Chains vs. Caged: A Scientific Comparison

By Jo | March 12, 2011

Prison is no place for an angel. Yet Charlie’s Angels writers ventured there twice over 4 years. One episode begins with a break-in, the other with an escape; the result is the same, two young, (literally) innocent girls left dead. These intros, as well as other shared elements logically tempt comparison. Angels in Chains is a Season 1 classic and Sabrina, Kelly, and Jill running through a swamp chained together is one of the most recognized images from the show. By the time Kris gets to jail in Caged Angel, the perspective of the time had changed somewhat, as had the show itself. Kris goes undercover alone, and the tone is decidedly more serious. But relax; it’s still Cheryl Ladd…in prison!

So whose prison experience was worse? Looking at it from the surface, many would vote for Pine Parish as more hardcore. Yet, in Chains, the Angels have each other to rely on, whereas Kris’ circumstance in Calejo – that of isolation – leaves her completely cut off behind enemy lines.

Pine Parish prison farm is in Louisiana. That’s in the Deep South. I’m guessing it’s also a very rural area, remote enough to allow local officials to do as they please without any interference from the outside world. Here you can be arrested, charged, tried and tossed in jail in the bat of an eye, without any recourse from family, legal assistance, or anyone who might hear you screaming for help. It’s a place where you go in but don’t come out. It’s not a maximum security prison (Elizabeth Hunter climbs over a chain link fence during her escape), but the guards are ruthless and more than a little twisted. The inmates aren’t hardened criminals, instead doing time for infractions like hitchhiking and trespassing that would be paid for with fines anyplace else. Guards watch over inmates like overseers from feudal times, with punishment doled out in a similarly arcane way. The work detail is real and severe, and the side detail the girls are forced into performing makes harvesting potatoes the preferable back breaking chore. Did I mention the warden is in on it?

By comparison, Calejo seems like a country club (and the staff says so), but Kris is alone, and menaced by nearly every inmate she comes across. Probably located in California, Calejo seems a sort of prison halfway house before inmates reenter civilization. The administration seems outwardly friendly and helpful. But that exaggerated sense of ease seems eerily foreboding. Smaller and more compartmentalized, it feels claustrophobic and you fear for Kris round every corner. Here the inmates are allowed to run loose with keys in their hands. On her first night in before joining the general population, Big Aggie simply walks into Kris’ cell and lays down the law by threatening her with innuendo of physical harm.

So which lesser evil would you rather navigate in hopes of coming away the least unscathed? Let’s compare and then pick your poison.

Guards / Administration

Both prisons seem to be suffering from budget cuts, because security is woefully understaffed. Pines does manage a handful of male and female guards, but Calejo has only one guard given any lines, a Rhea Perlman lookalike, and she’s no more harmful than kvetching a little too much. There is a roving counselor, who speaks in sinewy tones which should peak our suspicion, and a warden who, as Kris points out, doesn’t know what’s going on outside her door.

But if you want to be scared straight (there’s a joke somewhere there) welcome to Pine Parish! Head guard, Maxine, could have been transferred from Cellblock H. When Jill, wanting to be a nuisance, drops a pencil to the ground on purpose, Maxine, who could break her arm, lets it pass. Meanwhile, Sweetcakes pushes and shoves, and punches Sabrina! Sheriff Clint’s dastardlier than Sheriff Bufrod T. Justice ever was, killing Deputy Winston, the Angels’ only contact on the inside. Warden Sorenson is the one with the sinewy voice here, speaking in hushed Bette Davis like evil grandmother tones. She does not offer comfort. Rounding out the carnival of the absurd is Big Karl (you knew someone had to be named “Big” in this), the resident sleaze ball, who hints at granting favors “for a price,” but even he doesn’t cut the mustard compared to Big Aggie. (More on her later). Still, at Pine Parish, there are guns and bloodhounds, and like a bad Stephen King novel, the entire town is in on it. They kill here.

Winner: Jill, Sabrina and Kelly had it worse.


Calejo has Big Aggie. Pine Parish could contain the entire population of Alcatraz. Calejo still wins. The End. There really isn’t much more to compare. The inmates that we get to see at Pine Parish are innocent and hardly a threat to the Angels. They’re subservient, mute and petrified.

Calejo has inmates convicted of serious charges, including Lonnie, in on an assault rap. The “bad” inmates, along with the “bad” guards and “bad” counselor, run the place. Big Aggie is the Head Hen, and has it out for Kris, who she dubs, “chicken.” Bad lesbian overtones, dialogue, and lascivious leering ensue in both prisons, but all the Angels get at Pines is a “sweetcakes” directed at Sabrina.

Back at Calejo (odl lay, odl lee, odl lay…), Aggie has access to anything and anyone she wants. She reads inmate files, finds their vulnerabilities, and takes their makeup and money. Apparently, at Calejo inmates get to keep their personal belongings. ASIDE: Considering they all have makeup, they still look crap compared to Pine Parish. Anyway, it’s the inmates that force other inmates to be accomplices in criminal acts, and threats from inmates that have easier access to you than guards must run deeper.

Winner: Kris had it worse. Big Aggie could have just sat on her while she slept.


At Calejo, Kris has to swab the floors. Two of Aggie’s flunkies, resembling female dumb and dumbers (or Teen Angels casting rejects), taunt Kris and spill her bucket of clean/dirty water.

At Pine Parish, potatoes are the picking, and it’s a far worse chore. Real dirt, real digging, really 5 a.m. wake-up calls, glove deprivation (it’s not what you might think), mandatory silence, and hoes for da hoes!

Winner: Jill, Sabrina and Kelly had it worse.

Standard Issue

It’s 1976! At Pine Parish, high rise, bell bottom, camel toe jeans are standard issue. This is comparatively comfortable, and realistic prison wear. It’s also easier to run in pants, it’s warmer in pants, and it’s easier to protect yourself in pants. Dresses and gowns leave you exposed in more ways than one.

When Kris gets to Calejo (rapidly approaching the 80s), her arrival outfit (in prison from another prison) is a button down V-neck dress, accessorized by a maroon belt, and open-toe stiletto heel shoes. Once settled, the inmates wear dresses by day (albeit they look like leftover potato sacks from Pine Parish), and by night, everyone’s wearing flimsy hospital gowns. Big Aggie wears a tent. It’s scant. It makes Kris cry. Kris wears her hospital gown over a pair of pants (or pajama bottoms) making her look like she’s in a Mandarin film. When Aggie visits Kris, I want to cry too.

Winner: Kris. Spiritual and psychological intimidation is bad enough, but exposure leading to drafty parts is worse.

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  • Anthonydeutsch

    Actually I liked Caged Angel, One of cheryl’s defining moments in angel history.

  • PJ