After focusing almost exclusively on individual story lines in the first handful of episodes of Season 5, the Wentworth writers now return to a multi-storey narrative in “Belly of the Beast”.
What unfolds over the next 47 minutes will set up the story arc for the remainder of the season: Franky’s escape plan goes awry, Sonia is back behind bars, Liz is freaking out, Ally is tempted by heroin and Kaz and Will Proctor make peace.
And that’s only the tip of the iceberg, because we know Joan Fergusson is plotting ‘something’ even though she makes only a limited appearance in this episode.
So, let’s hit the rewind button on episode five.
Thanks to The Freak’s support of the prison drugs cartel, usage is rampant and overdoses have resumed. With Joan in their corner, Tina and her crew now feel bold enough to thumb their nose at Kaz, even with Boomer by her side to ‘enforce the law’.
“What are you going to do? Go running back to Mummy?”
Proctor’s ‘don’t touch the women’ rule has even put Boomer off-side and is stopped from retaliating to a Tina insult. As she knocks back some sly-grog hidden in shampoo bottles, she makes her feelings clear to Franky
“This place is shit now. Kaz: all talk, no action”.
This is not a good turn of events for Kaz. Her grip on power is beginning to slip and the situation is a little more fraught with the return of Franky to their unit.
Everyone loves Franky. But Franky has her own plans and they don’t involve running the show. Instead, she’s eyeing off an escape bid to clear her name.
After enlisting Ally’s help in stealing Bridget’s swipe card during a counselling session, Franky sneaks into the prison garage to tamper with the wheels of the prison van that will take her to court tomorrow.
Her plan? She’s in the van, the van loses its wheel and crashes, she’s not injured and makes her escape. What could possibly go wrong with that??
Pretty much everything. First of all, Bridget realises the card is gone, checks where it was last used and springs Franky.
“You promise me you’ll never pull a stunt like that again”.
"Look at me. You promise me”.
Ally also realises that she’s been had and confronts Franky, demanding to know what she’d been thinking. But that’s what desperation does to a woman.
But who’s the more desperate in this scenario? Turns out that it’s not our girl Franky. Ally is still grieving the loss of her love, Bea Smith, and her grief counselling with Bridget has given her a few ideas.
She’s warned not to try to block out the pain with drugs.
“Being clean for a while makes it very easy to OD. You know that from recent experience, right?”
Despite a promise made to Bea to stay off the gear, it would seem she now has a death wish and goes around looking for a hit.
She gets the knockback from Tina, who assumes Ally is working with Kaz to get ‘intel’ to shut down the drugs operation.
Meantime, Lizzie Birdsworth is like a cat on a hot tin roof with Sonia Stevens again walking the halls of Wentworth.
She dreads running in to the woman she gave evidence against, begging the Governor to put Stevens in ‘protection’, something Vera can not do.
Both still in the dark and not realising Sonia is more than aware of Liz’s role as ‘Witness X’. Vera urges her to stay calm.
The inevitable hallway reunion takes place, but Sonia says nothing. We all know that SHE knows, yet she keeps it zipped. Although to the viewer, her conversation with Liz is so laced with hints that the alarm bells are at 100 decibels, yet Birdsworth knows nothing.
“This deranged cop couldn’t get a conviction for Helen, so now he’s framing me for the murder of my own husband”.
“So much for the justice system, hey”.
“I’m after that detective and he shouldn’t underestimate my reach”.
Walk away, Liz. Just walk away. Or maybe even run. But don’t make it too obvious.
The prison heavies also have a chat with Sonia, telling her to pay for protection as some of the other women might want to take her down a peg or two.
Their ‘offer’ doesn’t go down very well and again it’s the audience that gets the drift.
‘Perhaps I can offer you some free advice. I don’t respond very well to extortion”.
With Liz unable to convince her to tow-the-line, Sonia’s given a thrashing but says nothing of what happened and rejects Liz’s urging to go into protection.
While that little confrontation takes place, another is also occurring and it involves a drunk Boomer and Tina; the drugs queen-pin.
She wants payback for comments made earlier and dangles Tina over the railing until she’s rudely interrupted by Officer Jake, which sets in motion the events that will shape future episodes.
Jake tries to dismiss the encounter as Boomer just being drunk, but Tina puts a different spin on things.
“Wrong. That’s about business. She’s going to ruin everything”.
By ‘everything’ she means their little drugs operation. So what does he do? Tips off Will Jackson that Boomer reeked off booze.
Jackson finds Boomer passed out drunk in her cell and a search turns up some drugs. Planted, obviously. Obvious to everyone but Will, while Boomer’s convinced he did the planting.
“It’s not f***ing mine. I think Mr Jackson put it there”.
Kaz hears the shouting and, already detesting Jackson, runs off to tell Vera that HE’s the one bringing drugs into the prison because, ya know, he lost the deputies job to a failed drugs test.
It’s then that Franky learns her committal hearing has been postponed, while Proctor’s appeal has been brought forward. That puts Kaz, not Franky, in the van with the dodgy wheel.
After pulling off the freeway for a little bit of ‘laying down the law’, they set off again. But seconds later, the wheels come off and the van rolls into a river.
Will Jackson manages to drag the driver to shore, but has a harder time rescuing Kaz, who’s broken her arm in the crash. He eventually gets her out and for a while, it looks like he’s a goner.
With Proctor shrieking “Mr Jackson, Mr Jackson! Will” (note use of first name) he eventually comes to the surface where she sees him in a new light.
News of the ‘accident’ makes its way back to Wentworth. Ally immediately claims the van sabotage as HER work. Not to get Franky out of trouble, but to convince Tina that she’s not Proctor’s lap dog and be rewarded with some heroin.
So far in “Belly of the Beast” we’ve not seen much of Joan Fergusson. But she’s there, watching, as Will Jackson and Kaz Proctor make peace.
In her reflection in the window, she sees herself in uniform as she utters:
“Now is the time”.
And there ends the episode. Franky has been foiled in her escape bid, but won’t be accused of the van sabotage.
Ally clearly wants to be with Bea via a heroin overdose.
Will Jackson could have a new prison ally in a grateful Kaz Proctor.
Liz Birdsworth has the prison thugs AND Sonia Stevens to worry about, while Doreen has been knocked back for a prison transfer.
And all the while, Joan Fergusson continues to dance to a tune that only she can hear in her head.
How much better can it get?
Nikole Gunn has been a watcher of TV since the 70s. A writer of words since the 80s. A reader of the news since the 90s; mostly on Triple M, Nova and Gold.
Twitter - @NikoleGunn