This week’s 9-1-1: Lone Star goes back and forth between Owen’s family problems and Judd and Wyatt’s own problems. We finally learn what happened with Owen and his dad when he was younger, including a tragic backstory. Meanwhile, a trip to Uncle Cash’s ranch ends with Judd and Wyatt getting closer than ever.
Keep reading to find out what happened in “Shift-Less.”
Back in the Day
It’s 1984 in sunny California, and two young brothers are getting ready to hit the waves. The older one is teaching his younger brother how to surf … on the sand. The big brother leaves to swim out, with the younger one, Tyler, close behind. The big brother gives in, and the two wait for the perfect wave. Unfortunately, a big wave comes, knocking Tyler off his board.
The big brother screams for Tyler, who has now been released from the board. The brother gets back on dry land and searches frantically for Tyler. He spots him under the docks, face down, and a lifeguard comes rushing over. She brings him further on land to get more help from surf rescue, and the brother rushes over to a payphone to call 9-1-1. We learn that Tyler just turned 10, they went out alone, and the big brother is Owen Strand.
EMTs race to the scene on the beach, and Tyler is still unconscious. They put him in the back of the surf rescue truck and drive away.
In the waiting room at the hospital, Owen’s parents, Caroline and Walter, try to remain optimistic. Caroline keeps asking how long Tyler was under the water, but Walter reassures Owen that Tyler’s lucky he was there. The doctor comes out, and Walter and Caroline talk to him. Although we can see them, we can’t hear them, but the pain on their faces and the way Caroline breaks down makes it clear. Young Owen looks at the clown on the wall, and it all makes sense.
What Really Happened
Caroline is packing up the car, telling Owen to get in. But he doesn’t want to leave. She tells him they’ll have a new house in New York. Walter comes out of the house, and Owen asks him why he’s letting this happen. Walter doesn’t answer, only telling him to go with his mother. Owen reluctantly gets in and watches his parents say goodbye. Caroline gets in the car and drives off. Owen continues looking out the back until they get further down the street.
A Visit With the Family
Back in the present, Owen tells Judd he has to go to California and he wants him to be his acting captain if he doesn’t make it back in time for next shift. When Owen talked to his father’s wife on the phone, she said he didn’t have much time. Judd wonders if he’s sure he should be going out there by himself, as in maybe he should bring T.K. for moral support. Owen doesn’t want to bring him.
“Why not? ‘Cause he’s … he’s bad luck on an airplane?”
Owen says there’s no reason to traumatize a third generation.
Owen is on the LA County Beach, looking at the payphone, thinking back to that fateful and tragic day.
Owen arrives at an assisted living place to visit his father, Walter. When he gets to his room, he sees plenty of people in the room, surrounding the bed. They leave to let Walter rest, and Owen backs out once Walter’s wife sees him. He makes a detour to the quiet room.
A guy, played by Chad Lowe, comes into the quiet room and looks at the infomercial for — of course — skincare. The guy talks about an infomercial he was watching and how he almost bought something, but it was a limited-time offer. They bond over their fathers, not having much time left; they tell stories. The guy’s father was always there, staying after Little League games. Owen admits he hasn’t talked to his dad in years. He has a lot to say, but he’s not sure how to do it.
“If you have something to say, you have to find a way to say it.”
Parked at the beach, Owen FaceTimes T.K. to check up on him. Owen hasn’t exactly told T.K. where he is, just that he’s driving around. He tells his son that he loves him and he’s proud of him. He doesn’t tell him that enough. T.K. returns the sentiment, and Owen apologizes for not talking to him as much as he used to. And T.K. apologizes as well; it’s on the both of them.
Owen finally decides to visit with his father, apologizing to Walter’s wife for intruding. The wife formally introduces herself as Helen, and she asks Owen what he’s doing there. He says he has some things he needs to say to him, but he’s barely conscious. What good would it do, Helen wonders. She knows he’s angry, but he’s still his father. The guy Owen was talking to earlier, Robert, comes in. He tells his mom to let Owen say what he needs to say to his father.
“He deserves that. They both do.”
They both leave Owen alone to have a much-needed reunion. He admits to his dad that he had a big speech worked out on the plane about how he was a bastard who couldn’t wait to just walk away from his family. But that’s not really how it happened. They walked away, and Walter stayed. He just started himself another family. He praises Helen and Robert and realizes that Walter didn’t want to be a father to him. And Owen’s not sure he blames him after everything.
“I’m the one who broke the family.”
Owen apologizes to Walter, and he’s sorry he didn’t save Tyler. Walter tells Owen it’s not his fault. He was just a kid. Nobody blamed him. Owen says he was the big brother; he should have kept him safe. Walter says the world is not a safe place. He should know that as a fire captain. Walter tells Owen that it’s a hell of a line of work. He admits he’s selfish, a coward, and a weak man. He couldn’t ease Owen’s pain because he couldn’t face his own. Walter says he didn’t break the family. Grief did that. He just let it happen. Walter hopes Owen can forgive him, and Owen says he’s going to try. Walter just wants him to forgive himself first.
Owen leaves the room and begins to head out, but he’s stopped by Robert. He admits that the words found him, and he thanks Robert for giving him the time in there. The two officially introduce themselves, and Robert tells him to not be a stranger.
Before leaving California, Owen surfs one last time at LA County Beach, finally feeling at peace with his family after all these years.
While talking to Owen, Judd gets a call from the Austin Department of Corrections; it’s Wyatt. When he picks up his son, Judd is not happy about vandalism. He tries to understand why Wyatt did what he did. Judd brings Wyatt home to keep an eye on him, and even takes his phone from him.
Grace, being wise as always, talks to Judd about the situation, telling him to call Marlene and tell her what happened. When they call her, she doesn’t seem surprised about it. Wyatt has been acting out the last two months since she got engaged. With Marlene being on the road the rest of the week, she asks Judd and Grace to keep an eye on him until she gets back, and the two agree.
Judd takes Wyatt to his Uncle Cash’s ranch, where Wyatt and Stuart finally meet. They have a little grandfather/grandson chat, and Stuart tells Wyatt how Judd also did a stint in county jail. Wyatt does a little riding, impressing his father and grandfather on how well he rides. Judd admits that he thinks Wyatt’s having trouble at home, but he won’t talk to him about it. Stuart says to give him time, and maybe spending the afternoon on horseback will do him some good.
Judd and Wyatt go horseback riding, and Judd tries to get him to open up. Wyatt admits he’s been pissed off lately, and it’s not because his mom’s getting married. He thinks the guy is fine. Wyatt confesses he may be a little mad at Judd. When he first came to look for him, he says he never really felt like he was missing anything in his life until he met Judd. The more he got to know him and Grace, the cooler they were, the madder he got. Wyatt just wishes he got to spend more time with Judd when he was growing up. He feels like he got robbed of all the time they could have spent together. Wyatt’s not mad at his mom.
“I’m just mad.”
Wyatt rides off since he doesn’t want to talk anymore, and when Judd follows behind, he notices a rattlesnake on the ground. It spooks Judd’s horse and bites its leg, making Judd fall to the ground. Wyatt secures his horse and rushes over to help his dad. That’s when he notices a bone sticking out of Judd’s leg.
Judd tries to call Grace, but his phone is dead, and Wyatt’s is back at the house. Judd figures that Romeo, the horse, will run back to the ranch, and Stuart will be all over it. However, it may take some time. He has Wyatt grab a pocketknife in the saddlebag to cut the pant leg. After painfully getting Judd’s boot and sock off, they see there isn’t much blood. When Wyatt checks for a pulse in Judd’s ankle, there is none, and Judd can’t feel his hand. Judd figures the bone is pressed up against the artery, cutting off the blood flow, meaning they need to reset it. Wyatt’s afraid to make it worse and hesitates, but Judd reassures him. Judd screams and passes out when Wyatt does it, just like he said he would.
Wyatt splashes some water on Judd’s face, and he comes to. Judd drinks some water, and Wyatt tells him he was out for a while. He did manage to wrap Judd’s leg, having learned it from The Walking Dead. He also learned how to make a rescue litter from “them zombies” and Judd is pleasantly surprised.
“That’s my boy.”
Wyatt apologizes for what he said, and Judd gets it. He was angry. Judd’s angry too because he has this wonderful kid, and he hardly knows anything about him. He’s angry because he didn’t teach him how to drive a stick or shave. Wyatt admits he still doesn’t know how to drive a stick shift. He tries to pull Judd with the horse, but the rope breaks off. Judd starts to fall asleep, and Wyatt tries to keep him up, even calling him “dad.” Judd promises he’s right there. They hear a car engine, and Stuart arrives to save the day.
Back at home, Judd has a cast, and everyone’s having a ball signing it. Wyatt is bonding with everyone, even getting his grandpa to eat some food. He offers to help Grace clear the table, and Judd sees that Wyatt wrote “Get well soon, Dad” on his cast.
“That’s pretty cool.”
Judd tells Stuart that he knows he gave him all kinds of hell growing up, but he’s glad that he got to be his boy. It may have only been a week every month, but it was every month. Judd’s just feeling blessed, as is Stuart.