“Austin, We Have A Problem” turns up the emotion, as a solar storm sends Texas into chaos, Michelle finds what she’s looking for, and everyone is forced to re-evaluate what they want in life.
This recap of 9-1-1: Lone Star Season 1, Episode 10, “Austin, We Have A Problem”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Paying off a couple of subplots, shamelessly tugging the heartstrings and subjecting Austin, Texas to unbridled electrical chaos, 9-1-1: Lone Star Episode 10 was the best episode of the season. It was also, on balance, probably the weirdest, and not least because by the end of “Austin, We Have A Problem” the sky had lit up with a swirling aurora. It’s weird because things we’ve been building towards for eight prior episodes just kind of happen in this one, and thanks to the various consequences of a violent solar storm, which stretch from a hipster juice bar to outer space, there isn’t a lot of time to really focus on any individual characters or ideas.
This isn’t as much of a problem as you might think, though, since “Austin, We Have A Problem” has several moments of real emotional power and unpacking it all is what the second season is for. The opening, during which T.K. (Ronen Rubinstein) and Carlos (Rafael Silva) discuss their relationship over a healthy juice, lulls you into a false sense of security. It’s a bit sad that their romance might be coming to an end, and that T.K.’s brush with death has given him an existential crisis that threatens both his love life and his career, but it’s much sadder when all the street lamps, traffic lights, and other nearby electrical devices go haywire, causing mass panic and chaos.
Michelle (Liv Tyler), volunteering at the homeless camp, sees the problem too — a giant flock of birds passes overhead, and one of them thuds onto the bonnet of her van. It’s distracting enough that the homeless man she antagonized in a previous episode is able to bonk her over the head and presumably kidnap her, though we don’t get the Michelle-breaks-out-of-captivity subplot I was hoping for. No matter — we get something else.
9-1-1: Lone Star Episode 10 rewinds slightly to five minutes before the mysterious event (foreshadowed at the very end of the previous episode), where at the firehouse Mateo (Julian Works) is fretting over breaking Strand’s (Rob Lowe) swanky coffee machine, and Strand is fretting over T.K. apparently not wanting to be a firefighter anymore. Once the power surges start, they at least fix the coffee machine, which is just about the only thing or person in the episode that actually ends up better off.
Having missed the open goal of not making any snide remarks about Fox News reporting the solar storm, “Austin, We Have A Problem” takes us to our first emergency call: Chuck (Jason Olive), a pilot, is trapped in his upside-down plane with two passengers, one of whom is badly ill and in need of a liver transplant. The plane is tied up in power lines to give the sequence a ticking-clock device, as arcs of electricity threaten to fry the wreckage and its occupants unless they can jump to the relative safety of a distant crash mat. Chuck and the wife, Kim (Erica Piccininni), are able to, but Strand is forced to personally retrieve the cirrhosis-blighted husband. A tearful goodbye and a last-second escape prove that 9-1-1: Lone Star Season 1, Episode 10 isn’t pulling any punches, and matters only get worse.
For instance: Back on the streets with T.K. and Carlos, who’re doing their best to keep the situation under control, a woman, Ellen (Stacie Greenwell), is trapped in her vehicle as a knocked-over fire hydrant continues to fill it with water. As someone with a pretty ripe fear of drowning who always has flashbacks to that bit in Daylight when Sylvester Stallone has to leave George behind, this was a nightmare for me. And it was a nightmare for T.K., who despite his valiant efforts couldn’t do anything to save Ellen — until Strand and the 126 arrived at the last moment to pull everyone out. If the events at the firehouse occurred, by the show’s own admission, five minutes prior to this, and the 126 had to stop to help Chuck et al. down from the plane, how did they have enough time to get here? Try not to think about it.
There are plenty of other things to think about anyway since Michelle wakes up in the homeless camp… with Iris (Lyndsy Fonseca). Yes, as we learned last week, Iris is not only alive but has been living in the homeless camp where Michelle has been volunteering twice a week for the last three years, which I imagine won’t do much to soothe Michelle’s already guilty conscience. But she’s alive, which is what counts, even if she’s quite clearly schizophrenic and believes that some kind of nebulous group requires her to live in a tent under the freeway. Michelle wants to take her for a drive, but Iris reminds her that the junkie stole her van. Luckily, in the next scene, they’ve just… I don’t know, teleported to the hospital? And their mother arrives being all overbearing, pushing Iris to kick off — Fonseca gives a great, frantic turn here — and return to the camp. At least they know where she is now.
9-1-1: Lone Star Episode 10 has the obligatory Grace (Sierra Aylina McClain) note, and blimey it’s a doozy. Thanks to the solar storm, the emergency services are getting flooded with calls from all over the world, including one from Tom (Jonathan Chase), an astronaut on the International Space Station who has radiation poisoning and wants to say goodbye to his wife and daughter. We never see the recipients of the call, which only makes things worse; “Awakening” flits back and forth between Tom, trying to hold it together, and Grace, visibly falling apart, and this was, frankly, far too much emotion to begin my day with.
Speaking of emotion, T.K., who has been through the wringer, arrives at the 126 with something on his mind. He assembles the team and tells them about his junkie past, his relapse and overdose, and how he never really chose this — Austin or being a firefighter — for himself. But the events of the day have solidified his belief that the 126 is a family, and he finally chooses them for himself. This is where he wants to be, and this is what he wants to do — and Carlos, it seems, is who he wants to be with while he’s doing it.
Michelle is also at the 126 and confides in Strand about Iris, who gives her some sage advice. They can’t force her to do anything she doesn’t want to — they just need to keep the door open, keep trying, and show her they love her in whatever way they can. 9-1-1: Lone Star Season 1, Episode 10 closes with a montage under the aurora; T.K. and Carlos look to be okay, Michelle and Iris have a picnic, and Strand takes Buttercup out for a stroll. That, folks, was one hell of a finale.
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