[Warning: The following contains spoilers from Monday's episode of 9-1-1: Lone Star. Read at your own risk!]
When 9-1-1 returned from its winter hiatus on Monday night, leading lady Angela Bassett did double duty as Sergeant Athena Grant-Nash, apprehending a bombing suspect in the spring premiere of the hit FOX procedural drama and making a special appearance in its spinoff, 9-1-1: Lone Star, when a criminal case involving a prank call crosses state lines.
Monday's episode—which marked the second time that characters of the original have appeared on Lone Star—began with a fake 9-1-1 call to Grace (Sierra McClain), who believed she was helping a woman who, along with her baby, was hiding from her abusive boyfriend, Mark. But when the local police unit and a S.W.A.T. team arrived on the scene, the first responders discovered there was no sign of a woman or a baby. While circling the house, Carlos (Rafael Silva) came face-to-face with Mark, who was armed with a knife. After his repeated orders to drop the knife were ignored, Carlos used a taser to incapacitate Mark, only to realize that Mark had literally fallen on his own sword and eventually bled to death.
After they were both placed on temporary leave, Grace and Carlos, driven by their fury over being "played for some fools," teamed up to catch the person responsible for not only killing Mark but for also making them doubt their own abilities. They were eventually able to track down the suspect—an obnoxious gamer named Derrick Humphrey, who lives in Los Angeles. It's at that moment that Athena busts into a small apartment and apprehends Derrick and his girlfriend/accomplice, much to the delight of Grace and Carlos.
"You guys did all the hard work," Athena told Grace and Carlos on a video call shortly after the arrest, "I just showed up for the fun, Detective." And while Carlos is quick to say that he's merely a patrol officer and not a detective, Athena admitted he could have fooled her. "There is no such thing as just a patrol officer, son. Folks in Austin are lucky to have the both of y'all looking out for them," she said. (Also, Grace using Derrick's signature catchphrase "God's plan" when she finally got a chance to tell him off was the mic drop everyone needed.)
TV Guide spoke briefly with showrunner Tim Minear about how the mini-crossover came to be, the personal and professional challenges that lie ahead for Carlos in particular, and how he is hoping to "service all of the characters" after a strong first half of the season.
How did the idea for this mini-crossover first come about, and why did you want to pair Athena up with Grace and Carlos?
Tim Minear: Actually, it was an idea that I've been noodling with since last season, just in [terms of] thinking of interesting ways that the two universes could intersect, and I always intended to do one of these swatting cases where somebody calls the police, and SWAT or the police arrive with a fake 9-1-1 call. That always seemed like an interesting story. And part of that phenomenon, when it's actually happened, and it's happened in this country on more than one occasion, people have actually died in some of these swatting calls, these prank swatting calls, which are very nefarious type pranks. I think they've all been across state lines, so it would be somebody calling from one state sending SWAT to somebody's house in a different state, so it just seemed like a natural way to kind of hand the ball off to the [original] 9-1-1 for a scene too, which is exactly what we did. And considering Carlos is also a patrol officer, it just felt like just even having a moment between Carlos and Athena Grant would be fun for the fans, and then I also wanted to see Carlos team up with Grace, because I thought that was an interesting pair.
Carlos and Grace have the friendship I didn't know I needed because they seem to share a lot in common. They don't suffer fools, and they definitely take their jobs very seriously. Why do you think they both take this prank call personally and become hell-bent on finding the person responsible?
Minear: Well, it's interesting you say they have a lot in common [because] they do. I think the thing that they have in common the most is that they're very open-hearted people, and they take doing the right thing very seriously. And when somebody who is that open-hearted and guileless is used as a weapon, I think they would take that particularly seriously because you're actually praying on the best angels of somebody in order to do something bad, so I think they would take that very seriously. I think Carlos and Grace are probably two of the most open-hearted characters in the franchise.
I find it really interesting that Carlos, in past episodes, has been quick to blame himself when things go wrong. There was a fire last season that almost killed him and T.K, and then him buying the tickets for the ill-fated plane ride that T.K. (Ronen Rubinstein) and Owen had earlier this season. Why do you think he is so quick to blame himself? How might that be tied to his upbringing or who he is as a person?
Minear: Well, I think it probably does come from something in his past. Obviously, every situation informs who we are, but forgetting about some kind of origin moment that would explain it, I think Carlos is a very kind of button-down, kind of anally retentive character. I think he does take things very personally—probably that has a lot to do with him wanting to have his father's approval, I think that that's got a lot to do with it. But he is definitely a guy who takes a lot on his shoulders and maybe even to an unhealthy degree. I think there's part of him that gets off a little bit on bearing a cross, maybe just a little bit.
You've pretty much planted the seeds throughout the season, but now that even Athena thinks Carlos could make a great detective, will we see Carlos take that next step in his career and become a detective?
Minear: Yeah, I'm not actually in a rush to do that. Maybe he, at some point, decides he wants to be a Texas Ranger. I think that it's a natural progression to promote, to expand, to grow. But just on a practical level, we're not really a detective show, and as soon as I take him out of the uniform and make him a detective, there's sort of less opportunities for him to have stories in the world. I have all kinds of reasons that I explained it with Athena, that she is a woman of a certain age, with a certain reputation. [She] could be a lieutenant; she could be a captain. There are a lot of things she could be, but just for the sake of the show, you kind of want her out there on the streets doing her thing. So I think there are stories and trajectories for [Carlos] professionally, but I'm not in a giant rush to take them out of the uniform, because the uniforms on the show are the iconography of the show. Now, a Texas Ranger is a slightly different matter, right? Because there's sort of a combination of cop and detective, and they do have a uniform, even though it's the Stetson hats and the bolo ties or whatever, so that might be an interesting path for him to take. I haven't decided, which means he hasn't decided yet.
Meanwhile, Owen (Rob Lowe) and his girlfriend Catherine (Amy Acker) grew closer in this episode after Catherine, the governor's chief of staff, was exposed to a package that could have contained a biohazard. I know it's obviously been cool for you to write for Amy Acker again after working with her on Angel. But in terms of the current storyline, how will the bloody ending of this episode affect Owen going forward?
Minear: Well, obviously, it's the end of what we sneakily laid out as a part one. What it means for Owen just in terms of practically for the next episode is we'll continue that story [involving a dangerous stalker that is targeting him]. And working with Amy has been fantastic. She's so good, and she's so sweet, and she's so wonderful, and Rob loves her. And she's in more episodes than just the next one, and their chemistry together is really great. She's really been an additive element to the show in the second half of the season, and because we're in Austin, we actually finally visit the capital of Texas. It just felt like an organic, interesting element to add to the show. There's a lot of Austin we haven't really explored yet, and that was just a part of it.
Speaking of things that you haven't really explored yet, I know you're still a few episodes away from shooting the finale, but what can you preview for the last third of the season?
Minear: We're gonna do our best to service all of the characters. You're going to see Tommy (Gina Torres) returning to the world of dating, or at least trying to, in pretty short order. And after the fallout of part two, you'll see the fallout for T.K. and Carlos, for an adventure they're about to go through. We haven't forgotten that T.K. is still grieving, that he's still a recovering addict. Paul (Brian Michael Smith) is on the mend; Marjan (Natacha Karam) is gonna discover that she has a very personal stake in the next episode. We're gonna bring back Dave (Dominic Burgess) for an episode at least, and we're just trying to claw our way to the finish line.
[In an email, a rep for 9-1-1: Lone Star said the plan is to also bring back Wyatt for another bigger Judd-centric (Jim Parrack) story before the end of the season, and Nancy (Brianna Baker) will be involved with a Do Not Resuscitate case in episode 312, airing next Monday.]
With the original 9-1-1, you pretty much finished the origin episodes for all of the main characters by the end of the third season. You obviously had the de facto Grace-Judd relationship origin episode, but do you have any plans to give the characters on Lone Star their own "Begins" episodes?
Minear: Oh, for sure we will. I would say that what I haven't really done on Lone Star are episodes that are called "Begins," because the "Begins" episodes are very specific, right? The "Begins" episodes, at least in theory, are a little bit about why that character became a first responder, so it's how they begin finding their calling. Whereas on Lone Star, I've done backstory episodes like the Judd and Grace story, which didn't really explain how he became a firefighter [but] it did explain a little bit how she became a 9-1-1 operator, but that was sort of the backstory of their love story. And then I would say this year, we did "In the Unlikely Event of an Emergency," which was a way for me to have T.K. say goodbye to his mom. But it was excavating more of who T.K. was and really how serious his addiction problem was, and seeing a side of him maybe that we hadn't really drilled down into before. And we'll be doing that with some other characters this season as well, and I imagine that everyone's gonna get episodes like that going forward. You don't want to do them too often, but I think they're super valuable if done correctly.
You've briefly touched on T.K.'s grief and the problems that are ahead for him and Carlos, but what can you preview about Episode 13 (airing April 11)? It seems like Carlos is going to see a side of T.K. that is going to completely throw him off, and they still have yet to discuss their initial break-up.
Minear: It's interesting because it's about T.K.'s recovery on some level, but it's more about Carlos' point of view and how living with an addict when you're not an addict means that you're always at a little bit of a distance. And that the addict has to do what the addict has to do in order to [get back to their partner]. I think there's a line in the episode where T.K. says to Carlos, "Sometimes, I might be late getting home because I'm trying to recover, but the only reason I'm late coming home is so that I can come home. It's to make sure that I'm doing the things that I need to do in order to get back to you." And that's sort of the theme of that episode.
9-1-1: Lone Star airs Mondays at 9/8c on FOX. Episodes are available to stream the next day on FOX Now or Hulu.