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'Shameless' recap: 'Uncle Carl'

Ian returns home from the psych ward just as Carl heads to jail.

Posted on

Cliff Lipson/SHOWTIME


TV Show
Comedy, Drama
run date:
William H. Macy, Emmy Rossum
Current Status:
In Season

That’s right—we recap Shameless now! Sure, we’re well into this crazy season, but it’s never too late to keep up with the Gallaghers. Let’s get into this week’s hearty installment, in which Ian’s homecoming has everyone edge (except for Sammi and Carl, who are just always on edge to begin with).


Ian’s return from the psych ward is understandably met with a certain amount of trepidation from the Gallaghers, who are glad to have him home but tiptoe around on tenterhooks when they see how fragile he is. Lip and Fiona are the first to see their hollowed brother when they pick him up from the hospital—with Mickey conspicuously absent (he’s at home, drinking).

The doctor informs the eldest siblings that Ian’s release is contingent on taking three different medications daily. Once Lip and Fiona escort Ian back to the house, he’s greeted warmly by Debbie and Liam before he immediately goes to lay down—sleep being a major side effect of the medication. Hours later, Carl bursts into the bedroom and accidentally wakes Ian. “What’s it feel like to be crazy?” he cuts in, before revealing that he thinks he might actually be a little crazy himself, considering his stream of certifiably crazy behavior. (To his credit, Carl does his part to try and help bring Ian out of the abyss, throwing a toaster into the pool later as Ian lays in it… because, shock therapy.)

Ian wallows listlessly. When he bounds downstairs after his nap, Debbie is distracted, texting her new boyfriend Derek. She doesn’t notice that Ian walks into the kitchen and grabs his pill bottles, emptying them out in one fell swoop. When Debbie finally does take notice, Ian is gone—and so are all of his pills. She rushes outside to find Ian smoking a cigarette, and when she asks him why he flushed them, his response is heart-wrenching: “They make me feel awful, Debs. Like life is not worth living. I feel so much better just knowing they’re gone.”

Debbie, in tears, rushes to Fiona at the restaurant to let her know. They immediately head to the pharmacy, but the doctor won’t refill the prescription without a prescription, despite Fiona’s well-reasoned plea. Fiona confronts Ian about the pills—sternly but familiarly—calling it “a full-on Monica move.” That strikes a nerve with Ian, especially since he doesn’t agree with his diagnosis. “You pulled some pretty serious shit not too long ago and everyone didn’t try to turn on you and permanently medicate you,” he retorts. Fiona says she went to jail for it. “So did I,” says Ian. “And now I’m out. I’m not Monica any more than you are.”

A frustrated Fiona goes inside and finds out that Debbie has gone out to buy drugs, and so she runs… not after Debbie, but to Gus. Debbie, meanwhile, has gone to Mickey’s house, at first begging him to find new pills before turning the conversation to Mickey’s drinking and failure to come see Ian. “You can’t drink him away, Mickey,” she warns him, and off she goes to her next plan: faking a psychotic breakdown at the hospital in demand of lithium. Hilariously and obviously, it doesn’t work.

With no other solution, Ian’s pill problem goes unresolved. But that night, after a squabble in the Gallagher household wherein Carl gets arrested (see: next page), Ian is in bed when Mickey finally arrives. “I’m sorry I’m late,” he whispers, and he climbs onto the bed. He holds Ian’s head and kisses his forehead. And finally, Ian is, for the first time, at peace.


As Fiona deals with Ian’s recovery, she’s also toiling over her trouble with Gus. After confessing her Steve-Jimmy-Jack sleeping sin, Gus is going on tour, and Fiona is planning to move back in and let him.

Almost everyone agrees it’s a bad idea: Sammi and Lip cite the Thousand Mile Rule, wherein “when you’re on tour a thousand miles away from your wife, adultery doesn’t count.” Even Awful Sean at the restaurant says giving Gus space is the worst decision Fiona could make. He suggests groveling, and when she doesn’t indulge, he insists that she hasten the end of the marriage. “Either fight for this marriage, or cut him loose,” he commands.

Once Fiona embarks on the brief mission to find pills for Ian and finds out Debbie has gone to buy drugs herself, she takes off running… only she was never going after Debbie. She runs right to Gus and the band, who coolly receive her. She reaches Gus and spouts her feelings to him in one giant monologue. “All day today, when everything in my family was falling apart, I just kept wishing you were with me, and that’s what I know,” she declares.

Gus kisses her, and she thinks all is well—she just needs a few weeks to get Ian in order, and then she’ll join them on tour. But Gus laughs. “It’s a bad idea,” he says. “I think it’s a bad idea for our marriage to be apart right now,” says Fiona. “I think what was bad for our marriage was your decision to sleep with your ex,” Gus responds. And just like that, Fiona knows there’s no chance Gus will call from the road, and there’s no chance she’ll water his plants. It’s over.

NEXT: About that Carl thing…