Orange is the New Black: Finding a Balm for Your Pain

Natasha Lyonne

Orange is the New Black season 4 puts viewers through the wringer. Abuse, murder, death, mental illness, surviving rape, corporate greed. It’s dark and horrifying. There are moments of hope, of light. There are ways of dealing. I thought it would good to end my series of posts on the latest season of Orange is the New Black with something brighter. There are spoilers ahead. 

The characters must find a balm for their souls. Unless you’re the rare individual like Sister Ingalls (Beth Fowler) who can take comfort in God, healing comes from less otherworldly places.


Nicky (Natasha Lyonne) back! Nicky was in max most of season 3. In season 4, we first get a glimpse of her in episode 6. By episode 7 she’s back in the general population. I love Nicky. I love her snark and her dark humor. I’m so glad to see her back.

Nicky did great in max. She got a 3 year pin from AA for being clean and sober. While in max, her sex buddy was Stella (Ruby Rose). When she saw that Stella was using, she dumped her.

Nicky ran into Sophia (Laverne Cox) as part of her cleaning duties in the halls of SHU. Sophia asked her for a blanket. She couldn’t provide one. The next time she cleaned in that hallway, she was told to clean up all the blood in cell 12 – Sophia’s cell.

Her guilt about Sophia led to a slip. She ‘bought’ drugs (payment by oral sex) from a guard. This happened on the very day the paperwork was signed to return her to minimum security. By the time she found out she was going to the general population, it was too late.

At first, Nicky lies about using, especially to Red (Kate Mulgrew). Her strategy for survival is sex. Sex is her substitute for drugs. She makes passes at Morello (Yael Stone) and Vause (Laura Prepon) but gets nowhere.

When Nicky gets serious about going cold turkey one more time, Doggett (Taryn Manning) is the one who helps her. Doggett holds her head while she pukes, sits with her through it all. Doggett even has a few gems of wisdom for Nicky. Doggett explains it, “I think I got smarter when I quit using drugs.”

If Nicky manages to stay clean, she’s going to need sex. She just is. Nicky and Morello have a couple of lovers quarrels about their relationship because Morello is insistent on being a faithful married lady. However, Morello is the one Nicky actually cares about. We’ll see what happens in season 5 with those two.


There are many friendships I could talk about in Orange is the New Black, but Flaca (Jackie Cruz) and Maritza (Diane Guerrero) are my chosen couple for today.

Jackie Cruz, Michael Torpey and Diane Guerrero in Orange is the New Black

Since season 1, Flaca and Maritza have supported and helped each other. They confide in each other. They laugh together.

In season 4, with Maritza driving the van, she’s vulnerable to the psycho CO Humphrey (Michael Torpey). He forces her to eat a live mouse. He holds a gun to her head to make her do it.

She pukes repeatedly afterwards. Flaca is there to give her comfort. Maritza has always been a pretty happy person, but she’s traumatized by Humphrey. She really needs Flaca now.

Friendship is a form of love, but not the kind of love I want to talk about next.


Piper (Taylor Schilling) and Alex (Laura Prepon) do love and care about each other. They have their betrayals and breakups, but they care.

Taylor Schilling and Laura Prepon in Orange is the New Black

When Piper learns about Alex killing the guy sent to assassinate her, she’s there for support. When Alex sees how Maria (Jessica Pimentel) branded Piper, she’s there for support.

These two need each other. For everything. Especially for the love they bring to each other. They have a long history. They understand each other.

By the end of season 4, they are hiding out in Lolly’s (Lori Petty) giant cardboard time machine having sex. Who knows how long the intimate part of their relationship will last this time, but they will continue to be entwined emotionally forever.


James McMenamin and Taryn Manning in Orange is the New Black

Tiffany ‘Pennsatucky’ Doggett spends season 4 dealing with her rape at the hands of Charlie ‘Donuts’ Coates (James McMenamin).

At one point, she confronts him and tells him he raped her. He makes excuses at the time. Later he comes back and apologizes. He’s not truly honest about it, but Doggett accepts it. She says she’s tired of feeling sad all the time.

Big Boo (Lea DeLaria) gets angry with Doggett for acting friendlier toward Coates. Their friendship is strained by this. In episode 12, Doggett and Boo have a serious conversation. Doggett tells Big Boo she misses her.

Doggett says, “There’s pain and there’s suffering. Suffering is a choice. I forgave him for me.” Doggett talked about actually reading the Bible and finding some wisdom there. She’s made a long journey from crazed Jesus freak to wisdom seeker.

Women in prison need every kind of coping mechanism invented. Food, books, power, rage, drama. Whatever works. Whatever keeps hope alive.

Season 4 was grim. But the individual lives always contain that spark of life and hope. These were just 4 such examples.

3 thoughts on “Orange is the New Black: Finding a Balm for Your Pain”

  1. Johanna SEDIRA

    I just discovered this website and I’m sooo loving this, so much insightful and interesting articles
    Thank you for that!

  2. Pingback: Six Years of Thoughts on Orange is the New Black - Old Ain't Dead

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