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''Rescue Me'': Is That It?

By RD Heldenfels Published: July 11, 2006

If you haven't watched tonight's ''Rescue Me,'' come back after you have, because I am going to talk about plot developments.

And I am ticked off about them.

If you've read anything about ''Rescue Me'' the last of weeks, then you know about the debate over a scene where Tommy Gavin -- Denis Leary's character -- attacked his ex-wife Janet. To some viewers, myself included, it looked as if he raped her, and that she eventually enjoyed it. Others have looked for a less damaging interpretation; Robert Bianco in this morning's USA Today said that ''to imply that (the scene) endorsed or trivialized spousal abuse is to misread the scene.''

Bianco also urged that ''before we decide the story doesn't work, let's see where the talented people in charge at 'Rescue Me' plan to take it.''

Well, we saw some more tonight. And, as I said, I didn't like it.

In the key scene tonight, Janet showed up at Tommy's place and had a brief, aggressive sexual encounter with him. She may or may not have been doing it because of a public exhibition Tommy put on with his brother's ex (as part of a scheme to make Janet and his brother jealous). That quadrangle will interact more next week, according to the previews, and there's a fifth player -- Tommy's sometimer Sheila -- who could become pivotal.

But this doesn't really get us past the earlier scene. Nor does it justify Tommy's earlier actions. It indicates that Tommy is caught up in a tempest of sex and near sex, sure. Only the previous scene wasn't about sex. It was about Tommy's uncontainable violence and rage, which were unleashed against Janet -- an extension of the beating Tommy gave his brother.

''Rescue Me'' has not dealt with that side of what happened -- unless it is, indeed, trying to to trivialize or diminish it. Janet's reaction sure seems minimal.

There were other scenes tonight that I enjoyed to some degree, but when I was trying to get back into my old ''Rescue Me'' groove, I kept thinking about that rape scene and what they were going to do about it. So far they haven't done much. And the show won't work for me until they do something more serious about it.

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