C.O. Charlie Coates (portrayed by James McMenamin), referred to as the “squirrely young Jack Nicholson” guard, is a new prison guard at Litchfield Penitentiary who was hired when the MCC took over the prison. In addition to this job, he also works at the donut shop that C.O.s Scott O’Neill and Wanda Bell visit every morning for breakfast.
Under-trained and clueless, he is immediately assigned to van duty with Pennsatucky, who literally has to teach him his job because nobody else will. They stop at his donut shop frequently on their runs to eat free donuts, and they go to the duck pond to feed the ducks. It is here where he begins acting strange toward Pennsatucky, asking her to fetch pieces of donut that he throws with her mouth. When she warily declines his request, he barks orders at her to do what he says, and she is forced to comply. Once they go to leave the pond, he forces her up against a tree to kiss her because he “really like[s]” her.
It is because of their donut shop and duck pond visits that Coates misses prison guard count three times, landing him in hot water with the administration and earning him probation. This angers Coates, and he snaps at Pennsatucky because of the trouble she has caused. He grabs her in this fit of rage, forces her into the van, and rapes her right on prison property. As if this encounter is not disgusting enough, he whispers, “I love you, Doggett” into her ear as he finishes.
Disillusioned about his relationship with Pennsatucky, he jokes that she would miss him too much if she was released from prison, and he never sees it coming when she and Big Boo plan to drug him and rape him. However, he lucks out and merely wakes up confused in the laundry room. However, the two get into a car accident, which he walks away from with a minor head trauma and a new van duty inmate, Maritza Ramos.
At the start of season 4, Coates worries about Pennsatucky’s well-being following her seizure, and he tries to get back in her good graces, noticing that she’s been avoiding him. When Pennsatucky finally gets up the courage to tell him that she raped him and that she feels violated, he admits that he didn’t see it the same way, since he said he loved her. However, Pennsatucky says that “it didn’t feel any different” despite his declaration of love.
This conversation seems to have sunk in with Coates, considering that he is more sympathetic than Joel Luschek toward Gina Murphy, who cut her hand while working on the on-campus housing. When he refuses to take her to medical right away, Coates reminds him that “she’s a person” and needs help because it’s their job to take care of her.
The next time Coates catches up with Pennsatucky, he apologizes to her and says that he wishes he could change what happened between them, but even though Pennsatucky is working to forgive him, Boo feels otherwise. Threatening to “end” Coates, she slaps him across the face and lets him know that she was the reason why he woke up with his pants down last season.
Though Pennsatucky has made it known that she wants to continue their friendship, Coates makes it known that he’s afraid of himself now and is not sure if he’ll be able to “control” himself around her, which is a frightening prospect to Pennsatucky, who seems to see the best in him, despite his actions.