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?