Janet King S03E01 Recap: Playing Advantage
Working with Bianca, hanging out with Bianca, gazing at, kissing and bathing with Bianca! Oh, and working on the links between gambling and corruption in sport.
Now I’ve whet your appetite (no pun intended) for some of the stuff we JK fans have been hanging out to know for the past 8 months, I’ll get you started on some of the “heavy stuff” so we can get to the juicy stuff later (again, no pun intended!). This will be a long recap as we have to meet all the new characters, so stay with me, and I’ll definitely shorten them up for future episodes.
A young cricketer, Oliver Pittman, has taken his own life after being caught in the middle of a betting scandal in a twenty-twenty match. A world-wide betting plunge on one of the balls he bowls being a wide sees a lot of big time punters lose a lot of money when the umpire calls the ball okay. (For those of you who know anything about cricket, as this sports-crazy writer does… you’ll agree that the ball was definitely a wide on current rules, but I already have my theories as to why the umpire didn’t call it!). Oliver looks distraught that the ball gets through, and is branded a cheat after it comes to light how much money was thrown down on that particular delivery. Unable to handle the pressure, the youngster suicides.
Dream Team Strut.
Enter the investigative equivalent of the Dream Team – Janet, Bianca and Tony. Janet’s approach, while still as no-holds-barred as ever, is also more nuanced and human, as she reminds all that are working on the reference that the death of a young man is the motivation behind this investigation. Motherhood has mellowed her somewhat – in the past she would have gone for the throat, and likely glossed over the human element.
And here’s where you have to follow fairly closely, as a lot happens where the dialogue is pretty dense in order to catch the viewers up to Janet’s current-day life – some 4 years into the future from where we left her at the end of Series 2. Janet (Marta Dusseldorp) has been in Fiji for most of this time, on secondment to the UN Under-Secretary training up a group of new prosecutors at the expense of the DPP. Owen (Damian Walshe-Howling) is now head of the DPP, after Tony (Peter Kowitz) was moved on when he took apart the bloke from the State Corruption Committee who was trying to take down Janet in Series 2. Tony is now the head of the National Crime Commission (NCC), and has Bianca (Anita Hegh) leading the investigation into the death of Oliver Pittman and how it might be linked to match fixing. He asks Janet to return from Fiji, and as such she is literally working side-by-side with Bianca as they both interrogate the witnesses under the guidelines of the NCC, which it appears can basically do anything, and say anything it likes with no come back from opposing lawyers or anyone else for that matter.
Richard (Hamish Michael) is back, but this time he is out of Janet’s shadow (well almost – she still manages to remind him that she taught him everything he knows! Gotta love her sass and arrogance!), and is a barrister in his own right, representing a host of sports stars, including the former Australian cricket captain, who was coincidentally, the captain of the team on the day when Oliver bowled that ‘non-wide’. Oh – and Andy (Christopher Morris) and Lena (Andrea Demetriades) are still around, Andy being the cop everyone loves to love, and Lena being Lena, but this time they’re parents to the two-year-old daughter they never thought they could have.
Deep breath! That’s all the exposition – the “stuff” we needed to be able to jump feet first into this new series.
So, we open with the lovely Janet, glaring with her steel-blue eyes at a man in a witness box. Soon she’s telling him he’s talking “bullshit”, and that’s the first clue that this isn’t a regular court of law. When Tony tells her she shouldn’t speak like that as an officer of the court, she quickly reminds him “this isn’t a court”, and there’s clue number two. Tony – as chief examiner sitting in what appears to be an up-high-judgey-type chair – is soon telling Richard (who’s there at Tony’s invitation as the fella’s laywer) to “shut up” and the three clues pretty much point to this being something that has rules that are quite different from what we are used to in your regular law show.
Tougher than you.
A wider shot shows us that Bianca is sitting beside Janet (right where she belongs of course!), and she also has the powers of questioning the witness. So right off the bat (cricket reference for those who don’t follow), we’re in a space where these two incredible, strong women - who are presumably partners in more than just crime busting - can continue to work together. Well-done show, for giving Janet a new environment in which to be totally Janetty, and for making it one where the charming Bianca can also be right there.
Girls do it best.
The man in the box is former Australian cricket captain Clay Nelson (Don Hany), Oliver Pittman’s friend and mentor. He not only convinced Oliver to play in the Asian Twenty-Twenty cricket league (A20) for his team the Firecrackers, but also gave the eulogy at Oliver’s funeral. He is clearly hiding something and is wilting under the pressure of Janet’s intense questioning about who told Oliver to bowl the wide ball. Janet’s relentless attack has him on the back foot (cricket reference!) as he digs himself a deeper hole by responding with lies. Now seriously – has he not seen the first two series of this show on TV? Clay – you don’t lie to Janet! She’ll see straight through you with those steel-blue eyes, and pick you to pieces just like a star batsman does to a fielding team with a second rate bowling attack. Clay finally relents when images of Pakistani cricketer, Ravi Hasan’s home is shown – blown up just days after the scandal took place, where big time punters lost big time money. “There’s an insider on your team who’s part of the syndicate who knows where the smart money goes. Who is it?” Janet fires at him. “It’s probably Ravi.” [Most likely red herring number 1!].
After his interrogation, Clay meets Richard outside, and Richard tries to distance himself from his connection to Janet. “I knew her once, a very long time ago.” Clay wants to know if the “blonde chick is any good”, or if she’s just “piss in the wind.” Jeez Clay, they say pro sportsman are dumb – don’t further the stereotype, how could you not just work that one out for yourself? “Oh, she’s very good” is Richard’s reply. She, my friend, is The King!
Next, as Janet is out the door for a meeting with Owen, we meet Bonnie Mahesh – the analyst who is destined to make many of the moments far lighter throughout this series. Not only is she very cute, but she’s also very smart, and one might say a ‘typical’ millennial where the deference to the authority held by “boring” Gen-Xers Janet and Bianca is largely not there! Already Janet is gritting her teeth at her confidence and boldness. The absolutely adorable look Janet gives Bianca as her face softens from all business to one of love - “See you later?” - melted my heart and immediately confirmed this relationship is definitely a goer! (*Champagne corks popping in the background!*).
So Janet’s meeting with Owen. Aahhh Owen. Slippery, slimy, head of the DPP, because he “knows how to play the game”, which according to him, Janet doesn’t when things aren’t fair. He’s called Janet to see him because he’s worried she’s after his job – so “be ready for a fight”. If it’s not his job she’s after, he’ll help her “catch the guys you want”. Janet, in her sultry, sassy, sexy best responds with a comment that shows she’ll make the decisions, not Owen; “Or we can agree to stay out of each other’s way.” Yass queen!
Enter another new character, whom I already LOVE! Maxine Reynolds, played by Susie Porter - the hard-working, fast-talking sports agent to the stars and the one who refers her big name clients in trouble with the law to Richard. The one line, “if I had 15% of your salary I could fuck off to the Maldives and drink margaritas all day,” sets up the character wonderfully, as does dismissing the information that one of her clients gambles, “Most Australians gamble.” Which is, of course, pretty much a true statement. Her instruction to Richard to “drive up the price to $10,000” at a charity auction for a bat donated by Clay, is met with a look of discomfort from Richard, but the unscrupulous Maxine seems totally at ease with it as she pulls off the Disabled Parking sticker from her front window that she uses to get the good parking spots (no she’s not disabled…).
So we move onto a race at a kids’ athletics meet, and see Janet and Bianca cheering on Janet’s kids as they run their race. A little more of the relationship is revealed – Bianca visited them in Fiji and they have great memories of a “such a nice week”, but clearly she didn’t relocate there with them. There’s another look of complete love from Janet – Marta D sure knows how to turn on the doe-eyes, as well as the ice-cold! Bianca’s a little awkward around the kids, forgetting to buy them a sausage sizzle, but reassures Janet that Owen’s conspiracy theory of Janet getting the job at the NCC because of her is all in Owen’s head.
Aah, you’re just too good to be true, can’t take my eyes off of you…
Next thing we find out is that Emma, Janet’s daughter, has star quality written all over her – being just three-tenths of a second outside of a state record. The world of sports just moved closer to Janet and her family, something that I have no doubt will play out over the coming weeks. Bianca’s comment, “It’s all fun and games at this age” seems scarily ominous. The kids however, are not that interested in training and going to ‘zones’, which semi-disappoints Janet who thinks that maybe they should if they have the talent, but she’s no pushy ‘stage mum’ and she’s not going to make them train if they don’t want to. AND there’s another relationship reveal – Janet and Bianca don’t live together, but Bianca is comfortable in Janet’s home and they are very much together; the “see you later” kiss showing a couple in love.
Back in the office, and Bonnie has completely encroached on Janet’s desk, and you can almost see Janet suppress a whole body shudder of frustration. When Bonnie tells Janet she’s wasting her time bringing in any of the cricketers to question them over the wide ball because none of them will talk, Janet’s suppressed shudder is milliseconds away from escaping from her like some moves from the ‘Time Warp.’ She wants Bonnie to lay off the lip, do her job and shut up! First cricketer comes in – Brandon Williams from South Africa – he gives away nothing. Bonnie offers Janet odds of 50:1, throwing down $20 that Ravi Hasan won’t say a word and Janet’s head almost explodes. But Bonnie is right – Ravi threatens to call his Embassy rather than answer any questions; he feels he’s being targeted along racist lines.
Now here’s where I laughed! After only 20 minutes, I’m already loving that there is humour in this series after the darkness of Janet’s loss, grief and PTSD from series 2. She decides she needs to go to watch a cricket match, firstly to keep Ravi on his toes, but also because she knows sweet FA about it and is constantly mucking up the terminology as she questions the witnesses. “When are they playing next?” she asks. “Saturday, down at the G.” Now given that the two biggest events on the Australian sporting calendar occur at the G – the Boxing Day test, and the AFL Grand Final, each of which draw a crowd of 100,000 people – if you have even a passing interest in sport in this country, you’d know what that it. Janet’s response? “What’s the G?” So dorkily cute and lovable! Tony, Bianca, Bonnie and Wayne (another newcomer to the team) suppress their laughter as Tony tries to reply with a straight face, “The Melbourne Cricket Ground”. Janet’s response is appropriate, “Ok this is getting embarrassing now.” So after a little bit of bickering over who will accompany her, it’s decided that it should be the cop… yep, Bianca and Janet are going away for the weekend. ‘It’s business time!’
We need to be careful, yes, you’re right. I’ll pack the contraception… oh wait. Lesbian alert.
Bianca’s warning of “we should be careful” is misinterpreted by Janet to mean personally, but Bianca is being more pragmatic – it’s about a cop and a lawyer travelling together to go out on the ground to question potential witnesses, an area not usually inhabited by lawyers. Janet quotes some section of the NCC act about counsel should be present and Bianca walks away happy with the outcome. There’s another bit of reveal about the dynamic of the Janet-Bianca relationship when Janet tells the kids she’s going away for the weekend, and Emma is terribly disappointed at the thought that Bianca might look after them. She’s not a happy little camper until Uncle Tony is mentioned, and her spirits immediately lift again. Poor Bianca – obviously some work is needed to win Emma over.
Janet and Bianca check into the hotel (twin share… where’s the double?) in Melbourne that the Firecrackers stay in, arriving at the same time as Ravi, and Clay and his son. Clay calls Richard who tells him not to talk to them and to stay off his phone. We find out why – Bonnie and Wayne are listening to the conversation. Bloody hell! Gotta say, given how accurate this show is in the powers that these organisations are afforded, it scared me a little to think that the NCC is able to deny people access to a lawyer while being questioned, have cops and lawyers follow them around virtually harassing them into cooperation and tap their phones when they have not a shred of evidence that they’ve done anything wrong. Imagine that kind of power falling into the wrong hands! Imagine if it were Owen!!
Richard has enticed Lena and Andy to the charity auction being held by his other high profile client, Nate Baldwin, captain of the Northern Devils Rugby League team, and a testosterone driven bloke Richard got off an assault charge just recently. Cheeky Bonnie, having heard about the auction from the phone tap, sneaks in and snaps a few pics on her very pretty rose gold iPhone, including one of Darren Fawkes putting a big wad of cash in Richard’s pocket for the bat he inadvertently bought when the other buyers in the auction dropped out. Richard almost filled his dacks at the thought of owing $8K for the bat, but Fawkes gives him the promised $10K, upon which Andy tells him not to keep any of his money, as “you do not wanna owe that guy anything.” He is on the radar for his involvement in organised crime all over Sydney, the cops just can’t nail him. Janet’s response? “What’s Richard becoming – lawyer to the crooks?” Not quite, but they do say a picture paints a thousand words.
Post phone tapping and surveillance stealth. Bonnie talks the talk, but she also walks the walk.
Post auction, “the boys” are going to the pub on the corner and Nate convinces “Stirlo” to join them (assume David Attenborough voice: The ultimate sign of acceptance into the sporting tribe – the attribution of a nickname; in Australian sporting circles, usually some derivative of your surname, with an ‘o’ added onto the end…). It’s pissy with drinking competitions, women gyrating on poles, and basically men behaving really badly. One young player sends his sister off home from this environment, and she is accosted by two of his teammates at the door of the pub. One gropes her while the other films – disgusting misogynistic behaviour that often occurs when groups of sportsmen are together and drinking. Richard witnesses the assault, but does nothing, his face tells us that he knows he should step in. What’s stopping him? Is it the fear of two much bigger blokes than him (these guys are League players), concern about his client base, or something different? Does he want to be ‘one of the boys’? That seems the most unlikely reason, but I’m sure that will play out as the series progresses.
Oh God, I’m not perfect! I don’t understand cricket…
Meanwhile, Janet and Bianca are at the G in a “sea of hysterical humanity” (hehe quote unquote Uncle Tony), and its clear Janet is NOT having fun. She’s drinking (probably semi-warm) beer out of a plastic cup and has to move every minute or so as other punters push past her to buy (more) alcohol or food for themselves. Bianca is giving her expert commentary, but Janet’s knowledge of the game appears to move up from zero to about 1 on a scale of 0-100. Drinks after the game tell us about Bianca’s promotion (well hello Inspector!), and also make Clay and Ravi feel rather uncomfortable as Bianca and Janet question the hotel’s night manager about what happened on the night before the non-wide ball match. Yes, Ravi had a visitor, but it’s all very hush-hush given the delicate situation. Oliver ordered lots of food, was very upset, and she (the night manager) stayed with him the last time he called to calm him down.
And then, and then, AND THEN… oh glory be in the name of all that is good and gay in the world of joyous lesbianism! It’s episode 1… EPISODE 1 people! No waiting till the second last episode to see some evidence of them being sexual beings – they are two adults, in love and in the bath… together! Thank you show! Thank you!! What this does for our visibility in the mainstream media world, and by extension in mainstream society, is immeasurable. First bathing together – next we conquer marriage equality! How important are the messages that “Janet King” is bringing? Could I love this show any more? (The answers to these questions are ‘very’ and ‘no’). So, they’re talking about work, then they’re not talking about work any more… and it’s magic and beautiful and realistic with the kissing and the whispering and the giggling and BY GOD these women have chemistry to burn! I don’t know quite what it is you brought Marta and Anita, but it slays!
Room for two.
It’s better when you don’t speak.
Next morning there’s nothing more than a sheet covering them – and while Bianca sleeps peacefully, Janet lies awake gently stroking Bianca’s hand, clearly with a mind that is ticking over at a zillion miles an hour. She wants justice for Oliver, and the next shot of her standing before Oliver’s photo is quite emotional. She goes off to meet Richard who quotes something profound about torture to which Janet replies, “Richard I taught you that, please don’t lecture me with my own notes.” Boom!
I haven’t forgotten why I’m here.
Her intention is to get Richard to get Clay to agree to talk, thereby letting himself off the hook, but dumping those further up the food chain deep in it. Richard hesitates and Janet burns him again! But the meeting appears to be successful as Richard goes to talk to Clay, who claims to not know that much, but in agreeing to tell the truth about what he does know, feels a weight has been lifted. Clay spends some time with his son and when there’s a knock at the door later, interrupting a call to Richard, you know shit just got real nasty for Clay Nelson. Images of Oliver Pittman run through his mind, and the next morning as he walks toward the building where he’s expected to ‘fess up, he stands across the road from Janet, who is smiling at him in welcome, expecting that they are now working together. It’s in the last few moments that she realises what he’s about to do, as he steps in front of an oncoming bus, all the while maintaining eye contact with Janet…
And an absolutely jam packed episode 1 comes to an end, and with it this very lengthy recap! Hoping that with new characters introduced, and four years’ worth of back-stories dealt with, that future recaps will be a little shorter. Or maybe I just love this show so much I can’t help myself but get a bit of the old word-vomit when talking about it. Hope you enjoy the ride with me!
Discussion welcomed – and in fact encouraged – below!