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Shameless Recap: The Devil You Don’t Know

Surprise one, hinted at last week: Steve’s real name is Jimmy, and he's a rich boy from Lake Forest. Surprise two: Here’s mom! Surprise three, the most naked surprise: Kash finds Ian inside the store room, and inside Mickey. But of all the unpleasant developments that pile upon the Gallaghers and their friends this week, none is sadder, more true, or disturbing as when Lip announces, with dismay, that of their two parents “Dad is the good one.”

The show has jumped queasily between comedy and desperation since the beginning, but swings very much toward the latter by the end of this episode. Steve is revealed to be a dishonest sort, which, to be fair, Fiona might have figured out sooner if she didn’t find his car thievery so charmingly rogueish. (Clearly, she’s never come back to a parking space to find her ride gone.) She senses something’s wrong as he starts spending less time with her (his doctor dad is in the hospital and he’s “home from college” as far as his wealthy suburban family is concerned.) As he pulls away, she clings, even hinting at a vacation. He’s finally gotten her to trust him.

But he hasn't convinced Debbie, who follows Steve to his home, where a boozy, blousy mom (played deliciously by the too-long-absent-from-television Julia Duffy) welcomes her. At the front door, Debbie asks the woman, “Are you screwing with my sister’s boyfriend?" “Steve’s” mom replies: “If you’re selling cookies that’s a hell of an opening line.” Once inside the house, Debbie is introduced to "Steve" as Jimmy, and his look of frozen, crumbled shock upon being busted is priceless. They walk in the snow, and he tells her that he loves Fiona and he’s bought her the house next door to the Gallaghers'. Debbie, ever the pragmatist, agrees to keep silent for now, and it’s sad how little she demands in return: a pretty pink vest and cooking utensils, for lessons with Sheila. Steve ponies up the graft, but that doesn't keep Debbie from spilling the beans about the house Steve bought (though not his secret identity), while reeling from having encountered her mom.

But, lying like a rug isn’t actually the worse thing Steve does all week. When Lip asks him for a loan, he has him join in on one of the car thefts instead, warning Lip that Fiona would kill them both if she knew. Now, that’s prescient.

After finding out that Monica is back on the scene, Ian goes to Mickey for comfort. (Interesting choice.) The two end up banging at the convenience store, where they're discovered by Kash, who has successfully impregnated Lisa. Kash looks shocked, saddened, and horrified to find them together. After running out, Mickey comes back to lord the relationship over Kash, stealing and snapping a candy bar in his mouth triumphantly. Kash shoots him in the leg.

Meanwhile, Frank is hustling to get money again. He and wife Monica, the kids' mother, had apparently filed a lawsuit some time ago, and they've finally won it, but they have to show up at court together to collect the money. He has Sheila call Monica — whose number he's had, unbeknownst to his children, this whole time — pretending she’s won some prize and a big teddy bear (it turns out the woman who has little affection for her kids is a nut for teddy bears) and must go to a store to retrieve it. Monica shows up at the supermarket in a giant truck, with a giant female lover, Roberta, and seems, if anything, more screwed up than her husband. Frank tries to get away without being seen, but ends up getting in a car chase instead. Monica and Roberta show up at Sheila's house, where Frank and Monica get into it. They have a palpable, insane chemistry and many of the same personality traits — they fight endlessly about who is the bigger victim. Monica finally goes over to "Fiona's" house, and it doesn't go well. Monica says she’s taking Liam, explaining, without irony, that she and her girlfriend “want to start a family.”

Fiona snaps, laying into Monica, heartbreakingly, "You don’t get to abandon your kids and then come back to take your pick of the litter," before screaming, proudly, about all the Gallaghers' accomplishments, which Fiona, not Monica, is responsible for: "You know what, I did a fucking great job." But even this speech can't stem the tide: Monica apologizes to Karl and Debbie, who accept it, and give her a hug. Fiona can't abide this. She slams the keys on the table, says she's done, and walks out. Debbie and Karl push their mom away, but it's too late. As Debbie said early in the episode, Fiona takes care of everyone, but who takes care of Fiona? Fiona ends the episode walking in the snow, where Steve, who loves her, but is a liar, finds her and comforts her. "Show me the house," she says. This isn't going to end well.

Photo: Showtime