Aussie TV’s most gruesome moment


SPOILER ALERT — contains storylines from May 9’s Wentworth episode.

IT might well be the most gruesome moment in the history of the multi award-winning drama Wentworth. And that’s saying something.

The drama, which is shown on Foxtel’s showcase channel, saw Joan ‘The Freak’ Ferguson (Pamela Rabe) add involuntary tongue removal to her already alarming CV of dirty deeds.

To recap, The Freak blackmailed the prison nurse to get access to ‘Juicy’ Lucy Gambaro (Sally-Anne Upton) who was scheduled to have an dodgy tooth extracted by an external dentist.

Gambaro, Wentworth fans will remember, sexually assaulted Ferguson in a shower last season.

The patient Ferguson finally got her revenge this week. Dozing off on happy gas in the dental chair, Juicy Lucy wound up being straddled by Ferguson, who was wielding a surgical blade ready to make an unkind cut.

Her final words to Lucy: “You’ve licked your last p!@#y.”

Fans watched as Ferguson severed Lucy’s tongue — the victim then staggered out into the exercise area of the jail and coughed up blood and gore onto poor prison boss and birthday girl Vera Bennett (Kate Atkinson).

Bennett then got the worst birthday present ever on her desk — the tongue wrapped up in a box, Seven style.

PLAYING THE FREAK: Pamela Rabe explains it all

media_cameraJust in case going to the dentist wasn’t scary enough, Wentworth just made it more horrifying. Picture: Foxtel

Here’s the gruesome story behind Tongue-gate — a scene that is instantly iconic in Wentworth history.

Sally-Anne Upton was given the heads up about the pivotal scene at the start of this fifth series of Wentworth from the Foxtel show’s writers and producers.

“My first thought was ‘Oh no, I can’t do my one-liners and ad libs anymore with no tongue’,” Upton says. “But also I realised it’d be a real moment.”

The scenes in the dental chair took an extraordinary seven and a half hours to film.

media_cameraSally-Anne Upton as ‘Juicy’ Lucy Gambaro was the victim of the most gruesome moment in the history of Wentworth.

“I’d done a bit of research on tongues. I’m a nurse too, nine times out of 10 someone will die from an incident like that because the tongue is so vascular. I knew we only had a short amount of time for me to get out into the courtyard. I was reading an article about a guy who had his tongue cut out because he knew too much.

“He said it was the most painful thing but he couldn’t scream. He couldn’t vocalise it. That’s why she screams and it’s that last cut and there’s no scream.”

“It was not only revenge from Ferguson, but a form of torture,” Upton adds. “They placed it in a dentist chair. People are already frightened of dentists so it added to the suspense.”

Upton’s character joined Wentworth in season three and fast became a sexual predator — whose sexually-suggestive tongue work has become her calling card — as well as welcome comedic value.

“She’s an underdog. As much as she completely frightens the bejesus out of people she makes them laugh, most people take to the fact she’s a larrikin.”

Upton had friends over at her house to watch the ‘tongue’ episode.

media_cameraPoor Vera — Juicy Lucy collapses on Wentworth’s beleaguered prison boss. Picture: Foxtel

“My friend Doris said even in the moment of Joan straddling me she was expecting her to just pull out my tooth. No one expected it to go that far. There was an interesting reaction online last night too. People who hated her were still in shock. Fans thought there was a possibility of Juicy being top dog, so no one saw it coming.”

The official line is that Lucy is fighting for her life.

“She’s having a blood transfusion and she can’t speak, Ferguson’s got her tongue! I hope she comes back in the future. If I got to go find the voice within without having a voice — that would be a major challenge. I think that would be groundbreaking. I’ve met a lot of deaf people who love the show.”

media_cameraIf you’ve got a weak stomach, you maybe did not want to know what happened. Picture: Foxtel

Wentworth Executive Producer Jo Porter said while the tongue scene was graphic, it did not cross boundaries.

“It’s wonderful to have the freedom of creative expression on Foxtel. But it should never be done for shock value alone,” Porter says. “It shouldn’t just be because you can, it should be informed by character and the demands of the story. As soon as it becomes a cheap trick audiences can smell that a mile away. It feels gratuitous. Even in the heightened world of a prison it has to feel it’s happening for a reason.”

media_cameraJoan ‘The Freak’ Ferguson is now officially Top Dog at Wentworth. Watch your tongues. Picture: Foxtel

Porter said the scene was a “long revenge” from Ferguson towards Lucy.

“This was Ferguson’s laying down of the gauntlet, ‘throwing out the trash’ is her line. Being Ferguson it had to be something outlandish, a massive statement. And it is. Juicy Lucy has a character trait that her rather fruity use of the tongue to tease likely ladies. Inspired by that, where could they take it? And yes, they went there.”

Wentworth is about to start filming series six in Melbourne. There’s no official line on whether characters Doreen, Maxine or indeed Lucy will come back.

“That’s the thing about prisons, you just never know,” Porter says

However there will be the now trademark season cliffhanger.

“Major stuff is going down. There are some surprising twists at the end.”

Wentworth airs on showcase, Foxtel, Tuesdays, 8.30pm

media_cameraThis was never going to end well with The Freak on the loose. Picture: Foxtel


It takes 90 minutes to apply Juicy Lucy’s lesbian-inspired tattoos, including one on her knuckles with a word that starts with ‘C’ and rhymes with ‘Brit’ and the word ‘lick’ on the other.

“The make up department love me and Nicole da Silva because we look after our tattoos.” Upton says. “I can get the flaming vagina and the dyke on bike tattoo to last two weeks if I look after them. The knuckle one has to come off every day. I wore it home one day and went to pay for my petrol and the woman was horrified. Plus I’m a marriage celebrant and it doesn’t look good to have those words on your knuckles.”

media_cameraSally-Anne Upton and Rebel Wilson in Bogan Pride.

media_cameraSally-Anne Upton in real life, with Ian White this month. Picture: Julie Kiriacoudis


Jo Porter says the show has deliberately paid tribute to Bea Smith, who died in last year’s season final — at the bloody hands of Joan Ferguson. Some fans were in denial she had died until the first episode this year made it clear.

“Grief is not the sort of thing that is over immediately,” Porter says. “It is very much a subtext that runs through this whole season, right down to the fact that memorial wall for Bea is there, her presence lives on. Killing Bea off was a bold move. Not without a bit of nervousness from all of us. It was a decision that was hugely discussed and debated. It felt the right thing for that character. We spoke to Danielle Cormack about it. She went through the same steps we did, of how to say goodbye to this character.”

Originally published as Aussie TV’s most gruesome moment

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