Over the past three seasons, Station 19 has tackled many wild and insane emergencies, as well as storylines.
However, Station 19 Season 4 Episode 4 took a step back from the show's usual craziness and attempted to tell a compelling story about race in the firefighting world.
As a white woman, there is no way I can fully understand the subtleties and nuances such a plot like this deserves, but I'll try my best, so please bear with me.
Before delving in, it's important to note that while this is a very timely topic, the storyline about the intersection of race and privilege in this profession seemed to come out of nowhere.
While the series has somewhat attempted to broach the hardships and blatant sexism in the workplace that female firefighters face, there has been little, if any, attempts to address race.
Sullivan: What’s the problem, Miller?
Sullivan: Yeah, I gathered that.
Dean: You reached the level most black firefighters will never sniff, let alone see, and what do you do with all the success, everything they think we do. We have to work twice as hard just to be considered.
Sullivan: Well, that’s not exclusive to firefighters.
Dean: You don’t give two craps about making it harder for every other black firefighter.
Sullivan: Don’t assume that what I did doesn’t mean I don’t give a crap about it. Don’t you think I’m sorry? You don’t think I know what I did?
Dean: No, I think you knew exactly what you did; you just did it anyway.
Sullivan: I stole drugs because I’m an addict, Miller. You have no idea what it feels like to need a drug. You don’t know my pain.
Dean: Everybody here knows the pain of the job. Only one person stole drugs and lied about it. I’m not patting you on the back. I remember you at the academy, all high and mighty, constantly preaching about integrity. You pushed me to be better, and now you’re just a lying, drug-stealing thief with a free pass to do it again.
Sullivan: I was injured, Miller.
Dean: And you’re about to injured again, Robert, if you don’t get out of my face.
With such a diverse cast, it seems like the issue of race would have come up before this, but it hasn't.
In a way, the diversity could have been a deterrent. The writers wanted to reflect a more tolerant society where everyone accepts all races, genders, sexualities, etc.
Because while there has been pushback from recurring characters or guest stars about some of these topics, Station 19 has always been a safe and loving environment, therefore, making it more difficult to tell these sorts of stories.
However, they are important ones to be told, so as random and somewhat out of the blue Dean's anger at Sullivan seemed, it can be forgiven due to the topic at hand.
The dichotomy between Sullivan and Dean is particularly compelling because both characters are right in their own way.
Dean is right in that Sullivan's actions reflect negatively on every other Black firefighter in Seattle, which is made worse because Sullivan held a rank so few Black firefighters will ever achieve.
While Dean did seem to discount Sullivan's addiction's veracity, he was also correct about Sullivan's actions confirming stereotypes about Black people, thus making it infinitely harder for them to change outside perception.
Dean's anger was coming from a place where he was focusing on the effect on the Black community rather than the specific factors, such as Sullivan's injury, that led to the theft of narcotics in the first place.
It's a valid standpoint, but Sullivan also had a point when he reminded Dean of the differences in upbringing.
Dean's parents may disapprove of his profession, but he grew up with a silver spoon in his mouth, whereas his Nazi grandfather raised Sullivan after his parents died in a plane crash.
Ben: You’re riding mighty high on that horse, aren’t you?
Dean: Don’t talk down to me, Warren. He lied. So did you.
Ben: He made mistakes. So did I.
Dean: Mistakes? We gotta constantly think about what neighborhood we’re in, what we’re wearing, what we say, how we sound. We don’t get the luxury of mistakes. Sullivan knew better. You knew better.
Ben: You’re right. You’re right. Everything you just said is spot on. Look, all I can offer is this: If Dixon screws up, it’s on Dixon. He’s a bad apple. But if Sullivan screws up, that’s on every black firefighter in Seattle. Sound fair to you?
Dean: No, that’s exactly my point. It’s just the way the world works.
Ben: Yeah, and it is, but that doesn’t mean that you have to.
Those are wildly different experiences and doesn't even account for the racist bullshit Sullivan encountered while stationed at an all-white firehouse in Montana after his wife's death.
That isn't to say what Sullivan did was OK, but Dean, as someone who hasn't had to struggle as much as others, should have checked his privilege before going on Sullivan.
Ben and Vic had the best insight into this fight, and it was great to hear their takes.
As the resident father, Ben gave Dean some good advice about cutting Sullivan some slack, while Vic told Dean to prove Sullivan wrong by becoming the next Black battalion chief.
Those were both respectful approaches that didn't necessarily favor one side so much as trying to see things from both perspectives.
What was somewhat confusing was Andy saying there was no validity to Dean's argument.
As a Latina woman, Andy has had to face her fair share of racism and sexism, so for her to deny outright Dean's claim was a bit hasty.
She knows better than anyone knows how firefighter politics work, what with her having practically grown up at Station 19, so it was just a bizarre attitude.
It's possible Andy's reaction was written specifically to provide Sullivan with the opportunity to counter and acknowledge that Dean was right.
Sullivan: I’ve just had the worst first shift.
Andy: Do you want to talk to me about it?
Sullivan: No, no, I’m good.
Andy: Come on.
Sullivan: After Montana, this was the first place that felt safe, so I thought coming back here was gonna be like coming home. I knew being a probie would be hard, but I thought hardest part was gonna be cleaning toilets or watching you in a towel. This Miller thing…
Andy: He’s overreacting.
Sullivan: No, he’s right. That’s the problem. Everything he says is right.
Andy: Look my dad always used to say, ‘What’s done is done.’ You can’t change what you did, Robert. You can only change what you do now, and you’re doing everything you can to make things right.
If that's the case, there would have been better ways to handle the conversation between the marrieds, so Andy didn't come off so bullheaded.
Despite its faults, this was an admirable plot point, and it'd be great if the series could manage to weave these threads into future episodes in the season, as opposed to just dropping it entirely.
At the very least, Sullivan and Dean do need to have a conversation where they make up and acknowledge the validity of the other's viewpoint would go a long way in wrapping things up nicely if that's the path the writers choose.
Elsewhere, familial and romantic relationships were tested.
Jack took a semi-big step by agreeing to move in with Inara and Marcus while Marsha is in the hospital.
While it's a nice gesture, it could be construed the wrong way by Inara if Jack doesn't have feelings for her.
Jack's conversation with Emmett about his ex-fiancee Alicia being blindsided was somewhat applicable to Inara's situation.
Everyone at Station 19 can tell Inara's in love with Jack, but it's still unclear how he feels about her.
Jack obviously cares for Inara greatly, but is he keeping things platonic for now because he doesn't feel the same way or because he's rushed into relationships in the past?
We've never gotten a clear answer from Jack about his feelings and intentions for Inara and Marcus.
Jack: Hey, hey, just take a breath.
Inara: I can’t take a breath, Jack. We might have COVID, and we have to find a place to stay, and…
Inara: If Marsha dies, we have to find somewhere else to go.
Jack: Hey, hey, hey, hey, take it a step at a time.
Inara: I’m taking it one step at a time, Jack. I’m a single mother of a deaf child who’s still running from her psycho ex-husband.
Jack: We have no idea what Marsha will even do…
Inara: Her son’s been calling. She hasn’t been answering, but he’s been calling. What if he takes over the apartment? I have to think about where we’re going to live.
Jack: If that happens, you can stay with me.
Inara: Ted can trace you to me.
Jack: We don’t even know if she has it.
Inara: She refused to wear a mask, Jack. Of course, she has it. Oh god, I’m such an ass. I’m so sorry.
Jack: You’re not an ass. You’re scared. Yeah, you’re just scared. Like everyone else, we’re just scared.
Inara: I really wish I could hug you right now.
Jack: I really wish you could too.
Now that the trio is playing house, Jack and Inara's conversation needs to be held soon.
Jack may be sleeping on the couch, but offering to move in is still a pretty big step and sends a particular message Jack may not be ready to deal with.
While Jack hasn't dealt with his complicated feelings for Inara, Maya has made great progress on that front when it comes to her father.
Not only has Maya acknowledged the years of her father's abuse, but she's also actively vocalizing her fears about being like him.
Yes, maybe she should be sharing some of these concerns with Carina, but even just voicing them aloud to Andy is enormous progress, especially since it was only episodes ago that Maya refused to admit that her father was abusive.
And even though she may be keeping some of her anxieties to herself, she's still discussing some of her other feelings with Carina, like her displeasure with Carina turning their kitchen into an Italian restaurant.
Carina's reasoning was heartbreaking, and by talking things out, the couple got all their feelings out in the open instead of letting that fester.
Maya and Carina are no Ben and Bailey, but they may be getting to the point where they're the second most functional relationship on the series, which is saying something.
Lastly, Travis confronted his father, and it may not have been the epic showdown we wanted, but it was great all the same.
Since finding out his father is gay, Travis has been struggling over what to do.
Travis: My mom’s at the grocery store, and my dad is golfing.
Vic: And you’re yelling at me because…
Travis: Because my dad’s not golfing.
Vic: Oh, right.
Travis: Honestly, I don’t know what makes me more mad – the closeted gay sex, the cheating on my mom, or the putting others at risk.
Vic: Do you, do you think your mom knows?
Travis: That my dad’s cruising for guys online and calling it golfing? I… dear god I hope not.
Vic: Are you going to tell her?
Travis: Why would I tell her?
Vic: If my husband were screwing around I would want to know.
Travis: Hey ma, how you doing it? It smells good in here. Uh quick FYI, dad’s been secretly playing with penises outside your marriage, and oh my god, why would I say ‘playing with penises’ when referencing my father?
Vic: I… I don’t know why you would ever say that.
Does he tell his mom? Confront his father? Stay out of it?
There's no right answer, and I was proud of how Travis handled the situation.
Obviously, there needs to be a follow-up conversation at some point, but given the circumstances of his father's blatant homophobia, Travis deserves many props.
Some stray thoughts:
Was anyone else surprised Andy and Sullivan managed to keep their hands to themselves, especially during that final scene where both were wearing towels? That had the potential to quickly devolve from professionalism into sexy shower time, so good on them.
It shows they're taking this separation seriously and prioritizing their marriage over lust. It also drives 'shippers insane, so there's that.
Could anyone else tell what the point of the random married couple was? Was the insanity of the call supposed to detract from the heavier issues, or was it supposed to serve as a 'wakeup call' for the others? Whatever it was, it was fun to watch at first but then dragged on. Things kept getting more and more ridiculous.
Marsha getting COVID-19 felt a little forced but worked better than if some random stranger was diagnosed. She's a character we know and care about, but the execution could have been stronger, like if previous episodes honed in on her not wearing a mask.
Despite this, the message about mask-wearing didn't feel that heavy-handed and was a good integration of safety during the pandemic.
Vic and Theo are going to be a thing. I hope this doesn't become another stupid love triangle with Vic, Dean, and Theo. Either put Vic and Dean together or let this go. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like either option will be how things play out.
So what did you think, Station 19 Fanatics?
Where do you stand on Sullivan and Dean's fight?
Is Jack making a mistake by moving in with Inara and Marcus?
Have Maya and Carina won you over with their cuteness?
Hit the comments below to let me know your thoughts. If you missed the latest episode, remember you can watch Station 19 online at TV Fanatic.
Jessica Lerner was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She retired in October 2021.