This episode was a mass of contradictions and inexplicable decisions. We finally got some insight into Kaz Proctor’s past, and it wasn’t a pretty one, to say the least. Maxine decided to forgo a potentially live-saving trial for breast cancer patients that would prevent her from having to partake in any treatments that would reverse the physical effects of her transition because there was simply too much at stake back at the prison.
Apparently it’s more important for her to hold on to Bea’s power than it is for her to stay alive.
Then, in an excruciatingly heartfelt scene, Bea lied to Allie about not wanting the ‘responsibility’ of being the reason Allie wants to stay clean, and alive.
And I’m calling it a lie because the nuance embodied in Danielle Cormack’s facial expressions in just those few moments after Allie reassures her - lying through her teeth, too, I can only assume and hope - that she was simply overstating how important Bea was to her to placate Bridget Westfall captures a hurt and disappointment so delicate that if you’re not looking for it, you’ll miss it completely.
But let me go back to the beginning: I actually learnt a new word from Wentworth this week! We’re introduced to Kaz Proctor’s mother in this episode, and her first line on the show is a half-terrified, half-haughty: ‘So this is…uh…where your women’s lib palaver’s got you, is it?’ Apparently a palaver is a ‘prolonged and tedious fuss or discussion’ - something that causes a lot of trouble and doesn’t get you very far.
And I guess many could argue that ending up in prison doesn’t give you much chance to change the world around you - but I wouldn’t underestimate Proctor’s impact on the people around her just yet.
When she tells her mother to stop with the theatrics, the older woman responds: ‘Weakness of any kind…I’ve forgotten how much that disgusts you.’ Slightly incongruous with Proctor’s sympathy for the underdog, but still not totally left of field. If someone isn’t brave enough to join Proctor in her fight against injustice, she doesn’t have much patience for them. ‘Self-pity disgusts me,’ she spits at her mother, and it isn’t until we’re given some idea of what Kaz went through as a child that we feel the true weight of this statement. If there is anyone that Kaz won’t allow to feel pain or sorrow, it’s herself.
‘Even as a kid, you had a hardness about you.’ This is what Kaz’s mother sneers as soon as she realises that her daughter is not about to back down from the hatred she’s spouting about her father. And while the fact that we soon find out that Kaz was quite probably molested by her father (and at the very least put through some severe emotional trauma, watching her beloved horse be shot right in front of her) grants a noxious air to these words, there still might be some truth behind them.
Have all of these characters, incarcerated or not, built walls so thick around themselves that they’re living in a prison, no matter what?
There’s a new guard at Wentworth, Jake Stewart, and his seemingly careless remarks as he’s acquainting himself with Vera have the possibility (if you’re willing to read deep enough into this show) of suggesting such a cage, unbearably heavy armour that these characters can’t quite figure out how to remove, even when their lives are no longer in danger. Stewart explains to Vera that before he started working at Walford, his previous job, he did a two-year stretch at Long Bay. ‘Stretch,’ the Governor enunciates with her characteristic pseudo-disdain. ‘You make it sound like a prison sentence.’
‘We’re all lifers,’ Jake responds with a grin. But maybe there’s less humour in this statement than his carefree demeanour suggests.
And on to the next inconceivable choice: Maxine is nothing short of anguished as she listens to the prison doctor explain that the best way to prevent her cancer from growing or spreading is to starve it of oestrogen. So, naturally, the inmate jumps at the chance to join a new trial (outside the prison) that would give her a chance of beating this disease without losing the body she’s fought so hard to get. But one guilt-trip from the rest of Bea’s crew and Maxine is determined to forget the trial and take on Bea’s role as Top Dog until she’s out of the slot.
Part of me cannot comprehend any part of Maxine’s decision, and another part of me recognises that this insane choice is probably, in part, driven by the fact that Maxine is a more noble, compassionate character than most of us are people. In her mind, and don’t get me started on Ferguson and Proctor misgendering her, putting her health at risk is worth it if she can make sure that ‘justice’ isn’t being carried out in some skewed fashion and that no innocents are hurt, including Bea.
God damn it, Maxine. Why do you have to be such a good person.
I won’t go into detail about the flashbacks we see of Kaz Proctor’s childhood, because watching her pain and inner-turmoil play out (like I said, if anyone’s forbidding themselves from feeling anything but anger, it’s Kaz) was nothing short of excruciating (serious props to Tammy MacIntosh for her performance).
But having the present-day narrative of the episode bookended, in a sense, with scenes of Kaz receiving a horse from her father and then watching her father kill that horse that she has grown to love, we’re given a sense of hope being found and then suddenly ripped away - an echo that resonates throughout the whole show and allows these characters to give in to their darkest thoughts and basest instincts.
Speaking of which, I’m not keen to dwell on Joan Ferguson’s ‘development’ in this episode, either. On top of manipulating Kaz, Joan quite literally organises the almost-rape of Wentworth’s newest prisoner, Tasha, an eighteen-year-old Indigenous Australian from the Kimberley, and justifies this to Lucy Gambaro (the proposed rapist, of course) simply by saying: ‘Call it survival instinct.’
No, Joan. That is not good enough. You have dug this hole yourself, and you know what? You can rot in it.
Anyway, on to more beautiful, brilliant things: let’s just give thanks for a moment that we were given such a stunning collection of heartwarming scenes between Bea and Allie in this episode (albeit while they were separated from each other by a cell wall, but still, I’ll take what I can get).
When Bridget asks Allie whether it’s fear of a backlash from Bea that keeps her from using inside the prison, Allie shuts her down without a moment’s hesitation. ‘It’s not fear,’ she says, an awed smile lighting up her face. ‘It’s her strength.’ And juxtaposed with this is a shot of Bea in the next cell, running her fingers over the spot of blood that’s soaked through her track pants. In the show’s most superficial, contrived moments, it’s scenes like this one, beautifully shot by Kathy Chambers and managing to say so much and so many contradictory things without needing to lay out a particular meaning or logical explanation for the audience, that remind me why this show is undoubtedly worth watching. They highlight every bit of shadowy truth and complexity that the series has to offer.
Real life Bond villain Eddie Goldsmith has a passion for photography, movies, basketball and speaking in third person. Like most other sleep deprived 20-somethings Eddie's managed to find a balance between calm and collected to being one coffee cup away from never sleeping again. Writer, Editor, Generous Lover, Photographer and part time funny man I'm always looking to try my hand at something new.