I guess absence really does make the heart grow fonder because I watched the two-night season premiere of Fox’s 9-1-1 and you know what? I really missed this show. Like, a lot. And maybe this premiere was just really good, or maybe this summer played hell on my taste and reasoning, but I’m not even saying I like this show semi-sarcastically anymore. I really, genuinely am happy it’s back.
You win, 9-1-1. Take me. My body is yours.
But to be fair, it really was a rather good season premiere. There are new characters, and a few weird emergencies, and lots of on-the-nose social commentary. Oh, and a MASSIVE damn earthquake that throws the city of Los Angeles into chaos. The first episode is mostly playing catch-up with our fearless rescue-keteers, before the earthquake hits in episode two, so I’ll also start with some catch-up. Spoilers!
Bobby & Athena
They’ve been dating for a few months, and she live-tweets Claws while he rubs her feet, and I’m not jealous, YOU’RE jealous. But there’s trouble in paradise because Athena doesn’t want to be seen in public with Bobby. And no, it’s not a racial thing (I know, because Bobby asks her point-blank!). It’s because she’s ashamed of being happy. And look, 9-1-1 is not a subtle show, so please bear that in mind with — well, basically everything I ever say about it. But despite having all the grace and tact of a sledgehammer, I have to give credit to the show for still trying to inject some serious social commentary into what could just be a parade of gross/dumb/weird emergencies (though I love those too). In this case, there’s a message about what second chances at love mean for men, and for women, across racial boundaries. As Athena points out, Bobby finding love again is a redemption story. What she’s too nice to point out is that he’s being redeemed from that time he accidentally lit his apartment building on fire, killing everyone inside INCLUDING HIS OWN FAMILY. I mean… yeah. But for her, this second romance is a sign of her failure. She’s the first person in her family to get a divorce, and she’s afraid people will judge her for not being able to keep her man (her husband turned out to be gay, in case you forgot), or think that the fact that she’s in love again means she’s a tramp. And you know what? There IS a double standard with this kind of stuff, and it’s a surprisingly nuanced argument (even if it is tackled in a single rushed scene).
And then Bobby tells Athena to get out. Which is the most unbelievable thing this show has ever done, because WHO KICKS ANGELA BASSETT OUT? Have you seen her arms? I don’t care if it’s your apartment, Bobby. You f*cking leave.
But then her gay husband gives her a sweet pep talk about how their divorce wasn’t a failure because they’re still a loving family, and so she goes to the fire station and kisses Bobby in front of everybody. It’s super cute.
Buck, Maddie, and The Absence of Abby
Connie Britton’s Abby, that wonderful unicorn of a woman, is still “Eat, Pray, Love”-ing her way around Europe, apparently. And in the meantime Buck has been using her apartment as his own, and is probably like mooning about, smelling her pillowcases or something. OK, I’m projecting. He’s definitely still in love with her, even though everyone thinks she basically dumped him, and even Abby told him he’s free to see other people. But no, the naked woman in Abby’s shower is not his latest hook-up. It’s Maddie, his sister — and the character played by newcomer Jennifer Love Hewitt! Maddie is a former nurse who is on the run from her abusive ex — a guy who is definitely going to show up later this season to try to kill her. But for the moment, she decides to stick around LA with Buck, freeloading in Abby’s apartment and looking for a job where she can help people without, like, having to look at them or something?
Turns out, Buck knows just the place for her: the 9-1-1 call center! So Abby’s replacement is Buck’s sister, which luckily means he can’t sleep with her. Probably. I mean, he’s a former self-diagnosed sex addict, but I don’t think the show is gonna swing that way.
Buck is also jealous of the station’s new recruit, a veteran named Eddie Diaz (Ryan Guzman) who is hotter than Buck, stronger than Buck, and has serious cred as a battlefield medic. He’s also a single father with a disabled son. Dustin is convinced that Eddie is being set up to be killed off, because we don’t need 2 hot firemen on the show. Which is wrong because we need ALL the hot firemen, and hot fireladies, and hot firepeople, all the time. But if they DO kill him off, $10 says Bobby adopts the son because SECOND CHANCE REDEMPTION, DUH. I’m not convinced he’s gonna die, though. After all, this show didn’t even bother to kill off Chim when he had a piece of f*cking rebar stuck in his skull, so like — they’re not in a hurry to raise those kinds of stakes, I think. Speaking of Chim…
Ol’ Rebar Head and Hen
Kenneth Choi and Aisha Hinds are still doing way more in the show’s second tier than they need to, but I’m thankful for it. The big news around the fire station is the charity beefcake calendar, which Buck, Eddie, and Chim are all vying to land a spot in. But only one dude from each station will be selected. And after Chim gives a beautiful speech about how he never saw heroes that looked like him growing up (coughBluntTopicalAlertcoughcough) and that’s why he wants this so bad, Hen steps up and submits a picture on his behalf. Not a beefcake photo, though, but a shot from an AP photographer of Chim on the job, saving a little girl. And he wins! Mr. April landed his spot by being an actual hero. ‘Scuse me while I dry my eyes.
Ugh, I love these two so much. And not just because Hen calls Chim “Rebar Head” at one point — which is totally what I called him last season, so I think this means the show owes me royalties.
And now… EMERGENCIES!
I’m not going to go case by case, because this was a 2-ep premiere and most of it falls under the heading “Earthquakes Are Scary AF” anyway, but it wouldn’t be an episode recap of 9-1-1 if I didn’t try to uncover the real-life inspiration of some batsh*t crazy emergency or other. So, in that spirit:
How’s That Microwave On Your Head Feel, Dumbass?
In the episode, Bobby’s crew responds to a viral video stunt gone wrong, in which a bunch of idiots cement their friend’s head inside a microwave. But it’s OK because they covered his head in plastic first, and gave him a breathing tube? And then he panics and falls into a pool, sinking straight to the bottom because his head is CEMENTED INTO A MICROWAVE. So Eddie and Buck dive down and save him, and then Buck and Bobby chisel him free.
Of course, OF COURSE this one was real. Brit YouTuber Jay Swingler cemented his head in a microwave late last year, for his prank channel “TGFBro” YouTube channel, then panicked when his breathing tube became blocked. Luckily some local firemen were able to save the idiot… and then tweeted about it in typically dry British fashion:
We're seriously unimpressed 😡.— West Midlands Fire (@WestMidsFire) December 7, 2017
Five of our firefighters were tied up for an hour this afternoon, freeing a YouTube pranker whose head had been 'cemented' inside a microwave oven. Read more: https://t.co/6bZReGuKQX (Photos © West Midlands Fire Service) pic.twitter.com/2ch2UhszeH
This Is Why We Don’t Play With Live Grenades, People
Buck and Eddie bond over shared danger when they respond to a call involving a silly explosive mixup. So silly. Super silly. You see, this old dude thought he was cleaning a practice round from a grenade launcher, only it exploded and the shrapnel struck his leg — nicking his femoral artery in the process. But Eddie spots the explosive cap in the wound, and recognizes it because of his military background. It’s a live round, not a practice one. Which means there’s a very live explosive that could still go off, stuck inside this man — and until it’s removed, they don’t dare bring him inside of the hospital. Since there’s nothing to defuse, exactly, the bomb squad is no help. But luckily Eddie thinks he can safely remove it himself, and Buck agrees to assist him. Together they strap on bomb vests and climb into the back of the (now cordoned off) ambulance, and successfully remove the remains of the grenade so the man can be taken into the ER. And while they’re congratulating themselves… the ambulance explodes, because that round was NO JOKE.
This too is basically a real story. If I’m correct, it’s inspired by this 8-hour ordeal in Alabama from 2014, in which an Army explosives expert had to assist in the safe removal of a practice grenade from the thigh of a man in his early 60s. In that case, the round wasn’t live — but they didn’t know that until after they removed it. The man was kept in an ambulance outside of an ER, out of fear that the grenade in his leg would explode. The show seems to have just inverted the circumstances, so the “practice” round turned out to be real… and DID eventually go off.
The lesson? Don’t trust grenades or the old men who play with them.
Earthquakes Are Scary AF
Sure, there was more crazy stuff that went down in the first episode, like those exploding manhole covers that launched a severed arm into the middle of a pool party, but let’s skip to the good stuff: that earthquake! It was a 7.1-magnitude whopper (the same size as the one that struck Peru this past April, and the one that devastated central Mexico last year), and it keeps our heroes busy for the whole second episode. Maddie is just starting her training as a 9-1-1 operator when it strikes, which… I mean, talk about trial by fire. Athena is on the freeway with a teenage car thief handcuffed in her back seat, when the road in front of her collapses. And Bobby’s crew arrives on the scene of a hotel that’s… leaning. Dangerously.
That collapsed hotel seems to have been inspired by the earthquake that struck Taiwan earlier this year, which caused a lot of structural damage. On the show, Bobby, Hen, and Chim assist with locating survivors inside the lobby of the hotel, which is in danger of further collapse. In particular, there’s a young football star who is pinned in the rubble, and faces a tough decision: allow them to amputate his leg and be guaranteed to survive, or try to save his leg by having them lift the rubble, and risk being crushed if it falls. He decides to risk it all to save his leg, which… look, they make a big production of saying that the rescuers wouldn’t be at risk with him, but that’s bullsh*t. If that ceiling collapsed, they would have been killed too. I’m glad the kid made it out OK, but that was some selfish sh*t the show tried to pass off as him just following his dreams. Though I might be judging him more harshly because there’s still a little girl name Kat lost in the rubble, and she’s hugging a prissy little dog with her, and if the place had come down around him, it would have signed her death warrant as well.
Presumably, she’ll be found in the next episode.
Meanwhile, Eddie and Buck headed up to the 11th floor, where a #MeToo/#TimesUp case study was unfolding in a hotel suite when the earthquake struck. A young employee was called up to go over some designs with her boss, who greeted her at the door in his bathrobe, ignored a call from his wife, and then tried to get her to take a shower with him. It’s very gross — and it doesn’t help that the actor they hired to play the boss looks a lot like Harvey Weinstein. But then the hotel starts to lean and everything goes sliding, leaving the man pinned to the window while the woman holds on to a pillar.
And then, in a moment so cathartic I actually clapped… the window cracks and the Weinstein-looking motherf*cker falls to his death before Eddie and Buck are able to reach him. Like I said, this show is blunt with its topicality, but I don’t mind a bit. Too bad the woman also starts to slide out, and the episode ends with Eddie struggling to hold onto her without dropping her or falling out with her.
Dustin’s money is on Eddie falling out with her, FYI.
As for Athena? She’s trying to manage the situation at the freeway collapse and ends up needing the help of that teenager she arrested. You see, there’s a man trapped in a vehicle that landed on its roof, and there’s a fuel leak which is on fire. To put it out, they need to smother it… and there’s a cement truck sitting nearby, thanks to some convenient road work. Marvin the car thief happens to know how to hot-wire cement mixers too, so he backs that sh*t up and dumps cement on the flames, saving the dude in the car from burning to death.
Then Athena gives Marvin a lecture about doing good rather than bad and sticks him back in her back seat, because she certainly is NOT going to let him go just because he did the right thing for a change. The law’s the law, Marvin. Yes, you’re gonna have to go to court.
I hope we see more of Marvin, though. And I hope Hen is able to find Kat (and the dog — DON’T KILL THAT DOG), and I hope Eddie doesn’t die, and I hope we get to see Chim go full-on beefcake as Mr. April, and most of all? I hope Abby comes back at some point. C’mon, Connie Britton. The city of Los Angeles needs you. And your hair.