Sometimes when a show you love starts a new season on shaky baby foal’s legs, you just have to put your expectations on hold for a few weeks (or months) and trust that it will find its footing and mature into the stallion that you know it was always meant to be. Sometimes this ends in disaster that only the glue factory can clean up – but sometimes, it pays off in spades that would put Secretariat himself to shame. Or, in this case, to Shameless.
Best. Episode. Ever.
In the penultimate episode of Season 2, Shameless managed to mash everything but the potatoes into the most insane, sexed-up, overmedicated, and blood-soaked hour of television of the year. It was just a few baby dragons short of Game of Thrones, really. It was so good that my hubby actually mistook it for the finale, which comes next week and will likely serve as a denoument and tee-up for Season 3. But for now, let’s enjoy the clusterfuffle that was Turkey Day with the Gallaghers.
We start off with a shot of a few ducks – mallards, I think? – mucking about in the Gallagher’s filthy pool … until Li’l Hank (Nicky Corba) and Carl (Evan Cutkosky) SHOOT THEM DEAD IN THE WATER. It was like NES Duck Hunt: Welfare Edition. Li’l Hank takes home his limp prizes, noting that his family will be dining on duck at Thanksgiving tomorrow.
Upstairs, Debs (Emma Kenney) brings Monica (Chloe Webb) – who apparently has been in bed since we last saw her – toast with peanut butter. Monica doesn’t respond to these sticky enticements, despite Debs’ best efforts. Debs goes down to the kitchen, where the gang discusses depression, Lip’s continued absence, and the fact that Fiona (Emmy Rossum) has been returning all the gadgets that Grammy bought the kids to make up for the missing Squirrel Fund (that Monica and Frank blew on drugs). Ian (Cameron Monaghan) goes upstairs to try with Monica, telling her that he really wants her to take him back to that gay bar again. She doesn’t bite.
Frank (William H. Macy) tries another approach: Literally dragging her ass out of bed, down the hall, and into the tub. Turns out he fixed the car and needs her to help him shake down his brother Clayton (Ian’s real pop, remember) for some of the money their mother sent to him. Monica isn’t into it until Frank gives her some cocaine, after which she’s all “ROAD TRIP!!!”.
Lip (Jeremy Allen White), meanwhile, is making a video diary for his unborn baby with the help of Mandy (Emma Greenwell). Why, I have no idea. She wants to fellate him while he’s talking to his unborn kid – not that we need further evidence of the fact that she’s been seriously misled in the ways of sexual appropriateness. She also wants to define her and Lip’s relationship, which of course goes nowhere with Young Alfie.
Fiona, in a hideous Smurf hat, comes by Steve’s to find Lip, and then demands once more that Steve (Justin Chatwin) kick him out. Thank you, Miss Mixed Messaging. Estafania (Stefanie Wanna-Wanna-Wanna-Fantauzzi) runs out, topless (of course!), squealing that Marco has arrived in one piece and they need to go get him.
Fiona tells Debs and Carl to empty the pool before it freezes and because there’s a homeless guy bathing in it – and Lord knows it’s impossible to chip one of those guys out with an ice pick once they’re set. Carl’s method of draining the pool involves taking a hatchet to it, which comes as no surprise (and works quite well, actually). Debs’s friend Carlton (the homeless guy) tells her all about depression, but not before he puts his clothes on. We thank you, Carlton.
Marco (Thierre Di Castro) is dropped off by a truck driver, and we see that he has wads of cash literally strapped to his (impressive) body. He and Estefania immediately start boning in the car as Steve and Lip try to discuss Fiona and other things – I don’t remember, because I was too distracted by the sight of Marco’s golden globes bouncing up and down in the back seat. It’s too much for Lip as well, so he gets out of the car.
Frank and Monica try to shake down Clayton (Kristoffer Ryan Winters), but he isn’t falling for it – even after Monica drinks his fancy champagne and rubs up on him as Frank peeps from the other room. When Clay rejects her (remember, they did have Ian together, so there’s history beyond just doing PCP in Kamisky Park), she either overdoses or has an emotional breakdown – either way, it leaves her in a puddle on the floor, despondent. Frank carries her out and tells Clay that he’s not finished with him yet.
Over at Chez Jackson, Sheila (Joan Cusack) is overcompensating with Karen (Laura Wiggins) for sleeping with Jody, and Karen calls her on it. Karen tells her she doesn’t care – she can have him. She invites Jody (Zack McGowan) – who is still sleeping in a tent and now sporting a fetching peace-sign-emblazoned Slanket – into the house. Lip drops by and Karen tells him that she sold the baby to the highest bidder, and that she doesn’t care if they’re bad parents. Lip talks her into going with a lower bidder who actually would be good parents. Oh – and Karen is still the most broken mess of a human being ever, by the way.
Fiona is assembling a mock turkey out of SPAM, and I gotta admit it looks pretty decent. Debs tells her that Carlton assured her that she doesn’t, in fact, have depression.
Marco and Estefania are still boning and fighting (which both sound the same in Porteugese, apparently), so Lip goes into the other room to record more video. Steve, meanwhile, is trying to drown them out by blaring the Ritz Carlton welcome channel on the television – and am I the only one who all this time has been thinking that “the Ritz Carlton” was a euphemism for a nice apartment and not an actual hotel? I no think so good.
Anyway, Lip comes out when the din escalates and finds a very nude, VERY fit Marco – who has a corkscrew jammed into one perfect, buttery buttcheek – pinning Steve to the floor with one foot. It is my obligation here to point out that there are several shots where you can glimpse Marco’s c*cksock peeking out from the fulcrum of his tanned, walnut-cracking thighs. (I didn’t want to look, but I had to. I’m a professional.) This pic isn’t actually from the show, but here’s an idea of what he looks like, for your visual reference:
Turns out Marco is furious that Steve slept with Estefania, so Steve makes nice by giving Marco his identity (which is fake anyway, remember) and home so that Marco can stay in the country married to her and no one will ever find him. See? Sometimes good things DO happen to really hot people with loads of money!
On the completely opposite side of that particular coin, Carl happens upon an uzi and a bag of drugs that are thrown out of the window of a car being pursued by the cops. Am I wrong to give the kid a little credit for tossing the stash? Just say no, kid! Now enjoy the automatic weapon.
That night, Ian is hanging out in front of the gay club when a trio of well-heeled men catcall him and invite him to go inside with them. The ringleader is of course played by Harry Hamlin, who notes, “I like my men red.” Like your … juice?
Frank brings Monica home and she wastes no time crawling under the stairs and hiding like a cracked-out Harry Potter with grown-out roots. Accio Downward Spiral! He sings “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (Love Theme from Play Misty For Me)” for her (seriously – look it up), but not particularly well.
Suddenly we’re in a glass palace in the sky that is being guarded by the downy-soft bare buns of Cameron Monaghan. Welcome to 18, pal! We have much to teach you as we leer at your giblets. He looks out over the city as Harry Hamlin – also bare-poopered, and nothing to throw out of bed himself – tells him that he’s a real estate guy from Miami. Ian asks if he can stay the night and his new friend is more than happy to oblige – “We can go for Round 3!” Ah, young love.
Speaking of which, Steve comes by to tell Fiona that he kicked Lip out (not TECHNICALLY true, but whatever), and they kiss wildly for about 3 seconds before regaining their composure. Seriously, when these two actually seal the deal again it’s going to throw the earth off its axis … or at least shut down the L for an hour or two. He asks if he can sleep on the couch so that he’ll be there early for Thanksgiving (inviting himself to that as well), and Fiona lets him. Lip, meanwhile, crashes at Mandy’s.
Carl shoots a duck in the pool with his new machine gun … only it turns out it isn’t a duck, it’s … a BALD EAGLE. Ohmyheck. As a Midwesterner, I can attest that there certainly are bald eagles in that part of the country, but you don’t usually see them slumming it in Southside above-grounds. And I’m of course choosing to pretend that this particular development isn’t a metaphor of any kind, because that would just be too obvious, right?
Inside, the family is up and readying the big dinner. Steve tells everyone he’s going by Jimmy again – they cheer. Kevin (Steve Howey) tells him that they should call him “Jimmy pillow drooler” and demonstrates by letting a beer dribble out of his mouth and onto the floor. They decide to cook the bald eagle for Thanksgiving dinner (“It’s just like the pilgrims intended!”) and cut the tracking device off of its leg – turns out it was one of a few of the endangered critters that was recently rereleased into the wild. They send Carl and his uzi (now sans bullets, at least) to dispose of the tracking device.
Under the stairs, Frank tries to give himself a handjob with Monica’s limp paw and gives up (“Monnie, you gotta squeeze a little!”). He decides its time to put her back on her meds.
Frank is sneaking into Sheila’s just as she and Jody are coming down the stairs, Jody noting that “I didn’t know you could even do that with a turkey baster!” Franks feigns a broken heart at the news about the two of them hooking up, and asks for Lithium to help him recover. Just as they are about to fork over some meds, Karen’s water breaks all over the rug. They scramble to get her to the hospital – except for Frank, who uses the diversion to steal an entire drawer of prescriptions (including the drawer itself). Atta girl!
Lip and Mandy are roused by two of her disgusting brothers, who ask that they take them on a beer run. This entails Mandy trying to go down on Lip in the car as the boys hold up an Asian grocery in ski masks. When Lip sees this (and notices the old Asian woman with the shotgun coming from the store room), he bolts – with Mandy screaming at him from the getaway car. Shots are fired and windows explode as Lip gets the call that Karen is in labor. It’s kind of awesome in a monumentally depressing sort of way.
Jimmy-nee-Steve comes back to the house with a turkey, refusing to eat a bald eagle on Thanksgiving (metaphor averted). Karen, meanwhile, is in labor at the hospital – Sheila made it out of the house to join! – and Jody marvels as he looks between the stirrups: “Man, that thing really opens up!” Lip passes off his videotape to the adoptive parents and runs to Karen’s room.
Ian tries to sneak in the front door after his all-nighter with Perseus, but Fiona catches him. She grills him but lets him off the hook because he came home in time for Thanksgiving, he looks genuinely happy for the first time all year, and he’s sporting a massive hickey that was clearly the work of a professional. Frank gives Monica a Lithium and a beer (Breakfast of Champions!) and then they drag her out from under the stairs for dinner.
At the table, spirits are high. Frank says grace, which ends with cursing his brother to hell. Veronica (Shenola Hampton) gives him a great stink-eyed “Amen?” from the other end of the table, and Monica mumbles to Ian that she’s going to go wash her hands. Carlton – Debs’s homeless friend – comes by, and she introduces him, but then a thump draws their attention to the kitchen. They go to investigate and find Monica sitting in a pool of fresh blood, her wrists slashed. Jeebus. Fiona calls 911, and Steve jumps to her rescue, with he and Ian applying pressure to her wounds with towels. He calls for Frank to help, but Frank stands dead-eyed, unresponsive, and then simply walks out the front door. Wow. New low, pal.
At the hospital, we learn that Monica is stable but they can’t see her, and she’s being held for observation for 72 hours. They get a call from Lip telling them that he didn’t come to the house because he is upstairs, because Karen is in labor. They all run up and most are admitted into the birthing room (is that really standard procedure?) just in time to see a GRAPHIC LIVE BIRTH. Ugh. Okay, I can handle corkscrews jammed into the hamhocks of Brazilian models and dead national birds, but I did NOT expect to see a live crowning on this show. Veronica decides that maybe it’s best that she can’t have kids after all. HA! Well-played.
They are all thrilled until someone notices that something looks wrong with the baby. He has Downs’ Syndrome. And he’s Asian. Kevin suggests, “Maybe we’re all just looking at him upside-down?” Bless him and his adorable, well-meaning, Craisin-sized brain. They try to get Karen to hold her baby, but she snaps: “Tell Tim and Alanna to come get their f*cking baby!” Ouch. Lip is furious, but a scorchingly unrepentant Karen tells him that she screwed Timmy Wong just as much as she screwed him, and she never told him it was his kid to begin with. Yep – still broken. Lip storms out and tells the adoptive parents – who cry, give Lip back his tape, and run for the hills. Oh jeez.
Frank is at the bar drinking and popping pills. He falls off his stool and stumbles to a curb, where he lays down to sleep. Full circle to Season 1, eh?
And finally, we see Sheila hanging out by the nursery ward looking shady. Sure enough, she breaks in, steals a baby (Karen’s, I’m guessing), and hops onto the back of Jody’s motorcycle with it and they take off, sirens blaring behind them. She whoops with glee as they speed off into the night.
I love this show.
I don’t even know where to start. This episode was an emotional powderkeg in a show that is already a series of lit fuses. I was alternately gasping (at Monica’s suicide attempt; at the news about the baby and the reaction of the adoptive parents; at the Bald Eagle), screaming (at Marco’s corkscrewed can and the ill-fated “beer run”), and having very impure thoughts (at Ian’s rear-view reveal and … well, it’s hard to ignore Marco’s charms). The culmination of so many of the storylines (Shiela and Jody’s illicit affair; Karen’s pregnancy; Lip’s papa-fueled derailment; Fiona and Steve’s stalemate; Monica’s rollercoaster return; Ian’s coming out) at one cataclysmic Thanksgiving dinner was brilliantly maneuvered. Butterball once cautioned, “It’s her first turkey – not a word if it’s dry!” No worries – there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
I give it my first 10 Old Styles of the year:
But that’s just me. What did you folks think of the penultimate ep? And what are you looking forward to in the finale and Season 3?