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Trapped in the Trash Compactor: ‘9-1-1’ Watch, Week 9

Plus: two hoarders revive the ‘Saw’ franchise, while the danger of a hot air balloon looms

Ringer illustration

In recent weeks, Fox’s emergency-responder procedural 9-1-1 has embraced very overt themes that connect all of the episode’s ridiculous antics into an overarching Purpose. Last week, for instance, was all about the idea of karma, and how it comes for everyone eventually—even a lion-killing dentist, by way of an escaped zoo tiger. The sixth episode was all about Valentine’s Day mishaps and the imperfections of love (which mostly translated to one particular woman trying to carve out Angela Bassett’s heart, because this is 9-1-1).

The penultimate episode of this disasterpiece’s first season, “Trapped,” was all about—you guessed it—feeling trapped. Bruce Springsteen’s “Trapped” blared at the start of “Trapped,” because 9-1-1 wants to trap you in its trap so you, too, feel trapped while watching it (it’s working). In a surprising twist, however, all of the hour’s traps were metaphorical: The episode relished in subtext and fleshed out the series’ emergency responders in ways subtle, revolutionary, and … I’m kidding. A homeless man almost got crushed to death by a garbage compactor.

In other words, it was pretty standard stuff for 9-1-1. Let’s break down all the absurdities.

The Wildest Shit That Happened on 9-1-1 This Week

9-1-1 opened on the aforementioned homeless person—an actor I recognized from Silicon Valley as the ferret-loving neighbor of T.J. Miller. Before I could even wonder if 9-1-1 and Silicon Valley exist in the same universe, though, the poor, possibly ferret-owning man was tossed into a garbage compactor.

Thankfully, he had a cellphone handy and was able to call for help—but with every passing moment, the compactor came closer to crushing him to death. This was the weirdest way possible for the 9-1-1 writers’ room to reveal that their favorite Star Wars movie is A New Hope.

Thankfully, Buck (Oliver Stark) and Hen (Aisha Hinds) turned off the compactor in time, the man was saved, and I was … pleasantly surprised? Please don’t read that as, “God, I wanted to see someone get crushed!” 9-1-1’s opening emergencies are usually unnecessarily over-the-top, and viewers have been conditioned to expect the gruesomely unexpected. But this was a pretty routine rescue. If anything, it made me fearful for the rest of the hour.

Sure enough, right after the garbage truck incident, we were introduced to a bickering mother and son heading to a doctor’s appointment. Their dynamic felt like a discount version of Lady Bird—the mom was a tad overbearing, but supportive, and the kid didn’t really know what he wanted to do at 18. “School just wasn’t for me,” he vaguely explained. She then dunked on him left and right: “You’re 18, not 8.” You know who wasn’t into this conversation? THE ELEVATOR!

Being trapped in an elevator is bad—being trapped in elevator that is slowly sinking because the basement floor of the building is flooded is way worse. The firefighters wasted no time on arrival: Buck went down with a harness and scooped up both of them without any major mishaps. There was a brief moment when it seemed that maybe Buck wouldn’t make it out of the elevator in time—but the episode had just started, and unless Buck and Abby’s (Connie Britton) hot air balloon date that the 9-1-1 Twitter account had been hyping all week was going to turn out to be a figment of Abby’s imagination, his safety was guaranteed.

Still, this traumatic moment had a positive effect on Bird Boy: He promised his mom he’d do better, move out of the house, and figure out his life. She, however, wasn’t finished roasting him—despite having sustained a mild concussion.

Screenshots via Fox

[Chuckles.]

[Remembers my own mother perpetually roasting me for pursuing a writing career.]

[Sobs silently.]

Oh, moms!

Next up, we had two brothers—one of whom was trapped by something of his own creation: a house filled to the brim with stuff, because these guys are extreme hoarders. So how ridiculously extra is Extreme Hoarders: 9-1-1 Edition?

That’s right: BOOBY TRAPS! The house was so packed with things that the entrances—and even the windows—were impossible to penetrate. The brothers created a tunnel system to move around the house; and also set booby traps in those tunnels and around the house, because they’re paranoid about other people wanting to take their junk. (It’s the hoarder mind-set, apparently.)

Chimney was the only firefighter small enough to fit in one of the tunnels, and had to change the dials on a cuckoo clock to 11:11 to avoid being sawed in half in this obstacle course from hell.

This is the Saw reboot we never knew we needed: Just have Jigsaw turn into a hoarder, call the police, and ask them if they want to play a game. I’d buy tickets to see that.

When Chimney made it inside and they eventually found the trapped brother, a bone was sticking out of his leg—he had a nasty compound fracture—and if he was going to avoid an amputation, that bone needed to be snapped back into place right then and there. The snapping sound effect was disgusting, and for obvious reasons, I will not GIF this moment. Needless to say: Do not eat food while watching 9-1-1—I learned that the hard way after the tapeworm incident in Episode 7.

All things considered, these emergencies would probably feel absurd on any other show, but 9-1-1 gave us a baby stuck in a pipe and a python getting beheaded by a sex-addict firefighter in the pilot. In the era of Peak TV, the penultimate episode is often the wildest one of the season, but maybe 9-1-1’s doing a reverse Game of Thrones here. I bet the series is saving the best stuff for next week’s season finale. Now, time for some weekly awards:

Worst Second Date: A tie between policewoman Athena (Angela Bassett) and her rebound guy Aaron, and Buck and Abby.

Let’s cover Buck and Abby first. Fellas, take note: The way you impress someone on date no. 2 is with something unexpected—first dates should be a bit more low-key, to test the waters. Then you rent a hot air balloon.

This seemed like a bad idea; I know a death trap when I see one on this show. Abby herself even said that she had answered a few 9-1-1 calls from hot air balloons crashing. She assured Buck it was a joke but … was it?! After their first date ended with Buck nearly choking to death on table bread and getting an emergency tracheotomy, it was impossible to not expect some wild shit to happen in that hot air balloon. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be: 9-1-1 was just mercilessly teasing us with the prospect of hot air balloon chaos.

Abby had to cut the date short—like, within moments of arriving—because her mom, who lives with her and suffers from Alzheimer’s, was having a particularly bad episode. Buck was understandably bummed—AND SO WAS I. If that hot air balloon doesn’t come back and crash into the Staples Center in Season 2, I’m staging a protest.

Meanwhile, Athena was living her best damn life—and she deserves it. She divorced her husband, who revealed at the start of the season that he was secretly gay and had a boyfriend, and her daughter attempted suicide after being bullied endlessly at school. Plus, there was that whole Valentine’s Day incident in which someone tried to cut out her heart.

But now she’s single and ready to mingle, and she picked up a sexy snack named Aaron at a bar at the end of Episode 8. In “Trapped,” they turned the heat up to 11 by playing with her handcuffs. Moderately kinky stuff! The only problem is stupid Aaron went and handcuffed both of their hands to the bed, and the keys were on the other side of the room.

This is like a consensual version of Gerald’s Game! Athena was horribly embarrassed, as anyone would be, and made sure her bestie Hen was the person who responded to this particular emergency. Hen enjoyed this visual.

That wasn’t even the best part: Athena wasn’t going to let a slight handcuff mishap cut her night short.

HELL YEAH, ATHENA!!

Best Out-of-Context Buck Quote: “I don’t suppose you do a lot of pull-ups?”

Best Hoarder Booby Trap:

The hoarder brothers definitely have DVDs of the entire Home Alone franchise.

Best Angela Bassett Live-Tweet(s): For some reason, the actress wasn’t referring to Buck by name this week, instead calling him “Manchild.” Not even two separate words, just Manchild!

This is the Queen Mother of Wakanda tweeting this stuff, so I guess Buck has to legally change his name to Manchild now.

Come back for 9-1-1’s epic season finale, which, at the very least, will feature a motorcyclist who’s been cut in half and is, somehow, still alive. (After Chimney survived a spike-in-head incident in Episode 3, I don’t ask questions.)