The cast of Orange Is the New Black
Jill Greenberg/Netflix

Finally, it’s time to get back to the ladies of Litchfield as Orange Is the New Black returns for a fourth season. It officially returns early Friday morning, but Netflix has been known to surprise by dropping episodes early. The last time we saw the inmates, a mixup enabled them to get free and frolic in a lake. Except for Alex, who appears to be facing death.

Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren (Uzo Aduba)

Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren (Uzo Aduba)
Netflix

Crazy Eyes, still dealing with Vee’s death, finds an outlet by writing fiction—a bizarre sci-fi erotica series called Time Hump Chronicles. Her growing fan club can’t get enough of reading about Space Admiral Rodcocker, who is based on one of the correction officers. The pressure freaks out Crazy Eyes. Everything freaks out Crazy Eyes, who gets attention from a young inmate, Maureen, who is a groupie. Despite her otherworldly smut, Crazy Eyes has no real-life sexual experience, so she doesn’t know what to do about her would-be girlfriend. During last season’s finale, Crazy Eyes and Maureen flirt and hold hands.

Gloria Mendez (Selenis Leyva) and Sophia Burset (Laverne Cox)

Gloria Mendez (Selenis Leyva) and Sophia Burset (Laverne Cox)
Netflix

The mothers bond over their sons. The two arrange to have their sons ride together on visits to Litchfield, but that plan doesn’t work out. Sophia thinks Gloria’s son, Bendito, is a bad influence on her own son, Michael, and stops letting Benito get a ride to prison anymore, which starts a feud. It’s later revealed that Michael was the one causing trouble. Sophia is in a full-fledged war with Gloria’s Latina crew and they make Sophia a pariah—even Taystee starts getting her weave done by Sophia’s unseen rival, Danita. The weave looks like a hot mess, so let that be a lesson to you, Taystee. Ultimately, the Latina crew corner Sophia, taunt her about being transgender, pull off her wig and beat her. When she’s unsatisfied with the prison’s response, they “keep her safe” by sending her to the SHU, which means she’ll probably endure solitary isolation in the hellhole.

Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling)

Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling)
Netflix

Piper masterminds a plan to sell used panties on the outside. It’s disgusting but profitable, so I won’t judge her. The inmates get in on the plan but figure out that Piper is “underpaying” them by shortchanging them on commissary items. When the panty providers unite and confront Piper, she agrees to their demands for better pay but then coldly fires Flaca, who organized the protest. Piper has become a full-on dictator. She even turns on Stella Carlin (Ruby Rose), a bad-girl inmate she had a relationship with. Stella tattoos a motto on Piper’s arm: “Trust no bitch.” Stella, who is about to be released, steals Piper’s panty money. Piper retaliates by putting all sorts of contraband in Stella’s bunk, screwing up her release. Stella should have taken her own advice.

Alex Vause (Laura Prepon)

Alex Vause (Laura Prepon)
Netflix

Alex’s life on the outside ends when Piper rats her out for a probation violation. Alex’s life was in danger because she ratted out drug kingpin Kubra, and Piper was trying to help her ex-girlfriend. With Alex back in prison, she and Piper make up with hate sex. A weird prisoner, Lolly, starts stalking Alex and taking notes about what she is doing. Alex thinks Lolly was sent by Kubra to kill her, but it turns out that Lolly is a tinfoil-hat loon and thought Alex was part of some conspiracy theory. Alex has reason to stay worried: In the last scene she’s cornered by a new guard sent by Kubra.

Norma Romano (Annie Golden)

Norma Romano (Annie Golden)
Netflix

Sweet-natured mute Norma seems to perform some miracles, which leads to the forming of a spiritual group. She ends up being the unintentional leader of a cult. Eventually tension arises and Leanne Taylor bullies nonbelievers and cuts off Brook Soso’s hair in the middle of the night. Just when her followers lose faith, there is a construction incident, allowing the inmates to get past a fence and frolic in a lake.

Poussey Washington (Samira Wiley)

Poussey Washington (Samira Wiley)
Netflix

Poussey is still dealing with depression because of the death of her mother. Not to mention that she is ostracized by the other black girls because she had it out with Vee. She starts consuming too much of her homemade hooch and becomes an alcoholic. Poussey gets herself together and realizes she is lonely and wants a girlfriend. Her straight bestie, Taystee, is willing to cuddle, but that’s it. Soso is also having problems: She’s been bullied and attempts suicide. Poussey nurses her back to health, and it’s implied that Soso will be Poussey’s girlfriend.

Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson (Danielle Brooks)

Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson (Danielle Brooks)
Netflix

Frankly, Taystee didn’t have nearly enough to do last season. With Vee gone, the black crew doesn’t have a mother figure. She has to calm down Crazy Eyes a lot and is annoyed but finally realizes that she’s the head of the family.

Nicky Nichols (Natasha Lyonne)

Nicky Nichols (Natasha Lyonne)
Netflix

Nicky is struggling to manage her heroin addiction when she runs across a valuable stash in one of the vents; we all knew it was going to end badly. Nicky schemes to sell the heroin outside the prison with help from shady Joel Luschek, who lazily manages the electrical shop. The plan goes sideways, and when the warden, Joe Caputo, finds Luschek, he rats out Nicky. The last time we see Nicky, she is being driven to the dreaded maximum security.

Black Cindy Hayes (Adrienne C. Moore)

Black Cindy Hayes (Adrienne C. Moore)
Netflix screenshot

The prison starts offering mass-produced slop for the inmates, but the Kosher meals are better. So many prisoners pretend to be Jewish that a rabbi is brought in to confirm their religion. Even though Black Cindy can only make references to Woody Allen and Barbra Streisand films, she is the most persistent, and eventually she quits her antics because she has learned enough about Judaism to want to convert. To finalize the conversion, Black Cindy needs a ritual bath, which she gets to do when the inmates escape to the lake.

Galina “Red” Reznikov (Kate Mulgrew)

Galina “Red” Reznikov (Kate Mulgrew)

Red is thrilled to return to the kitchen as head chef, but it turns out the prison is saving money with industrial containers of slop. Red is humiliated and wants everyone to know it’s not her cooking. Eventually she harvests some produce from a veggie garden she’d started and serves the food to lucky lottery winners.

Tiffany “Pennsatucky” Doggett (Taryn Manning) and

Big Boo (Lea DeLaria)

Tiffany “Pennsatucky” Doggett (Taryn Manning) and Big Boo (Lea DeLaria)
Netflix

An unlikely friendship forms between butch Boo Boo and anti-gay hillbilly Pennsatucky. It will come as a surprise to no one that Pennsatucky specializes in low-self-esteem sex, so she is drawn into a relationship with one of the new employees, Charlie. Official van driver Pennsatucky pulls off the road for some demeaning “bark like a dog” sex. When they have a dispute, he rapes her. Big Boo wants revenge, and they set up a scheme to rape Charlie with a broomstick. At the last minute, Pennsatucky can’t go through with it, but she solves the problem by faking a seizure and crashing the van. Declared unfit, she doesn’t have to drive around with Charlie anymore.

Lorna Morello Muccio (Yael Stone)

Lorna Morello Muccio (Yael Stone)
Netflix

Scam artist Lorna sets up a racket, becoming pen pals with lonely men, who end up sending her money. One of the men, Vince Muccio, catches on but still loves her. She even gets him to beat up her former “boyfriend” Chris, the man she stalked and terrorized. Vince and Lorna get married and consummate the relationship up against a vending machine.

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Elaine G. Flores is a New York writer, editor and bon vivant. She’s a hard-core shipper and excommunicated soap opera reviewer. Her fictional dinner-party guests include Omar Little, Buffy Summers, Abigail Mills and Ichabod Crane. You can visit her site, TV Recappers Delight.