The relationships between prisoners and guards on Orange Is the New Black has always been tense, but last season introduced a new C.O., Tamika Ward (Susan Heyward), who genuinely seemed to have the inmates' best interests at heart. This was particularly true when it came to Taystee, who Tamika knows from outside of prison. But since it's been almost a year since their shared history was explained in Season 6, you made need a refresher before diving into the show's seventh and final season.
We first saw Tamika as she was monitoring the Litchfield inmates who had been moved to Administrative Segregation (Ad Seg) for interrogation during the aftermath of the riot. After she stopped by Taystee's cell, it became clear the two had crossed paths in the past. More than that — they actually appeared to be good friends before life became complicated and forced them to drift apart. The two of them made reference to working at a fast food restaurant called Storky's together when they were teenagers. In fact, Taystee even went so far as to remind Tamika that she used to steal from the place on occasion, demonstrating how easily the their roles could have been reversed if things had gone a little differently.
Later on in the season, fans were treated to flashbacks of Taystee and Tamika's time as co-workers, further indicating how close they once were. It also once again showcased Taystee's natural leadership capabilities. At one point, a former classmate of theirs came into Storky's late one night to rob the place. While Tamika cowered underneath the register, frozen in fear, Taystee took charge of the situation and convinced the guy to walk out without harming anyone and without stealing any money. She protected her friend and stayed cool in a high pressure situation. The two may have gone their separate ways shortly after this significant moment in their lives, but it forever bonded them, and it was clear that even after all these years, they still had a soft spot for one another.
Throughout the season, Tamika was torn about how to feel in regard to Taystee. On the one hand, she sympathized with her former friend and wanted to see her get the justice she deserved. But at the same time, she felt an allegiance to her fellow C.O.s and wanted to try and keep things as professional as possible.
Eventually, though, Tamika was no longer able to keep her personal feelings out of the workplace. She even took time off in order to attend Taystee's trial and sit in the courtroom to show her support. Sadly, it didn't end up going in Taystee's favor and she was sentenced to life in prison, which is heartbreaking in and of itself — and a topic that Season 7 is sure to cover. But despite her seemingly bleak future, it's nice to know that Taystee has at least one ally in prison. Let's just hope this complicated friendship continues to get explored.