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SHAMELESS 3.04 ‘The Helpful Gallaghers’

The Gallaghers take in Mandy's little sister when Carl heads off to "Cancer Camp."

Episode Title: "The Helpful Gallaghers"

Writer: Randall Einhorn

Director: Mike O'Malley

Previously on "Shameless:"

Episode 3.03 "May I Trim Your Hedges?"

 

This week’s episode of "Shameless" posed a number of interesting, and somewhat disturbing questions. Why is Frank giving Carl antacids to take to "Cancer Camp?" Why does Carl not know where Lake Michigan is? Why does Mandy’s half-sister, Molly have a penis? Why is Jimmy’s Dad broke? What is Jimmy going to do for money? And finally, is Jody going to be able to sit after Sheila finishes probing his anal cavity with her collection of over-sized sex toys?

These questions arise as the Gallaghers attempt to help those in need, as the title of this episode implies. In Fiona’s (Emmy Rossum) case, she tries to organize a "blowjob strike" at work after hearing about numerous ‘Bobby Breaks" from several female co-workers. At first, the women rally behind the idea but when a senior employee suggests having to give the boss a blowjob once a week in exchange for expired groceries and extra sick days isn't so bad, they vote against it.

"Shameless" is full of cringe-worthy sexual situations but something about the group’s decision to keep humming along is just too sad to be funny. But now that the women know Fiona’s not handling her share of the load, so to speak, it'll either mean back to the job hunt or the end of the "Bobby Breaks" era at Keane's supermarket.

In other matters of sexual depravity, Jody (Zach McGowan) refuses to give into Sheila’s (Joan Cusack) pleas to spice up their sex life with one of her many massive rubber phalluses. Desperate for help, she asks Frank (William H. Macy) to talk to Jody, who tells Frank more than anyone would want to know about his former sex addiction over a ginger ale at the Alibi Room.

After hitting an impossible new low with Carl’s "Cancer Camp" scam, Frank is actually, slightly selfless in this episode. Yes, by getting Jody to, ahem, open up a little in the bedroom he saved himself from having to do it, as Sheila suggested. But it’s still nice to see Frank do something decent for once, even if by "decent" I mean helping Sheila shove a giant dildo up Jody’s ass.

Other acts of Gallagher kindness in this episode include Carl (Ethan Cutkosky) getting a "Cancer Camp" counselor to show a couple of dying kids her breasts, Lip (Jeremy Allen White) taking in Mandy’s little half-sister (brother?) and Frank having a little father-daughter time with Deb (Emma Kenney) as he waterboards her in preparation for the racial bullying she’ll encounter at the city pool.

And by extension, honorary Gallagher, Jimmy (Justin Chatwin) takes his father in after a night of drowning his divorce sorrows at the Alibi. And here we finally get the "Ian’s screwing Jimmy’s Dad" reveal. It turns out to be not such a big deal, as Fiona points out; her own father has done way worse.

On a side note, Frank has some hilariously offensive lines in this episode. He warns Deb that "savage little Cosby kids will drown your ass" at the city pool and proclaims to Sheila "if ignorance is bliss, Down Syndrome’s got to be euphoria." And his final words of comfort to Jody before Sheila’s anal probing begins? "If God didn’t want us putting things up our ass, he’d have given the rectum a gag reflex." Frank speaks from experience after shoving seventeen bags of heroin up his ass.

Try as they might,"The Helpful Gallaghers" often end up doing more damage than good. It remains to be seen what (or who) does or doesn’t go down at the supermarket after Fiona’s admission. And if Mandy’s gender-bending sibling and Jimmy’s cradle-robbing closet-case father stick around, who knows what kind of fresh hell they’ll stir up? Both Lip and Deb seem a little traumatized after their respective encounters with Lloyd and Molly.

"Shameless" continues to find new and unsettling ways to define itself as a "black comedy, as this episode demonstrates." But "The Helpful Gallaghers" had a number of "feel good" moments too, particularly from the usually stone cold, Lip. It’s nice to see his character shed a little of the sociapathy that’s defined him for so long. But good deeds don’t go unpunished for the Gallaghers. And based on Deb’s reaction to Molly’s "girl penis," this one’s no exception.