Orange Is the New Black: Your Ultimate Guide to the Flashbacks
Orange Is the New Black is a complex show. It's constantly darting back and forth between the present day and the past, and over the course of seven seasons, there have been a hell of a lot of flashbacks. We've found out why a lot of the inmates are in prison and gotten some general looks back at their previous lives. To mark the groundbreaking drama's final season, here is the ultimate guide to every flashback we've gotten over the years.
Piper Chapman and Alex Vause
The entire first season is strewn with flashbacks of Alex and Piper showing how their relationship (before prison) progressed. We also get some solo flashbacks of Alex having conversations with her drug lord boss.
Galina "Red" Reznikov
During season one, we see Red's life before prison, back when she was a wife struggling to fit in with the rest of the women in town. Eventually, she discovers that she's talented at business and starts hanging around the men.
In season one, we flash back to when Sophia had just been starting to come out to her family as a trans woman.
Miss Claudette Pelage
Remember Miss Claudette? In season one, we get a glimpse of her childhood as an immigrant forced into child labor. Later, we see her as the boss of the whole operation.
Aleida and Dayanara Diaz
We see how messed up the Diaz household is during season one when we flash back to Aleida cutting drugs at their kitchen table. Later, Daya seduces her mother's boyfriend as payback.
During season one, we get to know Watson's previous life as a track and field star who puts herself around the wrong crowd.
Before Tricia's overdose at the end of season one, we see her life as a homeless junkie.
Tiffany "Pennsatucky" Doggett
At the end of season one, we meet a pre-Litchfield Doggett, who gets unexpected support from a Christian coalition when she shoots an orderly at the abortion clinic.
In the beginning of season two, we flash all the way back to Piper's childhood, when she sees her father kissing another woman. She tells her mother, but her mom just brushes it under the rug.
Piper Chapman and Alex Vause, Part 2
Also in the first episode of season two, we get a flashback of Piper and Alex hanging out with the drug lords. Piper lies to her father on the phone, telling him that she's traveling around Europe with Polly. We continue to get flashbacks to the demise of their relationship, plus one of Piper and Polly having girl talk. Later, we see more of Alex on her own, at her mother's funeral, and with her boss.
Tasha "Taystee" Jefferson and Yvonne "Vee" Parker
Vee is introduced to Litchfield in season two, and we see how her past intersects with Taystee's via flashbacks. Drug-dealing Vee meets Taystee at a young age and takes her under her wing. We get another flashback of their world later in the season.
Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren
The first flashback we get at Suzanne's old life comes in season two, when her adoptive family welcomes a second "miracle" child. We also see years later, when her mother defends her at a birthday party, and then when Suzanne has a meltdown at her high school graduation.
We meet young Lorna (and her obsessive dream boards) during season two. The flashback includes a scene in which she gets on the phone with Prada and tells them she never received the shoes she ordered and wants a full refund. (She says this while wearing the shoes.)
On season two, we see that Gloria used to own a convenience store, where she participated in EBT fraud. She had finally had enough of her abusive boyfriend, but when she was about to run away, he called the cops on her. He got his comeuppance when he sneaked in to get her cash and accidentally lit the back room (which Gloria's sister was using as a spiritual business) on fire and trapped himself in.
In our first Poussey flashback, we see her as an army brat currently living in Germany. She forms a relationship with another girl and is heartbroken when they're torn apart.
In Cindy's season two flashback, we learn that she was once an airline security guard who stole pricey things from travelers. We also find out that she has a daughter, who she left to her mother to raise.
Miss Rosa Cisneros
Ah, Miss Rosa! We see into her bank-robbing past in the second season.
Sister Jane Ingalls
Also in season two, we meet Sister Ingalls when she had just joined the convent and made waves for rallying against the Vietnam War.
Tiffany "Pennsatucky" Doggett, Part 2
We get a lot of flashbacks in the first episode of season three, "Mother's Day." The first of which is a look back at how Pennsatucky's mom used to make her chug Mountain Dew to appear to have ADHD so she would get more social security money.
Sophia Burset, Part 2
Next, we get a flashback to Sophia and her wife, Crystal, preparing for the birth of their child.
"Mother's Day" is also the first episode where we get to see into Nicky's past; she grew up in a very rich New York household with a nanny and an emotionally neglectful mother.
Poussey Washington, Part 2
In the same episode, Poussey is shown reading with her mother in bed.
Next up is Sam, who we see as a child interacting with his mentally disturbed mother.
Aleida and Dayanara Diaz, Part 2
Finally, we get a flashback to Aleida in the hospital after giving birth to Daya. She's full of hope, with no idea of what awaits her.
We also see Bennett during his time in the military. He makes a dance video with his friends and later, when sh*t hits the fan, he hits the floor. The flashback prefaces the moment he decides to turn his back on his and Daya's baby.
Nicky Nichols, Part 2
In Nicky's second flashback, we see her as a junkie who steals a car to get her fix. Even her mother's cash can't keep her out of jail.
Carrie "Big Boo" Black
We see Big Boo in several different parts of her life during the fourth episode of season three. The first flashback shows her as a kid who hated wearing dresses, the second as an adult with some anger issues, and the third is a sad look at how she didn't say goodbye to her dying mother because the way she dressed would upset her.
Marisol "Flaca" Gonzales
Flaca's flashback shows how she had started selling fake drugs at school, but one kid took one and killed himself because he thought he was high.
Chang keeps to herself, but during season three, we see that her brother had once tried to sell her off as a bride. The buyer refused because she wasn't pretty enough. She proved her worth by knocking out a guy who tried to rip off her family, supposedly ordering her men to remove his gallbladder.
Back in the '70s, Norma was so into her cult leader that she married him. She stuck with him until the very end . . . until she got frustrated with him and pushed him off a cliff, to his death.
It's also revealed during season three that Leanne grew up in an Amish community but left as a teenager.
Tiffany "Pennsatucky" Doggett, Part 3
Episode 10 of season three is a Pennsatucky episode, and we see her mom give her some terrible life advice when she gets her period, then later she meets Nathan, the first guy who treats her like an actual person. He has to move away, and she goes back to turning tricks.
We finally get a peek into Caputo's past as a terrible teenage wrestler during season three. As a young adult, he left his band to raise his girlfriend's child, the biological father of whom was a member in the band. The band went on to be successful, and Caputo's girlfriend later took their kid and went to be with the biological father. Tough break.
Dayanara and Aleida Diaz, Part 3
Near the end of season three, we get a flashback to Aleida sending Daya to Summer camp for "city kids," because she really just wants to get her out of the house. When she goes tot pick her up, it becomes apparent that Aleida really missed Daya and was jealous of the connections Daya formed with the counselors and other kids. When they get home, Aleida throws away all of Daya's artwork.
As Soso lies unconscious in the library during the season three finale, we get a flashback to her as a little girl practicing playing piano while her mother reprimanded her.
Gloria Mendoza, Part 2
Also in the finale, we flash back to the moment Gloria finds out that her baby is a boy.
Sam Healy, Part 2
In Sam's second flashback, he ran up to a church pleading for the priest to help his sick mother. Instead, a homeless man who looked like Jesus walked up to him and puked on him.
Season four focuses on Maria a lot, so it's fitting that the second episode flashes back to her life as a child. We meet her father, the leader of a Dominican Republic Pride organization, and we see how she had fallen for a Mexican boxer. Eventually, he father kicked her out of their house.
Brook Soso, Part 2
We get more insight into Soso's past in season four. This series of flashbacks shows Soso when she was an anti-Walmart activist going door to door. She had made a bet with her friends about going to a sex offender's house, and when they teased her about it, she lied and said the man had tried to make a move on her.
Sam Healy, Part 3
We get yet another look at Sam's past with his troubled mother during season four. When he was a child, Sam's father had committed his mother, and when she returned, she was different. She tried to ask for Sam's help, but he didn't understand, and he had carried the guilt for years after. Into adulthood, he hadn't been able to maintain a relationship and once had convinced himself that a homeless woman was his mother.
Ramos seems very out of place in prison, and her presence there makes a little more sense when we get a flashback to her past in season four. Once upon a time, she had been a clever petty thief, tricking guys into paying for bottles of fake alcohol that she had "accidentally" broken. She moved on to (attempting to) steal cars and had gotten herself in a sticky situation before making off like a bandit with a Ferrari.
Young Lolly (expertly played by Christina Brucato) had been a reporter who may have been either really good at her job or really paranoid, but probably both. We also see Lolly had eventually become homeless and made a living by selling coffee out of her grocery cart.
Also during season four, we get a look at how before prison, Blanca had been a caretaker to a terrible old woman who so disapproved of Blanca's friendship with the gardener that she fired him. Blanca had responded by having sex with him in the old lady's bedroom in the middle of the night. Didn't see that one coming, did you?
Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren, Part 2
We finally see why Suzanne winds up at Litchfield in season four. In the heartbreaking series of flashbacks, we see that she had been a greeter at a superstore — and she was actually really good at her job. One day at the park, she saw a kid whose family regularly came to the store. Because she doesn't quite understand social norms, she invited him back to her house to play games. When he tried to leave, she blocked his path, and he ended up falling off the fire escape.
Baxter "Gerber" Bayley
Toward the end of season four, we see the baby-faced guard's life before he becomes a guard at Litchfield. Before accidentally perpetrating the show's most tragic murder, Bayley had just been a local teen who hung out at the water tower by the prison and gave out free soft serve to cute girls.
Poussey Washington, Part 2
In the wake of Poussey's murder, we get a series of flashbacks to one of the most exciting nights of her life. She had returned to the states after a time abroad and was exploring New York with her friends; she had gotten separated and had a crazy night filled with unexpected new friends. The final shot of season four is her smiling face, looking directly into the camera.
Janae Watson, Part 2
Janae has one of the more heartbreaking flashbacks of season five. We see her as a young teenager at a public school, where she’s one of the top students in her class. Her teacher takes note of her insatiable desire to learn and floats the idea of Janae getting a scholarship to a nearby private school, and even sets her up with a tour of the academy. As Janae is led around the fancy school — with its brand-new computers and all-white student body — her love of education dwindles. By the time she gets back to her own school, she’s completely dejected by the fact that, as a young, lower-income black student, she’ll have to work twice has hard to get half as far as her rich, white counterparts. It’s incredibly sad, but does offer an explanation for her first flashback, in which she robs a bank.
Galina "Red" Reznikov, Part 2
Are you ready to see Red as a 20-something? Her season five flashback sends us to Russia, where Red and a friend, Nadezhda, are just trying to get through the monotony of their factory jobs while withering under the Soviet Union’s restrictive rule. After complaining about how she hates her boring boyfriend, Dmitri, Red and her friend end up meeting some dreamy, blue-jeans-loving guys who run an illegal speakeasy. It doesn’t take long for the USSR to catch wind of the illegal activities, and Red’s friend disappears without a trace. By the end of the episode, Red and Dmitri make up, and he proposes they escape Russia and go to America by getting married and pretending to be Jewish.
C.O. Desi Piscatella
Piscatella is one of OITNB most vile villains, and his season five flashback attempts to make us sympathize with him a little bit. Long before he started working at Litchfield, Piscatella was a happy, fresh-faced C.O. at a men’s prison, where he entered into an illicit relationship with one of the inmates. When a gang figured out Piscatella was gay, they beat his lover to a bloody pulp, leaving Piscatella with a thirst for vengeance. He takes the leader of the gang to the prison showers and chains him up under two streams of scalding hot water, and the inmate dies from his burns.
What’s even more surprising than finding out that Alison Abdullah has bright red hair under her hijab? She used to be one third of a polyamorous relationship. After Alison and her husband decide that managing their failing business and taking care of their teenage daughter is too hard, she convinces him to bring another woman, Sahar (Malika Samuel), into the marriage to ease the stress. At first it goes smoothly, but soon Alison starts getting jealous of the new addition. We never find out why she’s in prison, but it sure seems like it has something to do with Sahar . . .
Being a vicious sorority sister in college helps pave the way for Linda's lack of self-awareness later on in life. Her 90s hair-filled flashback reveals she let one of her Alpha Zeta Delta sisters freeze to death one night, but callously lied her way out of it.
Tasha "Taystee" Jefferson, Part 2
In our second flashback featuring Taystee, the endearing future inmate gets a visit from the woman who gave her up for adoption as a baby. Needless to say, it doesn't go as planned.
Dayanara Diaz, Part 2
We get to see young Daya again in season five, only this time she's 14-years-old and taking some very bad advice from her mom. Aleida convinces Daya to steal her best friend's boyfriend, which backfires and leaves her feeling more alone than ever.
Before she was building a bunker in the bottom of Litchfield, Frieda was a resourceful, resilient young Nature Scout being raised by a single dad terrified of a Communist invasion. His paranoia leads him to teach her hardcore survivalist skills, which she shows off in a few scenes after he abandons her in the woods to fend for herself.
Piper Chapman, Part 2
Season five contains another flashback explaining Piper's relationship with Alex. She gets a tattoo of a "beauty fish" to inspire Alex to see magic in the world (who is ruining their tropical vacation with her negativity). There's also a glimpse of Larry later on, as he gets a tattoo of the Kool-Aid man on his butt.
Cindy Hayes, Part 2
Season six introduces us to a young Cindy. The 16-year-old is in the midst of having sex with a classmate in her high school locker room, and it's revealed that not only does he have a girlfriend (who isn't Cindy), but that she's pregnant with his child. He doesn't realize she's pregnant, though, and she refuses to tell her parents who the father is (she says she actually loves him and doesn't want to ruin things).
Frieda, Carol, and Barb
There's a flashback to a young Frieda, Carol, and Barb in season six shortly after they all meet in the same prison decades earlier. Frieda and Carol are doing pretty well for themselves by selling drugs via a hideout they have in the library. Carol is seen clashing with her older sister, Barb, who's a rival drug dealer. The third episode wraps up with young Frieda selling out Carol and Barb by giving both their stash and information about the drug rings to the warden in exchange for being transferred somewhere better.
Nicky Nichols, Part 3
Are you ready for a glimpse into Nicky Nichols's psyche? In this season six flashback, we see little Nicky practicing her Bat Mitzvah speech while her nitpicky mother tries on dresses and criticizes her. At her actual Bat Mitzvah, she receives more criticism from her father, who has recently divorced her mother and taken up with a younger model. Nicky deals with the stress by going off script during her speech, getting sassy and basically telling God to shove it. She gets quite a few laughs from the pews, with the exception of her very, very angry parents.
Daddy is Barb's most devoted subject, but being her right-hand woman comes easy. A few years earlier, as this season six flashback reveals, Daddy ran an escort business that catered to wealthy men on the wrong side of the law. The morning after a particularly lavish party, one of her girls is found dead in the bed of the drug dealer who Daddy is supplying with women. Daddy seems genuinely torn up about the situation, but the flashback ends with her giving the same dealer another woman to "play" with, hinting that might be the reason she ended up in prison.
The season six antagonist's flashback provides some insight into (1) her nickname and (2) why she's so insufferable. The episode takes us back to Madison's high school days, when her classmates label her "Fartison" and her explosive anger issues get her expelled. Her parents decide to send her to a teen boot camp to straighten her out, where she learns how to survive by being even more vindictive (translation: lighting a girl on fire) and dubs herself "Badison."
Tasha "Taystee" Jefferson and CO Ward
Years before they had the inmate/guard (and later, warden) dynamic, Taystee and CO Ward worked together at Storky's, a fast-food chain. Their flashback doesn't reveal all that much, but it's sweet nonetheless as it tracks their misadventures over one night working the late shift together, serving food and smoking weed.
Barb and Carol, Part 2
The 10th episode of season six hones in on why feuding sisters Carol and Barb ended up in prison to begin with. As it turns out, they originally had another little sister, Debbie, who was a ribbon dancing champion when they were in high school. Debbie's athletic career causes their family to uproot and move around constantly, so the two older sisters decide enough is enough — they take Debbie out one night, lock her in the car by herself, and then callously push said car into a half-frozen lake. The last we hear of Debbie is the sound of her terrified screams as she drowns.
Piper Chapman, Part 3
In season seven, we get two glimpses to Piper's pre-prison life after she's been released and is struggling to build a new, free existence in NYC. One instance sees her and former BFF Polly lugging a bucket of lye down the street to make their artisanal soap line, and Piper criticizes a Thai restaurant where Polly wants to stop for lunch (it's then revealed that Piper now works there). There's also a scene of happier times for Piper and Larry as they vacation at Larry's family's beach home.
CO Artesian McCullough
CO Artesian McCullough (Emily Tarver) gets a spotlight in season seven's second episode. Before arriving at Litchfield as a guard, she was in the military and was put into an all-male platoon. One night one of the men she was working with while stationed in the Middle East sexually assaulted her, and her decision to speak out about it had deeply sexist and tragic repercussions on her life.
Blanca Flores, Part 2
Although this isn't a flashback to her time before prison, season seven gives us a glimpse of what Blanca's life was like in between being discharged from Litchfield Max and put in the new ICE facility. She was able to meet with Diablo, but unfortunately his arrival there put his own immigration status in jeopardy.
Blanca Flores, Part 3
Season seven also turns back the clock further in Blanca's life, honing in on the celebratory night she received her green card.
Gloria Mendoza, Part 2
Before Gloria went away for food stamps fraud, she was on the cusp of co-owning a bodega in New York and pregnant with her third child. This season seven flashback also shows us her daughters in Puerto Rico, and the rift that formed between them when she chose to go to America to make a better life for them.
Maria Ruiz, Part 2
It turns out that Maria's unwise decisions as a manager for a retail clothing store are what get her arrested. The flashback in season seven's sixth episode reveals that she has an affair on her boyfriend with a scam artist who convinces her to slip counterfeit True Religion jeans into her store's rotation. It doesn't take long for government agents to catch on and she ends up taking the blame.
Aleida Diaz, Part 3
Season seven offers a look at young Aleida, who was forced by her mother to seduce and sleep with much older men in order to make money. This obviously leads her down a bad path that includes drinking, doing drugs, prostitution, and stints in juvie.
Tiffany 'Pennsatucky' Doggett, Part 2
One of the most heartwarming aspects of Pennsatucky's season seven arc is her desire to get her GED, which is how she comes to know that she's dyslexic. This is bolstered by a flashback that not only confirms that her dad was verbally abusive, but that he too had dyslexia and passed it on to her.
Galina 'Red' Reznikov, Part 2
Red's season seven flashback is crushing. While she gains the ear of the Russian mob bosses in her area, regularly hosting them for tea in her store, her actions inadvertently end up getting a young man in her community — who happens to be the son of a close friend — murdered.
Lorna Morello, Part 2
Lorna suffers a number of traumatic setbacks in season seven when she's told her baby, Sterling, died of pneumonia in the NICU, which causes her to have a mental break. This isn't the first time it's happened to her, though — a flashback reveals she once accidentally caused a car crash that killed two friends, and ended up blacking out and wandering around for hours afterwards.
Alex Vause, Part 3
Ever wondered what Alex's other serious girlfriend was like? We get to meet Sadie, an alcoholic, in a season seven flashback. Alex and Sadie's relationship is deeply unstable, and ends when Alex cheats on her with Piper and Sadie punches Piper in the face.
Karla is introduced into the series in season seven as a detainee alongside Blanca and Maritza at PolyCon's ICE center. In her flashback we learn that she was a widow and mother to two young boys, and she worked at a law office where she learned the ins and outs of the legal system.
Season seven's 11th episode shows us what's waiting for Shani in Egypt if she gets deported: a family who is totally fine with sentencing her to death for being a lesbian. Her flashback shows a cousin outing her to her family, and her father flying into a rage.
Given a massive language barrier and no provided subtitles, we never quite get to find out what's going on with Chaj until the end of the season in her flashback: during her cross into America, she was brutally raped by the coyote leading her group because she and her husband didn't have enough cash.
Tasha "Taystee" Jefferson, Part 3
Taystee has the last flashback of season seven, and it's incredibly bittersweet. In it, she's on the outside after being released from prison the first time and desperate to make ends meet. Then she gets a call from Poussey, who encourages her to keep going no matter what.