It’s easy to understand why 9-1-1 opted for a two-night premiere event to kick off the season. The first part got us up to speed on where our characters were after four months away, setting up some major arcs for the season, and clearing the path for tonight’s episode. ‘7.1’ has no room for character development, emotional introspection, or romance — it is all action.
A massive earthquake hits Los Angeles, and our first responders do what they do best: save lives. Well, except for Jennifer Love Hewitt’s Maddie, still in training to be a 9-1-1 dispatcher. She mainly stands around watching the news and looking worried. What a terrible first week of work! She’s shadowing a delightful, well-versed-in-TV-references dispatcher whose advice pretty much boils down to “listen,” when the earthquake hits. “Brace for impact,” he tells her before all the emergency calls start flooding in. The training wheels are off. Where is the calming voice of Connie Britton when you need it?
As intense as that situation sounds, the other, more seasoned members of the team have it much, much worse. You may recall that Athena was driving on the freeway when the earthquake hit, taking a huge chunk of the road in front of her with it. Seriously, she was very close to driving right into the giant gap and careening until she hit the concrete below. It is a very close call!
What we didn’t see before was that Athena isn’t alone in her car. She had just arrested frequent flier Marvin for grand theft auto. She’s arrested him before, but this time he’s an adult — so he will most definitely be going to prison. As annoyed as she is with the kid for repeatedly making bad choices, she’s lucky he’s with her. She’s single-handedly trying to deal with the multiple crises taking place due to the freeway collapse. She finds a man, Dean, trapped in a car that happens to be leaking gasoline — this is not good. The car catches on fire with Dean inside of it. Making it worse, it’s right over a heat source under the road, which means extinguishers aren’t going to work. Everyone is having a super fun time, guys!
Athena does some quick thinking: She needs a way to cool down the heat source before she can put the fire out, and when she spots a cement truck nearby, she hatches a plan. The driver of the cement truck is nowhere to be found, but lucky for her (and Dean!) she has an expert car thief at her side. She uncuffs Marvin — don’t worry, she lectures him about how he’ll prefer prison over pissing her off before temporarily setting him free — and has him hot-wire the cement truck so they can use it to cool the road off. It works! Athena and Marvin have saved the day (AND DEAN). Although she’s appreciative of Marvin’s help, she has to put him back in the cuffs. The law is the law, earthquake or not.
As you can imagine, our firefighters are very busy. They’re called to a fancy hotel that, thanks to the earthquake, has turned into the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Things are really bad and there are hundreds of victims, but we’re only concerned with three.
First, there’s the skeezy boss who had his female employee meet him in his hotel room so he could ask her to shower with him. Does this sound familiar and awful? Cool. When the earthquake hits, it sends him flying to the floor-to-ceiling window in his suite. As the hotel begins tilting, he gets trapped against the glass by some furniture. He’s staring down at the street, at his death. His employee is hanging on to a pillar nearby. The situation is precarious.
When the firefighters arrive at the harrowing scene, Bobby gives them an inspiring speech about focusing on the problems at hand and not judging them if they don’t want to go into the building; he can’t force them.
What is this amateur hour, Bobby?
There’s no question: all of our firefighters are going in. Buck and Eddie take on the daunting task of somehow climbing up to reach the skeezy boss trapped against the window. The stakes are extra high because — surprise — we learn that Eddie is a single dad. Oh, 9-1-1, of course the war vet is a single dad with a very cute disabled son. But Eddie is a hero, and even though he can’t get ahold of his son, he takes Bobby’s advice to focus on the task in front of him. The guys make it into the hotel room and carefully attempt to help both the victims, but the glass the skeezy boss is pressed up against is cracking. There’s not much time.
Meanwhile, Bobby, Hen, and Chimney get to work in the restaurant area of the hotel, part of which collapsed into the garage. The ceiling could cave in at any time and many of the victims they come across are already dead. They’re called in to help rescue our second Featured Victim, an all-star high school basketball player named Jeff. His leg is trapped under debris, and that debris is also holding up a large section of the ceiling. Bobby has two options for the very nice boy with a bright basketball future: a trauma surgeon can cut off part of his leg, or they could use an airbag to lift the debris off. The latter option, however, could make the entire ceiling collapse, killing everyone. So, neither option is what you’d call “great.” Jeff barely has to think about it — basketball is his life and he at least needs to try and save his leg. We only met Jeff at the top of the hour and yet still, I am crying. Jeff!
Don’t worry — plan B works! They get Jeff out, leg intact. Can Jeff get a spin-off? I really need to know if he ends up at Duke.
You’d think all of this would be enough excitement for one earthquake, but no. It is then that the aftershocks start. This is horrible news up in the room where Buck and Eddie are trying to make a heroic rescue because the force of the aftershock causes the already cracking glass to break and the skeezy boss plummets to his death. His employee falls too — but Eddie grabs her as she slides past him. Both she and Eddie are left dangling out the window.
The aftershock is also bad news for the team downstairs. After saving Jeff, they moved on to victim number three, a little girl named Kat who was separated from the rest of her family. During the initial earthquake, she fell through the hole into the garage. Hen finds Kat’s shoe and is calling out for her when the aftershock hits. Hen’s immediately thrown down into the garage, followed by more debris. Her fate is left up in the air until next week. Could this earthquake be any more of an ass?