cray Eyes" Warren (Uzo Aduba) — Suzanne also struggled with keeping the secret about Piscatella, an order she was following from Cindy. The chosen family who once made up the central group in the Ghetto Dorm was further splintered when Suzanne was placed in B-block, nicknamed "Florida," and spent most of the season away from the friends she has always known. She gravitates towards roommate Frieda Berlin (Dale Soules) and Tiffany "Pennsatucky" Doggett (Taryn Manning) until reuniting with some of her old Litchfield friends when joining the kickball game. The season seven trailer shows her eyeing old friends Taystee and Cindy.
Tiffany "Pennsatucky" Doggett (Taryn Manning) — After escaping during the season five riot and wandering to the nearby home of Coates (James McMenamin), Pennsatucky continues her relationship with the corrections officer when the pair head out on a road trip, picking up unlikely friend Dixon (Mike Houston) along the way. Both C.O.s are on leave due to the riot and though at first the trio form a bond, Pennsatucky eventually sees the truth about Coates and decides to self-surrender. Once back at Litchfield, she blackmails MCC/PolyCon's Linda Ferguson (Beth Dover) — who posed as an inmate during the riot and had a relationship with Carrie "Big Boo" Black (Lea DeLaria) — to place her in the desirable Florida cell block and, presumably, not give her added time for her escape.
Frieda Berlin (Dale Soules) — Frieda also betrayed her friend, Galina "Red" Reznikov (Kate Mulgrew), in a bid to save herself after the events of the riot. It was revealed that, years ago, Frieda had also betrayed the Denning sisters to get placed out of Max and into minimum security. She feared for her life upon returning to the maximum security facility and requested to be placed away from bosses Carol Denning (Russell), Barb Denning (Phillips) and new enemy Red in Florida. When Red and Frieda finally encounter each other in the hallway, Red lunges at Frieda in an attempt to strangle her and the former prison cook is sent to solitary confinement as a result.
Galina "Red" Reznikov (Kate Mulgrew) — Despite enduring a physical trauma at the hands of Piscsatella during the riot, Red opted to not kill her attacker when she had the choice in season five. In season six, Red slowly comes to terms with the fact that her prison family has also named her as a riot instigator, and 10 years are added to her sentence. She finds common ground with her cell-block boss Carol and the two bond over their hatred for Frieda. When encountering Frieda in the hallway, Red was waiting in line to see her family, who had finally come to visit. She is presented with the choice of seeing her family or seeking revenge, and Red chooses to lunge at Frieda. The season ends with Red's placement in SHU, next to fellow kitchen boss Gloria Mendoza (Selenis Leyva).
Gloria Mendoza (Selenis Leyva) — Going into season six, Gloria was laser-focused on seeking revenge against Maria Ruiz (Jessica Pimentel) for stealing her chance to see her kids and ending the riot. As a result, Gloria names her as a riot instigator and Ruiz gets 10 more years to her sentence. After developing a surprising relationship with C.O. Luschek (Matt Peters), Gloria gains another enemy in Zirconia (Daniella De Jesus) and gets transferred to C-block, where she is surprised to discover that Daya Diaz (Dascha Polanco) is using and helping to supply drugs. But when Gloria eventually uncovers the guards' twisted game of Fantasy Inmate, she is sent to the SHU.
Maria Ruiz (Jessica Pimentel) — After entering Max with a target on her back for being a riot instigator, Maria is now facing more time away from her young daughter. But a near-death attack is viewed as a suicide attempt and she is sent to Psych, which ends up being a transformative experience. She eventually picks a spiritual path of redemption instead of continuing to seek revenge against Gloria and others, like "baby killer" Beth (Finnerty Steeves), who was her attacker. Ruiz is the one who suggests to C.O. McCullough (Emily Tarver) that the cell blocks separate themselves during the kickball game in hopes of preventing a deadly outcome. The moment also provides a step forward for Ruiz and McCullough, the latter of whom has been self-harming while working through her riot PTSD.
Daya Diaz (Dascha Polanco) — After turning herself in for firing off the gun that instigated the season five riot, the once wide-eyed Daya is now facing a life sentence for the death of C.O. Humps (Michael Torpey). Though Daya fired the gun at Humps and sent him bleeding out, it was Maureen Kukudio (Emily Althaus) who murdered Humps when she induced a stroke while in the medical ward. It was revealed that Kukudio died in season six, leaving Suzanne as the only knowledgeable party about how Humps was killed. Hopeless and in pain from guard abuse, Daya romantically links up with prison supplier Daddy (Vicci Martinez) and inserts herself in the C-block gang, while leaning on opioids to get through the day. Her daughter, meanwhile, has been adopted by the Mendez family — Pornstache (Pablo Schreiber) and his mother (Mary Steenburgen) — even though the vanished John Bennett (Matt McGorry) is the biological father.
Aleida Diaz (Elizabeth Rodriguez) — Aledia, Daya's mother, has been out on release since before the riot and struggling to earn a legitimate living so she can pull her kids out of foster care. She uses boyfriend Hopper to help smuggle drugs into the prison, where daughter Daya and partner Daddy sell them. When she realizes that Daya has developed an addiction herself, Aleida decides to continue the business with the head guard so she can make enough money to get the rest of her children back — the ones she says she can still save.
Nicky Nichols (Natasha Lyonne) — Nicky's loyalties are tested when she finds common ground with cell-block boss Barb Denning (Phillips). After bonding over the struggle to stay sober in prison, Barb recruits Nicky for her gang war against her sister's cell block, where Red has unknowingly become a target. Nicky sticks her neck out to save Red from an attack and, when finally convincing a very pregnant Lorna Morello (Yael Stone) to stay out of the gang war, she offers herself up for the game in a bid to keep Lorna hidden. The game ends up being a peaceful one and Nicky is unaware of Lorna's condition in the finale.
Lorna Morello (Yael Stone) — Heavily pregnant with husband Vinny's (John Magaro) baby, Lorna is last seen bleeding and being carried to the medical ward by one of the guards. She was saved from the kickball game by Nicky, marking the second time her perhaps soulmate saved her from a treacherous situation following the riot surrender.
Blanca Flores (Laura Gomez) — Blanca thought she was getting an early release, like Piper, in the season six finale. But in the final moments, the group of inmates who were granted early release are suddenly split into two lines. Piper’s group exits the prison grounds, but the other half — which includes Blanca — are greeted by ICE agents and a bus ready to transfer them to the for-profit prison’s newest venture: PolyCon's immigration detention center. As Blanca is putting the pieces together, her partner Diablo (Miguel Izaguirre) is seen cluelessly waiting for her, flowers in hand, in anticipation of bringing her home so they can start a family. The move opens the world up to tackle immigration detention centers in season seven.
Sophia Burset (Laverne Cox) — Sophia is also among the group of inmates who were granted early release due to a deal she made with PolyCon's Linda. Sophia was first approached by Caputo and asked to speak out in an attempt to help Taystee's case. But when Linda offered her early release and a significant sum of money for her silence, Sophia took the deal in a bid to put the family she had disappointed first. She is last seen reuniting with wife Crystal (Tanya Wright) on the outside.
Marisol "Flaca" Gonzales (Jackie Cruz) — Without her partner-in-crime Maritza Ramos (Danielle Guerrero) by her side, Flaca develops a friendship with her radio partner Cindy and serves as a sounding board for Cindy's Taystee crisis throughout the season. The finale ends with Flaca and Cindy announcing the kickball game over the prison airwaves.
Maritza Ramos (Danielle Guerrero) — Maritza, who makes up the other half of "Flaritza" with Flaca, was last seen in tears when being separated from her best friend after the riot. She boarded a different bus from Flaca and was missing for all of season six.
Zirconia (Daniella De Jesus) — Zirconia is a late arrival to season six when she enters Max after spending time in medical with Vause, who also had a broken bone. Zirconia developed a crush on C.O. Luschek when he broke her leg and carried her out of the prison during the riot. She becomes part of C-block in season six.
Madison "Badison" Murphy (Amanda Fuller) — The No. 2 to boss Carol, Badison is relegated in status shortly before Carol's death when Carol takes up an interest in Vause. Badison is the only inmate who tries to make the kickball gang war happen but is largely ignored in the end.
Daddy (Vicci Martinez) — The No. 2 to boss Barb, Daddy recruits a hopeless Daya to her gang. As Daya becomes more dependent on drugs, she and Daddy develop a romantic relationship. Daddy is last seen enjoying the kickball game when it turns fun instead of deadly.
The Denning Sisters (Mackenzie Phillips and Henny Russell) — Many of the Litchfield inmates are alive heading into season seven thanks to the long-feuding Denning sisters, Barb and Carol, of B and C block, respectively. They were imprisoned as teenagers for killing their 8-year-old sister and had been warring since their early days of incarceration. After plotting a gang war between their respective cell blocks, Barb and Carol shiv and kill each other in the finale while fighting over a story they stole from a black waitress when they were young and had been claiming as their own for decades.
Joe Caputo (Nick Sandow) — The former warden is sidelined by MCC/PolyCon after the riot and is eventually forced to either back PolyCon or fight for Taystee as the season unfolds; he chooses the latter. He testifies on behalf of Taystee and tries to get the guard who actually killed Piscatella to tell the truth, but he fails at both attempts. At the end of season six, he is seen leaning on girlfriend Natalie "Fig" Figueroa (Alysia Reiner), who has become a surprising soundboard and emotional relationship for Caputo.
Natalie "Fig" Figueroa (Alysia Reiner) — Fig is reinstated as warden at Litchfield Max when Caputo is sent out to pasture. The new gig finds her working with Caputo's ex Linda, who has risen up the ranks at PolyCon. After working together as negotiators during the riot, Fig continues to help Caputo during his season six struggle and the pair develop an unlikely true romance by the end of the season.
Linda Ferguson (Beth Dover) — Linda blackmails PolyCon into giving her a promotion when she threatens to tell the story of how she was left inside Litchfield during the riot and treated like a prisoner. Linda uses her newfound power to enact revenge on ex-boyfriend Caputo, until he eventually quits. She continues to serve as the main mouthpiece for the owners of the for-profit prison and announces the immigration detention center at the end of season six.
Carrie "Big Boo" Black (Lea DeLaria) — Big Boo is only briefly seen during season six at the Ohio Max facility that some of the prisoners were sent to after the riot. Ouija (Rosal Colon) and "Skinhead Helen" (Francesca Curran) are also present when Big Boo continues to sabotage Linda's attempts to identify herself. Despite her protests about being an employee of MCC, Linda's head is shaved when the Ohio facility is hit with a lice outbreak only moments before MCC comes to release her — much to Boo's enjoyment.
Lolly Whitehall (Lori Petty) — The sixth season provided two updates on Lolly, who was sent to the Psych ward in Max when the dead guard's body was discovered in the garden in season four. Lolly was first spotted by Suzanne during a "Cha Cha Slide" hallucination/dance number and she also gives Ruiz advice during her quick stint in Psych.
Sam Healy (Michael Harney) — After suffering a mental breakdown over sending Lolly to Psych, the former Litchfield adviser was seen in season six outside of the mental institution he had checked himself into and putting the prison behind him during a conversation with Caputo at a smoothie shop.
C.O. Joel Luschek (Matt Peters) — As head of recreation at Max, Luschek develops a crush on Gloria until she is threatened to stay away from class. Luschek helps Badison to smuggle in cell phones and uses his earnings to buy a DeLorean car. Instead of listening to Gloria and trying to stop the potentially deadly game of kickball, Luschek is last seen driving away in the Back to the Future collector's item.
C.O. Tamika Ward (Susan Heyward) — The Max C.O. serves as a foil to Taystee's fate when the sixth season explores the past and current relationship between the former friends. Ward ends up looking out for Taystee inside and is visibly upset when hearing the verdict at her trial.
C.O. Artesian McCullough (Emily Tarver) — The Litchfield guard struggles when she returns to Litchfield Max in season six. She is self-harming and dealing with PTSD from the abuse the guards endured during the riot.
C.O. Rick Hopper (Hunter Emery) — The head guard pursues Aleida and asks her to come live with him and his mother. At first, he is furious to find out that Aleida has been using him to smuggle drugs into the prison. But when he begins to resent his position, he agrees to continue the business and serves as the main source for drugs entering Litchfield.
C.O.s Alvarez (Nicholas Webber), Ginger (Shawna Hamic), Hellman (Greg Vrotsos) Stefanovic (Josh Segarra), Lee Dixon (Mike Houston), Blake (Nick Dillenburg) — the rest of the old and new Litchfield Max C.O.s bonded together in season six over a sadistic game of Fantasy Inmate that left inmates neglected and abused.
Pidge (Miriam Morales), Kasey Sankey (Kelly Karbacz), Brandy Epps (Asia Kate Dillon) — The white supremacists of Litchfield — Brandy, Helen and Sankey — teamed up with the rebels of the Spanish Harlem dorm — Ouija, Zirconia and Pidge — to fight off the officers who entered the prison at the end of the riot in season five. Zirconia makes it to Litchfield Max in season six but, aside from the brief Helen and Ouija cameo, the rest are missing from season six.
Janae Watson (Vicky Jeudy) and Alison Abdullah (Amanda Stephen) — The pair were separated from the rest of their Ghetto Dorm family of Taystee, Cindy and Suzanne after the riot and were missing from season six.
Brook Soso (Kimiko Glenn) — Also missing from season six is Soso, who boarded the same bus as Maritza. Soso had planted herself in the library memorial she helped create as a tribute for girlfriend Poussey when she was carried out by the C.E.R.T. officers when they stormed the prison to end the riot.
Gina Murphy (Abigail Savage), Norma Romano (Annie Golden), Anita DeMarco (Lin Tucci) and Yoga Jones (Constance Shulman) — Red's old kitchen crew and extended family bailed from Frieda's bunker once the riot men entered the prison. Despite their allegiance to Red, they wanted to claim their innocence. They were all seen boarding one of the busses together after the riot ended and were missing in season six.
Leanne Taylor (Emma Myles) and Angie Rice (Julie Lake) — The meth-head duo of Litchfield, also missing from season six, vowed to change things around and do some good when they burned all the prison records at the end of the riot. Leanne sees that her mother has come when they are lined up outside and awaiting to be bussed away from Litchfield at the end of season five.
Judy King (Blair Brown) — After being stuck in Litchfield for part of the riot, the celebrity chef shares her story about the prison uprising on live television. She is joined by Aleida during the TV interview and their exchange ends up helping to identify Daya for her role in the riot and shooting C.O. Humphrey. Judy never returns to help her Litchfield friends in season six.
Chang (Lori Tan Chinn) — The commissary queen escaped through the hole in the fence during the chaos of the riot. In season six, Fig casually mentions that authorities found the fugitive sleeping in a hollowed-out deer carcass.
Stephanie Hapakuka (Jolene Purdy) — Piper's Litchfield bunkmate was last seen at the end of the season five riot when she surrendered in the chapel with the rest of the peaceful inmates.
George "Pornstache" Mendez (Pablo Schreiber) — The formerly sadistic guard-in-charge of Litchfield served time in prison for the illegal relationship he had with Daya. Following a season-three update where Pornstache, without his signature facial hair, was being visited by his mother in prison, the fifth season showed the biological father of Daya's baby in the background of a phone call between Daya and his mother, Delia (Mary Steenburgen). During the call, Daya asks Deila to adopt her daughter and Pornstache has an emotional response upon learning that the baby survived childbirth, unlike what Aleida had initially told them.
John Bennett (Matt McGorry) — Daya's fiance abandons her in season three. Despite agreeing to go along with their plan to frame Pornstache as a rapist and the father of their unborn baby, Bennett gets cold feet after a visit to Daya's stepfather's house and leaves their new crib on the side of the road before driving off and vanishing.
Sister Jane Ingalls (Beth Fowler) — In the fourth season, Sophia is told that the nun was let out on compassionate release after coming down with pneumonia. Sister Jane had gotten herself sent to SHU in a bid to help friend Sophia.
Stella Carlin (Ruby Rose) — After a key role in season three as a romantic interest for Piper, the leading inmate sends Stella down to Max when she finds out that her new girlfriend stole from her Felonious Spunk prison panty business. The Stella and Piper relationship happened during the break-up period between Piper and Alex. The fourth season saw a cameo from Stella when it was revealed that she and Nicky also had a fling when in Max.
Baxter Bayley (Alan Aisenberg) — Bayley, the white guard who accidentally killed Poussey, returned in the fifth season as a broken man attempting to live with what he had done. When no one punished him for the crime, he quit his job at Litchfield and was last seen boarding a bus to the unknown.
Wanda Bell (Catherine Curtin) and Scott O'Neill (Joel Marsh Garland) — Former Litchfield C.O.s Bell and O'Neill married and were expecting a baby when Bayley paid them a visit during his hiatus from Litchfield in season five.
Larry Bloom (Jason Biggs) and Polly Harper (Maria Dizzia) — The last Piper heard, her ex-fiance and former best friend, Polly, were happily playing house together. The pair got together during the second season and Piper gave them her blessing when they asked during their last encounter. Larry also appeared in a season five flashback during Alex and Piper's proposal episode.
Carol Chapman (Deborah Rush) and Cal Chapman (Michael Chernus) — Piper keeps in touch regularly with Cal, who is expecting a baby with his free-spirit wife Neri (Tracee Chimo). Cal is the family member to pick Piper up when she is released in the season six finale. Piper has been estranged from her disapproving father since her prison stint, but the fifth season riot served as a turning point in her relationship with her mother, Carol, who showed up for her daughter and supported her relationship with Alex. What relationships Piper will maintain on the outside will be explored in season seven.
Bookmark THR.com/OITNB for continuing season seven coverage of OITNB, which releases the final 13 episodes July 26 on Netflix.