We’d figured an episode called “Sheila” would deliver a barrel of laughs in the tiny, screeching form of Callie Thorne, but it’s remarkable mostly for how quiet it is, as characters find clarity, and often in strange places.
Sheila’s psychodramaturgy seems, all of a sudden, to have worked wonders: Tantrum in a restaurant notwithstanding, she stands up to Damien’s sullen nonchalance about becoming a firefighter (marking the first time we’ve seen her act like a responsible mother in quite some time) and ends the episode with a movingly calm monologue about just what happened to both Tommy and her when Jimmy died. Elsewhere, Garrity discovers he has renal cancer; Franco picks up ladies at a conspiracy-theorist protest; Colleen and Shawn break their chastity plan; and Tommy faces up to a whole new batch of sins, thanks to Michael J. Fox, who continues to steal every scene he’s in (though IMBb leads us to fear this is the last time we’ll see him).
Tommy’s habit of glaring down at Janet’s volatile, wheelchair-bound boyfriend bites him in the ass — or rather, in the arm — as Dwight finally flips, cleverly guilting Tommy into a manic joyride to a bar. After discoursing at length on his erectile talents, Dwight thoroughly (and quite accurately) psychoanalyzes Tommy while slighting his sexual prowess (love how he manages to make the word “walker” sound insulting), sobriety, and, well, habit of breaking into Janet’s house, before nearly beating him to a pulp in a frightening arm wrestle. You know what they say about payback …
Lest we feel too proud of Tommy for sitting with a drink without actually drinking it (the Mick School of Sobriety!), apparently there isn’t a pill bottle the man doesn’t like. While Dwight’s away from the table, Tommy switches the uppers and downers (maybe that’s in Dwight’s best interest, but still), appearing to take a few for himself. After Dwight’s tearjerker story about his accident, it’s a low blow.
It’s clear now that Jimmy’s appearance in the 9/11 video is real — Kenny, Genevieve, and Sheila all see him. For the first time, Tommy’s losing exclusive claim over visions of his dead cousin, something that we’ve long known both haunted him and, in a twisted way, pleased him. Watching Sheila calmly call him out in the firehouse for keeping the video to himself feels pleasingly cathartic.