‘Shameless’ Recap: A Beautiful Mess

Shamless Beautiful DisasterS2E4: I’m about to make a comparison that may stun most of you, but bear with me. As I recap both Glee and Shameless, I find that they share a similar burden: a surplus of character plotlines. Whereas Ryan Murphy’s opus takes us through the daily activities of an entire show choir and the teachers and parents who serve as the wind beneath their attention-hungry wings, Shameless delivers a slightly more grounded, yet riotously absurd, look at the activities of the kinetic Gallagher family and their friends and cohorts. But while Glee flails about, throwing in songs in lieu of transitions and character development, the Gallagher clan is rife with richness – so much so, that we’re almost overwhelmed on a weekly basis. But as an avid television viewer, a surplus of dense characters is a great problem to have.

Of course, the person leading the cavalry in the developmental department is de-facto Gallagher matriarch, Fiona. After her whirlwind romance with her Knight in stolen sports cars, Steve, she’s driving her life (and her self-esteem) into the ground in an effort to forget the relationship she lost when she opted out of moving to Costa Rica with Steve. She’s rivaling on Frank-level debauchery which is an equally delicious and soul-crushing notion. It’s also the factor that lends the Gallaghers’ wet-hot-salacious-summer a little depth. It’s basically justified dirty, sexy fun – also known as the reason we fell in love with Showtime’s hit series in the first place.

“I was chased from own house and now I’m hiding in yours. Holy s**t, I’m you.”-Fiona

“I’ve been waiting for this day.” –Frank

From the start of the episode, we find Fiona in motion. She lays down to take a nap, but it’s seconds until a woman comes to the door asking for her; when she greets the visitor, the woman chases her down so fervently that Fiona ends up hiding under a table with Frank at Sheila’s house. She really is Frank’s daughter. The tormentor is Craig’s very angry wife, Lucy Jo, and Craig, being the manchild he is, confessed the whole sordid, sandwich-covered affair to her. This continues throughout the episode with Lucy Jo throwing a milkshake at Fiona’s head and going so far as to station her children on the main thoroughfare with a “Fiona Gallagher Had Sex With Our Daddy” banner. It’s too bad the sex wasn’t good enough to make dealing with his psycho wife worth it. Overwhelmed with work, Debbie’s issues, and being hunted by Lucy Jo, Fiona is additionally haunted by her brief call to Steve and throughout the episode she tries him again, only getting voicemail. This only further supports my theory that the long-lost lover will be showing his face in Chicago very soon. Veronica, forever the perfect confidant, cautions Fiona that she’d better know why she’s actually calling Steve the next time she picks up the phone. But summertime Fiona isn’t one for making smart decisions, so V’s good advice will go unused.

On top of her already debaucherous turn, Fiona’s got a bad influence in the form of Jasmine (guest star Amy Smart). She previously dismissed Jasmine’s drug-addled, sugar-daddy-draining bouts of infidelity, but she’s screwed up her own life, and the escape of Jasmine’s hedonistic, leeching paradise is looking pretty good. Fiona’s planning to take Richard up on his offer when he returns from France, but as we can tell from Jasmine – who’s using her mother’s breast cancer to fool her husband while she does coke in the Gallaghers’ kitchen at 8 a.m. – this path is only going to lead to more destruction. It’s too bad she seems determined to continue on it – well, too bad for her, but great for the series. Still, Fiona’s hanging on to her few connections to Steve, hoping he will appear again and make her life better, just like he did last winter. She tries Steve again on her way home from work at the club, and just then, her Steve look-a-like, Adam, shows up just in time to distract her by letting her drive his BMW. The similarity to her first few wild nights with Steve is uncanny. Still, she has the sense to make Adam sleep on the couch when she gets the fairly inebriated suitor back to her house.

“I never should have f***ed Dotty to death. Coulda made that work.” –Frank

Frank is in crisis because Shelia finally makes it to the beauty salon, which means it’s only a matter of days until she makes it to the Alibi Room and learns what a horrible person he actually is. Frank is desperate, so Lip tells him “no one trades an MVP” and Frank takes that as ammunition to make the world scarier so she suffers a relapse of agoraphobia. He does follow the conventional bit of Lip’s advice too, breaking and then easily repairing things around the house to remain indispensable, but he also throws in a story about a woman getting her head chopped off at a market to scare Sheila, but it doesn’t work. Next, he has his armless friend from the bar put Halloween-grade guts on his arm and come stumbling into the house, but Sheila’s already left. It does, however work on dumber-than-a-broken-toaster Jody. Frank later steals the prized Luger from its mantle at the Alibi Room, and despite Mickey’s advice that Frank refrain from trying to make modern ammo fit into the Luger, Frank does it anyway and ends up shooting his eye out, giving him a pirate aesthetic for the rest of the episode. The gunshot doesn’t even phase Sheila, who writes it off merrily as a car backfiring. Basically, Frank’s screwed.

And this would have been a delicious turn of events, considering we’ve seen Frank escape consequences time and again, but he’s saved once more by the most unlikely of events. The sky is literally falling – or a piece of an airplane is anyway – and it lands right in front of Sheila as she heads to the Alibi Room. As she runs screaming back into the house, we witness Frank’s exuberance. He’s baffled at his luck – and so are we. Then again, we can’t have both of the head Gallaghers in the dumps; the show has to be deep and fun, after all.

“You’re a good kid Deb, you deserve to have friends.” –Fiona

Debbie is overwhelmed with daycare, hilariously smashing Barbies to smithereens. This stress manifests itself in an intense rash, which V says will be healed by relaxing. Naturally, this worries Fiona, but Debbie won’t take a break from Daycare, so Fiona forces her to throw a slumber party for fun – a foreign concept to 4th grader with the mind of a 40 year-old. Then comes the issue of the guest list: it’s only V, Fiona and Aunt Ginger. Debbie has no friends, but how do you force a hard-headed kid to start making friends? Fiona enlists all the brothers and sisters as party guests and insists that Debbie invite Ethel and two other kids from her class. This culminates in an embarrassing task for any pre-teen: talking to the cool kids. She bribes Simon, from the library (the well-meaning nerd with a crush on her), to introduce her to Holly, the popular 15 year-old fourth-grader. Holly looks like a Bratz doll come to life and only agrees to come to the party because she likes Lip.

After prodding Debbie, Fiona ends up having to work at the club or risk getting fired, which upsets Debbie momentarily until Lip and Ian promise to make it fun. It upsets Fiona more, and sends her into the bathroom once more to call Steve, this time leaving a message and inviting him to the party and rambling on like an idiot when she should be saying “I miss you.” As she leave, Ian icily tells her he’s doing this for Debbie, not her, signaling that her behavior really is starting to affect the one thing she’s trying to protect. And when she leaves, things don’t get any better – and all of the blame falls on her once more.

At first the party seems promising, Carl brings his new friend, Little Hank, who’s a house sitter who steals booze and bras for “practice.” Debbie instantly has a crush, but Little Hank is chasing Holly, who’s in turn chasing Lip, while Simon is hopelessly chasing Debbie. It was nice to add this element of schoolyard romance into a show that’s so hell-bent on relying on overt sex among its adult characters, but the innocence doesn’t last long. Holly gets up in the middle of the night seduce Lip, but because he’s not a horrible person, he won’t. She storms out. Little Hank follows her. Deb thinks it was a bust, and of course, it’s all Fiona’s fault.

“You’re a little s**t-starter.” –Kev

Ethel gets some much-needed development this week. Kev is concerned because Ethel still won’t wear summer clothes or a bathing suit and figures it’s because she doesn’t have friends her own age. So when he catches her eying Malik from the basketball team he coaches, he introduces them. They’re both teenage parents, so they set up a play date, much to the chagrin of Malik’s outspoken ex. They bond and flirt over baby care techniques; Malik tells her about living with his grandparents and Ethel drops the bomb about her ancient “husband” Clyde, still Malik seems interested. Debbie points out that Malik likes Ethel and convinces her that it’s okay because her husband has 10 wives – or because he’s a criminal, but let’s not split hairs. This seems to bring V and Kev closer because V is concerned about Ethel spending time with Malik; Kev’s excited that she’s become a mama bear. So does this mean he’s distracted enough to abandon the bar plan?

“Speaking of hookers, how’s Karen?” –Ian

It turns out Karen was serious about the no sex thing, which prompts Lip to try to dig up dirt on Jody and break up the happily engaged couple. Lip insists that he just misses the sex, but Ian constantly points out that there’s an emotional factor, no matter how much Lip tries to deny it. Also, Ian is still trying to get into West Point the honorable way despite his deficiencies, but that story is completely overshadowed by Lip’s issues. One brother at a time, I suppose.

Finally, Lip convinces Jody to go to the Alibi Room with him to scope it out for “mom” (a.k.a. Sheila), but Jody won’t drink anything but Coke, so Kev spills his drink so Lip has a chance to steal Jody’s phone and wallet to look for dirt. That doesn’t last long because Karen shows up and takes them back. Lip tries to trigger her sex-button and tells her she’s too good for Jody, but it doesn’t work. She insists “she’s not.” But the way Ian (and the rest of us) sees it, shee needs a boring 35 year-old, because she’s a sex-maniac. Lip, in his fragile emotional state, can’t handle Ian talking that way about Karen and freaks out. He can’t seem to accept that Karen has moved on. He’s convinced there’s an out.

And he thinks he’s found one when he hooks up with Mandy. He launches a post-coital plot to get Mandy to seduce Jody. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work out the way he hopes because Karen later shows up and kicks him to the ground telling him to leave her, Jody and the baby alone. She hasn’t had sex with Jody – that means the supposed baby is Lip’s, which means she could be marrying Jody for the stability she’s sure Lip can’t offer. Also, way to drop a bomb, Shameless.

“Hi, I’m Adam.’ –Adam

”You married?” –Debbie

In the morning, Fiona is confronted with a zoo. Debbie is still pissed, Adam is fighting for her attention despite his hangover, and Lucy Jo and Carl show up to make Fiona part of Carl’s big reformation. And with the results of her hard living packed into the kitchen, Fiona escapes to the bathroom where she finally breaks down. She emerges into the backyard, seemingly back to normal, but she just released her well of sadness for now. When Steve shows up, we can be sure the mystery fellatio girl will be a factor, and who knows how Fiona Gallagher will react to such a stimulus in her fragile state?

Do you think Fiona can go any lower? Is it too weird to see Frank do alright while Fiona is drowning? And what about Karen and the baby? I rewound that bit 10 times because I can’t believe it. Is she telling the truth? What do you think Lip will do? Let me know in the comments or get at me on Twitter. @KelseaStahler