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Galina "Red" Reznikov is a main character and an inmate at Litchfield Penitentiary, portrayed by Kate Mulgrew. She is a powerful figure in the inmate population who holds the position of Head Chef and is leader of a group known as Red's Girls. Red's character is based on Pop in the memoir, Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison.
Cold and matronly, Red's influence in Litchfield is rivaled by few others, ruling her side of the prison with an iron fist (and large amount of illegal red hair dye), albeit fairly. Her intolerance to drugs and structured smuggling ring shows a motherly nature and a keen intellect, something that had been developed and brought into Litchfield rather than raised from necessity within the prison. In previous flashbacks, Red was able to displace her husband, a low level mob goon, by impressing his boss with a piece of strategic advice which allowed her to gain his favor.
Though a serious woman, Red can be known for being occasionally sentimental (especially for the women in her care) and humorous. When Piper says that she's seen a wild free-range chicken walking about freely in Litchfield, Red reveals a deep obsession with the "legendary bird" and hopes to cook it one day. (There are still some of the women who believe the fowl to be but a mere representation of what the person seeing it wants at the time. Red herself wants to cook it, other people still believe drugs, money, or guns are impossibly tucked away inside of it somehow, and Piper eventually chases the chicken to the end of Litchfield, where it awaits outside, tantalizingly representing freedom in her eyes).
Physical Appearance Edit
Red has short hair, which is usually dyed red and made bigger with hair products, which is the origin of her nickname. Before prison, she used to wear her hair long. She also usually wears red lipstick, golden earrings and spikes out her black eyeliner, just below and above the eye.
Before Litchfield Edit
For a list of episodes featuring Red's flashbacks, see here.
In the 1970s, Red was a factory worker in Soviet-era Russia. Her boyfriend Dmitri also worked at the factory as a guard, but Red grew bored of their relationship and complained to her friend Nadezhda that he was "a hamster in jackboots" ("The Tightening"). Later, Red blew off a date with Dmitri to go to a secret party with Nadezhda, the attendees of which were university students who rebelled against repressive Soviet society by copying American clothing and dance moves. There, she met the party's host, Pavel, who financed this underground lifestyle by selling Levi's blue jeans (contraband and symbols of "Western decadence", to the Soviet authorities). Red and Pavel began a passionate relationship, and she and Nadezhda contributed to his illicit business by dyeing and selling the jeans. Red fancied herself and Pavel as pioneers of change, until their friends, including Nadezhda, began to disappear - presumably picked up by the police in connection with the jeans business. While Red wanted to organize a demonstration for their freedom, Pavel insisted they destroy the jeans and lay low, prompting Red to storm out in disgust at Pavel's sudden timidity when threatened. Back at the factory after Red and Pavel's break-up, Dmitri made a last-ditch attempt to win Red back by proposing they move to the United States together - as the government was allowing Jewish individuals to leave the country, they could pay an agency to "discover" long-lost Jewish relatives and thus obtain visas. Though initially reluctant to marry Dmitri in order to emigrate, Red agreed.
Years later, having settled in the US and remained married, Red and Dmitri owned Dmitri's Russian Market in Astoria, Queens. Dmitri befriended some members of the Russian mob who frequented their business. Red, on the other hand, struggled to befriend their wives. She once went out on an organised walk with the ladies and tried to fit in to their group, but the wives patronized her and refused to laugh at her jokes. After discovering that they had excluded her from their next walk, an upset Red confronted and punched the wife of the mob boss, Marina, in the chest, accidentally rupturing a breast implant. Red and Dmitri were forced to pay back a $60,000 debt to the mob boss, Ganya, which led to Dmitri being forced to undertake some extremely unpleasant jobs; for example, implied corpse storage at their business ("Tit Punch").
She later impressed Ganya by offering sound business advice that allowed her to swiftly climb the ranks of the organization - namely, that cafés and restaurants come and go, but businesses such as hospitals and prisons will always exist and are therefore better choices for racketeering ("Moscow Mule").
It is believed by some that that she went to prison for murder, due to it being revealed in "People Persons" that police found five bodies in Red's freezer when they searched her house. However, this is likely due to the Reznikovs being forced by Ganya to store the body parts of mafia victims.
Arrival at Litchfield Edit
Red seemingly arrived at prison at the same time as both Anita DeMarco and Vee (although Vee revealed she had been to Litchfield previously). She explained to Vee that she had connections with Neptune's Produce, a business of Ganya's that supplied the prison with groceries. Vee subsequently suggested that Red use them to smuggle contraband into Litchfield.
Red began working in the kitchen with Norma and successfully smuggled items in for some time. When Vee discovered Red's growing business, she asked for a cut of the business. After Red refused, Vee and her girls violently attacked Red, breaking some of her ribs and puncturing a lung.
Red is feared and respected by most of the prisoners, and has a lot of influence with Healy. She is close to Nicky and is always accompanied by Norma and Gina. They both cater to her personal needs and work with her in the kitchen.
Red runs a smuggling business out of her kitchen, but she refuses to import drugs of any kind. When Mendez begins to force her to use her connections to bring in drugs, she hatches a plan to have him removed from the prison. She also uses her resources to help some of the inmates overcome drug addictions - as she did once with Nicky and also Tricia - although they have only "two strikes" before she abandons them, which eventually causes Tricia to overdose after her relapse. She is initially nice to Piper until Piper unknowingly insults her cooking, and in response Red punishes her by starvation in order to force her to appreciate her food. Piper eventually repairs their relationship by making an ointment from chilis given to her by Suzanne to help soothe Red's sore back.
Red also has an odd obsession with a chicken that is allegedly seen on the prison grounds from time to time, as she wants to cook "real food" and also wants to absorb its "power". Toward the end of Season One she is decommissioned from the kitchen by Caputo (after he discovers Mendez's drug smuggling operation, for which Red is blamed) and assigns Gloria as the new Head Chef. In an attempt to take Gloria and her "girls" out of the kitchen she sabotages one of the ovens, inadvertently causing Gina to be badly burnt, which strains her relationship with her "daughters", who isolate her.
In Season Two, she becomes Piper's new bunkmate, and befriends her. At the same time, she attempts to come to terms with her loss of friends, and in the process joins the "Golden Girls," a group of older inmates. Upon discovering a disused sewage drain in an abandoned greenhouse in the prison grounds, Red restarts her smuggling business using the garden greenhouse as a front. When Piper is granted furlough, Red asks her to stop by her market to check on how things are doing. Piper sees the business is closed down, and the space is for lease, but upon returning to prison lies and tells Red that the business is doing well.
Her old rival Vee has been incarcerated once more at Litchfield, and, although their relationship is initially cordial to the outsider, Vee very quickly begins to undermine Red, leading to a season-long rivalry between the two. In the episode, "It Was The Change," Red attempts to strangle Vee to death but stops. Soon after, they agree to come to truce. However, at the end of the episode, Vee slocks Red in the greenhouse, causing trauma to her face and arm and putting her in the prison's hospital ward. Red initially refuses to name Vee, but is persuaded to by Sister Ingalls. This, coupled with statements from Vee's rebelling gang, causes Vee to escape down the greenhouse tunnel to avoid transfer to Max. Vee is then run over by Rosa Cisneros and is presumed dead at the end of Season Two.
At the time of "A Whole Other Hole", she had been at Litchfield for at least twelve years.
After realizing she doesn't have much time left on her sentence, Red seals up the greenhouse sewage drain with concrete and begins to concern herself with what she will do with herself upon release. Red is visited by her husband and sons on "Mother's Day". Red's family are concerned when they see the injury sustained when Red was attacked by Vee, but Red assures them she is okay. Red asks her family about the store and is concerned because Mother's Day is usually a large sales day for the store. The family lies and tells them everything is fine and the store is doing well enough that they could afford to close for the day. However, she can sense the lie and she confronts Piper. Red decides that she wants nothing more to do with her husband after this and wants to be divorced.
After Healy asks Red to translate for his ukrainian wife, Katya, in an attempt to mend their relationship, Red berates the woman, calling her a "mail-order bride," and defending Healy by saying that he "at least tried." Due to her kind words, the two begin flirting until Healy finds out it was a ploy to get work duty once again in the kitchen.
Red does eventually replace Gloria Mendoza as Head Chef, first being placed in a lowly position washing dishes, then taking over when Mendoza quits. She was, however, only allowed one day before MCC's new boil-in-the-bag meal plan was implemented, and prison food quickly becomes unbearable - so much so that a new currency of ramen packets to add taste to the "food" is introduced. Red is adamant that everyone in the prison know that the meals are not her doing, and eventually starts cooking special dinners with vegetables from the garden she started with the Golden Girls to which tickets are available by lottery.
Red begins the season seething with jealousy about the presence of celebrity chef inmate Judy King, especially after Judy is invited by Healy to pick the food growing in the greenhouse, and Red is then told Judy will be joining the gardening group. She tampers with King's food, adding a laxative to her meals.
Red's attention turns to Alex after Alex seeks her help and confesses her and Lolly Whitehill's killing of Aydin Bayat and his subsequent burial in the garden. Alex tells her Frieda Berlin helped them dispose of the body, and wants to kill an increasingly erratically-behaving Lolly before she confesses, so Red becomes involved in a bid to redirect Frieda's attention elsewhere.
When new construction foreman Leon McDonald attempts to remove the garden for more space for a construction site, he inadvertently digs up the dead body. CO Piscatella holds an interrogation against Caputo's orders, questioning any inmates with violent pasts. During the investigation, Red, Alex and Piper meet in Frieda's bunk to discuss what to do if they're questioned. The group believes Frieda will be investigated due to her murderous past, of which Frieda says she murdered four people one year. A CO comes to collect the questioned inmates, and instead of Frieda, Piscatella wants Red. It is revealed that there were five dead bodies found in Red's refrigerator outside of prison, and later, during an inspection of Red's bunk and office, the COs find the keys of the murdered officer. Although Red merely claimed the keys after the event, this is considered enough evidence to convict her. However, Healy reveals Lolly confessed to him some time ago and she is taken away to the psychiatric ward. Piscatella reveals his hatred of Red during this period and it becomes the start of his brutal campaign against her.
As the investigation comes to an end, Red attempts to sleep but Piscatella punishes her by ordering her to stay awake at all times.
Prompted by Taystee, the leaders of the various factions within the inmate population arrange to come together to discuss how to get rid of the abusive COs; Red says that Piscatella, as the captain, needs to go. They meet in the library - Red, Maria Ruiz for the Spanish Harlem, Taystee for the Black Girls, Kasey Sankey for the White Power Group and Stephanie Hapakuka for the "others'. They discuss various options. Red suggests killing Piscatella, but Hapakuka said she was in prison in Hawaii before being transferred to Litchfield and there the prisoners had staged a peaceful protest, which worked. The group agree on the course of action, but discussions fall apart when they cannot agree on who should lead it.
Piscatella later catches an exhausted Red dozing in her kitchen office, and drags her out and makes her an example in front of the Litchfield inmates. He then tosses her on the ground to the shock and disgust of all the inmates. As he exits the cafeteria, Flores stands on a table in protest (as she had previously been made to do so as punishment for deliberately not showering). Piper joins, followed by Taystee, Alex, and the rest of the women in the cafeteria. Red joins them. The entire inmate population peacefully protest and tell Piscatella that they will not get down until he resigns. Piscatella orders the COs to drag the inmates off the tables. In the ensuing chaos, Poussey Washington is accidentally suffocated to death by CO Bayley.
In the aftermath, Red reads a gardening book Poussey recommended to her to Alex, Piper, Morello, Nicky, Frieda, Norma, Gina and Anita. She says they will rebuild the garden in Poussey's memory and gives them all jobs to do. After they have all left, she confides in Frieda that a good way to keep her prison family out of trouble is to keep them busy.
When Caputo announces Poussey's death on the news, but does not name her and defends Bayley, Taystee incites a riot. Red joins all the inmates (except Piper, Alex, Sophia, Gloria and Chang) as they race towards his office, but they stop in the hallways when they meet Judy King - who is being released early - flanked by two COs. One CO, Thomas Humphrey, brandishes a gun but Maritza sees and pushes him over. The gun slides over to Daya who aims it at him as the inmates scream at her to shoot him. Red exclaims "Shit, here it is" about the event that is sure to change Litchfield forever.
As the situation in Litchfield devolves into a full-blown riot and all the inmates carve out their own footholds in a newly guard-less prison, Red secludes herself in Piscatella's office to search for information to use in her campaign to oust him. She is joined by Blanca, who stays and helps. Fueled by a "natural" energy supplement found in one of the lockers, the two comb through all the files in the office, initially turning up nothing damning against him. They do, however, find an album of Piscatella's "tablescapes" - elaborate table arrangements incorporating various themes and perfectly matched decorations and fabrics - which they hang around the prison, outing Piscatella as gay. Eventually finding Piscatella's file, the two women are horrified to find out that an inmate died while Piscatella was the guard on duty at his old prison, though he himself never faced charges. Furious that he was allowed to work at Litchfield in spite of this, Red and Blanca resolve to get rid of him by forcing him to publicly confess to murder.
Red and Blanca plan to lure Piscatella inside the prison by texting him with a cell phone belonging to CO Humphrey, then catch him in a booby-trap. In order to unlock Humphrey's phone, they need his thumbprint. Humphrey, having been shot by Daya and then suffered a stroke after Maureen Kukudio blew air bubbles into his IV system, is lying catatonic in medical. While Blanca distracts the attending nurse, Red attempts to unlock the phone, but bungles the job and ends up just cutting off the tip of Humphrey's thumb to keep for easier access. After setting up a rendezvous with Piscatella via text, the two women show up - visibly jittery and with a piece of severed thumb in tow - at the pharmacy cage to ask Nicky and Lorna for needles to use in their booby trap. Nicky inspects the "energy supplements" Red and Blanca have been taking, which turn out to be prescription-grade amphetamines, and immediately dismisses Red and Blanca's plan as crazy. Despite Red's protests that Piscatella is coming inside the prison, Nicky insists that Red relax and sleep off the drugs.
Unbeknownst to the inmates, Piscatella does indeed sneak inside the prison, despite Lorna-posing-as-Humphrey texting him not to. In horror movie slasher-style, Piscatella stays hidden and starts to snatch members of Red's "family" one-by-one, stowing them in a storage room. Only Red remains on guard. Finally, she stumbles upon the storage room and attempts to free Piscatella's captives, now including Nicky, Carrie "Big Boo" Black, Blanca, Alex, and Piper. Red is captured as well and humiliated in front of the others, with Piscatella hacking off large chunks of her hair while heaping verbal abuse at her. The group is saved by Frieda, Gina, Erica "Yoga" Jones, and Anita DeMarco, who have been riding out the riot in a bunker of Frieda's design - the entrance to which is hidden in a locker, fortuitously in the same storage closet where Piscatella has been torturing the captives. Piscatella himself is temporarily knocked out with a blow dart and restrained, but Nicky stops Red from harming him.
A short time later, law enforcement in SWAT gear storms the prison to stop the stand-off. Located in the bunker - actually an old, long-drained swimming pool in a basement area - Red and many of the others initially remain hidden as no one thinks to look there. However, after a tip from Caputo, the SWAT team makes their way toward the hidden refuge with the intent to clear out the bunker through any means necessary. With time running short and the threat of violence hanging over all of their heads, Red frees Piscatella in an act of mercy and waits with the others for the team to arrive. Red's fate - and the fate of the others in the bunker - are unclear as the SWAT team's first stun grenade goes off.
- Dmitri Reznikov (ex-husband) - She married Dmitri because he promised to take her to America, although she was quite reluctant to do so. Later, while living in America, it was likely his involvement with the mafia that got Red arrested. Sometime during her time in Litchfield, Red and Dmitri divorced.
- Yuri, Maxsim and Vasily Reznikov (sons)
- Nicky Nichols - Her most loyal girl and an ex-junkie who Red reformed prior to the series. Nicky and Red refer to each other as mother and daughter and are extremely close. However, when Tricia is forcefully ejected from the family for drug use and subsequently dies from an overdose, Nicky turns on Red in a moment of rebellious outrage by telling Mendez how the older woman smuggles in her goods. In Season Four, Nicky starts using drugs again in Max before being transferred back to Minimum Security. Red is at a loss as to how to help Nicky, as her previous method with Tricia resulted in Tricia's death.
- Norma Romano - Part of Red's "family", Norma is a quiet woman who is Red's longest-standing friend in the prison. She frequently acts as a servant as well as a friend, doing personal care such as shaving Red's legs. In Season Three, their relationship is strained when Norma becomes head of a cult within the prison, and the dynamics of their friendship are altered.
- Gina Murphy - Friend and helper in the kitchen, and part of Red's "family". Their relationship is almost destroyed when Red inadvertently causes Gina to be seriously burned in a kitchen fire, however the two eventually reconcile when Red finally apologizes.
- Miss Claudette - Friend and occasional helper in the kitchen, the two bond over their mutual jadedness towards the younger inmates' drama. Claudette is perhaps the only inmate who can rival Red's cooking skills.
- Lorna Morello - Also one of Red's girls, she can be considered second only to Nicky in terms of the Russian's command. During the WAC elections, Red had put her bid in for Lorna rather than Nicky, surprising the latter.
- Piper Chapman - despite her initial dislike of Piper, the two become closer when forced to share a bunk in Season Two, and Red often offers Piper sage and bluntly honest advice.
- Alex Vause - Alex and Red enjoyed a cordial relationship before Season Four, when Alex came to Red for help in keeping Aydin's murder a secret. Although Red initially questions Alex as to why she should help, saying Alex isn't one of her girls, she eventually aids Alex. In "Toast Can't Never Be Bread Again", Alex is seen in a gathering of Red's family, suggesting that she has been accepted into Red's Family.
- Frieda Berlin - Frieda first introduced herself and her group (The Golden Girls) to Red. She becomes part of Red's Family and the two "garden" together.
- Irma Lerman
- Jimmy Cavanaugh
- Blanca Flores - In Season Five during the riot, Red and Blanca both go looking for something to use against Piscatella. They search through guard files together and take "vitamins" that Blanca found, which turn out to be pharmacy grade speed. They attempt to make a plan to defeat him, but both women are captured by Piscatella when he enters the prison. The two are among the inmates in the pool when riot police blast down the door at the end of the final episode.
- Anita DeMarco - She is part of Red's Family.
- Gloria Mendoza - Red's replacement for her job in the kitchen and later friend in Season 2-4.
- Tricia Miller - Like Nicky, she was a recovering addict who considered Red her prison mom. After Tricia's body is found, Red feels it was her fault because it was made to look like an overdose.
- Sam Healy- They have been friends for a long time with the hint of a deeper relationship in Season 3. They have helped each other in the past; Red has translated for his Ukrainian wife and he in turn has given her special privileges in prison.
- George Mendez - Red's arch nemesis in Season One. When a picture of an inmate's vagina is accidentally leaked and found on a porn site, Mendez, also known as Pornstache, is forced to stall his drug dealing business in the prison whilst searching for the source of an unauthorized camera or cell phone brought in by an illegal smuggling ring. Worried that it might be drawn back to him, Mendez looks to alternative means and decides to merge his own dealings with Red's. However, due to Red's harsh views on drug use, Mendez must find a way to coerce her into cooperation: by finding out how exactly Red manages to bring her goods into Litchfield. With Nicky's help, Pornstache figures out that it is through Neptune's Produce (using previous connections to the Russian mob) and manages to force Red into accepting a merging of their interests, much to her disgust. Red retaliated by orchestrating a plan to pin the pregnancy of Dayanara Diaz on Pornstache, so that the actual father, John Bennett, would not get discovered. After Joe Caputo discovers Pornstache and Daya having sex, Pornstache is placed on administrative leave, and Red lets him know that she was involved in his suspension. He returns to the prison temporarily, but is subsequently fired and arrested when it is discovered by the prison administration that Daya is pregnant.
- Yvonne Parker (Vee) - An inmate who came to Litchfield around the beginning of Red's sentence. Vee advised Red to take advantage of her connections with Neptune's Produce, a vendor for the prison. Red was hesitant to break the rules since breaking them is what put her in prison in the first place. Vee explained the situation as one of survival, and Red took her advice. Red trusted Vee as a friend, but Vee betrayed her in order to take control of the operation for herself. When Red refused to give up control, Vee and her gang attacked her and broke some of her ribs. Vee was released some time later. In Season Two, Vee has been incarcerated once more at Litchfield, and, although their relationship is initially cordial to the outsider, Vee very quickly begins to undermine Red, leading to a season-long rivalry between the two. In the episode, "It Was The Change," Red attempts to strangle Vee to death but stops. Soon after, they agree to come to truce. However, at the end of the episode, Vee slocks Red in the greenhouse, causing trauma to her face and arm and putting her in the prison's hospital ward. Red initially refuses to name Vee, but is persuaded to by Sister Ingalls. This, coupled with statements from Vee's rebelling gang, causes Vee to escape down the greenhouse tunnel to avoid transfer to Max. Vee is then run over by Rosa Cisneros and is presumed dead at the end of Season Two.
- Desi Piscatella - In Season Four, Piscatella targets Red, among others. After she refuses to co-operate with his investigation into the body found in the garden, he forces her to stay awake for days. His treatment of Red and the other inmates causes the inmates to rebel in "The Animals". In Season Five, Piscatella captures Red and some of her family and subjects them to torture.
In the memoir "Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison" on which the television series is loosely based, the character of "Red" is based of a real-life prison inmate who is nicknamed "Pop," also Russian. "Pop" was in charge of the kitchen at Danbury Federal Correctional Institution, the prison where author Piper Kerman served a one year sentence for drug smuggling and money laundering. Like in the TV series, Kerman also insulted Pop's cooking, but received nothing more than a reprimand:
- "Listen, honey, I know you just got here, so I know that you don’t understand what’s what. I’m gonna tell you this once. There’s something here called “inciting a riot,” and that kind of shit you’re talking about… you can get in big trouble for that… so take a tip from me, and watch what you say."
- — Pop
Kerman and "Pop" eventually got along and created a strong bond. The Memoir is, in fact, dedicated to "Pop". The character of "Red" is one of only a handful of characters from the TV series to be loosely based on a real-life person.
- Red's father used to call her solnyshko, which means "little sun" in Russian, as mentioned in "(Don't) Say Anything".
- "I'm missing half my zucchini. These girls don't realize I'm here to provide food, not dildos. I'm all out of cucumbers, carrots, beets -- God knows what they're doing with those. I can't hold on to anything cock-shaped."
- — Red, "Lesbian Request Denied"
- "The second you're perceived as weak, you already are."
- — Red
- "You've gotta hit rock bottom before you know which direction to go in."
- — Red
- "Everything off the books lives like Anne Frank now."
- — Red
- "Are you finished? You're starting to sound finished."
- — Red
- "What do you want? A medal? A sticker that says, 'Great Job'?"
- — Red
- "All I wanted was to eat the chicken that is smarter than other chickens and to absorb its power."
- — Red, "The Chickening"
- "They pop out of the trunk of a car and learn to fry an egg; God bless America."
- — Red, "Can't Fix Crazy"
- "I can't do shit with 'I'm Sorry'""
- — Red to Piper "Tit Punch"
- "2 strikes, that's all she gets. Russians don't play baseball.""
- — Red, "Moscow Mule"
- "You know what, you really need to go fuck yourself."
- — Red,"We Can Be Heroes"
- "The world is better in black and white... And Red."
- — Red
- "I married a pillow. Soft, lumpy and always lying behind my back."
- — Red to Healy
- "People are fickle fucks."
- — Red to Piper
- "Happily ever after was invented for the storybooks so kids reach breeding age without killing themselves."
- — Red to Healy while discussing marriage
- "When God gives you a swastika, he opens a window. And then you remember... there is no God."
- — Red