9-1-1 recap: The shark in the middle of the highway is the least of our problems

It’s been several months since we last entered into 9-1-1 land, so don’t feel too bad if you had to recalibrate your emotions in order to survive our first episode back since the winter finale in November (yes, November!). I certainly was not prepared for the emotional whiplash of witnessing the one-two punch of a woman in mid-facelift having her face fall off and a car accident on the L.A. freeway involving an actual, live tiger shark swiftly followed by a very emotional story involving a kidnapping, Athena dealing with some intense mother issues, and Maddie finally coming face-to-face with her abusive ex. Yeah, it’s A Lot. But that’s 9-1-1. We signed up for this!
The theme of this installment is, like the episode title tells us, “new beginnings.” It’s all about fresh starts. You know, like the woman who wants to look 15 years younger after a breakup. Unfortunately for her there’s a construction crew working next door to her doctor’s office that causes a leak in the anesthesia pipe running through the building and she wakes up with her face still cut open and all of her doctors passed out from the gas. Our first responders arrive and everyone—even the construction worker with a table saw in his gut!—is okay, but we still have to witness her face skin flap falling over, you know, just in case you forgot what show you were watching.

The shark fares much better. It too is on its way to a fresh start when it runs into some problems. Only instead of a facelift, the tiger shark is being released back into the wild. So, it’s more of a “salt water” start, if you will. That’s some ocean humor for you, you’re welcome. Anyway, the tractor-trailer tank the shark is being transported in gets into a huge accident on the freeway and the shark spills out onto the road. Its trainer currently has his arm down its throat. It’s not a great time, is what I’m saying. The team arrives and there are lots of Jaws/jaws of life jokes to be made because, well, when else are you going to get the chance, and they free the trainer. But without the tank on the trailer, this shark has very little time before it can’t breathe anymore. So what do our friends do? They hang that shark off the front of their firetruck and they get it to the water. It’s like Free Willy, but instead of a friendly whale, it’s a deadly shark. A very different movie, but heartwarming nonetheless.

Leave it to 9-1-1 to make “shark almost bites man’s arm off on the freeway” as the fun portion of the evening, but we have some serious matters to attend to. Let’s begin with the very unsettling call Maddie (newly minted Dispatcher of the Month Maddie, thank you) gets from a 13-year-old boy. His name is Stevie, he’s not hurt but his dad did something bad, he says. Before he gets the chance to elaborate, his dad hops on the phone and apologizes to Maddie—Stevie was grounded and he’s retaliating by calling the police. It’s all a big misunderstanding and everything is totally fine. Well, Maddie’s not Dispatcher of the Month for nothing, and she tells her boss that she has a gut feeling that something is up. Maybe she’s just hungry, but also maybe they should send a police officer over to do a quick welfare check. Better safe than sorry, always.

They send Athena. Sure Stevie’s dad is smiling and apologetic and has no problem letting Athena come inside to look around, and yes, Stevie insists everything is fine and he was just mad at his dad, but Athena’s spidey-sense is going off. She has a sit down with Stevie, but he won’t change his story, nor will he take her card with her number should he need help in the future, and before she gets anywhere, Stevie’s dad is back. Just like Maddie, Athena leaves feeling unsettled. She needs some answers.
Her first step is to listen to the 9-1-1 call that came in. She and Maddie realize they can hear Stevie’s dad talking to someone else in the background, telling whoever it is to stay put. It’s weird because Stevie told Athena that it’s just him and his dad in the house. Something is going on here—and we know what it is. We see Stevie’s dad keeping a little boy in a hidden room inside a wall. Thanks to the handy newscast on the TV, we learn that this little boy was kidnapped just three days ago. Stevie realized something was wrong with “his new brother” and was trying to do the right thing. Unfortunately, the cops haven’t figured any of this out yet.

Athena enlists the help of Detective Romero (played by Danny Nucci, who also played a cop on the dearly departed Freeform show The Fosters, but you may also remember him from that time he died on the Titanic) and his guys, who do a background check (it clears) and steal some trash from the front of the house in case they find something suspicious. And they do! They pull prints and discover that Stevie is not Stevie. He’s a boy named Jacob who has been missing for six years. This man’s done this twice now.
(Recap continued on page 2…)