Frances Ferguson (2019) Movie Script

(solemn music)
(people whispering)
- This is the story
of a woman cast adrift in the Midwest.
(bright piano music)
North Platte is a town of 8,000 residents,
each of whom has an average
interpersonal network size
of 148, which is to say you
won't always know your mechanic,
but your mechanic will
always know your bartender.
In other words, everyone knows everybody,
or everybody knows everyone.
You get it.
(metal scraping)
(engines revving)
(train horn wails)
(Nick panting)
(woman moaning)
(train horn wails)
(solemn music)
- Fran met her
future husband at the mall.
- Absolutely not.
- They got married quickly,
three months after they met.
- We discussed this.
The counselor says we're
supposed to have private lives.
- At the time, Fran
thought it was the best thing
that ever happened to her.
Then later, she thought
it was the worst thing.
Now she's pretty much,
what's the difference?
- Oh, I'm sorry I hate to
tell you, uh, ta-za-za-za.
- I saw you.
I was putting the trash barrels out.
- Barrels?
- I saw you!
You were parked down the street.
I saw you.
- I was parked on the street?
- You were parked down
the street, on the phone.
It was ridiculous.
- Yes, 'cause it's
outside of our house.
(Fran gags)
(kettle whistling)
Look, I'm sorry it's hard to
get a boner in this house.
- What did you say?
- Yeah, I know after the
baby, the father's supposed
to understand, but before
the baby, during the baby--
- During the baby.
(suspenseful music)
- Sometimes the
fights seemed like pretend fights
or fights with no stakes.
- At home,
it's thrown to 88, Lee Williamson!
- Mom, make it an onion.
- Say again.
- Onion mode, cooperative mode,
you know, kids are able
to tell the difference
between a flower and
an onion, visual cues.
- Yes, please tell me more.
- Here you go, sweetie, good girl.
- You can't talk to her like that.
It's for learning.
She'll grow up learning-disabled.
She's four, don't talk
to her like she's one.
- She's three.
- Four.
- You're three.
- What?
- You're three.
- Ah, very mature.
- Thank you.
- What is your deal?
- And thank you,
our national sponsor, and failure to--
(bright piano music)
(groceries clatter)
- You're beautiful.
- You say that like it's a compliment.
- Would you like to fill
out our survey, today.
It's free.
- It's free?
- Uh, Mrs. Ferguson.
- Mrs., Ms.
- You used to have Mrs.
Shell's English, right?
I didn't even notice you.
(quirky digital music)
- Fran was nervous,
because her French was very rusty.
She looked and felt out of place,
overdressed and perspirey.
(students chattering)
She kind of stuck out
but then was also oddly
someone the kids couldn't see.
She was trying to remember a couple
of her favorite French phrases.
(speaking in foreign language)
(students chattering)
- I'm Mrs. Ferguson.
I'm gonna be subbing
for Ms. Jenkins, today.
You could open to chapter 17?
Yeah, yeah.
I don't mind confessing.
My, uh, my French isn't as
spectacular as I wish it was.
- Mrs. Ferguson.
- Yeah.
- This is AP biology.
(Fran laughs)
(speaking in foreign language)
(Fran sighs)
- But why is there such
an amazing variety of animals?
- Mrs. Ferguson
showed the kids a documentary
about natural selection.
Darwin defined natural
selection as a principle
by which each slight variation of a trait,
if useful, is preserved.
- How did this extraordinary
perfusion of life on Earth come about?
Today, we celebrate the man
who would ultimately answer that question.
(gentle music)
Charles Darwin.
He was born 200 years ago,
and it is 150 years since he
published the work that is--
- Fran realized
she hadn't thought
about sex, in a while.
What would Darwin say about that?
(metal creaking)
- Mom, okay.
Have you done this before, ever?
- I know how to drive.
Why would you pay $600 for
something that costs $150?
- It's nice to do nice things.
- Mom, she's four.
She's not gonna know the difference,
and she's just gonna break it.
- She knows subconsciously,
and it's gonna pay off later.
- Oh my gosh, Mom.
(metal creaking)
Mom, come on.
Mom, you're so close.
What are you doing?
- Give me a minute.
- Fran's mother
had had her when she was 19,
which made it easy for Fran to accuse her
of being immature when they disagreed.
- I don't like going on errands with you.
Mom, I'm not seven.
- Who's fault is that?
- Who's fault is it I'm not seven?
- Who's fault is it you
don't like spending time
with your mother?
- Mine, for agreeing to come with you.
- It's yours for not making
the most of every situation.
- I wish I'd never been born.
- Honey.
(intercom squeals)
- Number 85 (coughs), number 85.
- What's the best we can do on this?
- You're asking if the price
of Klonopin is negotiable?
- With the club card, I have a club card.
You guys treat me like I'm a junkie.
- Sorry.
(Fran yells)
- You're doing this right now?
- Yes.
We're at a pharmacy.
It's medical.
- This is stuff you should
do in the bathroom, alone.
- I don't think so.
(quirky music)
(phone beeps)
- Hello (laughs).
Yeah, no, no, no, no, no, I'll be there.
(laughs) What's up?
No, it'll be different this time.
- Every story has a miscreant.
- Mm, okay.
- A rapscallion.
- All right, I'm lookin' forward to it.
- A scalawag.
- That's fine, that's fine.
- I mean, I may need
a thesaurus to go on.
- Where were we?
Yeah, no, I know we both have rings,
but what I'm tryin' to tell
you is what I've learned.
You know, is marriage
about who you sleep with?
You know I have a tattoo?
I don't have it yet,
but let me show you where it'll be.
- Yes, this is Houston,
and officially this one has started.
(sports announcer muttering)
(sports announcer muttering)
(bright music)
- The next day,
and I swear this is true,
the boy Jake had gotten
in trouble for refusing
to get off of his phone during class.
If I may, if I may interject
a personal narrator note,
stick my own orate in it,
I'm in favor of detention.
And I guess while we're at it,
I'm all for nuns hitting kids with rulers.
- Hey, are you in detention?
I'm waiting on the key.
- Me (laughs), no.
Aren't you a sub?
So, um,
you're not gay, by any chance, right?
- No, but thank you for asking.
- Mm-hmm.
- Anything else you want to ask me?
- How good is the pay?
- It's not great.
You work 12 hours, and
they only give you time
and a quarter when you're
under 40 for the week.
- Ew.
- Mm-hmm.
Honestly, it's not even
enough to cover daycare.
- That's a very interesting thing to say.
- Why?
- Fran indeed
loses money teaching,
about 37 cents an hour.
- They still have detention?
- Apparently.
- They said usually no
one gets it anymore,
but the room has to be staffed.
It's like at the mall, with the, um,
the robot projectionist,
showing the movie to nobody.
It's like that.
So what'd you do?
- (chuckles) You're not staff.
You're a temp.
- (laughs) A temp?
- Whatever.
What are you doing here?
- Volunteered.
- Why?
- I didn't want to go home.
It's just more babysitting there.
I guess I'd rather babysit here.
Am I supposed to take that away from you?
- I'd like to see you try.
(playful music)
- Was this,
was this breaking the law?
(bell rings)
- Hey, Ms. Ferguson!
Come over!
Come join us!
- Ha, ha!
(sultry jazz music)
(switch clicks)
(vibrator buzzes)
(Fran panting)
- Fran was surprised
to find herself masturbating
after running into the boy.
(Fran yells)
(Fran panting)
Was this, was this breaking the law?
(Fran sighs)
A contemporary American
thinker is quoted as saying,
"Unhappy marriages so resemble one another
"that we do not need to know
too much about this one."
(gentle music)
(engine rumbles)
(bells chiming)
(car door thuds)
- Jesus Christ!
(tense music)
- Fran decided
to spice up the weekly trip
to the grocery store by texting
the boy to meet her there.
- It's high-fat and high-protein.
- Huh, what?
- What the caveman ate.
- I have no idea what you're
talking about, per usual.
- For Parfait.
- What, are you putting her on a diet?
- I'm just thinkin' out loud.
- (sighs) Would you give me a break?
(gentle music)
- Hey.
- Hey.
- Your husband's very gay.
We have to stop meeting like this.
- How should we be meeting?
(gentle music)
- That's a lot of tater tots.
- Hi, have we met?
- You know, you should
try a little variety.
You can't eat that kind
of junk forever, kid.
- But I can now, sir.
(hand slaps)
(Fran laughs)
- He like a child psychopath?
I think about that a lot.
I mean, we can buy whatever we want
for Parfait now, but when she gets older,
she's just gonna do whatever she wants.
- I haven't seen
him since you got here.
- Was this,
was this breaking the law?
(water pattering)
Fran's plan to wear an
old cheerleading uniform
sort of backfired.
She stood out more than
she had thought she might.
(Jake sighs)
- Do you want people to know?
- I don't want them to know,
but maybe find out after.
- There was
something about him.
He looked like he was an
idea and not a person.
- Yeah, I know what that's like.
- Almost like
interacting with a hologram.
- People will be pissed, my dad.
But Nebraska is 17.
- Yeah, but you're a
student and I'm a teacher,
so click-click.
- I would never date a cheerleader.
- I'm offended.
- I mean, if my friends saw me...
(sultry music)
- Your mom does it for you?
- This may have been
where Fran started wondering
just what the fuck was she doing.
(sultry music)
Fran had brought her
grandmother's robe in an effort
to convince herself she
wasn't doing anything wrong.
(monitor hums)
(tense music)
We weren't there when Fran got arrested,
but we were able to get
down to the police station
in time to say hi.
- I mean, Martha Stewart
just didn't go to the jail
for six months because she
didn't do anything, right?
- Who's Martha Stewart?
- You know, she's Martha
Stewart who bakes,
from seven countries, yeah?
She looks so pristines,
you know, like housewife.
She bakes pies, but
she's a bad, bad woman.
Wow, yeah.
(male detective coughs)
- Bring coffee.
So are you a good cop or--
- TV ruined good cop, bad cop.
- TV give it away.
- Yeah, it gave it away.
It's, it's effective.
It's, uh, it's emotional in here.
- Oh very.
- And, uh, yeah, no, no,
you'll, you'll, you, I'm
talkin' about you now.
- Right.
- Me?
- You.
- Me, me in theory, or me in for real.
- You.
You, I'm talking about you.
You feel scared?
(dramatic music)
(radio beeps)
- 111, 110.
- 423.
- Yes, we're on 48th.
Squad truck on the way.
(radio beeps)
(solemn music)
- Medicaid's
not going anywhere.
- Bullshit, it's gonna
be gone in 15 years.
- You think in 15 years
that Medicaid's gonna be completely gone?
- Come on.
- Get outta here.
- I think you watching TV too much.
- I watch TV so that I
know, so that I'm educated.
(tense music)
- The detectives
were used to dealing
with North Platte's most unpleasant.
(female detective chomping)
- Those aren't really for you.
They're for guests.
- Oh, I'm not guest?
I'm not guest?
I think you bitch.
- Can we get her
a collar, tracking collar?
- Hi, Mom.
- I don't know what to say.
- That I'm ashamed of you.
(dramatic piano music)
- You know how you
go to break up with someone,
and they break up with
you before you get to it?
- Yes, for the record, I was going
to the Jeep to make a clean break
when a paragon of
immaturity made it for me.
You have a hard-on, by the way, so...
- Whatever.
- This is the last
time we will see the boy.
(gentle music)
(Nick panting)
(woman grunting)
- This student says
the news spread like wildfire
at basketball practice tonight.
- I was shocked,
like just to see her picture,
like her mugshot on Facebook.
- And we find it
extremely disturbing that one
of our staff members has
been accused of this crime.
- To see a young woman
of 25 years old ruin her life
by her actions is just very
disappointing, very troubling.
- The teacher
definitely should know better.
- The superintendent
is recommending...
(Fran sighs)
- Hey, did I just see on the TV
that you were arrested?
- Uh, yes, it was apparently on the news.
- Right, for a sex crime.
- I was arrested for
being a sex offender, yes.
- When exactly were
you gonna tell me this?
- Uh, I planned to wait
as long as possible.
- What are you looking at?
- Pornography.
- Pornography, pornography,
pornography, pornography.
(quirky music)
- Mrs. Ferguson was charged
with misuse of authority,
special circumstances,
pursuant to all sexual
acts between employees
of Nebraska schools and any
individual under the age of 21.
The statute at hand embedded
an irrebuttable presumption
that a sexual encounter
between an employee
of any school and any student
is conclusively the result
of misuse of authority.
Before a jury can be convened,
the court must determine whether
or not an individual
juror is fit to serve.
- When I looked at her, today,
in my head, that's, that's a whore.
Not knowing who she was,
I just looked at her,
and that's a slut.
(quirky music)
Sorry, I don't actually
know if she's a prostitute.
- The court excuses
juror number six from the panel.
Juror number seven.
- Well, maybe you don't
have a good relationship
with your mom, do you?
- Oh, hey, hey, hey,
just because I'm Korean, come on.
- That has nothing to do--
- Oh really?
- No,
you gotta stop with that.
- Oh, okay.
- You gotta stop with that.
It has nothin' to do
with you being Korean.
- You know, my mom still
lives in Korea, right?
- No, I didn't know that, but I mean,
when's the last time
you talked to your mom?
- Got to say 10 years ago.
- You haven't talked to
your mom in 10 years?
- No, I don't like her.
- Why?
(Ellen sighs)
- Psst!
Fran, Franny.
You look a little fat.
You're distressing the velvet.
(Fran screams)
- The judge gave
Fran a 14-month sentence,
plus six months probation,
which sucks, you know, for you, to be you.
(door creaks)
(dramatic piano music)
This is a small holding
room called the Monitor.
It is located between the trial
and the jail sections at the courthouse
and can be completely
secured on both sides.
The purpose of the Monitor
has changed over the years.
Initially, the room was
designed to protect the public
from dangerous criminals.
As crimes not against persons
were given greater favor,
the Monitor became a holding area,
a kind of think-about-what-you-did area.
This is exactly what
Mrs. Ferguson was doing
as they had, of course,
confiscated her phone.
- We're gonna take you in for processing.
- How's the food here?
I like light meals, carefully prepared.
(warden laughs)
(Fran groans)
(gentle music)
- They gave Mrs.
Ferguson a complete new wardrobe
and took her picture and outlined
a regimented meal program
that would eliminate unnecessary snacking.
(gentle music)
When she got there, they had
handcuffed Mrs. Ferguson,
and then there were six
monitored, locked doors
between her and freedom.
The cuffs seemed symbolic
or maybe more for men
who are more inclined to roughhouse,
like when you see
couches in ladies' rooms.
Have you ever seen one
in a men's bathroom,
if you don't mind my asking?
- Are the handcuffs really necessary?
It hurts!
It hurts.
- She had always
been looking for a reset button.
But no one ever tells
you what it looks like
or how to find it.
(camera clicks)
(solemn music)
What were the little moments,
the choices, that led her here?
Had she, on some level,
sought this outcome?
(solemn music)
- F-E-R-G-U-S-O-N.
- What'd you do?
- First name?
- Frances.
- Spell that for me.
- F-R-A-N-C-E-S.
- You're the teacher.
- Middle?
- Anne.
- A-N-N?
- A-N-N-E.
- Maiden name?
- Branch.
Like a branch, B-R-A-N-C-H.
- 16.
- Can you stop talking?
Can you make her stop talking to me?
- Yes.
- How?
(radio beeps)
- 111, 110.
(gentle music)
- We're not
set up to show you more
than a few things that happened
while Fran was incarcerated.
- Prison was about
the last place you expect
to wind up, and one way to
absorb the information is
to tell others you didn't do it.
- Or if it's
plain that you did,
to deny that there weren't
extenuating circumstances,
deny that what they say you did is,
they're not properly
factoring in your motivations.
- In some ways,
it must be like the
what's-my-motivation an actor brings
to a director, I've heard.
- Lincoln
County Prison had acquired
a rarely reviewed but
vigorously upvoted Yelp page,
initially begun as a joke with zingers
like make friends for life.
(scanner buzzes)
As the more serious reviews appeared,
one couldn't help but see
that there were practical
applications also.
(scanner buzzes)
These reviews would leave
up-to-date information,
such as not to wear striped shirts
or to otherwise dress like the inmates.
- Oh.
Happy birthday.
They don't let you bring anything in,
but, um, they have a, I don't
know, is it a duty-free shop?
- The commissary?
I'm allergic to chocolate, but
I'll trade it for something.
- I don't remember that.
- You remembered my birthday.
- Oh, honey, how could you do this?
How could you do this to us?
Did you even think
about your own daughter?
- It's not that I don't like it.
Chocolate, I mean.
I'm allergic.
It's good.
Thank you, Mom.
- What are you...
Don't play around.
Come on.
(Fran grunts)
(Fran coughing)
(knuckles rap)
Oh, now you're just being melodramatic.
Honey, get off the floor.
It's a dirty floor.
(Fran coughs)
(bright piano music)
- This guard
quit later that day.
- Oh shit.
(sighs) I know I look like an idiot,
walking in here like this,
through the parking lot,
but otherwise, I'd have
to set my guitar down,
open it up, tune my guitar,
you know, et cetera, et cetera.
It's Pat, from squad.
Oh, yeah, what are you doing here?
(smooth jazz music)
- You should really read some of this.
Think it'd help you.
(speaking in foreign language)
(Fran yells)
(speaking in foreign language)
- Daddy.
- Well, hey, I'm in jail.
- Yeah, well, for me, out
here, outside, it's way worse.
People are yelling at me.
I used to be the king.
Me, me, me, me, me, me, me
- What is that?
- It's you, going,
Me, me, me, me, me, me, me
- Hey, Mommy's here.
- Hi, hi, little one.
Who's, who's arm was that?
- Nobody's.
That's just Parfait's arm.
- Yeah, why don't you
put her on the phone?
- Well, it may or may not surprise you,
but I'm filing for a divorce.
- Yes, unsurprised.
I'd be doing it if they would
let me use the fax machine.
(quirky music)
- Online dispute resolution,
also known as ODR, is not science fiction.
This year, Nebraska, 782 cases
would be resolved via ODR,
up from 463 in 2017.
- I understand there's a child.
- As with other
virtual forms of communication,
it has a tendency to reduce
the participants' civility.
- He's an okay dad,
which, as far as I know,
is his only redeeming quality.
- Great, great, great, great, great,
great, great, great, great, great, great.
She doesn't understand that
no fault is just a legal term.
- What?
- No fault just means that
we both want this done
and over with, but this is your fault.
Do you understand that, right?
It's her fault.
This is just like one
more in just a series
of just like dumb mistakes I've made.
- Let's wrap this up.
- Yeah, okay, I'm just, she always has
to have the last word.
Yeah, okay, it's her fault.
- This is the last
time we see Fran's husband,
I mean, ex-husband.
(bright piano music)
- I was a gambling
addict, destroyed my life.
I used to donate plasma and take the money
and go buy scratchers.
Who does that?
Mm, fortunately, it got bad
enough that I asked for help.
Uh, let's see, you don't have
to worry about remembering everything,
because everything is in here.
Yeah, they ought to put
that on the internet,
but they're behind.
So parole, you ever been on parole?
Urine tests are mandatory.
And you will have to
get engaged in some sort
of community service, which I
think is good for everybody,
including the reentry.
You may feel differently.
- Agree.
- Oh, you will have to
register as a sex offender,
and psychiatric therapy is mandatory.
I want to make a few observations
without making you uncomfortable.
I love my wife.
You have a nice aspect.
I have to ask.
Why is it that every time one
of these female teachers connects up
with one of these young male students,
that female teacher is
always, without fail--
- Somewhat appealing in appearance?
It's a great question.
Maybe the hideous teachers
who did all these boys
are better criminals.
They aren't getting caught.
- Or is it that these female teachers get
in these positions wherein they
have access to these alphas
when they're nothin' more
than a 30-pound lion cub,
who's vulnerable, harmless?
I mean, why wouldn't anybody get in a cage
with a 30-pound lion cub and cuddle?
- Probably because they
know, down the line,
those same 30-pound, cuddly
lion cubs will grow up
to be 240-pound drunken contractors
who beat and belittle them.
(warden laughs)
- My money's on you.
You're gonna be all right.
- Is that a cry for help?
(gentle music)
- Your mom used her credit
card, so you're all set.
- Where are we going?
- She said her house.
Would've been cheaper to get a cab.
Tell your mom we charge more
to wait than a cab does.
- For the next time I'm
released from prison?
- Fran knew she was
supposed to feel something,
(gentle music)
but she couldn't think what.
- I'm Bob Wilson, your PO, parole officer.
The locks have been changed
for security reasons.
- Oh.
- Fran caught a whiff
of what life was gonna be like
when the probation officer
that had been assigned
her case was waiting
for her at her mom's house.
- Do you have to be here,
every time, to let me in, or...
(keys clatter)
- Bathroom's this way.
- So yes,
Bob Wilson felt no--
- And afterwards,
we can discuss the
conditions of your parole.
- Compunction, is it?
- Do you mind if I say,
I guess, you don't actually have
to show me where the bathroom is.
- Felt no compunction
about having the locks
on Fran's mother's doors changed.
- Let me tell you, every
second or third time,
there will be a lady to accompany,
or it's gonna be Sheila,
down at the office.
We have to keep you on your toes.
- This kind of thing
was fairly common, actually.
- You want a cup of coffee?
- Yeah.
- Good.
You're not gonna be allowed--
- Her dipshit
ex-husband had left town
with their daughter,
and she had nowhere else
to go.
- The rules of your
sex offender status, but we allow little
bleed-through around here.
- She wasn't exactly depressed
to discover that her mom
wasn't there, either.
(gentle music)
When you compare probation
or parole to prison,
it feels like a relief.
But when you compare probation
to not having to do a bunch of bullshit...
(narrator laughs)
- Hey, Fran?
- Fran was used to being
hassled the way pretty girls are hassled.
- Can I take a picture with you.
- But now she was gonna have
to get used to being hassled
like a sex offender.
- You know, I'm kind of--
(phone camera clicks)
- Gets hassled.
- I'm not sure.
I feel like his name was Steve, Steven,
Steve, Stephan, Stew?
Why are we at this shitty restaurant?
- This is your favorite restaurant.
- When I was five, maybe.
Think I had a grilled
cheese sandwich here, once.
(bright piano music)
- Fran's mom
scheduled a hasty remodel
and gave Fran the boot.
- My mom redefined pass-agg
by scheduling a hasty remodel
and giving me the boot.
(bright piano music)
- This is the last
time we see Fran's mother.
- And this is a map of North Platte.
This is where children congregate.
And this is a map of the drug corridors.
(phone rings)
Once the existence of the drug
corridors has been made known
to the parolee, which it
has, your presence in either
of these zones is a direct
violation of your parole,
and ignorance of the law
is no longer an excuse,
because I told you.
- Do I have to memorize this?
- Mm-hmm.
They confiscated your car?
- No.
- Sheila, do me a favor
and check with corrections
and see if they were supposed
to confiscate Mrs. Ferguson's vehicle.
Additional requirements.
You're a sex offender.
(Fran groans)
Community service hours,
but only 300 (laughs).
You're gonna get to know the community.
(phone rings)
(Fran sighs)
You like workin' with the old?
- (sighs) Are you asking for a friend?
- You're that teacher.
- What?
- So it looks like they have
upgraded the M-triple C-RF
to the FAM fully automated system, okay.
- What are we doing?
- Alas, pumpkin,
that means there is no
more sorting by hand,
anywhere, really, in Lincoln County.
- What are we doing, Hector?
- Good morning, Mark.
You get a banana downstairs?
(pencil whooshes)
(pencil clatters)
Almost, almost.
Now where were we?
You need to fill your
community service requirements.
I have my job to do as a supervisor.
So I'm a bit at sea here,
and I'm gonna ask for some input.
- We could collect trash,
if that's something, you
know, to be recycled.
- Okay, I like the spirit, Mandy.
I like it.
Alas, the competition in
the recycling game is stiff
in North Platte.
Any other ideas?
(Mark scoffs)
(Mark laughs)
- Um, there's a park at Saint Mary's.
I mean, there's a lot of parks,
but, um, the sandpit there,
they get a lot of trash.
It's not recyclable.
It's just bits of hard plastic and stuff.
I mean, it's not exactly fun,
but we could sift through it.
Kids get cut there all the time.
- Boo-hoo.
- Okay, we have protective
gear, not a problem.
We got the Mark VI gloves,
multi-sized strainers.
I like it.
- Um, I think that
that park, lots of parks, but that one,
it's right next to a high school.
And there are restrictions about
who can be close to a high school.
What'd you do, Mark?
- I don't, this is your job, Hector.
- Mark, yes?
- How 'bout you
come up with some ideas?
You tell us what to do.
We go do it.
- Right.
- I kind of agree with Mark.
It's kinda weird that we
have to think up stuff.
- Hector!
(pencil whooshes)
(pencil clatters)
- Okay, you hit me on that one.
- Fran caught a big break
when her community service
leader Hector was arrested
for exposing himself to eight-year-olds.
They suspended the
North Platte involuntary
community service system and
sentenced Hector to 18 years.
- All boys at the pool!
- So this was
suddenly Fran's new life,
discharging one obligation after another
and meeting society's fringe element,
people marginalized by bad decisions,
talking to, I guess, reasonably
well-meaning counselors,
counselors who were
thinking god knows what,
as they filled out forms
to be filed with the state.
Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh
Ah, ah, ah, ah
Ooh, ooh
- Oh my god, you're
that teacher, holy shit.
- In case Fran went
and butchered half of Lincoln County,
which within the context
of the town's apparent need
to harass her seemed not exactly likely,
but not necessarily off the table, either.
Fran still didn't really look
like anyone in North Platte.
She kind of had in high
school but not anymore.
So doing things like seeing a dentist
when she got out of prison,
suddenly these activities
were fraught with peril.
- I'm not
sure if I should believe
what I've heard.
- Mm-hmm.
- We have a lot in common now.
- Um, how so?
- Well, let's just say
there was a long night,
little exciting night,
long day, little nitrous,
really hot patient.
- Nitrous?
Ah, ah, ah, ah
- Can we rewind or start over,
because I really value you as a patient?
(gentle music)
(air whooshes)
- Let's get the bookkeeping
part out of the way,
the housework (laughs).
This is a court-mandated
group therapy session.
I can report whether
or not you are present.
I can report whether or not you spoke.
But what you say remains in the room.
- So it's like AT&T and all that metadata,
where they know who we're talking to
but not what we're saying?
- No, Jonah, the state of
Nebraska doesn't have the time,
and for the most part,
doesn't care about you.
I just, I just want you to
know that there's a kind
of confidentiality in place, okay?
- What you see
here, it stays here?
- Piper.
Okay, thank you.
That's the 12-step program,
Alcoholics Anonymous.
This is recovery group therapy.
I've got your criminal
and prison records here.
It's a different thing.
Now, Carmen, we ended with you, last time.
- Hi, I'm Carmen.
I'm an addict.
- Hi, Carmen.
- Okay, this isn't, we
don't have to identify our,
our, our, our, our addiction.
- The biggest problem
in western Nebraska was crack,
distilled pharmaceutical amphetamine.
Cheap and effective, its end
result was rarely beneficial
but always consistent.
So they had to lump Fran
and her sex offender issue
into a counseling environment
designed primarily
to address speed freaks.
- Now, I think what you're saying is
that scare tactics
weren't effective, right?
- That's what I'm saying.
- And I think, if I'm
reading the room correctly,
there's a general sense of appreciation
for your honesty, Carmen,
so thank you for that.
- It really means vulnerability.
- Yeah, yeah.
Now, group, we're
welcoming someone, today.
This is Fran.
And now Fran's violation
was not substance related,
but there is hope that she benefits
from what we do here, okay?
And we're not saying, Fran,
look, you're welcome
to tell us your story.
- She's the one who had
sex with her student.
- Carmen, wow.
That's, that's, you, you,
you know, there's a line,
and you crossed it.
Is that the best way?
Was that the best way to, to, to,
is that the best thing to, to say?
- Hooked up?
- I'm sorry.
I just, I just don't, I'm sorry.
I'm so, so bothered by what you just did.
I just don't think we out people here.
I don't think it's kind to
out someone, you know, to, to,
if she would like to tell her story,
then it's not your place
to spoil it for her.
- Spoiler alert!
She hooked up with one of her students.
- I'm livid, and, and,
and one more word about it,
I'm gonna ask one
of you to leave.
- What did you do, Carmen?
- Irrelevant.
- What did you teach?
What were you, what subject?
- We're not doing this, okay.
- How you doing today?
All right, Fran Ferguson.
(air whooshes)
Start with your parents.
- Father deceased in 2004,
relationship with mother,
in a coma, ever since.
- Mother in coma.
- No.
(Fran sighs)
- Married?
(pen scratching)
I just have to get this.
- He cheats.
We don't get along.
- Like a lot of us,
Fran referred to her ex
in the present tense.
It's not an easy habit to break.
- You have a daughter?
- She's just learning how to talk.
- You don't get along?
- I'm winning most of the fights.
- Okay, um, wins most
fights with daughter.
I guess we could start by asking
what you think the variable here might be.
- Me, I'm the variable.
I'm the one who doesn't
get along with all of them,
except my father.
We get along.
- Why do you think that is?
- He's dead.
I told you that like 15 seconds ago.
- Right, right, right, right.
I have, um, Alzheimer's.
Would any of this have happened
if your father were still alive?
- This?
(solemn music)
- All of the things we do,
jobs, vacations, kids,
it's the substitution.
These are the substitutions,
and we don't even know what for, anymore.
(Fran sighs)
- You're here early.
- Sorry, I guess, I, um, I
could've brought you something.
- Oh no.
I drink matcha.
- There was a guy behind me in line,
and half the time I go
to places like that,
I feel like I look up,
and there's just this rando staring at me.
And the rule is if I don't
shoot them a, you know,
don't-look-at-me kinda look,
they just keep staring,
and it makes me, it makes me unhappy.
- Sorry that happens to you.
- I mean, why does everyone
get so worked up about this?
Like, does it boil down to
wanting the teacher to like us
or to pay attention?
- Yeah.
- And this is coupled with the perception
that things are handed to me,
because I look a certain way and--
- Is that true?
- How should I know (scoffs)?
It's (laughs), it's dumb.
It's really dumb.
I shouldn't have, I should,
I shouldn't be bringing this up.
- I don't think it's dumb at all.
There's no judgment here.
It's, uh, it's a safe space.
I can relate.
15 years ago, 30 pounds lighter,
long, curly, you know, brown hair,
I certainly got treated a
little better than I do now.
I was, I was something
to look at (laughs).
Yeah, how ya doin', Yolanda?
- You're not that hot.
- The only
thing Fran could remember
when she looked back on this time, later,
was group therapy.
- I was never
exactly happy to be there,
but always glad I went.
- I guess I have issues with my mom.
I guess I have, I guess
I have mommy issues.
(group groans)
What, man?
- Okay, okay.
- I'm trying to open up here.
- Okay, okay, yeah.
Well (coughs), I think the
group is just saying that, uh--
- Too weird, too weird.
- You know,
the mommy issues thing is a cliche,
and we've heard it all before.
- What do you think
we're here for?
This is literally what
we're talking about.
- But let, let, let's
try to find the truth
that it contains, okay.
Now, Jonah, you were engaged
in approval-seeking behavior,
which you most likely inherited
from your relationship with your mother.
Is that what you were trying to say?
Is that what you're trying to express?
- Express, yeah, yeah, that's, sure.
- So whatever you call it, and
it is important, sometimes,
to think about what we call things
so that people can hear us.
What we're talking about
is responsibility, right?
When you were a child,
your caregivers, your
parents, they are responsible.
Then you become an adult,
and despite all your baggage,
you start to, or I should
say, you must start
to take responsibility, even if it is
for your parents' damage.
Hmm, I mean, that's aging, right?
That's the transition.
- You should do the thing,
the thing.
- Oh, no, that's--
- No, you should--
- That's a whole
nother context.
- No, no, he needs a visual.
You should do it.
- Oh my (laughs), okay.
So, uh, the transition from
childhood to adulthood, right,
we start as children (coughs),
skippin' to school, every day.
We're skippin'.
- Oof.
- And soon, before you know it,
we're frail and old, right.
We're bewildered.
Where, where am I steppin'?
Where am I goin'?
Where am I steppin'?
Where am I goin'?
And that happens like this.
You know, what age do we become adults?
What part of ourselves
do we lose to--
- 17.
Then you're an adult in Nebraska.
It depends on the state, really.
(solemn music)
- Obviously,
no one would hire Fran,
so she had to get a job working
for the pedophile who ran the pharmacy.
Uh, I don't know what else to say.
- He had a cartilage earring.
- He had a cartilage earring.
Fran ran into the
therapist after her shift
and angled after a free session.
- Aren't we meeting on Thursday?
- Like when you see
your attorney at Jiffy Lube.
- Am I supposed to admit
that I have a problem?
- Admitting that there's
some sort of an issue
and agreeing on a solution,
that's sort of what we're doing here.
- Well, what I'd prefer to
admit is that I made a mistake
that's emblematic of a problem.
- Go on.
- I mean, I guess,
as a sub, I don't think
I'd ever really been
in a position of authority before,
where you had to have it
like reviewed for you.
(laughs) You hear that when you're
in a position of authority.
They patiently explain to you, you know,
don't abuse your power.
(laughs) I mean, what power?
Those kids don't look up to me.
If anything, they look down on me.
And all those boys wanted me
in a very confused and basic way.
- Isn't that power?
(train horn wails)
You know,
my mother's a difficult person.
- I'm not tracking.
- Well, we talk about a
lot of different things,
and we don't really
talk about your mother.
Do you think there might
be something to that?
I mean, it's kind of obvious.
It's not that big a deal.
(bright piano music)
- Fran still felt
as if Parfait was something of a stranger,
but at least she was
interested in her daughter.
This is the last time
we see Fran's daughter.
- Now is there a person
you would say influenced you
after your release?
- My mom.
I'd say my mom was the biggest influence
on me after I got out.
- For reoffending?
That's what I'm talkin' about here,
'cause I'm gonna right that down.
Sheila write that down.
How would you say you
contributed to the community
during your probationary period?
- I like the job at the pharmacy.
It actually felt like more of
a contribution than teaching.
- Fran realized four things.
One, she'd lost a meaningless
job, substitute teaching.
Two, gotten rid of a useless,
mouth-breather husband.
Three, put her mom in timeout.
And four, came to understand
she could probably be doing a better job
with her own daughter.
Not a bad year.
- And with teaching, it's a crap shoot.
I mean, I had a teacher.
- Well, we all had teachers.
Have you laid out concrete
plans for the future?
(Fran laughs)
- And so, despite the fact
that Fran had discharged her
responsibility to the state,
she returned to group therapy
with some version of an open mind.
- Now we've been talkin' a
lot about mothers (laughs),
maybe a little too much,
but to get to the core emotion,
what I'd like from each of
you is one sentence, just one,
describing your mother, okay.
- I see what you're doing.
- When I was growing up, um,
my mom didn't breastfeed me, so--
- Well, that's fairly common.
I mean, by a show of hands,
who wasn't breastfed?
- How are we supposed to
know if we were breastfed?
- All right.
- Hurry up.
- Okay, Carmen, let's, let's not do that.
You want to try again, Jonah?
- Okay, um,
I think my mom made me a narcissist.
- Fran?
- Are we still doing Jonah?
- Absolutely not.
- Um,
like me never being good enough,
for, like, her thinking
that my husband is never good enough,
and then when I think that
also, she changes sides,
her never really listening to me,
her starting to lose her looks
but taking that out on me,
being pathologically unsupportive,
thinking that when I'm
not thinking about her,
I'm doing it to piss her off
and then being angry with me
for not thinking about her.
- Yeah, so good job.
But what you just described
is your relationship
with your mother, and I'm looking for,
for a description of just, just her,
just, really, that's all,
that's all I'm, I'm asking.
I mean, it's really not,
how 'bout we do this?
Let's, um, right?
Let's do three adjectives
to describe our mothers.
All right, does everyone
know what an adjective is?
- Strange, educated
and really boring.
- Piper.
- Frail,
and white.
- Distant,
and gone.
- She's selectively supportive.
She's very dry, but
she thinks she's funny.
- Jonah.
- Muscular,
(leader sighs)
tall, and she's from Nebraska.
She's from Nebraska.
Um, uh--
- We're good.
- Okay.
- That was excellent.
- She's a rich, short bitch.
- All right, bitch is not an adjective.
It sounds like we have
the same, uh (laughs),
same mother (laughs).
Okay, good, great.
See what happens when this room works,
when we listen to each other, huh?
We learn about ourselves.
It makes me feel like,
uh, like I have a job.
- Please stop talking.
- Mom-blaming is
extremely junior high,
but it was cathartic, and I was starting
to kind of like group.
(bright music)
Also, I'd agreed to go on a practice date,
so it was like homework.
- I don't know what I can
and can't say, you know,
in the wake of all the
harassment scandals.
But I feel like it's pretty safe to assert
that we're both good-looking people.
We're adults.
I have a nice car.
(gentle music)
Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ah
- I'm not really dating anyone right now.
I'm not going on dates.
- What's this?
- Not a date.
I'm not ready to be intimate with anyone.
- When will you be?
- What do you do?
- I sell toner cartridges.
- You can make a living doing that?
- I make a great living doing that.
- Is there a dessert menu?
- It's milkshakes, strictly milkshakes.
They run out of cookies by 7 p.m.
- You eat here enough to know that?
- Yes.
- Okay, speaking of milkshakes,
I have a daughter, Parfait.
I've heard men are put off
by women with children.
I may be saying this in an
effort to seem off-putting.
- Pudding?
Um, uh, makes sense.
- You heard about what happened to me?
- I know what happened, last year.
Everyone knows.
I never cared about it.
I'm actually a little intrigued.
- Yikes.
- Yeah.
- I was, uh, in a bad marriage.
Um, I hoped it wasn't.
I, I had hoped it wasn't.
- I have experience with
stuff like that, too.
- My mother, that
relationship, not a ton of hope
of it casually getting better.
Maybe change is only possible
when bad things happen,
or so-called bad things.
- And bad things happen to people.
- Well, I never met anyone who was,
never met an inmate before.
- Oh, you probably have.
Well, you never learn nothing
- This is the last
time we see Mrs. Ferguson.
Layin' on your back
And you never made no friends
Or got to no good ends
Layin' on your back
Layin' on your back
Whoa, those blues, they do you good
And oh, those blues, they do you good
Stayin' on track
Whoa, oh, you knew they would
Ah, ah, ooh, you knew they would
Oh, stayin' on track
Ooh, stayin'
Stayin' on track
Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ah, ah, ah
Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ah, ah, ah
Oh, you never learn nothin'
Oh, you never learn nothin'
Layin' on your back
And you never made no friends
Or got to no good ends
While you layin' on your back
Ooh, layin'
La, la, layin' on your back
On your back
On your back