After last week’s dynamic courtroom coda, the Gallagher family is beginning to deal with the fallout. Fiona is now the children’s guardian and is tasked with providing for them even more so than in the past. But while Fiona and Frank battled in court, Frank’s cousin Patrick “out-Gallaghered” both of them, coming up with his own phony will giving him ownership of Aunt Ginger’s home where the family had been staying. Patrick eulogizes Ginger before dumping her ashes on the corner where she worked as a prostitute and plans to move ahead with renovating the home and selling it, potentially leaving Fiona and the kids on the street with nowhere to go.
Throughout the show’s three seasons, Aunt Ginger’s home has always been the one constant foundation for the children. No matter how bleak things have seemed, they’ve always had a roof over their heads. Now, it’s the first day of a new school year, Patrick is moving ahead with an extreme home takeover, and Fiona is almost immediately floundering in her primary responsibility as her siblings’ guardian.
Next door, we’re a solid three episodes into Kevin and Veronica’s attempts to use Veronica’s mother as a surrogate, and the subplot is beginning to feel like it has run its course. Unsurprisingly, Veronica’s mother has begun to enjoy Kevin’s…company…a little too much. “We might as well get some ambiance,” she explains, before dropping the needle on a D’Angelo CD. Eventually, Veronica puts an end to it; the couple are going to have to come up with a new way to have a baby.
In the meantime, various parties take turns trying unsuccessfully to stop Patrick’s hostile takeover of the Gallagher home. Mandy enlists her brothers to scare him off with force, but he’s got heavier ammunition than their baseball bats. Later, it seems as if Patrick has been out-Gallaghered by an unlikely source—Carl—who uses rat poison expressly to kill him. That too, though, fails, and the family begins looking for more affordable homes. This leads to another in a season full of poignant moments for Fiona—she picks up a crack pipe in one of the potential new homes and realizes she has failed.
One of the things I was most pleased with earlier this season was when its writers willingly explored the uneven dynamics of Fiona and Jimmy’s relationship. “It’ll work out—it always does,” he says consolingly, attempting to reassure her. “You realize only rich people say anything like that,” she replies caustically. “We have no backup plan. There’s no running to mom and dad.”
Fiona has never, it seems, taken Jimmy seriously as someone able to get his hands dirty with her when things become really desperate. Their relationship has basically always operated on somewhat of an uneven plane. At the beginning of the show, she was the one with obligations—her siblings—and he was an unencumbered car thief trying to get her to run away with him. Now, she is willing to do whatever it takes—more sewage shoveling—whereas he still lacks perspective. “No one speaking English as a first language should be doing this job,” he says.
Ultimately, he winds up taking a more yuppie job at a coffee shop where he bumps into friends from his former privileged life. They go out for a fancy dinner while Fiona continues to deal with the crumbling foundations he’s too willing to overlook. In spite of all that’s happened and what he’s watched Fiona and her family go through, Jimmy doesn’t quite know what desperate is yet and has no desire, really, to find out.
After last week’s sudden return, Karen continues to say all the right things. The cold world seems to have left her humbled and tempered the darkness that grew in her over the show’s first two seasons. Over that time, Lip was a faithful, concerned boyfriend; he always did right by her and Karen surprisingly seems genuinely happy for Lip’s new relationship with Mandy. She continues to ask her mother about Hymie and goes with her mother and Jody to a support group for families with members who have Down Syndrome.
The disabled members of the support group speak up; they want to “reclaim and redefine” the word retard, taking ownership of it and turning it from a slur to a rallying cry. They chant “Me-tard, You-tard, Retard nation;” plans are set up to canvass the city, and Frank and Sheila cause trouble with their “I am a Retard” shirts. This could easily be offensive—and it may be to some—but I found the handling of this plot relatively impressive in its sensitivity to what is a more nuanced conversation. Shameless often (intentionally) struggles with subtlety, but it does often tackle complicated issues like poverty in a way that on the surface seems silly but does get at the complexity of these issues.
With her time and efforts devoted to Karen and Retard Nation advocacy, Sheila decides to kick Frank out of her home, and he is left once again without a place to stay. After lying about his sobriety at his court-mandated Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, Frank makes a friend, Christopher, a creepy vet-tech and amateur taxidermist who begs Frank to move in with him and become his sponsor. Eventually, Frank figures out that Christopher doesn’t actually have a problem with drinking at all—he’s either a sociopath or is very lonely. Once Frank realizes it’s probably the latter, he agrees to continue to stay with him, and the two share a bed.
Meanwhile, Karen’s presence is creating tension for Mandy and Lip. Even after reconciling weeks ago, Lip still feels smothered by her. She’s come on too strong and pushed him into something too serious. He goes to see Karen and tells her that he doesn’t buy her reformed act, but they have sex anyway. While they do, Hymie’s other grandmother, Mrs. Wong, reveals that Karen was the one who told her to take Hymie away in the first place. Lip was right—Karen is scheming here and has entangled all the usual suspects back in her web.
After Fiona fails to find a way to keep the home, police (including Tyler Jacob Moore’s forgotten Tony) arrive to evict her and the kids. But, in what has been developing all season long, Debbie’s Gallagher-ness emerges again as she lies to the police and tells them that Patrick molested her. She and Fiona agree to drop the charges in exchange for the ability to rent the home, and, at the last second, major dangers are averted for another week. Surprisingly enough, Jimmy was right for once—things work out. For now.