Galina Reznikov (portrayed by Kate Mulgrew), better known as “Red,” but also known as “Sputnik” (C.O. George “Pornstache” Mendez), ran a restaurant on the outside with her husband. In Litchfield Penitentiary, she is the head of the kitchen in seasons one and three. As of season three, she has spent over twelve years in prison and has only two years left. She was sentenced for her involvement in organized crime. She has a scarab-shaped birthmark on her butt, and she greatly admires Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova.
Aside from Piper Chapman, she is the first inmate whose story we see in season one. She was accused of being “the one without culture” by the rich and beautiful wives of the Russian mob. She punches the alpha-wife in the boob (job), which costs her and her husband $60,000. Although this gets her and her husband, Dmitri, into hot water, they manage to get back on the mob boss’ good side by her suggestion of moving to bigger, more stable businesses to move their “products.” Although Dmitri mocks his wife’s suggestion behind her back, the mob boss takes it seriously; the next time we see the Russian group, Red has a seat at the table with the women, and the boss asks Dmitri to serve them food. She effectively usurps her husband’s power by her design. Even so, this does not necessarily guarantee her a higher place on the totem pole with the Russian mob. Red says that “there are the people who eat the bread, and then there are the people who serve the bread.” Regardless of what they do, they will never control their own lives; no matter how great Red’s ideas are, they will always be under someone else’s discretion.
When in prison, we see Red flip the power structure through her contraband operation in the kitchen. Instead of allowing her role as the “server” to keep her on a lower rung of the social ladder, she uses food against other inmates (Piper and Alex).
She is highly revered and catered to in season one; Norma Romano shaves her legs and dyes her hair as if she were a queen. She becomes a mother figure to the drug addicts (Nicky Nichols and Tricia Miller for example) and is very hard on them to make sure that they stay on track. Red provides a family-like structure for many of the women, which helps them to survive prison. When she is particularly hard on Tricia for giving in to her addiction, leading to her subsequent suicide, Red feels solely responsible for her death because she is the mother hen, as her name suggests (gallina means “chicken” in both Italian and Spanish).
A glimpse into Red’s life pre-Litchfield allows us to understand that the Russian mob is connected to Neptune produce (we see a crate that Dmitri is carrying clearly branded NEPTUNE – if this wasn’t enough, the driver of the truck is clearly Russian), the company that Litchfield receives delivery from. This is presumably how Red gets whatever she needs smuggled into the prison. It is not clear, however, whether or not the mob started business with the prison before Red’s incarceration. It is clear that she was ignorant to their dealings with Litchfield upon first entering the kitchen.
Red’s power is taken away when Mendez’s design backfires, and she is pinned for the prison guard’s own abuse of her smuggling operation. She is kicked out of the kitchen and becomes even more depressed than she already was about Tricia Miller’s death. In attempt to regain her roost, she sabotages the kitchen by adding salt to the rice and dirtying the ovens to cause a grease fire, which results in severe second-degree burns for Gina Murphy and estrangement between her and Red.
Season two picks up after Red has been removed from the kitchen; she lets her roots go gray and she has virtually lost her family. After Gina’s accident and losing the perks of contraband makeup, the inmates have little desire to reconnect with Red. Although Gloria Mendoza and the Hispanic women have nothing really against Red (other than Gloria’s suspicion of her starting the grease fire), Red still refuses to eat from the kitchen, whether out of embarrassment or the understood agreement that they would not feed her, as she had done to so many who had crossed her in her golden years.
Not only are things rough for her on the inside but on the outside as well. Her store is hurting financially, for their customers fear giving them their business after blowing their prison contract with the mob following Pornstache/Red’s bust. Red’s three sons, Vasily, Yuri, and Maxim, lie to Red about the success of the store, not wanting to worry their mother, but it becomes painfully obvious that the family is also hurting financially when Red goes to buy her Cup-o-Noodles (for she doesn’t believe she will be fed in the kitchen) and has no money in her account. Piper Chapman further perpetuates this lie in season two in favor of keeping Red sane when she goes on furlough and discovers that the store has shut down completely.
Red is not used to being pitied. It seems as though Red will sink into the background entirely in the second season until Yvonne “Vee” Parker reenters Litchfield. As one of the women in the kitchen put it, Red is “a big Russian bear . . . she’s hibernating until she gets strong again.” Everyone assumes that she will attack and take her revenge whenever she can, despite the fact that her kitchen operation has been shut down.
Contrary to what Red claims, her first encounter (in a long time) with Vee is not when they share their deceiving hug: Red heard her singing in the showers and conveniently “didn’t see her.” It becomes clear early on that the two have a beef that needs settling. It is later revealed that the two entered Litchfield together; they made their way on their own, but Vee was the one to suggest to Red that she should make use of the Neptune vendor connection. Without Vee’s advice, Red never would have gained the power she once had.
When Red was first in charge of the contraband operation and Vee took over the black women’s tribe, she used her influence to attack Red for control of the contraband line. We don’t know the specifics of what happened afterward, but we know that Red eventually triumphed. It is also because of this run-in that Red learns to have a prison family for protection.
In search of a new project for her retirement (which begins as a “hobby” through Joe Caputo‘s suggestion, and turns into a way to withhold power from Vee), Red begins her greenhouse operation and drags the Golden Girls along with her. They have tried hard to befriend her for a while, and now Red has a reason to finally accept them.
Of course stumbling upon the grate beneath the greenhouse is an unexpected and unplanned perk of her new hobby. Red claims that she’s happy so long as she gets to boss people around again, no matter where she is stationed. Caputo buys her explanation, ignorant to the sewer line, and so her operation begins. Although she claims to be happy in the greenhouse, the way in which Red inspects and cleans the kitchen each time she visits to warn Mendoza about Vee’s antics suggests otherwise.
History repeats itself and Vee and Red struggle over the control of the contraband supply; Red refuses to give it up, and so Vee slocks her in the greenhouse. Although Vee is clearly the culprit, Red decides not to give her name up to the authorities for vengeance purposes; she wants to plot and plan and take care of Vee herself. When she discovers that her enemy plans to pin the attack on Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren, however, she recants her confession in fulfillment of a pact with Sister Ingalls for fear that Vee will hurt someone else.
Seeing as Vee is dead, she doesn’t cause any problems for Red in season three. When Red processes back into Litchfield from the hospital, she assigned to the late Miss Rosa‘s bunk in the room with Anita DeMarco and Alex Vause where she finds and pockets her cash stash. When she offers unused medication to her roommates, Anita asks what the catch is. Claiming to have changed, she ends up handing them to Vause. Red’s first order of business is in closing up the sewer line and engraving “R.I.P. V” on the cement head.
“My post-slock resolution was to stop giving liars second chances. . . . Nice is for cowards and Democrats.” – Galina “Red” Reznikov
After discovering that her husband has been lying to her for a long time about the success of their store, she seeks out Counselor Sam Healy‘s help in filing for divorce. Although she is looking forward to getting her maiden name back, season three does not announce that Red is going under a different name. In exchange for his help, Healy seeks out hers in speaking with his wife, Katya.
“I married a pillow: soft, lumpy, and always lying behind my back.” – Galina “Red” Reznikov”
Although she is not too keen on being Healy‘s “marriage counselor,” she helps him seemingly to hold up her end of the bargain; however, in refraining from translating Katya’s more hurtful reasons for her cold behavior, she betrays her underlying feelings for the detestable man. After a long while of translating their conversation, she snaps at Katya for being ungrateful, thus further revealing her true feelings.
When Nicky has her most recent encounter with heroin, Red springs into mother-lion mode to protect her. However, she is too late, and she gut-wrenchingly watches as one of her prison daughters is borne off to maximum security. While Red has previously been harsh when her other girls have had slip-ups, she has always had a soft spot for Nicky because she always came clean to her about it. Thus, when she is hauled away, Red feels as though she has lost one of her own children.
Red’s loneliness compels her to seek out Healy‘s affection. She asks Piper if she looks too off-putting, and her response compels her to soften her makeup and refrain from spiking her hair. Initially, we don’t know whether she pays special attention to the counselor in order to manipulate him into getting her kitchen back because she needs real”purpose” and “stimulation” or if she is genuinely interested in him. While Healy questions her true intentions, he puts her back in the kitchen, although only in the position of a lower-level staff member, because of his own developing feelings for the mature Russian inmate.
Shortly after her entry into the kitchen, Gloria resigns, allowing her to reign over her domain once again. When it seems as though things are looking up for her, Red is horrified when she discovers that the MCC is replacing her fresh food preparation with bagged suggestions of food, which plummets her into deeper despair.
She soon enlists the help of her Golden Girl greenhouse helper, Freida, to bring her fresh produce so that she can exercise her creative powers, even if on a smaller scale. At first she cooks for the kitchen staff until her supply of fresh vegetables increases, allowing her to host small dinners for attendees, selected on a lottery basis. However, when Black Cindy, Taystee, Poussey, and Watson get into her fresh corn stash, she forces them to repay her through serving at and cleaning up after the private dinner.
While Red may have received adequate reparations for the theft of her fresh corn, Healy senses her despondency and has three trays of fresh corn secretly delivered to the kitchen. Having a good idea of who helped her out, Red leaves a slice of corn quiche on his desk as a “thank you.”
When Piper seeks out her advice in expanding her panty business, Red reveals that she was insulted that she was not approached to wear her panties. She agrees to help in exchange for eight percent of her profit, funneled into her commissary.
When asked to be a witness at Lorna Morello’s wedding, she is reminded of her divorce certificate, which is her “most prized possession.” As she and Healy leave the wedding ceremony together, she tells him that their “ships passed too late into the night” and that their romance could never happen because he is on the other side of the bars.
At the start of season 4, she is woken an hour earlier than usual to feed the larger crowd of inmates, which begins a season-long pattern of Red’s long, sleepless days and nights. Though she’s under C.O. Piscatella‘s close watch, she manages to escape for long enough to notice that Healy is giving Judy King preference in her garden and first pick at all of the food that she and her garden club have worked hard to grow. This isn’t as big of an issue once she learns that her food is currently being fertilized with a man’s rotting flesh. Jealous of her preferential treatment, she sneaks eye drops into her food to give her diarrhea as payback.
While Red has managed to stay out of major trouble lately, when Vause brings her into the murder circle, she springs into action, though she is pissed that the body is in her garden. When Red makes it known that Vause is not her daughter (and thus not responsible for her or helping her out), she agrees to her request for help in talking Freida down from poisoning Lolly when it seems as though she’s about to spill the beans. Lolly no longer poses a threat, however, when it becomes clear that everyone thinks she’s nuts, and therefore everything she says will be disregarded despite the truth.
Nicky‘s return to Litchfield makes Red realize that a “piece of [her]” had been missing, and she’s now burdened with the incredible guilt that she has failed Nicky because she wasn’t watching her closely enough. Because Red will forever feel guilty about abandoning Tricia Miller in her time of need, she vows to accept and love Nicky no matter how many times she falls. Upon making the promise to always stand by her, she goes around and threatens all of the various sources of drugs she knows to exist to make sure that Nicky can no longer get her hands on any form of drugs.
When Aydin’s body is apprehended, she rallies all involved with the murder during the lock-down to keep them calm and far from suspicion; however, when she’s called for interrogation, she fears the worst. When her bunk is tossed for evidence and her illegal set of keys are apprehended, Piscatella pushes her to try to get her to confess. Because he knows that her reputation is hard-earned and exists fora reason, he watches her even more closely, forbidding her from sleeping. He tortures her to make an example of her, but when the other inmates realize what’s going on (specifically Blanca Flores), the peaceful protest begins.