A lot has changed at Litchfield since doubling the inmate population, but at least one thing’s still the same: Luschek is still the worst. Seriously, I know it can be hard to find decent prison staff, but how is this guy still employed? He’s lazy, rude, constantly high, and just generally a terrible human being who’s bad at his job. Someone needs to knock him down a peg, preferably as soon as possible.
And in this episode, someone does! Turns out Luschek has been getting a lot of angry, profanity-laden letters recently from everyone’s favorite sarcastic, redheaded former junkie.
That’s right: Nicky Nichols is back.
Last season was disappointingly light on Nichols screen time; when Luschek got caught selling Vee’s old heroin, he placed all the blame on Nichols, who soon got shipped off to maximum security. Finally, we get an update on how she’s been doing — and she’s not doing great. As bad as things are in Litchfield right now, max is worse, which is why Nichols spends all her time writing angry anonymous letters to Luschek and trying to steer clear of the drugs that are seemingly everywhere in max. When we first see her, she’s just earned a sobriety chip.
“This valueless piece of crappy plastic really means a lot to me,” she tells her fellow AA attendees. It’s an uplifting moment that’s immediately undercut when the guards promptly confiscate her sobriety chip. So yeah, max seems like a pleasant place.
This is a jam-packed episode, with a lot of little plotlines, but we spend a good deal of time in max, checking in on Nichols. There, she runs into Piper’s ex Stella, and Sophia, who’s still locked in the dungeon that is SHU. If we thought Sophia was struggling earlier, she’s apparently hit rock bottom. It’s heartbreaking to watch her beg Nichols to bring her a blanket, and even more so when she desperately calls after Nicky, asking, “What’s it like outside today? Is it raining?” Nichols does manage to smuggle her a magazine, but the next time she returns to SHU on janitorial duty, Sophia is gone, and her cell is stained with blood. It’s enough to finally break Nicky, and the last we see of her, she’s making a desperate exchange with a guard, trading sex for heroin.
Back at Litchfield, all of Nicky’s letters are finally getting through to Luschek, and he confides in Judy King that he’s feeling something — something she informs him is guilt. “You are a straight white man,” she tells him. “You don’t get to be a victim, sweetie.” (Which is a saying I think needs plastered everywhere.) He considers turning himself in to get Nicky out of max, but Judy decides Luschek is far too valuable a resource to let go, so she has her (very expensive) lawyer get Nicky transferred back to Litchfield. In return, Luschek is officially Judy King’s plaything, and apparently, what Judy King wants, Judy King gets.
NEXT: Piper’s problem