“Shameless”: Love Is A Battlefield

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This season of Shameless has been a curious one – more so than past years, the characters have felt scattered far and wide, the storylines haven’t seemed to connect, and the big picture has been blurry at best. This week the show let the season’s major theme emerge and it did so with a wallop – and sadly, with a devastating turn of events for some of our favorite characters. Let’s dig in!

Mickey (Noel Fisher) tries to get Ian (Cameron Monaghan) off in their bed but the meds – and the fact that wee Liam is sitting in the corner (though thankfully they are under a blanket) – are making it hard difficult for him to perform. Mickey keeps a close eye on Ian, telling him not to drink coffee (he does anyway). Sammi (Emily Bergl) is in the kitchen – they ask why she’s still there, and she says she’s looking for apartments that day. Meanwhile, nobody made breakfast, the milk was left out and went bad, and the water got shut off because nobody paid the bill. Sammi of course watched all of this happen and did nothing to teach the other kids a lesson, though God knows what that lesson might be. Wait, where’s Fiona?

Lip (Jeremy Allen White) wakes up in his new threesome’s home but turns down crepes from Helene’s husband. Lip is clearly having trouble adjusting. They ask about boundaries, etc. but he has very little to say. Helene gives Lip some homework (even though it’s Saturday) and tells him to come to her office that afternoon.

Frank (William H. Macy) treats Bianca to a spiked coffee to help stave off the hangover and assures her that they didn’t sleep together. He wants to go out for breakfast (her dime, no doubt) because she has no food. She kicks him out at the mention of Cream Chipped Beef. Can’t blame her. He begs to stay, telling her that their chemistry is “off the charts”. She kicks him out anyway. What exactly is going on here?

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Fiona (Emmy Rossum) comes home – her home with Gus, which is clean and well-appointed and full of things that remind her of him – and waters the plants. She calls him and they have a pleasant chat. He’s confused, so is she. At least they have that in common! He says he’s at a rest stop in “Ass Butt, USA.” They make a Skype sex date for 4:30am. Good work, Fiona.

Debs (Emma Kenney) and Derek flirt at the gym – she made him a memento out of a rock from the supermarket parking lot where he saved her. They kiss and he says he wants to have sex with her and she’s delighted to hear it. They make a plan for that night, at Debs’ house. He invites her to a barbecue dinner with his family first. Hmm.

Kev (Steve Howey) is taking care of the crying babies… in the dorm room. His neighbors are not happy. He and V (Shanola Hampton) talk on the phone about Gemma’s cold and other baby stuff. Joaquin from a few episodes back visits and tells Kev that the other guys are going to turn him in, so Kev does a cheap weed flash sale to calm down the locals. See? He does have a way with kids!

Debs and Fiona pack a box for Carl and Debs asks Fiona to take her to Planned Parenthood to get her the pill. Fiona reluctantly agrees.

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Ian works at the diner, but all the noise and activity are getting to him. He is distracted by the grill, and when the cook walks away for a minute, he walks over and puts his hand right on it. Oh Christ. He eventually pulls it away but his hand is already burned to a blistery mess. Gah. The cook asks if he wants the first aid kit but Ian doesn’t respond, wrapping his hand in a towel.

Fiona visits V, who complains that Kev still isn’t the old Kev who looked at her like she was the only thing in the universe. Frank (not-so-fresh from a botched bathroom hookup) complains about Bianca kicking him to the curb, and V asks what his scam is. He insists there isn’t one. Kermit and V asks Frank to name one good quality he has. He actually tries, and they realize that this is serious to him when he voluntarily walks away from a full beer.

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Amanda visits Lip in his room, where he’s studying. She comes onto him – her lesbian fling is getting boring – and he says he can’t do anything today because he’s got something going on with his professor and her husband. Probably not a good move to tell her that, Lip. Amanda leaves in a bit of a huff, adding, “PS, I need my car back at some point.” Uh-oh.

Meanwhile, outside, all the guys who bought the weed from Kev are freaking the eff out in the hallways – turns out it was synthetic weed laced with all kinds of crap. Lip corrals all of them in Kev’s room and calls in Kev, who finds one stray walking repeatedly into the wall outside. Lip and Kev argue about what to do, until Joaquin jumps out the window, breaking his rhinoceros on the way down.

Ian comes home and Sammi tends to his burned hand. She’s packing some of their stuff in a box that she says none of them use. He says his new scar matches the one he got in the army while trying to hotwire a helicopter. He explains why the MPs are after him (it’s a variety of legit reasons, unfortunately) and adds the mental illness thing isn’t helping. Later, a nude Frank complains that there isn’t any water to Ian, who wishes him good luck on finding a place to “scrub his junk.” Frank calls him stupid as he storms out.

Debs and Fiona chat with the doctor, who warns Debs that the pill won’t start to work for 40 hours.

Mickey brings home a bunch of B-vitamins for Ian, who says he’s going out tonight, and Mickey can come with or stay home and “jerk off into his vitamins” if he wants to.

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Frank visits Bianca’s building but her sister won’t let him up, calling him “that homeless guy”. Frank says he isn’t giving up that easy, and climbs onto a dumpster and tries to jump onto the fire escape. Instead, he just breaks the dumpster lid and winds up inside it. He yells at Bianca’s window until she opens it – he offers to be her chauffeur to the Pearly Gates, and she smiles before her sister pulls her back inside. He pulls out a fifth of vodka and says he’s going to sip it on the curb, and she has until he finishes to join him or he’s leaving.

Lip brings Joaquin to Helene’s house to see her husband at 5am. He’s flailing around the backseat with a broken leg. Lip is disappointed to learn that her husband is a doctor of theology, not a medical doctor. Oh, Lip. She calls 911 and Lip is furious. She asks why he’s mad at her and he says, “South Side rules”. She tells him to drop the hood rat routine and take advantage of all the charity that’s falling out of the sky to him before it’s too late. Okay, at least they’re acknowledging that he’s gotten some exceedingly lucky breaks lately.

Fiona Skypes Gus but he doesn’t answer, so she leaves him a voicemail and calls Sean instead. He’s there waiting for his ex to pick up their kid and take him away. Fiona volunteers to come over but he blows her off.

At the park, Debs gets her nails painted by Derek’s sister, who seems to like her. She’s actually Derek’s brother’s girlfriend – his family took her in when he went into the army. Debs is fascinated that she chose her own family. I see this going somewhere that could be very bad.

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Mickey and Ian go to the baseball field – Mickey mentions, “I haven’t been here since that time we banged.” Ian does pull-ups despite the burned hand, and is disappointed to be out of shape. He pulls out a beer and Mickey tells him he can’t drink on Lithium and Ian punches him. Hard. In the face. Ian asks where the tough guy he fell for is, and tells Mickey that next time he can’t get it up because of the meds, Mickey shouldn’t ask him what’s wrong, he should work it harder, calling him a “faggot” for good measure. They fight and wrestle and eventually calm down and share a beer. Ian says that this is the first time he’s felt anything for a long time. Mickey says he looks “like a wet rat” and they share a bloody kiss and get down to it.

Fiona comes by Sean’s and meets his ex, who thanks her for taking such good care of Sean, adding that she couldn’t turn down this job in Pittsburgh. Gus calls but she doesn’t answer. Sean puts on a game face as he says goodbye to his son but he’s clearly breaking up inside. They go to a bar to drink Cokes, and he argues with her about her need to get involved in everybody’s lives and problems just so she can ignore her own. She says, “I’m here because I like you, asshole.” He says she’s only with him now because he wouldn’t sleep with her before and now he’s vulnerable. Other guys in the bar overhear their argument and try to intervene and Sean gets smart and gets his ass kicked. Turns out he did it on purpose, in a way. They are asked to leave the bar.

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Lip comes back to the dorm and Kev is happy to hear that the cops aren’t involved yet. Lip tells him he has to move out and stop dealing to the dorm. Kev reminds him that this was his idea and people like him here – he offers to stop selling drugs if he can just stay. He tells Lip he has nowhere else to go, and Lip tells him to go home to V – “It’s time.”

Bianca’s sister leaves in tears and Frank asks Bianca what she did to her. Turns out she told her she wasn’t interested in chemo. She sits down on the sidewalk with Frank and talks about the irony of her situation. He promises to never bring up chemo or healing thoughts. She’s okay with that, and suggests that they get tattoos.

Debs brings Derek home – he’s amazed that her family won’t care if they’re banging up there. She says she loves his family and she thinks she loves him too. He says that’s sweet and helps her undress, because she’s pretty helpless with her new nails. He takes his shirt off and he pulls out a condom, but Debs says they don’t need that because she’s on the pill. Wait, what? Debs! Don’t be stupid!

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On the curb, Fiona tells a tender Sean that he’s acting the way she was acting when he called her a “chaos junkie”. He says he doesn’t need her supervision anymore, and she says she isn’t leaving him alone until she knows he’s okay. He tells her that he’ll never really be okay and thanks her and kisses her. He tells her to go home and she smiles and they walk away, both looking back at one another.

Kev comes home! Atta boy. He lies down on the bed, where V and the girls are sleeping. Only V isn’t sleeping, and when he lays his head down they look at one another. Aaaaaand I just lost it.

Lip visits Joaquin in the hospital – he’s doped up on lots of stuff but is in good spirits – clean break on the leg, his mom’s coming from Texas. Lip asks about the cops and Joaquin tells him that he told them that Kev sold them to him. Turns out he’s screwing with him, there were no cops. Joaquin says that where he comes from, they got each other’s backs. Lip gets it.

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Ian and Mickey stumble home belting “Love is a Battlefield”. Ian is trashed on one beer, thanks to the meds. Ian realizes that they’ve never been on a real date, like at a restaurant. Mickey asks, “You mean like a Sizzlers?” Ian wants to go on the date right now, while he’s still drunk. They go inside to clean up for dinner and Sammi stops them in the living room to tell Ian that he’s a good kid and things are going to be okay someday. He’s like, what? And then she tells the MPs that they can come in the room and take him off to military prison.

FUUUUUUUUCK.

They drag Ian away, with guns on Mickey. Fiona walks up in time to see them shove Ian into a car – they won’t tell them anything about where they’re taking him. As the car pulls away, Sammi sneers that it’s really hard to have someone you love taken away, isn’t it, and storms back into the house that isn’t hers.

SCENE

OMG, guys – Mickey is gonna murder Sammi. There’s just no way that he won’t.

Notably Absent: Carl, Chuckie, Svetlana, Carol

Notably Dead: The clock’s ticking, Sammi. (Oh, and also Bianca. Sorry, but it’s true!)

This one destroyed me, folks. The one-two of Kev coming home to V and Ian and Mickey reconnecting on a level that makes sense only for them right before Sammi’s traitorous move was BRUTAL. I will completely cop to defending Sammi a few times this season because I felt bad for her. But this was beyond the pale. As the episode’s title, “South Side Rules” suggests, this episode was all about reminding us of the code by which these characters live – they don’t snitch, and they have each other’s backs no matter what, be the threat gentrification, mental illness, the cops, or Frank. Sammi, in her desperate quest to point out how screwed up the Gallaghers are despite clearly wanting to be part of the family herself – inadvertently revealed the family’s greatest strength: loyalty. And it’s this loyalty that is going to spell her downfall – if Mickey doesn’t pop a cap in her first. It’s all too horrible: her learning-challenged kid is in prison and his mom just signed her own death warrant. Good grief.

Anyway, several of the other storylines shared the theme, with Lip and Joaquin bonding over hood loyalty and Lip literally spelling it out to Helene. Kev comes back to V, because that’s where he belongs – something that ironically took Lip’s being selfish and forward-thinking for once to make happen.

For once, it’s Debs – who last week looked as though she were in shock from Ian’s early-morning paranoid spree for the entire episode – who makes me very nervous. Is she thinking that if she gets pregnant with Derek’s baby his family will take her in like they did his brother’s girlfriend? Debs, Debs, Debs. Your family’s a mess, but it’s not worth it – and what’s more, they need you badly right now.

In all, a devastating episode and one that shows that the show has still got it after all these years. A solid nine out of ten Old Styles:

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Writer-filmmaker Brian Juergens launched CampBlood.org, the world's first website devoted to horror films from a gay perspective, in 2003.