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  • Writer's picturecasey

9-1-1 episode 6.14 "Performance Anxiety"

You know what? I love this show. And I’m not embarrassed about it. But what is it about a network procedural that makes me feel the need to say that? Yeah it’s kinda silly and most of the things that happen seem pretty unrealistic, but it’s fun and heartwarming and genuinely diverse and unique. I’ve been watching this show since it premiered; I was drawn in by Peter Krause’s captain Bobby Nash (I’ll do anything for Peter Krause) but the quality of the show itself is what’s kept me along for the ride. I’m always impressed by a bold pilot, and I was enamored right away by the 118 pulling a newborn out of the wall after a secretly pregnant teen gave birth on the toilet and flushed it.

Peter Krause and Aisha Hinds in "Performance Anxiety". Image courtesy of FOX.

We’re now nearing the end of season 6, and this show is still taking me by surprise. Its characters, tone, and theme have remained consistent, but part of that tone includes zany 911 calls with twists I never see coming. What endears me to this show over say the Chicago franchise is the way it’s kept itself from descending fully into nighttime soap opera territory by maintaining a healthy balance between serious character-driven episodes and its trademark lighter, feel-good emergency episodes.

This week’s “Performance Anxiety” is a classic lighthearted episode that also capitalizes on the time we’ve spent throughout the series really getting to know the characters. It’s performance review season in LA, including at the 118. In between a dramatically heartwarming review at a bakery and a father-son breakthrough at a bodybuilding competition, Bobby gives the team evaluations of his own.

Of course, the 118 is a dream team, so the reviews are really a thinly veiled vehicle for Bobby to get evaluated himself- as Athena says, “the man craves feedback”. But Bobby is still wise, kind, and playful as ever in his dad-energy way and finds ways to help the team grow in ways beyond the job. Through his encouragement of Eddie to let himself have a life beyond Christopher and work, genuine no-notes praise of Hen, and gentle treatment of Buck post-lightning strike, we get a fun, rapid-fire sub-plot that lets us reap the benefits of the character development the show has been building from day one. And all through Bobby who, true to his own character, knows them better than anyone.

Despite Chimney’s near-perfect review, Bobby notes a lack of leadership and, in an ambiguous display of tough love, sends him back to the academy. There, Chimney is forced to step up as an instructor alongside Ravi (remember him?) who seems to be stuck in a rut of his own. They process some things together, and Chimney reveals that he started firefighting with his best friend, who he encouraged every step of the way. The friend died putting out a house fire, and Chimney vowed to never pull anyone into danger ever again. As he and Ravi talk through things, Chimney realizes that Bobby sent him here to do a little more than lead, and the end of the episode finds the two of them walking triumphantly back into the 118.

Kenneth Choi and Anirudh Pisharody in "Performance Anxiety". Image courtesy of IMDb.

One could argue that Maddie’s split screen musical number with a panic-stricken caller was a little much. But if you don’t like that, I think the show’s already lost you. Would a 911 dispatcher get a round of applause from the rest of the call center after bursting into song with a nervous college applicant? It’s another one of those times where the answer is no, but isn’t this fun? And that seems to be the mantra of the whole show.

There’s not a ton of meat to 9-1-1, but I don’t want to sleep on these kinds of shows. It’s the only first responder show I know of to feature dispatchers so prominently and create such a well-rounded depiction of emergency response. And finding creativity within the procedural format is a different kind of creativity that I don’t think is inferior to the deep, heady streaming shows that I also love. Without procedurals, there’s no gems like House or Medium, and I think 9-1-1 is doing a solid job keeping the format alive and even doing it justice.

What do y’all think? Do you watch or are you too good for it? Have you seen the spinoff? As much as I love it, I will not set foot in 9-1-1: Lonestar, but if you’re obsessed with it maybe you can change my mind!

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