Like the previous two episode titles for season six, this week’s “Comeback” is ironic. Ostensibly the episode is about Tommy’s return to work and, really, to the world of the living, having plumbed the depths of his own alcoholism. But really, all he returns to is his shitty personality.
Episode begins with Janet walking into the kitchen to find Tommy dumping all the household booze down the drain. He explains that his earlier strategy to get Colleen off the sauce has worked—got her to drink and smoke so much she doesn’t want to do either ever again. Father and daughter have reached a “no booze, no buts” agreement. Sobriety together! Hooray!
I think that’s what he said… “no booze, no butts doesn’t make sense to me
Janet doesn’t believe him, because she’s lived through the events of Rescue Me. I don’t believe him, either, because I’ve watched the events of Rescue Me. But Tommy insists. Yeah, it’s modest progress, but still: progress. And here are the empty bottles to prove it.
So Janet grabs a couple bottles of wine to dump out. But he stops her. No, no, no, wine isn’t booze, you see. Booze is booze, he explains.
Uh, OK, I guess you’ve earned back your right to be a condescending prick? Sure, fine, whatever
I liked that he continued this train of logic for a while, so I’ll give you a little more of it:
“Wine is in, you know, a whole separate family from booze. It’s grape juice, but with a little extra kick. It’s, uh, a delicacy. You know? Fine wines. France. You know.”
So, when his bullshit rationalization fails on account of its being bullshit, he tries the guilt tactic. He accuses Janet of being racist. Janet is being racist for assuming he’s just a drunken Irishman.
“We Irish have a lot to be proud of! Ulysses! The Downing Street Declaration! Lou Holtz!”
I’m guessing Janet here is supposed to be the voice of the audience here, because rather than try to talk some sense into him, she just shrugs and moves on with her day. She’s a prisoner in this relationship, but her sentence is only as long until her children are grown up. She knows she can’t beat the system, (in this case, entrenched Gavin alcoholism), so she’s just markin’ time.
Whatever, he’s drinking. I hope they let Janet come up with some healthy, fun, satisfying ways to keep herself occupied for the next couple seasons. Who knows? Let’s move on.
Janet wonders how much she’ll get when she sells her autobiographical screenplay to Lifetime
Tommy is on his way to the firehouse, and he gives Damien a call. He figures the guys have some big to-do planned for his return to work, but all he wants is business as usual. He does want a big fuss made about him, he just wants to appear reluctant about it. Damien sounds disappointed, but agrees. He’ll tell the guys to get rid of the banner and the cake and the bunting and strippers.
And immediately after Damien hangs up, he joins the rest of the crew. Nothing looks out of the ordinary. They’re just working on a jigsaw puzzle. Then, they decide to have a belching contest.
The man who would be king
Meanwhile, Tommy arrives and looks all over the firehouse for the party he assumes they’ve thrown for him. He can’t find anything, so he asks the guys where they’re hiding it. They aren’t hiding anything, because there is no party. Tommy is incredulous. “You mean to tell me there’s no party after I snuck out of the hospital and did my rehab on my own to get back to you guys?”
“Yes,” Lou belch-answers
This was a wonderful scene. Any time they acknowledge that Tommy is a shitheel gets a gold star. The first alarm of the day rings.
They’re en route to a call box when Lou informs them it’s right between their territory and the West Side Wild Men’s territory—that’s the other house the FDNY is considering getting rid of. And of course…
They arrive at the same exact second
Line up across from each other
And commence snapping
Both sides trade insults. One gets directed at Tommy, and he responds with a, “I’m rubber, you’re glue,” thinking he’s made a witty bon mot, but not even Lou gives him a pity laugh. Then Needles takes command of the situation in quintessential Needles fashion: “Let’s just do our jobs and see what happens.”
So on this call there’s a heroin addict. Both houses walk over to give him help, and argue about who gets to do it. More bickering. Each one wants to respond, claiming they got there first. Then the dude pukes all over himself and passes out, and immediately both houses start insisting the other guys got there first.
Heroin dude puking
Eventually the job falls to Damien. He has to put an ice pack under the guy’s nuts. It jolts the guy awake, and the scene makes him think he’s being raped, and then pissed that they ruined his high. Needles declares the call a draw.
As both firehouses start packing up, they focus a little on the West Side Wild Men firefighters. They’re clearly supposed to be mirror versions of the 62 Truck guys. Garrity and Mike look over at the West Side Wild Men’s moron duo equivalent…
Bizarro Mike gives Bizarro Garrity a smoke
Also, Bizarro Lou and Bizarro Tommy
Maybe Rescue Me is trying for a meditation on the nature of self, and how in the end we’re all our own worst enemies. That’d parallel Tommy’s own main conflict, wouldn’t it? Since his problems come from his own alcoholism and all. Or, maybe Rescue Me is just stealing from Seinfeld. Wouldn’t be the first time.
Lou constructs a fusilli 9/11 memorial back in Season 4
Then there’s a long, wonderful Mike and Garrity scene where they act as mirrors reflecting their own stupidity back onto each other out to infinity. For some reason Garrity has decided he wants to do charity work and they’re brainstorming ideas. I don’t know what prompted this, and I don’t care, because any idea they can come up with they immediately shoot down because they think a celebrity is already taking care of it…
GARRITY: We should go to New Orleans and help out the victims of Hurricane Whats-Her-Face…Katrina!
MIKE: Nah, dude, Brad Pitt is already building houses down there.
GARRITY: I got it! Brad Pitt’s already got New Orleans covered, so: starving kids in Africa.
MIKE: George Clooney is saving all the starving kids in Africa. Since he won the Oscar! He’s selling them to Angelina Jolie and flying them over here to feed them, bro.
Another wonderful scene you should check out, but knowing Rescue Me, this will be the last time they make mention of Garrity doing charity work ever again. I’m beginning to suspect Rescue Me is being written by Tommy Wiseau.
On the other side of the fire truck, Franco gets a call from Janet. They’ve clearly gotten super close, like gay boyfriend-close, because he starts giving her fashion tips. Tommy overhears it and feels jealous. This scene doesn’t go anywhere else.
Then over to Damien and Needles. They observe the other crew members guys a little bit, try to bring things into focus for little old me the audience member…they’re worried that, since Tommy wasn’t able to come up with a good comeback for the West Side Wild Men guys, he’s lost his edge. But Needles is more worried about Lou’s “gock.”
Focusin’ and foreshadowin’
Gock n.—What a guy gets when he loses his waistline and his gut goes down past his cock. (On ladies it’s called a “gunt.”)
Nothing seems to have happened with Needles’s status, by the way…he’s still a chief to the other guys, so, did Feinberg really bust him down in the last episode, or did that not go anywhere? I’m just disappointed they didn’t do much more with him. I loved the setup for him as a character, a guy forced into a leadership position because so many chiefs were killed on 9/11. But all they’ve really done is have him occasionally look and act incompetent and poke fun at the other guys.
Back to the firehouse, Tommy spots Mick and Uncle Teddy loitering around outside. They’ve come to wish him well in his return to the job, and to give him a gift—top-shelf whiskey. They’ve decided he’s a lost cause, that it’s time to cut him loose. Which is fine, except in twenty minutes things will be back to the way they were, because it’s Rescue Me.
Oh, also, They give Lenny Clarke some absolutely godawful lines to say in this scene. When Tommy he’s strictly a wine guy now, Uncle Teddy responds, menacingly, “In vino, veritas.” And when Tommy asks why they think he’s a lost cause, Uncle Teddy says, “Because I’m out of bullets…both literally and figuratively.”
What do you know, my moral center is also a mediocre 80’s nightclub comedian from Boston
It’s like they’re daring the academy not to give them an Emmy.
But, back to firefighting. There’s another call—it’s only the second one they’ve shown in the episode, but in reality 62 Truck has responded to about eight in a row on this shift. The guys all complain about being tired and overworked. Their gripes about the day-to-day grind inspire Tommy to give a little speech about how he’s just glad to be a fireman again. When he was in the hospital he dreamed about a day like today, just call after call.
I dunno…I wanted to actually see them respond to calls and be overworked rather than just hear them talk about it, but that’s just me. Also, I’m reading Tommy’s speech not so much as an inspired grateful ode to firefighting, as one of the ways firefighting helps him just forget about his real problems. A day of nonstop firefighting that gives you no time to think about your ruined personal life would be pretty sweet, no?
The call they’re on, by the way, regards a guy walking down the street only to have a sidewalk grate collapse open and drop him 20 or 30 feet. Hmm…trapdoor? Feeling like the ground is falling out from under you? Why, Rescue Me, you seem to be trying out some symbolism!
Tommy and the guys stare off into a metaphor
Lou has disappeared somewhere, so Tommy steps up and organizes everyone’s efforts. Everything goes off without a hitch and they bring the guy back up.
Then Tommy finds Lou. He’s been sitting off on a bench catching his breath, so Tommy heads over to see what’s up.
Lou thinks he pulled something getting off the rig. He’s begun to accept that he might be getting too old for the work and suggests the same might be happening for Tommy. Tommy tries to brush it off, that his shoulder is fine, but again his gift for speech has failed him and he can’t finish the thought.
But Lou’s thinking about more than Tommy’s physical decline. He thinks Tommy would make a great lieutenant but is too scared to take the test—and Tommy would be a good one, because he just aced the save when he stood in for Lou to pull the guy out of the ground.
Tommy gets defensive here. He claims he isn’t afraid of a test, he just doesn’t want to end up like Lou—overweight and sitting behind a desk too much—but Lou sees through it. Everyone has a vice, Lou says. Bulimics puke, pill-heads pop pills, junkies shoot junk, drunks drink, and Lou eats. No reason to avoid responsibility.
Loved this scene. Really nice meditation on how our coping mechanisms become our vices, and those vices actually worsen our decline, physical or otherwise. And I do agree that Tommy is too afraid of responsibility to become a leader, especially after 9/11.
But it still left me frustrated. This is what happens when you give your best actors awesome things to do.
Over at the rig, Shawn gives Garrity a good suggestion for charity work…Garrity beat cancer, so why not help out other firefighters who get cancer? I was hoping they’d go for the laugh and have Garrity just flat-out reject it, but they did the right thing, it’s a good move and that charity is perfect for him to be doing. They did write the scene to suggest that Garrity is pretty dumb to have no even thought of this charity, so I can live with that.
Back at the firehouse Janet calls Tommy to inform him that his “no booze, no buts” policy is technically working with Colleen, because she’s up to her fourth glass of wine of the evening and isn’t drunk.
I’m not gonna use actual pictures of Colleen any more, just this bumper sticker
Then he hands the phone over to Franco, and he and Janet have some more inside-jokey banter I don’t care about. This is the first time I’ve ever said this, but mercifully, Sheila arrives.
She cajoles him into getting in the car with her, and then asks him how things are going. Being a selfish asshole he begins describing how he’s been adjusting to the firefighting life and how his arm hurts, but all she really wants to hear about is Damien. He’s been distant and unavailable and she wants to know why.
The FDNY is giving him a medal for that solo save he made last week. Only, she didn’t know he ever made a solo save, so when she gets the news she reacts like she’s been punched.
Tommy says there’s literally nothing he can do to discourage Damien. Firefighting is in his DNA. Sheila is just glad he got the Gavin “hero gene” and not the “raging, alcoholic, sex fiend, angry, asshole gene,” which I wholeheartedly agree with.
He tries to turn the tables on her and suggest she’s smothering Damien. He can’t back it up. But when he compares Sheila to the alternative—his own cold, distant mother who was made that way from raising five kids while married to a boozing, philandering, abusive husband herself—he can’t back it up. So he comes off like a schmuck.
(Never mind the idea that women’s personalities are predicated on who their husbands are. Let’s just ignore that, shall we?)
Regardless, Sheila is pretty justified for worrying about Damien, and Tommy is being a dick for acting irritated in response.
Then Damien pops in. He’s pissed to see Sheila there, and kicks Tommy out of the car so he can give his mom a piece of his mind. He basically tells Sheila what Tommy just told her. He feels too mothered.
This was probably my favorite part of the episode, in terms of what they did to Sheila…to me she was the most justified party in the exchange, but because her own son told her what Tommy said, even though both of them are misguided, she was outnumbered, so she lost. Ouch.
I’d love to see more of her, though! It’s the same with Lou. I wish she and Lou, (and the rest of the cast), existed as more than just devices to make Tommy feel things. They used to get their own shit to do, but I guess Rescue Me just got sick of that.
Anyway, Tommy gets back into the car, and she “releases” him from his obligation to Damien…he feels like he missed something. Sheila acts totally calm and content. Is she just stunned?
But, there’s yet another call, and the guys scoop Tommy up, so we don’t find out.
A church is on fire. They get everyone out, but the priest tells them there’s one more person inside. Tommy charges up to the second floor and blows through a door, bad-shoulder first. Out he comes a minute later. It’s a Virgin Mary statue.
He knows every inch of that statue
I thought this episode was the one where Peter Gallagher joins Rescue Me as one in a long line of late-series shake-em-up characters like Cousin Oliver and the Great Gazoo. But this is all they’re doing with him? All right, then.
At last the shift is over, and they head back to 62 Truck for some pizza. The guys did wind up getting Tommy a gift. It’s a bulletproof vest with the 62 Truck insignia on the back.
And then they notice Lou isn’t with them. They head back out to the rig to check…
You better not kill Scurti, Rescue Me.