After 9-1-1 began its second season with three electrifying episodes centered on an apocalyptic earthquake—a ruminative cautionary tale on the devastating effects of climate change, or just a silly excuse to destroy buildings like they’re Jenga blocks—things went back to normal for the fourth episode. (Well, normal by 9-1-1 standards.) And honestly? I was relieved.
Don’t get me wrong: The earthquake was entertaining stuff, and a smart follow-up to Season 1’s equally dramatic plane crash. Every season should probably have something of this scale. But Ryan Murphy’s procedural is at its best when the show eschews one giant set piece for several smaller emergencies that add up to make one entertaining episode. By that metric, Monday night’s episode, “Stuck,” was in line with some of 9-1-1’s finest—a beautiful mess of incidents that felt like they came straight out of a YouTube binge that started with “Best LOLFails 2012 Part 3/11.”
The Wildest Shit That Happened on 9-1-1 This Week
9-1-1 wasted no time getting into the first emergency of night, opening on an overweight security guard chasing some vandals whom he called “ninja street artists,” which sounds like a compliment. I’ll let you in on a (perhaps morose) thing I do every time one of these scenes start: My mind begins racing on the possibilities of what horrible thing, exactly, is going to happen to require that someone call 9-1-1. This time, I considered the “ninja street artists” tossing a spray can in the security guard’s face, and it somehow getting lodged in his eye socket—mid-spray. I thought, maybe, one of the artists would try a parkour trick and it would go very, very wrong, and suddenly he’d be impaled by a fence.
Anyway, I was wrong. Because what actually happened is that the security guard tried to jump a small opening to another building the artists escaped from, failed, and fell down a narrow passage. Credit where credit is due to 9-1-1: This outcome is certainly, uh, unique.
The guard was still alive—just trapped in the narrow passage between two buildings—so our firefighter heroes tore through an apartment in one of the buildings to help break him free. He survived another day to unsuccessfully pursue “ninja street artists.” And all thanks to … his belly?
Meanwhile, some gals were having brunch at a bar when they decided to call the 9-1-1 hotline. This goes down as an all-time great 9-1-1 call.
Hello, Tanya. Buzzed on mimosas, she was calling about a real emergency at one of those bars that has a mechanical bull—and no, surprisingly, the incident had nothing to do with a mechanical bull ride gone wrong. Instead, Tanya’s friend got her head stuck in a pickup truck’s gigantic, custom-made tailpipe. Mmhm, yep, you read that right:
Somewhere, J.R. Smith smiles and whispers to himself, “Finally.”
Tailpipe Lady is named Jennifer, which is a delightfully perfect name for someone who had one too many mimosas on Thirsty Thursday and got a little carried away … by sticking their head in a tailpipe. There was no drama in the actual emergency. The firefighters just needed to saw off part of the pipe, and the only moment of trepidation came when they asked if anyone had any lube to free Jennifer. Luckily, some woman enthusiastically squealed, “I have some!” Then Jennifer got out of the tailpipe—and despite the amount of mimosas she had consumed, she was still quite thirsty.
If you weren’t already sensing the extremely overt theme of “Stuck,” this was a 9-1-1 episode where all the emergencies in the greater Los Angeles area involved people getting trapped in stuff—as if some cosmic force in the universe wanted all the actual emergencies to correspond with the protagonists feeling metaphorically stuck in certain aspects of their lives. Those metaphorical obstacles, in case you’re interested, included Season 2 newcomer Eddie (Ryan Guzman) having issues taking care of his son with cerebral palsy as a single father and a firefighter, while Buck (Oliver Stark) was in this strange purgatory living in the apartment of his ex-girlfriend, former emergency responder Abby (Connie Britton), while she’s taken a trip to Europe that may never end (Not for narrative reasons, but because Britton is off doing other projects.)
So do you get it? Everyone feels stuck. And the next person who was literally trapped was—wait, inside an ATM machine?
How does one get stuck inside an ATM machine? For once, 9-1-1 had a reasoned answer: A technician accidentally locked himself inside and couldn’t call for help because he left his cell phone in the van. Once again, the emergency didn’t lend itself to much actual danger—for the firefighters or the poor technician inside—but that allowed Buck to have an entire conversation about Abby while simultaneously freeing the dude. The technician heard the whole thing, by the way.
Finally, check out this really cute marriage proposal!
God dammit—I really hate when mall escalators malfunction right in the middle of your proposal Unfortunately, this man’s injuries were fatal, and he died shortly after being rescued by the gang. It was quite sad—though it felt slightly less sad and a little more messed up because 9-1-1 used this dude’s tragic death as an excuse to shake the firefighters out of their metaphorical patterns of stuckness. Good for the firefighters, bad for the L.A.-area citizens trapped in a hellscape where their emergencies are synchronized to the emotional needs of a chosen few.
I’m not sure we needed a symbolic sacrificial lamb via escalator to make this point, but, then again, this is 9-1-1. People have died in much stranger ways—may we never forget the escaped zoo tiger who ate the guy who once threw a pine cone at his cage. And now, some weekly awards.
Worst Flirting Technique: If you were wondering what sequence of events led to Jennifer getting her head stuck in a pickup truck’s tailpipe, well, let’s just say it was one man’s mating call.
Flirting in 2018 is weird, man.
Best Acknowledgment: I’ve felt all season that it’s weird that no one on 9-1-1 has mentioned the fact Buck has been living in what is basically his ex-girlfriend’s apartment for a considerable length of time. It’s implied that Abby is never returning, and he’s just … staying in her place in perpetuity? Why is no one talking about this? Thankfully, firefighter leader Bobby (Peter Krause) became the voice of reason this week, by simply acknowledging that this the whole situation is really strange.
I literally screamed “Thank you!” when this happened. No, I’m totally not emotionally invested in this show.
Best ATM Reaction: The guy who thought he was getting punk’d.
To be fair, this would be a great prank.
Most Earnest Oliver Stark Tweet: I’m only just beginning to accept the depressing new reality in which Angela Bassett no longer live-tweets episodes of 9-1-1. Her tweets were an iconic, essential ingredient of the 9-1-1 experience, and can never truly be replicated. However, castmate Oliver Stark is doing a solid job in her stead. What he lacks in sass and wit he makes up for in sheer wholesomeness—look at how genuinely moved he is by the acting of his costars! He makes it sound like they’re working with Steven Spielberg:
Kenny Choi crushing this scene. Wow I love this cast. #911onFOX— Oliver Stark (@oliverstarkk) October 9, 2018
Come back next week for an episode that’s incredibly titled “Chaos & Dysfunction,” which, if we’re being honest, could be the name of any 9-1-1 episode.