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What's Frieda's Backstory On 'Orange Is The New Black'?

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One of the best things about Orange Is the New Black is how it uses its immense ensemble cast to tell engaging, complex stories about characters we've only seen on the sidelines for the whole run of the show.

In Season 5, the clearest example of that is Frieda, who rises from her side-character status to become the unexpected hero of the new season.

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Prior to this new season, Frieda has had a handful of standout moments — notably, she encouraged Red to attack Vee in Season 2 and helped Alex dismember the body of the guard she killed in Season 4 — but despite that, she's remained largely in the periphery of the main storylines until now.

We learn a lot more about Frieda in Season 5 thanks to a flashback showing her as a particularly adept girl scout. It turns out, Frieda is actually an incredibly well-trained survivalist thanks to growing up with a father who was constantly paranoid about Russian nuclear attacks on the U.S. during the '50s.

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Frieda's father would leave her in the woods as a child and time her as she fended for herself against the wilderness to find her way back to the bunker that they lived in. Though it was a harsh upbringing, it instilled in Frieda an encyclopedic knowledge of the natural world, which comes in handy after the prison riot in Season 5.

In particular, Frieda has a proficiency at crafting poisonous darts, which she shoots at the Litchfield guards. This skill gets her out of a pantry that she's locked in by a couple of guards at the beginning of the riot, and more importantly, it helps her catch the dangerous Piscatella after he secretly infiltrates the prison and begins torturing Red.

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If viewers weren't already aware Frieda is a force to be reckoned with, Season 5 more than proves it.