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So last week we had a Something Awful Happens To Tommy episode. That means this one a Tommy Struggles To Redeem Himself episode. Next week will be a Tommy Realizes A Stable Life Isn’t What He Wants episode, followed by a Tommy’s Inevitable Backslide, bringing us around to Something Awful Happens To Tommy again. I think one more cycle brings us to the end of this season.
Ready for this week’s episode? Let’s go!
This week opens on Tommy in his kitchen with Janet. He’s on the phone with Mick. It looks like Tommy is returning to AA. Hooray! Mick is happy, Tommy isn’t, but he’s accepting it.
He hangs up and chats with Janet about it. Not drinking is SO HARD. I wouldn’t say she’s thrilled about his newest commitment to sobriety, but she does seem a tiny bit supportive. Even warm. And…it even looks like they’re opening up the possibility of them getting back together. I sure hope those two kids make it!
But Tommy’s more concerned about Colleen at the moment. He’s considering taking her to AA with him, but Janet scoffs. Even almost dying on a beach hasn’t stopped Colleen from being drunk every waking moment of her life. Good luck with that, Tommy.
Next we follow Tommy and the crew on a call. They’re responding to a car accident and things do not look good. Two late-teen sisters were in the vehicle. One of them is on the sidewalk spazzing out, probably because she’s something. The other apparently wasn’t wearing her seatbelt.
I thought this week I’d open up my first picture to a funny caption contest. Have at it!
They cut through the passenger door and pull her out. Tommy frantically starts giving her CPR. No response. Black Shawn realizes her neck is broken. He tries telling Tommy, but Tommy doesn’t want to hear it. Gently the guys ease him away from the body.
It’s not the first time Tommy’s given CPR to someone he refused to believe was dead, but this one has hit him even harder. Black Shawn helpfully points this out to him: “Hey, it’s probably because she reminds you of Colleen, huh?” Roll credits.
Back at the firehouse the guys shoot the shit while waiting for their next call. Lou’s cooking a ridiculously fancy gourmet meal for them, (chicken cutlets in a white wine shallot and mushroom reduction), which prompts Franco to remember that cookout they were all worried about a while back.
They’re only mentioning the cookout to reminds us that it exists, because that storyline has no bearing on this episode. All that matters right now is the cookout’s been postponed again. I’m pretty sure it’s never happening. I’m also pretty sure Denis Leary and Peter Tolan have grown to hate the idea for whatever reason, and this is their way of quietly killing it off. Let’s just move on.
The conversation shifts to Damien’s love life. Remember that girl he was dating a few episodes ago, Penny, the firefighter from the rival firehouse? Things aren’t progressing as well as he’d like, but he has another date with her tonight. Ostensibly he’s dating her to suss out the West Side Wild Men’s menu for the upcoming cookout, but Damien doesn’t really care about that, and he actually likes Penny, so he’s playing it for real.
Then Needles comes in and describes how he just took the best shit of his life. I can’t make it any funnier than it already is, so I’ll just repeat verbatim: “I just shit an Inca temple…the goddamn thing had gold in it. Here’s the best part. I barely had to wipe. Clean break, one sheet.”
The guys applaud, but Tommy doesn’t even crack a smile. Needles notices. He figures Tommy is still upset over the dead girl, and he encourages Tommy to move on already. Get over it. It’s the job.
I didn’t notice this the first time I watched, but while this is happening Mike’s making a Frito Hitler mustache to crack up Garrity.
Then the alarm bell rings and the guys rush all out, except for Tommy. He just stays planted in his seat, dazed. Needles comes back to prod him along, but he won’t budge. Needles tries again. He’s starting to get angry. Tommy starts remembering a firefighter they both used to know. He was Asian-Irish, (his name was “Johnny Panface” and he liked to get drunk and kick shit). One day Johnny lost two kids on a call. And when everyone came back to the firehouse, he just walked right off the job. Now he’s a teacher or something.
Is that where Tommy is headed? Needles tries to reassure him it isn’t, but Tommy won’t hear it, and finally Needles gives up on him and joins the rest of the crew, calling Tommy chickenshit.
The episode next jumps over to the rig on the way back from the call, where Tommy’s empty seat leaves the guys unnerved. Then Niels feels a strange bump, so they get out to check, and it turns out they ran over a cat. (Niels is the big burly guy who drives the rig…he’s had maybe five lines total the past six seasons).
They joke about how Tommy should have been along for this call because he hates cats, but Franco takes things too far with a crack about how Tommy is a coward. Black Shawn doesn’t like that, so he calls Franco out on his own cowardice—trying to get with Janet behind Tommy’s back. Shawn tells Franco to at least take some responsibility for being a coward, so Franco fires back that Shawn can’t even control Colleen’s drinking, and Shawn finally just decks him.
The others rush to break it up, but Lou stops them—let them fight, he says, because if they don’t, they’ll just harbor resentment that’ll poison the whole firehouse. Better to get it out now. So, they do.
Franco and Shawn whale on each other for a bit, then the NYPD shows up, THEN Lou and the guys start scuffling with the cops, and finally Needles arrives to break it all up.
As everyone disperses, the camera cuts over to reveal that the cat’s owner has discovered her dead pet, and she and Niels are sobbing together over it. I loved that joke.
So after freezing up, Tommy decides to visit the one mentor figure he has left, Peter Gallagher. He tells Peter Gallagher he isn’t afraid of fighting fires, he just thinks he’s done.
Peter Gallagher doesn’t think that’s the case. He thinks Tommy is a coward. Then he begins a hazy pop-psychology analysis of what’s going on in Tommy’s head. I’ll try sum it up here…
Even though Tommy’s behaved like a lout his whole life, especially after 9/11, he actually has a very delicate value system all based on karma. If Tommy boozes and sleeps around and punches people, as long as he’s still saving people from fires, things even out. When someone doesn’t “play along,” as Peter Gallagher puts it—i.e. when someone dies in spite of Tommy’s best efforts, like the girl today—his system breaks down. And to retreat from the system, like Tommy wants to do right now, is to be a coward.
He finishes that with my favorite line of the episode: “Here’s a headline for ya…you ain’t Jesus!”
Then he wheels around to explain his own belief system. Priest Peter Gallagher doesn’t believe in heaven, hell, or divine intervention in people’s lives. Just karma. Do good deeds while you’re here on Earth. It’s all you can do. So in other words, “Yeah, you know that Nicene Creed thing I make people recite every Sunday…ehhhhh, it’s bullshit.”
I actually didn’t mind the first part of that assessment. If you can ignore the practical angle on Tommy’s freeze-up, which is that he might just have PTSD, maybe what Peter Gallagher says is spot on. Does Tommy expect there to be some divine plan to life? Is that foolish? Could be.
It’s the second part that throws me off. Obviously Peter Gallagher isn’t portraying a realistic Catholic priest, because this worldview would get him kicked out of the priesthood. You kind of can’t be a Catholic priest while rejecting basic tenets of Catholicism. Tommy finds comfort in what Peter Gallagher says, but it’s a fantasy. So because the only person Tommy can turn to for spiritual advice doesn’t actually exist in real life, I read this as being about what the church is not rather than how it helps people. That’s kinda sad, isn’t it?
Moving on, the episode heads over to Lincoln Center, where Mike and Garrity are doing a good deed of their own. They’ve agreed to go to the ballet with Mahoney, the cancer-stricken firefighter. When he was healthy Mahoney loved going to the ballet because he “always wanted to have sex with a chick who could brush her hair with her feet.”
Mahoney warns them the chemo and his mortality have made him less shy about sharing his inner thoughts, so he starts talking about his regrets, like…he’s always wanted to punch Dr. Phil. And Regis. And maybe Haley Joel Osment. And he’s also always wanted kids. Both that and never having punched a celebrity in the face make him feel pretty glum, and they head in for the show.
Back to Tommy. He and Mick arrive at their AA meeting. Maggie’s up at the podium sharing a sobriety story, and everything looks hunky dory. Then Uncle Teddy and Colleen show up. Or, to put it another way, Uncle Teddy and Colleen have been getting shit faced and Teddy lured here under false pretenses.
I guess Tommy’s still pissed at Mick and Teddy for giving him the bottle of whiskey that led to the bender with Colleen, and when he finds out they roofied it he gets more pissed, and they all start fighting, and AA is ruined.
Meanwhile the ballet is in full swing over at Lincoln Center, and Mahoney is bawling his eyes out while Mike and Garrity can’t keep their eyes open.
Next Damien is out with Penny. They’re talking about Tommy’s freeze-up…Damien says it makes him realize he’s also afraid of the job deep down, and Penny agrees she is too. Damien doesn’t seem to be using it to get into her pants, but it has that effect anyway, yada yada yada, and so on.
This is one of the few times they’ve given Damien something to do that wasn’t just engineered to make Tommy worry, and…turns out I don’t care very much. I can’t find much interesting about Damien, or Penny, so seeing them on a date is pretty meh.
Actually what if Damien and Penny wind up having a normal boring relationship, with boring sex and very little fighting and neither of them sabotages it? Damien could drive all the other characters nuts with his uninteresting relationship stories. That would be awesome.
Let’s head back to Lincoln Center, where the ballet is letting out. The show hasn’t made Mahoney any happier. The chemo made him impotent, so seeing the ballerinas he used to lust after now makes him miserable. He wants to let loose somehow, and all that’s available to him at the moment is pissing in the Lincoln Center fountain. Mike tries to stop him, but Garrity decides they’ll join him out of solidarity.
After ruining the AA meeting, Tommy is taking Colleen to see Peter Gallagher. Here she’s totally defiant, denying she has any problems other than Tommy and Janet’s meddling. She employs some of the more fucked up logic you’ll ever hear–she only blacked out because the whiskey had been roofied. Drinking an entire untainted bottle of whiskey NEVER makes her black out. So, no problem. Tommy’s got nothing in response.
And over at the church, Peter Gallagher goes waaaaaaay easier on her than he did on Tommy. Basically all he does is tell her “Booze isn’t the answer, sweetheart.”
That’s literally all he says. He went from being this awesome relativist fantasy priest to Mr. Mackey.
So Colleen goes on a rant about how her entire life is miserable in no small part because of Tommy…Tommy is constantly in danger with his job, all the family volatility, and her overall lack of direction are the reasons why she drinks. It’s to forget all that. She stomps out.
Peter Gallagher shrugs and makes a lame joke. “We only perform exorcisms one person at a time, but for the Gavin family we’ll have to consider a group rate!” Then he just leaves. Man, this character is a team player—really helpful with Tommy so Tommy can be inspired to carry on, really shitty with Colleen so Tommy’s the one who has to step in and take care of things himself. Good stuff.
Tommy catches up to Colleen on her way out of the church. She tells him she texted Black Shawn, so she doesn’t need a ride from him. Tommy’s grasping at straws, so he tells her the story of how she was baptized—right after she was born she developed an infection, which meant they kept her in the hospital a few months. They decided a baptism ceremony wasn’t appropriate, so they had a private ceremony with Mick at their apartment.
Boo fucking hoo, she says. Who cares?
And then Tommy plays the last card in the deck…he handcuffs her to the altar. (I have no idea where the handcuffs came from, so I’m just rolling with it, as if this were an Inspector Gadget episode).
She starts screaming bloody murder as Tommy goes back into the vestry, grabs four or five bottles of booze, and empties them all into the baptismal font. “After you leave here you can do whatever the hell you want…but for the next five minutes, you’re mine,” he says.
He drags her over to the font, dunks her in, and begins reciting the baptism, (only he’s going off what he remembers from The Godfather, so he butchers it pretty badly).
DO YOU REJECT THE LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHR…wait, no, I meant to say Satan. Do you reject Satan? Sorry.
Peter Gallagher hears the commotion and comes out to investigate. First he’s alarmed, but when, he realizes what Tommy’s doing, he helps out with the prayer.
Colleen eventually passes out right as Black Shawn comes in, followed by some cops and a nun who saw the whole thing.
Shawn and Peter Gallagher comfort Colleen while Tommy unlocks the cuffs from her and puts them on himself. The cops escort him out.
Be sure to come back next week. I hear Colleen is drinking again. Tommy’s gotta do something!