Once upon a time, there was a boy named James "Jimmy" Cook. At his 17th birthday party, he ate a whole cake with his bare hands. Another time, he stood for student government. Another time, he sold drugs to someone who sold drugs to a dead girl. He said he did all of those things because he didn’t care about you or anyone else — about what you do, about what you think, about how you feel.
But just like Naomi, that’s his mask. James "Jimmy" Cook cares about his alcoholic, narcissistic mum; about his neglected, wide-eyed kid brother; about his lesbian best friends; about his urban family brothers; about Effy. But caring feels like falling, and everything James "Jimmy" Cook does — the cake, the government, the drugs, the fights — is about taking back control. Power and control. James "Jimmy" Cook is a tragic hero.
Also, a possible moron.
Nope, make that actual moron.
So Cook is in jail, and his brief (lawyer) — who is having an existential crisis about a tomato sandwich — advises him to plead guilty. Cook understands "guilty" to mean "wrong" and since he doesn’t know what "wrong" feels like, he dismisses his brief’s advice.
The judge releases him to the custody of his mum, who is kind of the worst parent in the history of Skins (which is really saying something). She flirts with Cook’s jailers; gets trolleyed on champagne while driving home from court; has loud, obnoxious sex in the room right next to Cook and his brother. She’s also got a monster photo of her breasts framing the kitchen table. That, or IKEA has some prints in Britain that are simply not available in America.
But Cook sure does love Paddy. He walks him to school in the manner of a professor at James "Jimmy" Cook’s School of Mischief for Incurably Criminal Boys, and then decides to pop in on his mates to see how their studies are going.
There’s a nice moment before Cook enters the common room at Roundview where he just takes a deep breath and steels himself to act like a wanker. He invites his friends to skive off class and head to the pub, but everyone has their own drama going on (Emily and Naomi aren’t speaking; Panda is still torn out of the frame about Thomas; JJ’s face a is pummeled tomato). Freddie and Effy offer to join him, but Cook shoots them down, and then gets expelled because there is a new sheriff in town. A sheriff in a pink polo.
The first stop on Cook’s Expulsion Tour is Naomi’s house, where Emily’s scooter is parked outside. Instead of playing happy families inside, though, Naomi is taking out the rubbish. (Symbolism: ding!) She spots Cook, and before she’s even across the street, she asks, "When did you get so sorry for yourself?"
Naomi and Cook have always had an interesting relationship ("You’re a lot nicer than most people think, Cook." "F–k you." "F–k you right back.") but it takes an even more complex turn in this episode because we find out that Cook and Naomi have two fundamental things in common: 1) They both make really stupid decisions when they feel out of control. 2) They both try to become good people by doing bad stuff.
1) Naomi didn’t cheat on Emily out of anger or lust or disloyalty or apathy or any of the other reasons characters on Skins usually cheat. She made a crap decision because she felt like things with Emily were out of her control. It was too much, everything, all at once. If you are a person who has always been comfortable with the possessive nature of love — a girl with a crazy tight relationship with your sister, for example; or with parents who have been together for 20 years — it may be hard to understand Naomi’s motivation for cheating. But if you are a person who grew up in a house of vagabonds, a person for whom self-reliance was the only option, you get how falling in love can be the scariest, most exhilarating, perfect, perfect, perfect, claustrophobic f–king thing.
Emily said they were taking a year off to travel. Naomi didn’t want to fight about it because: a) she’d rather be shagging Emily silly, and b) Emily would understand it to mean rejection. (Try explaining to a twin that you need space. She’s been crammed together with someone else since she was a zygote.) So, Naomi went to an open day full of resentment because she felt like she had to lie to be there, and then Sophia offered her an opportunity to feel in control, if only for a moment. And she took it.
Cook beat the shit out Shanky Jenkins for the same reason. It’s different, but no less primal. Control and power.
The irony is that taking control made Naomi realize she didn’t need it. When Emily said she was moving in, Naomi said she could be her pajamas. She said "ours" and she meant it.
2) Last week someone made an astute comment that it was really great and everything how Naomi was heartbroken over Emily, but shouldn’t she show at least a little remorse on account of killing someone? And yes. But also, the only thing Naomi is really guilty of is selling drugs to a girl who would have willingly taken anything from her. On some gross level, Naomi knew that. She didn’t know about the shrine or the rubbish pilfering or the graphic novel. But at some point Naomi had to say, "It was a one time thing. I love my girlfriend. This will never happen again. No one can know." And Sophia never bothered to wash off the blood. She wore it like a badge.
So, Naomi sold her MDMA (bad thing) to buy Emily some goggles so she could protect her (good person).
And Cook pummeled Shanky (bad thing) because he couldn’t pummel Freddie because he loves him, and he loves Effy too (good person).
The difference is Naomi’s ready to own it.
Naomi: When did you get so sorry for yourself, Cook?
Naomi: We can talk about her. That’s why you’re here isn’t it. We sold that girl Sophia drugs.
Cook: I didn’t give her nothing.
Naomi: And I had an affair with her as well.
Naomi: And now she’s dead.
"That girl Sophia" is how detached Naomi has always been from her. Poor Sophia. (Also, it puts to rest that whole "Maybe I only like boys apart from you" thing, right? Even when it means nothing to Naomi, it means nothing with a girl.)
Naomi: That’s why you’re here. You feel bad.
Cook: F–k off. I just come around to see if you wanted that non-lezzer willy-
waggle, that’s all.
Naomi: Yeah, right. You want to know how I feel? I feel f–king terrible. My girlfriend won’t look at me. I could cry every minute. I feel s–t, and all I can do is … feel it.
The only thing worse than jacking up your whole life in a bid to take control is jacking up your whole life in a bid to take control, and then realizing that control is an illusion.
"Deal with it," Naomi shouts at Cook as he backs away.
Deal with what? Oh, you know — his mum lists Freddie on her "My C–ks" display. (Don’t worry, though, it was only a blow job.) He accidentally destroys her aptly titled "Me, Me, Me" installation. Paddy gets kicked out of school and dragged home by the police. His mum gets blitzed and passes out during Guitar Hero. And Freddie shows up to confirm that: a) Effy loves him, not Cook. b) Cook’s mum did, in fact, service him at Cook’s 15th birthday party. c) Cook smashed JJ last week.
Freddie tells him he loves him, and that JJ loves him too, and that whatever he’s doing, he can just stop. But Cook’s just getting started. He takes the School of Mischief on a field trip for some smoking, drinking, swearing and car bashing. Finally, Paddy falls asleep, and Cook goes back to Naomi’s …
…where the saddest thing is happening.
The harshest space in the world is the distance between you and someone you used to touch without hesitation.
Naomi can’t touch Emily, and she can’t lie in bed and not touch Emily, so she’s on the couch, watching her sleep when Cook shows up with Paddy in tow. (I guess they walked? His mum’s car wasn’t going anywhere.) They tuck Paddy in on the couch and take a blanket outside to watch the sunrise.
Naomi: We didn’t kill her, you know. She killed herself. Doesn’t help though. I still spend every day feeling like I wanna puke.
Cook: How is Emily?
Naomi: Angry. So lonely. It all means so much to you, doesn’t it?
Naomi: Life. You just live a bit harder than everybody else does. You splash about. You wallow in it. Like you can’t lose a moment.
Cook: Yeah, I’m well hard.
Ah, Cook. Come here and let me give you a hug. Never mind; it looks like Naomi’s got it covered.
Cook: Thing is , Naomi, you splash about, other people get wet. I don’t give a f–k or anything, it’s just you get bit, you know — for f–ks sake, I’m never gonna get to bone you, am I?
Naomi: No, I love someone.
Cook: You and me both, girl. You and me both.
I really like Naomi and Cook’s kiss here. It’s obviously platonic. They’re so alike, so alone. Both falling. Both flailing.
Cook goes to his brief’s office looking for some sympathy, but ends up spilling his soul all over the dank furnishings — everything he’s seen and done, everything he’s done and seen, and how wretched he feels because of how wretched he’s been. Then he gets noble: he takes responsibility for himself, and for something he didn’t even do, so that Naomi, at least, can have a chance with the woman she loves. He confesses to selling the MDMA to Sophia.
Effy comes to visit him in jail and weaves some of her Effy magic, making him feel more like a man than he ever has. He tells her to apologize to JJ, and that was all JJ ever needed. He and Freddie and Effy show up for his trial. Paddy does too, screaming at Cook not to apologize, to tell them to f–k off, but Effy gives him that head nod, and he pleads guilty.
You would have never thought it, last season, that James "Jimmy" Cook would be the best friend (and brother) a person could hope for. But he’s a hero, like I said. He lives a bit harder. He splashes about. And now he’s got six months in an an olive track suit to rethink his entire wardrobe.
Next week: She’s Katie f–king Fitch. Who the f–k are you?