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'Orange Is the New Black' recap: 'Tongue-Tied'

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JoJo Whilden for Netflix

Orange Is the New Black

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
run date:
Taylor Schilling, Natasha Lyonne, Kate Mulgrew, Laura Prepon
Drama, Comedy

Norma has become something of a religious prophet by the time “Tongue-Tied” has rolled around. She caught on to Gloria’s dealings in Santeria while working in the kitchen, and though the head chef tried to dissuade her from her ways, Norma can’t help but soothe the other inmates’ woes.

And it’s not like she has much choice. From nearly the minute Norma awakens, her fellow Litchfieldians ask her for an arm squeeze, a sign of the mystical powers everyone thinks she possesses. Though Norma’s face indicates the constant attention has exasperated her, she surprisingly continues to play her role.

Surprisingly, that is, until the episode flashes back to Norma’s mystical past. A young Norma, also silent for fear of speaking with her stutter, walks into a support group meeting. The group is in fact more the beginnings of a cult, with leader Guru Mac guiding his flock (“They call me Guru Mac because I’m a teacher,” he says. Well, maybe because of whoever “they” are, but also because you’re arrogant enough to call yourself that.)

Mac accepts Norma for her muted self—he doesn’t need to hear her speak because he can feel what she says, or so his line goes. But Norma is just so happy to be accepted that she goes along with his charm, falling in love with him along the way. That love earns her a spot as Mac’s betrothed… along with a group of other women. Mac’s spiritual directive is not of the monogamous variety, but Norma continues to stay true to him, trying to accept that he really does love her.

Norma stays with him even when all others abandon the not-so-great guru. “Tongue-tied” jumps years into the future, when Mac, plagued with legal problems, has lost everything but Norma and his rundown van. He’s transformed, but not in the way he promised his first followers—he’s turned cold, hostile, and chastises Norma for continuing to stick by his side. He’s a false prophet, and she’s wasted her life following him. But she will not run away, even at his behest, and it only infuriates him further.

When it finally clicks for Norma that Mac cares very little for her, her rage consumes her and she pushes him off the cliffside where they had been arguing. He falls to his death, and Norma overcomes her stutter to hurl one final “Son of a bitch” down at him.

Maybe some part of Norma wants to prove that she didn’t waste her life chasing spirituality for a sense of belonging. And that desire to belong urges her on, bolstered by the help the inmates think she is providing them. Whether she actually is, well, that’ll depend on your own personal system of beliefs. But it’s compelling enough that a small group of Litchfield inmates look to Norma as she originally did to Mac. They want her to be their spiritual leader. In the end, she accepts, and brings a bit of (silent) peace to their lives.

Norma does so by betraying the person she has perhaps been closest to in Litchfield, Red. Regaining control of the kitchen from Gloria (whose duties were overtaking the time she could have been spending with her delinquent son), Red returns to her bossy ways. Norma is a casualty of Red’s reclaimed power, as Red treats her no longer as a friend but as a meek underling. Norma sees no reason to settle for living life as someone’s punching bag when she can become a leader.

She is not the only one in Litchfield who has found her place. Suzanne, in her post-Vee quest for meaning, has discovered a reason for the other inmates to want her around—the wacked out erotica she’s begun writing that might as well be titled 50 Shades of Space. While Rogers rejects her bid to read it in drama class, Poussey’s thrilled by its sheer insanity, begging Suzanne to continue writing more.

NEXT: Piper’s dirty new business venture and Red has to cook WHAT in the kitchen?[pagebreak]

Even Piper, who spent her birthday telling her parents how she felt like part of a community at Litchfield, has discovered a newfound sense of purpose. Her time as a Whispers lingerie sewer has led her to a surprising revelation. With the leftover fabrics, she can make an extra pair of panties every so often. Then, all she has to do is take the extra underwear, have a few fellow inmates wear it for a couple of days, and then sell the used panties to men with a certain sniffing fetish.

With her brother enlisted to build an online shop and Alex a firm believer in the business, the only thing Piper needs is a way of transporting the panties out of the prison. Piper and Alex’s first idea? One of the new guards, a young fresh faced 21-year-old who’s a little overeager with his pepper spray, may just be the perfect panty mule.

And Piper may very well get her wish, as Danny appears in no rush to properly train the new batch of guards. Caputo wants proper 40-hour training sessions, but Danny is willing to let the guards slide with a quick hour or two of training followed by a thorough reading of the rulebook that he fully expects no one to crack the spine of.

So while Caputo may have thought he knew where in the Litchfield hierarchy he belonged, that sense of place has become far more muddled by the end of “Tongue-Tied.” Danny only complicates matters when he tries to draw a flowchart for Caputo demonstrating how MCC and Litchfield’s balance of power works. Even by the end of his brief explanation, Caputo still has no idea idea if Danny’s his boss, if they’re equals, or really how anyone is supposed to get things done. But one thing becomes clear by the episode’s end—what MCC says, goes, as is the case with a new mandate for the kitchen that makes Red all but useless.

Caputo comes in with boxes full of prepackaged meals of every variety (though the goop all ends up looking the same). They no longer need to worry about making food, they just need to heat it up. And with Red all but obsolete and down her closest staffer as Norma takes her new post, the times, they are a-changing at Litchfield, but it maybe not all for the best.


  • It was a small moment, but I appreciated Taystee broaching the topic of sex versus violence in American entertainment, and how we as a society are quite fine with the latter while being almost completely afraid of the former.
  • When Lolly was introduced, I was surprised they didn’t immediately reunite her with Piper. It was nice to see that come up in “Tongue-Tied,” and to be played the way it was, with Lolly initially not recognizing her before remembering her later on.
  • “Tongue-Tied” had some great scenes for Daya as she continues to wrestle with what exactly she’ll do with her unborn baby. Specifically her scene with Aleida stood out, as it offered the normally contentious pair a brief moment of bonding as Daya recalled her 17th birthday and simply wanting to spend time with her mother.
  • Playing MASH with a few of the women (which also revealed just how swanky Piper’s upbringing was) also offered some great material in regard to Daya’s ongoing decision.
  • Stella getting into the Piper panty-selling business may be good for the bottom line, but it could be another sign of burgeoning trouble for Piper and Alex if Stella ever becomes further involved.
  • While the cafeteria may be getting new food, the women eating kosher will still be enjoying their special meals. And just in case anyone cast doubt on their actual religious belief, Cindy is delving into Jewish culture with a crash course in Woody Allen.
  • Another possible sign of worry for Caputo—Danny discusses just how horrible men masturbating in their offices are. Good thing Caputo only mentioned his bad habit to Bennett, who is still nowhere to be found.
  • The scenic shots of nature during Norma’s flashbacks made me wish that, as much as I’m fine with viewing in the confines of Litchfield, the show wouldn’t mind stretching its legs into the wilderness a little more frequently.