It’s been a very long week waiting to learn of Buck’s fate on this week’s 9-1-1. Last week, we saw him perilously swinging from a fire ladder after having been struck by lightning. And this week’s episode, “In Another Life,” picks up right where we left off.
A Race Against Time
Maddie and her mother, Margaret, are in Maddie’s kitchen, and Margaret is heaping praise on Maddie by complimenting her home. She mentions that they should go shopping for flowers, but she doesn’t want to overstep. Tears come to her eyes as she tells her daughter that, considering everything she’s suffered through, she just wants her to be happy.
A chatty Jee-Yun interrupts the women, and as Maddie tends to her daughter, Margaret answers a knock at the door. Maddie hears her mother scream for her, and when Maddie arrives at the door, she sees a fire department representative, which can only mean bad news. “Which one?” a desperate Maddie asks the rep.
The 118 is bringing Buck into the emergency room on a gurney, with Chim doing compressions. When Buck’s heartbeat is regained, doctors take him back to a room for treatment, leaving a teary-eyed Bobby, Eddie, Chim, and Hen to wait.
And then Buck wakes up.
What Could Have Been
He’s in his hospital bed, and his doctor tells him he’s glad to see him awake. As he’s telling Buck about his injuries (which are minimal) and his prognosis (which is great), Buck realizes that his doctor is his brother Daniel, who died when Buck was an infant. Maddie is there, giving her brothers a hard time. As Buck tries to make sense of what’s going on, Maddie reminds Buck of the upcoming family dinner and to not be late. Buck responds with, “Whose family?!”
At Buck’s bachelor pad, his parents, Maddie, and brother Daniel are there to welcome him home. Margaret tells Buck that everyone has been dropping off food since his accident and that his kids had sent over flowers and cards. Buck learns that he is not a firefighter but is, in fact, an elementary school teacher. He is understandably even more confused and realizes that the life he knew is not the one he’s currently living. But as he sits down to watch the game on TV with his dad and brother, he starts to think that this other world isn’t so bad after all.
At Maddie’s house, family dinner begins. Buck asks where Jee is, and everyone is confused by what he means. And then, a girl about eight years old enters the room, and Phillip says, “There’s Genevieve! Or are you going by ‘G’ now?” As Buck once again falls into a spiral of confusion, Doug enters the room — yes, Maddie’s husband, Doug, who was killed in season two.
While there are many things about Buck’s alternate life that are different, there is one thing that hasn’t changed: Doug is as horrible and creepy as he ever was. In the kitchen, he tells Maddie that he knows what’s going on between her and Doug and that he might have missed all the signs last time, but he won’t do that again. He then sees bruises on Maddie’s wrists that she tries to cover up. He tells her she may not think she’s strong enough to leave him, but she is, and he will help her. Maddie gets frustrated and leaves Buck, avoiding the conversation.
Later, Buck asks his brother Daniel a question: if someone is in a coma, is it possible that person could have dreams? Daniel doesn’t know the answer because he’s never been in a coma. And then Buck remembers someone he knows who has been in a coma and could maybe help him.
Maddie arrives at the hospital with her parents. Bobby explains to the family that Buck has been placed in a medically induced coma to encourage rest and healing. His prognosis is unknown, and the next 24 hours will be critical.
At home, May and Athena talk about Buck. May is very worried about Bobby’s sobriety, considering he just lost Wendall and wouldn’t be able to survive losing Buck. Athena tells her daughter that Buck will be fine because “he has to be.”
In his alternate life, Buck is banging on Chimney’s door. Chimney finally answers, and we realize that Chimney has no idea who this guy is (because Buck never joined the 118). Buck sounds absolutely insane, asking Chimney about his accident and subsequent coma. And while Chimney decides to call the police on the lunatic at his door, Buck tells him he can prove he knows him because he knows why people call him “Chimney.”
Even though we, the audience, were left out of that critical conversation (Seriously, when are we going to learn the origin of that nickname?!), it’s enough to get Buck through the door. He is explaining everything to Chimney, who realizes that this guy must be experiencing something akin to the plot of It’s A Wonderful Life. Chimney is thrilled to be Buck’s Clarence, but Buck is more stymied because he has no idea what he must do to get back to his real life. And then, Buck has serious trouble breathing and collapses.
At the hospital, Buck’s oxygen levels are plummeting, and he can’t breathe. The nurses rush in and eventually get his breathing to stabilize. We overhear the doctors explaining that Buck went into respiratory failure and that he needs to be put on an ECMO machine, which will bulk up his blood with more oxygen to help him heal.
Back at Chimney’s apartment, Buck can suddenly breathe normally. Hen is there now and wonders why in the world Chim would let in an unknown madman into his place and not call 911. Buck explains that he felt like he couldn’t breathe but that he’s feeling fine now. He then learns that Bobby Nash — the one in this alternate world — died five years previously from alcohol abuse. He also learns that not only was his addiction in full force, but no one he worked with at the station even knew his struggle with sobriety because he was so quiet. In other words, this world’s Bobby Nash was nothing at all like Buck’s Bobby Nash.
He then learns about Eddie Diaz — “Angry Guy,” as Chimney calls him. Eddie lost custody of Christopher after a nasty court battle, where his in-laws claimed Eddie couldn’t handle being a single parent and a firefighter. “He never met Carla,” Buck says to himself.
Maddie hasn’t left Doug, Bobby succumbed to his addiction, and Eddie lost custody of Christopher … These realizations show Buck the massive impacts his life has had on the ones he loves.
You Have to Come Back
At the hospital, Carla, Eddie, and Christopher are in the waiting room. Children aren’t allowed in the ICU where Buck is, but Christopher isn’t budging until he can see Buck. Carla decides to distract the nurses while Eddie and his son sneak onto the elevator and get into Buck’s room.
Hen is there and explains to Christopher what the alarms and tubes do. She holds nothing back, knowing he won’t accept anything less than the full truth. Then, Christopher talks to Buck and tells him that he’s going to be okay, that the machines are going to help him heal, and that no matter where he is right now, he has to come back. Eddie wipes away a tear.
In the alternate world, Hen suggests to Buck that if he is in a coma, then everything in this world isn’t real — it’s all in his head. Buck says he feels like he’s running out of time, and then he realizes it’s because his body is running out of time.
Buck then sees someone down a hallway who looks like Bobby, and he chases after him. He runs through a labyrinth of hallways that stretch and contort when he enters them. But he eventually finds the man he was chasing, and it is indeed Bobby Nash. But this Bobby is different — he’s riffling through bottles of unmarked pills in a pharmacy closet and washing down handfuls of pills with unknown liquids. Buck asks him how he can get back to his life … does he need to complete a task? Pay a penance? Bobby has no idea, but he shows Buck a window into his hospital room, his real hospital room, where he sees himself in a coma. Buck confides in Bobby that his parents always treated him like an annoyance in his real life because they were always drowning in their grief over losing Daniel. But in this alternate world, Buck feels like he matters, like his parents actually see him. Bobby responds, “If what matters to you most is how other people see you … then you haven’t learned a damn thing.”
I Was Buck, and That’s Enough
In the real world, Buck is successfully taken off the ECMO machine, and the doctor explains to his parents that the next stage is up to Buck. The doctor removes the ventilator and reduces the sedation. Then, everyone stands around Buck’s bed and waits to see if he can breathe on his own.
In the alternate world, Buck tells Bobby that he knows now the importance his life has had on others. “I drove you crazy, but I think you spent so much time trying to make sure that I didn’t get myself killed that it made you remember what it is to live.” Bobby responds, “So basically, you were Buck.” Buck says yes, and that’s enough for him.
He then runs through the hospital, down the stretching, contorting hallways, looking for an exit. On his way, he sees Chimney thanking him for introducing him to Maddie, Christopher asking Buck to help him look for his father, his parents begging for his forgiveness, and then finally, Daniel, who blocks the door that would return Buck to his life. Daniel tries to convince him to stay because things are better here, but Buck knows that none of it is real and that he is needed in his real life.
Daniel then morphs into Buck. Because all of this has been happening in his head, he’s really been talking to himself this whole time. Alternate Buck tries to convince Buck that no one in his life needs him. And then Buck responds with arguably the most powerful sentence he’s ever uttered on the show: “I’m not going back for them. I’m going back for me.”
And then Buck wakes up.
It’s Better Here
Buck and Bobby are playing Gin in Buck’s hospital room. He’s told Bobby all about his otherworldly adventures, and Bobby asks Buck why he would want to leave a world where he could fix everything. “Trust me,” Buck says. “It’s better here.”
At Buck’s bachelor pad, Buck’s parents and Maddie get him settled in to rest. Margaret complains (loudly) about Buck not having a couch or area rugs to “warm up the place.” Maddie and Buck chuckle because they know she’s about to redecorate his entire apartment. But Buck doesn’t mind. He is grateful for this life of his.
9-1-1 airs Mondays at 8 p.m. EST on FOX. Tune in next Monday, March 20, for the season’s twelfth episode, “Recovery.” And check out our continued coverage on the series, including episodic recaps and more.