‘9-1-1’ 5×08 Review: “Defend in Place”

**Spoilers Ahead**

9-1-1’s eighth episode was a return to form, with the biggest fire the 118 has fought in a while, and included a shocking and emotional exit. 9-1-1 is at its best when the characters are, you know, being firefighters. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this show is at its best when it focuses on its characters, their relationships, and what makes them a family. 

This week’s emergency is maybe one of the biggest fires the 118 has fought after an explosion at a hospital. After his partner David (La Monde Byrd) plans to travel to Haiti as part of a medical team, Michael (Rockmond Dunbar) announces his intention to propose. Immediately after of course, David is performing a life-saving operation while the hospital around him goes up in flames.

The second explosion story we follow is a little boy named Parker (Lucian Perez) trying to protect his newborn baby sister. For a few heartstopping moments, we think the 118 is too late to see them. Seeing Eddie’s (Ryan Guzman) emotional reaction thinking he couldn’t save a child so close in age to his own son was absolutely devastating. Luckily, Eddie and Buck (Oliver Stark) were able to be the heroes they are and save both children just in time. 

Claudette (Vanessa Williams), after fostering a toxic workplace with her bullying, was forced to sit with her own emotions when she thought that these children were lost in the fire. It was poetic to see her have no choice but to rely on the kindness and compassion of her colleagues, when she has so far rarely shown them the same considerations.

The final heartbreaking story we followed throughout the hospital explosion was a cancer patient who had survived stage 4 cancer sacrificing his life to save his favourite nurse. Hen (Aisha Hinds) and Ravi (Anirudh Pisharody) had an incredibly emotional moment reading the letter the patient wrote to his nurse expressing his feelings. 

We also unlocked a new backstory for Ravi, and gained more insight as to why we became a firefighter/medic. Having survived cancer himself, he realized that healthcare providers become family not only to each other but to the patients they help. 

Bobby (Peter Kraus) refusing to leave David’s side while he continued surgery as the fire continued to rage was particularly poignant, emphasized by Lauren Daigle’s song “Hold On To Me”. While those on the outside of the hospital joined together in a prayer circle, this was a moment the 118 came together as the family they are. 

One glaringly obvious problem in an otherwise near perfect episode is the continued refusal to have LGBTQ+ couples show any deeper affection than a hug. It’s 2021 people, LGBTQ+ can do more than hug. It’s such a glaring backwards form of portrayal in an otherwise vocally progressive show. It’s long past time we allowed couples of all genders and orientations the chance to show public displays of affection on screen. 

Ultimately, after almost losing his partner, Michael makes the decision to accompany David to Haiti, signaling Dunbar’s exit from the show. It seemed like a perfect character beat and a cast shakeup that would ultimately pull the remaining characters together even closer. There was a particularly emotional flashback showing Michael and the impact he has had on his family. We especially got to see the mutual love and respect he and his former wife Athena (Angela Bassett) continue to have. 

According to Dateline, Dunabar’s exit was due to the set’s COVID vaccine mandate, a part of evolving COVID safety protocols on film and TV sets. It’s likely that as COVID safety protocols continue to evolve, this will become more common if actors and others working on set can’t provide proof of COVID vaccination. Hopefully Dunbar gets vaccinated in the near future, so his character can be welcomed back with open arms. This is also a great opportunity to remind everyone, please get vaccinated. 

9-1-1 came back this week, and we really, really hope they’re able to keep this momentum for the rest of the season. Season 5 has been uneven to say the least, and it was certainly refreshing to see the show’s return to form. When we return to the 118 in two weeks, this is exactly where we want them to be. 

9-1-1 airs Mondays 8/7c on Fox.

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