By Ken Tucker
Updated July 29, 2020 at 05:08 PM EDT

Rescue Me this season has hit some very high highs (the Michael J. Fox story arc; Tommy’s ongoing tussle with alcoholism) and some loopy lows (those too-long musical numbers; turning Callie Thorne’s Sheila into a such a nut, it’s hard to believe Tommy finds their relationship worth it).

But last night the series vaulted to the stratosphere once again with the second appearence by Maura Tierney as a mysterious but tough and alluring woman who set nearly the entire firehouse aflame… with desire.

One of the best things about Rescue Me is that, for such an on-the-surface “male” show, it’s always presented a wide range of women, from Andrea Roth’s Janet (a mixture of brutal, brittle, and beautiful) to, more recently, the great New York stage actress Kathleen Chalfant as Sean’s astringent mother.

To this, add Tierney, whom we met last week in the closing seconds of Rescue Me walking fearlessly into a burning building to retrieve a box. This week, her character Kelly visited the firehouse to flirt with Franco (or as she dubbed him, “Pillow Lips”) and banter with Tommy, whom she started calling “Ron Howard” and “Opie.” Tommy, who loves to flop his blond mane around macho-style, was incensed that this woman would compare him to the now-balding Howard’s Andy Griffith Show character.

No matter. He was still turned on by Kelly. Tierney, who used to make exhaustion and despair sexy on ER, really lets loose in these episodes. It’s nearly impossible to upstage the boisterous firefighters in Rescue Me, but she did it.

Watching her, I was reminded once again of the reports that Tierney’s health has delayed the premiere of her new sitcom, Parenthood, and wish her all the best. Because, boy, this woman can explode a scene, again and again.