Despite last week’s return to 9-1-1’s best self (a.k.a batsh*t craziness), this week’s episode dropped the antics and instead delivered a touching, albeit infuriating, deep-dive on one of our heroes. The good news is that the full hour was devoted to telling the story of how Chim became a firefighter, following in the footsteps of this season’s other standout flashback episode centered around Henrietta. The better news is that it means we got a full episode devoted entirely to the charms of Kenneth Choi, which is wholly deserved. But the bad news is that the episode mostly proves that Choi, and Chim, are too good for this manipulative series. Because in devoting this hour to Chim’s life, it refused to resolve the cliffhanger of last week’s episode: namely, that whole bit about how CHIM WAS STABBED IN THE GUT.
So no, I don’t have any real-life emergencies to draw parallels to, and I can’t even tell you if Chim is going to live or not. All I can tell you is that he goddamn better, because if this show decided to give us even MORE reasons to love that precious unicorn baby only to tear him from our grasps, I’ll f*cking riot. And then I’ll have to pull up my big-girl pants and keep watching, because this show isn’t going to recap itself.
So, what happened? As you may remember, Chim was, is, and possibly always will be bleeding out all over Maddie’s courtyard (as far as this show is concerned). And I think this episode is basically his life flashing before his eyes, as he sits in purgatory/the hospital waiting room of the mind or whatever. Cut to: Los Angeles, 2005 — an era when an aimless young Howard “Howie” Han (no one calls him Chimney yet!) is biding his time working at a karaoke bar and waiting for his big break. Only the break he’s looking for is as an entrepreneur — if only the bank would agree to give him a loan for one of his monthly bouts of inspiration. The latest? Blankets with arm-holes. Yes, as if we needed any more reasons to love Chim, we now know that he is the uncredited inventor of the Snuggie.
And this is why we love Chimney. #911onFox— Angela Bassett (@ImAngelaBassett) March 26, 2019
She gets me.
Anyway, the loan officer gives Howie a lecture about finding his true calling rather than cold, hard cash, and he is still mulling over her words when he goes to work later. And it’s there that his calling finds him! Howie jumps into action when the bartender tries to light a tower of shots on fire, only to set his customer ablaze instead. He’s calm and collected as he tackles the patron to put her out, calls 9-1-1, and gets everyone out of the building. He’s a natural at this hero stuff, and better yet, for the first time in his life he feels like he’s made a real difference. So he signs up for firefighter training! Unfortunately, so does his best friend/ surrogate brother, Kevin.
They both pass their training montages with flying colors, but are assigned to different firehouses — with Howie winding up right where we expect. Only, as we learned in Hen’s episode, Bobby wasn’t always the chief there, and his predecessor was a real racist scumbag. “Did you forget to tip the delivery guy?” is the joke that welcomes Howie to his new office.
So a good portion of the episode deals with Howie going through the same sort of dismissal that Hen experienced, as his comrades refuse to acknowledge his existence and instead make him wash the dishes and mop the floors while they go out and save lives. Which would be more infuriating if the show didn’t illustrate Howie’s solitude with a series of very cute montages of him alone in the firehouse, practicing how fast he can put on his gear and dancing around. Eventually, one of the paramedics invites Howie to ride along with him, breaking the ice — and immediately wiping any lingering hopes for shiny heroics from Howie’s mind, in yet ANOTHER montage where Howie gets covered in an outrageous amount of blood and puke. Seriously, there were so many montages this week, y’all. But we get it. Saving lives ain’t pretty.
The friendly paramedic also clues Howie into why he’s being treated like a leper by the other firefighters. It’s not JUST racism (though it definitely IS racism, ffs). It’s also a defense mechanism. In this job, friends die (FORESHADOWING), so it doesn’t pay to get too close to someone until they’ve earned your respect, and you know they can hold their own. Too bad it’s hard to earn someone’s respect with how you hold your own in an emergency when you’re stuck scrubbing toilets every day.
Howie does finally get a chance to prove himself when an apartment building goes up in flames, requiring multiple firehouses to respond. Which means he runs into Kevin on the scene… only to watch as Kevin falls through the roof while saving a woman’s life. Yup, turns out that big funeral that was teased in the promos for this episode was Kevin’s, not Chim’s. So now Howie has survivor’s guilt on top of feeling out of place at work, but he still has a job to do — and it turns out that, as we already know, he’s GOOD at his job. Real good. So good that at the next big emergency he immediately recognizes the symptoms of methane gas inhalation in his patients, and warns everyone to get away from the building before it blows… then runs in to rescue a fellow firefighter right as the place explodes.
So Howie finally earns his colleagues’ respect at long last, and is ready for his last lesson in being a paramedic: “Hand it off.” Know when your job is done, and let it go. There is an order to this job — firefighters pull out survivors, paramedics patch them up, and the emergency room takes it from there. You have to be ready to hand off your charge to the next in the chain, not only so you can take care of the next person in need but so you can sleep at night. Don’t hang on to the guilt, and loss, and memories. Hand it off, and move on to the next situation.
But don’t, like, move on to the afterlife or anything, Chim! PLEASE DON’T HAND YOUR LIFE OFF TOO!
So we’re back where we started, with Chim hanging on the verge of death, meaning this is the rare cliffhanger that’s so good, it spans two whole episodes! And frankly, that’s some manipulative bullsh*t. Though as far as treading water is concerned, it was at least an enjoyable bit of manipulation. Seeing an aimless Chim, a Chim who will try his hand at anything, become the Chim that has found his calling and knows his place in the world was something I didn’t know I wanted. And now I’m taking comfort in the fact that I can’t imagine the show giving us ALL THAT… only to kill him off. The promo for next week shows that Chim will be found, and Maddie has definitely been kidnapped by her ex. Hell, maybe ALL of them are going to die. Who knows! But for now, I’m holding onto my hope.
After all, it was announced yesterday that 9-1-1 had been picked up for a 3rd season, and Kenneth Choi is the surprise soul of this show. Just like Angela Bassett is THE GORGEOUS, WELL-TONED ARMS.
Header Image Source: Fox