Chicago Fire season 9, episode 7 recap: Dead of Winter

This week’s Chicago Fire was a classic team-up episode for Matthew Casey and Kelly Severide, while Darren Ritter made a new friend.

Wednesday’s episode “Dead of Winter” saw Casey (Jesse Spencer) and Severide (Taylor Kinney) join forces when a fire at a homeless encampment looked more like attempted murder.

Meanwhile, Ritter (Daniel Kyri) befriended a homeless woman he met while responding to the fire, and ended up revealing something about his personal history.

Here’s what happened in the latest Chicago Fire episode for each of your favorite characters.

Chicago Fire season 9, episode 7 recap

“Dead of Winter” opens with Stellaride once again a united front as they arrive at the firehouse. Stella Kidd (Miranda Rae Mayo) tells Chief Wallace Boden (Eamonn Walker) that she’s going to stick with her original plan of taking the lieutenant’s exam now; he says he never took her name off the list in the first place.

In the common room, Joe Cruz (Joe Minoso) is handing out cigars because he’s decided to finally announce that his wife is pregnant. Everyone applauds the news. Meanwhile, Gianna Mackey and Blake Gallo (Adriyan Rae and Alberto Rosende) talk about sneaking off together, but that’ll have to wait as the fire of the week breaks out. Our heroes roll up at a homeless camp that is going up in flames.

As they evacuate the camp, Cruz is knocked back by an explosion, but he’s only wounded by a piece of flying shrapnel. Casey also recognizes one of the homeless men, Big Jim, as someone he’s seen before.

When everyone returns to 51, Sylvie Brett (Kara Killmer) is surprised to see Lt. Grainger there asking her for supplies for one of his team’s ambulances. He also asks if she wants to get a drink at Molly’s; they agree to meet up, which draws Stella’s attention. “He was here to see you,” she insists, and Brett is visibly impressed by the idea.

One of the other fire victims arrives at the firehouse and introduces herself as Vanessa. She wants to know how the blaze started, insisting that they were all very cautious except for one guy named Dixon, who was thrown out of the camp earlier. Casey gets his thinking face on. He and Severide return to the scene of the fire, but construction workers are already there clearing the area.

While Casey interviews a man named Al who lives nearby, Severide spots another man going through the remaining debris and quickly deduces he must be Dixon. He chases the guy for a minute but Dixon gets over a fence and away.

Cruz comes home to Chloe (Kristen Gutoskie, in her first Chicago Fire season 9 appearance), who naturally asks him what’s wrong with his face. Not wanting to alarm her he makes up a story about getting hit by a bungee cord. Elsewhere, Brett has drinks with Grainger and Casey goes with Severide to Chicago Med to interview Big Jim. Jim says he found propane bottles in the camp, right outside his tent. He stops short of naming Dixon as a suspect, but it’s clear that’s what our guys are thinking.

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Chicago Fire has Ritter looking for Vanessa to help in the guys’ investigation. He updates her on the situation and asks if she can put the word out that they’re looking for Dixon. He’s also clearly worried about her; she insists that she’s fine, but he gives her a new copy of The Secret Garden to replace hers that burned in the fire, as well as a backpack full of necessities.

The next day Severide and Casey present their theory to Severide’s old boss at OFI, and Van Meter is not impressed. He wants them to bring him “something to act on” and they insist they will. Gallo tries to tell Mackey that Cruz won’t care about their relationship since he’s worried about the baby, or the fact that the rest of the team thought it’d be a good idea to frame the piece of shrapnel that nearly killed him. But hey, that’s also evidence!

Severide takes it to Boden, who spots part of a label still on it. Casey can figure out the rest; he uses that hardware chain for his construction work, and one of their locations is near the encampment. Before we get too deep into that, though, here’s Brett and Mackey helping a guy whose arm has been trapped under a headstone. But conveniently here also are Grainger and his guys to help out.

BUT WHY ARE THERE SUDDENLY CLOWNS?!

Turns out they’re mourning a loss, but it’s still creepy.

Casey goes to the hardware store and asks about the propane tanks; the owner gives him access to their security cameras. Elsewhere, Chicago Fire tells us Ritter has ordered a ton of catering from an old friend of his and Gallo is already freaking out that Mackey is losing interest in him. Ritter does not care about his neuroses. Stella gives Brett a pep talk and Severide urges Cruz to tell Chloe the real reason for his injury. As Cruz says, “Kelly Severide is giving relationship advice?!”

Vanessa returns to the firehouse to tell everyone that Big Jim has died. After everyone comforts her, Gallo finds a possible suspect on the tape from the hardware store, but it’s not Dixon. It’s Al, the neighbor who talked to Casey at the fire scene. Casey and Severide confront Al at his home, revealing that he’s the one who called the cleanup crew and had been complaining about the homeless people before that. Casey unloads on Al about all the things Big Jim did and the people he left behind just before the cops show up to arrest Al.

We discover that Ritter has taken Vanessa to dinner. She asks why he’s helped her so much; he reveals that his best friend disappeared one day—and ended up “on the street, alone.” But the story has a happy ending: he’s okay now and volunteering at the youth center that got him off the street. That friend is the catering dude from earlier, and he offers Vanessa a spot to live at said shelter. Ritter also makes her promise she’ll keep in touch.

Chicago Fire closes down with Brett going to see Grainger at Firehouse 40. She claims they’re short on tools at 51, using the same type of lame excuse he did at the start of the episode, and then asks him out. Later on, Gallo tries to make himself “more dangerous” to Mackey by claiming they’re not supposed to date…which she proves wrong immediately. That failed spectacularly.

Casey and Severide toast to Big Jim, while the hour ends with Cruz coming clean to his wife. She doesn’t care; she wants to tell him that their baby is a boy. That takes precedent over everything.

For the latest Chicago Fire season 9 spoilers and news, plus more on the entire series, follow the Chicago Fire category at One Chicago Center.