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Honestly, a Natural Disaster Was the Next Logical Step: ‘9-1-1’ Watch, Week 1

The most gloriously absurd show on TV came back with a two-night premiere that included live grenades, a man puncturing himself in the butt with an air nozzle, and a gigantic city-wide earthquake

Illustration of a tour bus crashing into a house Ringer illustration

Television has been irrelevant since the end of March. Sharp Objects? Pretty sure that was Chris Messina Body Sweat propaganda laid atop a murder mystery. Better Call Saul? We know how that story ends. Insecure? It was dumb to bring back Lawrence. The final season of The Americans? Wait, you watched it? Are you a TV critic?

Yes, television lost its charm March 21: the day a massive void appeared in the location where my heart used to be, an ailment that only emergency responders in the greater metropolitan area of Los Angeles could remedy. That’s when Fox’s emergency-responder procedural, 9-1-1, had the gall to end its absolutely wild first season. In the finale, a dude got sliced in half riding a motorcycle he purchased in the midst of a midlife crisis, the bloated corpse of an online catfisher had goo spew out of him, and another person was nearly carved alive on an operating table. It was a standard episode of 9-1-1.

While the Emmy-winning American Crime Story is probably super-producer Ryan Murphy’s golden child, 9-1-1 is the rambunctious second cousin who sets off fireworks in the house and gets babies stuck in pipes. Sunday night, while most of America was enraptured by Carrie Underwood informing them that they had waited all day to watch the New England Patriots be bad at football, 9-1-1 aired the first half of its literally explosive second-season premiere. Television is relevant again, and our recurring blog 9-1-1 Watch is back. Here is our breakdown of 9-1-1: The Return, the Reckoning, the Groundshaker: Part One.

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

There were a couple of crucial casting changes that happened in between seasons. Connie Britton’s Abby—an emergency dispatcher who the show constantly heckled for being single, despite being a good person who didn’t deserve that kind of flak—is gone, apparently taking an Eat, Pray, Love–style trip across Europe in remembrance of her mother. Britton isn’t coming back this season—but like Hotel California, you never leave the Murphy-verse, and she’s now in the new season of American Horror Story.

With Britton out of the picture for now, we’ve got two new characters: There’s Maddie, played by Jennifer Love Hewitt, who is sex-addict firefighter Buck’s sister. (More on her later.) The other new edition is Eddie, a former army medic nicknamed “Eight-Pack,” whose entire ethos is apparently making Buck insecure on the job. It’s working.

Buck standing shirtless All screen shots via Fox

As for the emergencies themselves, this was a surprisingly tepid start to 9-1-1’s two-part premiere, with very little action to make way for character develop—oh, who am I kidding? In the first 10 minutes, a mechanic slipped and punctured himself in the butt with an air nozzle and then proceeded to inflate his body.

GIF of a man being inflated by an air nozzle

The mechanic’s body—and where the firefighters are going to, uh, air him out—is the first source of tension between Buck and newcomer Eddie. Eddie’s suggestion won out and saved the mechanic’s life. Naturally, life-threatening inflation was played for laughs.

Emergency responders surrounding the mechanic with the caption “(passing gas)”

Apparently, if you’re ever injected with a ton of air and miraculously saved by firefighters (don’t try this), you will have uncontrollable flatulence. “Pressure’s gotta go somewhere,” said firefighter Chimney (Kenneth Choi), also known as the Guy Who Had a Spike In His Head and Survived. Great contribution, Chimney, thank you.

This wasn’t the only absurd emergency that put Buck and Eddie at odds. A weapons collector—a very bad hobby to have in the 9-1-1 universe, and also probably in real life—was cleaning a grenade from a grenade launcher and the thing exploded on his leg (shocker!). Eddie and Buck escorted him to the hospital via ambulance when Eddie had a starling realization: The grenade was still live inside the man’s leg. Imagine if they hit a speed bump.

X-ray of a leg showing a live grenade inside

Buck volunteered to help Eddie take out the live grenade, which was ridiculous. Buck was willing to risk his life, putting it in the hands of another firefighter he just met, all because he was threatened by Eddie’s abs. That is some Galaxy Brain logic: I’ll be in there with him, so if this thing explodes and kills both of us, everyone will know that he was way too confident on the job and his eight-pack was overrated. They end up safe. Thank god they got out in time.

GIF of emergency responders watching an ambulance explode

Was this all just an excuse to blow up an ambulance? Yes? I don’t see the problem. Moving on.

For 9-1-1’s next trick, it satirized YouTube prank culture. Let’s call the prankster living in a really nice mansion Not Jake Paul, and let’s call his friend who agreed to stick his head in a microwave oven filled with cement with a breathing tube for clicks [checks notes] an absolute fucking moron.

GIF of two men shoving a third’s head into a microwave full of concrete

The whole process of saving Microwave Face Man is a lot more entertaining to parse in the form of GIFs, so, enjoy.

GIF of emergency responders rushing over to the man with the microwave on his head
GIF of the man jumping into the pool with the microwave on his head
GIF of medics breaking up the concrete inside the microwave
GIF of two YouTube personalities filming the emergency response

And now, some episodic awards.

Best Emergency in the Opening Montage: To kick off the season, 9-1-1 delivered an all-time great montage. Emphasizing that Los Angeles was in the middle of a sweltering summer and everything and everyone was teeming with pressure—the premiere episode was called “Under Pressure” just to harp on that—we got the following: a sewer explosion that ripped a worker’s arm off, which then fell into a pool; a groom running away from his bride, who reported the wedding car stolen and got both of them arrested; also, some pressure cookers going off and spewing hot oil on people in a restaurant.

But the best part of this chaotic montage is the tour bus driver with road rage who crashed himself and a bunch of tourists into a fancy house.

GIF zooming in on a bus that crashed into an enormous white house

TMZ bus tours have gone too far.

Best Firefighter Calendar Photo: The best subplot in the premiere was the L.A. Fire Department’s annual submissions for a sexy firefighter calendar—the catch being that only one firefighter per station could be selected. While this was obviously a ploy to create even more hostility between Buck and Eddie, the best firefighter calendar photo belongs to Chimney.

Chimney shirtless and holding a dog in front of a fire truck

First of all, love the farmer’s tan. Second, his body seems toned. Third, and most importantly: That is a very good dog. Fourth … why is Chimney resting his right arm on the dog’s butt, and is the dog uncomfortable with this?

A closeup of the dog’s face

The answer is yes.

Worst Character Introduction: As I wrote before, the big new star coming to the show is Jennifer Love Hewitt as Maddie, who, by the end of the episode, was about to start her job as an emergency responder. As if 9-1-1 couldn’t make it any more clear that she’s a straight-up Connie Britton replacement, she’s taken the character’s old job. This is mostly an excuse to continue to have someone in the control room who can drop bewildered expressions when people call with ridiculous emergencies.

But for some reason, our first glance at Maddie came when she let herself into Buck’s apartment to take a shower. Buck assumed it was Abby returning early from Europe, and so he tried to jump in the shower with her for some [Borat voice] sexy time.

GIF of Buck accidentally getting in the shower wisth his sister Maddie

Just to repeat: THESE TWO ARE SIBLINGS. Why did you do this, 9-1-1?! It was weird—even more so because we all know Buck is a recovering sex addict.

Most Meta Moment: Keeping with where we left off at the end of last season, firefighter Bobby (Peter Krause) and policewoman Athena (Angela Bassett, the queen of Wakanda) are now in a relationship. Good for them! Even better, it appears that Athena has attained her own actress’s penchant for live-tweeting while watching television. (Angela Bassett was an elite live-tweeter during 9-1-1’s first season.)

Bobby and Athena in  bed together, with Athena saying, “Ooh, I got to tweet that”

Weirdly enough, Bassett did not tweet at all during the Season 2 premiere. Please, Angela, come back!

9-1-1 Premiere, Part 2: The Groundshaker

Ryan Murphy’s Fox series knows only one gear, and that gear is, “Uh oh, the clutch is stuck in sixth gear, I can’t stop moving, and oh dear God I’m driving straight off a cliff!” The second half of the season premiere, “7.1,” upped the ante and dealt with a crisis that was terrifying even by 9-1-1’s absurd standards: Los Angeles was besieged by a giant earthquake.

9-1-1 hasn’t had an emergency of this scale since a plane crashed into the ocean while a couple was trying to enter the Mile High Club (what timing!) in Season 1. There’s of course a lot to get to, so without further ado, here is the breakdown of 9-1-1: The Return, the Reckoning, the Groundshaker: Part Deux.

The Wildest Shit That Happened on 9-1-1 This Week, Part 2

While the first half of the premiere ended with the start of the earthquake, “7.1” dials it back a little bit to introduce us to a new cast of characters staying at a fancy hotel (that will clearly get wrecked by said earthquake). This is an overt ploy to get us emotionally invested in the people who are about to need a rescue, and it’s as though 9-1-1 had a Firefighter Rescue Victim Checklist it needed to go over to make sure every archetype was accounted for.

No, really. We have: a family visiting L.A. for the first time, whose cute young daughter runs off to the bathroom right when the earthquake hits; a high school basketball prospect and his inspirational coach; a snobby older woman complaining about the hotel’s service who has a “gluten-intolerant” (?) dog; and [does a double-take, literally falls out of chair], a pseudo Harvey Weinstein?!

Oh dear. I watch 9-1-1 for myriad reasons: it’s genuinely unpredictable, the emergencies themselves are ridiculous, these recaps are required as part of my job. And for a show that’s taken the mantle from CBS’s Zoo as network TV’s most preposterous series, it’s done an admirable job of reveling in pure, emergency-related chaos. What 9-1-1 lacks, however, is any modicum of nuance; it’s not exactly the show you’d trust to provide any insightful commentary on one of the most serious prevailing issues in current culture.

After all, instead of spending any time breaking down the situation, 9-1-1 sent this robed asshole flying across his hotel room before he made any more unwanted advances on his employee. (I guess a metanarrative in which Weinstein is brutally punished for his crimes is fine; still, I would’ve preferred if 9-1-1 hadn’t wasted its breath on him.)

Anyway, it appears this hotel … isn’t up to code.

However, before dealing with that whole situation, 9-1-1 took a brief detour to show us a parkour kid with pink hair stealing a Dodge Challenger and running away from the police for some reason.

Whatever floats your boat, 9-1-1! Parkour Kid—just gonna call him that—was then arrested by policewoman Athena, who was actually in her police car on the highway when the earthquake went down, which was the last thing we saw in the first half of the premiere.

Now, you might be thinking, “Why does it matter that a parkour kid with a penchant for stealing cars is sitting in the back seat of a squad car in the middle of a 7.1 magnitude earthquake?” To be fair, in most cases, it shouldn’t. But 9-1-1 exists in an alternate plane of reality where every character trait is essential to life or death in Los Angeles. In this case, when a civilian’s car was on fire after the earthquake and about to explode with him in it, Athena set the Parkour Kid free so he could make his way to a cement mixer, hotwire it, and pour cement over the flames before it was too late.

“I feel like the Dark Knight,” Parkour Kid says. Um, why? Does he think the Batmobile was a cement mixer?

Meanwhile, back at the hotel, our firefighter heroes were on hand surveying the damage and trying to rescue some of the survivors trapped in debris. One of them happened to be the high school basketball prospect, whose leg was stuck under some rubble. He feared for his playing career; the coach reminded him that Paul George and Gordon Hayward overcame gruesome injuries to their legs as well. I mean, true, but it’s still ridiculous that the first thought this kid had after a near-death experience was, “Oh no, but what about Duke?!” My guy, you just survived an earthquake!

The kid took it a step further when presented with these scenarios by Bobby: They could either ensure he made it out of the building by chopping off part of his leg, or they could lift some of the rubble—which was, unfortunately and unbelievably coincidentally, holding an entire section of the building together—but that could go very wrong and he could get crushed to death. Not Zion Williamson chose the latter, betting he’d survive and live to ball another day. Perhaps this is something I need to poll people on, but I feel like losing part of your leg to totally guarantee survival seems like the more logical choice than just straight-up risking your life. Personally, I’m going with the sanctity of life over hoop dreams every day.

However, because this is 9-1-1, Not Zion Williamson—going with this name, too—got to have his cake (leg) and eat it too (keep it attached to his body).

Congratulations. Tell Coach K I said what’s up.

Now, once it became obvious that this was one of those extremely rare Karma Earthquakes, it was clear only one person would meet a calamitous end in this episode.

Great job, everyone. Let’s move on to some Part 2 episodic awards.

Lamest Motivational Slogan: This has to go to the coach, whose motto is, “Heart of a champion!” No offense, coach, but that is the most generic slogan imaginable.

(Also why is he laughing so much? And why does the coach look like if a Monstar stole Steve Kerr’s talent?)

Worst Hotel Guest: Disregarding Fake Harvey Weinstein, this has to go to the lady with the tiny little dog who berated the hotel staff.

A Maltese cannot be an emotional support dog—that is my take and it is final.

Best Non–Angela Bassett Live-Tweet: Unfortunately, elite live-tweeter Angela Bassett still hasn’t tweeted about the new season of 9-1-1. Her only Twitter activity between the show’s two-part premiere was retweeting the new Bumblebee trailer, which seemed strange. Then I learned that she’s voicing a Decepticon that transforms into a fighter jet in the new movie. I’m actually pretty excited about the new Transformers film, since it’s going to be implementing the retro G1 designs from the ’80s and—oh right, sorry, back to 9-1-1 tweets.

The rest of the cast is stepping up their tweeting game in Bassett’s stead—the best cast live-tweet this week belonged to Oliver Stark, a.k.a. Buck the sex-addict firefighter.

Boldest Season 2 Prediction: Though they were at odds in the first part of the premiere, newcomer Eddie and Buck are beginning to spark a bit of a bromance on the job, one born out of mutual respect. So let me throw out a bold prediction: By season’s end, Eddie is gonna start dating Buck’s sister, Maddie, played by the great Jennifer Love Hewitt.

Why else would we find out that Eddie has an adorable kid, but is also single? Not to mention, Maddie is in L.A. because she fled an abusive relationship. The stars are aligning for these two very sweet, very attractive people to meet and fall in love. The prevailing issue is going to be whether Buck is still cool with Eddie if he starts hooking up with his sister. Regardless, I’m absolutely convinced this is going to happen.

Come back next week to find out if Hen will survive getting trapped under hotel rubble caused by an aftershock. Frankly, I’m not too worried—if Chimney was able to survive a metal spike in his head last season, Hen’s odds are probably pretty good.