Who Cut Out Annie’s Tongue in True Detective? Theories

In HBO’s ‘True Detective: Night Country,’ the brutal murder of a woman named Annie goes unsolved for six years before the truth finally comes to light. It only happens after eight scientists in Tsalal Arctic Research Station go missing, and seven are later found on the ice, frozen to death. What connects the two cases is the discovery of a tongue at Tsalal after the scientists go missing. Danvers identifies it as a Native woman’s tongue, and later, the tongue is found to be Annie’s. Who cut her tongue, and how did it land in Tsalal six years later? SPOILERS AHEAD

Why Was Annie’s Tongue Cut Out?

The scientists at Tsalal killed Annie K, but Raymond Clarke reveals that they did not cut out her tongue. According to him, after they’d killed Annie, they called the mine people to dispose of the body. He says a police officer was sent to take care of it. Considering all that has happened in the previous episode, there is no doubt that Hank Prior was the officer they sent. As required of him, Hank disposed of the body. He dumped it in the Villages, where it was found by the locals, with Evangeline Navarro showing up on the scene and becoming obsessed with solving the case the more unsolvable it started to become.

Image Credit: Michele K. Short/HBO

If Raymond Clarke is to be believed, Hank Prior must have been the one to cut out Annie’s tongue. But why would he do that? In the same vein, why would he kick her when she was already dead? It seems unnecessarily brutal to do that to a dead person with whom you didn’t have any direct discord. All he needed to do was dump the body somewhere it wouldn’t connect to Tsalal. Considering that he himself didn’t have any personal enmity towards Annie, it seems unlikely that he did it out of hatred. The only thing that makes sense is that he was ordered to do so.

Annie K was one of the most vocal opponents of Silver Sky Mining Company. She protested against them, she spoke out against them, and she dug around to find incriminating evidence against them. She was a thorn on their side, and they were most likely happy to hear that she had been killed. They needed to take the attention away from Tsalal, but they knew that considering Annie’s part as a protestor, they would automatically be suspected, though there would never be any legal repercussions because they had Hank on their payroll, and he would bury the case. So, they made use of this chance to make a point.

Cutting Annie’s tongue made it look like her murder was personal to the perpetrator. Because there was no connection between Annie and Tsalal, the scientists would never come under scrutiny. Cutting the tongue also sent a message to other protestors and people fighting to close the mine. It was meant to scare them: speak out against the mines, and this is what will happen to you, too. While the protests still continued, the scare did work on people like Detective Danvers, who forced her step-daughter, Leah, not to join the protests because she feared that Leah might end up like Annie too. This shows that for the mine people, even Annie’s death was an opportunity.

How was Annie’s Tongue in Tsalal?

If there is one thing that Detective Danvers focuses on in any investigation, it is to ask the right questions! The difference between who, why, and how can make all the difference because if you are not asking the right questions, you are not looking for the right answers. Something similar happens in Annie’s case, but by the end of the story, it looks like not every question, even if it’s the right one, can be answered. The lingering mystery about Annie’s tongue continues and is one of the things that Navarro and Danvers will have to make peace with.

Image Credit: Michele K. Short/HBO

Annie K died six years before her murderers were brought to justice. Her tongue was cut out and never found again. But then, it reappeared suddenly in Tsalal after six years? Even if we do know that Hank Prior cut her tongue, the question remains: how did it turn up at Tsalal? Shouldn’t it have decomposed by now? It could have survived if someone froze it, but then, why would someone keep the tongue frozen for six years? More specifically, if Hank was the one who cut it, why would he keep it frozen all these years?

When Navarro asks Bee if they were the ones who left the tongue there, she says she has no idea what Navarro is talking about. It makes sense that the women couldn’t have anything to do with it. They found out about the scientists murdering Annie six years after her death. How could any of them have known where the tongue was? Moreover, if they knew that Hank had cut Annie’s tongue, they would have walked him into the ice, too. This means that the women didn’t leave it at Tsalal. We can also cross off Hank from this list because it is highly unlikely that he kept the tongue all these years. And even if he did, why would he leave it at Tsalal?

Considering the kind of person Hank is, he probably threw the tongue on the way out of Tsalal. It probably got buried under the ice, and it remained there all these years, a piece of Annie, right outside the place where she was killed. It feels symbolic in some ways that with her tongue, her voice was left behind at Tsalal. That’s why, perhaps, her ghost haunted the halls of the research facility. This is why perhaps Raymond Clarke heard her calling to him, why Annie remained at Tsalal even though her body had been taken away, dumped somewhere else to bury the truth.

With the supernatural leanings of ‘Night Country,’ it’s not far-fetched to believe that Annie’s ghost really was at Tsalal. The final episode, especially, gives us a couple of jump scares. In one particular scene, we see her ghost behind Navarro after the lights go out in Tsalal. With this in mind, there is only one thing left to believe with regard to how Annie’s tongue came to be there. She brought it there. When her friends took away all the scientists to leave them on the ice, she left her tongue at Tsalal, not just to form a link between her case and the scientists but also as a sign that even when they cut out her tongue, they couldn’t silence her.

Image Credit: Michele K. Short/HBO

For those not entirely convinced by the supernatural aspect, there is another, perhaps more rational explanation. Going back to the part where Hank threw Annie’s tongue near Tsalal, it is possible that Raymond Clarke found it at one point. He probably kept it for sentimental reasons! One could say that his keeping the tongue was how he brought Annie’s ghost upon himself, why only he heard her, and only he knew she was awake before Annie’s friends marched on Tsalal. Now, he would be the kind of weird person who carries their dead lover’s tongue around, and it seems more plausible considering his fractured state of mind. He was also in the vicinity of the kitchen, where the tongue was later found, so it makes sense that he was the one who left it there. But then, when asked about it, he said he denied having anything to do with the tongue.

Again, Raymond Clarke is not the most reliable of people. He claimed he loved Annie and that he would never hurt her, and yet he was the one to make the final blow. He was the one who choked her to death instead of helping her, and yet, when it came to his confession, he claimed he didn’t put a finger on her. The thing about Clarke is that he seems to skirt around the truth just enough not to lie. He confesses he didn’t stab Annie, which is true; he didn’t. Further, when asked about the tongue, he said they didn’t cut it. So, again, he’s telling the truth. The scientists didn’t have anything to do with cutting the tongue. This is another convenient situation where not mentioning that he came in possession of it later is easily avoidable. Had he confessed that he kept her tongue, Navarro would have surely shot him herself.

Read More: True Detective: What Happens to Navarro in the End? Does She Die?