I’m rewatching Series 1 through 4 of Skins. Again. (You know how I love my Skins.) Next up, Series 1, Episode 2 – Cassie.
As of today, there have been 45 episodes of the UK series Skins. Of these episodes, the first season episode “Cassie” remains one of the best the series has ever broadcast. If the premiere episode introduced us to how edgy this new teen series strives to be, it is this second episode that showed us its heart and soul. Here we are introduced to Cassie Ainsworth (Hannah Murray), recently released from a rehab facility and still dealing with her eating disorder. There are brief interruptions of what the other Skins crew is up to (that crazy drug dealer Mad Twatter is still after Sid; Chris is still flirting with Angie). But Cassie’s touching episode arc, complete with her somewhat distant parents, adorable baby brother, and love of the word “Wow” is probably what kept you watching Skins in its first season.
Let’s get into it.
We begin the episode at Michelle’s house. Her mum and latest husband (more on them in episode seven) are away on their honeymoon, leaving the Skins gang to destroy the house. Food covers the walls and half-clothed teens litter the floors. It’s kind of like a post-apocalyptic scene, except with hungover teenagers on a school morning.
Cassie wakes up before everyone and observes the scene around her; we get our first glimpse at Cassie’s thin frame. One constant about Skins in every episode is that our first look at a character is usually as they get dressed and how their clothes define them. No character’s body and appearance is more important than Cassie’s. Underneath her adorable clothes and sunny demeanor is someone who’s aching.
Cassie wanders through Michelle’s mess of a house. She realizes that Michelle’s mum is coming home that day and tries to alert the others. But Anwar is busy praying and Michelle is asleep. We get the sense from her brief interactions with these two that Cassie that her friends keep a lot of their feelings about Cassie from her. (A half-asleep Michelle calls Cassie a crazy bitch who never eats.) After leaving a kiss mark on Sid’s forehead, Cassie leaves and avoids the other’s frantic escape when Michelle’s mother arrives on the scene.
Cassie heads home to get ready for her last trip to her clinic. While on the bus she finds the first of many anonymous notes with a simple instruction: eat. It’s a mostly silent, oddly haunting scene as Cassie watches everyone else on the bus do exactly that. Food surrounds her and it is something she will always struggle with.
At her home, we meet Cassie’s parents. Artists. They obviously care for Cassie and are supportive of her, but they are also focused on other things: their new baby, their portrait sessions (I would hate to see a portrait of my naked mother giving birth anywhere in my house), and their sex life. Her parents don’t pick up on Cassie’s lies and her silent pleas for help. Cassie does care for her little brother.
And then we meet Allan, the clinic’s taxi driver who makes sure people don’t skip out on their appointments. But Allan also doesn’t intervene when he sees patients interfering with their treatment, like Cassie does when she hides weights in her clothes in taxi. Allan is just a supportive person in Cassie’s life, probably the most supportive at the moment. Cassie has left her mark on Allan, just the way Cassie easily charms us. But Allan also reads right through Cassie’s “wows” and smiles. He knows she’s not well just yet. (Allan also loves Ludacris.)
Restoration, the clinic, is literally out of another world. It is run by Dr. Stock, conveniently Abigail’s mother. Dr. Stock is high strung, obsessive, and not exactly a caring therapist. She calls Cassie “Carrie”, is available on short notice for a fee, and we see her lash out at Abigail on the phone. (Stupid girl ruined the imported carpets!) Dr. Stock is just another addition to the group of out of touch adults constantly seen throughout Skins. And after one last group meeting, Cassie is discharged and left to face her problems on her own.
Which finally brings us to lunchtime at Roundview. Sid gets his food and is immediately taunted by the guys (Posh Kenneth!) for having the mysterious kiss mark on his forehead. Sid sits by himself and Cassie joins him. Their conversation turns from last night’s party to food. Sid wants to know: how does anyone never notice that Cassie never eats? And Cassie shows him. It’s all about talking fast and distracting the person from watching her eat. Sid sees through Cassie’s bs and calls her on it. This exchange is utterly heartbreaking.
Sid: It’s impressive. But aren’t you kind of, lying to everyone?
Cassie: I’m so better. I got discharged from the clinic.
Sid: Seems a bit fucked up.
Sid: I said just seems a bit fucked up that’s all.
Cassie: Oh wow. I mean you see it’s like nobody’s fucking business and it’s not exactly like anybody cares so..
Sid: I… care.
And then Tony, ever the master of ruining the moment, barges into the cafeteria and is a total ass. He asks Cassie how “dippy world” is and doesn’t respond when Sid informs him that she was discharged from the clinic. All Tony cares about is how a kiss mark ended up on Sid’s forehead, how Sid reeks, and how Sid is a waste of space. And Cassie, increasingly frustrated, slyly dumps a can of soda on Tony’s pants. Two points for Cassie!
As Cassie continues receiving text messages to eat, Sid’s worst nightmare comes true. Mad Twatter knows him name and arrives on campus. Yeah, I never liked this subplot. But it adds some comedy to an otherwise intense and dramatic episode. Anyways, Cassie confronts Sid about the mysterious messages. He says he never sent them to her. Cassie finally realizes she imagined the messages all along.
Panicked, Cassie rushes home. There she finds her parents popping champagne and feeding her brother. Cassie has reached a breaking point and finally calls someone for help.
“I’m just a taxi driver” Allan tells Cassie that she most likely imagined the messages because she is subconsciously giving herself permission. Cassie tries to talk her way out of eating a cheeseburger but Allan knows her tricks. He shows his support for her and with that Cassie eats a cheeseburger. No knife and fork required.
Despite Cassie finally eating, the final scene is just as heartbreaking as every other in this episode. It’s not an overwhelming positive conclusion; Cassie’s problems are not miraculously cured.
Other Odds and Ends from “Cassie”:
Did you catch how food is everywhere in this episode? From the spaghetti in the party scene to the bus ride to the cafeteria, someone was eating in almost every scene. But never Cassie.
Favorite exchange: This says a lot about Cassie and Anwar.
Anwar: I’m trying to pray to my God here Cass.
Cassie: Oh. Wow. Is he listening?
Anwar: I hope not. Otherwise he knows about all those pills I nicked last night.
Cassie: Think quietly.
Best parental moment: Cassie’s parents are never seen again after this episode but they definitely leave their mark and also win the trophy for most naked parents.
Most unnecessary moment: It is hard to pick one from this episode since it is a perfectly constructed second episode of a series. Most scenes relate to and affect what will come next with enough references to the pilot. So it is a toss up between Angie naked in the staff shower (why the hell is she taking a shower in the middle of the day?) and the Mad Twatter subplot.
Best Group Moment: As Sid is freaking out about Mad Twatter finding him, Chris suggests smacking Sid across the face and Anwar does so… but very gently. Then Tony just wallops Sid across the face. And Jal is typically left to try and sort it out while the others walk away.
Number Scenes with Jal: Two.
Best British Humor Americans Didn’t Get Until 2010: