And here I thought coke was a terrific product for a family birthday party?
Wow, Shameless lived up to its namesake tonight when Fiona brought the wrong kind of snow to her birthday celebration with the kids. More Floridian than Chicagoan, this white stuff was the first major surprise curveball that Shameless has really thrown us this season, and it hit hard. Little Liam, always the perpetual baby, got into the stash of cocaine that Robbie left at Fi’s home, and that she and Kev were partaking in when the kid tripped harder than Jordan Belfort on a transatlantic airline flight. I am of two minds about how this played out….But first, how did we come to this potentially game-changing moment?
First and foremost was what appears to be the resolution to the Fiona-Mike-Robbie love triangle that ended how just about every single viewer, and even the characters, predicted it would. Actually scratch that, I had figured that this would blow up in Fiona’s face during her expensive birthday party that Mike was throwing. She never even got to that point (sadly), because the day before it could happen, she had a sit down with the whole Cup Family in Mike and Robbie’s nice childhood home where the folks were treating Fiona as practically family. And they found out just how close she really has been to this tight-knit group when—surprise, surprise—Robbie and Mike got into a fight, leading to big bro spilling the beans to little bro in an amusingly juxtaposed sequence of Fiona acting like a good daughter-in-law as she watched them fight through a window outside the home. In one of the night’s best moments, the two stopped squabbling long enough to just stare at her, and Fi’s face was the personification of “oh fudge.” Oh Fiona, you really thought that when you cut Robbie off from sex in the episode’s first scene that it would just go sliding away under the table?
The rest of the night for Fiona seems to be dealing with her break-up from Mike, which is actually not the biggest weight on her head. While she tearfully confesses to Mike that she did it to prove to herself that she didn’t deserve the upper-middle class stability of Mike’s family, a self-fulfilling prophecy if there ever was one, the real problem she was facing a return to food stamps and no health insurance (I guess Obamacare hasn’t taken effect yet in this show’s reality?). As V explains to Fiona, “Mike’s a tater tot,” a food that even when cooked to golden perfection, your best reaction will be “meh.” It’s a matter of empirical proof for Fiona, to the point where she doesn’t even deny it when Mike supposedly apologizes for being boring. Well, he certainly isn’t a Jimmy.
But Fiona should fret not, because the show actually took another surprising turn when Fi was NOT fired from her job. Instead, Mike proved himself to be a ridiculously understanding boss when on her actual birthday, he had her transferred from his department to accounting, which is a stunningly graceful solution to the whole “sleeping with the boss/boyfriend’s brother” chestnut. Indeed, Shameless’ refusal to take away Fi’s ticket to the middle class right there was boldly against its mission statement. That statement was even cleverly evoked tonight during the episode’s best line from Kev about how the only way for the impoverished, like himself and Veronica, to get ahead in this country is by doing something illegal. In their case, that involves turning Stan’s upstairs apartment into a rub-and-tug min-brothel so Stan’s gay son does not have his tennis team beat him half to death with rackets (also getting Mickey out of hot water when his wife’s whoring co-workers start seducing Mandy’s boyfriend).
Point is: the show did not take the predictable way out of torpedoing Fiona’s success felt unexpected and intriguing for about thirty minutes…
Because when Robbie shows up at Fi’s home to “apologize” on her birthday with cocaine, she doesn’t only, hilariously, throw him out with a baseball bat when he asks for a mirror—she leaves the coke sitting on the coffee table. Right then, I had a bad feeling about this. As Fi mentioned when Robbie showed up, he sounded a lot like Frank when he talked about how he is still sober when on coke, because it still wasn’t alcohol. Indeed, the rest of Fi’s storyline feels a lot like something that would be in character for Frank.
Come the birthday party, Fi not only has absent-mindedly forgotten about the cocaine, but is snorting it along with the other adults there, despite her “kids” also celebrating the big event. And as they say, shit happens when you party drunk (or cocaine-fueled).
It was a brilliant twist, as I doubt many predicted going into this episode that baby Liam, a character who is usually little more than a prop, would at 3-years-old take his first whiff of Colombian pure. It also creates new tantalizing storyline possibilities because, to the surprise of only the Gallaghers, the authorities took a toddler ingesting half-a-gram of coke very seriously and had Fiona arrested. The rest of Season 4 is about to go in some crazy directions that did not feel telegraphed in the premiere like much of this season has.
However, Fiona doing drugs in front of her kids after what Frank did to her childhood is more than surprising; it doesn’t even make a whole lot of sense. Other than one of the Jasmine parties during Fi’s “crazy summer” with Adam before Jimmy returned, have we even ever seen Fiona do hard drugs? For four years she has seemingly stayed away from that crap, because it reminded her of the pure uselessness and waste-of-space that is Frank Gallagher…which she even stated earlier in this episode. So for her to not only decide to do it “just this one time,” but also in front of her kids not only feels convenient for the plot, but woefully out of character for Fiona. Sure, she feels shitty for what she did for Mike, but unless the inference is that Fi is about to turn into Frank/Monica in the next few episodes, this twist feels as in-character as Frank going sober for a season (liver cancer does not count).
Still, there is equally no denying that Emmy Rossum sells Fi’s mountainous screw-ups this week with an agonizing fury, as she likely falls from the in-sight middle class like Sisyphus just as he gets his boulder near the hilltop. The final shot of the night showcases more than the arbitrary mechanics of this twist, but a real human cost to failure’s totality when Rossum’s face brings in utter, self-fulfilled despair not seen since she realized Jimmy wasn’t coming back. It is a brief, tour de force moment for the actress that can rally viewers to accept where this is headed—not only the likely loss of her job, but the potential custody of her kids. The police even root out Frank in his whacky subplot to build a sweat lodge to tell him what happened to Liam. I imagine the show will terrify us for a week or two about how this calamity may mean Frank gets guardianship of the children again, but that’s not where it is headed.
The other telling shot of the night was Lip watching Fi get taken away. Everyone else walked behind her in abject horror at the thought of Fiona going up the river, but Lip has never been one to ignore everyone else’s faults, if while never seeing his own. When Fiona complained in the hospital about the doctors and nurses staring at her with disgust, Lip could barely disguise his own. This whole episode, he has had his own subplot that showed him taking the responsibility of a brother (or a parent) with his search for Ian, who apparently tried to steal a helicopter while in the Army. The subplot also allowed him to actually parent Debs about the prospect of her wanting to sleep with a 20-year-old, and she again shows her changing role in the Gallagher clan since she helps him sniff out Ian as a mixologist at a gay bar (more on that next week).
Lip is going to see Fiona’s monumental FUBAR parenting as an opening. When Frank taking custody becomes a threat, Lip will finally have an excuse to drop out of school for “unselfish” reasons. Albeit, at the end of the day, they will be exactly that. And the rift it will create between Fi and Lip is enough to power at least the next season and a half.
But I’ve been wrong before.
Most Shameless Quotes of the Week:
-FRANK: Isn’t this a great country? Just one, big, raping melting pot.
-KEV: Baby look, we are victims of a society that squeezes the lower middle class, screws up our businesses because of jackhammers, and taxes, and regulations, and unnecessary paperwork—basically forces us to do illegal shit. Now, I’m having four kids! If that means I have to turn out some Russian whores to feed my family and pursue the American dream, that’s how it’s gotta’ be!
-KEV: Damn Thai sex workers. Stealing jobs from decent Americans.
MICKEY: The girls are Russian.
KEV: They eat with forks, not with sticks, right?