There are a lot of words that can describe the Fox emergency-responder procedural 9-1-1—batshit, compelling, unpredictable, Ryan Murphian—but one thing you can never call it is subtle. Subtlety is a boil that this show must lance.
I should’ve known going into Wednesday night’s episode, quite unsubtly titled “Karma’s a Bitch,” that karmic justice would hit this show with the loudest of thuds; that characters would explain the concept of karma as if nobody’s ever heard of the word before; that the actual line “karma’s a bitch” would be uttered several times; that the karma enacted would be so on the nose I’d become convinced that 9-1-1 exists in a surrealist, heightened reality where unseen gods treat humans like pawns to mess around with—especially those who respond to emergency calls for a living.
Let’s go through all these karmic scenarios, and when we’re done, tell me I’m not wrong.
The Wildest Shit That Happened on 9-1-1 This Week
The episode began with what—for 9-1-1 standards—is a pretty normal emergency call: A man had been shot. When our firefighter heroes arrived on the scene, however, everyone but newbie/sex-addict Buck (Oliver Stark) recognized this specific location from an emergency call from a year before. Hold on to your butts, we’re about to get a 9-1-1 flashback.
You see, the man who was shot had previously called the cops when his wife hung herself from a giant tree in their backyard. Pretty gruesome stuff, but Hen (Aisha Hinds) noticed bruising on the woman’s arms: it seemed she was a victim of domestic violence. Before we can process this awfulness, we are thrown into another flashback. WITHIN THE OTHER FLASHBACK. Did Christopher Nolan direct this episode? Did 9-1-1 incept me?
In the flashback of a flashback, the couple was in the middle of an argument, and the woman pulled out a gun and threatened to shoot her husband. She did fire a shot, but it hit a tree—that tree. The husband then told the woman that the only way she’d ever be able to get out of their marriage is if she killed herself. And so she did. This guy is horrible—it’s almost as if he deserves … some kind of karmic payback???
So, the bullet fired by the wife actually kick-started a rot from within the tree. The husband decided he’d take down the tree himself—and he decided the best way to do so was to lace it with a bunch of explosives and then fire a gun at it. (Sure, OK.) Problem is, when he exploded the tree, his wife’s year-old bullet flew back like shrapnel and hit him in the chest. Really.
Hen, why don’t you take it away?
Next up, a fitness trainer at a gym who was “burning up.” Literally.
Hey, didn’t Final Destination 3 already do this bit? To be fair, that was 12 years ago—we were due for another death by tanning bed.
Hen attempted chest compressions on the guy, who had a stroke—because he was also on steroids, go figure!—but his skin was so damaged that her hands slid through and into his chest. (I am not going to GIF that, don’t worry.) Yeah, he died.
So what, exactly, did this man do to deserve death by barbecue? Time for another flashback!
The day prior, the man brought his little dog, Mindy, to the gym, and was going to leave her in the car while he worked the full day. As one subordinate rightly pointed out, leaving a dog inside a car in that temperature could kill it. “She’s fine,” he said nonchalantly. “I cracked a window.” At this point, this guy was at full villain status. Thankfully, the worried employee used a gym weight to break open a window and let the dog out safely. But fitness-trainer guy was so angry about his busted window (and not one bit thankful that his dog was saved from being roasted in a Dodge Ram) that the employee was unjustly fired.
How did Hen feel about this one, you ask?
No, please do.
Shrapnel gunshot and tanning to death are pretty intense ways to go—there’s no way 9-1-1 could take this to another level, right?
A dude taunting a tiger at a zoo? Well, that is bad, but at least the tiger was behind an enclosure.
Definitely hit up this tiger if you’re trying to pull off a heist.
Things looked pretty bad for the pine cone–thrower, but is throwing a pine cone at a tiger really a good enough reason to justify getting eaten alive? Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: WE GOT ANOTHER FLASHBACK.
You see, this man was a dentist … who liked to hunt animals … and he was thrown into the national spotlight when he killed a lion in Africa, despite that lion being inside a protected reserve. 9-1-1 was really banking on everyone remembering Cecil the lion, and the garbage human–dentist Walter Palmer who shot the lion and tracked him for nearly 48 hours. (In a depressing bit of timing, an excerpt from an upcoming book on Cecil was just released that posits that Cecil suffered “incredible cruelty” for 10 hours after Palmer initially shot him, as if you didn’t the hate the man enough already.) 9-1-1 made it plainly clear in the flashback how you should feel about this dentist stand-in.
So back in the present day, when he believed he’d outsmarted the tiger by hiding inside another enclosure, the result was inevitable. Bon appetit, big guy.
Remind me, Hen: What is karma?
I love 9-1-1 with all my heart. And now, some weekly awards:
Best Police Nickname: The Porch Pirate. In another karmic scenario from this episode that was way more chill than shrapnel gunshot, death by tanning, or tiger feasting, a woman broke her femur when she tried to steal a package.
When Athena (Angela Bassett) arrived on the scene, she was thrilled to have finally apprehended the “Porch Pirate,” who’d been on the police watch list for some time.
We simply can’t gloss over the fact her name in police circles was “Porch Pirate.” Can you imagine how those precinct conversations went?
“Goddammit, another Instant Pot was stolen in Van Nuys. That’s four Amazon orders in a week now! Who could be doing this?!
[Strange man no one’s ever seen emerges from the shadows]
“You heard of the Porch Pirate?”
Anyway, now that the Porch Pirate has been caught, she’ll be spending some time … in the brig. (I’m not sorry.)
Most on-the-Nose Song Usage: “Instant Karma!” by John Lennon, which scored the scene featuring the legendary Porch Pirate.
Strangest 9-1-1 Shipping (by Me and Only Me): Chimney (Kenneth Choi) and Bobby (Peter Krause). Hear me out for a second: Both of these men have been through some shit. Chimney had a metal spike lodged in his head back in Episode 3—he impressed once again this week that the rebar hit him at “just the right angle,” which, sure—and that obviously affected him. Bobby lost his family years ago in a fire he inadvertently started, back when he was an alcoholic. They both need some companionship, and I think they could find it in each other.
Just look at the way these two embrace, after Chimney shows Bobby how he saved an infant’s life after donating blood.
I’m calling it now: Chimney and Bobby are the next will-they-won’t-they 9-1-1 couple that’ll drive fans wild.
Best Angela Bassett Live-Tweet:
OOH LORD! Thank you for making me Black! I won't EVAH need a tanning booth!! #911onFox— Angela Bassett (@ImAngelaBassett) March 8, 2018
Come back next week as an elevator mishap puts two people in mortal danger.