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Nola McKenzie (Carole Skinner)

Thanks to Sam Butler for sending me the following profile.

Perhaps Wentworth's most memorable baddie; certainly one of its most violent, devious and gutsy. She is first seen in (331) as an unidentified woman furtively alighting a freight train . She soon arrives, in disguise, at the Halfway House as “Jean Carter”, claiming her husband has run out on her, that she has no place to stay and is broke, however we see that she has a thick wad of bank notes in her possession. When Hazel Kent finds this money and steals it (332) she swears revenge, but demands Judy not bring the police into it. In tracking down Hazel, the police arrive at Driscoll House and, while questioning "Jean", find her in possession of stolen credit cards. She tries to escape custody by knocking a policeman out cold, but is stopped, arrested and taken to Wentworth. Arrives in (334), and her knowledge of prison procedure arouses Joan's suspicions, given that "Jean" is insisting this is her first time inside.

When Hazel arrives at Wentworth (336) after being tricked into confessing to a bank robbery for which “Jean” is responsible, "Jean" warns her to keep her mouth shut. However, Paddy lags on "Jean" to clear Hazel's name, which leads to "Jean's" true identity being revealed: She is Nola McKenzie, on the run from a death sentence in Western Australia for double murder of her drunken husband and his mate, the local cop (337) . Nola admits to the armed robbery, thus clearing Hazel, but determined to stay in Wentworth to avoid being extradited, she drowns Paddy in (338) , insisting that she did not do it as revenge, but because Paddy was the first one who came along to the shower block. Her wish comes true: she becomes a permanent resident of Wentworth.

Her release from solitary in (340) sets in motion a chain of violent confrontations. First, she is bashed by Maxie, Trixie, Jacko and Lil (without Bea's knowledge or approval). In the same episode, she bashes Trixie in revenge. In (341), she recruits Faye for her "insurance" scheme whereby she will pay out insurance to the women for charges or punishments they receive from the officers. She then bashes Faye so that it does not appear they are working together and so that Faye can be the front. THEN she bashes Jacko and Lil single-handedly in their cell, and finally Maxie by the stairs (where does she find the energy?) Her reign of terror is temporarily brought to an end when Bea brands a "K" for Killer onto her breast with a soldering iron (342) .

However, this makes Nola only more determined to get revenge against Bea, although she does not seem very keen to take over as top dog. Her insurance scheme goes ahead with Faye doing the footwork, but when Bea exposes her role in it, she is disgusted to see how quickly the women have forgotten about Paddy's murder and still wish to participate in Nola's rackets (344). Buying a new TV for the rec. room out of her own pocket (345) only strengthens Nola's position. When Joan learns through Faye of Nola's rackets, she demands a cut and in return agrees to allow Roxie to bring goods in for Maxine (Nola's new henchwoman now that Faye is on the outside) (347). This works quite well until (351), when Bea finds out that both women are working with Joan and bashes some sense into Maxine. However, only Maxie goes back to supporting Bea; the rest of the women still insist on dealing with Nola (and therefore Joan) and, disgusted, Bea escapes (352).

Nola swears revenge against Bea, who has stolen her stash to help finance her escape. She also uses this as backing for her pitch to take over as top dog (353). She accurately concludes that the sudden rush of goodies from the Department are only temporary so that Wentworth looks good for a TV documentary, and while the crew is there she gets a message out to Brad Henson. A friend of Brad's visits (356) and she blackmails him into bringing drugs into Wentworth despite Joan's demands that drugs are not to be dealt. This provides at least two drug-related comedy relief plots, including Lizzie's unusual "tea bags" (357) and a visit from a phony chaplain who passes drugs to Nola in a hollowed-out bible and LSD-soaked prayer cards (360). It is Nola's sit-in protest that leads to Ted Douglas' humiliating visit and Erica's resignation” (360).

When Bea is captured and returned to Wentworth, Joan orders Nola to bash her, which she does with the assistance of Mary and Lil (who appears to have defected) (362). Lizzie gallantly flushes Nola's drug stash while Bea is hospitalised, but this only leads to Nola bashing Maxine as she knows she cannot touch Lizzie (363). Once Bea has recovered she attacks Nola with a piece of mirror and then, during recreation period, arranges for the women not to follow Joan's orders to embarrass her in front of her father who is visiting. Both these actions lead to Bea reclaiming the spot of top dog and Joan and Nola conspiring to get rid of Bea permanently (364). They heavy a new inmate, phony psychic Zara Moonbeam (who has enough “Second Sight” to predict Nola's imminent death), into claiming that the spirit of Bea's daughter Debbie is channeling her. As Bea slowly unravels, Nola suggests to Joan that, if they push her far enough, she may commit suicide (366). She gives Joan a list of materials she needs to make a zip gun (367) and assembles it for Joan to hide in Bea's dressing gown (368).

With Bea so close to unravelling completely, Lizzie uncovers Nola and Joan's plot just in time and tells her all about it. Nola is taken to Bea in the sickbay after Bea has asked to see her to apologise, but instead, in appropriately ironic style, Bea pulls out the zip gun and shoots Nola clean through the forehead (369) . It is truly one of Prisoner's greatest dramatic moments when Bea says to Nola: “Debbie and Paddy…they're both waiting ...FOR YOU... right before she kills her, with "for you" echoing over Nola's fall to the floor as one of the show's best villains comes to the ending you knew she was going to have.

Updated 25 June 2001

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