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We haven’t done any Rescue Me recaps since 2006. Here’s a quick rundown of what’s been going on with Tommy Gavin:
Fires. Booze. Sex. 9/11. Sobriety. Pills. Sex. Fires. Booze. Sobriety. Fires. Booze. Booze. Sex. Booze. Jesus. Viagra. 9/11. Booze.
That’s about it. Rescue Me has always been about Tommy’s struggle to overcome his demons and the inevitable backslide. Basically Tommy is Sisyphus. Or Yogi Bear, only instead of pic-a-nic baskets, Tommy’s just gotta have that Jameson.
Still, it LOOKS like Season 6 could make-or-break him. Tommy is essentially a permanently flawed hero–he’ll probably never repair the void in his soul from 9/11. But so far some small part of Tommy thinks he can do it. I think this season is going make it clear to Tommy whether that’s true or not. He’s finally going to either find a way to cure his self-destructive behavior, or give up trying.
When we last left him at the Season 5 finale, Uncle Teddy shot Tommy in a blind rage and left him to bleed to death. (Because Tommy indirectly killed Aunt Ellie).
So Season 6 begins as Tommy finds himself in the afterlife. Tommy’s version of heaven is a hockey rink where he can hang out with a bunch of his old firefighter buddies and his cousin Jimmy.
All firefighters go to heaven…
Except, right when Tommy is going to cross over, a fireball erupts under his feet, and he finds himself in hell.
But not all firefighters stay there!
Hell, if you’re a FDNY firefighter, is the basement of a run-down apartment building in Queens. There you will live among all the people you couldn’t save on 9/11, as well as a menacing plume of flame that can’t be put out. Pretty Dante’s Inferno, isn’t it?
This is the most powerful marriage of Christian imagery and firefighting since Kirk Cameron’s Fireproof
But Tommy isn’t the only who has to face the music for his sins. Over at Truck 62, Chief Feinberg delivers some upsetting news…
Because the country is in the middle of “a goddamn recession,” the mayor has decided to eliminate a few firehouses. And guess who is at the top of the list? That’s right, 62 Truck. But it gets worse. Chief Feinberg is close to retirement and has no loyalty to the guys at 62 Truck, (since he’s new), so he plans to participate fully in the FDNY’s investigation. And, he busts Chief Needles back down to regular firefighter.
(Oh, and in case you were wondering whether there are any consequences for the whole shooting incident, there aren’t. One of Tommy’s NYPD contacts swept the whole thing under the rug. I love the way this city is run).
Honestly…I don’t have high hopes for this storyline. Is it me, or does it feel like they’ve run out of things for the supporting characters to do? Franco’s already given up on his daughter, Lou got his revenge on Candy the Extortionist Hooker, Mike graduated probie school, and Garrity survived cancer. So instead they’re using the “house is in troube” schtick straight out of Animal House?
Anyway, back to Tommy. His vision has left him shattered, and his only goal is to find someone to comfort him. If you love Rescue Me for the Denis Leary antics, this is not your episode.
Mick picks him up from the hospital. It’s a week earlier expected, and it seems like Tommy didn’t exactly tell the hospital he was leaving. Tommy tries to brush it off, but Mick notices Tommy has a duffel bag. Tommy claims it’s only got his clothes, but he’s obviously lying.
But Mick plays along, and proceeds to pull a handle of vodka out from under his seat and take a nice long pull. He isn’t really paying attention to the road and, to Tommy’s horror, he swerves onto a highway exit ramp, going the wrong way.
“Tommy, your drinking is driving me crazy!”
Mick seems unconcerned. He’s still focused on what’s in Tommy’s bag, and when Tommy won’t open it, he goes off on a diatribe about how Tommy’s renegade attitude is BS.
“Well, Mick, your driving is driving me to drink!”
Eventually they pull over. Mick gets out, walks over to Tommy’s side of the car, opens the door, yanks the bag out of his hands, and discovers why Tommy has been lying: there’s a bunch of morphine inside. Tommy tries to duck out of a lecture by pointing out that Mick has been driving DRUNK the whole time, but when he takes a pull from the handle himself, he discovers it’s just water. “An old trick of yours, Tommy,” Mick crows.
This has all been one of Mick’s “Scared Straight” tactics. The fear Tommy felt when they were careening down the highway, Mick says, is just a shadow of the fear Janet and Katie feel when Tommy drinks. And then, the kicker: Tommy is no rebel. You can’t really be 45 years old with a wife and kids and still be a rebel. Rebels die young. Tommy’s just a drunk.
Except Mick is your typical “flawed mentor” archetype. It’s all well and good that Mick is trying to force Tommy to feel the consequences of bad behavior, but he has soooooo many credibility issues of his own. He’s a defrocked priest, first of all. He tried to shepherd Tommy through AA but fell off the wagon himself a couple times. And when Tommy resumed drinking, Mick went along with it like the rest of the Gavins. But this is the problem, isn’t it? Most people in Tommy’s life enable him, and the few who try to set him straight aren’t reliable themselves. But Mick is doing his best, and their next move is to visit Uncle Teddy
Back at the firehouse, the gang reacts to Feinberg’s bombshell. Needles, ever the inspiring leader, complains about how awful the situation is, forcing Lou to step up and offer a way to fix it. The only way to save the firehouse is to stir up community support. If they can raise some public outcry, the mayor couldn’t possibly shut them down. How do they do that? Food!
It sounds like a wonderful idea, and everyone is full of good cheer when Black Shawn rushes in. He’s just found a flier, announcing that 62 Truck’s RIVAL firehouse is hosting a cookout of their own. And with that, the men of 62 Truck slump down in their seats and stare at their Chinese food.
Guys…what if WE set the fires! That way we always know where they are!
When Tommy catches up with Uncle Teddy, he finds that Teddy is still a little sore over the whole getting-his-wife-killed thing. So why did he let Tommy live? Because…he didn’t think Aunt Ellie would be cool with murder.
“I guess when I was murdering you I forgot that murder is wrong.”
Teddy doesn’t care whether Tommy tries to clean himself up, but if Tommy continues with the debauchery, Uncle Teddy is going to hunt him down. And to emphasize the point, he presents Tommy with a gift: cufflinks, made of the bullets he shot Tommy with.
No, I didn’t make this up
Having gotten the message, Tommy then heads over to Janet’s to see what the mood is like, and he discovers a wonderful tableau of insensitivity and dysfunction. Janet opens the door and when he goes in for a hug, and she responds with a punch to his bad shoulder. Like Mick and Teddy Janet is none too pleased with Tommy’s drinking, and she lays down the law. Tommy can do whatever the hell he wants, but she will be there to make sure the kids don’t get hurt. To her, he is persona non grata.
Then, being Janet, she then starts to lay on the guilt for not helping with the household duties while he was dead. It wasn’t a total disaster for Janet, though, because the guys from the firehouse pitched in and handled virtually every parental duty FOR her. And Franco was especially helpful, she says. When he questions her about Franco, she punches him again.
Colleen is also pissed at Tommy for dying, because it meant he missed her 21st birthday party. (Don’t worry, she got some awesome designer boots). She’s so pissed that she’s become a raging alcoholic.
Can I pour you a glass of hate?
He looks concerned, but doesn’t get a chance to say anything about it, because his younger daughter Katie presses a drink into his hand. He is so shocked he flees to the firehouse.
(There’s a scene in here where the guys tell Tommy about 62 Truck’s precarious position, and they play a joke on him about it, but it’s not that important, so I’m gonna skip it).
At the firehouse, Lou corners Tommy while everyone else leaves to respond to an alarm. Lou smells something fishy. Tommy didn’t tell anybody about his visions of the afterlife; he just said he passed out. Lou doesn’t believe it, so he puts the question to Tommy point-blank. Tommy evades, but Lou vows to get the truth later on.
And sure enough, just as Tommy thinks he has a moment of peace and quiet, Jimmy’s ghost shows up. Jimmy is wondering where Tommy went when he disappeared from heaven/the hockey rink. When Jimmy hears Tommy describe the fiery basement, his face falls. He knows what’s up, being dead himself, and he warns Tommy to straighten up and “stock up on some prayers.”
When a man gets abandoned by everyone in his life, it’s good to know there’s always one person he can count on. No, not Jesus. I’m talking about Sheila, Jimmy’s psychotically needy widow. And guess what? She’s been sitting on the couch staring at him the whole time.
Tommy considers gnawing off his own arm to escape
Being that Sheila isn’t an actual character, but rather the embodiment of all of Tommy’s worst character traits, she launches into the kind of “you complete me” speech that would get a real person thrown in an insane asylum. I’ll paraphrase:
“So, I was visiting you at the hospital one night, and I was really considering turning off your life support, even though you NEVER MENTIONED WANTING THAT, but I just couldn’t do it because I remembered, hey, you’re pretty much the only dude who doesn’t think I’m too crazy to bang…so, wanna go for it?”
I tell ya, it’s enough to drive a man to drink! And this is exactly what Tommy decides to do next.
He heads over to the bar where he was recently killed and discovers Cousin Eddie has quit the lawyer business to run the bar for the 62 Truck guys. Eddie is not a very scrupulous person, so he has decided to capitalize on the bar’s notoriety. This involves…wait for it…setting up a chalk outline where Tommy was, and charging customers to take pictures with it.
There is also a plaque in the bathroom to commemorate the bar’s first date rape
And the best part is, this business strategy is a total hit. The place is PACKED.
Tommy asks Eddie for a drink, but according to the new rules, nobody drinks for free. Since Tommy has no money, Eddie makes a suggestion: if Tommy will pose for pictures as “the guy who died,” Eddie will split the profits. And Tommy’s self-esteem is so low, he agrees.
Tommy poses with a leering gargoyle from the 9th Circle lively bar patron
Finally he’s made enough for a vodka. Eddie sets it in front of him, and Tommy is just about to drink when he notices Uncle Teddy across the bar. Teddy wasn’t kidding about keeping an eye on Tommy. (He’s also hanging around the bar to make a little scratch as “the guy who shot Tommy,” but whatever).
So Tommy seeks refuge in the only friendly place he has left: the church. He sits down in an empty pew. And, now that everyone has turned their backs on him, Tommy pulls out a bottle and takes his first drink since being shot.
I usually get SOME enjoyment out of this. Maybe I need another sip
Then, gets up and walks up to the altar. He sits down, takes another swig, and lights a cigarette. Finally he looks content, even defiant. He raises his bottle in a toast…to himself. He’s been sitting in pew, watching himself on the altar. Did Tommy really give in to alcohol, or did he imagine doing it?
Maybe Mick was right. Maybe Tommy’s just a sad sack drunk. Or maybe not, since there are still 19 more episodes to go.
And 4,228 more uses of fire as a metaphor