“Bad Girls” Recaps: Episode 3.01 “Back From the Brink”


Facing facts — Karen calls Jim’s wife (very estranged wife, remember) to let her know that Jim might not make it. Marilyn susses the whole thing right away: "It’s that Dockley." Again, I don’t know how such a smart woman ended up with Fenner.

Meanwhile, Helen convinces Shell to try to stop Fenner’s bleeding. And she asks Shell for her conditions, which include that "confession" from Jim, acknowledging he’s a rapist, as well as "at least a hundred fags" and a "whole box of Kit Kats." Oh, Shell. You can’t even do a hostage crisis right.

Helen takes it all very seriously, obviously hoping she can keep Karen from taking any kind of violent action against Shell. That’s our Miss Stewart: always principled and optimistic. She is the epitome of having your heart in the right place.

In their cell, Denny and Shaz get curious and yell out the window to Shell. They swing a bag to her so she can use it to get all the goodies she’s requested. Joining the fray, Yvonne yells at Shell to “stick it in again and give it a bit of wrist.” Uh. I … nope. No words.

Yvonne is actually in the two Julies’ cell; she was moved there when the whole fracas started because it was unsafe (or perhaps inconvenient) for her to be next to Shell. She takes a moment to tell the two Julies about her cheating husband, Charlie. She’s done with him. About time!

More and more suspense — Denny and Shaz and any number of random inmates manage to get the “swinger” (the bag swinging from window to window) to Shell. Meanwhile, Di takes her post down below Shell’s window to wait for the swinger to come down so she can stuff it with Shell’s conditions. That sounds vaguely wrong.

Let me take this moment to note that I live across from a playground, and I keep confusing the inmates’ rioting and hollering with the shrieks from the kids on the swings. I don’t really know which is worse.

In Shell’s cell, Shell tries to get Fenner to sign the “I’m a rapist” paper while Fenner says a lot of things that sound like “zza grrg blurrr zzah shhw ffarf gllrb.” I think he’s trying to tell her that everything between them was mutual and that she’s special to him, but her psychosis is making her smarter than usual and she doesn’t buy a word of it.

On the other side of the door, Helen asks Shell to unblock the spyhole so they can see how Fenner’s doing. Spyhole? I’ve been calling it a peephole. I’m not sure which is more prurient. More important, check out Helen’s nails; are they really in keeping with her newfound identity?

The even more surprising thing is that Helen asks Shell to give up her weapon (the broken bottle) in order to prove that she’s trying to cooperate and doesn’t intend to hurt Fenner further. When Shell resists, Helen whips out a little legalese:

Helen: Look, a confession signed under duress means nothing a-tall.
Shell: Hey?!

Shell’s exclaiming at the meaning of Helen’s statement, but I’m exclaiming because Helen said “a-tall” rather than “at all.”

Helen’s winsome ways can charm even Shell. She agrees to send down the broken bottle in the swinger.

Di is waiting down below, and Karen’s waiting outside the cell, so twitchy she can barely keep both feet on the ground. Di radios Karen to say she has her hands on the swinger. Karen leaps before she looks, giving Shell a threat and an order and nodding to the guards. They start to crowbar their way in. Shell realizes she’s about to be taken by force and whips the swinger back out of Di’s hands.

Again, ever so slightly yet so very horribly wrong.

The other inmates whip themselves into a frenzy and raise their chants a few decibel levels. Helen stands by ruefully as the guards (led by a helmeted, off-the-rails Hollamby) force their way in and proceed to abuse Shell.

Once in a while, this show really does give us a glimpse into the harshness of prison life. (If you haven’t read our recent Mandana Jones interview, make sure you do — you’ll see how a soapy drama can take on deeper meaning.)

Helen admonishes the guards to "be careful with her," but nearby, Denny and Shaz know the situation is dire. Yvonne starts a chant of "Shell, Shell," and soon all the inmates are united in protest of their collective powerlessness.

The medics rush in to help Jim and ask Karen to get the prison doctor. Karen looks like she’s going to hurl; for some reason, she still cares about this vile man.

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