9-1-1 rolled out another one of its patented flashback episodes this week. But unlike the emotionally satisfying spotlights it’s shone on Chim and Hen in the past, this week focused on Bobby’s backstory — a backstory we all basically knew already. Remember that whole thing about how he accidentally burned down an apartment building full of people, including his WIFE AND CHILDREN, because he was drunk and high? Yeah, that. “Bobby Begins Again” is about what happened after that, and how he joined the LAFD.
(Fun fact: all three “flashback” episodes were directed by Jennifer Lynch — who has directed episodes of almost all your favorite shows, and yes, is the daughter of David “Twin Peaks” Lynch, as well.)
Honestly, I sort of respect the show for dragging this part of its story back into focus, because I’d assumed it had been mostly swept under the rug. I figured it was something the writers did for a reaction in season one, then realized maybe it was TOO extreme, and they tried to kind of ignore it. After all, no matter how great actor Peter Krause is, and no matter how much leeway the audience is willing to give any character who has earned Angela Bassett’s affection, you’re still left trying to sympathize with a character whose “flaws” involved killing 148 people INCLUDING HIS WIFE AND CHILDREN. A firefighter … who burned a building down due to negligence! How do you justify that? Answer: Come up with “reasons” why it wasn’t ENTIRELY his fault, then show how hard he wants to atone and how his superiors helped cover it all up so he could transfer to the LAFD and get a fresh start. Easy peasy!
Only problem is that everything the episode walked us through last night had already been established — all it did was provide emphasis. It took us back to 2014 and allowed us to watch the events unfold rather than hearing Bobby explain them, but the details hadn’t changed. Yes, sure — the space heater in his drug den technically started the blaze, but the variety of code violations in the building (faulty circuit breakers, malfunctioning sprinklers, smoke alarms with dead batteries) are what really allowed the blaze to get out of hand, and that’s why Bobby was ultimately cleared in the incident report. Riddled with guilt, he then decides to sober up and dedicate his life to saving as many people as he killed. And even though he didn’t lose his job, he isn’t allowed back in the field — because his teammates no longer trust him. So his boss pulls some strings, glosses over some details, and help Bobby transfer to Los Angeles for a fresh start.
Which is where things finally get interesting, because there is a gap in the show’s chronology that we haven’t yet seen: How Bobby first met Chim and Hen! Their background episodes had already established what the station was like when they first joined (RACIST AF). And apparently, when the very bad captain got canned for being The Worst, the station got a procession of new captains, none of whom could hack it. Which is why Hen is taking bets on how long the new guy is going to last — not realizing Bobby is already there, sitting in one of the engines and taking inventory on supplies while listening to this whole thing. He pops out and asks what the odds are he’ll outlast all of them before dropping his own money in the pot. But better yet, he impressed Chim enough that he bets on Bobby too. Because, as always, Chim is The Best.
(Bonus “Chim is the best” scene comes later, as they all bond over their scars, only for Chim to be like “I don’t have any!” OH, YOU WILL, HONEY. JUST YOU WAIT.)
This flashback episode also gives us plenty of Bobby/Athena interactions — which is probably another course-correction from the writers, since Bobby and Athena hooking up at the end of season one felt more like fan service than established character progression. This episode fills in their on-the-job intersections, like that time Bobby handed her a very rowdy “assailant”…
Fact check: cockfighting rings are very bad news and not funny, and yes people have died from being attacked by their own weaponized gamecocks. STOP LAUGHING.
And while we’re on the subject, several of the other crazy cases Bobby encountered on his first day in LA are also real:
— Tree trimmers getting stuck in palm trees is totally a reoccurring problem! Here’s one example from earlier this year in Fresno, but there were countless examples I could find (including some fatalities).
— The lady whose head swelled like a balloon thanks to an allergic reaction at a hair salon? ALSO REAL. A 19-year-old woman in France attempted to dye her own hair but suffered an allergic reaction that gave her a “lightbulb head” (her own words). Here’s a report (in French) that shows you images…
… though I think 9-1-1 did it better!
— The big case of the night was a man who set fire to his own failing restaurant, hoping to collect the insurance money to help his family. It’s not an uncommon tale, really — though at least the show didn’t have the arsonist frame his wife as a terrorist — but mostly it served as a mirror for Bobby. This man intentionally set a fire to try and save his family, and now Bobby, who killed his family in an unintentional fire, has to hold him accountable. But hey, at least he got to sleuth around the ashes with Athena as they followed their “hunches.” Oh sure, is that what the kids are calling it these days?
In the end, the episode brings the action back to the present, where Bobby has been suspended pending an LAFD investigation into the events of that apartment fire in St. Paul — events that were discovered thanks to the scrutiny the team underwent during the bank heist episode. Bobby’s team supports him because — as the episode illustrates — his actions as their captain have been exemplary. He made them a family, and he is a good leader. But as we all know, that’s a HELL OF A BACKSTORY TO FORGIVE. So now Bobby sits before a disciplinary panel who will determine his future.
I’m sure he’ll be fine. But also? I’m glad the show isn’t ignoring how very f*cked up Bobby Nash’s history is.
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