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''Rescue Me'': Back to work

On ”Rescue Me,” Tommy, Janet, and Sheila continue to fight over little Elvis/Wyatt, while Janet finally gets a job

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Rescue Me

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season

”Rescue Me”: Back to work

Food, fire, and sex — that’s Tommy Gavin’s credo. Or so he declared, shirtless, before a mealtime assembly of the firehouse regulars. Of course, weightier concerns lurk beneath his surface bravado, and bubble under in episodes like last night’s overstuffed yet seemingly insubstantial installment of Rescue Me. ”High” may have skirted the black existential depths and jarring shocks of prior episodes, but family ties, the lure of the bottle, and spiritual yearnings unfurled surprising twists and dark undercurrents between the wisecracks.

Chief among the twists: sudden turns in the parental tug-of-war between Tommy and Janet. Janet, who had morphed from numb depressive to angry shrew bent on tit-for-tat retribution, unveiled a sleek new iteration: power-suited real estate agent. This did not come as a complete surprise; after all, she had talked about getting a job back in the season opener. (Plus, her hunky boss/boyfriend, to my eye, bore a resemblance to her ex Roger from season 1.) Rather more surprisingly, she coolly turned down Tommy’s proffered cash. After Janet had receded into one-dimensionality for much of the season, her about-face came as a startling but welcome touch. Another welcome surprise: Colleen finally taking responsibility for someone besides herself — although, true to form, she also accepted a bribe, in the form of a replacement for her boyfriend’s rattletrap vehicle.

All too predictably, the Gavin family battle for sobriety descended into chaos. Mick’s family AA meeting, it must be said, lacked the fizzy comic punch of last week’s double intervention, but it offered one bright moment: Garrity’s tongue-tied invocation of the Almighty as a ”pink…cloud.” Fuzzy theology aside, the therapy session nicely set up a family battle between agnostics (Teddy) and believers (when did Maggie get religion?). It also pricked Tommy’s Catholic conscience, prompting him to pass up a brief interlude with Gina Gershon for a heart-to-heart with Charles Durning’s Dad and a trip to the confessional (sort of). All of which makes one wonder whether Tommy’s anti-Church rant a few episodes back was a reflection of the character’s inner struggles, self-loathing, or an audience-tweaking gesture comparable to this week’s anti-ethnic-correctness tirade. And who would turn down an invitation from Gina Gershon (notwithstanding understandable fear of a wrathful chief)?

In a less spiritual frame of mind, both Lou and Franco found themselves plotting vengeance — Lou by derailing corpulent cousin Mike’s dalliance with an equally full-bodied waitress, and Franco by enlisting Richard to spy on Natalie. Yet another welcome development: the return of Artie Lange and Cornell Womack, quirky performers both, which promises to spritz up a pair of subplots that had mostly run out of steam. And speaking of running out of steam…what’s with Mike finally getting lucky with a sizzling blonde, only to meet her mother? Show the man some love!

What did you think of last night’s episode? Did you find it a series of setups waiting for a payoff? Or do you consider it a light comic interstitial episode setting us up for the inevitable dramatic season finale? And what about Tommy’s reawakened fear of heights? Will it be a gimmick as fleeting as his impotence issues, or does it portend deeper anxieties to come?