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While the last couple of Shameless episodes have been a wild, emotional rollercoaster, “A Jailbird, Invalid, Martyr, Cutter, Retard, and Parasitic Twin” is a surprisingly slower, more thoughtful and funnier episode than its predecessors. That’s not to say “A Jailbird” doesn’t deal with the crumbling state of the Gallagher household or go into dark territory – it does – but with the reins loosened a little, we’re able to step back and really asses the damage Fiona’s bad choices have left.
Before I get to some of the lighter moments, I should say that this episode belongs to two wonderful scenes. In the first, a very ill Frank is trying to write something like a memoir before his near-constant pain overtakes him and snaps at Sammi when she mentions his impending mortality. The other involves Fiona and Lip fighting about her trial and whose fault Liam’s accident really was. Yes, both were phenomenally acted and written, but the reason I write about them together is that they provide the backbone for “A Jailbird” and, really, to this season as a whole. In both scenes, Frank and his daughter are grappling with how their bad decisions are going to alter the course of their lives for the worse. "I turn my back for like two seconds and now my life is ruined, how is that fair?" Fiona asks Lip. But, with the downfall of Fiona and Frank you also can understand that both are somewhat a product of their dysfunctional homes.
Frank was raised by a highly abusive father and a mother who was a mentally ill, drug-addicted, con-woman (played wonderfully, if you remember, by the great Louise Fletcher). He, in turn, raised Fiona who, despite her best intentions, has grown more and more dysfunctional during the course of the season. Like father, like daughter. In this episode, we see both father and daughter contemplating their bad decisions, how they ended up in such a bad place and what they can do to about it. But while Frank continues to poison himself and live in a delusional world where he is the victim, the end of the episode shows Fiona accepting her lot in life, fair or unfair, and pleading guilty – a plea that will greatly reduce her punishment but leave her with a permanent criminal record.
The trial has seemed to put on a strain on all the Gallaghers. Lip blames Fiona for the accident and takes Liam to school with him, which unexpectedly helps him bond with his roommates’ girlfriend, the kindly Amanda, who helps babysit the littlest Gallagher. Carl has to deal with new bullies, who taut him about his “retarded brother,” referring to the possible brain damage Liam could receive due to the cocaine. At least Carl gets the last laugh after head-butting the bullies. In a sweet scene near the end of the episode, Carl takes an online quiz with Liam to determine if he’s “retarded.” He’s not, thankfully, according to the site but then Carl answers the questions himself and…well, let’s just say there may be a new member of "Retard Nation."
The lack of parental influence has also had a profound effect on Debbie who in “Jailbird” tries, once again, to woo her 20-year-old beau (unsuccessfully) with a home-cooked dinner. But when insists that they just be friends, Debbie storms off and tries to cut herself, a practice she learned from her pregnant school friend. Although this a disturbing action for Debbie, I doubt she’ll try it again if I can guess from her scream of pain. I guess she didn’t realize cutting your own arm would hurt.
We also learn more about what Ian has been up to post-Army. On orders from his sister, Mickey goes to the downtown gay club where Ian works. There, he finds his former boyfriend giving old men lap dances, looking like a long-lost Kit Kat Club boy and high on any number of questionable substances. After Ian collapses outside the club, Mickey takes him home to rehab. Perhaps now the Gallagher clan can finally come together.
Image Courtesy of Showtime/CBS