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The Reality Behind '9-1-1': Tapeworms, Zombies, Prenatal Yoga Births, And Full Moon Lunacy

By Tori Preston | TV | March 1, 2018 |

By Tori Preston | TV | March 1, 2018 |


9-1-1 returned from its hiatus last night, and let me tell you — it was NOT effing around. Normally I try to dissect the emergencies the characters respond to in each episode, to see if they are rooted in real-life cases. But last night, the entire topic of the episode was one that deserves some unpacking. Is there any truth to the classic superstition that weird shit happens more frequently during a full moon?

In a word: not really. But kind of? Basically, the superstition around the full moon involves not only an uptick in the number of emergencies that night, but also a change in the nature of the emergencies themselves. Studies have pretty much proved that there isn’t an actual increase in hospital admissions during the full moon, for example. However, the anecdotal evidence does seem to support the claim that crazier stuff happens during a full moon, supposedly — and that is the angle that 9-1-1 explored in its typical over-the-top fashion last night.

No, there were no werewolves. But there was an eerie home intruder, a prenatal yoga class where multiple women went into labor, a giant tapeworm, and a dude who tried to eat someone’s face off. No, really. So, was any of this real?

The Mysterious Intruder

In the episode, an older woman named Nora calls 9-1-1 when she sees a man standing outside her window, staring in. Because the woman has a heart condition, Abby (who answered the call), summons Hen and Chimney along with Athena. While the paramedics tend to the woman, Athena searches the grounds and finds no evidence of any prowlers. Hen, however, notices that a trick of the light makes the reflection of someone INSIDE the house appear to be standing OUTSIDE the window… and sure enough, she finds muddy footprints behind where the old woman had been standing. So they send the woman to stay with her daughter, just in case the intruder comes back (but they don’t seem to search the fucking house for him, which seems weird. But anyway…)

This basic premise is actually based on an urban legend, which Snopes has explored thoroughly. In its original telling, the intended victim is a teenage girl of course, but otherwise, the situation is almost spot on. And if that were the end of the case, there’d be nothing more to say. But later in the episode, Abby gets a call from a woman facing her own home intruder, and it ends in a homicide. The detective comes to hear the call and tells Abby they have the woman’s ex-husband in custody because he had a history of domestic violence. Abby then finds a previous 9-1-1 call from the victim, when she was facing her husband, and notices that the situations sound completely different. The woman wasn’t scared when faced with her husband, but she was terrified before her murder. Oh, also? There was a witness to the previous altercation with the husband: Nora’s daughter!

Long story short, the intruder in both cases was Nora’s daughter’s abusive ex-husband, trying to track her down. Abby is able to call and warn the daughter just as he breaks in, and she kills him with a bat. At this point, the most unbelievable part of 9-1-1 is the fact that Abby is stuck answering phones and not working as either a paramedic (that tracheotomy!) or a homicide detective.

Remind Me To Avoid Prenatal Yoga

OK, so technically there is something more obviously disgusting yet to come, but let me just say: The scene in the yoga class was my version of hell. Basically, Bobby and Buck respond to a call about a pregnant woman who gets stuck in a very uncomfortable pose during a prenatal yoga class. But while they’re tending to her, multiple other women begin to spontaneously go into labor. One is having false labor pains, one gives birth right there on the mat with Bobby’s help, a third woman decides to deliver her own child since she’s a doula, and a fourth woman needs to be taken to the hospital for an emergency C-section. And look, I get that giving birth is really not the most terrifying emergency imaginable because nature is beautiful or whatever, but have you ever taken a yoga class next to a woman who is over 8 months pregnant? Because I have. And the whole time I just watched her bending over, hoping her water wouldn’t break right in front of me.

What I’m saying is, seeing that actually fucking happen over and over again on 9-1-1 last night gave me chills. Is it real? I dunno. I couldn’t find any stories about multiple births during a yoga class, but I think the general premise may be inspired by another superstition around the full moon causing women to go into labor. Again, it’s largely an anecdotal theory that doesn’t appear to be backed up by studies. But there are benefits to engaging in yoga and certain other exercises during pregnancy. So just ignore me and my whole “I don’t wanna watch pregnant ladies pop during Downward Dog” fear.

Dat Tapeworm Tho

Oof. Ok. So this emergency starts like it’s going to be a big tease. A man locks himself in a bathroom and calls 9-1-1, saying there is something inside of him trying to get out. IS HE A WEREWOLF? Uh, no. That’s dumb. He’s just a dude with 5-night-a-week sushi habit, a fucking giant parasite inside him, and a loving partner (played by Firefly’s Sean Maher!) who isn’t afraid to tell Bobby and Buck about the patient’s flatulence. While Bobby may have been more at home helping the yoga ladies birth their babies, Buck takes the reins on “birthing” this man’s tapeworm when it begins graphically squirming out of his butt.

Ya’ll. Look, it’s my job to research this shit. And so I’m going to tell you that yes, it is possible to get a person-sized tapeworm from eating sushi (well, it grows to that size, it’s not like somebody is accidentally slurping a 6 ft tapeworm). And yes, it is possible to pull a person-sized tapeworm from your own asshole. Here is a story about a man who got a tapeworm from sushi and pulled it out himself. I don’t recommend you click on that link, and I won’t research even MORE cases to link to. I’m drawing the line in the sand. That one story is more than enough. I will say, however, that while it’s relatively uncommon for humans to get a tapeworm, maybe you should think twice before you choose to eat raw salmon …

A 2017 study published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that wild salmon caught in Alaska could be infected with Japanese broad tapeworm — a parasite previously believed to only infect fish in Asia. And the CDC warned, “The risk of becoming infected with the Japanese tapeworm parasite is most prevalent when consuming raw or undercooked fish, particularly in dishes such as sushi, sashimi and ceviche.” The CDC says the parasite and the larvae that are buried deep in salmon muscle can be destroyed when fish is adequately cooked or frozen.

The CDC estimates that there are only about 1,000 cases of tapeworm reported in humans each year in the U.S., and actually, people are more likely to get it from beef or pork than from fish. But then again, tapeworms can apparently grow to 40 feet in length, so basically FUCK ALL OF THIS. Moving on.

The Face-Eater

Poor Athena. She just got off desk duty, and now she’s back on it — all because she was forced to shoot a man in the park. To be fair, he didn’t respond to her taser. And also, he was EATING A MAN’S FACE when she found him. If there’s a perfect case for self-defense, then “threat of being cannibalized in the fucking face” should surely be a top contender, right?

I know what you’re thinking: fucking bath salts, amirite? After all, this whole scenario sounds pretty much exactly like the “Miami Zombie” case. Everyone had the same reaction in the show, but as Athena discovered later on, the man didn’t have anything other than alcohol in his system. Which… actually lines up with the story of the so-called “Chinese Zombie Attack” so you know what? Fuck werewolves. Full moons are for zombies, apparently.

But what about the characters?

Well, Buck and Abby finally sleep together. Which was cute, I guess, except Buck shows up with a bottle of wine, spouting nonsense about the moon, and Abby basically has to explain the science of lunar cycles to him. Which was kind of a boner killer to me, but I guess she didn’t mind. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Oh, and Hen cheated on her wife with her ex-con ex-girlfriend. So I’m sure THAT’S going to work out just fine. Once again, the writers seem to be mistaking “making your characters unlikeable” for “drama” — but at least it didn’t take up much of the episode’s runtime!


Related: How Real Are The Emergencies On Fox’s ‘9-1-1’?

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The Reality Behind ‘9-1-1’: Yes, Men Have Faked Engine Trouble on their Airplanes and Then Proposed (Twice, At Least)