Couples, Cabins and Contraband

Below Deck Mediterranean S5 E11: Cabin Fever

Now with 100% less Kiko

I already miss Chef Kiko, easily the happiest and most even-keeled (pun intended) of all the chefs who have ever been on a Below Deck franchise. We get to see his teary goodbye with Hannah again, and as she and Rob waive farewell, Malia and Bugsy discuss Malia’s chef-boyfriend, Tom, and what it would be like to work with him.

Sandy has the tip meeting, reminds the crew that charters are a business, and thanks them for not letting the below deck drama affect the guests’ experience. The tip is great, and Sandy tells the crew they’ll get a day off at a beach club.

Bugsy and Alex continue their flirt-mance, and they discuss waxing Alex’s chest. Romantic? A little later, Alex calls Bugsy to the hot tub… to look at his hairy back and asks if she’ll wax him. While Pete looks on, she actually waxes him….

Malia is on the phone with Tom and tells him about the chef vacancy on the boat; she tells us he’s on the way to the UK to visit a sick family member. Malia says she’ll talk to Sandy to see if Tom can stay on the boat; Sandy says yes and mentions wanting to talk to him about finishing out the season as chef. Tom arrives, comes on the boat and meets the crew – mid Alex wax – before touring the boat and galley. Someone [Bugsy] decorates a guest cabin for Malia and Tom. Aw.

Tom meets Sandy, and he thanks her for letting him stay onboard. Sandy asks Tom about his “mad skills”, and chats with him about his resume (the guy has got lots of experience, for sure). Sandy asks him if he could help her out this season, and Tom agrees, because he’ll be able to spend more time with Malia. Sandy thanks and hugs him, but he lets her know if anything were to happen with his sick uncle, he’d have to leave.

The crew gets ready to party and they head out in their minivans. At a bar, Hannah is sad because she misses her boyfriend, Josh, and asks Rob and Jess for support since she lost Kiko. Jess says they’re there for her, and Hannah goes back to the boat. When they get back to the boat, Rob again tells Jess he loves her, and Jess says she is in love with him; Rob “speaks her same language.”

Malia asks Hannah if she’s feeling alright, and Hannah says she’s having curry-related stomach issues. Tom, in his new Wellington shirt and confessional, asks “What has Malia gotten me into this time?” So Tom is officially on board as the new chef, just like that!

Sandy calls a meeting to tell everyone Tom will be sticking around; Hannah looks upset, but everyone is relieved. Hannah tells Sandy she’s sick and won’t join the crew at the beach club. She explains in the confessional that if she has a problem with Malia she’ll automatically have a problem with Tom, and vice-versa, and she doesn’t really want to deal with that. Valid!

The crew goes to the beach club, which has a bar, lounge chairs, and of course, the beach. They hang out, drink and take pictures; Rob and Jess get super friendly on a lounge chair. Jess says she’s flying to Bali after the season and asks Rob to come with her; he says “maybe” and takes a bunch of pictures of her while they carouse in the water. Hannah is on the boat recuperating, but every single person at the beach club (even the bartender and minivan drivers) thinks Hannah is lying about being sick. Sandy checks on Hannah, who tells Sandy she’s not doing well; in her confessional, Sandy says she’ll be there for Hannah, whatever she needs.

All the couples and Pete go to dinner, and they discuss Tom’s pedigree. He’s worked with Gordon Ramsay, and we see pictures of a young Tom and get some backstory. Tom seems like a good dude, and I’m sure he’ll be up to the task of being the Wellington’s chef. They discuss cabin arrangements at dinner: Rob will move in with Jess, and Tom with Malia; Bugsy says she is not okay with rooming with Hannah. Malia in her confessional says Bugsy should just get over it.

The next day, Hannah is still sick; Bugsy goes about doing things because Hannah didn’t give them instructions for the day. Malia says Hannah could have texted the stews… Malia then talks to Hannah about cabin arrangements; Hannah says rooming with Bugsy isn’t going to happen, but Malia says hopefully they’ll be professional about the situation.

Hannah talks to Bugsy, and they agree they shouldn’t room together. Hannah tells Malia they don’t want to change cabins, and Malia gets annoyed that they won’t accommodate her and Tom (and Rob and Jess). Speaking of Rob and Jess, Hannah says she shouldn’t have to cater to people who have been hooking up for 3 weeks; Malia gets more annoyed and tells Hannah to “man up” and share a cabin with Bugsy. I can see both sides here – Tom just kinda showed up and Hannah shouldn’t have to change rooms just to accommodate Rob and Jess. Malia says they need to make room for a new team member; Hannah says there is room for Tom… bunking with Rob!

Malia says “you hired Tom,” but Hannah fires back and says she didn’t hire Tom, which is 100% accurate. Hannah and Malia go back and forth; Malia calls Hannah a f***ing idiot in her testimonial. Sandy asks Malia what’s wrong, and Malia explains the situation. Sandy takes Malia’s radio and decrees Malia and Tom will be staying in Kiko’s old cabin, and Rob has to find a new place to go. Everyone basically laughs it off, except Hannah, who doesn’t hear Sandy because she’s on the dock with headphones in.

Malia, Hannah and Tom have a preference sheet meeting for the next (3-day) charter. The guests want a beach lunch one day, and an Arabian nights party on another… fun! Bugsy tells Hannah they’re going to be rooming together, and Hannah reluctantly says it’s okay.

Rob moves in with Jess, and Jess thinks it’s weird that she and Rob are effectively now living together; she says she doesn’t like the pressure. Not sure what she expected, there?

Malia says she doesn’t understand why people are afraid of Hannah; Malia definitely isn’t. So there’s tension between Malia and Hannah, and when Malia is cleaning our her bathroom stuff, she says “dammit”…. Hannah tells Tom to let her know if he needs anything as he’s setting up his galley, and that night they all blissfully sleep in their new cabins.

But that night, in the dark, we see Sandy get a text message (not explicitly from Malia… but it’s from Malia) that says “I’m sorry but I need to report this” with a picture of a package of Valium next to a case with the initials “HF.” The next morning, everyone gets up, and Sandy asks someone named David to “be there for the whole thing.” Hannah comes looking for Sandy; Sandy tells her to sit down because it’s been brought to her attention that Hannah has drugs on board, as “TO BE CONTINUED…” flashes across the screen.

Stray Thoughts:

  • Hannah and Alex discuss Bugsy, and Hannah can only say Bugsy’s good at table decor.
  • Bugsy tells us her sister actually hooked up Tom and Malia, and that yachting is indeed a small world!
  • Is the conspiracy theory that they wanted Tom to be the chef this season but he couldn’t do it, so they hired Kiko? When Tom became available, they fired Kiko and brought in Tom? This makes more sense than Kiko being fired for not being a great chef, because he was, for the most part (nachos and a few complaints aside). Though if this theory is true, the production company and all involved are diabolical geniuses!
  • Here’s some context, as you may be wondering (as was I) about boats and medication: Malia (on Twitter, I think) explained that anyone on a boat needs to let the captain/crew know if they are on medication; a person cannot take medication unless under the supervision of a medical officer on the boat, even if it’s a prescription for that person. The medical officer basically needs to clear the person for duty, and it was Malia’s obligation to report the drugs to Sandy, since she found them. So now things make a little more sense!
  • I’m guessing this is what prompts Sandy to say “I should have fired you years ago,” (paraphrased), but perhaps we’ll see next week! M

Lots of Crazy Under the Umbrella

[Spoilers for The Umbrella Academy]

“You look like Antonio Banderas with long hair. I just thought you should know.” Klaus Hargreeves to brother Diego, at an inopportune moment.

Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy has never been very concerned with the “how” of things. How do [any character]’s powers actually work? How does time travel work? How’d that character get there? Does this make the show less enjoyable? Not really, since it’s all very ridiculous, you just go with it. Season 2 picks up right where we left off, and ultimately gives us more of what we loved in season 1 with some big performances, shocking reveals, and an ending that perfectly sets up a potential season 3.

Recapping the season (here goes!):

After failing to prevent Vanya (Ellen Page) from blasting the moon and causing Earth’s destruction in 2019, Five (Aidan Gallagher) transports all the Hargreeves children back in time; however, they land in Dallas, Texas in different years: Klaus (Robert Sheehan) and Ben (Justin H. Min) in 1960, Allison (Emily Raver-Lampman) in 1961, Luther (Tom Hopper) in 1962, and Diego (David CastaƱeda), Vanya and Five in 1963.

Unsure of what happened to their siblings, the Hargreeves assimilate into life in the past. Five learns that, once again, the world will be destroyed in several days, and sees how this happens – JFK is never assassinated, and because of Vanya, there is a huge nuclear war with the Soviets that wipes everything out.

This time it’s not Vanya!

Five starts looking for his brothers and sisters and figuring out how to avoid another doomsday scenario. So where are the Hargreeves?

  • After dropping into 1963, Vanya is hit by a car and has amnesia; she only remembers her name. Sissy Cooper (Marin Ireland), the woman who hit her, takes her in on her farm, and Vanya lives there with Sissy and her family – husband Carl (Stephen Bogaert) and autistic son Harlan (Justin Paul Kelly). Vanya actually saves Harlan from drowning; she gives him mouth to mouth, and turns out, some of her powers…
Lila getting lied to
  • Diego is thrown into an asylum, where he meets Lila Pitts (Ritu Arya); the two decide to escape, and do – after a run in with Five and a trio of Swedish brothers who try to kill them… Diego and Lila hook up, until we learn what Lila is really up to.
  • Klaus has, naturally, started a cult! He and Ben live in a mansion in which Klaus’ followers live hippie lifestyles and follow his teachings – which are mostly song lyrics; the cult is called ‘Destiny’s Children’, after all.
  • Luther has started working for Jack Ruby, and MMA-style fighting in an underground ring. There he gets to show off his werewolf-y strength and make his boss lots of money.
  • Allison, after being chased by racist jerks, finds her voice again in Dallas’ African-American community. She meets Ray Chestnut (Yusuf Gatewood); the two get married and become civil rights activists.

After some time, the siblings find each other and figure out how to stop the nuclear destruction. Once again it’s Vanya at the center: she goes all “White Violin” and the still-alive JFK thinks she’s a Russian spy – her name is ‘Vanya’ and she speaks Russian – so all hell breaks loose. (At this point, if I were in Allison’s place, I’d have heard a rumor Vanya could NEVER USE HER POWERS AGAIN. #justsaying)

While things are going down in Dallas, we learn The Handler (Kate Walsh), who was viciously offed last season by Hazel (Cameron Britton), is not dead! Turns out she had a metal plate in her head (convenient!) and she recovers. She returns to The Commission and learns she’s been demoted; apparently AJ Carmichael, a fish in a jar attached to a man’s body (?), is now running the place.

The Handler comes to take over The Commission by making a deal with Five: if he kills the super secret directors board and she can assume control, she’ll get him and his family home. Five agrees, takes out the board, and returns the fish in a jar as her pet. Unfortunately, Five can’t gather all his siblings together, and they miss their chance to go back to 2019.

It’s revealed that The Handler is Lila’s adoptive mother and Lila has been working for her all along. The Handler had Five kill Lila’s parents because Lila is one of the special children born on the same day as the Umbrella Academy kids (!) and she wanted Lila’s powers for her own use. She’s also manipulating the Swedes – three brothers who have been popping in and out and killing people throughout the season, who work for the The Commission. The Handler sends the brothers to kill the Umbrella Academy, but two are killed; one via landmine by The Handler/Lila to frame Diego, and the other by Allison, who in self defense, rumors one brother to kill the other.

Back to the Hargreeves: they come across their adoptive father, Reginald (Colm Feore), not-a-robot “mom” Grace (Jordan Claire Robbins), and monkey-turned-butler Pogo. The kids don’t know it, but Reginald is a part of secret organization The Majestic 12… and also an alien. Yup, Papa Hargreeves isn’t human, people! We see him take off his human face, only from behind, but see that his head is definitely alien. He kills the members of the organization when they tell him he’ll be forever indebted to them or risk his secret being exposed. Reginald meets with his future kids briefly, but only seems to have use for Five; he gives Five the advice to start small with his powers, and instead of time traveling back decades, ‘try seconds.’

Yup, it’s Vanya again. Or is it?

Vanya is arrested for assaulting police officers while trying to run away with Sissy and Harlan; the FBI tortures her with electric shock, but all this does is piss her off and make her remember everything. She seems comatose, but goes all “White Violin” and gives off waves of energy, killing the people interrogating her. Ultimately Ben reaches her and calms her down; Ben in turns finally ‘moves on’ and asks Vanya to tell Klaus it wasn’t Klaus keeping Ben around – Ben was scared to move onto the spirit world.

Vanya is contained, and The Handler is alerted that there is a huge anomaly in the timeline; she looks at what it is, then calls in all the field agents to go to war. The anomaly, turns out, is Harlan! He’s now going all “White Violin” in the barn, and everyone goes to stop him.

The Handler shows up with Lila and hundreds of time agents; the agents are all taken out by Vanya, who now has much better control of her powers. Lila protects herself and her mother with her powers; Lila fights the Hargreeves, and The Handler goes to find Harlan. They realize Lila is one of the special children, and are all in barn telling her that mother has lied to and manipulated her all her life; as she’s realizing the truth, all the members of the Umbrella Academy are shot dead by The Handler with an automatic rifle. Lila asks her mother if it’s true and if she really loves her; The Handler shoots her dead too. She sees Five, alive and struggling, and goes to shoot him, but the last remaining Swede shows up and shoots The Handler dead.

Five takes the opportunity to ‘try seconds’ and uses his powers to go back in time just before The Handler started shooting. He stops her from killing everyone, but the Swede still shows up and shoots The Handler dead. Five and the Swede call a truce, and they race to Harlan. Vanya takes back the part of her powers she inadvertently transferred to him, and his powers subside.

The Hargreeves kids say goodbye to their lives in 1963; Sissy drives to New Mexico to start a new life with Harlan (who is levitating a toy in his hand in the back seat), and Ray reads a goodbye note Allison left for him. They use a briefcase from one of the dead time agents to finally get back home.

They teleport to the Umbrella Academy, and see the date is the day after the doomsday from the first season; they’ve won! Or have they? They walk into the parlor and notice Ben’s picture is hanging above the fireplace. An alive Reginald greets them, tells them he’s been expecting them, and that they’re at the Sparrow Academy. While children gather on the upper level looking down at them, a very much alive Ben comes in and asks who they are.

And that’s (most of) The Umbrella Academy season 2! For me it started a little slow but then picked up steam once the siblings found each other. The last scene was great, and I really hope they get to do a third season just for that cliffhanger.

Thoughts on the season:

  • Overall Grade: I liked it! B+ to A-
  • I really liked the approach of the siblings having to reconnect; it mirrored the first season, in which they hadn’t seen each other in years, but there was a sense that these characters integrated into this community and all chose such different paths. Of the storylines, I think Allison’s was the strongest, and Vanya’s the weakest.
  • Allison recuperating and regaining her physical voice, then becoming a voice for her community was just great. As a white dude, I can only imagine how black people must have felt when they saw signs in stores that said “Whites Only”; it was sad to watch how they were treated, and made me wonder why all the white people sitting around in a diner would tolerate that behavior? Also helping the story was the chemistry between Allison and Ray; they played perfectly off each other and were fun to watch, through it all.
  • Vanya’s story felt drawn out and contrived; the romance between Sissy and Vanya was so predictable you could guess every story beat: harried housewife meets stranger, wife hooks up with stranger, husband gets jealous, husband gets killed, wife gets to live her best life, blah, blah. It’s been done… a lot. When it first seemed like Sissy and Vanya would get together, I thought “Oh, Carl’s so dead” (though I’ll admit I thought Sissy would just shoot him!). I’d also ask when exactly Vanya became attracted to women, but it doesn’t matter. They could have cut the relationship stuff right out, and just had Harlan get Vanya’s powers and the story wouldn’t have changed at all.
  • On that note, I did think there was a bunch of stuff they could have cut out: the nerdy guy who got killed by the Swedes (Elliot?), Diego’s recruitment to The Commission, the 2 Fives bit. I think Luther and Klaus got sidelined a bit for Diego and Vanya, but it was great to see more Ben and The Handler, and I liked Lila and thought she fit in really well with the series.
  • Ben played a much bigger role this season, and it was nice to have him around more; whether inhabiting Klaus’ body, reconnecting with Diego, or talking Vanya off the ledge, he brought a different (more mellow) energy to the show.
Case in point.
  • I loved Kate Walsh as The Handler in season 1 and loved her even more in season 2. Not only does she look like she’s having the time of her life, but she manages to bring some nuance to this utterly crazy character who looks like she just stepped out of Wonderland. You really wonder just how nuts she is, and what she’s actually feeling, if anything. She ate a fish and spoke Swedish, for Pete’s sake! Cast this woman in everything – she can do it all! M

Clean Sweep

The prime time game show renaissance is currently in full swing on the ABC network, with past hits like Match Game, Press Your Luck, To Tell the Truth, and seemingly un-killable Family Feud going strong.

ABC is once again dipping into the well of game shows and bringing back a cult classic: Supermarket Sweep. Leslie Jones of SNL is set to host the show, which recently resumed production after shutting down due to COVID-19.

Later season logo from the Sweep

The original version of Sweep ran on ABC from 1965 – 1967; it was revived on then-fledgling cable network Lifetime from 1990 – 1995, and then again on the PAX Network (now ION TV) from 2000 – 2003. The modern incarnations (to which I’ll be referring) were hosted by king of the sweaters David Ruprecht:

He eventually moved to button-down shirts with ties, but sweaters were better

The premise was simple: 3 teams of 2 (usually 2 groups of women and 1 man/woman couple) competed for time to race around the supermarket to gather up groceries; whoever had the highest dollar total then went on to the big sweep, where they could win $5,000. To start, each team was given 1:30 for their sweep.

To add time, the contestants had to correctly answer food and brand related trivia questions: deciphering anagrams of brand names, choosing the correct answer from a list of phrases, or even taste-testing products (one lady correctly identified a frozen Dove bar by taste). For each correct answer, the team would get an additional 10 seconds for their sweep.

There were 2 trivia rounds, and the first question of each round was a ‘mini-sweep’ in which the partner of the contestant who answered correctly had to run and get the item that was the answer to the question. If they did, they got money added to their end-of-game total. The partners were then sent away, and the 3 contestants would continue; in the second round they switched and the partners would play. The last part of the trivia round was always the round-robin, in which both contestants in a team switched off answering questions. Sweep times were finalized and 1 contestant from each group was chosen to run the sweep.

The sweep part of the show had the contestants change into red, green and yellow sweaters (I’m guessing this just made it easier to tell the contestants apart for filming/commentating). The host would tell the contestants about special items that would bump up their totals, including huge inflatables with bonus stickers on them, ground coffee, 1 lb bag of candy, or ‘shopping lists’ – specific sets of items. There would also be monitors in the store that could be used to get clues for an additional special item.

One at a time, 1 contestant from each team would be released into the store with a shopping cart; they raced like crazy, grabbing the most expensive items to quickly rack up the dollars. A commentator would describe the action (Johnny Gilbert – longtime announcer for Jeopardy, commentated for the Lifetime version), and hilarity often ensued. “He races right past the clue to go for the hams!” “She’s having a hard time getting to a pound of candy!” “She found the Shake N Bake!”. When a cart was filled they’d furiously rush to the front of the store to grab another and start again.

Once time expired, the bonuses and groceries were totaled, and the team with the highest amount won the right to go for the grand prize: $5,000, hidden in the store. They were given a clue to a specially-marked product, and had to find it – that product in turn had the next clue on it, and if they found all 3 products within 1 minute, they won the cash.

So why is Supermarket Sweep a phenomenon, and why does it still hold up today? 90’s nostalgia aside, I think it’s beloved for a few reasons: first, unless you’re doing all your grocery shopping online, we all go to the supermarket. Grocery shopping in the U.S. is pretty standard, and we’ve all experienced it: the carts, the aisles, the rude people who leave their carts in the middle of the aisles…

Second, we love trivia! And this is trivia about food and brands! I don’t think anyone would argue that Americans. Love. Food. And we know and love our brands (brand loyalty is real); we recognize the slogans and logos because we’re inundated with ads. So when we answer along with the contestants, we feel smart for knowing all about the products we see on a weekly basis.

Finally, it’s fun! Who wouldn’t want to grab a cart and go tear up your local Shop Rite?! I also loved seeing the contestants’ strategies, and of course, criticizing them to no end. “Big jugs of olive oil, smart.” “Garbage pails? Are they really that expensive?” “THE NAPKINS ARE RIGHT THERE, JUST TURN AROUND BECKY!”

For the 2020 version I think they should tweak the trivia rounds to be more exciting; they were usually the weakest part – often all 3 contestants would stare blankly after a question was read, until the ‘time’s up’ buzzer went off. I think having the questions on a screen and not just read aloud would also help both the contestants and the viewers. They could also injected some comedy into the trivia, and not just rattle off facts about brands…

That said, I’m excited the show is coming back, and would be happy if they kept things mostly the same with a modern face lift. In the meantime, while the iron’s hot and Tom Bergeron needs a new gig, I think it’s time to start a petition to revive Shop Til You DropM

Still Shameless

[Spoilers for the fist half of Shameless season 10]

Newly arrived on Netflix

Over the course of 10 years, the Gallagher family at the center of Showtime’s Shameless has been through it. This family can best be summed up by one phrase: Bad Decisions TM. This trend continues in season 10, the first without eldest sister/de facto matriarch Fiona (Emmy Rossum).

The season starts with each Gallagher in a transitional period. Debbie (Emma Kenney) has assumed the role of caretaker, managing the the $50,000 Fiona left the family in the season 9 finale. Lip (Jeremy Allen White) is about to become a father with Tami (Kate Miner). Carl (Ethan Cutkosky) is graduating military school, and Liam (Christian Isaiah) is exploring his African-American heritage. Frank (William H. Macy) is, recovering from last season’s broken leg on the couch, and Ian (Cameron Monaghan) and Mickey (Noel Fisher) are figuring out their relationship in prison. Kev and Veronica (Steve Howie and Shanola Hampton) are still Kev and V.

Because of Bad Decisions TM, we quickly learn Debbie is buying expensive clothes and jewelry – keeping them in an obsessively organized storage unit – and then returning everything, just to experience the finer things in life. Frank finds the storage unit, and if you’ve ever watched the show, you can imagine what happens next. Debbie learns baby daddy Derek has died in the military, and begins battling Derek’s wife Pepa (Danube Hermosillo) for daughter Franny’s share of the death benefits. Pepa turns the tables and demands custody of Franny in exchange for the share.

A very pregnant Tami gives birth, but there are complications from an emergency C-section, and she is sidelined for a while; Lip is left to care for baby Fred by himself, and is thoroughly unprepared for caring for another human 24/7. He meets a woman named Sarah (Idara Victor), an infant swim coach, who offers to help him and invites him to a mommy support group. Lip improvises and figures out how to look after Fred with Sarah’s help. Tami recovers, but when she comes home she has a hard time bonding with Fred and dealing with Gallagher madness, while figuring out what she and Lip mean to each other.

Carl (barely) graduates military school, and returns home with girlfriend Kelly (Jess Gabor). He gets his old job back, working for Lori (Sarah Colonna) at the seafood fast food joint, and meets Anne (Chelsea Rendon) – a Mexican girl running a side hustle involving vape pens and tartar sauce. The two strike up a friendship; Carl even makes tamales with her family, poorly, and defends her when INS shows up on her doorstep. He offers the Gallagher house to Anne’s large family to hide out; all of this doesn’t sit well with Kelly, but it turns out Kelly has been sleeping with a classmate at her Annapolis Navy prep school (and may have given Carl an STD).

Liam is on a mission to discover his African American heritage, even dressing like Frederick Douglas and Malcolm X. Through Frank, he learns that he has distant Black relatives that live down the block (!). One relative is a man named MaVar (Anthony Alabi), who takes Liam under his wing; MaVar quickly learns Liam is a Gallagher in every way.

Ian and Mickey are in jail, and Ian learns he’s up for parole. Because of Bad Decisions TM he considers torpedoing the parole hearing to stay in jail with Mickey, but Mickey convinces him he needs to go. Ian returns home, and through the parole system gets a job as an EMT – his career before the whole gay icon/setting vans on fire incidents. Of course, his new gig isn’t ideal, as his new team is pulling insurance scams; he also has the parole officer from hell, Paula (Rachel Dratch). Due to his cooperation on a case, Mickey is released as well and returns to the Gallagher house.

Frank and partner in crime Mikey O’Shea (Luis Guzman) continue to try to scam everything and everyone: Mikey get dialysis from a veterinarian; Frank steals Oxycontin from an old lady. To replace his soiled couch, Frank and Mikey steal couch cushions from a hotel. Mikey eventually decides due to his failing health, he’ll go back to prison, and Frank is left to his own devices. Shortly after, however, Randy (Andy Buckley) shows up with Frank’s baby twins in tow*, saying Ingrid has left him, and Frank needs to take the babies back. Frank agrees to take one, and due to Bad Decisions TM chooses to sell the baby on the black market, with Liam’s help.

*Ingrid (Katey Sagal), Randy’s wife, had twins by artificial insemination. She thinks the babies are Frank’s, but (because this is Shameless), they are actually Carl’s children.

With Kev’s help, V gets a new friend to fill the void left by Fiona; Mimi (Lynn Chen) is a pharmaceutical sales rep who asks V to help her with Black doctors, as they don’t take her seriously because she’s Asian. V does, and finds she has a talent for selling the drugs – with phony sob stories. Meanwhile, Kev is insecure about getting older, and he goes back to stripping (for a night, anyway), in order to buy basketball shoes he thinks will help his game (spoiler alert – they don’t). Kev’s insecurities continue after he learns his childhood coach molested his teammates, but not him; he decides to get in on the lawsuit against the coach anyway.

So the Gallagher clan fumbles on; after 9 years, it’s noticeable that Fiona is gone, but the show’s ensemble is strong enough to keep it feeling like the same show it’s been since the beginning. They continue to make Bad Decisions TM and deal with the fallout, emotional and physical.

After the first half of the season, Tami and Lip seem like they’re figuring things out. Carl and Anne seem to be getting closer. V seems to be getting back to her roots. Debbie seems to have figured out how to scam/get back at Pepa. Ian and Mickey seem to bet getting back to normal life. And Frank seems to still be Frank – looking for the next scheme while failing at the current one. With one final season to go, I’m interested to see where the Gallaghers will ultimately land, and if any will finally be able to support themselves (and their kids!) to break the Gallagher-cycle that’s been going on for more than a decade. M