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`Rescue Me:' The prodigal bum returns

July 27, 2010 | 11:05 pm


Having caught Franco and Janet in the act of heavy flirting, Tommy Gavin storms out of his apartment and goes on the binge to end all binges. First he takes a few big chugs from the bottle of high-end whiskey his cousin Mickey and uncle Teddy gave him a few weeks back. Then he heads over to the bar that Ladder 62 used to run that is now in the hands of Tommy's other cousin Eddie.

There Tommy starts to enter blackout mode. He locks himself in the back office and gets into a fight with ghosts. First he bloodies the spirit of his cousin, Jimmy Keefe, after Keefe confronts Tommy about his alcoholism. Then a grown-up version of Conner, Tommy's son who was killed by a drunk driver when he was a kid, shows up and gets into it with his old man.

Mickey comes to the bar and he and Eddie wait outside the office, listening to Tommy trash the place and hoping he'll eventually run out of steam and pass out. Alas, it takes more than a bottle of pricey whiskey to put Tommy Gavin on his ass even if in this case, unbeknownst to Tommy, the bottle was spiked with GHB by his loving relatives.

Tommy is finishing up trashing the office when his cellphone rings. It's his oldest daughter, Colleen, asking for a ride. Tommy races to the bar to get her, and then father and daughter really get their drink on. Watching Tommy enable Colleen's drinking and show her his worst traits is truly disturbing. The two hit bars, drive drunk and end up in a shoving match on the beaches of Far Rockaway. Tommy then pops in on Sheila and tries to bed her, but for once she's having none of it. Tommy starts to pass out, but not before seeing Mickey in a towel coming out of Sheila's bathroom.

When Tommy wakes up, that is about all he remembers. He comes to in his apartment, which has been thoroughly trashed. He has sand in his pockets and a hangover that would make Charles Bukowski cringe. The phone rings and it's the gang from Ladder 62, wanting to know where Colleen is and what the heck Tommy did last night.

Problem is, Tommy doesn't remember what he did last night. When he arrives at the firehouse he's confronted by an angry Franco. Seems that when Tommy did finally get home he went after Janet, who took off in a panic to a cousin's home in New Jersey. Black Shawn is freaking out because no one has seen Colleen since the  night before and she's not answering her phone.

Tommy is dragged into the kitchen, where he empties his pockets and finds sand and earrings. He also has Colleen's phone as well as his own. Lou gives Tommy a beer, figuring a little hair of the dog will jar his cloudy memory.

The night gradually comes back to him and it is both hilarious and horrifying. Father and daughter drank together, flirted with the opposite sex together and bitched about Janet together. Natalie Distler, who plays Colleen holds her own with Denis Leary's Tommy Gavin. Colleen is not a sympathetic character. She's not a lovable drunk or a little girl lost. She's ballsy and obnoxious, just like her dad. She dumps on those who love her and uses her anger at everyone as an excuse to get wasted, and Distler plays her perfectly.

At some point, Tommy ditched Colleen, but he can't remember where. This means the squad has to re-create Tommy's night, which at some point included him putting on a thong. He ended up hooking up with a couple of different women and he definitely had his beer goggles on for one of the ladies. His flashback has him rolling around with a hot blond while Colleen is flirting with her good-looking son. When he returns to her house the next day in search of Colleen, he discovers the object of his lust is a little rougher-looking than he recalled and that her son is an overweight loser. 

Eventually, Tommy unscrambles enough of his brain to remember leaving Colleen on the beach, where she's found passed out but only a little worse for wear.

This was not an easy episode to watch. While there was plenty of the show's trademark dark humor, one didn't want to laugh too much at the jokes because it was not out of the realm of possibility that Colleen could turn up dead in the next scene. She's alive and Tommy's remorseful, but the question is what the take-away from the night will be for father and daughter.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: Tommy Gavin and daughter Colleen in a not so tender moment on FX's "Rescue Me." Credit: FX.