Recap – Shameless 3.06: “Cascading Failures”

Fiona (Emmy Rossum) visits Lip (left, Jeremy Allen White) and Ian (Cameron Monaghan) at Family Services takes them away.

Fiona (Emmy Rossum) visits Lip (left, Jeremy Allen White) and Ian (Cameron Monaghan) after Family Services takes them away.

Shameless is the craziest show on television. I know what you’re thinking: Hey wait, what about that time on American Horror Story: Asylum when aliens impregnate a woman? Or that time on Girls when Marney gets locked inside a creepy torture chamber made out of televisions? Or any time on America’s Next Top Model when it becomes clear Tyra’s been sneaking into the writers’ room and making script edits again? Nope, Shameless is crazier. It’s crazier because its weirdness sneaks up on you. One minute you think you’re watching a show about a lovable family trying to get by on the rough side of Chicago, and the next minute, bam, your favorite character is having a threesome with her husband and her mother. And because of the way the show’s written, you’re not even mad.

Let’s back up a second. The episode begins with Fiona Gallagher (Emmy Rossum) trying to get her five younger siblings back after Family Services has taken them away. These kids have had no parental supervision for the past two seasons and their collective hygiene is so poor I can smell them through the screen, so I can see FS’s point of view on this one. The two oldest boys, Lip (Jeremy Allen White) and Ian (Cameron Monaghan) are sent to a prison group home. Middle daughter Debbie (Emma Kenney) is placed with a lady who is clearly using foster kids as slave labor. And youngest brothers Carl (Ethan Cutkosky) and Liam (Brennan and Blake Johnson) end up with a lovely gay couple who want to adopt Liam. Yeah, good luck with a Gallagher tot running around your house. Just don’t feed it after midnight.

Even though she’s seen a lifetime’s worth of evidence why raising kids on the South Side is asking for trouble, Fiona’s best friend Veronica (Shanola Hampton) and Veronica’s husband Kevin (Steve Howey, yes, from Reba) have been trying to procure “ghetto IVF.” Last week, after nixing all of V’s female relatives as surrogate options, the happy couple finally alighted on a solution: V’s mother, Carol (Vanessa Bell Calloway). Spoiler: if you’ve been following along at home, you know what happens next.

Kev (Steve Howey) makes casual conversation with Carol (Vanessa Bell Calloway). Note, this scene occurs pre-baby making session.

Kev (Steve Howey) makes casual conversation with his mother-in-law Carol (Vanessa Bell Calloway). Note: this scene occurs pre-baby making session.

V tries to impregnate her mother with a turkey baster. But alas, no luck. So she decides the next logical step is for Kev to sleep with Carol. V cuts a hole in a sheet (like she saw at a Jewish wedding one time), and Kev and V’s mom go to town. But again, it doesn’t work. So, in a last ditch effort, V climbs on top of Kev’s face, explaining, “We have to give his sperm someplace happy to swim to.” While Kev is preoccupied, Carol seizes the moment.

My biggest problem with these crazy shenanigans isn’t even the pseudo-incest. It’s that, when V sits down with Kev and her mom and tearfully explains how badly she wants a baby, I truly feel for her. And when Carol agrees to this crazy plan because she knows it’ll help V, I understand her reasoning. So no, my biggest problem isn’t the weird sex. It’s that in the end, Shameless makes me think that Kev and Carol going to such (icky) lengths … is actually really sweet. And now I have to live with the knowledge that I just wrote that.

Turning away from that whole storyline for a moment, let’s check in on how Ian’s doing in the group home. Well, turns out Ian’s not actually in the group home, because he sneaks out to go have sex with his delinquent, oft-imprisoned boyfriend Mickey (Noel Fisher). Mickey’s family is away for the weekend, so he invites Ian over for a sleepover. Despite Mickey’s continued refusal to be a nice person and his generally unwashed appearance, this couple truly rocks. Mostly because they are an original take on a gay relationship that doesn’t involve musical interludes, and because they often try to out-badass each other immediately after having sex. So I was happy they got to spend some quality time together.

Ian is so sad. I am so sad. Everything is so sad.

Ian is so sad. I am so sad. Everything is so sad.

In the morning Mickey and Ian have just gotten into round two on the living room sofa when Mickey’s father unexpectedly barges in. Cue this entire recap abruptly changing tone. Mickey’s dad beats the crap out of both boys, pistol-whipping Mickey in the face a few times for laughs. He then speed-dials a Russian prostitute to make a house call. When she arrives, he orders Mickey (at gunpoint) to have sex with her “until he likes it.” Mickey’s dad (voluntarily) and Ian (NOT voluntarily) sit and watch. THIS IS MESSED UP. Like, I just want to let it sink in for a minute how messed up this is. Kind of makes daughter/mother/son-in-law threesomes seem okay by comparison.

A lot of other things that could best be described as “bonkers” happened this week, but I figure two instances of family-sex was probably about the limit of what you all can handle, and writing about Mickey’s dad was filling me with Hulk-like rage. Tune in next week to see who has sex with who in front of who! And, you know, continuations of other various plotlines that are currently floating around this wonderful, terrible show.

Capsule Review: Night on Earth

Jim Jarmusch stitches five vignettes into a single film in 1991’s Night on Earth. The intriguing setup follows five cabdrivers and their passengers through five international cities, shepherded along by Tom Wait’s jazzy score. As the settings move further east, it remains nighttime, placing the film in a kind of continuous witching hour. Each vignette, roughly thirty minutes, encompasses only the time the passengers enter the cab until they reach their destination. The camera remains in the taxi or in its immediate vicinity, never straying. The result is an episodic discourse on the interconnectedness and diversity of humanity. The taxis serve as confessionals, in which characters who might never otherwise interact end up sharing rather profound, or at least personal, conversations. Winona Ryder, whose youthful face shines out from underneath its layer of grease and grime like the moon itself, and Roberto Benigni, clearly having more fun than anyone else on set, play their cabbie characters with ragamuffin charm. The chapters hit different tones, moving from jocular to philosophical, but their motif of universal experience helps preserve the film’s sense of unity. Jarmusch, credited with inventing the American independent film movement with 1984’s Stranger Than Paradise, has used this structure before. The film values character and message far over plot, and by the fourth vignette the conceit can feel a bit stale. But Ryder and Benigni’s performances, as well as a short, wonderful diatribe by Rosie Perez in all her sharp-tongued, head-wagging brilliance, are worth sitting through some of Night’s slower moments.