‘9-1-1’ Boss on Pitch That Led to That Intense Cliffhanger: ‘[Spoiler] Dies’

Kenneth Choi in '9-1-1'
Spoiler Alert
Jack Zeman/ FOX

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for 9-1-1 Season 6 Episode 10, “In a Flash.”]

Just like the episode title suggests, everything can change in an instant.

In one of the most intense (and best) endings to a 9-1-1 episode to date, the members of 118, having been dealing with calls involving lightning strikes, find themselves having to save one of their own. Buck (Oliver Stark), after stopping Chimney (Kenneth Choi) from going up the ladder, is struck by lightning, leading to him falling off and leaving him hanging for a heart-stopping few moments before everyone leaps into action. He has no pulse and is in full cardiac arrest when they rush him to the hospital.

Executive producer Kristen Reidel explains why the episode ended like it did and teases what’s ahead — for Buck, as well as the other first responders.

That was probably the most intense ending of an episode so far.

Kristen Reidel: The only thing that might even come close to it was when we did the tsunami with Buck and Christopher [Gavin McHugh] and the pier. But yeah, it felt pretty big to us. We went back and forth on, is it the end of the episode? Is it the start of the next episode? It just felt like, no, no, that was the note we wanted to go out on.

How did that come about in terms of having that scene as the cliffhanger but also having it be Buck after he stops Chimney from going up the ladder?

Yeah, Buck has been on a journey all season, and we had talked about this at the very beginning of the year where we were doing our kind of blue sky, big-picture pitches that weren’t tied to any particular episode. And I can’t remember, it might have been [Juan] Carlos [Coto] who just pitched “Buck dies,” and I was like, “I’m intrigued, tell me more.” But it was the idea that Buck, who’s on this journey to understand the meaning of his life and what’s going to make him happy and who he is as a person, for him to die in the middle of figuring it all out just seemed like a really interesting story and opened us up to a lot of other stories to tell after it. Weirdly, a death experience gives you a lot of life stuff to do after it.

There is obviously a reason to be concerned. He didn’t have a pulse. He was in full cardiac arrest. How worried should fans be?

Look, he gets hit by lightning, and his heart stops, and the team tries to revive him for several minutes and struggles to do that. They cannot get his heart back. Fortunately, they do in the next episode, but he is in a coma, and he has suffered damage to his heart and his lungs, and it’s touch and go for Buck throughout all of Episode 11.

Oliver Stark in '9-1-1'

Jack Zeman/ FOX

What will we see from him in Episode 11?

We’re kind of playing with two timelines. We have our real-world story in which, like I said, Buck is in a coma, and then we do half the episode in Buck’s head — or actually more than half, honestly — and we see this crazy, is it an alternate reality? Is it a coma dream? The audience can be the judge. But we see a sort of idealized universe in which where Buck’s brother Daniel never died and the ways in which his life changed because of that. It’s pretty fun to see the ways, big and small, that the world changed because Daniel lived.

There’s also the fact that Buck’s the sperm donor for his friends, and this experience could affect how he feels if he survives…

That story will come back, and we will see Connor and Cameron again. But for Buck, this journey of self-discovery is really about him and coming up with his own answers, and so I don’t think his view on this baby [would necessarily] change because of [what happened].

How is the rest of the 118 going to be dealing with what happens to Buck in the next episode? Other than his pants and Maddie (Jennifer Love Hewitt), who’s the most affected?

Everybody’s affected, I should say that. Obviously, for Bobby [Peter Krause], it’s a lot. He’s there. Buck is, in a lot of ways, his kid, and seeing him in a hospital bed and not knowing if he’s going to live or die is triggering, especially having just lost a very dear friend in his AA sponsor. For Chimney he’s a bit shaken by it because he was the one who was going to go up that ladder, and Buck took his place. And it’s not that Chimney feels guilty because he didn’t send Buck up there, but it’s more of an “oh God, that could have been me. It could be me in that bed fighting for my life.” It just makes Chimney reevaluate some stuff in his life as well. And then, in a lot of ways, Buck is everybody’s little brother. And so for the family, they just all come together and rally by his side until he wakes up.

There’s also the matter of Chimney and his father, and to say they have a complicated relationship is an understatement. What did you want to explore there with Chimney, now a father?

There’s a thing that Chimney says in [Episode] 11. He talks about people always tell you that when you’re a parent, you’ll understand your parents more, and he understands his father less. Unlike some of the other relationships on our show, Chimney, and his dad don’t really have a relationship. They barely had one before Albert [John Harlan Kim]. And since Albert had come to live here, it’s just gotten more and more distant, and they don’t even really speak nowadays. But there is a little girl that doesn’t know her grandfather. And so the question for Chimney is, “Is it all about me still, or is it now about this kid? And do I want to make different choices than my father did?” We’ll see that from him in the [next] episode.

Peter Krause in '9-1-1'

Jack Zeman/ FOX

Then there’s Bobby, Athena (Angela Bassett), and May’s (Corinne Massiah) investigation into the rehab facility. It does seem risky to have May go undercover, but I do like seeing her take on additional responsibilities and them working together as a family. Is May making progress with Tamara?

Yes, she finds out a couple of details that Bobby and Athena did not know. And it is definitely risky to send May in, which is why Athena went with her. I don’t think that there’s a world in which Athena would check May in and just leave her be there. But a little tour of the rehab grounds seems like a controllable event. But yeah, May finds out a little bit of information in 10 at the end that will help Bobby in his investigation in an upcoming episode.

It just seems so risky to put them on the owners’ radar at all.

Several months have passed since the end of the previous episode. And so it is a bit of a Hail Mary because nothing else has worked. They’ve just been spinning their wheels, and so it is a move of last resort.

Denny’s (Declan Pratt) hiding that he’s talking to and meeting with his birth father (Troy Winbush), but I feel like it’s more on Nathaniel because, as an adult, he should either push more or reach out to Hen (Aisha Hinds) and Karen (Tracie Thoms) himself. What can you preview about when that comes out?

That will all come out and fairly soon, and yes, with Nathaniel, you can understand why he would keep the secret on a certain level. He wants to know his son. But on the rest of the levels, it’s like you should be telling Hen and Karen what’s going on, right? And so that situation will definitely blow up a bit when Hen and Karen find out what’s been going on. Because yes, you’re right. He is the adult, and while you can understand him wanting to know his kid, what he’s doing is not OK.

When we spoke in November, you’d teased that it might be time for Eddie (Ryan Guzman) to start dating. What’s coming up there?

Eddie is going to start dipping his toe back in the dating waters. We just wanted to have a little bit of fun with it, and he goes out on a date or two and makes various attempts at finding the person that he wants to date seriously, and he has mixed results.

You’d also said the question of marriage for Maddie and Chimney is raised in the back half. What are those conversations like? Are there concerns? Or is it just that they don’t need to be married to know their future is together?

Marriage is raised in an unexpected — let me say it this way, neither Maddie nor Chimney are the ones to raise the topic of marriage. It is raised by a third party, and once it is raised, it becomes this thing where they’re both not sure what to do with that, because once somebody says marriage like, OK, where do we stand on that? And so we have a little fun with that. But yes, the topic of Chimney and Maddie getting married will be raised by someone who is not Chimney or Maddie.

I feel like it would be great to have them have a celebration of their relationship without making it a big event because if they plan it, something will probably go wrong.

And honestly will because it’s 9-1-1. And so time will tell.

I know that scheduling makes it tricky to have a crossover, but is anything coming up with Lone Star, whether it’s a character, a major event, or even just a mention in conversation?

I don’t think there’ll be a crossover this season that involves any of the current cast. I think there might be a little tiny mention of one show on the other show, but that’s probably about it.

9-1-1, Mondays, 8/7c, Fox