Piper Chapman (portrayed by Taylor Schilling), born June 7–also known as “Dandelion” (Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren), “College” (Pennsatucky), “Brain” (Tricia Miller), “Yuppie” (Red), “Bambi” (Alex), “Lindsay Lohan,” and “First Class”–was initially our protagonist. Since season one, she has receded to receive the same amount of screen time as the other inmates. Immediately upon entry, Nicky Nichols makes fun of her for “studying” for prison; shortly after she accidentally insults the Red, which leads to nearly a week of starvation. We discover that Piper’s thirst for adventure, and ten-year-old involvement with her drug-trafficking ex-girlfriend, Alex Vause, landed her in jail. Her late fiancée, Larry Bloom, is surprised when the court order arrives, for Piper has kept her past a secret. Piper initially works in electrical until she earns a better job working for Whispers. As of the end of season three, Piper has between six and twelve months left of her sentence.
What ultimately sets Piper apart from the majority of her prisonmates is that she is white, educated, and a future business owner (she and her best friend Polly are making soaps to sell in Barney’s). Her race and education give her somewhat of an advantage over the other inmates, for Counselor Healy attempts to level with her on several occasions. He suggests that she runs for the Women’s Advisory Council (WAC); when Piper resists his suggestion, he appoints her anyway. Of course, this appears to the rest of the women as a result of Piper’s “entitled” nature. Her mother refuses to tell her friends that her daughter is in jail; rather, she tells them that she is “doing volunteer work in Africa” (101).
Piper has a tattoo of a fish on the back of her neck that she got after scuba diving. Although it is not spelled out for us, we can assume that she was only scuba diving in some exotic place because Alex brought her there on business. Much like her past, the tattoo will remain forever as a reminder of her time with her girlfriend. In season three, Stella Carlin gives her a white-ink tattoo that says “Trust No Bitch” and she later gives herself a black infinity symbol tattoo.
As a young child, we know that Piper’s family was affluent, but she was usually lonely. While out at a movie without her parents’ permission, she witnesses her father having an affair on her mother. When coming clean to her mother about lying to her, she also tells her mother about what she saw. When her mother vehemently avoids the subject and instead scolds her for misbehaving, Piper learns that life with the Chapmans is all about appearances.
Through a flashback, we learn that she lied to her parents about being in Europe with Polly when she was really touring Europe with Alex for business; however, the two break up when Piper refuses to return to the states with her to go to her mother’s funeral.
Under the impression that she doesn’t belong in Litchfield in the first place, she mistakes her leverage with Healy for equality, which compels her to “act out.” Dancing with Alex Vause in a “sexually provocative,” “lesbian” way lands her in the SHU, sparking further confrontation between the two. “Girls like me,” Piper retorts “love tall, hot girls” – she tells him that, despite his beliefs, “you don’t get me” (109). Since she was held in SHU illegally, Piper was removed after less than forty-eight hours. With a supercharged desire for vengeance, Piper becomes the “aggressor” and starts an affair with Alex. Healy calls Larry to explain why he was unable to visit Piper on Thanksgiving, reporting on her “lesbian activity,” which causes the downward spiral of Piper’s relationships with both Larry and Alex, ultimately landing alone – with a broken-off engagement and without Alex for support, love, and comfort. Alex accuses Piper of being “terrified of being alone,” which we see to be true, for she has “ruined [her] life now twice over [Alex].”
In season one, Tiffany “Pennsatucky” Doggett has it out for Piper for she created the conditions for Pennsatucky to be put into psych. Despite the fact that Piper came clean and got her out of psych, she still has it out for Piper, which culminates in the final scene of the first season finale: Piper beating the sh*t out of her (both to take out her rage on her current situation, and to make room in the meth head’s mouth for a new set of teeth: the only thing that she truly wants). She only gathers the courage to do so after Pennsatucky says: “You ain’t worthy of nobody’s love” (113).
In season two, Piper is transferred to Chicago for a trial, but she believes it is because of her fight with Pennsatucky. However, when she sees Alex (much to her surprise), she discovers that they are there for the kingpin of Alex’s drug ring’s trial. Alex tells her to lie about knowing him, which is what Piper does; however, Alex has a sudden change of heart and screws her over. Now that she is entirely pissed off at Alex, and is no longer with Larry, she becomes hardened.
Upon returning to Litchfield, she adopts a no-nonsense attitude, and is extremely pissed when she discovers that all the women had scavenged and stole her things. She gets a taste of her own medicine when Brook Soso enters Litchfield with her and tells her that she is “a lone wolf . . . and a vicious one.” In attempts to get the new girl off of her back, she attempts to trade her to Big Boo (as a prison wife) in exchange for Miss Claudette‘s blanket back, which makes Boo call her “a horrible person.”
When her grandmother dies and she is granted furlough, she is put on everyone’s shit list, since nobody gets furlough. When her family starts treating her differently, she finds that her “goody two-shoes” persona no longer works. She tries to sleep with Larry while at the funeral reception; however, he tells her that he slept with someone who she knows. Not only is it bad enough that she can’t even stay at their apartment while on furlough, but she doesn’t know who he betrayed her with. She buys beer (against protocol) and a burger and goes for a walk, visiting Red’s shop for her and discovering that it has closed. She does not have the heart, however, to tell Red that it’s closed down, for it is her only beacon of hope in prison. In season three, she discovers that Piper lied to her, which causes a falling out of sorts. Red calls her selfish, assuming that she lied to make Red like her.
As if it’s not already bad enough that she’s about to be transferred to another prison, Larry and Polly break the news to her about their relationship and Alex tells her she’s leaving town. She puts Alex in her place, once and for all, once she gets Piper to call into her parole officer, thus landing her backstabbing ex-girlfriend back in jail.
However, once Alex returns to Litchfield, she is reluctant to tell her that she is the reason why she landed back in jail. Furthermore, she’s perplexed once she sees the vulnerable and emotional side of the former drug dealer. Piper allows Alex to maintain the illusion that fate brought them back together when, in reality, it was Piper’s selfishness and hunger for vengeance that landed her back behind bars. Once she discovers that Piper lied to her, however, she calls her a “manipulative cunt.” Despite their mutual rage, they enjoy a healthy, albeit angry, sex life.
Shocked by the malice aimed toward her for telling her ex-girlfriend the truth, Red advises Piper to start taking notice of the world around her rather than the one that is in her “pointy blonde head.” Furthermore, Red calls her on her bullshit in “playing dirty” while claiming to be “clean.” The Russian mother advises Piper to awake her inner Russian and be tough and straightforward in all of her endeavors.
Piper and Alex do not confront each other until Berdie Rogers‘ drama class, when they are forced to act out an improvisation scene together, through which they are able to start to come to terms, which unfortunately inhibits their sex life.
Although Piper’s relationship with Alex is not clearly defined as of yet, when her parents and brother come to visit her, she battles their silent treatment by telling them straight out that she is dating her ex-lover again despite what they think. Furthermore, Piper stops her mother’s tendency to talk about prison as a mistake or a blunder. She tells her parents that she believes she is in prison for a very specific reason, and she embraces it.
Despite the fact that she and Alex are officially girlfriends once again, Piper grows increasingly irritated with Alex’s paranoia about Kubra Balik’s people coming to get her. She fails to take Alex’s concerns seriously, which ends up driving a rift between them.
When she discovers Whispers’ wastefulness and her concerns about it are shut down by the overseeing prison staff, Piper concocts a plan to begin making panties with the unused material to start her own prison panty business called Felonious Spunk. Behind the factory doors, Piper begins getting close with Stella Carlin, whose advice she seeks before Alex’s on multiple occasions, despite the fact that Alex is her business partner. This eventually leads to several kisses and advances, both inside and outside of work, which Alex sees and approaches Piper about (although she denies it).
Looking to expand her business model and “get a piece of the American Dream” for herself, she seeks Red’s advice, and she helps her, despite the fact that she Piper insulted her by not including her on the action. She then goes on a prison hunt to find a phone, on which she finds a load of contraband items which she makes note of for later use.
Once word gets out that Piper is making a killing off of the prison panties, which inmates are wearing in exchange for ramen noodle flavor packets, Flaca steps up to the plate with a list of demands to ensure that the girls are being treated fairly. To show everyone how serious she is, she grants the women their wishes to keep her business running, but fires Flaca for instigating.
On a post-firing high, Piper brags to Alex how fierce she felt in firing Flaca, although Alex is not in the slightest impressed with her “gross” behavior. Piper thinks that she’s just jealous because she’s “better” than she is. She is floored when Alex breaks up with her for her behavior, but that does not stop her from sitting with Stella at movie night and holding her hand because she’s “not good at being alone.” She subsequently offers the business partnership to Stella, who declines because she is getting out of prison in just a few days.
Flaca soon comes running back, asking to make some money because her mother is sick. Piper takes pity and takes her back for a lessened rate, believing that she is a “good and benevolent dictator,” comparing herself to King Wangchuck of Bhutan. Alex points out how ridiculous Piper sounds, which leads to them discussing their break up. Once she finds out that Piper took the traitorous panty girl back, she chastises her again, much to Piper’s surprise since she so disapproved of firing her in the first place.
Once Cal breaks the news to Piper that their bank account has been emptied by an unknown source, Piper immediately goes after Flaca to attack her. When Gloria retaliates and threatens Piper in her defense, Piper gracefully backs down, trying to maintain her dominant air. Much to her dismay, she discovers that Stella Carlin has stolen all of her money, and in retaliation, she plants all of the contraband she finds in Stella’s bunk to ensure that she does not see home for a long, long time.
Season 4 picks up just after this moment, and as Piper enjoys her “high” from having Stella busted for stealing her panty business money. Feeling like a “gangsta with an ‘A,'” Piper continues to feel invincible, as she had in season 3, but Red reminds her that she needs to remain in control and retain her power in a way that makes others think she’s more powerful than she actually is. Following her lead, she recruits Stephanie Hapakuka to become her bodyguard to perpetuate her tough-girl image.
However, this arrangement does not last long, especially when she discovers that Ruiz has busted into the panty business and is coming for her after she denied Ruiz and her friends the opportunity to work for her, and she releases Hapakuka into the world, saying she cannot protect her from the looming dangers.
Further attempting to protect herself, she approaches C.O. Piscatella to tell him that she’s been feeling “unsafe” lately, hoping to play into the racism that seems to exist most of Litchfield’s C.O.s. She is granted permission to form a “Community Carers” task force, which she intends to break up Ruiz’s “family” group, which appears to strengthen to the point where she could cause her some (she feels) undue harm; however, it unfortunately turns into a White Power group after an impassioned “White lives matter!” chant. Additionally, her own group screws her over when they notice Ruiz’s budding panty operation, which does the exact opposite of what Piper intended this group to do. Later, she and Boo plant the rest of the panties in her possession under Ruiz’s bunk, which adds an additional three to five years to her sentence.
Feeling isolated and endangered, Piper attempts to get back into Vause‘s good graces following last season’s transgressions with Stella Carlin, but Vause refuses to hear her apologies until much later when she and Nichols are getting high in the corn fields and she tells them about Aydin and her murder. After some time, Vause is finally able to let Piper back into her life, and they start to discuss a future together (again).
Having created bad blood, this sets Hapakuka up to be vulnerable to Ruiz’s crew and their desire to enact revenge on Piper for adding more time to her sentence. At Nichols‘ “Welcome Back” party, she’s grabbed by Ruiz and her women and branded with a swastika.
As yet another awful result of Piper’s botched attempt at a sly solution to her prison panty competition, everyone previously employed by Whispers has been replaced in order to stop the operation pinned on Ruiz, officially securing her dozens more enemies, who she has now cost their $1/hour pay (which is, though pitiful, still ten times more the going rate for all other jobs in Litchfield).