Last season, 9-1-1 had a string of themed episodes that ranged from the obvious (Valentine’s!) to the admirably wacky (full moons are nutty!). And this week’s episode — the first one free from that “devastating earthquake” plot-sink — leans hard on an organizing theme as well. On the plus side, the theme (“Stuck”, which is also the episode title) applies not only to the emergencies but to the characters, and the episode is surprisingly well balanced between the two halves of the narrative. On the downside, that means that the episode doesn’t go quite so batsh*t crazy with the emergencies. And like, I get it. Nice restraint, writers. But I sat through three episodes of “balance” and frankly, I’m over it. GIMME DAT WEIRD SH*T NOWWWW.
And on the double-down side? Holy hot damn, am I already sick of Maddie’s Abby-esque on-the-nose voiceovers. Right off the bat, Jennifer Love Hewitt is reading the dictionary definitions of “rut” (as in “stuck in a”) and I wanted to be like, “YO! These voiceovers are ALSO a rut, that your show is stuck in, and they’re a completely unnecessary crutch that literally only Magical Unicorn Connie Britton could pull off! JUST STAHP.” (Related: While Connie Britton’s Abby is off the show, the way Buck ruminates on her suggests she may at least make a return appearance to officially dump him, so as not to leave us all hanging.) Besides which, they didn’t even give her the FULL definition of rut to read, which includes male breeding behavior. Am I being too pedantic? Maybe. But I guarantee hearing her explain that kind of rutting would have livened up that voiceover. As it stands, the show hasn’t invested enough in her character for it to make sense having Maddie bookend the episodes with her thoughts. Besides, I’d rather hear what Hen has to say (on, like, basically any topic, ever).
So: getting stuck. Or unstuck! That’s what this week’s episode is about. For Buck, he’s facing up to the fact that he’s stuck on Abby (relatable dude, I am too!)… and also the fact that maybe it’s a little weird that he’s still squatting in her apartment (it totally is!). Eddie is stuck trying to find reliable childcare for his son, Christopher, after his mom breaks her hip while watching him. Also, had they mentioned clearly that Christopher has cerebral palsy before? Or were we supposed to just kinda figure it out? Either way, they’ve clearly stated it now. Point is, Eddie is a single father trying to navigate the state bureaucracy to try and apply for the right assistance program, while also being a full-time goddamn hero firefighter. Buck starts to realize how much strain his new bestie is under, so he gets Bobby on board with having Christopher hang at the fire station sometimes. Which sounds super cute, until the team has to respond to actual emergencies with Christopher in tow. I mean, I’m sure getting to ride around in the fire truck was real exciting for the boy, but they’re all lucky that car accident they arrived at didn’t involve any fatalities. 9-1-1 calls are typically NOT kid-friendly!
Also, Chim bonds with Christopher by swapping surgery stories, which proves that “rebar-head” delights children almost as much as it delights me. And speaking of Chim, he’s facing the fact that he’s a “modern medical marvel” that survived a life-changing trauma… only to come out the other side not having his life changed at all. Remember Tatiana, the girlfriend who dumped him when he got that rebar in his head? Yeah, he runs into her at the hospital… and she’s pregnant. She tells him all about how after she left him she did some soul searching on why she’s such a horrible person, and then she got married, and Chim realizes that his injury changed HER life more than HIS. It’s like, why did he even survive? Also, it turns out he’s been lying to everyone about having temporary amnesia and he actually remembers EVERYTHING that happened after the accident. Chim really needs to process his feelings. So he starts by inviting Tatiana out and thanking her for leaving him and not pretending.
Y’all, I think Chim might be my new magical unicorn person (and not just because he had rebar in his head like a horn, but yes OK also that).
Athena’s version of being stuck is in no way a bad thing, and I actually really appreciate the way the show offered this opposing angle on the theme. You see, she used to apply to a Lieutenant promotion regularly, but after she was turned down four times for not having the right leadership qualities (read: her captain was a sexist pig), she gave up. So when her new captain (who is a woman and was not the biggest fan of the old captain) offers her a chance at that very promotion, Athena… wants to think about it. Turns out that she likes her comfortable life right now, and maybe “success” doesn’t mean the same thing as it did to her when she was an eager young recruit climbing the ladder in her twenties. Michael, AKA “World’s Best Ex,” thinks the promotion isn’t about a pay bump — it’s a matter of recognition, and worth the risk of upturning her comfortable life. But Bobby gets it. He too chose the job where he’s out in the field with his team rather than behind a desk, and he wouldn’t trade it for the world. It’s OK if your priorities shift. And it’s OK to like your life just the way it is. In fact, Athena isn’t stuck at all, because for the first time she was able to CHOOSE to stay at her level, rather than being turned down for advancement.
But enough about those folks and their emotions — let’s talk EMERGENCIES!
Drunk Woman Gets Head Stuck In Exhaust Pipe
Bobby’s team responds to a western-themed bar where a drunk woman got her head stuck in a truck tailpipe. “Impossible!” I’m sure you’re thinking. But wait! What if I told you it was a custom tailpipe, which cost a ton of money and apparently was the perfect size for a head to fit in (but not escape from)? Honestly, the weirdest part of this emergency was the fact that the truck’s owner dared the woman to put her head in it, in some sort of misbegotten attempt at flirting. I mean, who would flirt with a proud giant tailpipe-owner, anyway? So Bobby cuts the tailpipe off with a saw, then they squeeze some goop in it and wiggle it off her head — while her drunk friends hit on Buck and Eddie.
And yes, OF COURSE THIS IS A THING THAT REALLY HAPPENED. Sure, not at a bar with a bucking bronco inside — it was at a country music festival in Minnesota this past June. And though it doesn’t sound like a case of flirting-gone-wrong, the woman did seem rather impressed with how nice the truck’s owner was after the fact, considering emergency responders also had to saw off HIS tailpipe too. Anyway, she was fine — though she did get a citation for underage drinking.
There’s A Man… INSIDE The ATM
What would you do if you went to the ATM and it refused to give you any cash — and instead it spat out receipts with handwritten “help me” notes on them? See, now THIS is a scenario I could easily have watched for an entire episode. Or hell, a whole horror movie! Instead, 9-1-1 blows this tantalizing set-up as a background for Buck to keep grousing about his non-existent relationship with Abby. But at any rate, a dude got locked inside an ATM, he writes messages on the receipt paper and yells a lot until someone calls 9-1-1 for him, and then Bobby and Buck set him free.
This, too, is a real thing that happened. A repairman in Corpus Christi, TX, got locked inside the room that houses the back-end of a Bank of America ATM for 3 hours — and because he’d left his phone in his truck, he resorted to passing notes through the receipt slot, asking for help. Just like in the episode, many customers assumed it was a joke or a prank, until someone finally thought it was juuuust weird enough to take seriously.
Maybe Get OFF The Escalator Before You Propose, Just In Case
Last year 9-1-1 featured the very memorable case of a dude who elaborately proposed to his girlfriend by faking engine trouble while flying her in his airplane — a moment so unique that the marketing for this season has featured a pretty obvious callback to it:
So anyway, apparently bad-idea proposals are gonna be a thing with this show, because in the most deeply unsettling case of the night, a man gets down on one knee to propose to his girlfriend while riding a freakin’ escalator… only to have a panel drop out beneath him when he reaches the top. He ends up sucked inside the gears, and though it seems that Bobby’s team is able to free him successfully, he ends up going into cardiac arrest and dies shortly after being pulled to safety.
And look, this is a tough one to research because people have been getting stuck in, on, and around escalators since forever. I also couldn’t successfully find a case of it happening to someone mid-proposal (unlike the plane thing, which happened TWICE!). But what I did find was footage of a Turkish man suddenly dropping inside an escalator earlier this year, and it gave me the same sickening gut-punch feeling of surprise that the episode did so I’m calling it good enough:
Luckily the man in that video was rescued after an hour, with only minor injuries. So no, it’s not a perfect match for the episode, but since that guy was about to propose to his girlfriend with a candy ring, I’d say all of it was pretty unlikely, wouldn’t you?
Header Image Source: Fox/Uproxx