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Praise the TV gods; Shameless is back on its A-game. “May I Trim Your Hedges?” brings back the skillful balance between outlandish comedy and heartbreaking drama that makes Shameless so good.
First we get to see the result of the unexpected return of Kevin’s estranged wife Sheryl. This is a carry-over plotline from the previous episode, and it causes most of the dramatic tension in “May I Trim Your Hedges?” As it turns out, the preteen boy Sheryl brings along is allegedly her son, and she suspects Kevin may be the father. As Kevin’s fatherly instincts kick in, he’s haunted by the ghost of his relationship with Sheryl, putting quite a strain on his very real relationship with Veronica. For a while it looks like their relationship might reach a breaking point. Threatening the stability of easily the strongest couple on the show certainly creates intended drama, and it leads to an emotional and touching confrontation between Veronica and Kevin at the end of the episode. And then, of course, a raucous fight between Veronica and Sheryl.
But of course, Shameless isn’t a hard drama, and there’s a plethora of comedy to balance out the heartfelt Kevin-Veronica plotline. The other main story of the episode is the hilarious theme of sex-offenders. “May I Trim Your Hedges?” opens with Fiona applying for a job as a grocery store clerk, only to learn she needs to give the manager a blowjob if she wants to be hired. To add insult to injury, on the bus ride home Debbie notices a man masturbating in front of her. This leads to a neighborhood-wide crusade against sex-offenders organized by Lip, ending at the door of one Blake, who turns out to be a pretty young woman who fell in love with her student.
From there the sex-offender theme splits into two plotlines: Lip’s steadfast belief that Blake is a pedophile regardless of her gender, and Fiona’s plan to blackmail the morally corrupt store manager into hiring her. Lip’s elegant trap for the child predator Blake is easily one of the funniest plots of the series so far. Posing as a young teen, Lip intentionally sexualizes innocence in front of her to bring out the ex-teacher’s pedophilic tendencies. Watching Lip’s over-the-top childlike behavior and the creepy way Blake reacts is both cringe-inducing and hysterical, as most Shameless humor is.
As it turns out, Lip is right: Blake is, in fact, a child predator. She falls for the trap ends up teaching Lip things that even he didn’t know about sex, namely involving peanut butter and Nair. Of course, Mandy finds out about this and, in a climax to the plotline, digs a grave in Blake’s yard and assures her that if she remains in the neighborhood, Mandy will kill her. Like I said, it all seems very skeevy, but it’s one of the funniest plotlines I’ve seen yet. Kudos to whoever came up with the idea. It really give Lip a chance to shine, and even Mandy, who until this point was flat and uninteresting. We see that she can kick ass, yes, but we also get a glimpse at just how much she cares about Lip, which is no easy feat.
Fiona finally becomes a bit more likable in this episode as well. In “The American Dream” we had to watch as an uncharacteristic naïveté took her over, but it seems her street smarts have returned to her, and she’s finally behaving like a true Gallagher again. After the store manager tells her to sample his “deli meats,” she returns with Veronica to lay a trap for him. Veronica records his sleazy behavior, and Fiona uses the evidence to blackmail the manager into giving her a job. This is the tough, funny behavior we’re used to. Welcome back, Fiona. We missed you.
I was nervous when I sat down to watch “May I Trim Your Hedges?” because the pervious episode’s flatness had nearly broken my heart. But it proved to be just what I hoped: a fluke. Shameless is back and stronger than ever, with cringe-worthy comedy and heartfelt drama. I feel like I’m part of the Gallagher family again. And thank goodness for that.