All along, I’ve been wondering which classic final season storyline Rescue Me would embrace. And all season long, the show has mostly avoided picking one storyline and sticking to it. We’ve had stuff going on all over the place, and while not all of it was bad or anything, it made the show feel pretty messy, even as it clearly thought it was being lean and mean and hurtling toward the climax. Now that we’re in the third-to-last episode, though, we finally have the semblance of a final season storyline, and it’s a weird combination between “the main character gives up the thing they love most” and “everybody turns on the main character, only to re-embrace them at the end.” You’ve likely seen these narratives before, in the final seasons of other drama series, and both of them make a certain amount of sense for Rescue Me to embrace. It’s been clear all along that Tommy would have to, at some point, question whether he needed firefighting in his life, and now Lou’s gone ahead and made that happen for him.
That’s the primary bit of action in “Jeter,” a strange episode that rambled along until it just ended, on the eve of Colleen and Black Shawn’s wedding, with Tommy and Lou finally having it out (for what seems like the sixth or seventh time). Along the way, Lou and Franco battled for the soul of the firehouse in a woefully underdeveloped storyline that the show keeps doggedly pursuing for no real reason, everybody cried when they realized how much Tommy really loved them, and Lou set himself on fire (and not in tribute to the Stars album). There were good scenes here, but the entire story development of this last season feels like vital, vital scenes are getting left on the cutting room floor in favor of stuff that doesn’t terribly matter at all.
Take the whole “Franco wants to be in control” storyline. Theoretically, this is something the show has been building to for years now, but it still rather feels like it arose out of nowhere this season, as though the writers remembered that way back when, they had that storyline where Franco and Janet were close, and it seemed kind of fun to have Daniel Sunjata and Denis Leary at each other’s throats. Anyway, now Franco’s the lieutenant, at Lou’s suggestion, and he’s got the house in tip-top shape, everything spic-and-span (insert obvious racist-slur joke). There’s lots of tough talk about how he’s not putting up with Lou and Tommy’s shit anymore and how they’re leading the house down the hole (a conversation I feel like we’ve had every episode this season). No matter how accurate Franco is in this assessment, we know that the show isn’t going to embrace that assessment because, well, Tommy and Lou are the two most important characters. This gives a decided lack of tension to the proceedings.
Anyway, everything culminates in a scene where some guy has had an accident that ends with his car half hanging over the edge of the river, to the point where he could very well topple into it. Franco, being Franco, decides to rush in and be the hero or whatever, and this only results in the guy, still in the car, coming even closer to falling into the water, the car nearly taking Franco with it. The others have to hang onto the back of the car, pushing it down so it doesn’t fall, and then they attach a chain and pull the car back on solid ground, just like Lou said they should. Lou chews out Franco, then Tommy says that Franco is A-Rod to Lou’s Jeter, a cute metaphor that mostly made me grind my teeth. Lou’s all about getting the win, Tommy says. Franco huffs a bit, but would anyone be surprised if this were the end of this particular storyline, even though that’s not even a resolution? I know I wouldn’t be.
And yet I mostly liked this episode. Why? Because I really like John Scurti, and as the episode title would suggest, this was John Scurti’s magical mystery tour through the world of Rescue Me. I suggested last week that Scurti does a great job with the show’s monologues, and it gives him something like 500 in this one episode, including letting him play the exact same monologue for drama, then for comedy, solely by altering the pace he says the words at. There’s a moment where Lou sits and reads the letter Tommy wrote to him in the event of Tommy’s death, and even though Leary’s voice is on the soundtrack and the only one speaking, you see Scurti read the note at exactly the pace Leary is reading it. You see the tears start to form. You see the devastation on his face. The following scene—featuring Lou coming out to show Tommy his best sad face—is also great silent acting. This whole episode is the John Scurti showcase, and I couldn’t be happier.
Like, I’m not even entirely sure what that whole monologue about how alcohol is a fire swirling around inside of Tommy’s soul is supposed to mean, other than sounding kinda cool the first time you hear it (and then making less and less sense subsequent times you hear it), but Scurti delivers the hell out of it. And even though the part where Lou burns the letter to Janet and then hears her say, “Oh, I sure do wish Tommy would quit firefighting!” and takes it upon himself to make sure that Tommy actually does is hamfisted and pretty stupid, as is the final moment where Tommy and Lou go at each other’s throats, I liked it in spite of myself. I like these actors, playing these characters, and I like seeing them do these stupid scenes together. It’s still pretty clear that none of this makes very much sense, but that’s fine. It doesn’t have to.
So now Tommy’s been backed into a retirement date he doesn’t entirely want, but one that everyone who loves him really wants him to take. He’s also still an alcoholic, and even when he doesn’t take a drink, just opening the bottle is like taking a drink. And Lou and Tommy are at odds, just as Franco is at odds with everybody in the firehouse. There’s pretty much no way to bring everybody together in time that doesn’t involve one of the characters dying, so let’s all place our bets on who’s going to die. (I’ve still got Black Shawn, in the fire, immediately following his wedding.)
- Oh, yes. There’s also a lengthy thing about Tommy and the wedding planning. I completely get why he’s not happy about Colleen walking down the aisle on Teddy’s arm, but I’ve long since stopped caring about this storyline. That said, it was nice to see Mickey again.
- Also nice: Tommy says he’s done drinking, and everybody pretty much rolls their eyes and says, “SURE YOU ARE!” I totally buy that they’d be completely skeptical about this latest turn from their favorite lush.
- OK, it has to be done. If Franco is A-Rod and Lou is Jeter and Tommy is Mickey Mantle, then who are all of the other guys in terms of famous New York Yankees? Sean, of course, is Lou Gehrig, mostly because he’s one of the most dependably awesome characters on the show, but it seems like nobody pays him much attention, compared to the other “superstars” around him. Also, Gehrig was well known for his relationship with a hot woman with terrible gas. (I will admit that my Yankee hatred has made me particularly bad at lining this particular parlor game up.)