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911 Hen Begins (1).png

'9-1-1' Recap: Let's Shine The Spotlight On Hen (And Chim)

By Tori Preston | TV | November 20, 2018 |

By Tori Preston | TV | November 20, 2018 |

911 Hen Begins (1).png

I missed the previous episode of 9-1-1 because I was out of town, but it was a great one so here’s the budget recap. Ready? OMG NAKED WOMAN ON A FREEWAY SIGN! BUCK BANGS THAT WEATHER GIRL IN A BATHROOM STALL, THEN DATES ALI, THE ONE FROM THE EARTHQUAKE! CHIM AND MADDIE SING KARAOKE! NEWLYWED CAR CRASH! ELDERY GAY COUPLE DIES, IN SAD RECREATION OF ANTON YELCHIN’S DEATH! BOBBY’s MIDDLE-AGED WHITE BRO DANCE MOVES! It, as always, was bananas. And I’ll be honest — this week’s episode can’t hold a crazy candle to all that lunacy. In fact, it doesn’t even try. In lieu of emergencies, there’s a ton of genuine emotion as 9-1-1 turns back the clock and tells the story of how the wonderful Hen (Aisha Hinds) decided to become a paramedic. That’s right — this is Henrietta Wilson’s story.

Before becoming a first responder, Hen was a pharmaceutical rep, wining and dining with doctors to promote the latest name-brand antidepressant on the market. And she hated it. So after threatening to stab one poor doc through the hand with her steak knife if he ever tried to touch her again, she quit. She consults a life coach and takes a career aptitude test, but all of her answers are phony. She says what she thinks she’s supposed to say, instead of what she truly wants. The coach wisely changes tactics and asks Hen what she hates. And the answer? Bullies. Turns out, her core instinct is to protect the vulnerable and weak, which is a key revelation for Hen. Or it would be, if it wasn’t immediately followed by the life coach having a heart attack, and Hen saving her life by calling 9-1-1 and promptly administering CPR. Life’s purpose: accomplished!

And then what follows is an infuriating glimpse into the racist, sexist “white boys club” that is the average firehouse. After absolutely crushing her paramedic training (and giving up her wig in the process), Hen is sent to work at the station we all know and love. Unfortunately, the Captain she meets on her arrival isn’t Bobby — it’s some guy whose name I didn’t bother to remember, because obviously his racist, sexist ass is gonna get canned by the end of the episode, so let’s just call him Captain Dickbag. ANYWAY, he’s the worst, and he thinks training women is a waste of taxpayer money because they’ll never be strong enough to pull a man out of a burning building or something. He literally introduces Hen to the rest of the station as “Our new diversity hire.” Just… gross.

And it seems, at first, like a lot of the other dudes on her squad feel the same way their boss does. But the good news is that Hen isn’t entirely on her own, because there IS a familiar face we all know and love already working there: Chim! Up until she joined, he was the only person of color on the team — and in typical “Chim Is The Actual Best” fashion, he goes out of his way to try and make Hen feel less alone. She keeps pushing him away, however, because as she points out, there’s “a big difference between being invisible and being a threat to their way of life.” An Asian man like Chim mostly gets overlooked, but he blends in. But a Black lesbian like Hen is an affront to everything Captain Dickbag and his cohorts seem to hold dear, and the level of hazing and abuse she receives isn’t comparable to Chim’s. Not that she’s going to be discouraged, of course. She’s sticking this out, because for once in her life she’s finally doing a job she loves. And she’s really good at it.

The first emergency she’s called in on involves a sudden mudslide that slammed into a house, burying a woman in debris (likely inspired by the Montecito mudslides earlier this year). It was impossible to remove her, as the mud stuck fast. So Hen has an idea: Just Add Water. By diluting the mud, it’ll wash away, allowing the crew to free the trapped victim. And her plan worked! Unfortunately, the woman still passed away at the hospital, and the captain wasn’t impressed with Hen’s out-of-the-box thinking. But the good news is — this was the case that first introduced Hen to the glory that is ATHENA! Yup, their friendship started at the site of a mudslide, and Athena pretty quickly realizes that Hen is a woman in need of support — so she invites her out for drinks with a few other “diversity hires” from the police and fire departments, where they bond over how hard it is to change the minds of jerks. “Outshine them,” Athena tells her. So Hen decides to stand up in front of her team and make a speech about how she wants them to “see me the way I see you” — as someone who had dedicated themselves to saving lives. And she’s not going anywhere. Chim is super into it. Captain Dickbag, on the other hand, gives her the ol’ ironic slow clap at the end. Dickbag.

The next emergency they respond to is an overturned limo, where the driver is dead and the passengers didn’t see what happened. While the other responders are trying to pull the survivors free of the wreckage, Hen notices some yellow paint on the bumper and realizes the limo likely struck another vehicle. Her captain orders her to focus on the accident at hand, but she follows her instincts down the embankment (and Chim follows her!), where she discovers another car submerged in a lake. Without hesitating, she dives in and pulls a young boy out, and starts administering CPR — saving his life. Earlier in the episode, Chim had told Hen not to let ‘em see her cry. But when they manage to resuscitate the boy after a tense few minutes, both Hen and Chim wind up crying together, and it was TOUCHING.

What Hen expects to receive for her efforts is to be fired for disobeying orders. But what she gets are compliments and handshakes from her fellow firemen — and the termination of her Captain. It turns out that all those guys who didn’t stand up and support her when their Captain was harassing her were instead secretly filing official complaints about Dickbag — and commending her to their superiors as well. In the end, Hen found her purpose and her place on the team, and her station is in the market for a new Captain (Gee, I wonder if it’ll be BOBBY), and fine — maybe it all wrapped up a little too neatly, but I don’t care.

For a season and a half, Hen and Chim have been the heart and soul of 9-1-1. And while this episode may have lacked the usual batsh*ttery and adrenaline, it was nice to see the show pause and give its secret weapons the spotlight for a change. I guess it can’t be all giant tapeworms and yoga births, all the time, can it?

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Tori Preston is deputy editor of Pajiba. She rarely tweets here but she promises she reads all the submissions for the "Ask Pajiba (Almost) Anything" column at [email protected]. You can also listen to her weekly TV podcast, Podjiba

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