Carl finally has his come-to-Jesus moment, and Lip and Helene are (probably) over

By Amanda Michelle Steiner
February 15, 2016 at 02:13 AM EST
Cliff Lipson/Showtime

Shameless

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Given how hard Fiona works to keep her head above water, it’s astonishing how often she’s let sound judgment fly out the window in favor of her own pleasure — a tendency that has defined Frank for as long as we’ve known him and one you’d think she’d consciously try to keep from defining her. But on this week’s Shameless, Fiona is still suffering the blowback from how she treated her estranged husband, Gus, and she nearly loses her home (again) because of it. But let’s start from the beginning.

Debs, Frank, and Melissa Etheridge’s ex-lover

The last time we saw Debs, Erica had come to her window. Once Erica wakes up and finds herself in bed next to her ostensibly 18-year-old nanny’s bed, she’s embarrassed, but not overly sorry. As Frank points out to Debs, it appears as if getting into Mrs. Wexler’s pants is the way to secure them house and home; though Debs says she doesn’t like girls, Frank assures her that “a woman’s sexuality is as fluid as the Mississippi.” Well, okay, fine, but also: When can we drop this story line? It’s not surprising, per se, to see Frank pimp out his daughter but gross. Save Debbie!

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At Debbie’s latest ultrasound, she declines to learn the sex of the baby, but her doctor puts the answer in an envelope for her should she decide to find out later on. Also, and this is a huge nitpick, but everyone — including the doctor — kept referring to the baby’s sex as its gender, and it drove me up a tree. A baby’s sex is a function of its biology; gender is a societal and cultural construct. Okay? All right? They even teach you that in high school biology. Anyway, moving on. At Erica’s urging, Debs throws a “gender-reveal party,” and Debs even tries to mend fences with Fiona by inviting her to celebrate. Fiona declines because while she says she supports Debs, she doesn’t support her choices. But Debs insists that she is her choices, and why can’t Fiona see that? The party goes horribly wrong, but more on that later.

Oh, and she’s having a girl.

It’s discovered that Erica is in remission, and Frank and Debs can no longer look forward to her early grave. So when Erica sneaks into Debs’ room at night, promising to sleep on the floor, no touching, Debs, resigned, joins Erica on the floor, the big spoon to her little spoon.

Lip and Helene

Oof. So, the photo taken and disseminated without Helene’s consent has put her job in jeopardy. There’s no doubt that her relationship with Lip was a moral gray area, fraught with complications. The school needs to ensure that she’s not some predator who regularly uses her power to take advantage of her students. And despite how icky their relationship sometimes felt — not to mention its doomed nature — Lip is in love. So when he’s sat in front of the college disciplinary board, his hackles are up. He can’t give them any straight answers and is insistent on proving to them there was no wrongdoing.

However, Helene knows that there’s only one way to maybe keep her job, and it’s to be as forthcoming and as contrite as possible. She offers to take a leave of absence and to provide a formal statement of apology, which the board may make public should they so choose. She has already started to pursue therapy for sex addiction, and when the school offers to provide Lip with counsel, he snaps that “what happened between Helene and me wasn’t wrong,” and that there’s nothing he needs to “cope” with: “We’re in love. Okay?” Helene remains stone-faced.

The disciplinary hearing is adjourned, and Helene books it out of the building. Lip chases after her, demanding an explanation and that she look at him. “That’s it, then, huh?” he says. “That’s how you want to end this?” She spins around to face him and tells him to stop pursuing her, to leave her alone, to leave her family alone, and to not “make this any uglier than you already have.”

And Hurricane Amanda has also left Lip’s life: Her parents told her to leave campus while the scandal blows over. The “feminazis” are after her for “trying to destroy a high-status female because of [her] own internalized gender oppression.” But to Amanda, it’s still Lip’s fault for not following campsite rules: “Leave the area in better shape than you found it, a–hole.”

NEXT: Ian has a date, and Carl gets some honest-to-God character development

Ian and Caleb

Ian has a date! Ian…does not know how to date! He asks Lip for advice, but the Gallaghers on the whole are not much for flowers and romance. So he puts on an ill-fitting blazer and goes to dinner with Caleb, who tries his best to make conversation with Ian. Not too sure why Ian suddenly can’t hold a conversation just because it’s happening in a date setting, but he answers all of Caleb’s questions perfunctorily and with no follow-ups. Ian senses the tension and apologizes, explains that his ex-boyfriend “wasn’t much of a talker” and that his idea of a conversation was a few insults and a punch in the face as foreplay. Caleb is immediately concerned — “domestic abuse?” — but no, that’s just how they communicate on the South Side, apparently.

Caleb gets a call from the firehouse — “I know that sounds like an excuse considering how well this is going,” he jokes — and Ian asks to tag along. At the scene, a man’s been stabbed. “He f—ed with me for the last time,” a woman says, crying and cradling a broken arm. Caleb tells her to stay put while he checks on the man, and Ian decides to attend to her. After draping his blazer over her shoulders, he goes into Caleb’s medical bag for a splint for her arm. Caleb spots him and runs over, admonishes him for getting involved while not being trained, but Ian says it’s fine: “I learned this in basic [training].” It looks like Ian did a good job, Caleb is appeased, and Ian appears steady, at home.

Carl, Nick, and Nick’s bike

Character development from Carl! I could not be more thrilled. So, Nick is still hung up on the bike that got stolen while he and Carl were apartment-hunting. It was a symbol of his messed-up childhood and one he desperately needed back.

After he and Carl pick Debbie up from the bakery with her pink-frosting-filled — see, that’s gender — cupcakes in tow, he spots a kid riding his stolen bike. Nick follows the kid at a dangerous speed but doesn’t run over him like I had feared; instead, Nick watches him go into his house.

But I was naïve to hope that Nick would leave the kid alone because Nick cuts out of Debs’ party early to go racing back to the kid’s house. Carl chases after him, even stealing someone’s skateboard — and throwing him some cash for it in a nice touch — but he’s too late. Carl comes upon Nick sat on the front steps, head in his hands, and a bloody hammer next to him as wails of despair ring from inside the house. Nick, resigned, tells Carl to get lost because the police are on their way. And as Carl watches Nick get arrested for yet another murder from across the street, we see that he finally realizes what his new lifestyle really means, and what is entailed in running with people who don’t commit crimes as a playful lark. Maybe he’s finally realized that he’s been playing dress-up. My nearest and dearest hope is that he buzzes off the cornrows and drops the “minstrel act,” as V described it, but that’s for next week.

For now, he’s finished acting tough. He knocks on Sean’s door, looking for Fiona, and asks to stay the night. Sean acquiesces but not before looking out into the hallway to see if Carl is still a package deal. He’s not.

NEXT: The F-Word and her pissed-off husband

Fiona

Fiona realizes that she’s left something behind at the house and breaks in through a window to get it: the closet door which had been used as a measuring stick for the kids’ growth over the years. She runs into the new homeowner and an inspector, though, who basically says that the house is a trash pile that would cost more to fix than it’s worth. This, we knew. Fiona gets a hunch and heads to the bank: Indeed, the new homeowners have rescinded their offer, and she’s free to make her own bid once more. But she needs her husband’s signature on the mortgage. She scoffs, says that they’re separated, and hands the form back. Unfortunately, she’ll need Gus to sign a notarized form relinquishing his right to the house.

Also, Fiona finally got her abortion. To be honest, with so much happening in her life, I thought she’d end up putting it off until it was too late.

Anyway, she spends most of the episode trying to pin Gus down, and he wants his grandmother’s ring back — you know, the one Fiona pawned so she could qualify for the loan to get the house back in the first place. When he finally arrives, ostensibly to sign the forms, she tells him that the ring is in a safe deposit box and she’ll get it first thing in the morning. Gus, though, wants to know why he should give her something she wants. “Why do you think I owe you anything?” he asks. “You don’t,” she replies. So it’s a favor, then, and Gus only does favors for friends. He moves toward the papers but only for the nearby cup of coffee, which he pours all over the table. Savage.

She heads back to Sean’s house, sobbing about how tired she is, how she’s out of options, how her family is “shattered.” From Sean’s son’s bed, Carl watches, face soft, young, and finally filled with some manner of empathy. The next day, he digs up some money he had stashed in a duffel, and drops it in front of Fiona at the diner, telling her to buy back the house. Now, she’s never taken Carl’s “dirty money” in the past, but maybe he’s finished making dirty money. Maybe he’s gotten away with it. Maybe Fiona doesn’t care about how dirty her money is anymore.

It also looks like Carl has also shelled out enough cash to keep Debs from being a live-in, underage bang maid. He’s hung a sign which reads “Girl’$ Crib” on a house that’s not the Gallaghers’.

Stray thoughts, plots, and nitpicks

Episode Recaps

  • After outright banning hipsters from the Alibi, Kevin, V, and Svetlana are finally getting customers again. And now that the hipsters are not allowed to go into the bar, they’re willing to pay a $20 cover for entry. It’s such a ridiculous, unrealistic story line, honestly, but whatever: The show could use some levity.
  • Also, someone found Chuckie! Frank discovered him living under the Gallaghers’ porch. But Chuckie wouldn’t have stayed there forever: He called his mom, who told him that someone would come for him. That someone is his grandmother, a.k.a. someone named Queenie, a.k.a. Frank’s unhinged former lover. Everything should go well here.
  • Svetlana is still the best character on this show. When Debs drops by the Alibi with her charges in tow, Svetlana immediately puts them to work. “You, wipe tables. You, feed baby.” And when Svetlana tells one of the Alibi regulars that in her country men with overgroomed beards are not to be trusted, he asks her if that’s really true: “No, you dumb f—,” she answers. “Everything I say is bulls—, but you believe it because I have accent and never smile.” Bless her. (Also, what happened to her other job at the bar that actually has customers? Does she work there part-time? Did I miss something…)

Shameless

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