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'Skins' recap: A minor character in his own life

February 22, 2011 |  7:00 am

Finally, we meet Abbud. At least, that was the promise of this week's episode. For the first half of this season, he's been the show's most poorly defined character. We know that he comes from a Muslim family, that he's prone to spontaneous rapping and that he is desperate to finally get laid. But despite the promise of an entire hour devoted to Abbud, we learned precious little more about him on this episode.

Perhaps the odd setting, and its lack of context, is to blame. On this week's "Skins," the cast (unaccompanied, inexplicably, by any classmates outside their clique) takes a school-sponsored trip to High in the Wild, a camp in Canada where they believe they're in for a weekend-long nature adventure. What they get instead -- after Abbud endures some painful racial profiling at the border and the group loses their bus in a chuckle-worthy struggle with a wounded moose -- is a few days of torture.

The mastermind of the trip is David, the young, self-proclaimed "cool teacher" who had an apparently life-changing experience at High in the Wild when he was a teen. He considers the camp's stern leader, a scowling, masculine woman in fatigues named Brown Paw, his role model. Addressing the motley crew of high schoolers he's brought her, she proclaims, "I look around at all your faces. I see low self-esteem, promiscuity and a disturbing amount of drug abuse." Brown Paw tells the kids that they will be addressed by assigned numbers while they're at High in the Wild; they'll have to earn back their names over the weekend.

She sets out a multitude of tasks and challenges for them, but we don't see how many of them actually turn out. Instead, the "Skins" crew sneaks around, freely pursuing drugs and promiscuity (and, for that matter, wallowing in low self-esteem). Stanley, always willing to take one for the team, has smuggled weed into Canada by shoving it up his hindquarters. The only problem?  He tells his friends on his way to the camp, "It's like my butt swallowed it up further." Oops. He spends most of the episode constipated and terrified.

Desperate for some kind of fix, the boys gnaw on unidentified mushrooms they find in the forest. When that doesn't work, they lick a toad because Chris once saw some people on TV get high that way. A minute or so later, they're all projectile vomiting.

On the sex front, while there's plenty of it this week, few of the encounters actually seem satisfying. Sure, Chris does finally get with his teacher Tina, the trip's other chaperone, after confessing his love for her. Repulsed by David's half-naked, flatulent yoga and nauseating advances ("You and I are bunkin' up, She-Bear"), she runs right into Chris' arms as he rolls a joint. As ethically, socially and legally problematic as their budding relationship may be, the student-teacher pair are officially the most functional couple on "Skins" this week. (Not that that's saying much.)

In bed with Michelle, Tony can't perform. He says it's because he still feels sick from the toad and/or mushrooms, but she knows he's not telling her everything. "You never feel well these days, Tony," she says. And when Betty crawls into Tea's tent, Tea rebuffs her. She knows Betty wants something more than just a hook-up. "I don't do relationships," Tea reminds her. It doesn't go any further than that.

The next day, after a whole lot of begging on Tony's part, he and Tea steal away -- and Abbud walks in on them having what she later admits is very bad sex. Considering that Abbud had tried to kiss Tea earlier that same day and she had told him, "What you want isn't how I'm built," he's understandably upset. Yes, like Tony and Betty and practically everyone else on the show who's attracted to girls, Abbud is in love with Tea. That's one of the few things we learn about him this week.

The other is that he has a tendency to let his imagination run wild. Throughout the episode, Abbud sees the shadow of a person in a big coat and hood, carrying a gun. Instead of realizing that there might be hunters in the woods, he decides it's a "psycho slasher guy" and panics. Eventually, he ends up in the back of the predator's truck and realizes, to his horror, that he's snuggled up to bloody innards.

Abbud doesn't learn his psycho killer's true identity until much later. On the platform atop the camp's shaky climbing pole, Tea tries to explain her tryst with Tony. "I think I did it to feel bad or something," she said. "We have some weird connection." Finally, her interest in him makes a bit of sense. Tea knows Tony is wrong for her, but she seems to be punishing herself for some grave offense that isn't even clear to her. Since she can't let herself fall for the girls she might truly have a future with, she's throwing all her emotions into a relationship that's doomed from the beginning.

In his anger at Tea, Abbud falls off the platform and has to be taken to the hospital. And who should appear to drive him there but the "slasher" -- who turns out to be Bear Paw's no-nonsense, white-haired hunter mother. Other shows might tie up such a misunderstanding with some relieved laughter. On "Skins," the episode ends with Abbud, strapped to a stretcher in the back of the truck, screaming his injured lungs out.

There were some funny moments this week, and the insight into Tea's feelings for Tony was welcome, but Abbud's show is still one of my least favorite so far. Out in the wilderness, we didn't get to know anything about our protagonist's home life or parents. And amid all the other story lines that took precedence, Abbud comes off as a minor character in his own life, with none of the depth or direction that make his friends so easy to love (or hate).

Bonus burning question: How long until Cadie's out of the hospital and back to her friends again? I'm missing her already, and she's only been absent from one episode.

Your weekly top five parental panic moments:

5. Tony and Tea sneak off to have sex in a shed.

4. Chris purposely drops David from the top of the climbing pole.

3. The boys eat random mushrooms and lick a toad to get high, then become violently ill.

2. Chris hooks up with his teacher, Tina.

1. Stanley smuggles marijuana into Canada -- by hiding it in his butt.


Full Show Tracker coverage of "Skins"

-- Judy Berman

Photo: Ron Mustafaa as Abbud. Credit: Jason Nocito