This week’s episode of 9-1-1’s cowboy-booted offspring marks the halfway point of its freshman season — and it is, undoubtedly, the strongest of the run thus far. The emergencies were mind-boggling! The personal drama was (mostly) interesting and relevant! The dialogue only made me cringe, like twice! While I’m not exactly a full-blown Lone Star convert just yet, I’m happy to report that I had more fun with this show last night than I have at any other point this season, and a lot of it came down to the episode’s topic of choice: Dicks.
Well, maybe not precisely “dicks”… but also, it kind of was! The episode, titled “Studs”, explored the concept (or misconceptions) of masculinity on both the professional and personal front. Owen experiences erectile dysfunction — sorry, a “failure to launch” — while hooking up with a lady he picked up at a beauty supply store, and it’s a whole thing. First, there’s the fact that his nosy chemo friend warned him that this might be a side effect of the treatment, with a painfully protracted metaphor about… troops deploying, or something? Dick soldiers, basically. Then there’s the hookup itself, which starts when Owen mansplains the role of humectants in a proper skincare regimen (natch) to a complete stranger — who apparently finds it to be a total turn-on! It’s only after their hookup falls through that he finds out what her job is: She’s a professor of psychology with a focus on human sexuality! This leads her to lecture him about how natural erectile dysfunction can be, and that he shouldn’t take it personally. “That’s not an evolved paradigm,” she says at one point, and “Masculinity doesn’t have to be performative.” The whole scene would have been too on the nose if they hadn’t hired Natalie Zea to play his new lady friend (and if he didn’t totally deserve it, after negging her about moisturizers).
Hoyt Judd is also facing intimacy issues of his own, tied to his PTSD, but once again the show smartly undermines the character’s country-fried stereotype by making him… just a wonderful, super understanding partner. His wife, Grace, is frustrated that they haven’t had sex since the accident (when he watched all of his colleagues die in a manure explosion, remember?!), and opens up to him about her needs. Though initially caught off guard, Judd quickly takes the initiative by planning a lovely home-cooked osso buco dinner (SWOON) — but the real kick in the panties is when he tells her, “I don’t just want you, I need you, and the fact that I made you doubt that is a crime.” Marriage is hard work, and when you’re together with someone for a long time it is completely normal to face ups and downs with your sex drives. However, addressing that topic can be intimidating, and it was so refreshing to see Judd forego the typical route of taking it personally or getting defensive, and instead just take action.
Paul finally entered the spotlight last night, with an entire dating subplot. He treats a woman who got stripper glitter in her eye (more on that in a sec), and she decides to thank him by giving him a smoked brisket basket (DOUBLE SWOON!) and her number. She clearly has the hots for him, but he’s unfamiliar with dating based on a meet-cute as opposed to online, where people can see that he is transgender right in his profile. The idea of being honest, and being rejected, is terrifying, but he eventually decides to take a risk and go on a date with her. The good news is, they have a great time — and she constantly tells him how perfect he is, and unlike any other guy she’s ever met. The bad new is, when he does tell her the truth, she realizes she’s not as evolved as she thought she was and can’t get over it. This was probably the strongest storyline of the night, but what made it truly work was that the show used it to explore his date’s notions of masculinity, as opposed to Paul’s. If the show can keep this level of storytelling up — and keep giving actor Brian Michael Smith this kind of material to work with — I’ll be a happy camper.
Now let’s get back to that stripper glitter and unpack the EMERGENCIES!
— The episode opens with a brawl at a strip club, where a group of male exotic dancers are doing a strip tease as… sexy firemen. A bachelorette party is hogging most of the attention and obstructing the view of a birthday girl seated nearby, and by the time Owen’s team arrives on the scene the bachelorette’s tiara is impaled through the birthday girl’s cheek! I, uh, couldn’t find a real-life case of tiara-face injuries, so let’s all hope that means this is not a thing that actually happens and move on, shall we?
— Since this is the masculinity episode, there just HAD to be a case of toxic masculinity… and the show takes it delightfully literally by introducing an incel who starts giving off poisonous fumes! The police are called because the man is protesting outside of a women’s shelter (“MASCULINITY IS NOT A CRIME” is a chant I never want to hear IRL), and then the EMTs arrive when the man has a sudden seizure. It turns out that he has a condition called CPP, which is an extremely painful form of arthritis where crystals form in the joints. Unfortunately the arthritis meds he takes have sulfur in them, which reacts with the meds Michelle gives him and produces a toxic sulfide gas, strong enough to knock everyone in the ambulance unconscious and cause a crash. Mostly, though, the entire thing is a roundabout way to joke about incels smelling like garlic.
— Finally, there’s the episodes pièce de résistance: The Bull Semen Fire. Yup, a cattle artificial insemination facility goes up in flames, and the canisters of frozen “bull stuff” turn into dangerously explosive projectiles under heat, which our fearless first responders must dodge while trying to put out the blaze. The gag, though, is that apparently the facility was home to the spunk of a particularly virile bull named Jericho… and naturally his canister flies the farthest when ignited. This case was undoubtedly inspired by the bull semen fire in Australia last fall, where over 100 canisters of “stuff” were destroyed. I mean, unless you can think of any other bull semen fires in recent memory?
Bull Semen. BULL. SEMEN. Gosh, that feels good to write. Finally, Lone Star is living up to its full potential!
Header Image Source: Fox