This season of 9-1-1 has been a little more tame than the previous ones, which is a heck of a thing to say about a season of television that opened with a tsunami ravaging Southern California and later featured Jennifer Love Hewitt risking her job as a 9-1-1 operator to catfish a victim of domestic abuse in the hopes of saving her. And yet, true. It’s understandable, though. The show set a preposterously high bar in the early-going, what with your chocolate factory mishaps and escalator disasters and the one time the firefighters saved a choking man at a bug-eating contest and the woman who owned the exotic animal facility that sponsored the event thanked them by sending psychedelic-laced baked goods to the firehouse in an unmarked bag. As one does.
Anyway, all of that is to say that it’s still worth checking in on the show from time to time to see if that kind of magic still exists. And I am pleased to report that it does. This week, a urine-soaked robot resulted in the death of a teenage cello prodigy. I am fairly certain I’ve never typed that sentence before today. I’m reasonably certain no one has. That’s the beauty of a show like 9-1-1. Even a B/B- season can break exciting new ground for the English language.
To be clear, this is an ice skater in a knockoff Disney on Ice-type show slipping on a loose sequin and getting four of his fingers chopped off by another skater, all of which causes a bickering pairs team to lose focus in a way that results in the woman’s skate getting lodged blade-first into her partner’s chest. To be even more clear, this happened during the episode’s cold open, before the opening credits, and was immediately followed by a very unimpressed backstage person explaining that she hadn’t seen that much blood on the ice since “a squirrel crawled into the Zamboni.” Zero worry about the maimed skaters around her or the audience that was sprayed with blood. She is my new favorite character on this entire show.
Back to the urine-soaked robot, though. Quick backstory to get you up to speed:
- We are at some unnamed productivity-obsessed warehouse operation that pressures its employees to meet quotas and keep up with the robots they share the floor with, which, oh I don’t know, we’ll call Flamazon
- The manager at the Flamazon warehouse cancels all bathroom breaks until the staff gets back on schedule
- One of the employees really has to pee and he reaches his breaking point just as one of the robots pulls up next to him
The next section of our story can be explained in a series of four screenshots.
And this, as you probably expected, leads to, well…
The man who peed on the robot gets trapped under the rubble and suffers an absolute mess of injuries. Blood loss, head trauma, pretty much what you’d expect from a warehouse of boxed goods tumbling down on you. He gets loaded into an ambulance and rushed to the hospital.
As this happens, the focus shifts to a teenage cello prodigy who is bragging to her proud grandma that she’s about to be the youngest soloist in the history of the Los Angeles Orchestra. She’s very excited, as she tells her parents on the phone on the way there, which tells us as the viewer two things: one, something terrible is about to happen to her, because 9-1-1 is on the Law & Order God tier of “small talk immediately leading to disaster”; and two, something terrible is about to happen to her right now, because she’s been on the screen for over 90 seconds and is not a member of the main cast and characters like that on 9-1-1 could not be more doomed if they’d also been cursed by an old woman with long yellow fingernails.
That is the ambulance carrying the man who peed on the robot that destroyed the Flamazon warehouse, and it just T-boned the car of the cello prodigy. She died. She died! People very rarely die on 9-1-1. But the teenage cello prodigy did, thanks to a set of circumstances that started with an evil middle manager enforcing a draconian bathroom policy in the interests of promoting ruthless capitalism and eventually led to a urine-soaked robot mangling an entire warehouse and almost killing the man who peed on it. You see it more and more these days.
Two points in closing:
- Yes, it is still worth checking in on 9-1-1 sometimes, even if you just skip over the talky parts, to see if you can bottle some lightning like this
- We should consider replacing “a butterfly flaps its wings” with “a man pees on a robot” to describe a seemingly minor event triggering larger consequences
Thank you for your time.