The season premiere of ‘Rescue Me’ a couple weeks ago was a pretty somber affair. As I commented in my last recap, the episode lacked the bracing humor that the show is known for, or much of the camaraderie and interaction with the other firefighters beyond just Tommy. Perhaps that was necessary to tie up storylines from the previous finale. The season’s second episode, ‘Change’, brings back a lot of those missing elements, and is more like the show we remember.
That’s not to say that this is all laugh city, of course. The series is known for its wild swings between comedy and tragedy. In fact, ‘Change’ opens with Tommy looking in through the window of a bar and seeing visions of the dead staring back at him. However, from there, he goes home and finds a shirtless Franco hanging out with Janet and his kids. Daughter Katie admires his muscles. Franco claims that the baby puked on his shirt, and none of Tommy’s clothes would fit him. This is rubbed in quite a bit. Then Black Shawn walks out from another room, also shirtless. That one’s not the baby’s fault, he claims; it was Colleen. Tommy’s jealousy rears up, and he makes both of the guys come out to the balcony with him. They have a hilarious conversation where Tommy declares that everyone must always wear a shirt around his family, and that his house is officially a Nipple Free Zone.
In trying to make light of the situation, Shawn tells Tommy that some of the girls in Katie’s school were recently caught having a blowjob contest. That really doesn’t help. When Tommy later tries to have a heart-to-heart with the girl, there’s some awkward and very funny confusion about a dance contest Janet wants her to enter. “Mom says I’ll be really good at it.” Katie is aghast when she realizes what Tommy thought they were talking about.
The main plot of the episode has Tommy trying to convince everyone that his near death experience has changed him. He’s officially given up drinking, and makes an effort to tell the family how he feels about them. “Today’s the day,” he keeps saying. He even promises cousin Mickey that he’ll go back to AA. All of this is met with indifference. Neither Janet nor the kids believe him nor care. Colleen’s reaction is to puke again. Janet is just weirded out when Tommy tells her that he loves her.
Nobody at the firehouse believes that Tommy is going sober either. He tells them that he wants to have talks with some of them to make amends. Really, this is just an excuse to talk to Damien, because Janet keeps pressuring him to get the kid out of the fire department. Before he can, Garrity acts offended that he’s not on Tommy’s list. When Tommy apologizes and gives him some seemingly genuine, heartfelt compliments, it pretty much blows Garrity’s mind.
Tommy’s talk with Damien doesn’t really go as well as hoped. Not wanting the kid to know what he’s trying to do, Tommy’s argument is oblique at best. He tells Damien that it’s OK to be a coward sometimes, as if this will get him to admit that he’s not cut out to be a firefighter. The kid just thinks he’s drunk again.
Next, Tommy has a talk with Lou, and tells him the truth about his near death vision. Mike overhears this, and runs to tell the rest of the guys that he thinks Tommy needs an exorcism. In circuitous fashion, this somehow leads to a discussion of how often they all jerk off a day. This is classic ‘Rescue Me’, and the conversation is damn funny.
A fire call comes in that puts the crew in competition with West Side, the rival firehouse also potentially on the chopping block due to budget cuts. Our boys get their first. There’s a kid trapped in the building’s basement, and only Damien is small enough to climb through an opening to rescue him. Tommy is certain that this is going to go badly, especially when the building’s walls start cracking. But Damien gets the kid out (his first rescue) and makes it out safely before the wall collapses. As he walks away, a piano falls right where he’d been standing a second ago like something out of ‘Looney Tunes’.
That night, Tommy tries to talk to Colleen about her drinking. He’s obviously not the best role model to set an example for her. So he gets the idea to do something that his father did to him. He takes her to the bar and pays for her to drink as much as she can until it makes her sick and she realizes what a bad idea drinking is. A lot of drinks in, it’s pointed out to Tommy that this strategy didn’t exactly work in his case, so why should he expect it to work on his daughter? Indeed, Colleen pounds back the drinks and never gets sick. Instead, she starts a bar fight. Nicely done, Tommy.
Damien is also at the bar and, having made his first rescue, is happier than ever to be a firefighter. He thanks Tommy for the talk earlier, which has only reaffirmed his career choice.
Finally, Teddy, Maggie, and Mickey show up at the bar. Tommy missed his AA appointment. They assume he’s been drinking, but Eddie informs them otherwise. Nevertheless, Tommy decides that he’s had enough. He gives them a long speech about what a lousy day he’s had, how he’s been repeatedly tested, and how he is just a fallible human being who can’t change his entire life all in one day. He tells them he’s going to drink right in front of them, and invites Teddy to shoot him again. Teddy, fortunately, forgot his gun. Tommy takes that drink.
I still feel like we’ve covered a lot of this ground in previous seasons. But ‘Change’ is a solid episode all around, and I’m glad to see the humor back. ‘Rescue Me’ seems to be in good shape this season.