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The Reality Behind '9-1-1': Trapped In Trash Compactors, Hoarder Dens, And Handcuffs

By Tori Preston | TV | March 16, 2018 |

By Tori Preston | TV | March 16, 2018 |


I know, I know — I’m a day late. I was stranded in Austin, because it turns out airplanes don’t like to land in nor’easters, so I’m only just now getting around to catching up on this week’s very full episode of 9-1-1. To make up for my tardiness, I’m gonna share the most important thing that happened right at the top, so you can move on with your Friday if you need to. Ready for it?

A character (Peter Kraus’s Bobby) referenced Connie Britton’s Abby as such: “And here I thought she just had great hair.”

SHE DOES, BOBBY. SHE DOES HAVE GREAT HAIR. And honestly, everyone should be fucking acknowledging Connie Britton/Abby in terms of her glorious mane as often as possible. She deserves nothing less than our total admiration.

But in terms of real, actual shit that went down this week, it seems it was the penultimate calm before the season finale storm. There were only three emergencies, and this week’s loose theme was “trapped” (which was also the actual title of the episode). The rest of the time was spent on personal drama, dates, and… DEATH!

Out Of The Dumpster And Into The Garbage Truck Trash Compactor

The first call of the night came from a homeless man who had fallen asleep inside a dumpster, seeking shelter from the rain… only to wake up as he’s being dumped into the back of a garbage truck. Oh, and the truck is starting to compact him. So there’s some nightmare fuel for you. Bobby’s team and Athena race to locate the right truck, and manage to save the man just before he’s turned in to squished lump of trash.

Not only is this based on a real story, but the real story took place in Philadelphia. Which feels appropriate, no? Dumpster pools, and now dumpster negligent homicides. Oh, Philly! The story is almost identical to the way it played out on 9-1-1 except in real life it took the firefighters 2 hours to free the man from the compactor.

What’s Worse Than A Crashed Elevator?

The second emergency of the episode involved a mother boarding an elevator with her teenage son, only to have the whole thing crash straight down into the basement. As far as emergencies go, it’s plenty scary, but there’s nothing particularly fresh about it, amirite? Which is why the writers decided to fill that fucking elevator with water. Yup, the pressure is on as Bobby’s crew tries to save two victims from drowning inside an elevator after they’ve already miraculously survived it crashing. Oh and by the way — the elevator gets more and more unstable as the weight of the water drags it down harder. So that’s cool.

Don’t worry, everyone makes it to safety. And as for waterlogged elevators, that’s totally a thing! Granted, none of the random YouTube videos I found showed elevators that were filled with enough water to drown a person, but I feel like, in general, the idea of being trapped in an elevator that is simultaneously (albeit slowly) filling with water is plenty unsettling. Like, nobody wants to get off the lift at the 30th floor and need to change their socks because their feet got soggy on the ride up, right?

Oh and just to make matters worse, one recently flooded elevator was in the fucking World Trade Center. Because people don’t have enough reasons to worry about working there…

Cool. Coolcoolcool.

Hoarders Get What They Deserve

Look, I’m not saying I’m practicing the KonMari Method in my daily life (clutter IS what sparks my joy, dammit), but even I have limits. For example: I like not having to crawl through an elaborate system of trash tunnels to get into my house. Also, instead of booby-trapping my home with circular saws, bowling balls, and trip wires to protect all the shit I’ve accumulated in my life, I have a dog. That dog won’t actually protect anything or cause anyone any harm, but he might annoy an intruder and I figure that’s good enough.

Anyway, the final emergency of the episode involved a pair of elderly brothers who, uh, literally do all of the things I mentioned above. In their paranoia, they’ve set booby traps to guard the rat-infested house they’ve been filling with junk since 1967. When one of the brothers triggers his own booby trap, collapsing a tunnel in on himself, the other brother (who is blind) must call 9-1-1 for help. Chimney’s the only one narrow enough to squeeze through the tunnel himself, so he volunteers to enter first and disengage the booby traps (risking the aforementioned Suspended Circular Saw to do so). Eventually, they dig through the rubble and find the victim, who is suffering from a compound fractured tibia — which is fancy-speak for “jesus god why is your bone stickin’ outta your leg, dude!?” See, this is why your lifestyle should never present an actual threat to your well-being. Even skydivers take safety precautions. And no, booby traps don’t count.

From what I can tell, this case is based on the story of the Collyer brothers, a famous pair of New Yorkers who passed away in 1947 after spending decades hoarding and hiding away from the world in a Harlem brownstone. They too built booby traps and tunnels. One brother also went blind, which left the other brother to brave the world in search of necessities. Unfortunately for them, they both died in the house and were only discovered when a neighbor alerted the police to the smell of decomposition. After they were gone, police removed approximately 120 tons of junk from the house, and the case became so famous that first responders dealing with a hoarder or a dangerously overstuffed dwelling reportedly started using “Collyer” as shorthand.

So How Are Our Favorite First Responders Doing?

Let’s start with Athena, who found herself a hot rebound guy at the bar in the last episode, and is proceeding to have a fun and sexy time with him. Also, he’s super into her whole police vibe… particularly dem handcuffs. Which leads to the funniest scene all season, where Athena and her date find themselves accidentally handcuffed to each other AND the bed, while the keys are in her belt on the other side of the room. Think Gerald’s Game only more consensual, less delusional, and with Angela Bassett being like “Yo, fuck this shit.” She dials up 9-1-1 and gets Abby to holler at Henrietta to come help her. So Hen walks into the bedroom to find Athena and her hunk in a fairly compromised position… and then laughs her ass off and takes a damn selfie of them all.

At this point, if Athena and Hen aren’t your #friendgoals I don’t even know what you’re doing with your life.

The best part? When Hen grabs the keys and comes over to unlock the cuffs, Athena stops her. Because, like, she didn’t say she wanted to get free. She just needed someone to leave the keys on the nightstand where she can reach them when she’s ready.

Meanwhile, Hen confronts her ex-convict ex-girlfriend and rips her a new one, letting her know in no uncertain terms that she is happy with her wife and she has no intention of letting her ex win custody of their child, let alone getting back together with her. As for Buck, he tries to impress Abby with a surprise hot air balloon ride, but she has to ditch him when her mom starts having an episode back home. Buck begins to question whether he’s ready to handle a relationship with someone who has so much on her plate (Bobby’s like “Bitch please, look at her hair”), while Abby tries to let him off the hook because she knows it’s a lot to deal with. In the end, Buck realizes he’d rather be with Abby in whatever capacity she needs, which is so sweet! And then Abby’s mom dies.

So, uh, guess they’re both off the hook?

Any Hints About The Season Finale?

I watched the preview for next week, and holy shit you guys: SOME DUDE GETS CUT IN HALF AND CAN STILL FUCKING TALK.

I’m starting to think I might miss this show when it’s gone.

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Tori Preston is the managing editor of Pajiba. She tweets here. You can also listen to her weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.