Alex Vause (portrayed by Laura Prepon)–also known as “sasquatch” (Pennsatucky), “the hot one,” and “the Bettie Page of Litchfield” (Joel Luschek)–is Piper Chapman‘s on again-off again girlfriend. While she was once (according to Piper) “the wolf that eats the lamb,” Vause relinquishes her power as one of Litchfield Penitentiary’s biggest badasses and softens up in season three once she is thrown back in jail for violating her parole (due to paranoid self-defense), convinced that Kubra Balik is sending his men to kill her. Quite simply, without Vause, we would have no Orange Is the New Black.
As a child, Alex Vause’s mother held down four separate jobs to support her. As a result, Vause was subject to wearing knock-off Converse and non-brand name clothing, and she was frequently made the butt of other children’s jokes because of it. Having never met her father, but knowing that he was a sort of “rock god” from her mothers’ descriptions of him, Vause grew up wondering why they were so poor if her father was so rich and famous.
Vause does not meet her father until she is seventeen, when she tracks him down herself after one of his shows. Assuming that she is a fan looking to flirt with him, Vause’s father makes some rather inappropriate comments. However, after a slightly awkward revelation that he is her father, he invites her into their private lounge. Recognizing her father’s lasciviousness and his reckless abandon, she runs off to the bathroom, disappointed as her dream of her “rock god” father crumbles before her eyes. However, before she leaves, she meets the man who eventually hires her to work for Kubra Balik’s international drug cartel.
Vause soon becomes a very successful and important cog in the drug dealing machine, living life much like her father–drinking, doing drugs, and picking up all of the women she wishes to. However, when she meets Piper in a bar, she sees her as more than just a one-night stand. She recruits her as one of her drug mules and romantic fling. Being in a committed relationship with her live-in girlfriend, Sylvie, Vause sneaks around with Piper until she walks in on them in the bedroom. The relationship blows up after Sylvie gives her an ultimatum, but Vause deems it a good thing, for now the two of them can travel the world together for business.
The two begin traveling all over the world together, and Vause falls more in love with Piper, sensing that she is “different” because she is willing to help her conduct her business; however, when Piper takes a stand and leaves her once she realizes that Vause might have been using her for business (and forcing her to do as she is told), Vause is beyond heartbroken. Given the fact that this argument occurs on the same day that Vause receives news of her mother’s death, Vause is left completely and utterly alone in the world.
Forced to return to the United States and attend her mother (Diane Vause)’s funeral on her own, Vause realizes that she virtually abandoned her mother and that she wasn’t there for her in her last moments. Even more devastating is the fact that the funeral officiant speaks about all of the people who loved Diane and all of the lives she touched through her volunteer work, meanwhile barely a few people showed up for her service. Walking away alone, Vause discovers that Fahri, the man who hired her for the cartel, is waiting for her in a car just outside of the cemetery. He picks her up and takes her to a club to help her shake the sadness of burying her mother and breaking up with Piper. The night (and the drugs) seems to take away all of the pain and suffering until they receive word that Kubra is pissed at the two of them for not picking up one of his new dealers at the airport, which resulted in a bust. Later on, Vause comes within an inch of death as on of Balik’s men is sent up to their hotel room to send a message (by killing a man), which serves as a warning to Vause.
We learn in season one that Vause began using heroin after Piper left her, which suggests that Vause has abandonment issues. She, along with many other inmates, attend Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous meetings while in prison. While Vause held a grudge against Piper for the way in which she broke up with her, we know that this anger compels her to name Piper in exchange for a reduced sentence, which still entails “a load of time.”
When Vause is eventually locked up in Litchfield, she is immediately profiled by the women as being a “rich bitch,” which is ironic given that she was so brutally teased for not being on while in school. However, unlike Piper, nobody gives her a hard time about being privileged. Despite the amount of money she has made while in the drug business, Vause never received any formal education. She does, however, tell Nicky Nichols that she did sit on several film classes for the “free movies” from time to time.
Feeling completely isolated upon processing into prison, and knowing that Piper is beyond mad at her, Vause attempts to make amends by offering her a piece of cornbread during her starve out, which earns her a starve-out of her own. She eventually pays her dues to Red, however, by giving her a 45-minute foot massage.
Vause eventually makes connections in Litchfield aside from Piper, becoming progressively closer with Nichols, as she drifts further apart from her loved one. Her friendship with Nichols is culminated by hooking up in the season on finale; however, it seems to be more of a direct result of Piper’s decision to choose Larry over her. Vause forbids Piper to ever come “running back” to her with her problems or anything else.
In season two, Vause is transferred to the Chicago Metropolitan Detention Center with Piper to sit trail for Kubra Balik. The two, despite their differences, are eager to reconnect in the unfamiliar and unfriendly prison. While on their way to the trial, Vause persuades Piper to lie in court so that she could protect the both of them from Kubra. Despite Vause’s good intentions, her lawyer changes her mind when he suggests that telling the truth would guarantee Kubra’s imprisonment and thus her own safety. But due to mishandled evidence, Kubra walks and Alex is released from prison into the free world of paranoia and constant fear of her former boss.
Vause settles down in a tiny apartment in Queens and begins writing to Piper in jail. Her letters mostly go ignored until Piper discovers that Larry has cheated on her with Polly. Vause, fearing for her life, reveals to Piper on the phone (once she stops being ignored) that cars have been parked outside of her apartment every single day and that she keeps a gun by her side (which is illegal for a formerly incarcerated individual). Moreover, Vause’s landlord informs her that Arab men have also been looking for her, much to her dismay. Shocked at the failure of the witness protection program, Piper still tries to convince Vause not to leave the state (which would also violate her parole).
When Vause finally gets visitation rights to see Piper in jail, she informs Piper of her plan to flee the state. She jokes, though not so jokingly, that she is considering finding a bigger, badder drug kingpin to work for so that this kingpin can beat up Kubra Balik. This idea is partially fueled by the fact that she is having difficulty securing herself a job, and she fears that the only thing she is good at is peddling drugs. Fearing for her ex-lover’s life, Piper (behind Vause’s back) arranges to tip-off her parole officer, Davy Crockett (yes, that is really his name), of her plan to flee the state. When he visits her apartment to check up on this tip, he catches her in possession of a firearm and sends her back to Litchfield.
Hauled back to prison, Vause is immediately beaten up by a crackhead, which sends her into a downward spiral. She begins blaming herself for her own actions that landed her back in lockup. Believing that her mother would “smack the shit out of [her] if she were still alive,” Vause is ashamed and feels “stupid” because she “had a chance to make a life,” but she squandered it. Discouraged by her decisions and her circumstances, Vause begins acting out. When she talks back to C.O. Maxwell, she receives two shots. Piper, present for her insubordination, tries to convince Vause that it’s not so bad being back in jail, for she is much safer here than she would have been on the outside. Feeling like she is “literally garbage” (and wearing a trash bag during the bed bug epidemic, coincidentally, as she makes this observation), Vause is on the brink of a nervous breakdown. Yet Piper somehow manages to rescue her from the precipice of self-destruction.
“I’m just a fly in the web of the Prison Industrial Complex.”
They begin to grow closer, which is when Piper comes forward to finally tell Vause that she is the reason why she is back in prison. Feeling betrayed and incredibly angry, she accuses Piper of being a psychopath. Vause additionally accuses Piper of being controlling, suspecting that it’s “not hot” for her to witness her darkness and vulnerability, which has never before been on display. Despite the heated argument that takes place, the two cannot resist each other’s intimacy. In fact, their anger fuels several of their sexual encounters.
Vause begins to regain her composure and recognizes that Piper is treating her like a “fucking sex cow.” Eager to regain her power back from Piper, she is given the opportunity to channel her anger with Piper during Berdie Rogers‘ drama class. After sorting out their qualms, their anger subsides, and the two become girlfriends once again on Piper’s birthday after Vause writes her a list of songs (a prison mixtape of sorts).
Vause continues to pull herself together and gets a job working in the greenhouse; however, her paranoid begins to get the best of her. Piper, insensitive to Vause’s anxiety, begins joking that she has been sent to kill her, which creates tension, once again, between the two of them. Unfortunately for Vause, her paranoia is fed by another paranoid and peculiar inmate, Lolly Whitehill, who also works in the greenhouse. Her paranoia is further fed when glass shatters in the greenhouse, and she witnesses Lolly stealing a dangerously large shard of it for herself.
Convinced that Lolly has been sent to kill her, she pays special attention to Lolly, who reciprocally stares back at her and grows more paranoid about Vause’s behavior in return. She begins snooping in Lolly’s bunk, finding a journal that records her every move. However, when she brings this to the attention of the prison staff, she gets into trouble, receiving another two shots, for trespassing in another inmate’s bunk. Lolly claims that the journal is not hers, which further feeds Vause’s blistering anxiety.
Looking for comfort from Piper, Vause witnesses her and Stella Carlin kissing on a bench in the prison yard. When confronting Piper, she denies that there is anything to worry about, thus adding to Vause’s list of worries and anxieties that she faces daily.
Vause finally confronts Lolly in the bathroom, decking her in the face and choking her when she feels threatened. Understanding the gravity of her actions, Vause apologizes and convinces her not to turn her in once she realizes that Lolly is just as paranoid as she. She uses this against her and pretends that she’s a double agent for the NSA and the CIA. She gets Lolly to agree to them working together.
Believing that the treat of Kubra has subsided, Vause once again regains composure and tells Piper about her interesting encounter with Lolly. This also gives her the opportunity to talk about Piper’s panty business, which Vause realizes is becoming far too intense. Shrugging off Vause’s criticisms, Piper instead tries to rope her into offering her crime networking and business experience to help her out; however, when Vause points out that these very skills landed her in jail, she declines the offer. While it once might have been fun, now Vause is against all criminal activity. But when Piper expresses the fact that she’s not a scary, professional felon anymore (which isn’t particularly “hot” to Piper), Vause backs out of her involvement in the operation altogether.
While Vause is no longer involved, this doesn’t prevent Piper from talking about her business in front of her. When she learns what Piper did to Flaca for standing up to her in front of the other women, Vause calls her “gross” and declares that she doesn’t like this particular version of Piper. Calling her paranoid, needy, and judgmental, Vause decides to end things with Piper. Though she breaks up with her, she knows that things are still not over with Piper–perhaps they will never be over with her.
While staying late after working in the greenhouse, she is approached by a new guard, Aydin, a man who has been sent by Kubra Balik, which ends season three.
At the start of season 4, we see Aydin attempting to murder Vause; however, Lolly walks in just in time and beats Aydin senseless, making her feel indebted to Lolly for her act of kindness. While the two believed that Aydin was dead, Vause finds out later that night that he has begun to regain consciousness, thus forcing her to suffocate him once and for all.
Panicking, as she knows she’s the last one seen in the greenhouse, she and Lolly scramble to hide the body. However, the next day, they discover that Freida has found the body but is willing to help dismember and dispose of it.
Distanced from Piper following her infidelity in season 3, she still seeks her out for some comfort in the middle of the night in the midst of the shit storm. Though she seeks her out, she gets annoyed when Piper believes that she’s automatically back in her good graces, especially now that she’s available when Alex doesn’t particularly need her assistance. She only spills the truth to Piper once she’s getting high off of a makeshift crack pipe in the cornfield with Nicky Nichols. She later admits to Piper that she did sound crazy, but she expresses her hurt.
She really begins to panic, however, when she discovers Lolly beginning to act more paranoid than usual, but she takes comfort in the fact that the guards are laughing at her rather than taking her and her “delusions” seriously. She’s further comforted by the fact that Healy has unwittingly convinced her that the murder and dismemberment were just illusions. This allows her to grow closer to Lolly and further away from Piper, though not for long.
She begins having nightmares and “sweaty PTSD micro-flashbacks,” but she’s still able to keep herself together during the day–that is until the body is apprehended in the garden.This sets off Lolly, who runs to her to ask her if the murder and dismemberment were real. Unable to lie to her friend and force her to feel crazy when she is, in fact, not, she confirms Lolly’s suspicions. When it becomes imminent that she will be caught, she decides to come forward as the murderer before Lolly can because Lolly saved her life; however, she soon learns that Lolly has turned herself in before she could confess, which sends her into a fit of guilt.
With Lolly gone, Vause has no choice but to resume her relationship with Piper, and they once again begin envisioning a future together, feeling that the two of them have always been inevitable.