Relapse is a very tricky thing to portray onscreen. In a society that too often treats issues with substance use as moral failings, having a character succumb to temptation after a period of abstinence can be a risky little game. Cassie Bowden has been flirting with disaster this entire season, and the show was all but telegraphing that she was going to reach for a drink sooner or later. So, it felt tragically inevitable when she finally took that drink in this week’s episode. And yet, the show also worked to make room for hope as Cassie struggled to redefine recovery on her terms.
Anchored by a wrenching performance from Kaley Cuoco, Cassie’s slide back into her old coping mechanism feels like she’s shrugging on one of her perfectly tailored coats. It’s a fit. As we saw her in various states of inebriation for the entirety of the first season, it feels like we’re reverting back to the status quo. But this time, we know that Cassie wants more for herself and that she is capable of change.
On a show that delights in shocking reveals and moments of suspended tension, the depiction of Cassie’s actual relapse is relatively anticlimactic in the grand scheme of things. In a span of about 60 seconds, Cassie is offered a drink, she accepts the drink, and then she drinks the drink. When Cassie reaches for that frosty martini and then takes that first buzzy sip, we know we’re about to be swept along on a wild, introspective ride.
At the top of the episode, we see that Cassie has already made one bad decision (boning her handler), and then she immediately makes another one as she snaps photographs of a classified CIA document. Cassie is literally the bad decision train. She always has been, and her year of recovery has not changed that one bit.
When Cassie gets home, she shows Ani and Max what she’s found, and they are interested but concerned. Cassie’s getting more and more flustered with this whole situation, and she blurts out that she just wants one drink. Ani tries to be supportive here, but she kind of botches it by dismissing what Cassie is saying to her. Of course Cassie wants a drink. She’s never stopped wanting a drink. And that’s why she’s been engaging in all of these other behaviors instead.
Cassie has to bolt to her Imperial Airlines yearly training, but Marco catches her on her way out. Understandably, Marco gets kind of aggro about Cassie dodging him. How long has it been since he asked her to move in with him? Three days now? Four? It’s hard to tell because Cassie is bouncing all over the place like a frantic pinball. Honestly, Cassie was not doing super great before Marco popped the question, but that’s what set her on tilt. Obviously, this isn’t Marco’s fault. It’s more of a commentary on Cassie’s complete inability to commit to lasting, stable relationships. Take away the whole international espionage and doppelgänger plotlines, and Cassie is still a total emotional train wreck.
Cassie is honest with Marco, however, as she blurts out that she cheated on him. Oops. He breaks up with her, leaving with the ice-cold line that his daughter would’ve really loved Cassie. Ouch. Somehow, Cassie makes it to her Imperial Atlantic training anyway.
Carol’s at the training, and she’s mad as hell. She provides some much-needed comic relief as she body checks Cassie on the way in and then proceeds to secretly sabotage her at every turn. However, even Carol is impressed when Jada comes around and asks a few pop-quiz questions and Cassie aces them. We find out that Cassie knows how to deal with the cabin if a bomb is found in an overhead bin. Did anyone else get the sense that this moment is foreshadowing a bomb on an airplane later in the season? Anyone? Just me?
Shane is also at the training, and he’s trying to calm Cassie down. Much like every single person in her life, he tells her to stop digging into this mess. And, to her credit, Cassie does listen to him. Instead, she heads to Grace’s apartment.
Make no mistake, Cassie isn’t at Grace’s apartment because she thinks Grace is a cool shoulder to cry on or an unbiased judge of character: She’s there to drink. Cassie specifically goes to see Grace because Grace is one of the few people in her life who doesn’t know she’s in recovery. The two watch a black-and-white film featuring synchronized swimmers, and Grace just kind of sweetly fumbles as Cassie freaks out. I still feel like Grace is going to be pivotal to this story in some way, but given that Cassie is the one who keeps pursuing her friendship, I’m not too sure how that’s all going to shake out.
Grace provides a comforting shoulder to cry on, but she also has booze. To her credit, Cassie initially turns down the offer. But then Davey texts about some mystery trip and a letter to their dad. Knowing what we know about Cassie’s family past, all of this sounds very heavy, like childhood trauma heavy. And, because she hasn’t dealt with any of this trauma in a real way, these texts are a tipping point for her.
So, she drinks. And drinks. And drinks. And absolutely none of it seems like fun.
At first, Cassie is awash in the familiar numbing buzz of her old friend vodka. After leaving Grace’s house, she heads to the liquor store where she sees Jenny. She successfully discourages Jenny from relapsing but buys two bottles of her own booze.
To her credit, Cassie does try to reach out to a few people for support during her relapse, but she’s too intoxicated to be rational about her choices. She drunk dials Dot from the CIA approximately 800 times and leaves increasingly unhinged messages that could (and possibly will) be used as evidence against her at some point in time. Then, she calls Shane. Shane is so very sick of her shit. He’s been a patient friend to Cassie for a very long time, but his bandwidth to deal with her nonsense is just spent. He can’t anymore. He’s done.
Cassie’s mind palace is a chaotic mess throughout this entire episode. It’s been increasingly chaotic this entire season, but things really take a turn here. The synchronized swimmers that mark the beginning of Cassie’s vodka binge are unnerving at best, and then Party Cassie starts dropping some truth bombs.
It turns out that Cassie hasn’t been sober for an entire year like she’s been claiming. She relapsed not once but twice — on March 21 and March 23 — back when she was living in New York. That’s why she moved to Los Angeles. But she couldn’t outrun herself. There’s a saying in recovery: Wherever you go, there you are. And here Cassie is, on a different coast, dealing with the same exact problems she had in New York.
As Cassie stumbles out of her car and toward the ocean, Party Cassie delivers a devastating truth when she says, “You wanna know my issue with this whole double thing? Who the fuck would wanna be you?”
Cassie is immobilized. She collapses on the sand, staring into the airspace above, and cries violent tears. The thing that used to make her feel light and free doesn’t make her feel light and free anymore. She can no longer fool herself into thinking that there’s an escape hatch.
Thankfully, Cassie calls Brenda, and the two of them have a heart-to-heart on the sand. In my alternate life as an addiction therapist, I’ve heard all of the AA maxims and platitudes, and some of them make total sense. Others, not so much. Brenda tells Cassie that recovery doesn’t work without rigorous honesty, which is absolutely true. But she also tells Cassie multiple times that she’s starting over. I highly disagree. Cassie isn’t completely starting over because now she gets to learn from her mistakes. Sure, Cassie has been trying to stop drinking without addressing the core behaviors that lead to her drinking, but she’s proven herself to be someone who genuinely wants to try. And wanting to try is important.
As Cassie winds down with Brenda, she feels a hand on her shoulder in her mind palace. It looks like it’s Responsible Cassie. Perhaps she’s come to make amends.
Elsewhere, Max and Ani steal back the View-Master and also grab the Diazs’ laptop, and Megan gets back her lockbox full of evidence from a hoarder in New York. Megan’s jaunt is especially fun as she meets up with an old friend named Cherry who used to work as a flight attendant but now runs her own strip club because it’s way more lucrative. Cherry has a delightfully cheery personality with a streak of naughty, and she’s an effervescent presence. After the two women get the lockbox back, Megan gives Cherry a wad of cash in exchange for her very red and very conspicuous car. It’s like Cassie and the red coat all over again. Will these women ever learn?
We’ve made our final descent into the end of the recap, so please make sure your tray tables and seats are in the upright position. Until next time …
• What Cassie does to the adorable “Easy Does It” bear is so haunting. The end credits start to play out with the sound of the pounding surf and the bear’s garbled, malfunctioning voice box saying “easssssy does it” over and over again. It’s simultaneously eerie and hopeful.
• Cassie seems to have an unlimited number of gorgeous coats. I covet her closet and her clothing budget.
• There are some shifty things going on at the CIA. When Benjamin returns Cassie’s file, he tells the guy with the milky eye that he doesn’t want any record of him having looked at it. This is a very overtly shady thing to do! Then, Dot asks her assistant to pull a record of all of the communications between Cassie and Benjamin. Something’s up.