‘9-1-1’ Recap: A Tsunami Takes Out Santa Monica Pier in Season 3, Episode 2 “Sink or Swim”

15 Min Read
Courtesy of Fox

The highly-anticipated tsunami episode of 9-1-1 made a big splash Monday night. After teasing the first big wave at the end of last week’s season premiere, the episode did not disappoint. From Buck and Christopher trapped right in the middle of it, to Athena and her daughter May helping out with a pile-up, and the rest of Station 118 out on search and rescue, each moment was more significant than the previous. In the end, it showed the waves returning to the ocean, making it very difficult for rescue and for one of the characters who had fallen into the high-rising water.

Keep reading to find out everything that happened in the second episode of season 3 of 9-1-1, “Sink or Swim.”

The episode starts very similar to how the premiere episode ended: Buck and Christopher enjoying the day at the Santa Monica Pier, and Buck watching the paramedics save someone before noticing the first wave while sitting down on a bench. However, this time before the wave, we pan over to a girl flying a drone and an older man painting a picture of the scenery using the drone before being told off by the Harbor Dept. The guy from the Harbor Dept. sees a boat out in the ocean that’s too close to the pier. It turns out the boat has a family on it, with a man and a woman getting married and her son on board as well.

Back at the Pier, everyone starts to notice that, for some reason, there’s no water below. Soon, we see a huge wave is coming right toward them. The Harbor Dept. sounds the alarms, and everyone is trying to get to safety. Buck and Christopher hide in a game booth just before the wave takes over the Pier. After the wave hits, Buck is shown underwater, struggling to get back to the surface. He desperately tries to look for Christopher. After successfully locating him, he tries to swim to Christopher while following the current. Buck tries to grab his hand, but the water is pulling him. After Christopher lets go of the lamp post, Buck swims to him again and manages to catch him, holding him tightly. Swimming to a firetruck, a boat barely misses Buck after he puts Christopher on top of the truck, climbing on for safety, stranded for now.

Meanwhile, going back 20 minutes before the first wave, Athena and May are getting mani-pedis; however, May is stressing about not finishing her college applications. On the drive home, May can’t figure out what to write for her college essay and wants to study for the ACT. Athena keeps telling her to stop stressing and to take it easy. A car then crashes into them.

Cutting to the 118 on a call, Eddie shows Hen and Chim a picture of Buck and Christopher at the Santa Monica Pier. When water starts running on the streets, Bobby wonders if a hydrant caused it. While looking at the picture on his phone, Eddie gets an alert message of a tsunami warning.

Returning to Athena and May, they are both okay after the crash. After not being able to open the doors on either side of the vehicle, Athena takes out a hammer of some sort that she got from Bobby and smashes the window. After getting out, she realizes there’s been a massive pile-up. A girl says she’s trying to call 9-1-1, but she’s on hold. May, having gotten the same alert message Eddie got on her phone, reveals there’s been a tsunami that took out the Pier.

At the Call Center, Maddie is talking a man (Jonas) through getting out of his house. He’s trapped, and water is rapidly rising, despite him being in the attic. He found an ax, and Maddie tells him how to break through the roof. However, with the ax being small, it broke when he was trying to break the roof’s vent. Maddie has him tell her some of his crazy adventures of climbing mountains. While telling Jonas tells a story, the water rises fast, and soon, the call fails, and Maddie can no longer hear him. Still crying, Maddie gets another 9-1-1 call, and she knows she has to put on a brave face and help the next person.

We meet up with the 118, who are getting ready to go out on a search and rescue. The person in charge of the search and rescue tells Bobby that all firehouses near the area that were hit called in, except for 136, the ones responding to the call on the Pier.

Getting back to Buck and Christopher, who are on top of the 136 firetruck and still stranded, Buck hears a woman calling for help. Buck grabs the hose from the firetruck, and after climbing over cars (with one car still having a person inside but alive), he ties the hose from one side of the street to the other, making it easy for the woman to hold on and safely get back to the firetruck. More people start to float down the street, calling for help. With the hose still securely tied, everyone grabs hold of it and makes their way to the truck.

At the 9-1-1 Call Center, Maddie is watching the news, seeing just how bad the tsunami was. It was caused by an 8.9 earthquake in Alaska, and it took out much of the Southern California coast. Sue asks Maddie to help her do triage with the 9-1-1 dispatchers, making sure they’re okay and taking breaks since she’s run an emergency room before.

The 118 hear a woman screaming for help as they continue their search and rescue. It turns out to be the bride from earlier. She says that her son and fiancé are inside the boat, and when they get to them, they see an antenna from a radio station pierced the hull and pierced them as well through the abdomen to the bottom of the boat. The boat is taking on water, so they need a plan and quick. Bobby wonders if they’re able to take them apart. Hen tells him that it seemed to have missed the child’s heart and lungs. She’s not so sure about the stepdad, and as long as they’re able to keep both pieces in them, they could have a shot.

Adele, the wife, keeps telling her husband that she won’t leave, but the son says it’s okay. When she leaves, the stepdad (Chuck) tells the crew to save Jason, the child. Bobby tells him the plan is to save both of them. Using a power saw, they successfully cut Jason loose, the antenna still piercing him, and they get him off the boat. Realizing if they cut the antenna for Chuck, it could injure him far worse than it is currently. Bobby comes up with the plan to cut it from underneath the boat.

When another wave comes, Athena is still helping with the pile-up, helping people who are more worried about getting a report for their car for their insurance than the safety of themselves and other people. Athena helps a woman named Vicky, who is stuck in her car and losing blood because of a puncture in her neck. She calls May over to help keep pressure on the wound while she grabs a first aid kit from her car. Because of the wave, though, water starts coming through the sewers, and with the down power line, it makes the street very unsafe, trapping May and Vicky in the car. May keeps talking to Vicky to keep her awake and sitting upright.

The girl calling 9-1-1 was finally able to get through and gives the phone to Athena, asking for a DWP crew ASAP. Because of everything that’s been going on, it will take about an hour for one to arrive. May keeps talking to Vicky, telling her not to lie down. Athena calls a fellow officer, asking for assistance. DWP crew finally arrives and shuts off the power, making it safe to be on the street. When Athena gets to May, Vicky is no longer breathing. When paramedics reach the car, they get her out and find a pulse. May starts crying because she’s so relieved that Vicky is alive, that she kept her alive.

Eddie and Hen realize Chuck isn’t breathing, so they have to do CPR underwater. As Bobby cuts the antenna from under the boat, Eddie and Hen get a pulse, and Chuck is okay. They get him on a board, and he, Jason, and Adele are transported to a hospital with Chim and Hen in tow. Eddie and Bobby are called to help at the Pier … or what’s left of it.

Getting back to the 9-1-1 Call Center, Maddie is checking up on everyone to make sure they’re doing okay and that they are getting the breaks they need. Chim calls Maddie and tells her that there’s a lot of people they’re saving that don’t have a place to go; all the hospitals are filled. Maddie says they need a field hospital, noticing that there was a VA hospital commissioned months ago, abandoned, making it the perfect place for triage. Before hanging up, Chim asks Maddie how she’s doing. Maddie replies that she’s happy to hear his voice, and she’s weirdly grateful that her brother has a blood clot and is nowhere near this “nightmare.” No one knows that Buck and Christopher were at the Santa Monica Pier when the tsunami hit.

Buck and Christopher are still on the firetruck, playing I Spy and talking. Buck and the other people on the truck spot a few bodies floating down the street. He keeps Christopher busy by playing another round of I Spy so he doesn’t see.

Bobby and Eddie get to what used to be the Santa Monica Pier. There are people on top of tables and even people still on the Ferris wheel. WWE star Rhonda Rousey makes her 9-1-1 debut as firefighter Lena “fire lady” Bosco as she helps on the Ferris wheel. Back with Buck and Christopher, Buck tells Christopher that he doesn’t know what he’s going to tell Eddie because he took his son out one time, and a tsunami hits. Christopher tells Buck that he saved him; he saved a lot of people. Buck says that they saved them together.

At the Call Center, Sue tells Maddie the VA field hospital should be up and running within the hour but to call the coroner and Red Cross and tell them to send over 5,000 bodybags to the hospital. Later, an alarm goes off, noting another surge; the same wave, going in the opposite direction, back out to sea. While Buck is helping more people get to safety, the firetruck moves because of the water, and Christopher falls over.

And that is where the episode unfortunately ends. Oliver Stark gave an incredible performance this week. Buck, although no longer a firefighter by choice, knew he had and could save so many people. His bond with Christopher made the episode enjoyable at times where you didn’t think possible. Although we have to wait a week to see what happens, it’s good to know we have Hulu to rewatch the first two episodes over and over again to keep us occupied. Make sure to watch 9-1-1 on Fox every Monday at 8 p.m. EST.

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By Megan
Megan has been passionate about writing since she was little and has been passionate about all things pop culture and nerdy since almost as long. Joining Nerds and Beyond in 2019, she also graduated from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh in 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts in Multimedia Journalism. Megan is constantly binge-watching shows and finding new things to obsess over. 9-1-1 and Marvel currently reign as the top obsessions. You can find her on Twitter @marvels911s if you ever want to discuss some certain firefighters.
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