‘Rescue Me’ recap: 9/11 memories provide lessons for the living

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There are those who think that monuments to the dead should be fashioned from stone and steel. And in the case of 9/11’s tragedy, it’s natural for Tommy Gavin and the firefighters of 62 Truck to want the crater at Ground Zero to be replaced by an equally awesome gravestone to their grief. But after 10 years, the specter of the Twin Towers still looming with nothing to replace them, they’re forced to realize that the true memorials are already built inside their hearts and minds.

Chief Feinberg, the crew’s kindhearted-yet-cantankerous task master sums up this week’s episode of “Rescue Me” the best: “Walls, buildings, bridges, they don’t mean …. If you want to memorialize someone you do it by talking about their deeds.”

In Tommy’s case, a trip to Ground Zero triggers a hallucinatory expedition for memories of his cousin Jimmy, one of the 343 New York firefighters killed on 9/11. In the last couple episodes, he’s been a little too busy battling back monsters (i.e. reporter Pam Keppler) in the real world to be bothered with the ghosts of his subconscious. But a creepy visit from a pre-vegetative state spirit of his nephew Damien while he’s with him in Sheila’s apartment guides Tommy to a love letter Jimmy wrote to her, hidden in her bedroom.

In the fleeting seconds before Sheila catches him reading it and shoos him out the door, Tommy uncovers a private memorial to Jimmy’s love for his wife. And for Sheila, the words Jimmy wrote transcend any of the backstabbing, cheating and lying that sullied their marriage in real life. Jimmy’s letter, like so many others left behind by firefighters who died on 9/11, is a true testament of love.


Speaking of which, it must be true love between Garrity and his new girlfriend (a.k.a. “the farter”) since he’s still willing to put up with her post-sex flatulence (a.k.a. or-gas-ms). Not to mention the endless stream of fart jokes from the crew.

In a weird turn of events, the jokes continue until the crew gets deployed to a job where a father and his kids have been suffocated by a gas leak. Not quite sure what message that sends but it kills the humor in the episode for a while. Thankfully the chuckles resume when Garrity decides that the gas mask given to him by the crew as a joke can actually be useful after sex with his lady fartress. Despite the smell, Garrity’s commitment is actually kinda sweet.

Sheila shows a lot of sweetness and maturity toward Colleen in this episode as she helps her and Black Shawn pay for an elaborate dream wedding at a giant mansion in New Jersey. After a reality check from Tommy last week about her son Damien’s brain damage, she’s stopped spending money on overpriced rehabilitation therapy. Finally, she realizes that remembering him as he was and accepting him for who he is now is all she can do.

Everyone seems to be getting sentimental in this episode, even Tommy, who decides to pen a huge handful of letters to family and friends that he hopes will tell them how he feels about them in case he doesn’t come home from work one day. But despite the gesture, Lou--his best friend in the firehouse-- calls him out on his deathly preoccupation with 9/11 that puts stress on every aspect of his life. In many ways, Tommy’s grief is no different than the millions of people who’s lives were destroyed along with the firefighters killed that day. But somehow, Tommy’s obsession with preparing himself for death is more than Lou can stand.

“Do what you gotta do, Tom,” Lou says. “Go downtown, bury yourself in that hole and make it official. Make it 344.”

After Tommy storms off, we’re given a taste of another side plot to come when badgering from Black Shawn, Franco and the rest of the crew over his poor diet and forgetfulness in his job in the firehouse leads him to give Franco just what he wants: the job of acting lieutenant for the next five days. We’ll see what kind of mayhem happens on his watch.

The episode ends where it begins when Tommy makes a final drive down to Ground Zero, where he relives the nightmare of 10 years ago. The image of his cousin Jimmy wading in the carnage hopefully serves as a reminder that this isn’t the way he’s supposed to remember him and that standing in front of some great monument is only a reminder of the pain he suffered and every year he spends wading through 9/11 nightmares, he loses a little bit of himself.


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--Nate Jackson