When it comes to long-running shows, there comes a point where the show sticks to its format and goes through the motions of each episode until the finale. Most of the time, it works, and viewers come in week after week to watch their favorite characters.
And sometimes, the showrunners will completely shake up the format of an episode to tell a deeper story for the week, and that’s when some of a series best episodes can come from. That is what happened on tonight’s episode of Chicago Fire.
Rather than spend the hour juggling three or four different storylines, tonight was a focus on two of Firehouse 51’s secondary characters: Joe Cruz and Christopher Herrmann, and it only took place inside one location for two-thirds of the episode. The scenes were longer, structured in a way that the show has never taken before, and we get insight on two characters that have been with the show from the very beginning. Whether this was a planned episode, or adjusted for the sake of filming during a pandemic, it worked.
The episode hits the ground running: Herrmann walking around the firehouse having a good morning, while Cruz seems a little out of it, clearly with something on his mind. The team is called to a storage unit fire, and Herrmann says that while eating Chinese food with his family the night before, his fortune cookie said that today would be his lucky day (hence the episode title!) The 10-story storage unit has a fire on one of its upper floors, so the team readies themselves to climb a lot of stairs. However, Herrmann sees an opportunity to bypass the stairs and use a freight elevator instead, going up with contractor Trevor, and employee of the unit Holly. At the last moment, Herrmann brings Cruz on the elevator. As the elevator begins its way up, a cable burned by the fire collapses, crashing the elevator, and trapping the four inside the elevator.
What ensues is an episode of survival. Trevor’s leg is broken when some canisters of solvent falls on him, and Cruz and Herrmann help make a splint to keep him steady. With communications to the rest of the team gone, Cruz and Herrmann have to rely on their wits and quick thinking to help them survive this ordeal.
As the episode progresses, each character has a moment of reflection and awareness that helps them. It is revealed that the reason that Cruz was a little out of it at the beginning of the episode is because his wife, Chloe, is pregnant, and Cruz is trying to keep it secret. Herrmann tells the story of how when his wife was pregnant with their first child, she slipped on some ice and fell and hurt her stomach. Herrmann believed that the child was gone, but was perfectly fine. Trevor talked about how he and his high school girlfriend had a kid young, and how they were great parents even though they grew apart, until his son grew up and married a woman who drove a wedge into their relationship. While Holly doesn’t have any kids, she talks about how she never wanted to work at a storage unit facility, and that she’s been trying to be in the restaurant industry for years.
The situation worsens when another elevator cable snaps, leaving Cruz figuring out that if another one goes, the whole elevator will go down. Reflecting how his late friend, Otis knew his way around a circuit board, Cruz opens up the panel on the wall, but Holly is frantic and grabs the wires, short-circuiting the elevator, and knocking her out.
Herrmann suggests that they need to lighten the load of the elevator, because if they keep up the weight, they will fall and die. He comes up with the idea of emptying the solvent tanks through the bottom of the elevator, since they weigh a ton. This works effortlessly, and the pressure of being too heavy lightens up.
While it looks like they have to play the waiting game at this point, they get a small signal from their communications, and they hear that Mouch is down in the fire that the rest of the team is fighting, sending instant feelings of nervousness through Cruz and Herrmann, knowing that they can’t help their friend who might be dead. Cruz climbs onto of the cannisters and starts pounding on the ceiling panels of the elevator to knock the cables to the side so that they can escape.
As Herrmann’s fortune cookie would say, things got very lucky for our favorite firefighters. Cruz manages to knock the cables aside, they hear through their communications that Mouch is alive, and they can safely climb on top of the elevator, which is starting to fill up with smoke. As they lift Holly and Trevor out, Herrmann gets through to Boden, who sends the rest of the squad to safely get them out of the building!
Outside, Trevor asks Holly out to lunch before being put in the ambulance to take care of his broken leg. Goes to show that tragedy and adrenaline can really spice up a friendship into maybe something more. Herrmann promises Cruz that he will be quiet about Chloe’s pregnancy, and rushes over to Mouch to give his longtime friend a big hug.
As I said before, this episode was one of the best that Fire has had in years. The writing was superb and the direction and editing of the episode made it the most ambitious episode of the series so far. However, this episode would not have been possible without the spectacular and heartfelt performances from David Eigenberg as Herrmann and Joe Minoso as Cruz. These two carried the episode with emotion, humor, and dedication to the roles that they have been playing for nine years, and told the stories of the trials and tribulations that it takes to be a firefighter, a parent, and a human being. It was a fantastic episode, and I hope that the show, as well as the other Chicago shows, take a page out of this book, and format an episode like this, focused on one or two people in a tough situation. It helps keep all of the storylines in check, so that there isn’t a constant back and forth from remembering which storyline is which, and how it impacts the others.
But for tonight, bravo David Eigenberg and Joe Minoso, for their brilliant work on tonight’s episode, and I look forward to seeing how the rest of the season progresses.
What were your thoughts on tonight’s groundbreaking episode of Chicago Fire? Leave a comment below!
Chicago Fire Review – Don’t Hang Up (9×13)
Chicago Fire’s latest episode was a race against time, as the team worked to track down a missing girl who only wanted to talk to one person: Stella Kidd.
The rest of the season is working toward three possible outcomes: Kidd passing (or failing) the upcoming lieutenant test, Cruz becoming a father, and whether or not Casey and Sylvie will get together. Tonight, all three of those storylines were at the forefront of the episode.
In his paternity class, Cruz tried to perfect swaddling, and the rest of the crew helped him out. In reality, he was trying to do better at swaddling than someone else in his class, which made for a fun and random competition between new fathers.
Meanwhile, Casey confronted Grainger about getting back together with Sylvie, who admitted that she is clearly in love with Casey. Things are gearing up for their eventual connection!
However, the meat of the episode centered around Kidd, who had a great story to showcase her skills. Kidd is shown to be a great on-your-feet firefighter as she works fast to rescue a man who, after being hit by a car, was impaled by a tree branch. It was impressive to see her adjust to a situation so fast and showcased just how strong she is under pressure.
While studying for the test, Kidd received several phone calls from a burner phone from a girl who was being held somewhere in the city. From the calls, it seems that this girl and her brother are being held captive by a gang. She also revealed to Kidd that she was a part of the early days of the Girls on Fire program that was started, which is why she called Kidd. The girl said she left the program because she didn’t feel like she was good enough to rescue people before abruptly hanging up.
Kidd recruited her assistant Kylie to search the records of the Girls on Fire sign-up sheets, and they deduced it as a girl named Aliyah Ward and her brother Douglas. They were taken by a gang that Douglas got involved with for trying to snitch to the cops.
Since they knew the gang house is right by Aliyah’s, Kidd asked Severide and Boden to drive by, turn the siren on, and use the phone call with Aliyah to track it down. Boden then lies to the gang saying that their house is going to blow from saturation levels, which gets everyone out and secures a rescue.
I have this gut feeling that when Kidd takes the test, she will either pass with flying colors or fail because of some messed up situation within the Chicago Fire Department. The episode showed Kidd at her finest, so it’s possible that the next one could show her at her lowest. I think it would be great to see the other side of it because Miranda Rae Mayo has been giving a fantastic performance as she prepares for the test. It would be interesting to see her reaction if she did all this work to be shut down for it (though I would love to see her pass, of course!)
What I liked about this episode was the editing. They told all their stories the way they could knowing that the one around Kidd was the prominent one. The show has always struggled with maintaining which one was more important than the others for the week, but it was still fun to watch Cruz and Herrmann have a “swaddle-off,” as well as Casey discovering that there might be more in store for him and Sylvie.
What did you think of tonight’s high-stakes episode? Leave a comment below!
Chicago Fire Review – Natural Born Firefighter (9×12)
Chicago Fire returned this evening without missing a beat. With the looming concern that Captain Casey may have to leave the Chicago Fire Department after his horrible head injury looming, Chief Boden takes over the reins of Casey’s job while he figures out what he needs to do next.
Casey is told by his doctor that he will need to get an MRI to get a further diagnosis of the state of his head injury because it could be quite possible that if the trauma is getting worse, it could lead to serious medical problems for him in the future. Don’t worry, fans, Casey and Sylvie had a lot of flirty moments that could result in them (finally) getting together! There even was an almost-kiss when Casey’s MRI was clean, and he is cleared to work!
A fire at a party store paves the way for two storylines of the week: a civilian, Mason, who knows an odd amount about firefighting helps Herrmann rescue an unconscious woman, and Mouch saves a little girl’s life after the building explodes.
Herrmann tracks down Mason, who was a trained firefighter in prison, and knows that the CFD does not hire felons. Mason explains that becoming a trained firefighter in prison helped him get out of a lot of bad crowds. It becomes Herrmann’s goal to meet with the commissioner of the CFD to get Mason hired as a firefighter because as the episode title notes, he is a “natural born firefighter.” Originally, the meeting doesn’t go as planned, but after several phone calls, they get Mason an interview with the fire department in St. Paul.
Kudos to the makeup department on the show; the scene where Sylvie rescues a woman who gets her arm stuck in a tennis ball machine was awesome, and the prosthetics they put on her arm were great!
The lowest part of the episode for me was the so-called “comedic” story where Ritter, Gallo, Kidd, and Cruz worked together to prevent random people from parking in Chief Boden’s parking space. Even when they discovered that the person parking their car was assisting an elderly nun, the story was incredibly dumb, and just didn’t need to be there at all. However, I do like the use of Boden in these stories, because they don’t always use him for moments that aren’t serious firefighting scenes.
Herrmann’s storyline involving Mason was really true and honest. There are a lot of organizations in the world that discriminate against hiring felons even if they have the skillset to accomplish a job. It’s something that I hope can make a difference in reality, as there is so much discrimination against incarcerated people.
The show also took down the rumored possibility that Casey (played by Jesse Spencer) will be departing the show because of his head injury. It was a sigh of relief, as a personal fan of Jesse Spencer, as well as the character, I don’t know how I would be able to handle his departure from the show. With the hint that Sylvie and Casey could be getting together soon, I think it’s time that this teased romance finally becomes official!
Chicago Fire returns in 2 weeks, but until then, what did you think of tonight’s episode? Are you relieved that Casey is returning to work? Leave a comment below!
Chicago Fire Review – A Couple Hundred Degrees (9×11)
On tonight’s latest episode of Chicago Fire, Severide juggles with a CFD recruit, Herrmann tries to play matchmaker, Casey continues to struggle with his head injury, and Violet and Sylvie investigate a mysterious letter tied to a call.
After a call to a local deli where the owner seemed to have fallen down a set of basement stairs, Violet receives an anonymous note that says “that fall wasn’t an accident.” While Ronnie, the deli owner, doesn’t recall if anyone pushed him, the suspicion falls on a cafe owner, Mike, who wants to buy out the deli so that he can expand it. Detective Adam Ruzek makes a cameo to let them know that the business wasn’t anything serious if they don’t know who did it.
Once Sylvie and Violet are called back to the deli because Ronnie collapsed, Violet makes the discovery that the cafe owner is poisoning him by giving Ronnie muffins every day.
In a shocking plot twist, the cafe owner actually wrote the note, and it was Ronnie’s WIFE that was poisoning him because she wanted to sell the deli! Not only was that revelation incredibly messed up, but it wasn’t covered enough! I would’ve loved to see the folks over at Chicago PD do a full episode about this because it was wrapped up immediately after being revealed.
Over the course of the episode, we see Severide teaching a class of Fire Academy recruits through some drills. One of the students is the son of another fire chief. While Severide doesn’t believe one student, Jacob Mercer, the son of another fire chief, has the instincts to be a firefighter, he struggles with not wanting to dismiss him fearing backlash from his father.
After burning his hand during a drill, Mercer is tasked with filling up air tanks. He accidentally fills up with carbon monoxide, which almost causes a couple of recruits their lives. Severide, per usual, saves the day.
The outcome? Consequences from Mercer’s father, who got Severide’s teaching privileges revoked.
After breaking up with his boyfriend, Ritter is enjoying the single life, but Herrmann sets him up with someone in his wife’s book club. Their date goes off the deep end as it turns out the setup dated Ritter’s ex before him, and he was incredibly controlling, and he ended it before it could even start. Thankfully, Ritter and his ex get back together.
After a mini-reunion with Chicago Med, Dr. Will Halstead informs Casey that anyone who has a head injury of his should see a neurologist. Casey lied to him saying it was for a friend but is now claiming that the symptoms of the injury are gone. Casey also decides to meet up with a neurologist to get a diagnosis, and Sylvie agrees to go with him, possibly giving the Sylvie/Casey story a breath of fresh air.
I’ve complained about it a lot throughout this season, but I will say, the show has done a better job in the later episodes of the season with managing all the storylines. Rather than giving some storylines more screen time than others, there was a fair amount for all so that no details were lost. There were even some instances that scenes blended together with the storylines instead of a scene break. It’s been my biggest criticism of the season, and it seems that after a COVID season, the writers needed to take the time to recuperate, and I think that they have recovered nicely. They have done a great job of letting the audience know which story is more important compared to other weeks.
That said, I still have a small hunch that unless there is a medical miracle, Matt Casey will be departing the show or be forced on the sidelines for a while. He says his headaches are gone, but those come and go depending on the day.
And I don’t know about you, but “Severide the teacher” was VERY entertaining and I hope this can be expanded in the future. I think it would be great for his character for him to teach some classes and the future of the Chicago Fire Department.
We’re nearing the end of the season!
What did you think of tonight’s episode? Would you trust Severide to teach you the ways of the Chicago Fire Department? Would you let Herrmann set you up with someone in his wife’s book club? Leave a comment below!
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