Episode Title: "Aunt Ginger"
Writer: Nancy M. Pimental
Director: Stephen Hopkins
Previously on "Shameless":
After witnessing Frank Gallagher (William H. Macy) striking his son, Ian (Cameron Monaghan), Steve (Justin Chatwin) decided to dump Frank across the Canadian border, a choice which did not go over well with his girlfriend, Fiona Gallagher (Emmy Rossum). After the family frantically tore up the neighborhood looking for Frank, Fiona discovered the truth and forced Steve to help smuggle her father back into the country. In order to win her forgiveness, he bought the family a large car... but this only made Fiona angrier and she broke up with him on the spot.
Meanwhile, Frank was angered by what Steve did to him and moved out of his house, despite his oldest son Phillip "Lip" Gallagher (Jeremy Allen White), who explained to Frank just how little he contributed the family. Rejected by all of his friends, Frank wormed his way into the house of Sheila Jackson, (Joan Cusack), the mother of Lip's girlfriend, Karen (Laura Wiggins). Although Frank was victimized by Sheila's unexpected sexual aggression, her cooking and the comforts of her home persuaded him to stay with her.
On a rebound date with Tony the cop (Tyler Jacob Moore), Fiona goes all the way with him in his squad car moments before a dozen screaming children almost catch them in the act. And one of the parents seems to realize immediately what Fiona and Tony did in the car. Elsewhere, Ian finds himself being stalked by a girl from his class named Mandy Milkovich (Jane Levy), who is infatuated with him after Ian humiliated their teacher when he approached Mandy's desk with a raging boner. However, when she tries to force herself on Ian in his house, he rejects her, which sends her running away in tears.
At the Jackson house, Frank witnesses Sheila's agoraphobia in action when she tries to step outside and go shopping. When she can't make it off the porch, he grabs her shopping list and offers to go shopping for her. Back with the Gallaghers, Fiona discovers in short order that the gas has been shut off and a woman from the government wants to speak to her Aunt Ginger, whose social security checks have been cashed possibly illegally. Steve also visits Lip as a pretense to see Fiona, but he's disappointed that she's already moved on to Tony.
Frank then shows up to steal the family's groceries, but when Fiona catches up to him later she tells him that they need to produce Ginger the next day or the government will come down on them. Frank's first attempt to raid a homeless shelter for a substitute Ginger comes up empty, so he brings home an elderly cross-dresser who the kids recognize as their old bus driver. He then confesses that Aunt Ginger died years ago, but neglects to mention it was while on a coke binge. Meanwhile, Mandy's brother's chase Ian down through the city after she claims he attacked her. They eventually catch up to Lip, who takes a beating meant for his brother.
Veronica (Shanola Hampton) eventually helps the Gallaghers sneak an elderly Alzheimer's patient out of her assisted living home and pass her off as Aunt Ginger. Despite her dementia, the youngest daughter Debbie (Emma Kenney) is heartbroken to see the substitute Aunt Ginger go. Realizing that Mandy's brothers will catch up to him eventually, Ian takes a baseball bat and goes to confront them. Instead, he runs into Mandy herself and confesses that he's gay. The two bond and she offers to pretend to be his girlfriend at school.
Elsewhere, Steve makes several attempts to reconnect with Fiona, all of which are rejected. He even offers to lend the family the money to get the gas back on, but she turns down his charity. Tony tells her that their experience in the cop car was his first time with a girl and he invites her to dinner with his mother. But instead, she wears her best party dress and finds Steve at his chop shop to make up with him.
It says a lot about the identity that this show has already made for itself when it can depict an old woman doing coke and the first thought that pops up is "Yep, she's a Gallagher."
The real treasure of this episode was Gloria LeRoy, who played the fake Aunt Ginger. She managed to be charming while keeping a slightly crazed look in her eyes during all of her scenes. Her instant bond with Debbie was also very moving and she fit into the missing mother role fairly easily despite her dementia. She was just a really fun character to add to the mix.
And I'll say this for Frank, the writers keep coming up with new ways to make him the most horrible father alive. This week, Frank not only stole groceries from his kids, he knocked over a Salvation Army Santa to steal his collections in a flashback! And even more hilariously, he made some half-hearted attempts to be fatherly towards Karen and somehow duped a cross-dresser into his home. Do we even want to know how he pulled that off? Oh... and the real Aunt Ginger? Buried in the backyard so that Frank could keep the house and cash her social security checks.
It was an amusing setup the way the Gallaghers even forged photographs with the fake Aunt Ginger and dropped mothballs in the closets to make it seem like her home. But the government stooge was fooled a little too easily. Shouldn't she have had some kind of picture of the real Ginger to compare her to? And the person she saw was clearly not 93, so that was also pushing it.
Speaking of the suspension of disbelief, Steve and Fiona got back together WAY too quickly. Up to that point, the relationship seemed to be moving along fairly realistically and Steve seemed a lot more desperate to get back with her. And yes, even though I argued against calling him a stalker last week, he was definitely in that territory this time. At the very least, there were a couple of good jokes about that and his excuses to see Fiona through her brothers was kind of charming. But the way that she forgave him didn't seem to be true to Fiona herself. If she's someone who would break up with him and not even accept a car as a gift than their reunion should have been more gradual. Plus, it would have been more fun to see her with Tony for a while.
This was also the first episode that made Ian and Kash (Pej Vahdat) seem like a real couple. Their brief conversation in Kash's truck did a lot more to make sense out of their relationship than anything else we've seen in the past three episodes. I do have to take issue with the way that Kash allowed himself to be pushed around by Mandy's brothers. Being gay shouldn't mean that he can't stand up to very small teenagers! Even if the intent is to make Kash seem meek, it still felt like a false note.
Regardless, this was another solid episode from one of my favorite new dramas. "Shameless" could be the best series on Showtime in a long time if it can keep up this pace.
Crave Online Rating: 8 out of 10.