Post Mortems

9-1-1's Oliver Stark Breaks Down Buck's 'Mind-Blowing' Rescue Mission, Shares 'Emotional' Stories From the Tsunami

911 Recap Tsunami

Warning: The following interview spoils the events of Monday’s 9-1-1. If you haven’t watched, head to higher ground. (And by that, we mean Hulu.)

Buck and Christopher’s dream day at the pier turned into a citywide nightmare on Monday’s 9-1-1, which finally made good on its months-long promise of an epic, devastating tsunami disaster episode. It was a true showcase hour for Oliver Stark as Buck leapt into hero mode to rescue countless victims in need — all while protecting Christopher’s physical and emotional wellbeing, constantly distracting him from the horrors of the day. (So. Many. Floating. Corpses.)

Elsewhere, Athena and May were involved in what appeared to be a 7 million-car pileup. But with most of the city’s resources being dispatched towards the pier, Athena was forced to turn the victims — those who could walk, of course — into a team of amateur first responders. It was a life-changing mission for May, who was tasked with maintaining pressure on a woman’s neck wound and attempting to keep her conscious. Proving that she’s every bit her mother’s daughter, May pushed through her own fears and insecurities to protect her new charge, experiencing every conceivable emotion in the process. (Kudos to Corinne Massiah for a beautiful, devastating performance!)

Meanwhile, a frantic Maddie nearly fell to pieces after failing to save a caller from drowning in his flooded attic, but as 9-1-1 was being bombarded with calls, she had no time to recover before accepting another challenge. She was eventually put in charge of her fellow dispatchers, making difficult decisions about which calls to prioritize, and even worked with Chimney to open a pop-up triage unit for the city’s countless tsunami victims.

And we haven’t even discussed Bobby’s team, which spent most of the episode trying to rescue a family (including Mr. Matthews from Boy Meets World!) from the literal wreckage of a wedding gone wrong. Of course, that’ll be a cakewalk compared to their next mission — saving the people still stuck on the Ferris wheel, totally unaware that the wave is headed back out to sea. (For those of you wondering, the firefighter that looked Ronda Rousey was, in fact, Ronda Rousey.)

Below, Stark tells TVLine about working alongside Gavin McHugh (Christopher) and reflects on how this multi-part monster of an episode came together:

TVLINE | Honestly, I could watch a whole movie just about Buck and Christopher surviving this thing. You and Gavin work so well together.
Thank you for saying that. There’s something that happens when you film with him. You can rehearse as much as you want at home, but once you get there, it becomes a whole other beast. There’s something about him. He just draws the emotion out of you. He’s so aware of the scene we’re doing, he totally gets what we’re making and it’s just really lovely to work with him. Every scene takes on a different shape once I actually get to read it with him. Filming this was my pleasure.

TVLINE | You’re used to doing stunts, but this was a new thing for Gavin. How did he take to the challenge?
He’s such a trooper. I was quite nervous getting into the water with him, because I really was swimming while carrying him through the water. Even though he had a stunt double, it was so much better when I got to do it with him. I didn’t mind if I dunked the double in the water a couple of times, but as soon as it was Gavin, I was like, “I cannot let this child go underwater.” So it was a lot harder, more stressful. But I think it led to a better product because it was real. I really was trying to keep him above the water. And he never complained. I even hit his head on the firetruck once, and when they yelled “cut,” I was like, “Gavin, are you OK? I hit your head.” And he just tapped me on the shoulder and said, “It’s OK, Buck.” I just melted. He’s the sweetest, bravest kid when it comes to the stunts.

TVLINE | Everything looked so seamless and realistic. What aren’t we seeing in all of this?
It’s a little mind-blowing. We went down to Mexico to make it happen. We had these huge water tanks — I think they were 1,200 feet by 1,200 feet — that were originally built for Titanic. And they’re filled with ocean water, because the tank meets the ocean. So we had this whole crew with us in the water, everybody was in wetsuits, and everybody was going through it together. There was a real sense of camaraderie. I get a little emotional whenever I think about making it. I feel so lucky to have been allowed to be a part of it.

TVLINE | This tsunami comes at an interesting time for Buck, as he’s trying to find his place in the world again. What does that mean for you?
It’s a gift as an actor to play a part that starts off so far on one side of the spectrum and becomes this whole other thing. But you still believe he’s the same person. People are multi-layered. They have many different facets to them, so to get to play a part like that is exactly what you want. I feel like there aren’t many young male characters on TV that get to be cool and the hero, then get to cry and be really vulnerable in the next scene. That’s a really important thing for me to get to show.

Your thoughts on Monday’s 9-1-1? Hopes (and fears) for the conclusion to this tsunami saga? Whatever’s on your mind, drop it in a comment below.