Man, that was a good episode. Not the best episode, not one of the episodes that leave you sobbing on the floor, but solid. Let’s jump right in.
So last week, Sonia Stevens got a brief taste of freedom, but was felled, like so many women before her, by a deceitful man and an overlarge collection of blazers. She is now back behind bars for the murder of her husband, and she is armed with the knowledge that Liz betrayed her. Liz frets about this all week like a hen sitting on an uncomfortable egg, but Sonia opts not to play that card for the time being. She’s busy dealing with Juice’s gang, who try to extort her for “protection.” When that fails, they settle for beating her to a pulp.
HOW CAN A WOMAN SO EVIL HAVE A KNUCKLE TATOO SO GOOD?
In the hospital wing, Liz visits her, and gently suggests that she might like to go into protection. But no, no one ever wants to go into protection in this show; they just can’t bear to deprive themselves of the company.
Of course, the queen of denying protection is Joan, though these days she hardly needs it. Everyone seems to have gotten Joan-specific amnesia (not for the first time), and she is now sitting at the center of a roaring prison drug trade. Inmates are shooting, smoking, and snorting all over the place, over Kaz’s impotent protests. Boomer tries, in her clumsy way, to shut it down, but just gets caught in the web. It doesn’t help that she is piss drunk on Sonia’s shampoo whiskey.
Officer Jake plants drugs in Boomer’s cell and arranges for Will to find them. Boomer protests that Will framed her, and Kaz, always eager to blame Will for all the world’s ills, readily believes her.
GOD, I HAVE HATED YOU EVER SINCE….WAIT, WHY DO I HATE YOU AGAIN? WHATEVER, DOESN’T MATTER.
Kaz accuses Will of being the one sneaking drugs into the prison, and tells everyone about his failed drug test from that one time he took molly. (I tell ya, Will cannot take a fucking piss without being framed for three murders.)
Speaking of people who cannot catch a break, Doreen finally has her meeting with The Board to request her transfer to Perth. She’s prepared beautifully, including with a hilarious heckling session, courtesy of her friends. The speech itself is beautiful, and reminds me of why Shareena Clanton was the warm heart of this show for so long. She’s been given the worst material of anyone in the show for a while now, and I really miss scenes like this that let her shine.
WHERE’S THAT SMILE BEEN HIDING, EH?
I was rooting for her to get that transfer to Perth, both for the sake of justice and so Shareena Clanton can go take another acting job where she is allowed to do more than complain. But instead she is denied, coldly, impersonally, and without justification. Hang in there, Dory.
Meanwhile, over in her quiet little corner, Allie works through the grieving process. Up until now, the show hasn’t really known how to depict that. To be fair, it’s quite difficult to show grief, and any dialogue often has the effect of cheapening it. But the solution ends up being quite brilliant: they bring Bea back, in the form of her drawings.
SHE DIED BEFORE SHE COULD FINISH MAXINE’S TEETH.
YOU KNOW, IF A SHOW WANTED TO REWARD A CERTAIN RECAPPER FOR HER YEARS OF SERVICE, THEY COULD DO WORSE THAN GIVING HER THIS IN A NICE WOOD FRAME.
Seeing them, seeing herself through Bea’s eyes, is pretty overwhelming for Allie, so she goes and seeks a little therapy.
WHAT I CAN SAY IS THAT BEA CAME AND SAW ME AND WE TALKED ABOUT YOU AND I GAVE HER DETAILED FINGERING INSTRUCTIONS.
IS IT NOT, LIKE, AN ETHICS VIOLATION TO TELL ME THAT?
YOU KNOW, I HAVE NEVER BEEN VERY GOOD AT THAT PART OF THE JOB.
I’m glad Allie is working through her grief in therapy, but unfortunately, she has an ulterior motive: stealing Bridget’s swipe card for Franky’s Terrible Escape Plan.
STEP 42: BECOME INDIANA JONES.
You thought that Franky was just going to use that wrench to break out through the fence, right? But of course not. Instead, she uses Bridget’s card to sneak out to the transport van and loosen a single lug nut.
STILL GETS LESBIAN POINTS FOR KNOWING HOW TO CHANGE A TIRE.
Before she can do anything else, Bridget swoops in and confronts her.
I SWEAR TO GOD IF YOU DON’T STOP THIS SHIT I WILL FINISH WATCHING GRACE AND FRANKIE WITHOUT YOU.
Franky is an absolute flailing mess around Bridget, false bravado one second and terrified vulnerability the next. She’s behaving erratically and she knows it, but as she tearfully confesses to Bridget, “I just want to hold you.” Instead they stand feet apart, both crying, but unable to touch.
Franky’s entire plan hinges on her being in that van later that day, but her court hearing is pushed back and Kaz’s is pushed up.
YOU’RE TELLING ME THAT MY 80-STEP PLAN THAT HINGED ON THE PERFECT FUNCTIONING OF A VAST GOVERNMENTAL BUREAUCRACY **FAILED**?
Will tags along with Kaz, so he can yell at her some more about how he is actually a good guy.
KNOW YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO SAY “NOT ALL MEN,” BUT NOT ALL MEN, OKAY!
And what of Franky’s loosened lug nuts? Well, a few minutes into the drive, the wheels come off (literally) and the van crashes into a river.
Will is the only one conscious after the crash. He pulls the van driver to safety, and then goes back for Kaz. (Of course he goes back to save the woman who has made it her life’s mission to ruin his career. He’s Will.) Kaz is terrified, and has sustained both a concussion and a broken arm, but Will gallantly gets her to safety. Unfortunately, he then gets trapped in the van, which rapidly fills with water.
YEAH GREAT, BREATHE THE AIR. YOU KNOW WHERE THEY GOT MORE AIR? OUTSIDE OF THE FUCKING SINKING VAN.
When that van started sinking, and the soundtrack chimed in with “Down To The River To Pray”, I thought the song choice was a bit of a reach. Calling on gospel music during an action sequence so easily becomes tacky. Crises like these, on television shows, are often merely excuses for the crew to use up its stunt budget and have an exciting few seconds to add to the promo reel. (Looking at you, motorcycle chase and exploding drug dealer van from the season four finale.) But, just like in real life, moments of crisis can also have real value to the extent that they can forge real changes in characters, and that’s what happens here. Kaz stares out at that water and realizes, at the same pace as the audience, that Will might actually not make it out of this alive. And as the seconds tick by, everything she thought she knew about Will dissolves. As she realizes that Will might very well have given his life to save her, Kaz finally sees him as a human being, not as the representative for everything she hates in toxic masculinity. Not for nothing, while the music sings about a river Baptism, Kaz and Will undergo a kind of religious rebirth of their own.
And when Will’s massive body finally does emerge from the water, I goddamn cried! This scene is a great example of Wentworth’s ability to accomplish a lot of narrative functions with a single moment. For one thing, this crisis hits the reset button on Kaz and Will’s relationship, and it was the only thing that could have done it. For another thing, it reminds everyone how much we love Will. He has a relatively thankless role–straight man to a bunch of eccentric women, and stud muffin who never gets any—but boy we need him. Even though he doesn’t have much competition for the title now that Fletch is gone, I still award him the gold medal in Competitive Male Decency.
IF WE LIVE THROUGH THIS, WE’RE GOING TO HAVE A LONG TALK ABOUT INTERSECTIONALITY.
Okay but the most important thing this scene does (and then I promise I’ll stop talking about it) is reestablish Wentworth’s values, which has been so crucial in the wake of Bea’s death. Killing a character the way Wentworth killed Bea is a power move, a jarring and forceful reminder that death is everywhere and no one is safe. But what this scene does is reassure us that above all, Wentworth values life. It says that the show is rooting for these characters just as much as we are. And that’s something I needed to hear.
So after basking in the relief of Will’s survival, our next thought is: Franky. Fucking Franky did this. Naturally, after hearing about the crash, Bridget asks Franky if she had anything to do with it, a charge that Francesca vigorously denies.
ME? DO A BAD? I WOULD NEVER.
Bridget wants to believe her, she really does, but it’s hard. Their idyllic little life together seems to be receding further and further into the distance, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for either of them to imagine a way back. This episode is the first time I began to consider the possibility that Fridget might not survive this. And that’s sad, because it would bring our “happy ending” tally back down to zero. But it also wouldn’t really be believable if their relationship just sailed through all this with no problems, so we may just have to accept that Franky and Bridget have more to give to the story apart than together right now.
It certainly doesn’t bode well for their relationship that after lying to Bridget about the van incident, Franky spills the whole truth to Allie. Allie, bless her, gives Franky the stern talking-to she so richly deserves.
SO YOUR PLAN WAS TO CRASH THE VAN, SURVIVE, WAIT TO BE TRANSFERRED, RUN AWAY ON FOOT, AND GO SOLVE A MURDER MYSTERY BY YOURSELF?
WELL WHEN YOU PUT IT THAT WAY IT SOUNDS STUPID.
You’d think that after lecturing Franky on the idiocy of multi-step plans, she would take her own advice and abandon this whole convoluted heroin escapade. But no, Allie has a harebrained scheme of her own, that involves scoring a bunch of heroin. So after the crash, she goes straight to Tina Macado and is like “YES, IT WAS I WHO CRASHED KAZ’S VAN! I PLOTTED THE WHOLE SCHEME, ALL ELEVEN HUNDRED PARTS, BECAUSE I AM A MASTERMIND OF EVIL. NOW GIVE ME SOME DRUGS.” Tina Macado, tired of talking about this shit, obliges her with a baggie and a needle. So now Allie has acquired the world’s most tempting substance, and spread the rumor that she tried to kill Kaz. Gee I wonder how Kaz, a woman with a hair-trigger temper and a recent head injury, will react when she hears. Great fucking plan, Allie.
EVERYONE ON THIS SHOW NEEDS TO STOP TRYING TO DISPOSE OF EVIDENCE OR MAKE PLANS. JUST SIT STILL AND WEAVE A BASKET.
Things wrap up with Kaz suggesting that she might stop ruining Will’s life, and Will promising to go read some Audre Lorde. I don’t really know what the writers plan to do with Will and Kaz’s new friendship, but I trust that it will be something interesting.
From a distance, Joan watches them bond, and you’d think that any rapprochement between these two longtime enemies would disrupt whatever her long game is, but instead she just murmurs “now is the time.” I don’t know what the fuck that means, but I think it might just be the kind of thing Joan likes to say. You could serve her pancakes and she would say “at last, my plans are come to fruition.” Her has the inner monologue of a Sith Lord.
WHY WOULD YOU DRESS YOUR IMAGINARY, IDEALIZED SELF IN YOUR UGLY-ASS UNIFORM? YOU COULD HAVE PICKED ANYTHING, JOAN.
Please let me know in the comment section what you think Allie’s plan is, as well as how you would dress your imaginary Gollum-self. (I’d go with a suit of armor, personally. I mean, why not?)
See you next week!