“Friends Like These” tests bonds in and out of the firehouse, and Strand is threatened by a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
This recap of 9-1-1: Lone Star Season 1, Episode 6, “Friends Like These”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Some shows just know how to get an episode underway, and this is one of them. Meet Taylour (Presilah Nunez) and Tina, two old friends who drifted apart. T and T, they called themselves once upon a time. But life got in the way. One of them had to grow up. Now Tina is driving her former best friend around and they’re both bickering over phone chargers. The disagreement leads to their car being hit by a truck and dragged along the road, Tina mangled in the wreckage. Michelle (Liv Tyler) determines she needs blood, and it happens that Taylour is a universal donor. Against protocol, Michelle sets up a person-to-person transfusion. Tina survives, T and T ride again, and 9-1-1: Lone Star Episode 6 immediately lives up to its title of “Friends Like These”.
It’s a theme that persists throughout, both in terms of firm friends coming together and new alliances being formed that might not necessarily be what they appear. Much of the episode is devoted to Strand (Rob Lowe) becoming the unlikely buddy of Billy Tyson (Billy Burke), the captain of another firehouse who he meets at a poker game hosted by Judd (Jim Parrack). Grace (Sierra Aylina McClain) pushes her husband to tell Strand the truth — that Billy hates him on principle for getting the job to rebuild the 126. They clash immediately, but when Strand holds his own Billy seemingly warms to him. He is, obviously, playing a long con that’ll take us through to the end of the episode, but more on that shortly.
Another running subplot of the episode is Mateo’s (Julian Works) upcoming last-chance exam. Strand calls on Marjan (Natacha Karam) to be his study buddy; he’s severely dyslexic and this is his last shot at the exam — if he fails he’ll be out for good. Due to his dyslexia, he’s allowed to take the test orally, but he still has to study the material, so Marjan has the whole team record portions of the Austin FD Academy Manual so that he can listen to it while he works. There’s a nice understated moment where a reticent Paul (Brian Michael Smith) springs to attention when he realizes the stakes — “Friends Like These” indeed.
Strand brings Billy down for a tour of the new station since they’re apparently buddies now, and they arrange to go golfing — Judd’s worried expression seems a bit like jealousy at first, but it’s obvious foreshadowing for what’s coming. But before that, we have an emergency. A wild dog is attacking two cute kids, Gabby (Mia Lynn Bangunan) and Sophia (Vivienne Rutherford), but pooch enthusiast Strand recognizes that the animal is scared, not dangerous. He calms it while T.K. (Ronen Rubinstein) retrieves the kids. One of them asks him if he knows that he has really big muscles, and Marjan has the answer: “Trust me, he knows.”
Anyway, the dog leads the team to its owner, who’s stuck underneath what Judd describes as basically a giant tractor. His legs are mangled. While they’re able to get him out, he can’t feel his shin, which Michelle figures out is compartment syndrome — the pressure is cutting off blood flow to the leg. She has to remove it to avoid amputation, which she does, much to the relief of the dog, Peanut.
Michelle also has advice for Strand in 9-1-1: Lone Star Episode 6. She advises him to be careful around Billy. They used to have a thing, and he likes to win a little too much. Where this is leading is so obvious that Strand comes across a bit dim for not realizing it, but you can make the excuse that such an obviously prideful man would be more concerned about being liked than leaving himself open to betrayal. At golf, Billy reveals he took a year off work with thyroid cancer; at dinner, when Billy pills out a cigar, Strand reveals his own cancer, and that he has been doing chemo on the job. Billy is impressed. The trap is set.
Mateo, meanwhile, is doing much better, listening to all the recordings while going about his day. When everyone tests him, he reels off the answers no problem. Things are looking good for him. But when Marjan tests him more formally he gets freaked out by multiple-choice questions, even though he knows the answer. He reveals that it isn’t just his dyslexia which causes him to struggle with the test — if he fails he won’t just lose his job, but he’ll get deported. He came to the country when he was two years old and his DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) renewal is contingent on his employment. She imparts on him the stoic wisdom of memento mori, the inevitability of death; if you remember you’re going to die anyway, nothing really matters that much. You can relax. He takes the advice on board.
Time for another emergency in “Friends Like These”, and it’s another that gives Grace time to shine. Clint (John Bishop) and Vernon (Christopher Darga), two fishermen, are scattering their friend’s “chunky cremains” at his favorite spot. Vernon gets a bit squeamish, so Clint, who has the flu, offers to do the deed. But a sudden change in the wind leads to him swallowing half of his late friend. With his respiratory system already compromised, Grace has to talk Vernon through making a hot compress using his truck exhaust in order to save Clint. This show has a seemingly infinite reserve of outlandish medical crises, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Mateo encounters a roadblock in 9-1-1: Lone Star Season 1, Episode 6. Because they’re from the same firehouse, Marjan isn’t allowed to read his test to him. It instead has to be conducted by his former captain, Broussard (Mark Berry), who is evidently resentful of Mateo being given another crack at it. When the young man emerges, the entire 126 is there to support him on their day off. He got 92% and seems to have finally earned the right to be referred to by his own name. It’s a nice moment.
A not so nice moment, at least for Strand, is when he’s summoned before Deputy Fire Chief Radford (Kyle Secor) immediately afterward and informed that Billy has revealed his secret. Radford is concerned that he’s a danger to himself and others while undergoing chemo, so Strand, in an attempt to prove his level of fitness, offers to run the cadet physical activity test in full protective gear — a feat that is borderline impossible for a healthy man, let alone one with lung cancer. We’ll see what comes of that further down the line. On his way out, Strand confronts Billy, who explains that he saw an opportunity and took it. According to him, this isn’t the 126 anymore, and the new team will have to see how long they last when he takes Strand’s job. It’s fighting talk, and we have ourselves a new antagonist.