Wentworth S05E06 Recap: Happy Birthday, Vera
The Freak stops at nothing to get on top and when will Vera see Jake for the snake he is?
To be honest, I found this week’s episode really hard to watch. Unlike some fans of the show – some of whom are wonderful, kind and lovely people – I have no connection, or understanding or empathy towards the Freak at all. Sure, she was treated badly by an over-bearing, cruel-hearted and unloving father, but still, she wasn’t raised in a void or a vacuum and she still knows ‘right’ from ‘wrong’. Yet she has no problem manipulating and traumatising others for her own means. And again, many can say Juice had it coming – she was after all the one who led the vicious sexual assault on Joan in season 4 – but there’s just something about the way the Freak operates that doesn’t sit too well with me. Despite having been brutally raped by Juice and the boys herself, she has no problem with befriending and leading the new girl Iman, into a trap for Juice to assault her, too. And as Kaz said in the trailer for next week’s episode, “She’s going to take these women apart piece by piece.”
But perhaps I’ve jumped ahead too far. After last week’s episode being very Franky focused, and viewers seeing little of Joan’s story, this week we have the roles reversed, and it’s all about Joan, with Franky & co being just part of the side story. No Fridget, although we do see a moment with Liz spilling to Bridget that she was in love with Don and that they were planning a life together after she got out. Poor Liz – I’m sure she actually believes this. Of course, she’s convinced he’s been murdered by Sonia, after Sonia puts the idea in her head that the “detective who framed her has disappeared off the face of the earth”, and he will never get away with it.
The cuter side story this episode was the one between Sonia and Boomer. Well, it turns cute, after Sonia starts off with using Boomer as her virtual slave while she’s incapacitated after the bashing from Juice. Despite a battered and bruised face, and numerous other injuries, she’s presenting a very jovial front and her demeanour is one of lightness and positivity. She decides that the women need a project – a “green wall” – and Vera reluctantly gives the go ahead. There, of course, must be some ulterior motive to Sonia’s idea, especially given that she herself paid for it her through her “philanthropic interests”, so there must be more to it than what meets the eye. But the really cool part was what we discovered. Boomer has a hidden talent! The woman can weld!
Yep! Never one to hog the limelight, Boomer sits there quietly with a much pained look on her face while one of the other women “shows them” how to wield the welding machine. Until she can’t anymore. After an exasperated “you idiot”, she expertly takes the cigwelder, explains what to do, and goes to work. And she’s bloody good at it!
She’s immediately made Sonia’s 2IC in the project, but the resultant green wall is a bit of a mystery to the women at first, despite Boomer’s efforts. With encouragement from Vera, the women recognise her hard work and skill, and suddenly she has a bit of kudos and respect in ways that she had never had before. Go Booms!
So the Freak’s playing mind games with Juice, and she convinces her she should be Top Dog. Is the whole thing an elaborate revenge plan for the rape, or – my theory – another show of strength to force the women into complete submission through fear of retribution if anyone crosses her? Or perhaps a way to shut her up in the most brutal possible way? But does Joan even know that Juice has overheard a conversation between herself and Jake about their plans for Vera?
Juice goes to the Governor to make her case for Vera to back her to become Top Dog, in exchange for the personal info she has overheard about Vera. Vera refuses to play Juice’s game, and her response is so natural and so brilliant it’s almost like it’s straight from a bloopers reel, as she almost loses it laughing at the thought of Juice Lucy Gambaro as Top Dog. “You’re serious? You? You’d be the worst Top Dog in the history of Wentworth!” Suffice to say Juice is a more than a little pissed off as she storms from Vera’s office.
Vera is a little concerned that Juice is getting a bit big for her boots, and after Will warns her that Kaz is losing the women through her approach of ‘non-violence’, advises Kaz that Juice needs to be put back in her place. In reply to Kaz’s question, “Are you giving me permission to bash Juice?” there is the subtlest of subtle nods, and Kaz walks away gobsmacked. Kaz asks Sonia if she wants Juice bashed, but Sonia advises her to stick to her principles. Even the screws think she’s made a mistake but the non-violence policy stays in place. The unwritten and long-standing ‘honour among thieves’ of ‘break the code and you’ll be physically punished’ is being challenged and the women are not coping. They see weakness in Kaz and her leadership, and her position is in serious jeopardy.
Allie is up to something as she continues to do deals and buy gear. Franky sees one of the deals and confronts her asking her “what do you think Red would say?” Allie tells her to get lost, “as if you give a shit anyway,” and stashes the gear, continuing along with her plan from last week. She’s separating herself from her crew, withdrawing and becoming quite the loner. Franky assumes it’s because she’s getting “off her face” and generally keeps her head down working on her defence. EXCEPT, when she muscles in on Juice and the boys attempted assault on Iman – where we get a glimpse of the old Franky, grabbing Juice’s face right right where her tooth hurts. I must admit – I cheered. I loved seeing a bit of fight in the Old Franky! (So hot!)
The Freak’s machinations to break Vera continue (of course). Now she’s getting Jake to pressure her into letting him move in with her, but she’s not into it – yet. Joan issues him with the order to “make her”, and he continues to do as she asks. But he’s lost the pained look from before, where he seemed to at least feel a little bit bad – now he appears to be happy to go along with it, like he’s totally invested in Joan’s plans and feels no remorse about bringing Vera down. When Vera tells him of her cancelled 9th birthday party and how her mother treated her, we see the vulnerable, lonely little girl that we met in Season 1. That sense of unworthiness has never left her, and when she runs from the staffroom when her staff are singing “Happy Birthday” to her, she firstly asks him “why do you like me?” (cue my watering eyes), she also tells him to come over and bring his suitcase. OH NO VERA – bad move. Worst is the enemy that attacks from within!
So the next part of the Freak’s plan is to take down Juice. While Jake the Snake is having sex with Nurse Ratchet, Joan eavesdrops and gains information to blackmail her into giving her access to the medical room, supposedly when the dentist is in. Now I have two issues with this. Firstly – yes Ratchet fucked Jake; but they’re consenting adults, and probably wouldn’t get more than a disciplinary slap on the hand for a first offence. If I were her, I would far rather (personally) have ‘fessed up to Vera that I’d fucked up, than allow myself to be blackmailed by the Freak. How dumb is she? Obviously that takes the story in another direction if Vera realises her bf is cheating on her, but still…
But Ratchet has now managed to get herself further in the shit, as she can never say she gave Joan access to medical, without getting in really, really deep. AND – where the fuck was the actual dentist? Surely, inmates can’t be moved to medical for dental procedures if there’s no actual dentist in the prison. A quick check of the records would show whether or not one arrived.
Now I know TV fiction requires its audience to suspend reality and go along for the ride, but I just couldn’t quite run with this one. Maybe it was because the actual content was so grotesque and inescapably violent and horrific. So basically – as we know – the Freak got into medical while Juice was in Lala Land on the nitrous gas, tied her down to the dentist chair, clamped her tongue, and sliced it off with a scalpel. Fucking horrible stuff. So fucking horrible, that I can’t say anything more than that about the actual act.
I also had a problem with the Freak’s words – “You’ve licked your last pussy” – just before the slice. Call me precious, but I found this line innately homophobic. Yes Juice is gross, yes she more often than not behaves like a ‘pig’, yes she’s a rapist, yes she’s the absolute WORST kind of human being. But it’s not because she’s a lesbian. If Joan had meted out the same punishment to Tina or one of the Asians and said, “You’ve tasted your last noodle”, there would have been an uproar about the racist comment made, and absolutely rightly so. Personally, I think the writers missed the mark here, but like I said maybe I’m being too precious…
Juice manages to stumble into the yard and spew congealed blood all over Vera – not a pretty look! The look on the others’ faces as they see her is priceless, especially as we, the audience, don’t know exactly what we’re going to see, but we do know it’s going to be terrifying!
Juice is taken back to medical and Vera seems at first to be truly concerned for what’s happened, promising that if she tells who did it they’ll get them. But her message soon turns to, “What were you going to tell me? What do you know about me?” To which Juice replies…
Fair to say Juice is holding a grudge and isn’t about to lag. Despite what the Freak has just done to her. Vera, still covered in Juice’s blood, escapes back to the refuge of her office to regroup from all that has just happened. She spies a small, wrapped box on her desk, and, thinking it’s a gift from Jake, smiles lovingly as she unwraps the bow and takes off the lid… Juice’s severed tongue lies inside – shit has just got real nasty. Now if Vera doesn’t work out there’s a guard helping Joan, seriously – she doesn’t deserve to be Governor anymore. Come on Vera, time to bring you’re A-game!
Meanwhile in the yard, Joan emerges from inside, and Tina proclaims that Kaz is weak, that “Joan has taken out the trash” and starts a chant of “Top Dog, Top Dog, Top Dog…” Joan replicates the pose from Episode 2 – the Christ on the Cross, the redeemer, the saviour, the messiah and accepts the women’s worship. And just like that Kaz is demoted and the Freak – whom EVERYONE (except Kaz) hated in Season 4, who killed Bea, who ruled them with an iron fist as she terrorised them as governor, is their voted leader. The new Top Dog.
Cut to the dining room, and as is customary, everyone who has acquiesced and accepted the new leader, offers their dessert. In front of Joan are many bowls, and as Allie adds hers to the pile, the new ‘outsiders’ of Kaz, Boomer, Liz, Franky and Doreen look on with confusion, wondering where on earth she is at. Nothing, it seems, will be wiping that smug look off Joan’s face anytime soon.