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Shameless Recap: The Great Cornholio

It’s a grand old-fashioned Irish wake at the Gallagher home, complete with prayers, veils, weeping, and heartfelt toasts to the fond memory of patriarch Frank Gallagher, who has faked his death to get out of some trouble. In the spirit of this festive occasion, it's largely a happy, lighthearted episode, perhaps the funniest installment of the freshman show yet, full of interesting developments in Ian and Sheila’s lives. For this bunch, "lighthearted" means grand larceny, identity theft, hobo battles, and a faked death. But, after last week’s foray into the psychotic little mind of Carl, we’ll take our joy when we can get it.

We begin, as we almost always do on Shameless, in the toilet. Frank’s head, specifically, is in one, as the two thugs to whom he owes money impress upon him the seriousness of his debt. Frank sets off on a series of increasingly wacky moneymaking schemes that involve berating a Hasidic pawn shop owner (“Mel Gibson was right!”), snatching a blind man’s cup (his cologne gives him away), the attempted stick-up of a neighborhood old lady (she sees right through his pantyhose mask), and a star turn in a hobo-fight video. Too bad he can’t get a cash advance on his credit cards. It turns out, Fiona finds, he has several in the names of his children and has been wracking up debt galore. (It’s the fault of liberals, Frank insists: “Someone named Paco is jumping over the fence and taking my job!”) So, he seizes upon the idea of faking his own death. And because he’s Frank Gallagher, whose superpower is successfully avoiding responsibility, he pulls it off.

He has a little help from the family and the unwitting aid of a trucker who foolishly asks the boys to watch his refrigerated slaughterhouse truck while he goes to look for a phone. One handy crowbar later, the neighborhood is hauling out sides of beef in assembly-line fashion. (The offal will come in handy later to weigh down Frank’s fake coffin.) Indeed, everyone pulls together: Lip and Kevin continue their malfeasance by stealing a hearse and coffin for the stunt, while V shops thoughtfully for the horse tranquilizers that will put Frank out.

Fiona’s mind, and body, however, are elsewhere, floating naked in a hotel pool with Steve. He’s finally talked her into taking a night away (and paid off the kids to agree to it) and arranges for the honeymoon suite, through crooked means. He pulls it off with the help of Kev, who advises him to decide for her and “stop asking her to lunch — she’s a 'hood' girl.” Little happens with them, except, of course, Steve says “I love you” — which stumps Fiona to no end.

To convince Fiona to take the night off, Steve has parked little Liam with Sheila, and we see a tender, even adorable side of the blousy fruitcake. Anxious to please and entertain the baby, she fingerpaints, plops him on a hobbyhorse, and even gets up the courage to take off her oven mitts and stroke his sweet, pudgy cheeks. Offering him a choice of toys — baby doll or Barbie — she coos, “Which one do you like better: The baby or the whore?”

Then, in a scene that could be ridiculous but ultimately works, Liam wanders out into the yard to Sheila’s mounting terror. Agoraphobic Sheila, paralyzed with fear, ties bedsheets to herself and her balustrade, heads out the front door, and snatches the baby up to safety. Joan Cusack’s performance is heartfelt enough to turn this into a surprisingly moving moment. It’s a turning point for her. We next see Sheila throwing out her birth-control pills. Could it be lucky number seven for Frank?

But Ian’s the star of this week’s show, as Linda finally discovers his affair with Kash. She’s installed cameras to foil shoplifting and, though the boys think they have found the "Bermuda Triangle" with no video coverage, their lovemaking jostles the cameras. The following day, Linda brings Kash over to check the footage. “I should probably turn it off, but then I’d miss the part where you take it up the ass from a teenage boy. There it is, Billy Elliot cornholing the father of my children,” she says, flatly. Kash, coward to the last, immediately asks whether she’s going to tell his parents. She perceptively points out that he might spend a split-second worrying about how she feels. She then proposes a deal: Kash can continue his affair if he gives her another baby — though, she advises Ian, “You could do better.”

We don’t know if it’s any better, but he is doing Mickey. He goes to confront the teen thug about stealing from the convenience store and taking Kash's hand gun, but a tussle ends with them in bed. Mickey’s (and Mandy’s) father walks through the bedroom and spots them, naked under the sheets. “Put some clothes on,” he barks. “You look like a couple of fags.”

The episode ends back in the bar, with the Alibi’s patrons drinking to the resurrected Frank’s health. We still can’t figure out why the neighborhood loves him, but they do.

Photo: Showtime