''Rescue Me'': The single life
Call me flabbergasted. (I won't say ''gobsmacked,'' tempting though it may be to resort to Irish slang for the Gavin brood.) Last night's episode pulled back from the queasily horrific waterfront climax of ''Seven'' only to go cartwheeling into a mondo bizarro of surreal loopiness. One does not expect the gritty naturalism of The Wire here, but the leaps, nay somersaults, of dramatic logic on display left this incredulous viewer all but clamoring for the comparatively straightforward B-movie hokeyness of that other FX drama, Damages (dog murder notwithstanding).
Strangely enough, Tommy's decision to give the baby to Sheila the Mad Slattern for cash did not seem all that surprising, given the absence of alternatives. (The spectacle of Sheila crooning macabre nursery rhymes to the infant in his snazzy bassinet was a nicely creepy touch.) Equally unsurprising was Janet's hell-hath-no-fury response: Snapping out of her depressive funk, she pitched Tommy into a discarded pizza box with a verbal outburst that affirmed her underlying self-absorption. Her ensuing vehicular face-off with Tommy, who was hell-bent (against all logic) on stopping her, provided a comic capper of sorts to their split. (''I wasn't driving fast enough'' was a lethally barbed one-liner.) If only things could have ended on that note, instead of descending into an overbaked confrontation between conscience-stricken Tommy and his ghostly tormentors. Not that I object to Dean Winters returning as a taunting sociopathic ghost to rival Oz's Ryan O'Reily (minus the cellblock nudity), yet the accompanying hallucinatory inferno was slightly musty. (Or was the infernal cacophony a convenient pretext for Tommy to resume drinking?) After three and a half seasons, we get the point, really. Thankfully, ex-padre Mick turned up to lend a voice of sanity amid the devastation. ''Time for a meeting,'' indeed.
Alongside the collapse of Tommy and Janet's patchwork marital arrangement, other romantic subplots bubbled, albeit with credulity-straining twists. Last we saw Garrity and Maggie, they were splitsville. So why would that eternal doofus Garrity leave poor injured Mike to return home for another try with a spouse who puts Courtney Love to shame? If I had my druthers, he'd be trying his luck with Tommy's flameout, Nona the vollie. (I apologize for calling her ''mannish.'') The one potential upside: a possible intervention as suggested by Mick, with Garrity reading off a catalog of alcoholic insults and injuries. Cue the fireworks and withering putdowns.
More jaw-dropping than Garrity's rekindled marital ardor was Franco's impulse to fling himself at Alicia. Yes, Susan Sarandon is a welcome presence as a sharp, self-aware female character on a show full of mostly unsympathetic women. One could not help being puzzled, however, by Franco's eagerness to chuck Natalie and reconcile with the moneyed cougar who snatched away his daughter. (Or, conversely, Alicia's readiness to mend fences with a commitment-phobic lothario.) Admittedly, credulity is easily suspended in the face of Daniel Sunjata's mixture of suavity and vulnerability (a stark contrast with his petulant Reggie Jackson in ESPN's The Bronx Is Burning), and his scenes with Sarandon have a spark that makes Franco's cold feet almost comprehensible.
One promising subplot from a far-out premise: Chief Feinberg's benighted attempt to wheedle a newly single Tommy into dating his daughter yielded a hilariously disastrous date with a supremely hyperactive, dizzy Amy Sedaris (who can frump herself up like no other). Special bonus: the smoldering presence of Gina Gershon. If, as the preview hinted, she brings some of the heat she infused into Bound and Showgirls, I will happily set aside my quibbles about plotting and character development and surrender to over-the-top soap opera.
The next-episode teaser promised other intriguing story threads Janet's quest for vengeance, for one. Yet I find myself mulling other plotlines, like Mick's crusade to save wayward Gavin souls. Will he succeed in bringing back Tatum O'Neal for an intervention? As for the coming showdown between Franco and Natalie, will Richard and Keela put in appearances? Is there a larger significance to Tommy's stigmata-like bleeding hand? And here's a mystery: Who were those card-playing guys at Tommy's kitchen table in the ghost sequence?