Spoiler warning: For those who haven’t finished season 5 of OITNB, plot details will be revealed ahead.
If you’re reading this, you’ve survived your sentence in binge-watching Orange Is the New Black.
One storyline we wanted to here more about was Piper (Taylor Schilling) and Alex (Laura Prepon).
Piper and Alex have had quite the journey on the show.
They’ve been on, they’ve been off and they’ve been in quite a few weird, in between spaces over the course of Orange‘s run.
But by the end of Season 5, it’s safe to say that Piper and Alex’s relationship might be in the best place it’s ever been!
In the episode, titled Tattoo You, we are delivered two parallel flashbacks for the pair, which provides insight into why Alex ended up sending Piper to jail in the first place.
Rewinding to when Piper was still following Alex all over the world, viewers see her ink herself with a fish tattoo signifying beauty for Alex.
Years later, Alex tells a stranger that her “Love is pain” inking was in response to Piper’s beauty fish: Love is pain, not beauty.
Now her ex-girlfriend, Alex admits that Piper broke her heart. The prior seasons have already clued viewers into what happened in between these two memories, but seeing Alex express a mix of anger, love and regret over “ruining Piper’s life” by sending her to Litchfield was a new shade of black on the drug-smuggling nomad.
And Alex wasn’t the only one to have regrets.
Enter a cameo from Jason Biggs, who returned to play Piper’s boyfriend Larry Bloom. When Larry gets his own tattoo, of the Kool-Aid Man, Piper is reminded of Alex and drunk dials her ex later that night.
“How are you still in my brain? Do you miss me? Probably not. I miss you,” she says in the rambling voicemail, which upon listening causes Alex to kick out her girlfriend.
Back at Litchfield, Piper has a phone conversation with her mother, where she says coming close to dying made her realize she doesn’t want to miss out on being with Alex in this lifetime. “I want to stick around because of her,” she admits.
Only hours earlier in Litchfield time, both Piper and Alex, bound and gagged in the shower curtains they were kidnapped in, survived a near-death experience when Piscatella (Brad William Henke) tortured Red (Kate Mulgrew) and threatened their collective existence from inside a janitor’s closet.
They survived — Alex with a broken arm and Piper, a newfound outlook.
Talking to The Hollywood Reporter, Laura Prepon explains
When you look at what they just went through with Piscatella, it puts things into perspective. They just went through this insane thing where they almost died. They saw what happened to Red and Alex’s arm is broken and all these things, and they realize: Life is short, I love this person, let’s just do this.”
Prepon says the Piscatella incident — which ultimately ended with the guard being shot and killed by one of his own riot men — shifted things for the tumultuous twosome.
When something like that happens, it makes people really reevaluate. You realize what’s important.”
In the scene, Piper says she “wanted to die” sitting there and not being able to help Alex when she was hurt.
Despite Alex’s insistence that Piper leave her alone, Piper returned to the bunker where the inmates were hiding, Alex’s missing glasses in hand, and says…
You have taught me that love hurts. You’ve taught me that life, it hurts. And I want to be there for you, I want us to be there for each other so that maybe it hurts a little less.”
Getting down on one knee, Piper popped the question, asking Alex to be her partner through love, pain and beauty fish.
I figured that’s what you were doing,” snarked Alex before accepting. Then asking, “You had to do this now?”
The mid-riot romantic gesture was, as Schilling says, so Piper.
It was interesting that that’s where the rubber met the road for them. In the midst of crisis — let’s get married!”
Schilling says when she read the script, she had never given much thought to whether Piper would be the one to ask, focusing instead on how sweet of a way the moment is to “propel their relationship forward” after a high-stakes situation.
Prepon, on the other hand, said she was very surprised when she read it:
Not even that it was Piper who proposed, but just that it was happening in general.”
Though their celebratory period was short-lived, Schilling froze the moment in time to imagine how they would be as an engaged couple.
I can’t imagine it being very much different than what their relationship is like now, which is so heightened and so dysfunctional in many ways. Marriage doesn’t generally shift course very much and it’s not really a thing that fixes a relationship. I’m curious to see how they react to that.”
When it came to filming the scene, Prepon laughed about the moment occurring in the very unromantic pool room setting.
I love working with Taylor. Whenever we have a scene we just jump into it. We do the damn thing and it’s great and fantastic. She’s a baller and we have a lot of fun together.”
The finale sees Piper and Alex joining hands with eight other inmates as the 10 key characters prepare to face the consequences of their actions.
Clutching hands, the inmates are rocked by the explosion, unaware of what will be greeting them through the other side of the door.