They say celebrity deaths come in threes, but when it comes to the passing of Jack Klugman and Charles Durning on Dec. 24, two is way more than enough for me. Both character actors were invaluable to Hollywood, and I loved the work each of them did.
Klugman’s was probably the more recognizable name, and he had more success on the small screen, as sloppy Oscar Madison on THE ODD COUPLE and as the dogged medical examiner on QUINCY, M.E. Durning’s most enduring movie moment was playing the scoundrel governor in film adaptation of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Durning’s show-stopping song-and-dance was so impressive it must be seen to be appreciated:
Dreams, hallucinations and hauntings are a recurring theme on RESCUE ME, and the sixth-season finale hinged on “surprise” that cast the entire episode in doubt – hence the effect was very underwhelming. The “twist” wasn’t really a twist, because Tommy hallucinates all the time and thus it came as no surprise – but the implications of the final reveal were only slightly intriguing.
Sheila (Callie Thorne) was on the phone with her psychiatrist, talking about how she thinks Jimmy is still with her, even though she knows he’s dead. Her mantra for the day: “It’s not my fault.” Then she broke down in hysterics. Tommy (Denis Leary) came home with groceries and she clammed up. He gave her a book called It’s Not Your Fault. On her way out, she kissed Damian (Michael Zegen) who was crippled in a wheelchair, but alive. His face and neck were badly scarred, but he was alive He could only move one arm at a time, and that one shook as if with a palsy. My immediate reaction was that RESCUE ME was doing a riff on STAR TREK’s paralyzed Capt. Pike, because that’s who Damian reminded me of. But Damian wasn’t communicating with a flashing light; he wasn’t communicating at all. She said she was going to see a man about a drug to help him walk again.
RESCUE ME engaged in a classic piece of misdirection: with the audience distracted by Lou’s failing health, the-powers-that-be sucker-punched Damian – and viewers. This episode is called “Good-bye” for a reason!
The action picked up moments after last week’s cliff-hanger, with Mickey (Robert John Burke) having dinner with Tommy (Denis Leary) and family. Mickey made small talk about Sheila (Callie Thorne) moving into a new place, and pointedly asking Tommy whether he’d ever been there. Tommy pretended to be eating his spaghetti, and finally faked a huge choking fit to avoid answering. As Mickey tried a particularly hostile Heimlich, Sheila arrived, misinterpreted and panicked, shouting, “We didn’t do anything!” Finally, Mickey said he caught Tommy and Sheila on top of each other, with her dress off. Tommy couldn’t explain, so Sheila jumped in and described how Tommy grabbed her from behind and kissed her and ripped her dress off! Well, he admitted he kissed her. But he blamed her “vixeny” look. They were angry and swept up in the moment and kissed, but realized it was stupid, and tried to stop, but fell. Tommy claimed he “cared deeply” for Sheila, but only really loves Janet. Sheila of course claimed he loved her for five years, and Sheila broke off the relationship because she’s in love with Mickey.
Hmm, another new episode of RESCUE ME, another new Tommy? This is getting to be a habit.
Following last week’s night of passion with Janet (Andrea Roth), Tommy (Denis Leary) woke up early and burned some eggs. But what really bothered me was him wearing a Boston Bruins shirt – that’s just something no true New Yorker would be caught dead wearing! Tommy should have been wearing a N.Y. Rangers sweater, but this is a case of Massachusetts-born co-creator Leary throwing his weight around and allowing his own sensibilities to compromise the character. Something else that seemed out of character at first blush? Tommy actually wanted to talk about last night! But of course Janet didn’t. Then Tommy forced the issue. She admitted that she was assuming this meant they were starting over, all “happy, happy sunshine.” He confessed that the sex just happened, but maybe it was the beginning a “recom…commitment…thing.” Surprisingly, she was willing to give it one more shot. (Apparently the memories of the late Connor that were conjured last week were damn powerful.) But this was The Last Time. If it crashes and burns, or if it’s just another one of his empty promises, it will be the last hurtful thing he ever does to her. Janet’s one caveat: zero contact with Sheila. She called him turning to Sheila an emotional betrayal, like a dagger to her heart.
RESCUE ME began with the aftermath of Tommy’s desperate bid to save the life of one child, and ended with the long-delayed fallout of the loss of another child.
Tommy (Denis Leary) was in jail following his booze baptism of daughter Colleen (Natalie Distler) last week. While locked in stir, he apologized to the ghost of Connor, whom he had previously roughed up (alongside Jimmy’s shade). Janet (Andrea Roth) eventually sprung him and took him home. When Colleen suggested that her father’s extreme aversion therapy may have actually made her lose her taste for alcohol, Tommy insisted on testing it by forcing her to take a drink. She promptly puked. That wasn’t enough for him, so he made her down another shot; she got sick again. Hammering home the point, Col wanted to try a swig of wine, but just looking at the bottle in the fridge made her toss her cookies. Janet realized his homemade “tough love” may have saved Colleen, and Janet agreed to go to dinner with him.
This week’s RESCUE ME offered three knock-down fights the likes of which you probably have never seen before: a drunken brawl at an AA meeting; two firemen tangling in an alley; and a father forcibly baptizing his daughter in the waters of their mutual addiction.
After the horrifying bender that very nearly resulted in his daughter’s death, and then seeing a reckless drunken woman kill her daughter in a car wreck and walk away, Tommy (Denis Leary) decided he needed take drastic action to get his daughter Colleen (Natalie Distler) off the sauce before he loses another child. The problem, however, as Janet (Andrea Roth) observed: “She’s young, dumb, and a Gavin.”
This week’s wrenching RESCUE ME took a look at the ramifications of being a blackout drunk like Tommy; it’s not all good times, sex and heroic rescues. Sometimes it’s fights and loss of memory and family members.
When last we saw Tommy (Denis Leary) he was embarking on a bender with the top-shelf whiskey that Mickey (Robert John Burke) and Uncle Teddy (Lenny Clarke) had given him. Locked in the back room of the bar, he instantly spiraled out of control in a way we have never seen before. Sure, we’ve seen Tommy desperately try to drown his sorrows in the past, and we’ve seen some pretty crazy hallucinations – up to and including Jesus – but we have never seen him this out of control before. When Jimmy’s shade showed up to chide him for drinking and pissing his life away, Tommy turned on him and actually beat the snot out of him! Tommy claimed that he had carried Jimmy all those years, and the one time he took his eyes off him – 9/11 – Jimmy got himself martyred and became an instant hero, leaving Tommy to feel like the goat. Tommy was interrupted by the specter of his son Connor – and Tommy even lashed out at him! This is when we knew Tommy had totally lost it. No way a sober Tommy roughs up his dead kid.
This week’s RESCUE ME ended on shock image: Lou was found collapsed on the floor of the station, eyes open, apparently dead. That’s one hell of a cliff-hanger! But then, moments later, the previews for next week’s installment ruined the whole frakkin’ thing by showing Lou alive, and just as combative as ever! Spoilers, FX… spoilers!
Okay, okay, so I didn’t really think Lou was going to die; but how about making the effort to sell the illusion? That’s what episodic storytelling is all about: trying to get the audience to invest in a given week’s story when we all know that the status quo will be restored by the end of the story. So maybe FX was giving us viewers credit for being savvy enough to know John Scurti isn’t going anywhere, and so the network decided to wink at us through the promos. Yeah, that’ it! Way to get all meta on us, FX. In a way, that makes the network hip, doesn’t it? (Personal aside: um, no… no, it does not.)
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: RESCUE ME’s Tommy Gavin is gonna stop drinking. This time for real. Why are you laughing? Oh, right, this is Tommy Gavin we’re talking about. How many times have we heard those exact same words? And we viewers have only known Tommy for a few years. Imagine how often his friends and family have heard that one!
Yep, this week’s RESCUE ME represented yet another attempt by Tommy (Denis Leary) to climb aboard the wagon and stay on it for more than a few weeks. “I’m living in the moment,” he told Mickey (Robert John Burke). “I’m making some positive changes.” Unsurprisingly, his announcement was met with peals of laughter by his firehouse buddies. But Tommy was (mostly) sincere with his “making amends stimulus package”; after all, he did have a gun pointed at his head. Last week, Uncle Teddy (Lenny Clarke) promised to finish the job he started last season if Tommy strays off the straight-and-narrow. Problem is, nobody else believes Tommy is capable of quitting, and by the end of the episode, everybody was proved right.
The new season of RESCUE ME opens with a harrowing vignette in which Tommy dies — and then things go downhill from there. All of which is a good thing.
When last we saw Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary), he was lying in a pool of his own blood on the floor of the bar, bleeding out after being shot by a vengeful Uncle Teddy (Lenny Clarke). The story picked up with Tommy dying in the back of an ambulance, then jumped ahead to his recovery.
Viewers got to experience Tommy’s vision along with him as his recent life flashed before his eyes; a ho-hum near-death experience. But that culminated in a tableau of body bags arrayed on the foggy ice of a hockey rink. One by one, the bags opened to reveal firefighters, and a confused Tommy found himself among the brave men who were killed on 9/11. Jimmy (James McCaffrey) was there, and encouraged Tommy to join him in the light with the others. But Tommy couldn’t; he suddenly found himself trapped in a burning tenement, hemmed in by flames. He was visited by the familiar ghosts of victims he could not save on 9/11, and tormented by a vision of the Twin Towers before the attack. And then he awoke, alive. Tommy was lucky to survive that blood-chilling near-death experience. I find so many such interludes to be utterly dull; this one was downright eerie. And I should expect nothing less from this brutal series, which is so loathe to pull punches.