Let’s give it up for the highs and lows of putting a label on it.
Outlandish cases and fun calls mostly took a backseat on 9-1-1: Lone Star Season 2 Episode 4, as the hour focused more on some of the characters’ personal lives. Specifically, romantic relationships and whether or not to label them was the topic of the installment.
Tarlos, Marjan, and Owen were having all the relationship drama.
Let’s jump into the Tarlos of it all. For much of 9-1-1 Lone Star Season 1, Carlos was in supportive character mode to both T.K. and Michelle, but we didn’t get to know as much about him on his own.
The hour worked to rectify that, and it fed all of us Tarlos ‘shippers well with emotional content that has only deepened the bond and love between these two.
Carlos: So why does it have to be Miami? They have teeth in Texas. Why can’t he just open up a dental practice here?
TK: Well, both their families are in Florida.
Carlos: Family. Right. Yeah, I get it. It takes a lot to leave that behind.
TK: Would you?
Carlos: For the right person, sure.
They’ve become such an adorably domestic pair, so from Carlos’ territorial streak when the bartender was flirting with T.K. to their sweet trip to the farmer’s market, their happiness is apparent.
But they were tested when they bumped into Carlos’ parents, and he failed to introduce T.K. as his boyfriend. Sometimes, the series is heavy-handed when it focuses on the characters’ identities ahead of simply allowing us to get to know them during personal storylines.
However, they’ve improved so much in this area, and Carlos’ portion of the hour is proof. It was subtle, thoughtful, and real. We noticed on 9-1-1 Lone Star Season 2 Episode 1 that Carlos blew off T.K’s inquiry about meeting his parents, and now we know why.
The first assumption was that Carlos wasn’t out to his parents yet, but he dispelled that after T.K. confronted him when they returned home. You could sense the strain between Carlos and his parents when he spoke to them.
TK: Friend from work? If I was your friend from work, then what we did this morning would be very unprofessional.
Carlos: Yeah, HR would definitely have its hands full with that one.
They seemed sweet enough, but you got the vibe that Carlos’ sexuality is not something he speaks about often. And when he told T.K. later that they haven’t talked about it since he came out to them, it wasn’t much of a surprise.
The show broached Carlos’ relationship with his parents with the type of nuance and restraint that it occasionally lacks in other areas, and it’s something I appreciated.
Carlos and T.K. had very different experiences coming out to their parents. Their folks didn’t respond similarly either. Owen and Gwyn are free-spirited New Yorkers and live in a different climate.
For Carlos, it’s a bit different coming from a more conservative, traditional Latinx household in Texas. Homosexuality in Brown and Black communities is a difficult road to navigate culturally, where hyper and toxic masculinity can often converge.
It’s not uncommon for families to not want to address the elephant in the room or operate under a complex form of accepting the existence of a person’s sexuality with a caveat of not wanting to see or hear about it.
They didn’t have to flat out say some of these things, but the vibe was evident with Carlos’ offhand comments when he introduced his father, the Texas Ranger.
It’s an unspoken machismo there, and you got the sense that Carlos felt the weight and expectation of subscribing to a very rigid concept of masculinity and fears how his father perceives him because of who he’s attracted to and loves.
T.K: I thought you were out to them?
Carlos: I am.
TK: Wow, well that’s even worse. You’re out to them, and you still didn’t tell them that I’m your boyfriend.
Carlos: It’s more complicated than that.
TK: Can it be?
Carlos: Look, not all of us were raised in Manhattan with parents who couldn’t tear the closet door off fast enough. My parents are more traditional. I just don’t like to rub their noses in it.
TK: Rub their noses in it? You didn’t want to rub their noses in the fact that you have somebody who loves you and you supposedly love back? I freed some more space in your closet, Carlos.
Hell, the guy probably got into law enforcement because of his father — to impress him or be like him. As long as Carlos doesn’t have to talk about his sexuality beyond coming out, he can take a “win” of partial acceptance.
But it means Carlos is in a weird limbo. He’s stagnant until he and his parents can have an honest talk. It has to be terrifying for him. T.K.’s speech, if you will, nailed it wonderfully. Carlos’ parents are great people, and he loves them, and they, of course, love their son, but he doesn’t feel safe.
Too much is left unspoken between them, so Carlos is probably torn between gratitude that his parents haven’t outright disowned him for coming out and pain because he’s afraid that their acceptance is conditional.
And because of that, he can’t share his full life with his parents. He doesn’t feel secure and safe enough with their acceptance and love to do so. He doesn’t want to push it too much lest it results in driving them away.
They say every queer person’s coming out journey is different and no less trying or emotionally distressing. And it’s something each person has to go through at their pace.
Carlos’s arc was compelling, and it did round out this character we love and whom we’re slowly getting to know better. It was the best arc of the hour.
His issue wasn’t failing to introduce T.K. to his parents as his boyfriend, but poor communication with the man he loves. For as sympathetic as Carlos was when he did share what was going on and his reasoning for his actions, T.K.’s frustrations were valid.
Sure, T.K.’s parents handled the news of his sexuality well and practically threw a parade, and we know they’re great people, but he expressed that his coming out was more about them than him.
Bartender: I’ve seen you here before, right?
T.K.: Yeah, were you here the night Crusher got impaled? I was one of the firefighters who responded.
Bartender: Firefighter, huh? Sign me up for the calendar.
Carlos: And his boyfriend is a cop.
Knowing both of them, without meaning to, they probably unwittingly exuded self-congratulatory praise for being the ideal parents who can accept the news no problem, and that probably brought about other issues for T.K. Parents aren’t perfect.
Carlos was too dismissive of T.K.’s feelings. He opted to avoid and downplay the situation as if T.K. couldn’t and shouldn’t have concerns, and it did seem as if he was invalidating T.K.’s feelings while avoiding getting into his own.
Everyone needs reassurance, and T.K.’s gut reaction was that despite how happy he and Carlos have been, Carlos still didn’t want him to have full access to his life. It’s a hurtful prospect when one is giving their all to the person they love.
All it took was a vulnerable, honest, heart to heart, and Tarlos came out stronger. T.K. said all of the right things, and it was so necessary. We’re so used to Carlos being the supportive figure helping others, being the person that others lean on.
TK: They seem like such nice people.
Carlos: They are nice people, but they aren’t perfect people.
TK: You know my parents may be very queer-friendly, but they’re not perfect either. They gave me a pep talk that felt more about them than about me.
Carlos: That explains a lot.
TK: There was something that my mom did that — she said I felt triggered because I didn’t feel safe in this relationship.
Carlos: I see. I’m sorry to hear that.
TK: But you know what I didn’t see is how unsafe you feel and have felt for so much of your life. I want you to know I’m fully on board. You can tell your parents I’m your friend, your colleague, your personal shopper for as long as you need.
Carlos: And if it never changes?
TK: Nothing stays the same, Carlos.
It was refreshing to see the role reversal, to see him succumb to vulnerability and willing to lean on T.K., too. Carlos deserves that as well, and the give and take in Tarlos’ relationship is beautiful.
It was also an illuminating hour for Marjan.
It’s such a delight digging into these characters more outside of the firehouse. The younger group hanging out at the roller derby supporting Marjan was as cute as the other group hanging out at the Ryders’ home for game night.
Marjan, Paul, and Mateo are like the Three Amigos, they’re practically inseparable, and their friendship is more apparent than the others. When you focus on one of them, it allows the others to shine too.
Mateo: Oh, so you know this guy?
Salim: Only our whole lives.
Mateo: You Marjan’s brother or something?
Marjan: Salim’s my fiance.
But there’s something about the bond between Marjan and Paul that’s endearing beyond words. They’re so in tune with one another.
I loved how he went into protective mode when he saw Salim eyeballing Marjan and waiting for her outside the locker room. No one will mess with his people when he’s around, and his profound care for those around him is one of Paul’s most lovable qualities. Paul Strickland is the best.
They’re so close that it came as a shock to both him and Mateo that Marjan was engaged to someone and had been since she was a tween.
It’s incredible that we have a hijabi Muslim on this series, especially when she’s as badass as Marjan, and it’s such an essential part of her identity and characterization that’s vital to explore given how underrepresented a character like her is on mainstream TV.
Ideally, it’s best when they find the balance of exploring that without reducing her to just that.
Paul: I didn’t see a lot of heat coming from you two last night.Marjan: Seripusly, you too?Paul: It’s not a cultural thing, alright? it’s just an observation. I didn’t peg you two as a couple.
Marjan: No, you thought he was my stalker
Mateo: I thought he was your brother.
Marjan: Guys, your thinking is so Western. When you marry for chemistry, there’s a 50% divorce rate. You know why ours is 10% lower? Because we don’t start with heat. We believe love is something you grow into.
For the first half of the hour, the balance was off. Mateo’s innocent albeit ignorant prodding about her arranged marriage situation and how little he understood it as she proudly asserted her culture didn’t have the same nuance as Carlos’ plight with his parents as a Brown gay man.
However, once the arc settled into itself, we got an interesting situation where Marjan felt torn between her life as a firefighter in Austin and her future as Salim’s wife in Miami.
The series took great lengths in not denigrating arranged marriages. I’m uncertain if they succeeded or not in the portrayal. And from what we continually see and learn, Marjan always has agency within her culture, religion, and even with this marriage agreement.
She and Salim grew up together. Their families were always close, and it felt natural for the two to marry. She and Salim agreed that they would develop their individual lives and figure out who they are before they married each other.
Salim would finish dental school, and Marjan pursued her career as a firefighter. They had a five-year plan in place. It was a far cry from what people assume when they hear the words “arranged marriage,” and you can’t help but appreciate the insight.
But what was interesting was how Salim and Marjan had different perspectives about it. He always pined for her and hoped for a spark. Marjan believed love would grow over time.
It was surprising that someone so bold took such a practical approach to marriage and love.
Salim: Look, I know you’re not ready to get married, but I am. Just not to you.
Marjan: What? Wait, are you breaking up with me?
Salim: Answer me one thing, Marjan. Have you ever been in love with me?
Marjan: What? Of course, I love you.
Salim: No, that’s not what I asked, in love I mean in romantically, I mean passion.
You understood where Salim came from when he called off the wedding. He didn’t want to marry someone who wasn’t into him as much as he was her. And in their case, it was scary to think that she hoped they would grow into love when they’ve known each other their entire lives.
If they didn’t love each other by now, when would they?
It took Salim admitting he was seeing another woman and ending their engagement for Marjan to realize that she was in love with Salim. She wouldn’t be so hurt if she wasn’t.
But then it took an odd turn when she found out that he wasn’t committed to not drinking alcohol when no one was around to chaperone. And he wasn’t above having dinner without supervision. He was seeing another woman whom he cheated on and was willing to discard like old news.
Marjan: This is a big deal. We’ve never had a date without a chaperone. Unmarried couples aren’t really supposed to.
Paul: He’s here for a reason.
Mateo: Reason, what reason?
Paul: He’s tired of waiting.
Marjan: I think you might be right.
Mateo: Tired of waiting for what?
Paul: The man is here to claim his bride, Probie.
Mateo: What? No, we had a deal. He’s supposed to finish dental school first. Do we even know what kind of grades he’s getting? This is wrong. You can’t move to Miami now. You said we still had a few years.
Marjan: I thought we did.
I don’t know what to make of introducing arranged marriage and then taking this direction. Salim came across manipulative. He told Marjan about his casual side piece to elicit a response and prompt her to do what he wanted and hoped. Neither Marjan nor the periodontist deserved that.
They had a five-year plan, and he wanted to change it right then because he was tired of waiting. Marjan was right; Salim doesn’t stick to his commitments, and it isn’t something she respects or wants in a partner. Maybe they weren’t the best match or meant to be in the end.
Their relationship couldn’t be concrete if we ever hoped Marjan would stick around longer, but there was something about the way it concluded that didn’t sit right.
Marjan’s boys are thrilled, though. Mateo was the most visibly worked up over potentially losing Marjan. He’s adorable that way, but Paul was affected too.
Love hurts, Marjan, but regret, that hurts a lot more.
He’s such a cool, laidback guy. For someone who assesses and makes judgments, he also manages to avoid being judgmental.
One thing that he can’t hide is how much he cares about Marjan. It makes you wonder: is it a genuinely deep friendship, or do you think he harbors some romantic feelings for her?
Sometimes, it feels like the latter.
Owen’s feelings about Gwyn are abundantly clear, but he sucks at communicating, the poor guy.
Owen and Gwyn have a nice thing going. It was adorable to see them beat out the actual married couples in a game that showcased how well they knew each other and were on the same wavelength.
Every time I put a label on something, it ends up being an expiration date.
But he didn’t want to define what they are now. Initially, it was frustrating, but when he told Judd that anytime he labels something, it’s expiration dates, you understood his position better.
As usual, though, Judd was right. Honestly, what would this group of people do without Judd and Grace? The Ryders keep everyone together and with their heads on straight while also being the ultimate couple goals.
Gwyn picked up her life and temporarily relocated to Austin for months to look after him and T.K. She’s still there because Owen asked her to stay, but her job and home are in NYC.
She gave up a lot to be with Owen, and she needed to know where they stood. It was reasonable to want an idea of what was happening between them.
Judd: You want the cream without having to buy the cow…
Owen: No, I want the cow. I’m not really thrilled with this metaphor.
Judd: Well, you can call it whatever you like to, but I’m seeing that you get all the benefits with none of the commitment.
Owen: What are you talking about? I’m the one who asked her to stay.
Judd: She’s the one who left everything.
Leave it to Owen; he heard Judd’s advice but took it a step too far with a proposal. She wasn’t asking for a ring, just some clarity.
But nothing prepared for her admission. Gwyn is pregnant. What the hell are these two workaholics with a grown son going to do with a new baby? Oh, the drama!
T.K.’s reaction should be priceless.
If I had to place a bet on who’d get pregnant on this series, I would’ve guessed it was Grace. Can you imagine how adorable the Ryders would be as parents?
I’m pregnant, Owen.
Judd can’t stop gushing about his wife if you paid him. He couldn’t even give Owen advice without including the fact that he would walk through fire for her.
But then, Grace is the best, so you can’t blame him.
It was case light during the installment. The opener with the wedding with all the vomit and cheating, pregnant spouses, and betrayal wasn’t engaging outside of Judd’s line about red meat, the GOT reference, and Marjan, Mateo, and Paul.
However, Grace’s one call with the submissive was pure gold from the second she answered to the end when her colleague mumbled “Fifty Shades of Grace” under his breath.
Fifty Shades of Grace.
Grace’s ability to field any calls from the outlandish, the stupid, the scary, and the emotional while projecting the perfect range of emotion each time remains a highlight of the series.
She’s a true chameleon, quick on her feet, and sympathetic and calm.
She’s always a breadth of knowledge, and if it’s not something she already has locked away in her head, she’s a whiz at assessing information in a timely fashion with successful results.
Who else would figure out a solution where Imp saved his dominatrix, let alone tapped into her inner Dom to shame and humiliate him into dislocating his shoulder to save the woman?
Grace: Imp, you have to help her.
Imp: I can’t! I’m scared. I don’t come here to be frightened. I come here to be humiliated.
Grace: Well, what a sorry excuse for a sub
.Imp: I-I, what?
Grace: You’re not worthy to be on this call right now, are you? Cowering like a worthless little nub. Tell me, Imp, what comes after Beta?
Imp: Permission to speak, your grace?
Grace: Permission denied. See, you’ve crossed the wrong queen now. We both know how pathetic you are. You look at baby carrots with envy. You haven’t earned the right to be speaking to me.
Imp: Please, your grace, I’ll do it. Is it going to hurt?
Grace: Oh, like hell, and I expect a thank you for the pain.
Imp: Yes, your grace.
The effects of that were enough to make you cringe.
Grace’s little verbal lashing got the attention of all of her colleagues, but that has to be one for the books. It didn’t sound like it was her first trip to the rodeo either.
Grace has a way of quietly stealing the show or at least a scene whenever she’s in it. Her crowd-pleasing phone call is no exception.
Lady Grace could have an entire side job as phone Domantrix or something. I live for how adaptable she is, and the only downside was we didn’t get to see her telling Judd about it later. It would’ve amused him.
911 Operator: 9-1-1 what’s your emergency?
Guest: It’s worse than the red wedding.
Hopefully, we’ll get to spend more time with her throughout the season.
Over to you, Lone Star Fanatics. What’s your reaction to the baby news? Do you think Carlos will eventually tell his parents the truth about T.K.? Were you surprised by Marjan’s engagement? Hit the comments below!
You can watch 9-1-1: Lone Star online here via TV Fanatic.
Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.