The 10 best ‘Orange Is the New Black’ rivalries, ranked

Red and Piscatella from Orange Is the New Black
Image via Netflix

We’ve ranked the relationships, we’ve ranked the friendships, so now it’s time to rank the rivalries — of which there are many — from Netflix’s hit comedy-drama series Orange Is the New Black. These aren’t just regular misunderstandings or harmless bickering, these rivalries are cut-throat, vengeful and occasionally change the course of the entire show. Some of them revolve around a newfound hatred between characters, others blossom from failed romances, while most are long-lasting displays of power struggles stemming from a one-time betrayal that just never got resolved.

Orange Is the New Black is known for its memorable pairings, whether romantic or platonic, but it’s time to take a gander at the true driving force behind Jenji Kohan’s successful venture — life-long enemies, game-changing conflict and dog-eat-dog rivalry.

10. Maritza Ramos and Thomas Humphrey

Maritza and Humphrey from Orange Is the New Black
Image via Netflix

It’s no secret that Litchfield has always had an ongoing issue with COs abusing their authoritative status and taking the initiative to mistreat inmates without fear of consequences. There’s always been an underlying theme of power-hunger amongst the COs that wasn’t truly addressed until the fourth season, after CO Thomas Humphrey was recruited. Humprey was the major antagonist of Season 4, even though that honor often befalls Piscatella, mainly because it became more apparent that Humphrey was an abusive sadist who relished in the misfortune and suffering of others.

We all recall when Humphrey incited a gladiator match between Suzanne Warren and Maureen Kukudio, but his most heinous crime was towards Maritza Ramos, whom he blackmails after uncovering her drug-smuggling operation on Maria Ruiz’s behalf. In order to establish dominance over Maritza and fulfill some sick fantasy, he forces her to ingest either 10 dead flies or an alive baby mouse, a dilemma resembling those found in the “Would You Rather” party game that Maritza and Flaca concocted in the cafeteria. From that moment on, Maritza and Humphrey started an unspoken rivalry — and the circumstances under which it formed left us all gagging.

9. Linda Ferguson and Carrie “Big Boo” Black

Boo and Linda from Orange Is the New Black
Image via Netflix

Here’s a prime example of how a short-lived relationship (or a “fling”) can blossom into hostility. Although Boo and Linda weren’t exactly enemies, they weren’t exactly friends either. After Linda From Purchasing gets caught in the crossfire of the Litchfield riot, she infiltrates the rankings of the prisoners as an alter-ego called Amelia Von Barlow, which she’d suspiciously kept handy for just such an occasion. Meanwhile, MCC has no prior knowledge to Linda’s involvement in the riot, which effectively leaves her stranded in Litchfield. And the catch of it all? No one knows who she is. As far as Litchfield residents are concerned, Linda From Purchasing is a ghost.

While in Litchfield avoiding the ensuing riot, Linda meets Big Boo, who immediately finds her desirable. Eventually, the pair start “dating,” although in Linda’s case, it’s very much “gay for the stay” as the saying goes, whereas Boo genuinely cares for her. However, not long after having sex, Boo discovers Linda’s smartphone, which contains numerous images of her with Joe Caputo, confirming their romantic involvement. Boo puts two and two together, deducing that “Amelia” is actually Linda, then stabs her in the back after the riot subsides. When the COs are performing a head count, Linda pleads that she works for MCC and strains that her imprisonment was “a mistake,” but Boo repeats Linda’s words, making her claim redundant as the COs assume she’s either joking or attempting to deceive them. Linda is subjected to wrongful prosecution for involvement in the riot, receives an involuntary haircut and faces ridicule from the inmates. Incoming: rivalry.

8. Joe Caputo and Natalie Figueroa

Joe and Fig from Orange Is the New Black
Image via Netflix

Right from the beginning, Joe and Fig have been at each other’s throats. When Fig was Assistant Warden at Litchfield, Caputo always criticized her work ethic and underestimated the workload, including what the role of Assistant Warden entails, which led to strife between them. Their rivalry truly started after Joe sniffed out Fig’s embezzlement scheme behind-the-scenes and discovered Fig’s at-the-time husband, Jason Figueroa, to be gay. Natalie Figueroa’s downfall came after she resigned before she could be charged with financial fraud. Joe took advantage of her misfortune, leading to a ‘friends with benefits’ arrangement that kept them in each other’s orbit.

When Joe was appointed Warden of Litchfield as Natalie’s replacement, he started to feel the heat. Fig mocked Joe for his prior contempt, taking the high ground with a well-deserved “I told you so.” However, after Joe begins dating Linda, he visits Fig one night and expresses remorse, explaining that he never expected the leadership role to be so demanding. She forgives him, then later begins dating him after Linda’s unfortunate mishap with MCC. Although Joe and Fig’s feud isn’t as ferocious as some of the other rivalries on this list, there’s certainly a lot of bad blood between them, albeit temporarily, that constitutes a competition.

7. Piper Chapman and Stella Carlin

Piper and Stella from Orange Is the New Black
Image via Netflix

“Trust no b*tch” — never has a statement been so impactful. With Piper in the developmental stages of “Felonious Spunk” — her illegal panty-smuggling business and Alex indisposed with paranoia from Kubra, Australia-born Stella comes in for the kill. While we’d never seen Ruby Rose’s character up until her debut in “Ching Chong Chang,” she becomes an important plot device and marks a turning point in Piper’s story arc. When Alex and Piper call it off, Stella steps in as Piper’s love interest, which leads to a fast-moving romantic relationship and business partnership. Although she seems nice enough on the surface, Stella has been orchestrating a scheme to steal Piper’s earnings from “Felonious Spunk” and pocket the profits for herself. When Piper finds out, the result isn’t pretty.

While Piper and Stella had us all fooled, Alex was the voice of reason, warning Piper that Stella wasn’t trustworthy — and she was right. Just before she processes for early release, Stella drains Piper’s account and makes like a bandit with her prison panty pennies, but not before Piper enacts revenge by planting contraband in Stella’s bunk; she not only steals her date, but sends her packing down the hill to Litchfield Max. We get reacquainted with Stella briefly after Nicky gets busted for possession of heroin and temporarily sent to Max, but as far as Orange Is the New Black‘s later seasons, we never see her again. Piper becomes cold, ruthless and trips on an extreme power-high, all while teaching Stella a valuable life lesson: trust no b*tch.

6. Maria Ruiz and Piper Chapman

Piper and Maria from Orange Is the New Black
Image via Netflix

Piper Chapman’s panty-smuggling business wasn’t a trademarked idea, so inevitably, fellow inmates wanted to move in on her territory. As soon as Maria Ruiz got wind of Piper’s money-making scandal, she decided to jump on that bandwagon. Rounding up willing participants from Spanish Harlem, Maria started competing with Piper’s business, and soon enough, there wasn’t enough “employees” to go around. Piper, in her “gangster with an A” phase, acted — as she would describe it — “as a shark” and adopted the “eat or be eaten” state of mind; Maria and her entourage were disbanded after Piper reported suspicious “gang” activity to Piscatella and Maria was found guilty of smuggling prison property. She received extra time on her sentence and — overcome with blind rage and grief — turned heartless.

Maria henceforth embraced the “gang leader” persona with which Piscatella and Piper had branded her. She continued smuggling, but upgraded from harmless panties to stacks of heroine, which she moved in and out of Litchfield through frequent exploitation of Maritza’s van duty. When Nicky returns to Litchfield, Red and Lorna organize a “welcome back” party, during which Piper is tricked, apprehended and branded. Maria and her minions burn a swastika into Piper’s left arm, therefore searing the mark of a Nazi sympathizer onto her skin. After taking an eye for an eye, Maria never bothers Piper too much after that, especially since the experience humbles Piper a great deal.

5. Litchfield Dorms (The Suburbs, Spanish Harlem, The Ghetto)

The Ghetto Dorm from Orange Is the New Black
Image via Netflix

Just like the invisible divide in society, Litchfield dorms are segregated based on ethnicity. There’s The Suburbs (White people), The Ghetto (Black people), Spanish Harlem (Spanish, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, etc) and “Other” — such as The Golden Girls and presumably mixed-race individuals. Long before the events of Orange Is the New Black, the Litchfield dorms were always at odds with one another, as proven during the early stages of Red and Vee’s rivalry (don’t worry, we’re getting there). When Piper incites a race war with her ludicrous “White Lives Matter” movement, we’re introduced to Brandy, Sankey and “Skinhead Helen” for the first time. There are sporadic moments from mainly Season 4 onwards that see the three aforementioned offenders spewing racist and derogatory remarks towards both The Ghetto and Spanish Harlem, often using slurs to address and mock them.

In retaliation, The Ghetto and Spanish Harlem angrily target each other, believing their culture to be superior. Collectively, they share a hatred for The Suburbs, where most of the derogation comes from, thus resulting in an all-out rivalry between every Litchfield dorm. To make matters worse, Litchfield makes it compulsory for The Suburbs, The Ghetto and Spanish Harlem to use different restrooms and sleep separately at all times, which isn’t exactly bridging the gap. There are restrictions for sharing luxuries, which naturally leads to arguing and brawling, and each dorm has a pre-determined clique that repels outsiders, so there isn’t much negotiation as far as holding hands and singing “Kumbaya.”

4. Vee Parker and Galina “Red” Reznikov

Red and Vee from Orange Is the New Black
Image via Netflix

See? Told you we’d get there; a little patience goes a long way. We couldn’t possibly rank Orange Is the New Black rivalries without including Red and Vee, who are perhaps the founders of the deep-rooted hatred between The Suburbs and The Ghetto. There’s a lot to unpack with Red and Vee’s “frenemies” arc, but the general gist paints a picture of deception and betrayal, which are the root causes of most rivalries. Although it seems like Red and Vee would be fast friends upon meeting, it becomes apparent very quickly that Vee has sinister intentions. It’s a tale as old as time; Red knows that Vee is bad news, Vee knows that Red is a threat, so the scenario plays itself out. Both Vee and Red are maternal figures to their so-called families, and nothing is more vicious than a scorned mother, so there’s a lot of bloodshed.

After Vee returns to Litchfield after an extended vacation, she learns that Red is smuggling drugs through an outside source known as Neptune’s Produce, the providers of fresh vegetables for Litchfield’s kitchen. Vee wants to take over the operation, so she offers to buy it from Red, but she refuses. Then, Vee offers her valuable services in exchange for a fraction of the profit — “quid pro quo” style — and Red politely declines again. The third time, Vee isn’t so reasonable; she corners Red and Norma in the kitchen and orders her lackeys to lay a savage beatdown on the former while the latter watches. In retaliation, Red tries to strangle Vee, but can’t bring herself to finish the job, she Frieda hatches a plot to shank Vee and send a message. All in all, there’s a lot of unresolved issues here.

3. Carol Denning and Barbara Denning

Carol and Barbara from Orange Is the New Black
Image via Netflix

Here we are: the conflict of the hour. Carol and Barbara didn’t come about until Season 6, but their rivalry is — and always will be — legendary. As teenagers, Carol and Barb shared a mutual jealousy towards their younger sister, Debbie Denning, whom their parents worshipped as a straight-A student and overachieving offspring. Meanwhile, Carol and Barb were seen as disappointments, always living in Debbie’s shadow. Subsequently, Carol and Barb conceive a convoluted plan to commit homicide and make Debbie’s death look like suicide. As anyone could guess, it didn’t work, and both Carol and Barb were charged with first-degree murder, sentenced to live out the rest of their days in Litchfield Max. While in Max, Carol and Barb formed a rivalry, each one blaming the other for the murder plot gone awry.

When Carol and Barb arrive at Litchfield Max, Carol is assigned to C Block, which is the “Blues,” while Barb is assigned to D Block, which is the “Khakis.” From there, a bitterness brews between them and they become the undisputed leaders of their respective cell blocks, supposedly whiling away the hours by plotting revenge on one another. In a surprising twist, we discover that Carol and Barbara had made amends somewhere along the line, presumably after Frieda (along with the rest of Litchfield) transfers to Max, and had hatched a scheme to murder Frieda, who had betrayed them — especially Carol — years prior. Carol and Barb’s rivalry forms the entire plot of Season 6— and it’s a real rollercoaster of a ride.

2. Carol Denning and Frieda Berlin

Image via Netflix

Apart from the whole Debbie Denning murder, Carol and Barb are still flesh and blood, whereas Frieda isn’t. In several flashbacks, we see Carol and Frieda together in Max, albeit significantly younger, and running the game in C Block. Frieda becomes Carol’s right-hand woman, aiding her in illegal prison exchanges that often involve recreational drugs and cigarettes. One day, Carol goes to access her “stash,” only to discover it ransacked. She accuses Barbara immediately and assembles a crew to extract what’s rightfully hers, but she soon discovers that Frieda had cut a deal with the Warden; she rats on Carol for possession of contraband and illegal prison dealings in return for safe transfer to minimum-security prison. That’s how Carol and Frieda’s rivalry starts.

In Season 6, after the Litchfield riot, Carol and Frieda meet again — in their old age — and past grudges rise to the surface. Carol, in complete disbelief, stalks Frieda from afar and multitasks with running C Block, keeping Barbara under surveillance and circling Frieda like a hungry shark tracking a blood scent. Frieda attempts numerous times to take her own life and accept a cowardly death, thereby relinquishing Carol of the satisfaction, but she fails. In the end, Carol and Barb’s mistrust of one another comes back to haunt them, and Frieda walks away scot-free while the Denning sisters hash out some disagreements. Carol and Frieda’s rivalry is like a murder-mystery play with all the twists and turns to keep you on the edge of your seat, but with a lot more double-dealing, trickery and savagery.

1. Galina “Red” Reznikov and Desi Piscatella

Red and Piscatella from Orange Is the New Black
Image via Netflix

As voted for by the Orange Is the New Black fans themselves (and we can’t complain), the best rivalry undoubtedly goes to Red and Piscatella. Ever since Piscatella came on the scene at Litchfield, it all went downhill from there. Although he and Red despise one another from a distance at first, it isn’t until the grounds crew find the dismembered body of a CO on prison property that Piscatella turns ruthless. Suspecting her of orchestrating the murder, given her proficiency in body disposal, Piscatella interrogates and antagonizes Red, much to the dismay of fellow prisoners. When he finds Red to be in possession of illegal keys, he forbids her from sleeping as an oppressive punishment.

Once the riot ensues, Piscatella gains the freedom from persecution to do whatever he wants, including torturing Red in front of her family for her impertinence. He scalps her, humiliates her and strips her of her dignity, leaving her trembling at his feet — all while her loyal followers watch in horror. Later, Red and the others capture an unsuspecting Piscatella and hold him hostage in Frieda’s makeshift bunker, which essentially causes a ripple effect for Taystee, whose anger towards Piscatella for Poussey’s wrongful death and possession of a firearm lead to her incrimination. Red and Piscatella have the least history of any of the rivalries on this list, but the hatred is so intense that it doesn’t matter how long it lasts, it still changes everything.