'Rescue Me' Recap: Tommy Gavin still doesn't like Tommy Gavin
His embarassments usually have little to do with his role as a veteran, smack-talking New York firefighter. It’s the family drama that usually provides the most humiliation. Even then, it’s surprising in the first episode of the show’s final season how quickly Dennis Leary’s manhood gets thrown under the bus. Actually, it was his wife Janet’s mid-sized sedan.
Despite confronting Janet early on in the episode about their tangle of marital deception (including the pregnancy she hid from him at the end of last season), Gavin sees a new baby as a chance to put the pieces of his marriage back together. But according to Janet, their relationship doesn’t have a prayer unless he agrees to become a normal, full-time dad. At this point, she of all people should know that’s impossible given his track record. This time, Tommy’s squirmy deflection of her ultimatum was the last thing she wanted to hear.
That brings us to an important life lesson in this episode: never piss off a pregnant woman behind the wheel when you’re standing in front of her car.
But being run down by a car is nothing compared to the torture Tommy endures as he watches Sheila, his long time lover, mysteriously become gal pals with Janet as she gets close to her due date. That’s right—they’re actually friends now. What kind of parallel universe are we living in?
Somewhere in between the entire run of the seven-year the 5 month lapse in this episode where her pregnancy takes shape,the two women have not only bonded, they’ve become a double-headed hydra of emasculating inside jokes at Tommy’s expense. After years of doing it to him in separate houses, they've decided to create a merger with Sheila coming over to Janet and Tommy's place to help out around the house.
Meanwhile, Sheila’s son Damien—once a promising firefighter—remains nearly inanimate after a fire fighting accident last season turned him into a vegetable. As his uncle and voluntary care taker, Tommy’s feelings of guilt are getting more intense to the point where Damien has become another in a long line of loved ones who haunt his hallucinations.
Between bouts of anxiety over Damien and adjusting to the budding relationship between his wife and girlfriend, Tommy is also trying (and failing) to reconnect with his daughter Colleen as her Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor. It’s here where the genius of the Gavin family logic really shines through.
Since we last checked in on the bar owned by Tommy’s cousin Eddie, the lawyer in the family, it’s since changed hands to Teddy and Mick who’ve hired Colleen as their bar back. The hope is that working in a bar will temper her taste for alcohol by exposing her to it all the time. It almost sounds like a scheme Tommy would’ve come up with last season (considering the vodka baptism he gave Colleen at the end of last season). In this case, it’s nice to see him be the voice of reason who spots the obvious error in Teddy and Mick’s plan.
However, his finger-wagging only leaves him feeling snubbed by his daughter, who he can feel is gradually distancing himself from her. If he thinks he’s losing his little girl now, wait until he finds out that Black Shawn, Colleen’s boyfriend Tommy’s FDNY colleague, has made his relationship with his daughter official by popping the question in the bar stock room. Naturally, she celebrates the charming, awkward moment with four shots of whiskey and half a bottle of vodka after Black Shawn leaves.
But in the depths of self destruction, Colleen’s binge opens the door for Tommy to rediscover the gumption that redeems him for 40 minutes of acting like a spineless goof. Reinstating his bristling, no-nonsense attitude, the most powerful scene of the episode has him returning to the bar to drag his daughter off the backroom floor. He gets bonus points for standing up to the ghostly panel of his cousin Jimmy, his father and his brother Johnny who tempt him to take a drink--perhaps he's realized that a swig of whiskey stands between him and the family life he actually wants. But then again, it's only the first episode. There's probably still plenty of self-destruction left in Tommy's tank.
-- Nate Jackson
Photo: Denis Leary's Tommy Gavin fights fires and his own demons. Credit: FX