The good news is that this week we finally got some legitimately weird, crazy emergencies again! The bad news is that the episode had to speed through them because a couple of characters needed some character growth or whatever. The good/bad news is that I literally got to Google the words “Can poop come out of your mouth?” — which is really all I can ask for on any given week of watching 9-1-1.
The theme this week is “Awful People” (it’s the episode’s title, so anyone with access to a functioning channel guide will know what’s up), and it kicks off with what I think is our first real “return” victim: The Porch Pirate! Lorraine showed up in last season’s “karma is a b*tch” episode (and no, I don’t think that was the actual title, but it may as well have been), stealing packages off of people’s porches when they weren’t home. And now she’s back with a new scam: faking accidents for the insurance money!
Mostly she focuses on getting hit by cars in parking lots. Which works out great until she’s struck by a van while waiting behind some poor old lady’s car… and then the old woman runs over her to add insult to injury. It sucks, but also? Lorraine sucks. And more importantly: Athena does NOT approve. “Awful woman,” she mutters, while pursing her lips and shaking her head.
(And it’s here that I should acknowledge that 9-1-1’s Twitter feed is a treasure trove and I’m probably gonna be plundering it a lot. Moving on.)
This is a very Maddie-centric episode, which may test your capacity for Jennifer Love Hewitt. But the show had to eventually invest some actual time and energy on her character anyway, and to their credit, they did it in just about the most interesting way possible: They sent her on a ride-along with Athena, then had her personal story turn into a case all on its own. Basically, Maddie is getting frustrated by the verbal abuse she encounters on her calls sometimes, and gets a pep talk from a sweet oldtimer named Gloria (played by Christine Estabrook, whom you may recognize as Joan’s mom on Mad Men). Gloria is considered the Céline Dion of 9-1-1 operators — just a stone-cold professional. But a montage reveals that while she may be well respected, Gloria’s style is a little less Abby (and no, Connie Britton still hasn’t returned) and a little more tough love. “If you were really going to jump, I doubt you’d be calling me,” is a taste of her, uh, demeanor. Remember that for later.
In order to see some of her callers in context and try to understand their attitudes, it’s decided that Maddie’ll go on a ride-along — and of course she requests Athena, because DUH. Once Athena pegs Maddie as Buck’s sister (a.k.a. “Buckette”), the two head to their first emergency…
The Literal Sh*t Spewer
Athena responds to a protest outside of a military funeral that is, well, infuriating and nasty. Or, you know, “awful.” And no, the protestors aren’t protesting the military — they’re using it as a platform to criticize the state of the country that soldiers are dying for. One sign reads “Soldiers Die For Homo Marriage” while another says “God Hates The Unclean.” Yup, it’s a page taken directly out of the Westboro Baptist playbook (no, really!), and the sad thing is that actually, the nation that the soldier died to defend is one that grants groups like those protesters the right to spew their brand of hateful sh*t at a funeral in the first place. So Athena can do nothing but stand there and make sure the protesters remain outside the graveyard gates… until one jerk tries to push his luck and come inside.
And because this really IS the backwards sequel to the karma episode, right after he says some crazy racist crap to Athena’s face (HOW DARE HE) he starts coughing and keels over. He has a colostomy bag, and a blockage in his intestines… which apparently can lead to, well, “diarrhea of the mouth” (or fecal vomiting) when the pressure builds and the excrement is forced up rather than down. How fitting! And how real. Oh 9-1-1, this is the sh*t I’ve been waiting for!
Bobby’s team responds, but because the racist is that special kind of dumb and absolute racist, he refuses to let Hen intubate him because she’s another black woman. Bobby doesn’t have the medical training to step in, and Diaz almost makes the cut, if only because his own racial background (which yes, he actually details for the mouth-pooper) is so convoluted that the man basically can’t keep up. Eventually the victim has held out so long that he’s no longer responsive, and the team can finally get to work saving his life. Then Athena takes Maddie out for lunch because there’s always time for food.
When A Kitchen Is Like A Makeshift ER
“Lunch” turns into our next emergency, because when Athena and Maddie arrive at the restaurant they find it mysteriously closed. As in: it’s lunchtime, there’s half-eaten food on the tables, but no one is around. Naturally they investigate, and find signs of a struggle in the kitchen — along with the cook, who is bleeding from a bullet to the chest. Maddie jumps in and saves him with some plastic wrap, and then he starts talking… and reveals he tried calling 9-1-1 for help but they hung up on him.
WHAT?! So Maddie raises the issue with her supervisor, who says the dude was probably mistaken and maybe the call was disconnected, or he hit the wrong button or something. It’s common. But Maddie has the restaurant’s phone number so they dig up the call records, which prove that the man was telling the truth — and that it was Gloria who hung up, because he didn’t speak English well enough.
But wait, there’s more! After some digging, it’s discovered that Gloria had done the same thing to, like, a thousand other callers, which isn’t just enough to get her fired — it’s enough to start a criminal investigation. And drive Gloria off the deep end, leading to some pretty nutso harassment of Maddie, which starts with sweet ol’ Gloria saying in all earnestness: “Snitches get stitches.”
And this is some real life nightmare fuel — because yes, it’s based on a real story. Earlier this year Crenshanda Williams, a 9-1-1 operator in Houston, was sentenced to 10 days in jail and 18 months probation after her long history of hanging up on thousands of callers came to light. You know what happens when help isn’t coming? People die. So thank you to all the 9-1-1 operators who answer those calls every day — AND DON’T HANG UP.
Anyway, Gloria starts calling and texting Maddie constantly, culminating in her actually calling 9-1-1 herself to ensure Maddie can’t hang up on her… but then she gets in an accident because she was on the phone while driving, and Maddie saves her life. Meanwhile, a dude with hot oil burns turns up at a hospital, and Athena goes to pick him up. It’s the shooter from the restaurant! Yay!
Hen Gets The Spotlight
Remember how Hen banged her druggie ex-con ex-girlfriend last season, but her wife Karen (Tracie Thoms) took her back? Well, that ex, Eva, is still out of jail and is still looking for revenge. She’s the birth mother of Hen’s son Denny, and though she signed away her parental rights… Denny’s father didn’t. And she has decided to tell him about Denny, so the man can fight Hen for custody. Karen doesn’t take the news too well, and Hen takes it even worse. She stalks Eva to try and talk some sense into her… only to find her overdosing on heroin. Hen almost walks away, but obviously she doesn’t because she’s a good person. So she calls 9-1-1 and saves her life (but she also alerts Eva’s parole officer, so guess who’s going back to jail?! HAHAHAHA DON’T MESS WITH HENRIETTA!).
Hen and Karen decide to reach out and talk to Nathaniel, the birth father, directly — and it turns out he’s a reasonable man who wants what’s best for the child, and will proceed however the moms think is best. Because while the episode may be about how awful people can be, it ultimately is also about how people can be good too — and you won’t know until you give them a chance. MESSAGE!
Well, that’s supposed to be the message. But the episode’s REAL lesson is the one that Maddie learned on her ride-along: “What Would Athena Do?” If you can live your life by that standard, you’ll be doing just fine.
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