Episode Title: "Cascading Failures"
Writer: Alex Borstein
Director: Anthony Hemingway
Previously on "Shameless:"
This week’s episode of "Shameless" is a real tear jerker. And by that, I mean both tears of sadness and laughter.
"Cascading Failures," as Fiona (Emmy Rossum) explains it to Jimmy (who I still can’t stop calling "Steve" in my head) is when the failure of part of a system leads to the failure of other parts and ultimately causes the entire system to break down. The term not only describes what Fiona’s going through, what with losing her job and her family, but also the rest of the Gallagher brood, as we see in this episode.
After Frank (William H. Macy) drops a dime on his own family, tipping off the Department of Family Services about the conditions in the Gallagher home, the kids are taken and dispensed to various foster families and group homes. While Deb (Emma Kenney) is put to work in "Momma Kamala’s" child labor camp-like daycare, Carl (Ethan Cutkosky) and Liam are treated to the comforts of an upper middle class gay couple’s plush digs. While the couple force Kale and Quinoa on Carl, Lip (Jeremy Allen White) and Ian (Cameron Monaghan) face the rigors of a juevee group home. It’s nothing the Gallaghers haven’t been through before, as Lip points out to Britney, their new DFS case worker, but it doesn’t mean they need to go through it again.
As the kids settle into their new digs, Fiona and Jimmy get Frank clean and sober enough to prop him up for DFS to try to get the kids back. With Monica nowhere to be found, Sheila (Joan Cusack) is forced to go blonde and act as a stand-in. And she definitely lives up Monica's batsh*t crazy standard.
But it’s not Sheila’s dye-job or Frank’s drug and alcohol free pee that impresses Britney; it’s Fiona’s dedication to her family. It’s something we’ve been witness to for the past three seasons, but it's especially evident in this episode in the scene where Fiona breaks down in tears after returning to a quiet empty house that just doesn’t feel like a home without the constant cacophony of Gallaghers.
While Fiona tries to get her family back, Vee (Shanola Hampton) is determined to start one by any means necessary. Things got weird last week when Vee enlisted her mother as a surrogate for Kev (Steve Howey). In this episode, the three are on "the express bus to the Maury Povich Show" as Kev puts it when Vee suggests he try to impregnate her mother the old fashioned way. Kev reluctantly decides to go along with it, as does Mom and if you can get past the WTF-ness of the whole thing, there’s some real comedy going on here – but I’d say it’s more Jerry Springer than Maury Povich.
Meanwhile, with assorted Gallaghers scattered across town, there’s bound to be trouble – depraved and hilarious as it always is. Gay-curious Carl looks for answers to questions about "s*** on the tip of the d**k by digging into his foster parents’ gay porn collection. He’s quickly caught and whisked off to dinner where he compares eating quinoa and tofu to "fisting."
And on that note, with his father, Terry out of town, Mickey (Noel Fisher) invites Ian over for date night, Milkovich style, which means cheap beer and Steven Seagal movies. It’s as romantic as Mickey’s ever been and Ian is swooning until Terry (Dennis Cockrum) busts in the next day and catches the boys in the act. And with that, what feels like a raucous comedy up until now suddenly becomes disturbingly dark and sad as we watch Terry pistol whip his son and then force him to have sex with a Russian prostitute to "fuck the f*aggot out of him" while Ian is made to watch.
We briefly return to the Kev, Vee and Mom's sex-fest, but it’s hard to get past that last scene. And watching Frank spit his own pee into a cup might turn your stomach, but it can’t shake how supremely screwed-up things are for the Gallaghers. It’s only made worse by the look on Fiona’s face when Britney lets her listen to Frank’s call to DFS.
In the sequence of "cascading failures" Fiona feels she stuck in, it always comes back to Frank, something she also realizes in this episode. Getting rid of him for good could put a stop to the domino effect of pain and suffering for the younger Gallagher’s. But for Ian and Lip, this episode leaves us wondering if the damage is already done.