That’s right, folks – the booziest, baddest, and most anally-fixated show on television is back for a new season of Old Style-fueled debauchery. I’ll be stepping into the mismatched sneakers of snicks this year (your other shoe is in aisle 3, pal!) to recap the Gallagher clan’s latest scams and sexploits every week. Just consider me your Monday morning hangover.
When we last left Frank, Fiona, Lip, Ian, Debbie, Carl, Liam, and friends, Steve (aka Jimmy) had apparently taken off for Costa Rica, Karen’s Promise Maker father had jumped into an iced-over lake hugging a cinderblock, Ian’s boyfriend Pigpen Mickey was in jail, and Lip had just tried to kill Frank for banging Karen on video (in Frank’s defense, he was even more messed up than usual when it happened).
When we catch up with the gang, it’s summer. Already things feel much different in Chicago’s South Side because there’s not three feet of snow covering everything, the men are in shorts, and Frank isn’t wearing that ridiculous Smurf hat. Everybody wins!
Frank (William H. Macy) is still shacking up with Sheila (Joan Cusack), who is now able to take 100 steps outside of her house. Karen (Laura Wiggins) – blond again and in a sex addict support group – warns Frank that since Sheila will soon be able to make it all the way to The Alibi and learn what a scam artist Frank really is, this gig is almost up and it’s time to make other plans. Despondent about the fact that the missing Mr. Jackson is no longer supporting Sheila, Karen, and himself, Frank hits the bar and loudly complains about the situation. He also bets a massive guy $10,000 that he can’t take two hits from a taser without soiling himself, which he promptly loses, much to the delight of easily amused barkeep Kevin (Steve Howey).
Fiona (Emmy Rossum), meanwhile, is a cocktail waitress at a nightclub where Veronica (Shanola Hampton) bartends. She’s apparently been seeing a young finance exec named Adam (Lone Star’s adorable James Wolk) while dodging the ever-bizarre advances of Jasmine (Amy Smart), who is up to her usual party girl nonsense while her hubby is away. Later, Fiona has her Footloose moment when she hangs out of a speeding car waving a bottle of booze. Looks like she’s either doing very well at getting over Steve or she’s doing very NOT well.
Elsewhere, Lip (Jeremy Allen White) is making cash staging underground bare-knuckle fights with the help of gay bro Ian (Cameron Monaghan) and Mandy (played this season by Emma Greenwell, since Jane Levy was snatched up by the equally awesome Suburgatory). Ian’s coaching advice: “You’re punching like a fag.” Ah, kids and their gay self-loathing! Warms the heart.
Fiona comes home from an early-morning boff on the shores of Lake Michigan with Adam to find the strapping-but-kind-of-evil Officer Tony (Tyler Jacob Moore) – who is in the middle of remodeling the house next door, which he blackmailed Steve-nee-Jimmy into giving to him – on the sidewalk. Looks like he’s still actually thinking something still might happen between him and Fi. Good luck with that!
Fiona camps out in front of a fan and Lip comes down with a face like hammered skirt steak. Turns out he’s not a regular Fight Clubber, but he had to fill in when one of his scrappers “pussied out” on him. Debbie (Emma Kenney) is apparently singlehandedly running a daycare out of the house, complete with an above-ground pool sponsored by the Chicago Fire Department. She asks to have wee Liam moved out of her room in preparation for the “traumatic change” about to ravage her preadolescent body, but the boys are not having it. Fiona also reminds her that she’s only allowed a half cup of coffee. Kids these days with their stimulants!
Lip heads outside to visit the massive garden that cult survivor Ethel (Madison Davenport – two of my favorite Midwestern cities!) has managed to cultivate. Kevin – who now has a beard and long hair, btw – relaxes in a lawn chair and looks on approvingly. It’s like playing Farmville, only you get a check from Child Protective Services every week!
Over at Casa Jackson, Karen catches Frank digging around in Sheila’s things for her ATM card and “rainy day fund”, and tells him that she made her move it after “what happened last time”. Ouch.
Back at the Gallagher house, Fiona checks in the last tot of the day, reminds Debbie of the protocol (“Don’t wake you unless there’s blood or exposed bone”), straps on her earplugs and puts on the best sleep mask since Popular’s Mary Cherry busted out “CUPCAKE IS SLEEPING”:
We then join Ian at the Kash and Grab, where always-chipper Linda (Marguerite Moreau from Wet Hot American Summer, which always delights me to remember) is whining about Kash not coming home and her having to open the store by herself. Ian says he doesn’t know where Kash was last night, and when a kid tries to buy cigarettes she barks, “What are you, eight? Get the hell out of here!”
She tells Ian “no free breakfasts”, grabs a donut and heads upstairs – the minute she’s gone he grabs his own donut and Kash (Pej Vahdat) comes in, complaining that he’s been waiting across the street for an hour for Linda to leave. Ian asks if he had a good night and Kash tells him it’s none of his business, then orders him to microwave him a burrito and stock the cooler. Linda chirps in on a walkie-talkie and starts berating Kash for not coming home, but he switches her off. Just another day’s work!
Out in some charming junk yard, Kevin and Lip uncover an ice cream truck that looks like it has barely survived a zombie apocalypse. Lip asks if the harvest is ready yet, and Kev says almost, but that they need to be especially careful this year because the park is swimming with cops. He goes to chase the rats out of the coolers. Why do I have a feeling that Bomb Pops aren’t the strongest thing that they sell out of this truck?
Back at The Alibi, Kev’s co-worker tells him that some guy named Stan who lives upstairs is on one of his racist fugues about something or other. He goes upstairs to check, and sure enough there’s some old dude screaming obscenities that I can’t begin to repeat here into the phone. Turns out he owns the bar, and for some reason the electrical bill is over $8,000 this month. Kevin quiets the guy down and tells him he’ll figure it out.
Back at the Kash and Grab, someone wearing what I think is a full women’s abaya (my sartorial hijab is a little rusty!) walks in and heads to the walk-in cooler. Kash, looking excited, tells Ian to watch the counter and joins him/her. Whah? Later the mysterious individual leaves, but on the way out the veil slips to reveal a man’s face with a beard. Ian laughs, and when Kash tells him to get back to work he points out that Kash’s fly is open. Later, Kash emerges from the storeroom again with another abaya-wearing companion (I think it’s a different guy) and when Ian asks if he can go home, Kash starts to cry and says that he can’t live like this anymore. I can understand why – he’s gonna get a cold going in and out of that cooler twelve times a day!
Lip – wearing just a pair of shorts, which I could get very used to – gets the ice cream truck running and Kev tells him they’re going to need to sell a LOT of pot this summer. He takes Lip to the basement of the Alibi and explains that with the help of Ethel and a buttload of sunlamps he’s grown a ton of plants this year – which is what ran the bar’s electric bill up so high. As he shows Lip his underground rainforest, Ethel pops out in her Holly Hobby pot-tending smock and gushes that Mister Kevin is going to help all the old people who are going blind. Ha! Kev doesn’t think that they’ll be able to unload enough to make the money to cover the bill by Friday, but Lip thinks that he might know a guy who will want to buy entire plants.
Frank, meanwhile, has stolen Liam from Debbie Daycare and is using him to panhandle on the street. Unfortunately, he walks up to the window of the guy he owes the ten grand to, and he and his buddies take Frank and Liam hostage (putting a Doritos bag over Frank’s head, which might actually improve his usual odor). The guy tells him he’s going to start cutting off Frank’s toes if he doesn’t get him the money, then adds that he’s keeping Liam as collateral. Liam is in a cage in the corner – I’d point out how awful this is but since we just saw Debbie keeping a kid in a dog crate a few minutes ago, I guess it’s probably not that big a deal to Liam. Frank actually seems a wee bit fatherly at the thought of his baby being kept hostage in a machine shop, and promises that he’ll be back soon.
We later see Frank at the house, filling up plastic bags with fake drugs (baby laxative and oregano) to sell.
In other drug vending news, Lip and Kevin are already killing it in the ice cream truck, selling junk food, loosies (buck apiece), joints and American beer to kids and their adult supervision. Lip has rigged up a cop GPS tracker (with the help of Professor Hearst, who tries unsuccessfully to get Lip to help out with a project with the Defense Department and who is considering buying a six-foot pot plant) that will tell them if any boys in blue are nearby. Karen shows up and shares that she’s been seeing another sex addict named Jody, and that they’re keeping it non-physical for now. Lip thinks that’s ridiculous, but not as ridiculous as the fact that she’s never heard of Guns ’n Roses, which she also shares.
Frank has no luck selling his fake drugs (he gets shot at by one dealer either for moving in on his territory or for carrying a hideous parasol), so he heads on over to The Manhole, a gay honky-tonk run by Hugo (Robert Gallo), who isn’t happy to see him. Frank insists that he wouldn’t be there if he wasn’t in serious need of the cash, mentioning that Liam is in trouble. Hugo relents, and hooks Frank up with a middle-aged fella who pays to blow Frank in the bathroom, and then a line of other eager customers, each less appealing than the last.
Debbie wakes up Fiona and updates her that Frank has taken Liam. Jasmine shows up and tries to talk Fiona into going out with a friend of a guy that she sometimes steps out with and lets buy her nice things. Fiona’s skeptical and clearly thinks it’s thinly-veiled prostitution. Later, at the club, Adam shows up and talks up Fiona’s skills as a runner (they raced on the beach early that morning), but V warns Fiona not to get too attached to this guy because he’s clearly a rebound from Steve. Hey – remember Steve? It’s interesting that Justin Chatwin was listed in the credits and we haven’t seen so much as an impossibly long eyelash yet.
Back at home, Ian gets ready to take a shower (and I am contractually obligated here to point out that Cameron Monaghan has been working out and is now 18 so there’s nothing wrong with my noticing that he looks pretty damn good, right?) and Lip finds a brochure for West Point in his bag, which does not make him happy (paired with his disparaging comments about the Dept. of Defense earlier, I’m getting that Lip isn’t into the military). Ian tells Lip that he’s serious about this but there’s no way he’d get in, and after a moment Lip says that if it’s what he wants, he’ll help make it happen.
Later, V comes home to find Kev and Ethel drying about 50 pot plants throughout the house. Kev shows her his underground cannabis plantation and she tells him he has to destroy all of it immediately, because they’re looking at huge sentences if they get caught with this much weed (adding, “and I’m black!”).
When Fiona comes home and Debbie tells her that Liam still isn’t home, the whole gang of kids charge Sheila’s house and wake up Frank. He tries to tell them that Liam’s at his first sleepover (“He’s two!” “Yeah, they sleep a lot at that age…”) and then takes them to the apartment of the guy who has Liam (and has been playing with him, rather adorably). Undaunted by a shotgun in the face, Fiona barges in and all the kids empty their pockets, and Liam goes home. Later, in the kitchen, Frank tries to explain that he did everything he could but Fiona, silent, kicks him out.
The next morning, Ian comes in to work and Kash’s walk-in buddy is right behind him. Kash joins him in the back, and Linda calls for Ian on the walkie to send Kash upstairs immediately. Ian knocks and both men come out in full abayas, with Kash carrying a suitcase. He says he can’t deal with Linda anymore and asks Ian to give him an hour head-start.
Oof! That’s rough, dude. I mean, I know Linda makes harpies look like the cast of Rio, but bailing on her and your kids is really lousy.
Back at the High Times Community Garden, the kids are helping Kev and V bag up the pot for destruction. Fiona asks if she can keep a bag (Kev stashes two more in the dumpster), and we later see her take a tree to the guys who had Liam, telling them that it should just about cover their debt.
At Sheila’s, Frank comes downstairs expecting breakfast but Sheila points out that she’s not a short-order cook and leaves for her walk. Well done, sister suffragate!
Kev is burying his bags of weed in the garden when Officer Tony comes by to chat with Ethel about heirloom tomatoes. Despite actually stepping on one of the bags, he doesn’t notice. Ah, Tony – stay dumb and pretty!
Lip meets Jody (Karen’s biker boyfriend), who points out that they’re both wearing the same tank-top. I have a feeling Jody smells like Drakkar Noir and detangler.
The episode sort of ends with Debbie timing Fiona at the track, but in the mid-credits mini-scene we see that Kev and V opted to burn the whole stash in a massive pot bonfire under the L tracks. Naturally hundreds of neighbors come by to enjoy the spectacle (the kids even toast marshmallows over the fire), but I have a feeling you could have gotten a contact high from it as far as Skokie. Part of me is hoping that the cops show up and end up getting totally stoned off the smoke, because then this would have the exact same plot as the ’80s T&A classic The Beach Girls, and that would make me very happy.
SO! How are we feeling about the Gallaghers’ return? Before I add my two cents, I’m going to rate the episode on my proprietary scale of Old Style bottles. I think this one deserves about a seven:
I liked the episode, don’t get me wrong, but I just know there’s so much better coming that I want to pace myself. It was a little too much catch-up and a little too little of the genuinely sick crap for which I love the show.
It’s interesting that Ian went from two boyfriends to none (I understand there’s another love interest on the way), and I’m curious to see if he sticks to his guns (both figuratively and literally) regarding a military career. Karen has always been one of my favorite characters and I didn’t get quite enough of her, but its good to see she dropped the Hot Topic look and is trying to take care of herself. I’m guessing Steve/Jimmy will make an unexpected return soon and foul Fiona’s life up again, but I’m okay with that because I kind of like the two of them together. I’m also not expecting Frank to be begging off of Sheila too much longer, now that she’s getting it together. And … um … now the opening titles are in blue. I think that covers it.
Anyone else have any predictions? Things you liked? Things you hated? Share ’em in the comments!