Well, it’s one week after “Forgiven,” and while some noticeable change is afoot — Katie has curled hair now, Father Phil is (sniffle!) gone — things on Rescue Me have settled into a pre-end-of-season holding pattern. Janet and Tommy are reunited, which should feel like a big deal, but we knew it would only be a matter of time — just one episode, as it turns out — before Tommy found a way to possibly royally screw things up. The firehouse is back, after minimal tsuris on the guys’ part, which also felt far less monumental than we’d hoped. And despite her choice of backless dinnertime wardrobe, Colleen’s tamer than we’ve seen her in at least a season or two.
All of which isn’t to say that this week’s installment wasn’t worthwhile — in fact, we found interest in unexpected places. The Feinberg-Needles scenes all hit a nerve; finally, Jerry Adler has something to do besides parade around looking officious and grumpy! It’s oddly touching and sad to see his façade fall apart when Needles executes a spectacular, utterly decorum-free takedown in the FDNY offices: This is an old man with an old-fashioned sense of respect and how business is conducted, forced to see that a new guard — brasher, if more efficient — is bound to replace him. His attack on Damian is especially disturbing, as we see him clinging to the idea of a pile of medals taller than the probie. Feinberg’s on the way out, and he knows it — maybe the demise of the firehouse just reassured him he wouldn’t be gone first.
The episode’s other great story line also plays off the idea of what is remembered of a firefighter when he’s gone, as Mikey and Garrity, in another well-meaning but poorly executed attempt to give cancer patient, Pat, some sense of pride, take him on a tour of his saves. The tour starts promisingly enough with a kindly diner manager, but soon takes a turn for the worse, as Pat discovers he’s saved a murderer and failed to save a bitter old man’s wife. Ever the wise sick man, Pat utters what might as well be the episode’s theme — “You don’t get to choose who you save” — right before, possibly, dying.
It’s a lesson that’s literally applicable to the firefighters, especially Damian, whose adorable incredulity at having saved a baby this week reminds us that not all saves, of course, are cute, living babies. But it also makes us consider the never-ending, tangled web of Janet, Tommy, Sheila, and Mickey — a quartet of attempted savers and savees if ever we saw any. Everyone’s strove so long to get Tommy sober, and now that he apparently is, everyone’s dealing with the consequences: Mickey, who finds Sheila in flagrante with his virile-as-ever cousin; Sheila, who’s drawn in yet again by the Tommy Gavin quasi-rape seduction technique; and of course Janet, whose beginning-of-episode “don’t ever hurt me again or else” speech just feels tired. Yes, they all very much chose whom they wanted to save — and now look at the results! And Tommy, well, ever the cowboy of this episode’s title, just doesn’t seem content to live a happy, drama-free life.
Intermittently, we of course get the usual Rescue Me moments of random and uneven hilarity: Damian’s revealed virginity, and the, er, mechanical errors that follow; the rediscovery of the firehouse porn collection; an excellent Monty Python reference on Lou’s part. But hidden beneath the laughs, we see Lou tiring out, eating and sleeping more. Two more episodes to the season, and we fear bad things are in our immediate future.