It was around the time the YouTube prank star cemented his head inside of a microwave, fell into a swimming pool, and sank to the bottom (the cement, duh!), that I said aloud to no one in particular, “Oh, I’ve really missed this show.”
Part one of 9-1-1‘s two-night premiere event gives us everything we love about Ryan Murphy’s first responders drama: There are the ridiculous rescues (in the opening montage alone there’s a tour bus careening over a cliff, a pressure cooker exploding in a restaurant that causes a bottle of hot sauce to lodge itself into a man’s neck, and a worker from the electric company having his arm blown off and landing in a nearby swimming pool). There are the hot firefighters. There’s Angela Bassett acting the hell out of every scene she’s in. Oh, and there’s Jennifer Love Hewitt, you guys. Jennifer Love Hewitt is in this show now.
As you may recall from the season 1 finale, our favorite 9-1-1 dispatcher Abby (Connie Britton) and her gorgeous head of hair said goodbye to Los Angeles and her firefighter boyfriend Buck to go find herself after her mother died. In an attempt to fill that void (it’s impossible), 9-1-1 has enlisted Jennifer Love Hewitt to join the squad. And although her big introduction to the show involves Buck walking in on her in the shower, she is not here to be a new love interest — she’s his older sister Maddie!
Maddie does not seem concerned about the shower confusion, which we’ll have to revisit another time because GIRL. More important, she’s also being very cagey about what she’s doing in L.A. She hasn’t seen Buck in three years and suddenly shows up, tracks him down (he’s staying at Abby’s apartment until she returns, aww), and informs him that she just dumped her husband who no one likes and needs a place to crash for a second. Buck doesn’t totally buy it, and his instincts are correct. Eventually, we learn that Maddie’s husband Doug is abusive and when things escalated and he threatened to kill her, she took off. But Doug isn’t one to give up so easily: Maddie gets a pretty harrowing phone call from the guy promising that he will find her. So, Doug is The Worst.
When Buck comes across his sister making an exit, he pleads with her to stay. She’ll be safe here with him. Doug doesn’t know where Buck lives or what he does for a living, so that buys her time. She can start over. Maddie used to be a nurse, but worrying about Doug coming through the hospital doors every day is not something she wants to deal with, so Buck suggests a job in which she’s helping people but not interacting with them face-to-face. That’s right you guys, meet your new 9-1-1 dispatcher. If she can handle insane calls about babies being stuck in pipes or bouncy houses rolling down cliffs is yet to be seen.
Maddie isn’t the only new face on 9-1-1. Meet Eddie “I Do Not Have Nor Do I Want a Nickname” Diaz (Ryan Guzman), a new firefighter who is young and hot and brave — so naturally, Buck has a problem with him. Obviously, Buck is just intimidated by Eddie, but he takes it out on the Afghanistan war vet by trying to show him up on calls and picking fights with him in the firehouse. What Buck wants to do most of all is beat out Eddie for a spot in the L.A.F.D. Hot Fireman’s Calendar (not the official name, but, like, you get it). Like Highlander, there can only be one (from each station house).
But the joke’s on Buck: He doesn’t end up losing out to Eddie — Chimney grabs the spot thanks to Hen’s secret submission. There’s not nearly enough Chimney and Hen in this episode, but fingers crossed that will be rectified shortly. Regardless, let’s hear it for Mr. April! Chimney wanted to provide an example of a hero who looks like him for young Asian kids out there, something he never had. I mean, I doubt kids are the target audience for this charity beefcake calendar, but the sentiment is nice.
But the calendar isn’t really the problem. Buck being defensive about Eddie at every turn isn’t great for the team as a whole. He can’t keep his cool on a call in which Eddie takes the lead — it involves a man at a tire repair shop who falls on the air nozzle and fills up like a balloon (seriously, God Bless This Show). And once Bobby notices that their relationship is becoming an issue, he knows he needs to do something about it.
On the next call, in which a military paraphernalia collector accidentally set off a grenade he was cleaning, and a live round of ammo ends up in his leg, Bobby has Eddie and Buck work together. Once Eddie realizes the ammo is live and could explode at any moment, they know they can’t bring the man into a hospital. They need to carefully extract the ammo without setting it off, but they need to do it fast because the guy is bleeding out. It’s basically the most intense game of Operation ever played. Eddie and Buck prove that team work does, in fact, make the dream work, and everyone — aside from their ambulance — makes it out unscathed. The boys are friends now! Look at that grenade bringing people together! I’m already betting on Eddie and Maddie hooking up at some point this season so Buck and Eddie’s friendship may be short-lived, but still.
Speaking of hot people hooking up: Athena and Bobby’s date at the end of last season must have gone really well because the two have been secretly dating for four months. They’re making out in between fire trucks while out on a call! So much kissing! It is very exciting.
Although they seem happy, especially while Athena’s watching Claws and Bobby is watching Athena watch Claws (yes, Athena, Niecy Nash should be on Mount Rushmore), it’s not all smooth sailing. Bobby is ready to take their relationship public, but Athena is vehemently against it. It becomes a real problem. When Bobby pushes to understand why Athena wants to keep them a secret, she lets him have it. She’s embarrassed; she feels like her divorce renders her a failure and she’s ashamed of her new relationship, of being happy, in light of that. She shouldn’t be flaunting a new man around. Bobby doesn’t want to hear any more. Can’t they just go back to kissing in between fire trucks?
Surprisingly, it’s a conversation with her ex-husband that turns Athena around. Michael lived with shame and embarrassment his entire life, it’s what kept him in the closet for so long, but he realized that he deserved to be happy — and so does Athena. So Athena arrives at the firehouse to apologize to Bobby and smacks a big ol’ kiss right on the Captain, in front of everyone. Of course, Hen already figured it out — she noticed Bobby and Athena were extremely happy at the same time and then extremely angry at the same time — so the big secret wasn’t a secret at all. Still, it’s nice to see Sad People finally finding happiness again.
But in the world of 9-1-1 nothing can stay too good for too long. Remember that giant earthquake the 9-1-1 season two trailer promised? Well, it’s arrived. Our first responders are about to get very, very busy.