Vee is (probably) dead, Figueroa is out and Pornstache is headed to prison.
In the event that you'd rather not mainline 13 hours of Season 2 just so you're back up to speed, here's all you need to know before you start watching the third season of Orange is the New Black, which begins streaming Friday on Netflix.
The fallout from Piper's fight with Pennsatucky
Both Pennsatucky and Piper were sent to the SHU (Security Housing Unit), aka solitary confinement.
Piper was the sort of uptight good girl who wouldn't even get into adult-sanctioned trouble, and at the beginning of the season, she finds herself on a prisoner transport plane to Chicago - not knowing where she's going or why - afraid that she's killed Pennsatucky.
At the end of Season 1, Healy left the Christmas pageant and had an opportunity to intercede in the fight, but didn't because he was angry that Piper wouldn't be his puppet.
Well, he's paying for that, too, because there's an investigation into the altercation. In order to get Pennsatucky to lie and say Healy didn't willfully ignore the conflict between them, Healy greases the wheels to get Pennsatucky new teeth. And in order to get Piper to shut up, he agrees to help her in her quest for furlough to say goodbye to her dying grandmother. He's also helped along by the guilt he feels because the prison won't pay for the cancer treatment Miss Rosa needs. Miss Rosa calls him "useless."
Alex the snitch
Kubra Balik, Alex's international drug lord boss, has been extradited from Europe and is standing trial in Chicago.
After persuading Piper to lie on the stand about whether or not she ever met Kubra (and she definitely did), Alex turns state's evidence and testifies against him, leaving Piper stuck in prison, possibly facing more time and new counts for perjury. Piper, as we all know, has terrible judgment. Alex gets to trade one prison for another; she's no longer at Litchfield, but she's also constantly watching her back because she betrayed Kubra. Piper, after breaking up and making up with Alex yet again, gets Polly to report Alex as a parole violator, which gets Alex sent right back to prison and safely away from Kubra's evil henchmen.
Enter Vee: Hustler and sociopath
Season 2 introduced Vee (Lorraine Toussaint), a new character and masterful manipulator who was the closest thing that Taystee, who grew up in group homes, had to a mother.
When we explore Vee's backstory, she is sidling up to Taystee, who at that point was still Tasha. Tasha was at a black adoption fair, doing her best rendition of Christina Aguilera's Beautiful in an attempt to woo a set of potential foster parents. It didn't work, and when Tasha met Vee, she was attempting to self-soothe with a paper cup of blue shaved ice, lamenting that the potential parents looking for children were only interested in babies. Vee appeared and delivered a sobering assessment.
"Of course they only want the babies," Vee said. "Babies are cute."
"I'm cute," Tasha said.
"No, you're big, and your hair is ratsy and you're too eager and you're too dark," Vee informed her.
Right there, we see the establishment for the entire dynamic of their relationship. Vee spent years undermining Taystee's self-worth and called it truth-telling in the name of love. But Vee was far more sinister, even sociopathic; she just wanted to control Taystee and manipulate her for her own purposes. Vee is definitely an abuser - just take one look at the unnerving Oedipal relationship she has with RJ, who's basically her foster son. When RJ became competition, and therefore a liability, Vee seduced him, and had a dirty cop kill him.
Similarly, she plays "Crazy Eyes" Suzanne only to betray her later. "I see you," Vee tells Suzanne, words she desperately wants to hear. "I see you. You're a strong, smart black woman. Everybody else around here underestimates you, but not me. You remember that the next time you run into Dandelion (Piper) or whatever the hell you want to call her. You hold your head up high, because at the end of the day, you are a garden rose, and that b**** is a weed." Later, Vee asks Black Cindy to do her a favor and fetch something (which turns out to be years-old cigarettes stashed away from Vee's last stint in Litchfield) while Suzanne is in earshot, knowing that Black Cindy will never assent, but that Suzanne, eager for positive reinforcement, will happily do her bidding.
Vee vs. Red
Vee and Red used to be cool, until Vee showed her true colors. Back when Red was a prison rookie, Vee rolled out the niceties and advised her on building up her initial contraband-running business back when Red was running the kitchen. And then, she demanded that Red turn the operation over to her, and when Red refused, Vee beat her senseless.
Poor Red. She's been abandoned by her girls and relegated to the old ladies' table, which features the entertaining if dementia-addled Jimmy. Red has Vee's number, though, and warns Gloria about her machinations.
Eager to get back on top, Red convinces Caputo to let her rehabilitate the greenhouse after discovering a sewer drain there, under the guise of giving the Real Old Biddies of Litchfield something to do. Caputo agrees, and Red enlists her son to start bringing all sorts of goodies - gummy bears, blue eye shadow, sunflower seeds, you name it - back into the prison.
Red realises that she can't beat Vee by herself, and in some serious the-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend-style diplomacy, makes nice with Gloria so that she can stash her goods in the kitchen when Caputo eventually figures out that she's been funneling contraband into the prison. He storms the greenhouse, finds nothing, and looks like an idiot - again. But now Vee knows that Gloria and Red are in cahoots.
Big Boo is basically a non-factor in the season ... until she isn't. She and Nicky start a contest to see which of them can amass the most points for sleeping with inmates, but abandon it when they're both tied.
But Big Boo discovers how Red has been getting that much-coveted blue eye shadow into Litchfield, and in a turn that makes you want to throw something at your television, takes the information to Vee, who uses it, once again, to strong-arm Red into access to the tunnel. Unsatisfied with being the Tobacco Queen of Litchfield, Vee branches into heroin and becomes a full-on dictator. Frustrated with Vee's bullying, Red's new gang of Liniment League criminals decide to the only way to fix the Vee problem is to kill her. So Taslitz, who hates wearing her glasses, shanks someone who looks like Vee, but ends up not being Vee. Not good. Taslitz is thrown in the SHU for, well, forever and now Vee knows they're after her.
Red's got to get to Vee before Vee gets to her. Red tries to strangle Vee with saran wrap. Vee tries, unsuccessfully, to kill Red by beating her with a combination lock in a sock.
Because it's apparent that Litchfield is grossly mismanaged, all of these assaults are being investigated and Brook Soso finally becomes important. For a good portion of the season, Soso seemed like a useless addition to the cast. She never shuts up, she's hopelessly naive and she demonstrates a capacity for self-awareness that could easily be outpaced by one of Caputo's plants. But young, idealistic Soso starts a hunger strike, and picks up credibility when Yoga Jones, Leanne, Angie and Sister Ingalls join her. The women eventually relent, except for Sister Ingalls, who has to be fed through a tube since she won't eat.
Sister Ingalls convinces Red to rat out Vee as her attacker in exchange for ending her hunger strike.
But Vee's got it worked out, and again, has a contingency plan. She'll frame Suzanne for attempted murder, and gaslight poor Suzanne into thinking she did something horrible and simply doesn't remember. Let's say it again: Vee is the absolute worst. Either brainwashed or terrified, Black Cindy and Watson corroborate her story. When they finally turn on her, Vee has no other option but to run.
Vee vs. Gloria
Vee makes enemies just as quickly as she charms people into doing things for her. The relationship between Vee and Gloria starts off well enough. Vee pays a shady compliment to Gloria's cooking ("You're a good imitator," she tells her).
In exchange for a mostly full pack of cigarettes - the same ones that Vee manipulated Suzanne into fetching from the warehouse - Gloria bakes a cake for Vee, and Vee uses it to lure the black girls onto her crew. The prison always had fractures along racial and ethnic lines, but Vee seems determined to bring back the good old days by instigating race-based animosity as she plots a takeover.
When the bathroom in "Spanish Harlem" floods with raw sewage, Gloria leads the Latinas to the bathrooms in the black women's dormitory. They want to skip ahead in the shower line so they can make breakfast, and Vee objects. Black Cindy pushes Flaca, and now there's a war. Vee and her crew respond by pilfering all of the Spanish girls' boots and tying them together, ensuring that they'll get shots for being late. Gloria and the Latinas exact payback by oversalting their food. Watson trips (pregnant) Daya in the cafeteria, and Bennett (her baby daddy) freaks out.
Gloria later requests a détente with Vee in the bathroom. Through crocodile tears, Vee gets Gloria to agree to have two of the Spanish girls transferred from custodial to the kitchen so that Watson and Taystee can replace them. Why? So that Vee can staff her underground cigarette operation.
Later, Red informs Gloria that she's given Vee exactly what she wanted. Gloria's been played.
Vee vs. Poussey
Vee sees Poussey as an obstacle in her ability to fully control Taystee. Poussey is one of the few people who sees right through Vee and isn't afraid of her. So Vee goes for the weak spot in Taystee and Poussey's relationship: the fact that Poussey is clearly in love with a straight girl.
Taystee wouldn't want people whispering that she was "that way" once she finally gets out of prison, would she? "Gay for the stay" is only for weak women, she tells Taystee, putting just enough of a bug in her ear to upend their friendship. Vee is the devil, basically.
After more back-and-forth between a conflicted Taystee and Vee, Vee finally abandons her for not failing to pledge her unequivocal fealty. By the time a hurricane lands and the power and the plumbing go out at Litchfield, Taystee is persona non grata, and she and Poussey are still at odds. Poussey, however, refuses to be bullied despite the fact that Vee basically sicced Suzanne on her. Instead, she gets her revenge by destroying Vee's tobacco supply. Pussey's not about to go out like a punk.
Morello is delusional
This season we learned that Morello doesn't just have a problem with credit card fraud, but that she's also a stalker. Her supposed fiance, Christopher? He never proposed. In fact, they went out on one date after a rom-com meet-cute when Morello was picking up a haul of mail-order goodies.
Sweet, seemingly harmless Morello is actually pretty darn scary, but she has everyone at the prison fooled and feeding into her delusion that she's a bride-to-be. But since Morello gets so much sympathy, she also gets a long leash. Morello drives the van off-campus to take Miss Rosa to her chemo appointments and Fischer escorts them. Fischer's soft spot for Morello means that she leaves Morello alone in the prison van for three hours, and that she lets Miss Rosa get her chemo without her handcuffs.
Morello gets the bright idea to drive to Christopher's house in Albany, break in and treat herself to a bath while wearing his fiancee's wedding veil. When they come home, she wakes up, collects her clothes, dashes out a second-floor window and high-tails it back to the hospital, just in time. Christopher visits Morello and exposes her as the obsessive stalker she really is by shouting at her and humiliating her.
Morello's almost unchecked access to the van means that she can give the keys to Miss Rosa so the poor woman can break out instead of spending her last days in prison - the prison won't cover the costs of the care she would need to give her a fighting chance at beating the cancer. On her way out, and definitely on purpose, Miss Rosa plows into Vee, who has escaped through Red's greenhouse tunnel, and keeps on trucking. Way to go, Miss Rosa.
Suzanne's bantu knots
Suzanne Warren was the only child until her white adoptive parents had a baby. While she was visiting her new sister in the hospital, dressed in a fairy princess costume, she threw a fit when she couldn't hold the baby longer.
A black nurse who had been watching the family came over to distract Suzanne and offered to do her hair which was hanging loose in a big 'fro, and she gave Suzanne her trademark bantu knots.
Suzanne shows signs of delayed development - when she's 10, she accompanies her younger sister to a birthday party for a bunch of 6-year-olds. At her high school graduation, Mrs. Warren encouraged her to sing in front of her classmates, and Suzanne had a very public breakdown.
The Christmas pageant triggered a flashback to her high school graduation, and after Flaca and Maritza tease her for hitting herself in the head, she runs outside, where she sees Piper raining punches on Pennsatucky. Suzanne proceeds to hit Piper, who bears a resemblance to Suzanne's mother. She rushes at Piper and screams, "No, Mommy! I don't want to! You're always pushing me to do things! You're always pushing me! NO! MORE! MOMMY! No more!"
Daya and Bennett
Daya puts pressure on Bennett, who is just as doe-eyed as ever, to find a way to get prenatal vitamins into Litchfield for their baby.
He starts using his prosthetic leg to smuggle them in, and the other Spanish girls put in requests for things (Flaca wants an iPod) while blackmailing him by threatening to reveal Daya's pregnancy. Frustrated that he's become a mule, Bennett throws Maritza in the SHU, and Daya has to give him some perspective about the power dynamics of their relationship.
Pornstache, aka Mendez, makes a comeback because Caputo hates logic. When Fischer offers a reasonable objection to the shot quota (which means the officers have to write up a certain number of inmates), Caputo - still hurt over the fact that Fischer doesn't like him - fires her, allowing Pornstache to make his return.
But his time at Litchfield is short-lived. Bennett eventually reaches the end of his rope, and, as Daya suggested in the first place, turns Pornstache in for getting Daya pregnant (since he's already on the record as having "raped" her anyway). Pornstache is going to prison. Later, Daya has a crisis of conscience and wants Bennett to come clean, which he eventually does. Fortunately for Bennett, he basically gets away with impregnating Daya because he doesn't tell Caputo about it until they're both shoo-ins for promotions because of Figueroa's undoing. Caputo needs to keep that whole scandal quiet to ensure he gets Fig's job and Bennett gets his old one. Hooray?
A City Post reporter named Dudley is investigating the prison and Figueroa with Piper's help.
Side note: This is one of the few instances when Piper's former fiance, Larry, proves himself to be marginally helpful, but he soon reverts back to his usual narcissistic traits by having an affair with Piper's best friend, Polly. When they find out that she's been transported to Chicago for Kubra's trial, these two self-replenishing wells of exasperation are both puzzled because Piper hates deep dish pizza. Piper, meanwhile, is making deals with an underwear fetishist she's relieved to learn is not a rapist but in fact a hitman, and wrangling cigarette-toting cockroaches. They eventually redeem themselves, weirdly enough, by getting Alex arrested and sent back to prison.
Ok, back to prison corruption: Dudley has found, through some Google Earth sleuthing, that the prison claims to have spent money building a new gym that doesn't exist. Figueroa's husband, Jason, is running for state senate, and they have been funneling federal funds designated for the prison to Jason's campaign. But no one on this show is a terrible person for the mere sake of being terrible. As satisfying as it is to see Figueroa get busted, it's still saddening to know that part of the reason she's such a cold fish is because her husband is gay and therefore has zero interest in her.
Anyway, Piper uses a bad hurricane as an opportunity to sneak into Fig's office, where she finds the files for FitzCore, the shell company Fig's been using to embezzle money and fund Jason's campaign. Caputo catches her, but fortunately for Piper, Caputo can't stand Figueroa either thanks to her glaring incompetence and emasculating put-downs. Caputo puts Piper in the SHU, but they work out a deal wherein Caputo will cancel Piper's transfer to a prison in Virginia in exchange for information that will lead to Fig's undoing. Unbeknownst to Fig, Caputo takes the information to the warden. He then goes to Figueroa, who is so desperate that she agrees to a quid-pro-quo deal in which she, uh, services Caputo in exchange for his silence. And then learns it was for nothing. Ding, dong, Figueroa's career is dead.