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Shameless Recap: Commitment Issue

In its own way, the dark, sharp Shameless has as romantic a view of big families as any episode of The Brady Bunch, The Waltons, or the early seasons of Jon and Kate Plus 8. The theory being that whatever shit the world piles on, even the shit they pile on each other, they are always, and forever, stuck with one another.

This fierce familial gestalt really kicks into high gear when Lip and Ian get pulled off to jail. Though they may charge him as an adult, Lip tries to take the rap for the theft, worried what will happen to Ian in jail, but is unwilling to rat out Steve. Fiona and Debbie wait, all night, in the police station, and Emmy Rossum spends much of it awake, vigilant, as if she can keep them safe by force of will. Meanwhile, Steve is dodging Fiona's phone calls but is desperate to do something. By the time he heads into the station to check up on the boys, though — his body language like someone sitting next to a loud cougar on an airplane — Tony's already come, creepily, to the rescue. He gets the Gallagher brothers out of jail with an expensive bribe — Bears season tickets to the detective in charge of the case. When they are released, Fiona is simultaneously relieved and furious, but mostly relieved. Steve, unaware that the brothers are out, flags down Tony and makes him a deal: He'll give him the house next to Fiona's if he gets Ian and Lip off. Tony takes the deal, in what seems like a dumb move: Fiona is now going to think it was Steve who convinced Tony to get her brothers off, not Tony acting of his own volition. Tony's too enamored with the idea of being close to Fiona to consider the long play.

Back at home, Ian confesses that he’s gay to Fiona. “I know,” she replies. "I should have told you," he says. Sweetly, to show him everything is okay, she tells him, "You're still on my shit list" before walking out of the room. Debbie tries to come clean with Fiona about Steve's true identity. Fiona tells Debbie not to worry about it; she already knows. It seems clear Fiona thinks Debbie's talking about Steve giving a stolen car to her brothers, not his alternate identity, but Debbie lets Fiona sooth her and doesn't push it. Though Debbie does tell Steve's mother, in the Chicago suburbs, exactly what's going on.

Lip races to Karen’s house as soon as he’s released, and he’s soon on her like a man who’s been in prison for months, not hours. “I love you,” he tells her while doing the deed (and not noticing she's crying). When it's over, she breaks up with him. He realizes his mistake and promises “I don’t love you, I don’t love you," but Karen's not buying it.

Meanwhile, Frank, having slept with Karen at the end of last week's episode, has finally gone too far, and he knows it. While he rails about teenage sexuality and “the underage temptation of Hannah Montana!” at the bar, he asks Karen for silence: “A man has to be able to look his son in the eye.” Who knew he cared what Lip thought? Karen isn't soothed by Frank, and she e-mails the video of them having sex to her dad Eddie, who tries to kill Frank for much of the episode before giving up and killing himself, by cutting a hole in the ice of his fishing house, and jumping in, a cinderblock tied to his feet.

Unfortunately, the video is out there, and Eddie's co-workers have seen it. One of them runs into Lip, who has just confessed to his brother he was falling in love with Karen, and crudely spills the info. Lip finds Karen and screams just one word at her — “Frank?!” — before going after his father in a car, and viciously beating him up with a fury that’s been building all season, not to mention his whole life. Lip and Karen work it out, sort of sweetly. And then Frank comes begging for Lip's forgiveness, too. He stands in the front yard, pleading with Lip, who pees on him for his trouble. Frank decides this is what he deserves and stands under the golden shower.

Steve, on the run, begs Fiona to come with him to Costa Rica, sketching out a sad view of her life if she doesn’t, taking care of Liam well into her thirties. (Has he been paying attention? Does he know what the woman he’s in love with is about? He can’t ask her to go just for the weekend?) Lip gives her leave to go. Later, Fiona confesses to V, tearfully, that she thinks she's in love with Steve, the scariest thing in the world for someone who has as many trust issues as Fiona. She packs a big red bag. For a while, it looks like she is going to go with Steve. (In the British version of the show, she does.) But we watch as she lets train after train to the airport go by. Steve gets on the plane, probably not to reappear until Fiona has moved on and thinks she’s gotten over him. (The show’s been renewed for a second season.) Fiona leaves the El station and goes to Jasmine's office, who’s been hanging around the whole episode with a smiley blonde hunger that’s sinister, where she's hired her for a job. It's not quite a cliffhanger, but there's got to be more to Jasmine than meets the eye.

Photo: Showtime