It’s been several months since we last entered into 9-1-1 land, so don’t feel too bad if you had to recalibrate your emotions in order to survive our first episode back since the winter finale in November (yes, November!). I certainly was not prepared for the emotional whiplash of witnessing the one-two punch of a woman in mid-facelift having her face fall off and a car accident on the L.A. freeway involving an actual, live tiger shark swiftly followed by a very emotional story involving a kidnapping, Athena dealing with some intense mother issues, and Maddie finally coming face-to-face with her abusive ex. Yeah, it’s A Lot. But that’s 9-1-1. We signed up for this!
The theme of this installment is, like the episode title tells us, “new beginnings.” It’s all about fresh starts. You know, like the woman who wants to look 15 years younger after a breakup. Unfortunately for her there’s a construction crew working next door to her doctor’s office that causes a leak in the anesthesia pipe running through the building and she wakes up with her face still cut open and all of her doctors passed out from the gas. Our first responders arrive and everyone—even the construction worker with a table saw in his gut!—is okay, but we still have to witness her face skin flap falling over, you know, just in case you forgot what show you were watching.
The shark fares much better. It too is on its way to a fresh start when it runs into some problems. Only instead of a facelift, the tiger shark is being released back into the wild. So, it’s more of a “salt water” start, if you will. That’s some ocean humor for you, you’re welcome. Anyway, the tractor-trailer tank the shark is being transported in gets into a huge accident on the freeway and the shark spills out onto the road. Its trainer currently has his arm down its throat. It’s not a great time, is what I’m saying. The team arrives and there are lots of Jaws/jaws of life jokes to be made because, well, when else are you going to get the chance, and they free the trainer. But without the tank on the trailer, this shark has very little time before it can’t breathe anymore. So what do our friends do? They hang that shark off the front of their firetruck and they get it to the water. It’s like Free Willy, but instead of a friendly whale, it’s a deadly shark. A very different movie, but heartwarming nonetheless.
Leave it to 9-1-1 to make “shark almost bites man’s arm off on the freeway” as the fun portion of the evening, but we have some serious matters to attend to. Let’s begin with the very unsettling call Maddie (newly minted Dispatcher of the Month Maddie, thank you) gets from a 13-year-old boy. His name is Stevie, he’s not hurt but his dad did something bad, he says. Before he gets the chance to elaborate, his dad hops on the phone and apologizes to Maddie—Stevie was grounded and he’s retaliating by calling the police. It’s all a big misunderstanding and everything is totally fine. Well, Maddie’s not Dispatcher of the Month for nothing, and she tells her boss that she has a gut feeling that something is up. Maybe she’s just hungry, but also maybe they should send a police officer over to do a quick welfare check. Better safe than sorry, always.
They send Athena. Sure Stevie’s dad is smiling and apologetic and has no problem letting Athena come inside to look around, and yes, Stevie insists everything is fine and he was just mad at his dad, but Athena’s spidey-sense is going off. She has a sit down with Stevie, but he won’t change his story, nor will he take her card with her number should he need help in the future, and before she gets anywhere, Stevie’s dad is back. Just like Maddie, Athena leaves feeling unsettled. She needs some answers.
Her first step is to listen to the 9-1-1 call that came in. She and Maddie realize they can hear Stevie’s dad talking to someone else in the background, telling whoever it is to stay put. It’s weird because Stevie told Athena that it’s just him and his dad in the house. Something is going on here—and we know what it is. We see Stevie’s dad keeping a little boy in a hidden room inside a wall. Thanks to the handy newscast on the TV, we learn that this little boy was kidnapped just three days ago. Stevie realized something was wrong with “his new brother” and was trying to do the right thing. Unfortunately, the cops haven’t figured any of this out yet.
Athena enlists the help of Detective Romero (played by Danny Nucci, who also played a cop on the dearly departed Freeform show The Fosters, but you may also remember him from that time he died on the Titanic) and his guys, who do a background check (it clears) and steal some trash from the front of the house in case they find something suspicious. And they do! They pull prints and discover that Stevie is not Stevie. He’s a boy named Jacob who has been missing for six years. This man’s done this twice now.
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The raid on the house is unsuccessful because no one’s home when the police arrive—Stevie’s had a change of heart. He waited until his “dad” fell asleep and snuck the other little boy out of the house, trying to get him back home. Only, he’s gotten turned around on the trains and calls 9-1-1 again to talk to Maddie and to get in touch with Athena. He needs help. And fast—his “dad” has tracked the boys to the station, grabs them, and holds them hostage with a knife. This guy is an idiot, you know why? Another train pulls up to the station and bam — Athena Grant jumps out. “This right here is your stop!” she yells before the guy is taken down and she holds the two boys. It’s a cool moment, but honestly, I feel like we could’ve workshopped that line a little bit.
She saves the day! But the saddest part is yet to come—since Stevie/Jacob was so young when he was taken, he doesn’t remember his parents. They come to the station and he shakes their hands. Oh, it is gutting. Athena reminds him that this is a good thing, this is his fresh start. Fingers crossed for that little dude!
Aside from being emotionally gripping on its own, this storyline also connects back to that story Athena told about the little girl from her neighborhood who went missing and how that inspired her to pursue work in which she could help people. Athena needs that reminder at the moment because right now as we speak, her parents are in town.
Athena’s dad Samuel seems innocuous, but her mother Beatrice is a Pill. When Michael sees Bobby before they arrive, he’s basically like “good luck to you sir, you will not survive this.” Michael knows things. Michael is right to warn Bobby. Beatrice is tough on Athena. She’s mad that she didn’t know her daughter was dating Bobby, let alone engaged to him. She’s mad that Bobby is already trying to act like a stepdad to her grandchildren. She’s mad that her daughter is a cop. I mean, that’s like, a long-simmering thing that she should’ve gotten over by now, but she definitely hasn’t. Beatrice says some pretty awful things to her daughter, ending with the delightful button of how she can’t actually believe her two kids have survived with her this long. Yeah, that bad.
Even after Athena saves the day with her case, Beatrice won’t apologize. She attempts to explain how she feels abandoned by her daughter and hates watching her make the same mistakes over and over—how Bobby is definitely one of those mistakes—but no, none of that quite feels like an apology. Athena won’t apologize either. She loves her life. She loves her job and the family that she’s built. They part on terrible terms. There is no starting over here.
Apparently, Maddie doesn’t get a fresh start either, no matter how hard she might try. She’s got a cute new chop, she’s taking boxing lessons with her brother to feel more empowered, and finally, she decides to file for divorce from her husband. Yes, it will alert him to where she is, but it also gives her the clean break she needs to move forward. There is one problem, of course, which we already know about. The winter finale left us with a harrowing image: Maddie’s ex Doug had stolen Chimney’s wallet and followed him until he led him right to Maddie’s apartment. When we last saw him, he was sitting outside of her place just waiting.
His move was a little more complicated than simply confronting Maddie. He returned the wallet to Chimney and struck up a friendship with the unsuspecting guy in order to collect intel on his runaway wife. When Chimney finally, FINALLY, secures that first date with Maddie (she asks him in front of the whole station — there is applause) he makes the mistake of letting his new friend know all about it. Well, Maddie dating someone else isn’t going to fly with Doug.
Just as Chimney is arriving at Maddie’s, she gets a call from her lawyer. They couldn’t serve Doug with divorce papers because they can’t find him. He took a leave from work, he attacked Maddie’s old boss to find out where she went, and no one has heard from him in months. Now Maddie knows something is up. She’s scared. But before she can do anything about it Doug jumps Chimney as he’s walking into Maddie’s building and stabs him multiple times. Then he walks right into Maddie’s apartment and before she can even react he knocks her out.
Hey, remember when our biggest problem was just your average tiger shark in the middle of the freeway? Can we go back to that?