If you watched and finished Orange Is The New Black Season 3, you know we lost one of the best characters. This one part of the season was shocking, unjust, and devastating all at the same time. That's right, Nicky Nichols got sent to Max on OITNB, otherwise known as the maximum security prison. And, we still don't know if she'll ever return.
In the latest season of OITNB, Nicky unfortunately got herself caught up in a heroin dealing scheme with C.O. Luschek that backfired on her majorly. Nicky, whose life as a junkie landed her in Litchfield in the first place, hid heroin in Luschek's desk in the electrical office, and he promptly sold her out on it, which forced Caputo to send Nicky to Max at the end of Season 3 Episode 3.
Since we rarely see or hear about the inmates living down the hill in Max at Litchfield, Nicky was nowhere to be seen on OITNB for the rest of the season after that. This understandably greatly upset many of Nicky's closest friends at Litchfield, including Red and Morello, and also little old me, who is still not over the fact that Natasha Lyonne's tough, crass humor has been absent from nearly all of Season 3 of OITNB. It's truly a terrible thing.
So, does this mean Nicky is gone for good? Maybe yes, maybe no. Neither Netflix nor Lyonne have commented on whether or not the actress, and therefore Nicky, will be returning for Season 4 of OITNB , so that obviously doesn't give us any clues. However, what might help is looking at the fate of past Litchfield inmates who have been sent to Max.
For a place that has as much craziness go down as Litchfield, surprisingly few inmates have been sent to Max on the series. Miss Claudette Pelage was sent to Max in Season 1 after attempting to strangle C.O. Fischer in a fit of rage when her court appeal was denied. That was the last we saw of poor, old Miss Claudette, so that doesn't bode well for Nicky's chances of returning to Litchfield.
But, don't lose all hope just yet. Lolly Whitehill seems so jazzed about being at Litchfield this past season, which seems to suggest that where she had been serving time previously was nothing short of the worst place on Earth. Since maximum security prisons tend to be a lot stricter and a lot more "no frills," it seems likely that Lolly had been in Max and then was moved into Litchfield, giving the character and the actress who portrays her, Lori Petty, a bigger role on OITNB this season. However, it is difficult to know if Lolly's enthusiasm for Litchfield is the result of her being thankful to be in a nicer prison or if it's her mental instability coming through. But, I'm just going to choose to believe the former. If Lolly moved from Max to a minimum security prison, who's to say that Nicky won't return to Litchfield some day?
There's also the very important fact that the Season 3 finale revealed a ton of new inmates moving into Litchfield, which sets up the overcrowding of Litchfield as a major conflict for Season 4. Since OITNB just showed the inmates being bussed into Litchfield briefly, it's hard to know exactly from where they came. However, when Danny Pearson of MCC said that the maximum security prison down the hill from Litchfield was one of the reasons why the private corporation decided to buy the prison, with "the number of bodies down there and the potential for the unused space," this seemed to imply that the company may have plans to consolidate the two facilities into one at some point. Obviously, that didn't happen during Season 3, so Season 4 could be when we see this plan come to fruition.
If that does actually happen, it could mean that Nicky (and also possibly Stella Carlin, the inmate who learned to "trust no bitch" when Piper planted contraband in her bunk and had her sent away to Max as well) get to return to Litchfield next season. Fingers crossed!
Images: JoJo Whilden (2), Paul Shiraldi/Netflix; giphy