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Once again, Shameless proves why it’s in a class all by itself. No other show on television marries moments of such hysterical absurdity with ones of such poignant truth, all the while delivering them by way of a singularly talented cast.

As always, leading the charge is Emmy Rossum as Fiona. When first we meet her in the episode she’s suffering from a serious case of empty nest syndrome. The fact that she’s still in her young twenties and her siblings aren’t even considering college makes things all the more tragic. Instead, the Gallagher children have all been shipped off to various foster homes as a result of douchebag Frank’s call to the Department of Family Services. Unlike last week however, Fiona’s got a rock solid plan to get them back this time.

After hearing confirmation of Frank’s betrayal, she forges ahead with her attempt to get sole custody of her siblings. Fiona retains her own lawyer through Jimmy’s brother, a seriously yuppie Esquire who’s reluctant at first but concedes when the case meets the requirement for his forced yearly pro bono service. Clearly a few steps above the usual public defenders that she deals with, he’s able to detail for Fiona exactly what her case needs, including a W2 for proof of work, a will from dearly departed Aunt Ginger, leaving the house to the oldest Gallagher child, and above all, signatures that attest to both Frank and Monica’s wish to terminate their parental rights.

As crazy as it sounds, these tasks are easy at first. Despite her firing from the grocery store last week, Lip is able to secure Fiona current W2’s by forging her name onto Kev’s. Fortunately, the Alibi’s star bartender has been employing precocious Lip as his accountant for years and doesn’t even know what the tax form is; otherwise he might be worried about colluding to tax fraud. Next, Fiona is able to forge an MIA Monica’s signature with aplomb after years of practice. All that’s left is Frank’s signature, and an explanation as to why Ginger’s been dead for so long and no will ever turned up.

Naturally, the Ginger predicament is easier to deal with for the kids than anything involving their dad. In true Shameless style, Fiona hatches a plan to come up with a substitute Aunt Ginger, aka a body. V is still working at the Old Folk’s Home where fresh candidates are always knocking at heaven’s door. Like a real best friend, she put’s aside her own baby drama and uses her connections at the morgue to procure a newly departed grandma. This beloved geriatric, unbeknownst to the family awaiting her cremation, will be playing the part of Ginger’s newly discovered corpse, resting in deep repose in her bed at the Gallagher home.

This way, the kids can “alert” the paramedics after they “return from a road trip” and find their dear aunt sleeping among the angels. Of course, this happens concurrently with the “discovery” of Aunt Ginger’s will, which, as created by Lip, is conveniently team- Gallagher Kids. There is the small issue however, of Ginger’s medically documented missing toe not matching up with the adequately appendaged cadaver, but after a few squeamish attempts, Fiona is able to handle the situation with the ease of a Reservoir Dog.

That’s because once again, the poor girl is forced to the realization that only she can protect her family. Just in the few weeks since they’ve been out of her care, poor Carl’s had to struggle through math tutor’s, parental cable locks and mango pomegranate baths, all while making sure the disposable-income flush gays fostering them don’t adopt him and his younger brother, Liam.

Though Carl’s Goop-worthy new life pales in comparison to the struggle poor Debbie’s been dealt at the hands of Mamma Kamala and her sweatshop. Portraying herself for DFS as a Big Mamma with a soft spot for helpless children, Debbie’s captor actually runs her home with an iron fist. Aside from the daily chores and childcare, she forces the older kids to slave away in the basement making jewelry that she then duplicity sells as “made in Africa’ as if the money benefits some empowering non-profit.

To clarify, she doesn’t actually force the kids into servitude, but rather denies them meals until they have met a mandated quota. Only when they have braved the basement mold and rat droppings long enough to produce adequately do they get their White Castle. Poor Lamonda, Debbie’s new friend on the inside, between her bad asthma and the seriously trans-fatty meals Mamma feeds them, this girl is what Doctor Oz would call a crisis patient.

Mamma might not care about her kid’s BMI, but when it comes to potential treachery, she see’s it all. Fortunately Lamonda keeps sleep-inducing Benadryl on hand to combat her allergies and after a failed attempt to escape, Debbie swipes some of the drug to sprinkle liberally into Kamala’s beverage.  A knocked out Mamma is then dealt swift retribution from an increasingly tough Deb who super glues the bitch’s lids shut so that this evil Sauron no longer has the use of those all-seeing eyes.

And Deb escapes not a minute too soon because just as she gets back, it’s time to help Fiona. Resourceful Lip’s on board from the start, hardly preoccupied by the upcoming SAT’s he vows only to take if someone pays him. Ian, on the other hand is still reeling from last week’s Boys Don’t Cry style hate-crime involving the Milkovichs’. He learns from Mandy that a laying-low Mickey was subsequently pistol-whipped by his asshole dad and Ian can’t help but feel responsible for the incident. In an attempt to make amends, he locates his disturbed paramour where else, but alone on a rooftop having target practice, but is given nothing more than a chilly cold shoulder.

The screwed-up Milkovich drama has to wait though, because it’s time for the Gallagher’s to take on Frank once and for all. This means, in court, backing Fiona’s request for full custody. Naturally Frank won’t sign the papers because there is still money to be made off these kids through government assistance and other schemes of fraud. Even going so far as to play by the rules of the system (or at least muster the effort to cheat them), he is ready to present a cleaned up version of himself in court, acting as his own lawyer, to get his kids back.

His particularly galling “impassioned speech” to the judge had me worried at first that things might not go Fiona’s way, especially when Carl and Debbie are asked to speak honestly of their admitted love for their deadbeat dad. Those fears are quickly silenced though when Fiona gives a heartfelt testament of the years of neglect that her and her siblings have suffered at the hands of their deadbeat parents, particularly Frank. If there are still people out there not deeply angered by the criminal neglect Emmy Rossum has been shown from Emmy Voters, please watch this episode! This girl is the real deal!!!!!

Her speech clearly moves the judge, who requests a meeting in his chambers where he details the sentiments of many of us toward Fiona. These include the utmost admiration, but also fear that by accepting full guardianship of her siblings, she is making the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of these kids. It seems that the unwitting martyr is even worried herself, after all, Liam is only 2, but there is no chance that she would ever make another choice, and is thus given full guardianship of her siblings

Despite her trepidation, Fiona is of course thrilled. In fact, everyone is, even Frank. Unable to prove abuse, the court does not strip him of his rights as parent. Basically things will go on as they have been, Fiona will have all the responsibilities, but the kids will be Frank’s by name; only now, they can’t be taken away. The family celebrates accordingly, and Frank hightails it alone to The Alibi.

Ironically, though not surprising, Jimmy is the one left wanting in this situation. He clearly loves the kids but is upset that Fiona didn’t involve him in such a major decision, as it clearly will affect his life too. I love you Justin Chatwin, but Beto’s right, you don’t deserve Fiona and your character has run its course. And even though Estefania has great taste in men, she is annoying as hell!

Meanwhile, The Gallagher’s weren’t the only ones having some major family moments.  Over at the Jackson home, shit’s going down. Jody has slid back into sexual addiction and seems destined for a Michael Hutchins-style disaster when a despondent Sheila decides it’s time for action. Reminding Frank that she puts a roof over his head, she forces the drunk to help her stage a hilariously weird intervention at her home for the troubled nympho. That’s because little Hyrum/Jaime’s paternal grandmother comes a calling ready to introduce her long lost grandson to his Chinese heritage and perhaps cure his Down Syndrome with a little Eastern herbal Medicine.

In the state her home is in, what with Karen gone, and Jody preoccupied by attempts to string harnesses and plan gang-bangs, Sheila doesn’t feel it’s the right place for an infant and she agrees to give up the child. Fortunately her guilt over the whole situation is eased by Jody’s decision to seek help, and by that I mean, handcuff himself to the bed until the urges leave him. Everything seems to be on the mend until…. The prodigal daughter returns!

Yes folks, Karen is back, and not a moment too soon. Looking quite happy to be home, if a little worse for wear, she has a tearful reunion with her mom in the kitchen, and once again, the prodigious talents of the cast (in this case, Joan Cusack and Laura Wiggins) ground a lofty almost farcical premise. I forgot why I missed Karen so much, and it’s because Wiggins imbues her with such little girl lost desperation that you can’t help but root for her.

Best episode of the season so far! Though what will happen with cousin Patrick?