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Orange Is the New Black: Let's Talk About [Spoiler]'s Big Return

And its heartbreaking twist

Liz Raftery

[Warning: This article contains spoilers about Season 4 of Orange Is the New Black. Read at your own risk!]

Orange Is the New Black is so much better when Nicky Nichols (Natasha Lyonne) is in the (big) house, isn't it?

Ever since she got shipped to Max in the early part of Season 3, viewers have been wondering when Nicky's going to return to gen. pop. And in Episode 6 of Season 4, the moment we've all been waiting for finally arrives. (You didn't really think Nicky was gone for good, did you?)

16 reasons we'll never stop 'shipping Nicky and Morello on OITNB

We're not the only ones thrilled about Nicky's big comeback. Red (Kate Mulgrew) is grateful her prodigal daughter has returned, and Sophia (Laverne Cox) is also grateful to see a friendly, magazine-toting face when Nicky is assigned to be the cleaning porter in the SHU. Morello (Yael Stone) has more complicated feelings about Nicky's return, as she's trying to remain a faithful spouse while behind bars, but also appreciates Nicky's detective skills in determining who the serial shower pooper is. Luschek (Matt Peters) is grateful that her return can alleviate the guilt he feels about getting her sent down to Max in the first place.

JoJo Whilden/Netflix

When we first see Nicky other than just in passing, she's struck up a relationship with Stella (Ruby Rose) in Max and is celebrating three years of being clean (even though she sadly can't keep her chip, which is contraband). "Screw it, I'm f---in' proud of myself," Nicky says in her typically eloquent way during her acceptance speech, later telling Luschek that getting sober is the hardest thing she's ever done, since temptations abound in Max.

18 reasons Nicky is irreplaceable on Orange Is the New Black

Which makes it all the more heartbreaking when she starts using again after a visit from Luschek, getting drugs from a female guard in Max in exchange for sex. The irony? While Nicky's scoring drugs, Caputo is signing the papers for her to return to gen. pop., thanks to some string-pulling Judy King (Blair Brown) talked her lawyer into, in exchange for sex from Luschek.

When she returns to Litchfield, it isn't long before Nicky's in a full-fledged spiral, which is punctuated by smoking crack (!) with Piper and Alex, and buying Angie's shower-poop heroin. But there's still hope for Nicky. In an ironic twist, she might be the only person who comes out of the lockdown/subsequent riot seemingly better off for it. The lockdown forces her to detox, and she ends up striking up a friendship with a sympathetic Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning), who gives Nicky her homemade barf box. Their bonding is one of the best parts of Season 4, and Nicky seems newly committed to sobriety by the end of the finale. But will she be able to stay clean?

What did you think of Nicky's return?

Orange Is the New Black Season 4 is now available to stream on Netflix.