Now that felt like Skins, right? After an agonising wait for the brand new series, we finally got to spend some time with the characters again - and in a rather good episode, too.
Admittedly, for a long time not a lot really happened. Instead, the writers had the confidence to play around with the gang - bring us up to speed with what's going on, introduce some new developments, and have a little fun with the idea of Skins Abroad. Of course, around the 40-minute mark everything amped up massively.
But let's rewind to the start. We're straight into Morocco, and Alo, Mini, Liv and Nick are riding motorbikes to the airport (with the help of Alo's classic hand-drawn map) to pick up Grace and Rich. It looks stunning - there's a great sense of freedom as they get on their bikes, arms in the air.
Of course there's a big happy reunion, and then it's time to head to their villa - it belongs to Rider's dad, but it might not be all it seems. Rich isn't impressed to hear that there's no water, but hey - Liv announces that they found 3oz of marijuana under the kitchen floor. Result!
Rich is even less impressed, though, when he discovers that he and Grace have been left with the penthouse - in other words, they're on the top floor, with no roof and just a mattress for comfort. But Alo's determined to have a good time and jumps straight into the pool... which hasn't yet been filled up.
Mini's furious - she hasn't had a shower for hours and she's feeling grumpy. Rider doesn't help matters when he gets even more sleazy than normal, but on the plus side, Mini delivers a great punch right in his face. Mini, I think I love you.
So everyone decides that the best thing to do would be to get a bit high. Still, the mood's shattered a bit when Matty and Franky drive up - having travelled together from Tunisia. Let's just say that their romance doesn't seem to be in the best place. Actually, they're screaming at each other. It all makes things a wee bit awkward.
Still, Franky has fun reuniting with the girls, but she's soon in need of a shower. Turns out that with no water, the guys are reduced to stripping in the pool and pouring bottled water over each other. Alo just happens to be the unlucky guy in the nude when Mini and Franky turn up to assess the situation...
Mini pushes Franky to make things up with Matty, so she apologises. But then she proceeds to go on about how reciting Morrissey's lyrics and farting could actually be quite annoying. But hey, they're in Morocco now and can talk to other people. It's so awkward - Matty's visibly hurt and everyone else just tries to look the other way.
Up on the roof, Rich is still being whiny about the state of the villa but Grace distracts him by singing (I'm not really a fan of people breaking into song in television shows, but at least this has a purpose later on). But suddenly they hear something - it's only a blooming party!
Of course, this is too good an opportunity to resist, so the group heads straight over to see what's going on. They soon meet the villa's owner, sleazy Luke (played to great effect by Joe Cole) and they're soon having a whale of a time... except for Matty, who can't stop staring longingly at Franky.
Eventually, he can't take it any longer and pulls her away to do that 'discussing the issues' thing. But Franky isn't really interested in making up, apparently, because while Matty says he thought they had a great time in Tunisia ("making love" and all), Franky admits that it got boring.
She ends up walking off and finds herself up on the roof alone. Of course, she's not alone for long - Luke soon shows up, there's some heavy-duty flirting, and they start dancing. We smell trouble.
The next morning, Mini wakes up and picks her way through her hungover friends. She figures out how to fill up the pool and as the hose sprays water, she strips off her top and luxuriates in her first proper shower for ages. I don't really know why, but this was my favourite sequence - it was beautifully done all round (music, camerawork and more).
Anyway, she wraps herself in a towel and goes to see Alo, who's nicked a phone from Luke's villa because he always steals from people who make him feel "inferior" (by being rich, attractive and sexually active). Mini suggests that he just has sex instead, and when he starts talking about how that won't happen, she kisses him... and then does something much more naughty.
I noticed the chemistry between Alo and Mini last series, so I'm pleased to see the writers going down this route. While it's a bit unusual, it's also not completely unlikely, and we got enough stolen glances between the pair in the run up for it to make sense.
They're not the only ones doing the naughty - we get a lovely little scene with Rich and Grace post-coitus, just to remind us how happy they are. (Naturally, this is for a reason.)
Later, Matty confides in Nick that he doesn't think Franky can actually do relationships, while Franky stalks off when Grace suggests she should try to make things up with Matty (and, um, stop acting like a slut. Nice). But there's more trouble ahead - Luke and his weird friend Jake show up!
It turns out that the weed they found actually belongs to Luke, and he owes some cash on it and needs it back. But hey, he's cool, so he'll let them have some drugs as a sorry. What's more, he invites them to a party down at the beach.
Actually, the party is kind of impressive - it's in a gorgeous spot with lots of very attractive people. As they all party, a group of guys breaks into their villa and grabs packets and packets of drugs. But down on the beach, Alo and Mini are getting up to no good again (though Mini urges Alo to keep it a secret).
Meanwhile, Matty gives up on his staring contest with Franky, while she goes to sit by herself. Unsurprisingly, Luke soon joins her and charms her by talking the sort of philosophical nonsense angsty teens love ('life's predictable', 'you don't owe anybody anything', 'this is real life'). Franky, though, completely falls for it and agrees to go away with him.
Elsewhere, Jake approaches Matty and says he wants a favour. Basically, he's hidden about £6,000 of dope on Matty's truck and he needs him to drive it to Marrakech. Once he's done it, he'll get Franky back from Luke. Wow, that's a pretty rubbish deal. If Matty refuses, the Moroccan police are only a phone call away...
Meanwhile, Liv goes for a walk with her Moroccan driver Mahmut, who coincidentally happens to mention that Luke's bad news. So Liv scans her eyes over the beach, and sees Franky leaving with him. She rushes over to stop her, but it's too late - Franky's already in the car and driving away.
Matty sits in the car watching them go, and Grace decides now would be a good idea to get in to talk to him about Franky. But Liv soon arrives, panting about how awful Luke is and urging Matty to chase them. The driving gets more and more dangerous, though, and Franky, Liv and Grace are all soon yelling at the drivers to stop.
They don't, and almost inevitably Matty's truck sails over a cliff. It's actually beautifully done - the camera work is stunning, and it's almost silent, apart from a slight hum from the party. My favourite bit, though, was that Rich suddenly stops dancing and looks around for Grace. Grace ends up face down on the bonnet, while Liv frees herself from the wreckage. Matty looks down at Grace before turning and running...
And then, suddenly, we're back at Roundview with the gang. We hear that Grace has been in hospital for three weeks but that Professor Blood - who's not working at the moment - has asked people not to visit her.
We also soon learn (thanks to a guest appearance with the fab Josie Long as a supposedly "responsible adult") that Nick hasn't heard from Matty since the accident. Things are so bad that Mini's offering him a shoulder to cry on. Later, in the common room, Nick tries to smile at Franky but she turns away, clearly wracked with guilt. And then Matty rings Nick... will he pick up the phone?
We don't know, because we go to see Rich. Adorably, he's finished Grace's music coursework for her with Alo's help - she'd already recorded the vocals, so they added a backing track. But Grace's music teacher can't accept it - she has to complete it herself.
So Rich takes the CD and some flowers and goes to see Grace in hospital. Unfortunately, Blood is refusing to let him see her, so Grace's kindly nurse takes in the presents instead. She puts on the CD, and we hear Grace singing the song from Morocco. And we get our first look at Grace, who's lying in a bed, unconscious and with breathing equipment.
We leave, though, on a final shot of Franky in tears - clearly feeling guilty for the whole fiasco. This first episode of Skins has set some things up very nicely indeed... bring on the rest of the series!
What's the skinny?
- Go on then, discuss the new theme tune. It's fun, isn't it? Have to admit I miss the 'ding ding doo doo doo' at the end, though.
- "Yeah, you find the f**king airport, Alo, and I'll check to see if my t*ts are still there. Teamwork, right?"
- I really like the idea that Rich didn't buy any holiday clothes because there's no such thing as "heavy metal beachwear".
- The first half of this episode had a wonderful tone - such a feeling of freedom (the motorbikes, the standing up on the truck, etc). But would Professor Blood really let Grace go on holiday?
- "The bedrooms were decided democratically. Mini chose her room, then we all drew lots."
- "That's a little bit racist, mate." "Racist, or is it aceist?" No, it's just racist. Rider's brilliantly hateable, isn't he?
- Line of the episode for me has to be: "But I thought you liked Simone de Beauvoir!"
- Franky was kind of horrible in this episode, wasn't she? Still, I suppose she's paying for it now. I like the fact that the writers and Dakota weren't afraid to push it with her nastiness (I'm not saying none of it was justified, but she was difficult.)
- "It's like lemony zest!"
- I really liked the idea of sending Alo ahead to sniff out the party.
- It really paid off taking the Skins to Morocco. The locations - the desert, Luke's villa, the beach - were stunning. It proved that this is a series with ambition.
- Luke. Shudder.
- "I liked it better when she might or might not have been a lesbian."
- I hate to say it, but the beatboxing contest was kind of impressive.
- "You've been f**king her. Now Luke's going to f**k her." I was quite surprised at how much impact that line actually had.
- "Grace was very talented." "Is. She is very talented."
- I love Josie Long and I love Isy Suttie. Great guest stars.
- Grace... is she going to pull through?