Casualty Review: Series 32, Episode 38

Warning: Contains reference to sexual assault.

The episode opened with two young women, one of which was coughing and clammy—clearly sick. The lighting of the scene certainly hinted at something being not quite right, but it’s when external voices enter that we saw the older girl rush to a grubby window and look out onto floor level. The door and the objects in the room were an immediate giveaway that perhaps they’re being held against their will. We see a few other girls, of similar ages, get dragged from the back of a van and thrown into the room with our two characters. Then the older girl, Mai (Lynh Huynh), was ordered to work in the nail bar on the ground floor. By this point, we were almost certain that this week’s episode was tackling the sensitive topic of human trafficking.

Mai was setting up the nail stations when Barry (Michael Grady-Hall) came in, seemingly a regular and rather fond of her. She began working on his nails and after a few hushed words between them, she disclosed that she needed help escaping. Infatuated and naive, Barry asked no questions and restrained Mai’s boss. In the rush to free her sister and the other girls in the basement, Mai fumbled with keys as Barry and Anh (Linh Dan Pham) practically wrestled with each other in the office; knocking over bottles of acetone and eventually a shelving rack which trapped them underneath. The leaking acetone steamed and fizzed as it gradually seeped closer to the pair lying on the floor and the fumes spread throughout the shop and down to the corridor in the basement, causing Mai to become unconscious. The acetone dripped through a drain in the office and leaked into the basement as well, where the girls were being held; making breathing difficult.
Casualty, BBC, episode reviews, series 32, episode 38, Iain, Jan, Michael Stevenson, Di Botcher
Iain and Jan (Michael Stevenson and Di Botcher).
Our trusty paramedics, Iain and Jan (Michael Stevenson and Di Botcher) brought in Anh and Barry, with Mai following in a second ambulance. It’s not long before Eddie (Joe Gaminara) was questioning Anh and her intentions towards being Mai’s employer. Barry also found Mai’s behaviour a little suspicious so he asked her why she knew so much about him yet he knew so little about her. She told him about how she was brought here from Vietnam and kept by “bad people”, she mentioned her sister and in his bid to win over Mai and make her happy, Barry went back to the nail bar to rescue Kim (Leighanne Esperanzate). It was lucky that he had, as two dangerous men wielding baseball bats were breaking into the basement and trying to take the girls to a different location—presumably following Anh’s orders. Thankfully, Barry saved them all and they were all admitted to the hospital where Mai and Kim were reunited.

This episode also saw the culmination of Jacob and Sam’s (Charles Venn and Charlotte Salt) flirtations. It all began when she invited him for breakfast, where the two then discussed who she could beat in a boxing ring. She’s unimpressed by his consistent suggestions of female colleagues she could take on and to his surprise she challenged him. The pair headed to the ambulance station and began sparring, although it’s not long before Sam doubled over in (feigned) pain. A smug Jacob was starting to take off his boxing gloves when Sam suddenly sprung an unexpected move on him that has him toppling to the floor. And I’m afraid this is where my toes really curled from the romantic cheesiness; a superior Sam stood over him and then straddled his waist. She kissed him, however pulled back just moments later with blood on her hands… and I couldn’t help the spluttering! She’d knocked Jacob unconscious!
Casualty, BBC, episode reviews, series 32, episode 38, Jacob, Sam, Charles Venn, Charlotte Salt
Sam and Jacob (Charlotte Salt and Charles Venn).
Obviously she admitted him and it caused me great amusement seeing David’s (Jason Durr) reaction to the cosy pair in cubicles (oh, how I’ve missed David’s humour!). Elle (Jaye Griffiths) also couldn’t resist the temptation to play the situation and returned with Jacob’s scan results saying with sincerity, “Jacob, I’m sorry… But I can find absolutely no evidence whatsoever of a brain.” I’ve missed their banter! Although, I am so curious to see the reactions of her and Connie when they find out about the new couple!
Casualty, BBC, episode reviews, series 32, episode 38, Alicia, Chelsea Halfpenny
Alicia played by Chelsea Halfpenny.
In all honesty, I was a little underwhelmed by the continuation of Alicia’s (Chelsea Halfpenny) storyline this week, simply because I was expecting it to have more screen time than it did—especially after last episode. I suppose they’re trying to make it realistic so I really shouldn’t expect drama regarding it week after week! But what was developed in the story I was really impressed by. Eddie still didn’t understand the reason for Alicia avoiding him and it seemed to throw him even more when Ethan (George Rainsford) told him that Alicia wouldn’t be mentoring him anymore. Ethan passing it off as “ED practice” was a mature choice, even if it didn’t convince Eddie. We also saw that Alicia’s fear of him hadn’t eased and if anything, seemed to be growing with each passing day; as we witnessed in the scene of her drinking coffee in the staff room and receiving a text from him and then later on when her doorbell went (but I’ll be speaking more of this in a moment).

Eddie’s interaction with Mai hinted at an aggressive side to him when he grabbed hold of her wrist and hissed warnings at her; which is a side we hadn’t really seen all that much of in his character. However, the scene I really want to discuss—and likely over-analyse—is that scene where he confronts Alicia in the staffroom at the end of shift. He’d already found out earlier in the day that she was scared of him, but he hadn’t had chance to discuss it with her any further until now.

Her instant reaction to his voice behind her said it all, I think; panic, fear, tears, broken words, I could go on… He still didn’t seem to pick up on her discomfort, which makes me wonder just how little he must have picked up on during the night he’d stayed over. He rambled on about one-night stands, believing that that was the cause for her upset, all the while she wore an incredulous expression at hearing him be so unaware of the reality of the situation. You can see her breathing quicken and she seemed almost frantic until she spun around and told him she “didn’t like it”. And this is where I am going to go over-the-top analysing and delving for far-fetched reasoning… “Okay? I didn’t… I didn’t have a good time. I didn’t…” she trailed off. But we all saw it; she nearly said ‘I didn’t want it’, her lips were forming the first syllable. I actually think Eddie could tell that this was what she was going to say. Instead, he commented on his interpretation of them having a “good time”.

This is the important bit, folks. This is a little off-topic for a review but I feel strongly and shall include it, nonetheless.

Whether she voiced how she felt at the time or not, there were likely visual cues that she wasn’t enjoying what they were doing. Forgive me for going into detail with this, but whilst we’ll probably never know exactly what happened, we can assume that she was not actively taking part for some of it. And I think Casualty is trying to teach us that people can change their minds, they have the right to, and it’s important to check in with your partner. We all saw Alicia leaving the pub with Eddie a couple of weeks ago, they were happy and into each other and appearing as though they were looking forward to the night ahead. However, she did not feel the same later on.

Casualty, BBC, episode reviews, series 32, episode 38, Eddie, Joe Gaminara
Eddie played by Joe Gaminara.

I think Casualty have done this really well (or as well as can be, in this context) because they’re making people more aware that sexual assault isn’t as black and white as the media sometimes suggests. Eddie isn’t your ‘typically perceived’ rapist. He’s immature, which I believe is a large factor in all of this, but he didn’t necessarily go out to hurt another person. Should he still pay for what he did? Absolutely.

I know there has been some confusion on how he could have assaulted/raped her if she ‘simply didn’t like it’—I’ve seen it in comments across social media—but that is why this story is so important; it’s educating people and making us all more aware.

But anyway, I return from my tangent! In short, I didn’t like how she felt the need to apologise to him although I do appreciate what Casualty are doing with Alicia’s storyline. I also noted her reaction when her doorbell rung and this is something I’d been considering since Ethan visited her the episode before; surely it would have taken a moment for her to gather the courage to answer it? I figured we didn’t see that scene due to lack of time—which could be why we saw it this week instead.

Other plot points I’d like to quickly cover:
  • Poor Bea (Michelle Fox)! I’m so happy that she’s not letting her father ruin things for her after she’s come so far. I’m so so excited to see how things go with she and Alicia being roomies!
  • Elle is certainly rather curious about Connie (Amanda Mealing), isn’t she? It’s nice to see that Connie has someone looking out for her and taking note, because she seems all alone at the moment.
  • And thank goodness for Noel (Tony Marshall) and his light comedy! It was silly humour, but it really helped break the heavy tension of the storylines this week.

Overall, I was really looking forward to this episode and I felt like it had a different feel, as guest characters were the lead storyline this week. A lot of main character development too, so I’m impatient to see how it all plays out!

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