More than any other show on TV, 9-1-1 loves to use episodic themes, and do so with as little subtlety as possible. Other shows will convey messages in clever, low-key ways, but Fox’s emergency-responder procedural just outright names episodes after the themes they’re trying to emphasize. Take, for example, “Karma’s a Bitch” (an episode about karma), “Trapped” (an episode about people being literally and figuratively trapped), “Heartbreaker” (an episode about relationships and, specifically, one woman who carved out her boyfriend’s heart), and “Stuck” (an episode that was basically the same as “Trapped”).
It’s always a delight when a new episode of 9-1-1 has a title that tells you everything you need to know about what’s in store, and that was the case Monday night with “Awful People.” Wouldn’t you know it, there were certainly some terrible humans on display—some in places you wouldn’t expect, like in a 9-1-1 call center! (I’ll confess: That was an unexpected twist.) Let’s break down all the awful people of “Awful People,” and all the good firefighters who came to their rescue.
The Wildest Shit That Happened on 9-1-1 This Week
9-1-1 wasted no time giving us our first awful person of the episode, opening with a woman who makes a ton of money by throwing herself in front of cars in parking lots and intentionally slipping on ketchup packets in food courts. It’s guilt-tripping (with a threat of suing on the side) of the most odious order, and when this woman set her sights on a poor old woman leaving a store, karma intervened:
The woman didn’t die; her body must be so strong after a life of letting herself get run over. As our firefighter heroes and policewoman Athena (Angela Bassett) arrived on the scene, though, they realized they had already met this lady before. (I briefly gasped, because yes, I am emotionally invested in this goddamn show.) That’s right, 9-1-1 is now bringing back characters from previous emergencies. In last season’s karma-centric episode—also known as the one where a tiger ate an evil dentist after he threw a pine cone at its enclosure—this same woman broke her femur while stealing someone’s package from their front lawn. Her package-stealing prowess earned her the nickname “Porch Pirate” at the precinct.
“Guess you moved up from porches to parking lots,” Athena said Monday, in a flawless line of dialogue. Parking Lot Pirate (new name; my idea) responded by threatening to sue Athena and the firefighters—which doesn’t make sense considering they just saved her life and brought her to a hospital. Clearly, the Parking Lot Pirate studied libel at the same university as Saul Goodman went to (go Land Crabs!). “Awful woman,” Athena concluded, while somehow not staring directly at the camera and removing her sunglasses.
Athena wasn’t finished this week, as she took new emergency-responder Maddie (Jennifer Love Hewitt) on a ride along so she could understand the shit that goes down on the other side of the 9-1-1 hotline (and so that Jennifer Love Hewitt could get some screen time with Angela Bassett).
Sadly, their first call was at a cemetery, where the funeral for a gay soldier was being interrupted by a group of protesters who were, essentially, the Westboro Baptist Church. Now, before you complain about 9-1-1 even giving the Westboro Baptist Church the time of day with a subplot, especially to a head guy who was being racist toward Athena, don’t worry: That dude fell out of his wheelchair and choked on his own feces after his colostomy bag got backed up. Really.
The guy nearly died because he refused to be treated by firefighters Hen (Aisha Hinds) and Chimney (Kenneth Choi), who aren’t white. This is a man who, despite literally projectile-vomiting his own shit, is incapable of having a little perspective. Once Mr. Racist went unconscious, the firefighters did treat him—and thankfully, 9-1-1 did a bit of telling instead of showing there, as the procedure apparently involved suctioning the literal crap out of him.
Athena then asked Maddie if she wanted to grab lunch.
And now, some weekly awards.
Worst 9-1-1 Operator: While Maddie is, obviously, a very good 9-1-1 operator, there are others in her department who let their personal lives get in the way of their job—risking the lives of Angelenos in the process. Maddie’s seemingly sweet coworker Gloria has been responsible for hundreds, if not thousands, of hang-up calls like this one:
No, Gloria, you don’t deserve a muffin. You deserve to get fired!
Most Savage Gloria Comment on 9-1-1 Call:
To be fair: Where is the lie?
Most Questionable Office Culture: Gloria took her warranted firing and potential prison sentence, uh, well, berating Maddie for ratting her out and yelling things like, “I showed you where we hide the good coffee pods!” We could spend forever talking about Gloria’s unparalleled sass and absurdly inappropriate bedside manner, but I’d rather talk about this coffee pod comment. It implies several concerning things: that there are good and bad coffee pods; that the Los Angeles emergency call center is wasting taxpayer dollars on multiple brands of coffee pods, that the employees at said call center are actively hiding K-cups in the office, and that the call center is harming the environment at an alarming rate. Who’s in charge here?!
Best Response to a Racist, Literal Shit-Eater: The Westboro dude nearly let firefighter Eddie (Ryan Guzman) rescue him until he found out his last name was “Diaz” and that he’s half Mexican. Eddie responded to this by saying that he could assist the guy using his mother’s “Swedish half.” Nice.
Wildest Subplot That Nearly Ripped Off Breaking Bad: There was a subplot featuring Hen this episode in which her ex-girlfriend was trying to steal custody of her kid. It was awful stuff, and, as Hen went to confront the ex, she overdosed on some heroin and Hen … was about to walk away and let her choke to death on her own vomit!!
First off, this was stolen from when Walter White let Jesse Pinkman’s girlfriend Jane die in Breaking Bad. But secondly, and most importantly: Is 9-1-1 really going to make Hen turn heel?!?!
Thankfully, Hen changed her mind and called the authorities. Still, for a minute I thought this show broke bad in the dumbest way possible.
Most Earnest Oliver Stark Live-Tweet: Since Angela Bassett has left the 9-1-1 live-tweet-verse, it’s up to Oliver Stark, a.k.a. sex-addict firefighter Buck, to bless the timeline with earnest tweets and—wait, what?!
Now, this really hurts, work-related or not. 9-1-1 Twitter was a little less bright Monday night. Awful news to conclude an episode filled with awful people.
Come back next week as our firefighter protagonists are interviewed by a local news crew—which totally isn’t a cliché!