On Monday's powerful episode, titled "The Taking of Dispatch 9-1-1," 9-1-1 operator Maddie (Jennifer Love Hewitt) and her friends at the call center were at the center of a terrifying hostage crisis, led by Josh's assailant from a previous incident. The hijacking of the call center, it turns out, was so the terrorist organization could infiltrate and control where and when the first responders reported to -- all to protect a high-level million-dollar heist (think Ocean's Eleven) at a Los Angeles museum.
But as the hostage standoff got worse over time, Maddie -- who warned her boyfriend, Chimney (Kenneth Choi), by saying the three words she told him she couldn't say, "I love you," as a clue that something was awry -- questioned whether she could make it out of the dire situation alive. After all, this wasn't the first time she's been held hostage, unfortunately. Thankfully, a plan was enacted and while the 118 raced against the clock to save Maddie and her friends, they successfully overtook the crooks as well. Even so, Maddie's traumatic experience just may change her for good.
Following the episode, ET broke down the biggest emotional beats from Monday's hour, how this experience changes Maddie's outlook, if this accelerates her to return the "I love you" favor to Chimney and more.
ET: This episode was quite an emotional roller-coaster ride. Was this emotionally draining for you?
Jennifer Love Hewitt: It was. Every experience with Maddie is an emotionally draining one because that's who she is. This girl has been through a lot. When we were filming [the episode] and the director and I and the producers were talking, I would go back and say, "Oh my gosh, she's a hostage again." And they'd be like, "What do you mean?" and I'm like, "Within a year's time, it's the second time that this girl has been held hostage." It had to be an intense feeling for her because this is a girl who finds herself in these situations and she's such a light. She's such a good person. I just hate that she finds herself in these positions, but what was unique for her this time was that she learned so much from the Doug situation and that "fight or flight," fighting for your life situation. In this go around, it was different because she ultimately knew that there was a way out. Even though she was scared and falling apart, there was a kind of strength to her this time than what we saw before. So I was happy to see the growth in that way. But it did make me sad for her, like, oh my God, this poor girl.
I loved that Maddie used "I love you," which she had mentioned the night before was very hard for her to say, as a red flag to Chimney, warning him that something wasn't quite right.
After [Chimney] says "I love you" for the first time, it was really crazy and I just felt so... I know Kenny [Choi] and I, when we got to have that moment where they meet up again towards the end of the episode, this is really for both of us. We both were genuinely crying because we just feel so much about what those two people would feel like coming back together again for a second time. Because for Maddie, it was the second time, but it's the second time for him almost losing her again and it's a really big moment for them. I'm happy that they got to have that.
How does this strengthen their relationship moving forward?
It strengthens them a lot moving forward. I think that what they're learning is that what they're doing every day in being first responders and what I think is important about this episode is sometimes we assume that these people are safe and it mirrors so much what's going on right now in our real world. These first responders are out there taking care of these people right now in our world and taking care of all of us, but they're in danger. They're in extreme danger. This episode reminds the audience again that what Chimney and Maddie do for a living isn't a normal thing where you kiss your spouse in the morning, cheers coffee cups, meet up later and [vent about having] a rough day with your boss. What they're doing in a day's time is extraordinary. So, that does strengthen love, I think. That would bring two people closer together.
I do think after this experience they will be closer together because they will have almost lost each other twice.That's going to be big for them. Their relationship will definitely go to a deeper level after this. I hope that part of that will be Maddie learning to and finding the ability to say "love you too" without it being in an "I'm about to die, come and get me" moment -- even though I thought it was extraordinarily cool that that's how they chose to do it.
It is a completely different episode than what the typical 9-1-1 hour is. It was cool seeing Athena, Buck and Chimney trying to figure out what was actually going on. And then you see it all come together in when they're rehashing the heist -- very Ocean's Eleven.
I think that that's what they were going for. I also love that because people love seeing the connection between everyone at the 118 and how they really have each other's backs, not only as human beings for the first responders. One thing for us in the call center that meant a lot is that we feel like we're those people too. We joke about it off-camera, "Hey, we're best friends too, you know?" It was really nice for us to be able to have an episode to show that the call center is a family also. They do have those connections like the 118 does and it's nice for the audience to now know that these two pockets of these sections of this show that make it happen, those are real relationships and they are special.
Was there a scene that you circled that you were like, "I don't know how I'm going to get through this"?
Honestly, all of them. It was the episode as a whole because I didn't know how we were going to pull it off. There was so much. There was just so many little pieces and little things. I think the one scene for all of us that was a little tricky was the big "saving ourselves" scene. It had to be choreographed in a certain way and it all had to work and we had to not look like action stars. We had to look like real people in that situation who would figure it out. I remember that being a scene where it was a moment on set where everybody was kind of like, "OK, how do we do this?" And then for us, it was getting through the emotion of where are all the pockets of motion, like where does the adrenaline kick in to save yourself and work as a group? Where is that complete sobbing letdown of, "Oh my gosh, I'm in the darkness, there are lights on me. Who do we trust?" That kind of stuff. I remember that being a big thing on set and hopefully we pulled that off.
In terms of where Maddie goes from here, what can you say about what's next for her following this experience?
Maddie has had a complicated life. She came into the show complicated and it got extraordinarily complicated and scary, then things lightened up a little bit. Maddie is a person who's realizing that in the darkness there's light and whether there's light, there will be darkness and you have to fight to stay here. All the in between moments you have to really grab a hold of as tightly as you can and be grateful and be good and be kind and be there for others. Without saying anything else, that's where she's gonna be. She comes out of this episode very grateful to still be here, to have survived again and she'll be with a group of people that she knows has her back.
Maddie came here with just her brother [Buck] being her family and that relationship being a little bit strained because she was in an abusive relationship and couldn't talk to her brother for three years. The beautiful thing, even though we may not talk about it on the show, but hopefully you will see in her, is that now you're seeing Chimney is her family and her brother is her family and these people that she works with are her family and the people in the 118 -- Athena and Bobby and all of the crew -- are becoming her family. It's beautiful to play her because I really see her getting her tribe together and that's what you'll see the rest of this season. After this episode, it really feels like Maddie has a family and that's a beautiful thing for somebody who came in starting out without much.
Has that translated to your real life?
It's a universal lesson and where we are now. I know it's how I'm feeling a lot during the day. I know my little unit that's here and when I go to bed every night, I really can picture my tribe. And it's important. It's funny as you get older, the tribe isn't always necessarily who you started out with or who you end up with. I think that's what Maddie's finding on the show -- and it's beautiful. And, by the way, the people she talks to on the phone and the 9-1-1 calls are also her tribe.
With everyone staying connected through video conferencing platforms like Zoom and FaceTime, do you know if a Zoom episode could be in the cards for season four?
Oh my god, I don't know! Funny, somebody was asking me the other day, "Do you think they're going to do a COVID-19 storyline on 9-1-1?" And I was like, "Well, it would be a really easy way to do it, if for some reason we couldn't come back." You could put each actor on a set by themselves with like a very limited crew wearing masks and shoot the show to show where we are now in isolation. The writers have so many ideas and they're so creative and they probably will pull from other things and I'm sure nobody's going to want to watch [an episode of this] once we can get past it because it's been very traumatizing.
But I don't know what they're going to do. I'm not sure when we'll be allowed to go back. Sets are a hard place for social distancing, so I'm not really sure what that will be like. But I can't wait to go back to work. I definitely feel like the emotional roller-coaster I've gone on since all of this started I will definitely pull from for the next season 9-1-1 for sure. It has given me a lot in my little acting toolbox to pull from and I can't wait to be on set with everybody again. I can't wait to hug them all.
Have you kept in touch with your castmates during this time?
I've talked to Bryan Safi. Debra Christofferson and I are on HouseParty and Zoom all the time together, checking in on her and making sure she's good. Kenny and I have been going back and forth. Oliver [Stark] and I [as well]. We're staying connected and we just can't wait to get back. For now we have really great episodes for people to watch. I think they're going to be happy until we can get back to work.