If you weren’t already apprised of 9-1-1’s earth-shattering two-part Season 2 premiere, here’s a quick recap: a mechanic accidentally fell on an air nozzle and inflated himself; a weapon enthusiast lodged a live grenade into his leg; a YouTuber stuck his head in a microwave filled with concrete; a hotel collapsed like a Jenga set after a 7.1-magnitude earthquake; and some firefighters got trapped in the rubble.
This may sound like a preposterous, apocalyptic scenario with game-changing repercussions for the characters, but I assure you, it’s just par for the course when it comes to TV’s most outrageous and provocative procedural. For Ryan Murphy’s Fox series, an earthquake is just another obstacle for these firefighters to overcome—and if these are the kinds of emergencies they’re doling out in Season 2, I’m assuming Season 5 will open with an alien invasion.
With our firefighter heroes still trapped in the collapsing hotel, here is our breakdown of the third episode of the season, “Help Is Not Coming” (uh-oh!), otherwise known as 9-1-1: The Return, the Reckoning, the Groundshaker: Part Three.
The Wildest Shit That Happened on 9-1-1 This Week
After a massive earthquake that affected ALL OF LOS ANGELES, it’s pretty safe to assume that all of the calls being made to the 9-1-1 hotline will concern life-or-death matters, right? Now let’s go live to our new emergency responder, Maddie (Jennifer Love Hewitt):
Lady, I hate to break it to you—really, because I love cats!—but if your cat is missing after the most catastrophic earthquake to hit Los Angeles in more than two decades, I’m guessing no amount of tuna is gonna help it. Now, on to the real emergencies.
Policewoman Athena (Angela Bassett) has been summoned to a grocery store by its owner, who claims that his place is under siege by rioting locals trying to grab some post-earthquake supplies. Here’s the thing, though: The citizens were pissed because the guy was upcharging like an absolute savage. As in, $100 for a case of water. Not only is that a major dick move, it’s quite illegal.
Athena gives the store owner two choices: Get arrested on the spot and face a year in jail, or amend the prices to something more palatable (and legal). The law states that he can surcharge only up to 10 percent during a state of emergency, but Athena death-glares the man until he declares that everything in the store will be half off.
Can Athena do Jedi mind tricks? Yes, that is the only explanation.
Meanwhile, at the crumbling hotel, firefighters Buck (Oliver Stark) and Eddie (Ryan Guzman) are in the process of escorting the woman who was propositioned by her creepy Harvey Weinstein–esque boss—he fell out a window in a bathrobe, because 9-1-1’s natural disasters have a sense of karmic justice—out of the building. Her name is Ali, but Buck has a little Freudian slip.
Poor, sweet Buck, still thinking about his Season 1 girlfriend and former emergency responder Abby (Connie Britton), who is still in Europe living her best Eat, Pray, Love life while half of Los Angeles falls apart in a giant earthquake. Suffice it to say: Abby is having a far more enjoyable reprieve from their relationship than Buck.
On a semi-related note, Ali the hotel survivor rules. I relate to anyone who chugs a small bottle of hotel liquor mid-rescue.
While Ali takes a quick liquor break, the firefighters hear another person trapped in another room calling for help. How’s he doing?
Hmm, not great. Unfortunately, this young man named Batari severely injured his back, so Eddie and Buck need to strap him to an ironing board and wheel him down a slanted elevator shaft. It’s as horrifying as it sounds—plus, there’s an elevator cab directly above them that could crush them if another aftershock hits the building. Of course, that’s exactly what happens.
The quartet barely make it out alive, which is great; I was very relieved for them. But watching that felt eerily familiar. Like I’d seen it bef—HOLD UP! THEY COPIED A STAR WARS PREQUEL!
I’m convinced someone from the 9-1-1 brain trust watched Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith over the summer and was like, “We gotta do this elevator shaft shit.” And they say the prequels have no impact. (The scene in Revenge of the Sith happens after Anakin rescued Chancellor Palpatine aboard General Grievous’s ship and defeated Count Dooku in a lightsaber duel, thereby pushing the Jedi knight even closer to the Dark Side in ways he hadn’t yet imagined; it’s truly wild that nobody considered Palpatine was evil when Count Dooku explicitly stated that the Galactic Senate was under the control of the Dark Lord of the Sith at the end of Attack of the Clones. Revenge of the Sith is not a very good film, and I have watched it upwards of 20 times.)
With Buck, Eddie, Batari, and Abby—er, Ali—all safe, our concerns fall back to firefighter Hen (Aisha Hinds), who is trapped under a ton of rubble after trying to locate a missing little girl. The episode leans heavily on the gravitas of the situation; Hen finds another firefighter from a different station right before he dies, and she leaves a voice message for her wife on the assumption she won’t make it out alive. It’s heavy stuff, but this is 9-1-1, a show in which Hen’s colleague had a metal spike lodged in the center of his skull—and not only did Chimney (Kenneth Choi) survive the ordeal, he’s back on the job.
It’s not cynicism, more like optimism; I was certain Hen was going to live to firefight another day. That said, this tweet from the official 9-1-1 account hit the nail on the head—and not in the Chimney type of way.
Hell yeah, Hen found a dog! If you’ll recall, the little girl was with this dog when the earthquake struck, so after Hen found the dog, it didn’t take long to find the girl as well, and from there they made their way out of the building. (9-1-1 wasn’t going to kill off a firefighter, a little girl, and a cute dog, so I was feeling even better about Hen’s chances at this point.)
And she had help elsewhere in the building. Despite the lead fire chief ordering everyone to evacuate the building before the next aftershock caused even more debris to fall, Bobby (Peter Krause) and Chimney defied those orders and started clearing the rubble separating Hen from freedom. And instead of being reprimanded … everyone else joined in?
Once again, 9-1-1 Twitter gets it.
I’m not going to lie, this was sentimental stuff—firefighters never leave one of their own behind!—but it was also batshit stupid. If, God forbid, the aftershock hit and the parking garage collapsed, wouldn’t a huge chunk of L.A.’s firefighter roster suddenly be dead? Also, the title of this episode was “Help Is Not Coming,” so that was either intentionally misleading or this show has no real narrative structure—or maybe both. But hey, at least Hen adopted the rescued dog!
And now, some weekly awards:
Wildest 9-1-1 Call: Maddie got some strange calls on her first day on the job, but none more absurd than the person on the other line wondering if MARTIAL LAW WAS IN EFFECT.
Best Slow-Motion Reaction Shot: This dad getting reunited with his daughter.
I’m not sure if he’s celebrating, or attempting the worst quarterback slide since Brock Osweiler.
Cutest Relationship Development: Bobby and Athena—Bothena?—are still going strong, and they took their relationship to the next level post-earthquake when Bobby was invited to eat dinner with the rest of the family.
Please, 9-1-1, let us have this. Don’t break Athobby up.
Most Earnest Cast Tweet: After serial live-tweeting every episode of the first season, Angela Bassett still isn’t live-tweeting new 9-1-1 episodes. Frankly, this is a national tragedy, but at least Oliver Stark is doing a solid job in her stead by virtue of his wholesomeness.
Come back next week, as Angela Bassett and Jennifer Love Hewitt’s characters share some screentime together, which has me pining for an Athena-Maddie buddy-cop spinoff in a couple years’ time.