”Rescue Me”: Unhappy endings
”Dayton, Ohio — 1903,” Randy Newman’s ironically wistful paean to a vanished time, is an odd musical choice for the quietly shattering opener of this tightly packed episode, but it fits. (As usual, a special mention is due music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas for another quirky yet inspired song selection.) As so often happens in this series, the slow, dreamlike montage of images — Needles finding Chief Reilly, Franco stopping Richard at Mike’s mother’s wake, Mike kissing the coffin, the medic writing down Reilly’s cause of death as ”coronary failure” (even in death, the FDNY protects its own) — built to an eruption: Tommy’s irate defense of Reilly against Sean and Franco’s charge of cowardice. What’s particularly striking about the hitherto icy-calm Tommy’s sudden emotion on behalf of his fallen comrade (whom he’d brazenly tapped to help expunge his departmental record) was his evocation of a very different era, when ”the Bronx was burning.” Besides the not-so-subtle reference to Daniel Sunjata’s ESPN miniseries of that name (in which he plays Yankee slugger Reggie Jackson), Tommy’s outburst that ”the Bronx used up all the brave [Reilly] had” encapsulated nostalgia and, perhaps, his own self-image as a heroic but washed-up relic in an ungrateful and unforgiving modern world.
Considering all that subsequently befell Tommy, one of Randy Newman’s more astringent satirical numbers might have been in order. Just when things started looking up for him — mending fences with Colleen and Janet — things started to fall apart again. On the upside, Colleen actually agreed to resume communications with Daddy — after extorting a fatherly bribe of home furnishings. That’s quite a turnaround for a daughter previously more concerned about her boyfriend’s hands than her roughed-up pa; funny how self-interested materialism can heal a family rift. (A little aside on unseen Nose Ring Boy: Yes, he does indeed resemble Kate Moss’ on/off squeeze Pete Doherty, whose band, Babyshambles, is an echo of Fake Baby Head. Given Doherty’s well-publicized drug habit, the similarity does not bode well for Colleen.) And speaking of self-interest (or is it codependency, or just plain dependency?), Janet was suddenly commending Tommy on his skills as a dad and angling for yet another therapeutic reconciliation. Too bad, then, that ”erectile” has now been added to Tommy’s long list of dysfunctions, as Sheila so maliciously pointed out. Credit for that sad discovery goes to Amazonian superbabe Nona, who, despite her skills under the hood, couldn’t rev up Tommy. (Her persistence/desperation is understandable, with Oyster Cove colleagues like Troy, whose hero worship of Tommy spilled over into homoerotic ardor. Pity her and Sheila both.)
Of course, while Tommy struggled with performance issues, his firehouse mates confronted their own marital or relationship crises. In a tartly stinging showdown, put-upon Sean (sounding oddly like Janet) mustered up the courage, with the aid of a crib sheet, to ask vodka-soused Maggie for a divorce. After unleashing some well-chosen putdowns, she agreed — between swigs. Meanwhile Franco, bowing to pressure from both Richard and Natalie, steeled himself to a sacrifice: selling off his Jeep (that automotive theme again) to buy a ring. Surprisingly, his protracted agonizing over whether to pop the question elicited an Oprah-Dr. Phil-worthy sermonette on caring, sharing, and spooning from Tommy. Coming from someone who dispensed Dr. Laura tough love to Mike in the last episode — and whose own marriage saga drove a couples therapist to utter perplexity — such nuggets of wisdom dripped with irony. Or was Tommy merely setting himself up for his climactic flameout with a too-amorous Janet?
Amid all the Sturm und Drang, the one person who found satisfaction of a sort was, fittingly, Lou. Ever the beacon of sanity, Lou defended Chief Reilly, gave Mike some needed TLC (sans gay jokes, thankfully), and hit pay dirt, so to speak, in a one-on-one with Jimmy the Jew. Sweet vindication at last for the show’s beacon of sanity (and I loved his description of his ex-wife as a ”dirty, filthy, bloodsucking little whore”).
While we’re on the subject of Lou and Jimmy the Jew, here’s a similarity to ponder: Did Jimmy in his bathrobe look like a down-market Hugh Hefner? And speaking of similarities, will Sean and Maggie follow in Tommy and Janet’s footsteps by making up? Will Sheila unceremoniously ditch her Tommy-loving vollie? And what’s happening with Richard, Ellie, and Uncle Teddy? I can hardly wait to find out.