Orange is the New Black has received nearly universal acclaim as a series. However, polarizing protagonist Piper Chapman garners more of a mixed response. The Piper hate train definitely hosts more than a few disgruntled occupants, and it's not that difficult to see precisely why. She's privileged, arrogant and self-absorbed, and prison seems to do little to temper any of these unlikable traits.
However, boiling her down to the spoiled rich girl archetype is hardly fair. Piper's definitely flawed, but most realistic characters usually are. More than that, Piper evokes sympathy when examined under the correct lens, especially when it comes to her struggles with reintegration into society. To demonstrate, below are five of Piper's most sympathetic moments during Season 7, alongside five that are... well, less sympathetic.
10 THE WORST: Stealing From Her Coworkers
Piper's under a lot of stress as she attempts to scrape her life back together. There are many of contributing factors, including an embarrassing meltdown worthy of its own entry. But the literal pity party that she throws for herself in the office afterwards isn't excusable, even with those things considered.
Throwing caution to the wind, she steals a bottle of liquor that her coworkers have stashed and absolutely demolishes one of their birthday cakes. Though her father surprisingly takes the event in stride, it certainly doesn't win Piper any sympathy points.
9 SYMPATHETIC: Losing Her Job
Early on in the season, Piper is employed at a small Thai restaurant. It may not be glamorous, but it beats unemployment, and she seems to appreciate that. Unfortunately, it doesn't last long. When she asks for a day off to go visit Alex, it initially seems okay with her boss, so long as she picks up another shift.
However, while she's on the bus to go visit her wife behind bars, she receives a phone call from her brother informing her that the restaurant has decided to lay her off. Not only is it a brutal bait-and-switch by her employer, it really leaves her in a tough situation when it comes to staying within the terms of her probation.
8 THE WORST: Violating Her Probation
Given the trials and tribulations that Piper endured behind bars, you'd think that she wouldn't be in any hurry to find her way back there. However, she seems absolutely determined to cut it as close as she can, as a certain stint of behavior while she's out with her brother Cal would seem to indicate.
They begin with a few drinks, which is close enough to the line to be worrisome, but Piperc doesn't stop there. She decides to get stoned when Cal offers her a THC-infused blueberry, and as a result, she fails her drug test. Piper manages to talk her way out of a one-way trip back to Litchfield, but putting herself in that position to begin with is nothing short of stupid.
7 SYMPATHETIC: Stuck On Alex
Piper's relationship with Alex is almost purely destructive. But despite the complicated dynamic between them, they've been through hell together. They eventually confront and entertain the idea that they might need to see other people in the time leading up to Alex's release, in order to abate her more risky coping mechanisms.
Although the idea of her continuing the relationship with Alex seems like a recipe for disaster, Piper's attempts to distract herself with temporary lovers continuously fail, and Alex ends up leaving her a tearful voice message indicating that it isn't working.
6 THE WORST: Ignoring Practically Everyone's Advice
Granted, this entry mashes several moments together, but since they all come to the same end and surround the same dynamic, it makes sense to do so. Piper understandably finds herself at a loss for what to do at several junctures, largely surrounding her complicated romantic situation.
And the advice that she's offered, particularly by both Larry and Burset, is to leave her "old self" behind, especially once she strikes up a flame with the successful and caring Zelda, a stable and lovely woman that could infinitely change her life for the better. Unfortunately it's all for naught, as Piper ultimately decides to stick with Alex.
5 SYMPATHETIC: Her Father's Lack Of Compassion
Piper's relationship with her father had been in rough straits for quite some time, but his complete lack of initial interest in attempting to help her put her life back together is stone cold. For the first portion of their conversation, he won't even look at her.
When Piper tries to make small talk with him, he dismisses her by saying he has a conference call, and disdainfully offers her fifty bucks for her visitation with Alex to get her out of his office. He eventually makes up for it, but he certainly takes his time getting there.
4 THE WORST: Her Office Meltdown
It's admittedly difficult to hold this one against her, as she's juggling more stressful situations than anyone has enough hands for at this point. Her parole has cost her the only social outlet she had, she's just learned that Alex is in a dangerous predicament, and her father's pedantry is grating.
However, launching into a lengthy, whiny tirade in front of her coworkers is totally the wrong move, especially considering it puts the job keeping her out of prison at risk. Is it understandable? Absolutely. It just comes way too short of being even remotely advisable.
3 SYMPATHETIC: Stalked By McCullough
After a much-needed fun night out, Piper passes up the opportunity to hook up with Zelda and prepares to head home for the night. However, she finds herself accosted by CO McCullough, who has obviously taken a deep dive into the bottle after Alex has cut things off with her.
Apart from the shock and pain that Piper registers after realizing that McCullough and Alex might've slept together, the idea of being stalked by a drunken CO that oversaw her imprisonment has to be uncomfortable and scary, though it doesn't totally justify how she handles the situation.
2 THE WORST: Impulsively Sleeping With Zelda
After realizing that Alex might have cheated on her with CO McCullough, Piper wastes absolutely no time in changing her mind about sleeping with Zelda, almost immediately returning to her apartment and bedding her out of spite.
While a lot of us were rooting for her to end up with Zelda anyway, Pipers' decision to do so basically equated to her "getting back" at Alex, which is not only unhealthy for Piper, but misleading and likely heartbreaking for Zelda herself.
1 SYMPATHETIC: Shunned By The Mom Support Group
Although she's initially hesitant and skeptical about how the situation will work out, Piper finds an unlikely, yet fulfilling social outlet in the mothers' social group she must attend when Neri tasks her with babysitting in lieu of paying rent.
However, this arrangement comes to an abrupt halt when her parole officer drops in to check up on her. Now aware that Piper's a felon, the group is uncomfortable with her presence and totally abandons her because of it, leaving Piper's social life at square one.