'Shameless': The Gallaghers Adjust to COVID With Mixed Results (RECAP)
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 11, Episode 1 of Shameless, "This Is Chicago!"]
The Gallaghers are up to their usual South Side antics in the Shameless Season 11 premiere, which sees them dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
In short, Frank (William H. Macy) is still drunk; Debbie (Emma Kenney) is dealing with last season's tryst with 17-year-old Julia (Alison Jaye); sons Ian (Cameron Monaghan) and Lip (Jeremy Allen White) try to find balance in their relationships with Tami (Kate Miner) and Mickey (Noel Fisher); Carl (Ethan Cutkosky) continues his policing education; and youngest son Liam (Christian Isaiah) continues to go with the flow.
Below, we break down the latest episode in the dark comedy, so beware of spoilers ahead.
Same Frank, New Chicago
When the episode opens, Frank is being followed around by a camera man who asks questions about Chicago's South Side. Frank, who has the idea the piece is about him, feeds him some seemingly bogus facts about his family's history, including, outrageously, that he was part of the "Chicago 8," and that the coronavirus is a hoax. He also complains that the Prius crowd is moving into the neighborhood.
Their walk leads to a stop at Frank's favorite watering hole, the Alibi, where Kev and V are keeping their operation under the radar due to bars being shut by the city.
At the bar, Frank learns that the cameraman, Alan, is actually a grad student working on a project about gentrification. He continues to spout some wild theories, like the yards need to be made "dangerous again." The grad student, smartly, bolts.
Lip & Tami's Discounted Life
Lip and Tami are settling into their fixer-upper home that he bought without her permission last season, and it's clear that they're operating under two different playbooks. While they go through their morning routine with baby Fred, she asks Lip to make coffee, but he finds her French press to be a foreign object.
Later, while he's working on a motorcycle in their garage, Tami asks him to run errands, including picking up some paint and getting her a coffee at a trendy new shop. She also worries aloud about the money Lip's putting into his latest project, but he reassures her he'll make money from selling the bike. On her way out the door to the salon where she works, she makes a comment about not wanting to catch the virus again, indicating that she's already gone through living with COVID-19.
At the coffee shop Lip (with Fred) swipes a cup and takes it to a bodega across the street, where he fills it with a $1 coffee. He drops it off to Tami at the salon, who after sipping it doesn't notice the difference. Lip and Fred then head to the paint store where Lip again pulls a switcheroo; he gets discount samples of paint in exchange for the designer brand and color Tami requested.
Back home, Lip engages in some brotherly banter with Ian, who asks about his relationship with Tami. Lip admits that Tami usually handles their money and that because she was raised without having to sacrifice her needs or wants, she's particularly worried about losing money now. But Lip reassures his brother, who's dealing with his own money issues, that they'll figure things out.
Gallavich on the Rocks?
Newlyweds Ian and Mickey facd challenges of their own with the ongoing virus. Ian is the only one with a legitimate job but money is still tight and he tells Mickey that he needs to pick up some money or else they'll have to dip into their wedding savings. But much to Ian's surprise, he discovers that their wedding savings box is filled with IOU's from Mickey. Their stockpile's kaput, and he's pretty upset about it. Mickey, unfazed by Ian's reaction, promises to pay it back.
Ian vents about the situation at his warehouse job. When he chats with Lip about the matter as well, he decides he needs to have a frank conversation with Mickey about their marriage. Discussing more than just money, Ian also asks Mickey about keeping their relationship monogamous, a word that Mickey doesn't really understand.
Ian has them both write what they want on paper and says they'll reveal their answers in a simultaneous flip of their papers. The sneaky Mickey waits to flip and sees Ian's monogamous answer and quickly snatches his own paper back before being interrupted by Carl, who returns home after a long day from work. The discussion essentially ends without a solid conclusion, but we're not really worried about his hot and cold duo. They've made it this far already, haven't they?
Carl's Cop Ambitions
Carl continues to kick ass in the junior police program and is at the top of his class when the season picks up. To move ahead quickly despite his young age he agrees to testify against the garbage crew he worked with undercover.
Kev, V, the Alibi, and Weed
Kev and V are capitalizing on Chicago's decriminalization of weed, cooking up batches of brownies and gummies in their home where young twin daughters roll joints for them to sell to customers at the Alibi. Along with this new method of income, Kev is continuing his workout spout, Kevin Ball's Keg Zone. There, he verbally abuses bougie clients who are shelling out cash for his various services, including access to the backdoor entrance to the Alibi.
Along with serving up strong pot products, Kev and V, who are proving to be especially creative and resilient, are also pouring pints for their usual barflies, such as Tommy (Michael Patrick McGill) and Kermit (Jim Hoffmaster) who engage in some flirtatious activities in the bathroom after consuming too many brownies and gummies from Kev and V's pot stash.
Debbie the Diddler
Meanwhile, Debbie is being forced to wear an ankle bracelet after being convicted of statutory rape, but that's not stopping her from trying to make some handy work money around the South Side. Liam points out that some new car stickers — "Debbie does everything" — suggest she's offering more than just carpentry-type services.
When she takes her daughter Franny to school, she is stuck behind a line in the pavement where sex offender barriers begin. As she bids her daughter farewell, she makes Franny promise to stay away from the other kids because of COVID. While on the job she gets called out by a client who says she found her on the sex offender website. According to Debbie's file which includes a risqué mugshot, she was labeled a sex offender for "diddling" a 7 year old.
Angry over the mislabeling of her crime, Debbie makes a call into the website to have the age corrected to 17, but they refuse to take down her mugshot. Inspired by the photo, Debbie's live-in girlfriend Sandy (Elise Eberle) creates an Instagram with the pic under the handle "hot lesbian convict." The job offers begin pouring in and despite being labeled a sex offender, Debbie is reassured by the fact that she can make money.
The episode ends with a big Gallagher family gathering at Lip's new house, offering just enough familiarity mixed with a reality of the show's evolution. What will they get up to next?
Shameless, Sundays, 9/8c, Showtime