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Shameless S04E01: "Simple Pleasures"

It's winter again in Chicago, and the Gallaghers are movin' on up—or, well, they're going to try. Shameless's Season 4 premiere brought us back to a comfortable place, with only a few months having passed since last season's finale. That's plenty of time, however, to put some older characters behind us. Long gone are Fiona's car-jacking, Brazilian-gangster-fleeing boyfriend Jimmy/Steve and Lip's former flame Karen and their baby, and Karen's husband Jody is surely safe to wipe from your memory. After all, you'll need room for this season's new circumstances, with Gallaghers scattered far and wide, a clean slate for a family that always needs one. Let's dig in.

Fiona's first few months at Worldwide Cup have gone swimmingly, with more than enough money coming in to afford the fancy orange juice, with pulp. While the family's finances are looking up, Fiona's personal life post-Jimmy/Steve (yes, he really is dead) took only a few tentative steps forward in "Simple Pleasures." Boss Mike is surely the most respectable guy she's been with, but it's a scary new middle-class world that she's trying to adjust to, and she's baffled by the lack of sex. This is a new look for Fiona, and Emmy Rossum is certainly up the challenge. She's played hard-edged and street-tough so convincingly for the past three seasons that cleaning up her act to be more like, well, real-life Emmy Rossum, is unexpectedly impressive.

In other news, Lip finally made it to college! High-fives all around, we did it guys. It's not MIT, as last season presumed, but the University of Chicago is probably good enough for our boy (and easier to film). Lip has always been on the verge of following his father's drunken path, but last season brought him close enough to Frank to inspire him to try harder. As a result, it was refreshing to see him get a D on a term paper and work long hours in the cafeteria. He struggled to clean up trash and juggle vegan food orders from ungrateful, spoiled college kids, but that may be the type of character-building he really needs. Okay, okay, I realize that's not going to work. We all know that lonely, frustrated Lip isn't going to last long without a breakdown, and college life should provide plenty of fodder to put him over the edge. We've met his roommate's awful girlfriend, we know there's a horrible boss somewhere in that cafeteria kitchen, and those know-it-all TAs seem to be everywhere. One of them might be headed for the wrong side of a Lip outburst, and it's not going to be pretty.

Somehow still missing those blowups, Mandy Milkovich can't stop looking at pictures of Lip in between sex transactions, but her brother is in worse shape. While Ian left town in the Season 3 finale with Lip's ID, planning to join the Army, we got no word of whether that half-baked scheme actually worked. Instead we saw the sad aftermath—Mickey Milkovich, pimping out his new wife for cash and punching bathroom mirrors in frustration. After last season's finale, I guessed that Ian would be back after two episodes, but we'll see how much the Milkovich family will suffer in the interim. 

While Fiona's had less to worry about at home with Lip or Ian, Debbie and Carl have also continued living without much adult supervision, and it's going to be a gigantic problem. While the episode opened with Debbie fighting Fiona for bathroom space, we didn't quite realize just what that meant. Debbie's fellow 13-year-old friends have apparently already made a number of terrifying decisions, including posting their virginity for sale online and trolling the mall for older boys. And while you may have cheered a bit inside when Debbie managed to snag a lad of her own, here's wondering if your jaw dropped like mine did when you realized he was old enough to drive.

Shameless's new best buds, Frank and Carl, are going through some changes together. For Carl, it's puberty. For Frank, it's liver failure. While Frank offered some advice on masturbation, Carl offered assistance finding drugs and alcohol. If it weren't so screwed up, it would be the sweetest storyline we've got going. With the majority of his kin long past willing to care for him, Carl is very much Frank's last hope. While Frank showed his first moments of selflessness last season, his truly failing health is bringing him careening back to his old self. William H. Macy's appearance was legitimately shocking as a result of probably the best drugged out makeup work we've seen since Bubbles from The Wire.

Our secondary characters are mostly as we left them. Sheila hasn't started that home business yet, but she seems content cleaning the Gallagher house for fun—though my heart did break a bit as she sat down to dinner by herself. Kev and Veronica started the episode expecting a baby from Veronica's mother (yep, still gross) and ended the episode realizing Veronica was finally pregnant herself. At this point, they're probably my favorite characters, having long moved past quirky comic relief to be our only reliably sweet couple. At the very least, let's hope this season will bring them their own troublemaking child.

All told, we know the Gallaghers are still the same dysfunctional bunch. While Fiona's white collar job or Lip's collegiate status may make it seem like some of the family members have finally found their calling, Shameless is can be counted on to make sure they struggle. I'm not trying to be negative—few shows love their characters as much as Shameless loves the Gallaghers—but I hope you're ready for another bumpy ride. 


– Kev: "Maybe they don't f*ck right away in the middle class." Fiona: "It's definitely weird. He doesn't, like, force himself onto me where I've gotta decide if I'm gonna taser him or go along, like I do with the guys around here."

– Debbie's decision to price her virginity online with a minimum bid of $1 million was fantastic, made better by her citing the economics of scarcity to her clueless friends.

– Fiona made it quite clear to Carl that Frank was his responsibility—a puppy to clean up after. With a bucket for waste and alcohol ingestion happening… creatively, this season of Frank may be the most disgusting yet.

– Carl had some great lines in this episode, but I especially loved his questioning of Fiona's boss Mike, as he obviously misses having Jimmy/Steve around the house to hang out with: "Ever steal a car? Ever burn your blood-soaked clothes in the yard?"

– Carl's evil smile after he returned home from Costco with a giant tub of vaseline was priceless.

– Did you miss Jimmy/Steve for even a moment while watching this episode, or are you ready to embrace Mike?

– Debbie's boyfriend: a bad thing or a really bad thing?

– Which relationship do you miss more? Lip and Mandy or Ian and Mickey? Which couple do you think is more likely to reunited?

What did you think of "Simple Pleasures"? 

Comments (24)
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I think the issue of Ian using Lip's ID is what is going to blow up and subsequently affect Ian, Fiona (still Ian's legal guardian) and likely Lip's scholarship. Has Frank already fully withdrawn from the booze when he tells Carl why he needs the supplies? One can die from alcohol withdrawal by having seizures but presumably it had been a while since his last drink? Just goes to show what a brilliant actor William H. Macy is as he had me convinced Caro should run out and help the poor puppy. ;)
I really hope this Debbie storyline doesn't go too far as it is one of the few untainted storyline of the show. Oh and I do not think Jimmy/Steve is dead because I see little point in Carl comparing Mike to Jimmy (as well as the many other references to him. I mean how many times did they bring up Jody, Karen and their baby?
One thing is for sure, I can't wait to watch the rest of the season!
Jimmy/Steve isnt dead.
Lip is finally at a place where he isn't the smartest guy in the room and that is different and awesome. Fiona seems to be doing well, which only lasts a few moments on this show so the f'up is going to be fun to watch. It was nice having dopey Tony be the one to find Frank. Mickey sitting at the bar trying to figure out how his pregnant wife could make more money providing services to male customers was just another one of those awesome Alibi Room scenes. He was trying to look all professional wearing a sweater. Great scene. That scene with Debbie - that boy is going to turn out to be a lot older and none of what seemed adorable is going to seem as such. Damn writers. Mandy was so happy Lip was 'doing well' and couldn't show anyone. That girl is so tragic. Emma Greenwell and Noel Fischer are both fantastic as the Milkovic's. Poor Sheila taking care of Frank once again. Carl rules the day with the 'F Jay Cutler' tee shirt offered to Fiona which he made the awesome decision to wear himself. And the fatherly advice passed down as Carl assists his dad in preparing an enema bag filled with boxed wine. V got pregnant - thanks again writers! Oh wait a second this episode was another great opener penned by the man himself, John Wells. This was a great place to start a season without Jimmy - Carl misses him so much. Who's going to show up first Estefania, Beto,or the man himself? Fiona's still working with Bill Brochtrup from NYPD Blue - that is still awesome. Just waiting for the sh!t to really start flying. Great opener.
I enjoyed the S4 premiere, little bit of a change of pace from what he had before. Not sure I miss Jimmy/Steve but I KNOW I don't miss Karen or Jody. Did they leave together or what, I forgot how Jody's thread ended, I know Karen recovered from getting run over but I think they should have let her die so as to add more to the Mandy-Lip fire.
I liked Lip's arc, pretty obvious at some point he'll get tired of the dicks over there at Chicago U. and lash out.
It was really great that TV.com is doing a Shameless review so I want to show my support here !

I am glad Fiona's moving up but we all know it will not last long as next week's promo also suggested. I too bet Lip will not be in college for long as he does not fit in though I really hope Lip will succeed in life. He really should not waste his IQ. What's up with him doing dishes? I mean I am sure he can come out with smarter ways to earn money.

What I miss most is actually Mandy relationship with Lip. She really do loves him ! Nothing on this show surprised me as this is Shameless after all so I am totally not surprised with Debbie new BF. Debbie is entering her rebellious teenage years so she will be a handful for Fiona.

Frank continues to descend further just when I thought he could not get any lower.

I'm really bummed jimmy/Steve is gone. He was my second favorite character. Deb's arc is going to be really bad. Not bad, but really bad. I don't know what to make of the Frank/Carl story. I'm hoping there will be more dimension to Frank's character this season. More selflessness would be a change of pace, but I am not asking for very much of it. I like Fiona, but I don't find her arc all that interesting yet. We'll see. Kev and Veronica are great as always. I really like the Lip arc. I can't wait to see where that goes.
I didn't think I would miss Jimmy, until they showed him immediately in the recap, and I suddenly remembered all the great scenes and lines he had. Oh nostalgia is a cruel mistress.....
I missed Jimmy?Steve. Though no one ever came up with a better nickname than that, so that I don't miss. Him not making an appearance doesn't mean he's dead, he is no longer a regular cast member, so there is no need to remind everyone he is still alive until and unless the writers decide to bring him back. And a reminder, the UK jimmy left for years. Still, I enjoyed Fiona without him the last time, so I am sure she will be up to no good again. She doesn't just like the "bad boys", she really only liked the one particular bad boy, that is one of the reasons she isn't looking forward to more sex with another guy, even makes it sound like a chore.

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