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`Rescue Me:' The world is not cooperating

July 7, 2010 |  6:30 am


After getting a verbal smack down from Franco about being a crappy father and husband, Tommy Gavin decides that just maybe it's time to clean up his act.

Of course nothing ever goes easy for Tommy. He earnestly tells his family he wants to "re-prioritize my priorities" and the reaction is not the warm embrace he expected. His oldest daughter Colleen, reeling from bad Chinese food and probably a hangover, vomits in front of him. Wife Janet shrugs off Tommy's new found earnestness and his effort to have a heart-to-heart with youngest daughter Katie backfires when they have a severe misunderstanding over a contest at school she is thinking about entering. Let's just say the contest she is talking about is rated PG while the one Tommy thinks she's going to take part in is straight out of "Gossip Girl."

Not discouraged by the poor results at home, Tommy calls his cousin Mickey and says he's ready to try Alcoholics Anonymous again and get sober. He then heads to the fire house to tell the crew he's done drinking. They don't exactly buy it. Black Shawn bursts out laughing and says, "you hear this bull----?" His nephew Damien, who Tommy -- per Damien's mom Sheila's instructions -- is trying to persuade to quit the job, decides if his uncle's not hitting the sauce, he must be popping pills.

Still reeling from his vision of hell, Tommy decides to confide to his best pal Kenny "Lou" Shea about what he saw. Privacy at the firehouse is a fantasy, and Mike, of the two resident dim bulbs (the other being Sean Garrity, not to be confused with Black Shawn) overhears the whole conversation and then tells everyone else about it.

After a brief debate about whether Tommy can get an exorcism, the crew drifts into one of their typically off-color discussion about how to get right with the man upstairs. Mike, it is determined, is screwed because of his brief flirtation with homosexuality. Sean decides he can make a better case for himself by cutting back on self-gratification. When he starts crunching the numbers though, it's all down hill.  First he decides to just please himself once every two days, then once every 36 hours and ultimately he's right back to once a day.

Our comic break done, Tommy heads home to try again with Janet, but she's not buying any of it.

"People can change," Tommy tells her.

"I hate what you've made me," she responds.

Clearly, he has a hard sell on his hands. Janet tells Tommy if he wants to make good he can stop Colleen from ending up as big a drunk as he is.

Tommy's idea to solve that problem is to indulge her hoping she'll get so sick she'll stop. He takes her to the crew's watering hold where they watch in amazement as Collen drinks everyone under the table.

"She's knocking them back like a Kennedy over there," Lou declares.

"As long as she doesn't drive like one," cracks Needles.

Since nothing he's trying is working and he's already blown off the AA meeting he promised Mickey he'd go to, Tommy does what comes naturally and gets himself a big old glass of whiskey. Well, if you can't beat em.

Unlike last week's season premiere, this week's episode of "Rescue Me" finds its old wit and rhythm. Tommy's struggles provides the darkness and the rest of the team kicks in with the jokes. Besides talking about how to get right with God, the squad is in a battle with a rival firehouse in the neighborhood. The city is threatening to shutter firehouses and Gavin's is first on the list. The unit needs to prove they are better than their neighbors to the south on the city's upper west side or they'll might be closed. In the weeks ahead, the battle between the two squads is going to get ugly and there may even be a little Romeo and Juliet subplot in the works. 

Other story lines to watch include the rising tension between Adam Ferrara's Needles and Jerry Adler's Feinberg over how the squad should save themselves. Lou looks like he is headed for some serious health problems while it turns out that Tommy may be right to be suspicious of Franco and Janet. Oh, and it is only a matter of time until Sheila has one of her vintage meltdowns.

When "Rescue Me" is on it is one of the smartest and meatiest dramas around. It's easy to forget that when so many recent episodes focus on Tommy's angst and self-medicating. Fortunately, it looks like Denis Leary and executive producer Peter Tolan are finding their groove again. I also realize that this show's sweet spot is humor far too bawdy for me to even attempt to detail here in these mini-reviews. Let's just say there are no unuttered thoughts in Truck 62's kitchen.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: Franco and Tommy have a man-to-wannabe-man conversation. Credit: FX.

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