THIS WEEK'S RAP SHEET:
A rainy day — Some new prisoners are arriving at HMP Larkhall. They include a surly blonde named Zandra and a 50-something brunette named Monica. They're both weary and wet and terrified. But there the similarities end: Zandra is young, tattered and ready to do battle, while Monica is classy, wealthy and obviously in shock.
Zandra and Monica wait to be processed. The guards are surprised that Monica has no "property" on her: The other newcomers have brought some clothes and comforts from home. Monica doesn't really seem to understand that she's about to spend five years in prison. She's breaking my heart with her "Why am I here?" face. Zandra, meanwhile, is scaring me with her "Why are you looking at me?" face.
Mealtime — Nikki's chatting with Dawn, one of the kitchen workers. Dawn wants to know whether Nikki's going to karaoke tonight, but Nikki says she doesn't really want to see Shell "singin' her tits off." Shell scowls. Well, it's more than that: Shell just looks crazy most of the time. Murderous.
Rachel's next in line. Shell tries to give her the vegan option even though Rachel doesn't want it. Wait a sec — the vegan option? In prison? I am once again reminded that this is not an American show. I think in the U.S., the option would be fried mouse poo or boiled mouse poo.
Nikki senses trouble and comes to Rachel's defense. Shell relents and pretends she misread the list of vegans. Oh, so even Shell defers to Nikki. It's good to be king. Ooh, wait, Nikki as a drag king: That would be delicious.
Nikki walks Rachel over to a table and tells her not to get too friendly with Fenner.
I'm guessing that perpetually murderous look on Shell's face means she doesn't really need any cause, but OK. Rachel, why aren't you more appreciative of Nikki's advice, or at least of her dashing good looks?
Helen's office — Helen is meeting with her two least favorite people, Jim and Sylvia. Helen has received an anonymous complaint about drug testing: "Basically what she's saying is that we deliberately select women who'll test negative every month — so that we can save ourselves paperwork and avoid looking bad at the Home Office."
Jim says there's nothing wrong with keeping the drug figures down. But Helen says the records are full of the same names over and over again. She tells Jim to target suspected users until further notice. Jim points out that there are ways to get around the drug tests, and that if the women want drugs, they'll find a way to get them, so it's all pointless anyway. Helen is very good at keeping her face blank even though Jim is spouting nonsense — and, no doubt, waves of halitosis.
Sylvia suggests "100 percent closed visits" — meaning no visitors at all. Helen just listens, her eyebrows tweaked, her mouth a stern line, her teeth probably clamped firmly on her tongue so she can't tell Sylvia to shut up. Helen has the final word, of course: "We are going to reach out to women like this and bloody well show them that we're on their side."
I dunno, Helen. You can lead a guard to a prisoner, but you cannot make him or her care. Especially the evil ones like Jim. Sylvia, I'm not so sure about. I think maybe she's just mean because Jim is, or because it's fun to be smug and righteous, but not because she likes to hurt people. But maybe I'm just trying to find some good in her because she looks like my fourth grade teacher.
But I do believe that Helen is on the women's side. Almost at the expense of her own mental health, I fear.