You know, any time I start to complain about my job, I firmly remind myself that I get to watch and write about television for a living, and I shut my mouth. I know I’ve got it easy. But guys, recapping the middle episodes of a Janet King season is HARD! The plots are so dense, and touch on so many issues, and you don’t know what is going to wind up being important versus red herrings, and ALL I REALLY WANT TO DO IS TALK ABOUT JANET’S DADDY ISSUES AND BIANCA’S PRECIOUS FACE.
So. Last week, Janet learned that the main sponsor of the Devils Football Team (WHICH APPARENTLY DOES NOT MEAN “SOCCER” BUT ONE OF FIVE POSSIBLE FORMS OF RUGBY, GOD HELP US) was Pax Car Rentals. And the head of Pax Car Rentals was her own father, from whom she has long been estranged. Last week also witnessed the tragic death of a young athlete, which led to the arrest of his teammate, Nate Baldwin, an investigation into doping, and the sad victimization of the athlete’s younger sister.
Let’s get the doping thing out of the way first, shall we? Unfortunately, that requires me to introduce the two new members of Janet’s team, whom I have refrained from discussing thus far because I had hoped they were merely placeholders until Lina and Andy would come back. But they seem to be sticking around, so it’s time we got to know them. First up, there’s Officer…Officer…GOOD GOD WHAT IS HIS NAME??
I’VE BEEN HERE THREE EPISODES AND YOU STILL DON’T KNOW MY NAME?
SWEETIE I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHICH SPORT WE’RE INVESTIGATING.
This bloke is capable enough, and does a great job following around suspects, because he has the advantage of seeming totally harmless and nondescript.
And then there is the new analyst, Bonnie (NotLina), who is honestly baffling to me as a character. She’s like twelve years old and has a terrible attitude, like a hybrid of April Ludgate and a very bored junior lifeguard.
MAYBE YOU ARE COMIC RELIEF IN A WAY THAT IS VERY SPECIFIC TO AUSTRALIAN HUMOR.
Anyway, Officer NotAndy starts following around Shannon Hinksman, a lowlife with ties to both sports and organized crime. He has lunch with the creepy mad scientist who keeps athletes in hypobaric chambers. Shannon picks up a package from the dude, which he then delivers to an athlete in need of an injection.
Then Shannon (who is very enterprising for a criminal named Shannon) goes to a secret warehouse, where he picks up yet another package. This one he leaves in a car (courtesy of our friends at Pax Car Rentals), where another criminal picks it up, in an arrangement of such dizzying complexity, I struggle to understand how anyone could follow it.
Bianca and Officer NotAndy then break into the warehouse (IF THE FBI CAN GET IN WITHOUT A WARRANT, THEN SO CAN THEY), expecting to find performance enhancing drugs. Instead, they stumble across a cache of cash and burner phones.
LET ME JUST CHECK THE VENTS FOR LESBIANS.
For the rest of the team, all this evidence draws a straight line from Graham King to match-fixing, drugging, and Clay Nelson’s murder. But Janet can’t quite get there, for reasons we will circle back around to in a minute.
First, let’s pause for a moment on Richard, who has built his career as a defense lawyer on moral quicksand, into which he is rapidly sinking.
SO MUCH FOR MY STERLING REPUTATION, EH?
This week, he tries to get Nate Baldwin’s murder charge thrown out, because witnesses are divided as to which hand he used to punch his teammate to death. Thankfully, Lina is there to put him in his place, even though she is technically not a lawyer yet. Next, Richard tries to get Nate to accept a plea deal, but is rebuffed, so he devotes himself to finding out what drugs Tyler was on that gave him such a low platelet count. It’s kind of adorable how hard he’s working to be on Janet’s side as often as possible, but I kind of hope he gets to do something good as a defense lawyer. I mean, they can’t all be bad, can they?
Okay, other than Janet’s personal life, the story I was most invested in this episode was that of Pearl, the sister assaulted, shamed, and left behind after her brother’s death.
YOU CAN’T JUST BE BRINGING IN BABIES AND MAKING ME WORRY ABOUT THEM, JANET KING.
First of all: dang this kid can act! I read that Zoe Terakes has only been performing for about a year when she got this part, so it’s that much more incredible that she brought out my strongest reactions of the night, and made me care so much about a plotline that’s only tangentially related to all the others.
We catch up with Pearl at a halfway house for neglected teens, to which she has fled after escaping from her mother and mega-creep stepfather. The house has no observable adult supervision and all the kids seem to be one step away from turning into donkeys, a la Pinocchio. Pearl falls asleep clutching her brother’s old jersey, and again Zoe Terakas just breaks your heart as you watch her try and calm herself down, and know that even though she is clearly a smart kid, the odds are stacked overwhelmingly against her. (I just kept screaming “CALL JANET! JANET WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU! CALL RICHARD, EVEN!”)
The next morning, Pearl awakes to find that the Bad Teens have stolen the jersey and sold it to buy drugs, so she runs away again. For a minute, you think she’s going to have some kind of Oliver-Artful Dodger relationship with another runaway, but even her fellow Teen abandons her, leaving her with no other option than to seek refuge in the arms of a very creepy man.
SAY WHAT YOU WILL ABOUT AMERICA, BUT SOMETIMES IT’S REALLY NICE TO HAVE A GUN.
The predator in question also happens to work for the evil sports scientist, and probably provided Tyler with his platelet-reducing drugs. Both Richard and Janet manage to find Pearl, and they both do their best to get through to her, but Richard doesn’t have a chance because he’s representing the man who killed her brother, and Janet fails because APPARENTLY SEEING A HALF-NAKED MAN FONDLE A 15 YEAR-OLD GIRL DOES NOT QUALIFY AS “EVIDENCE.” Pearl steadfastly maintains that her brother never would have touched drugs anyway, but as we see elsewhere in this episode, people can have rather large blind spots where their families are concerned.
Speaking of that, let’s get to the meat of this week’s episode.
SORRY, INSTITUTIONALIZED RACISM! I WILL GET TO YOU NEXT WEEK, I PROMISE!
SORRY LINA, BUT MAYBE YOU WILL GET A FULL SECTION OF THE RECAP WHEN YOU APPEAR IN THE EPISODE FOR MORE THAN THIRTY SECONDS.
So Janet is under VERY STRICT ORDERS from Tony to build an ETHICAL WALL around her father in order to keep working on the case. And she dutifully builds that wall, but then spends the rest of the episode climbing the wall, tunneling underneath the wall, and asking everyone to just have a peek on the other side of the wall and report back.
Janet’s attitude toward her father is somewhat different from last episode, when she was chomping at the bit to put him in prison. The more time she spends around Graham, the more the ice begins to melt around the deep freeze section of her heart, and the more she becomes invested in his innocence. But he exudes such naked menace that defending him makes her look like Hagrid lovingly describing his blast-ended skrewts.
JUST LOOK AT THIS FACE! HE WOULDN’T HURT A FLY.
Marta Dusseldorp and John Bach (who I recognize from season one of Wentworth) have uncanny father-daughter chemistry, with the same striking good looks and tightly-controlled charisma.
OKAY BUT SERIOUSLY, ARE Y’ALL RELATED?
Janet and Graham’s history is still coming out, but I gather that he divorced Janet’s mother, for which she has never forgiven him. Janet also tells Bianca (in a rare and privileged glimpse into her psyche) that their relationship ruptured soon after he caught her cheating in a debate team final in high school. Now I know what you’re thinking: JANET CHEATED?? OUR JANET??
But it’s true. I mean, she cheated in the most Janet/Hermione way possible, by accidentally overhearing a debate question ahead of time (a sin both Hillary Clinton and Harry Potter are guilty of), but still, she should have removed herself from the debate competition and she didn’t, AND THAT’S PROBABLY WHY HER DAD LEFT THE FAMILY. I mean, of course Janet doesn’t really think that her cheating is why her dad abandonded her, not in her rational adult brain. It’s just that our rational adult brains are rarely responsible for as much of our behavior as we might wish. 30 Rock basically put Jack Donaghy through what Janet is doing, back in the day.
You can think you are the most grown-up person in the world (and if you are Janet, you may actually be right), only to have life corner you in a hallway and give you a gigantic wedgie, just to remind you that no one ever completely deals with all their childhood shit. I don’t think I was wrong last week when I said that Janet holds her father in contempt, it’s just that I now see that her contempt is but a fragile footbridge slung across a gaping chasm of NEED.
When Bianca realizes this she is SO RELIEVED, because it is exhausting to be in love with someone who has no issues and never does anything wrong. Like, my girlfriend leaves used dental floss lying around the house, and it’s disgusting, but every time she does it I smile and worry slightly less about my own shortcomings. (SIDE NOTE: HONEY, IF YOU ARE READING THIS, IT DOES NOT MEAN I WANT YOU TO KEEP DOING IT. IF YOU CLEAN UP THE DENTAL FLOSS I WILL PICK ANOTHER FAULT TO FIND ENDEARING.)
I NEVER THOUGHT I’D SAY THIS, BUT I’M SO GLAD YOU’RE A CHEATER.
Graham further cements his commitment to fair play when he shows up at the twins’ running competition, where three things happen:
- Graham and Tony have a harrumphing competition to decide who is Janet’s primary father figure.
I JUST HOPE EMMA WINS SO SHE CAN HEAR HER GRANDFATHER SAY CONGRATULATIONS.
WELL I HOPE SHE LOSES SO HER UNCLE TONY CAN TEACH HER THAT IT’S ABOUT THE FRIENDS SHE MADE ALONG THE WAY.
2.Graham asks if Bianca has any kids, and she’s like “just the twins!” WHICH IS AMAZING! WHO KNEW BIANCA HAD IT IN HER! I WISH JANET HAD BEEN THERE FOR IT!
I’M JUST SO LOOKING FORWARD TO THE DAY AUSTRALIA LEGALIZES GAY MARRIAGES, SO WE CAN NOT INVITE YOU TO OURS.
3.Graham films Emma’s long jump and observes that she took a single step over the line, which he is quick to label as “cheating.”
This accusation obviously activates a lot of Janet’s deep-seated anxieties, but it also makes her realize that, whatever his faults, Graham is not a sports cheater. She correctly deduces that Graham was sneaking payments to Nate Baldwin that exceeded his salary cap to keep him on the team. Graham himself admits he was colluding with a mobster (and a mobster’s hit man, who he pleads ignorance about), but that’s it! And Janet so proud of figuring it out, because it’s a narrative that allows her to salvage at least one good thing from her father. He may still be withholding and implacable, but he has PRINCIPLES. It’s a nice story. But like a lot of the comforting stories we tell ourselves about our parents, it’s just a fairy tale. Graham confirms this, by complimenting his own integrity, and then calling up a criminal associate and confirming that he only told them about the Nate Baldwin thing, and not any of the the other illegal shit he’s mixed up in.
WELP, TIME TO PULL OUT MY SECRET CELL PHONE AND CONFESS TO LYING UNDER OATH. GOOD THING I GET GREAT RECEPTION RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE COURT HOUSE.
See you next week! Oh, and please keep leaving your amazing comments in which you explain Australian sports and legal matters to me! I really appreciate them.