Phillip Ronan Gallagher, known as Lip, is a main character. He is the second-eldest Gallagher child and the most academic. He is a straight-A student with a 4.6 GPA. While he possesses above average intelligence and excellent mechanical skills, he deliberately wastes time acting like the rest of the people in his town. He uses his intelligence to make money for his family, such as taking the SATs for other students or avoiding the cops when selling beer and marijuana from an ice cream truck. Despite his apparent genius, he has terrible judgement and is frequently shown smoking cigarettes and weed, having unprotected sex with multiple women, and drinking copious amounts of alcohol.
Lip has a juvenile prison record. Ian has been his accomplice several times, but Lip covers for him because Ian wants to enter the Marines. Lip has a cynical personality and is unrestrained in his criticism, which often gets him into trouble. He also has a string of unstable relationships: two years of off-again-on-again dysfunction with Karen Jackson, a little over a year with Mandy Milkovich (where she pulled most of the weight and the two fought over Karen), a casual relationship with his roommate's girlfriend, Amanda (which ended up one-sided on her part) and a fling with his polyamorous professor, Helené Runyon.
Lip often gets into fights, including brawls staged for cash, but generally doesn't care if he wins or loses. He is not as physically fit as Ian, and his provocative attitude frequently gets him beaten up. Lip is protective of his younger siblings, but his pessimistic worldview and apathy toward almost everything causes him to clash with Fiona in her attempt to better their lives. All the same, Lip is grateful to his older sister for the years she spent raising him and his siblings. Lip and Ian (later revealed to be Lip's half-brother and cousin) are particularly close, and often give each other relationship or career advice (though on two occasions, this resulted in a fist fight).
Lip is extraordinarily intelligent for his age, boasting a high GPA and a genius IQ.
Despite his remarkable intelligence, Lip can be extremely irresponsible and self-sabotaging. Other than Carl, he is the only member of the family to have a juvenile record, and he often gets into trouble just for the sake of causing mayhem. He is a loner and doesn't have close friends.
Lip is self-destructive, a common symptom of being an adult child of an alcoholic. Part of Lip's emotional problems are due to the high expectations his family places on him in their hopes that he will make something of his life and help them in turn. Lip rebels against social norms, repeatedly refusing to apply to college or even finish high school, which leads to major problems (graduating late, floundering in his first semester of college, etc.).
Lip is loyal to his family and protective of his younger siblings. He clashes with his father Frank and his estranged mother, Monica, in response to their neglect though he has shown care for his parents on occasions especially when they acknowledge their faults.
His playful side shines through in his interactions with Liam and other children. Whenever Fiona is struggling, Lip is there to keep everything from falling apart. Despite this, Lip isn't always wise: a number of people remark that he is the "dumbest smart person" they've ever met. Lip likes to break into cars, steal science equipment, etc. (For example, he got caught doing car jacking schemes with Steve/Jimmy to buy Florence + the Machine concert tickets for his girlfriend.)
Lip is also shown to be "dickish" (his words), combative, and pugnacious. He's unafraid to back down from anyone who challenges him, and he vents his frustration by getting into fights and destroying property. He also uses his smarts to pull off lucrative cash schemes. Despite all his arrogance and bravado, Lip is a deeply sensitive person who has trouble being vulnerable, and his issues with women point to fragile self-esteem.
Throughout the Seasons
Lip is a straight-A student who is tutoring Karen Jackson in science. Karen goes down on him underneath her dining room table while her mother, Sheila, is in the kitchen. Lip finds out Ian is gay and takes him to Karen to 'test' his orientation. Later, Lip finds out Ian is sleeping with the owner of the drugstore where he works. Kash, an Arab man who is married with children, has sex with Ian during his shifts. Lip becomes irate and punches Ian, since he fears Ian is being taken advantage of.
Lip often concocts schemes to make cash for his family. This season, Kevin and Lip operate an illegal ice cream truck to sell cigarettes and blunts near the basketball court. Lip also takes the SATs for underperforming students until he gets caught by a professor from the University of Chicago. According to the professor, Lip is one of the only students in America who earned a perfect score (2400). He offers Lip an internship, but Lip insists that he'll go straight to the working world and skip college.
In "Daddyz Girls", Lip tries to connect Ian with one of Frank's brothers, as they suspect that Ian is not Frank's biological son. They go to their Uncle Clayton's house, and Ian is stunned by how similar he looks to Clayton. Lip urges Ian to pursue genetic testing and move in with Clayton, but Ian insists that he's happy with his life. On the way back, the cops pull them over for driving a stolen Porche. Lip takes the fall so that Ian can enlist in the Marines.
Lip has abandonment issues that make him drawn to dysfunctional relationships; part of Karen's appeal is how she keeps Lip at arm's length. Even though Karen has sex with Frank in "Daddyz Girls" -- going so far as to broadcast their hook-up online to get revenge on her own father -- Lip keeps going back to her. In the finale, "Father Frank, Full of Grace", Lip says "I love you" to Karen during his climax. Karen rejecting him afterwards prompts Lip to say that it was just a "during sex 'I love you'" and meant nothing. Later, they smoke together and she apologizes to him. Lip takes a piss out of his window onto Frank as payback for Frank sleeping with Karen.
Lip spends most of Season 2 believing he fathered Karen's baby. He keeps pursuing Karen during her pregnancy, despite her being married to Jody, another member of Sex Addicts Anonymous. Her plan to place her baby up for adoption in exchange for money troubles Lip, and he obsesses over what kind of person their baby will become. Lip finds solace in spending time with Mandy, Mickey's sister. (They hook-up for the first time in "A Beautiful Mess" during Debbie's sleepover party.)
Going with Karen to adoption agencies and witnessing her sociopathic behavior ("Parenthood") sets off a chain of events that leads to Lip smashing a window and getting expelled. Fiona insists that he finish high school, but Lip refuses to graduate and become the family's "golden goose". In turn, she gives him an ultimatum: "school, or leave". Lip moves out and bounces around between Karen's, Kev and Vee's, and the L train before he finds sanctuary in Steve/Jimmy's room at the Chicago Ritz-Carlton hotel.
In "Just Like the Pilgrims Intended" (the penultimate episode of the season), Steve/Jimmy finally kicks Lip out in the hopes of spending Thanksgiving with the Gallaghers. Lip moves in with Mandy for a few weeks. He finds out that Karen's baby, Hymie, is actually Timmy Wong's, one of her old flames. In "Fiona Interrupted", Lip ends his relationship with Karen and moves back into the Gallagher home at the urging of Mandy. Sheila and Jody steal Hymie from the hospital before he can be adopted, and they refuse to give him back. This prompts Karen to leave, despite Lip telling her she will regret it.
(The audience may wonder when Lip became interested in Mandy (prior to Season 2) because for the entire first season he was with Karen. However, it's hinted that Lip is attracted to Mandy during several blink-and-you-miss-it moments in Season 1. In Aunt Ginger, Lip stares lustfully at Mandy while she's in his/Ian's room when she's pretending to be Ian's beard. In Nana Gallagher Had an Affair, he flirts with her. It is implied Lip knew her before Season 1 because he made a sarcastic joke to her brother, Mickey, about the guys she's been with and got beat up.)
In May I Trim Your Hedges?, a homeless man on the bus masturbates to Debbie. Fiona chases him off, and the incident makes everyone concerned about the safety of the neighborhood. They discover a "child rapist" lives 3 blocks away from the Gallagher home. Lip and Ian enlist a group of residents to take down the rapist. The mob, led by Terry Milkovich, discovers the presumed he is actually a she, a teacher named Blake Collins. Unable to beat up a woman, the mob dissolves, yet Lip remains determined. He poses as a 15 year old who offers to do lawn maintenance for Blake (hence the titular question, "Can I trim your hedges?"). Blake goes down on Lip and trims his hedges (using Nair to remove his pubic hair), and he scraps the plan to expose her. Later, Lip uses Blake's signature peanut butter and oral sex move on Mandy in bed, and she becomes enraged when she figures out he slept with Blake. Mandy threatens to kill Blake and dump her into a grave someone is digging on her front lawn if Blake doesn't leave town by morning.
Lip and Mandy's relationship is consumed by insecurities and doubt. Mandy complains about being treated like a tool, and Lip feels smothered by Mandy. In later episodes, Karen returns to the South Side. Karen's return upsets Mandy, and she is furious when she discovers Lip is cheating on her with Karen. The rift between them widens when Lip learns that Mandy applied to colleges for him without his consent. They temporarily reconcile by having wild sex. Afterwards, Lip asks Mandy why she applied to out of state schools, to which Mandy replies that she wishes Lip will leave and take her with him; she believes he deserves better than living in the South Side. Her feelings reach Lip, prompting him to break things off for good with Karen.
Lip's decision devastates Karen. She calls Mandy to tell her she can trap Lip by having sex with a broken condom and getting pregnant. Mandy is furious and determined to get rid of Karen. A few days later, she steals Lip's phone and sends a text to Karen asking to meet in the park. Sheila is apologizing for having sex with Jody when Karen gets 'Lip's' text. Karen doesn't say 'I love you' back, but brushes off Sheila and races to the park to meet 'Lip'. Karen is hit by a car and goes into a coma; later, we learn that it was Mandy who mowed her over.
Lip visits Karen at the hospital. Sheila remarks that Karen was excited to get his text, which confuses Lip. On the bus ride home, Lip deduces that Mandy must have sent the text. He doesn't confront her right away, but instead places an embargo on having sex with her per Kevin's advice. Kev's advice fails Lip; he phones Kevin after Mandy rapes him (though he says he let her do it). Lip visits Karen once she wakes up from her coma and returns to Sheila's home. He learns that Karen has brain damage and cannot form new memories, which explains why she forgets him telling her that Mandy hit her. Disturbed and angry, Lip crashes Mickey's wedding and confronts Mandy about her role in crippling Karen. He breaks up with her on the spot, but she is indifferent and admits that she'd given oral sex to a man named Kenyatta to make Lip jealous. Lip leaves the reception with a drunken Ian, who pukes on the way home.
By the end of the season, Lip is back in school and about to graduate. He thinks little of this milestone, despite Fiona's insistence of its importance. After picking up his diploma, Lip and Frank celebrate by going out for a steak dinner, drinks, and ice skating. They get hammered and Lip vomits on the ice; Frank follows suit and projectile vomits blood. Lip and Frank go to the ER and Lip spends the night huddled by a toilet in Frank's room.
A few days later, Lip visits Mandy and tells her his plan to enroll in college. He thanks her for applying to colleges behind his back, despite how she plagiarized Gandhi and other famous speakers on the essays. Before Lip leaves, Mandy asks if he even wants to go. Lip raises a hand in a dismissive gesture, as if he doesn't even know himself.
Lip begins Season 4 as an undergrad at Chicago Polytechnic Institute. Between working as a busboy in the cafeteria and keeping up with the workload of his classes, Lip finds that college is more difficult than he thought. He can no longer study for 10 minutes to get an A, and he isn't popular with women, as evidenced in "My Oldest Daughter." Lip gets a D on a paper about Byron's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, and he often comes to class without a pen. He finds a friend in his roommate, Ron, who allows Lip to borrow his laptop. Ron's girlfriend doesn't like Lip, however. Amanda and Ron have sex at all hours of the night, and she disapproves of Lip smoking weed.
Lip feels like he's going crazy from all the rules and regulations he's expected to follow, and no one will give him a break. After a debacle in the laundry room, he arrives to class late and can't take his midterm. Lip vents his anger by bashing in a row of cars. He narrowly escapes being caught by campus security. Later, he returns home and briefly (very briefly...) rekindles his affair with Mandy. Their affair ends in a fight after he makes a disrespectful comment to her about not taking the morning after pill, despite knowing he won't be around to provide for a baby.
Liam is hospitalized for a cocaine overdose, and Fiona's prison stint and subsequent house arrest for child endangerment create chaos at home. In "A Jailbird, Invalid, Martyr, Cutter, Retard, and Parasitic Twin," Lip watches over Liam and sneaks food out of the cafeteria to feed the family. Fiona and Lip clash when he refuses to let her take care of Liam or show her any sympathy. Amanda offers to babysit while Lip is in class; she takes things one step further when she makes him a schedule (including sex breaks with her) and gives him care packages. In exchange, she asks him to help her get back at her parents. In "Emily", Lip suggests she can torture her parents by having them over for dinner at his house. Amanda's father offers Lip ten thousand dollars to never see her again. He takes the money, according to Amanda's plan (though she says he could've gotten at least five thousand more) and uses it to support the family.
Lip becomes more studious and feels less like an outsider thanks to Amanda's influence. He repairs the rift between him and Fiona in "Liver, I Hardly Know Her" when he rescues Fiona after she violates her probation and gives her emotional support. In "Lazarus," Amanda and Lip enter an informal relationship when he participates in a pinning ceremony at her sorority, a Greek tradition that celebrates couples. After the ceremony, Amanda takes Lip and several of her friends to the diner where Mandy works. Lip sneaks off and tries to ask how she's doing, but Mandy treats him like a stranger, much to his dismay. The season closes with Lip telling Fiona that he passed his midterms.
Lip goes home in the summer after his freshman year and gets a job with Tommy's construction company. Ian tells Lip that Mandy is planning to move to Indiana and asks him to change her mind. At Mandy's, Lip and Mandy hook-up; during sex, Mandy tells him that she loves him, which catches Lip off guard. He doesn't say it back. The next day, Mandy leaves with Kenyatta.
In "A Night to Remem...Wait, What?", Lip flies to Miami to stay with Amanda in her luxurious vacation home. Her father is dismayed at Lip's arrival, going so far as to lock his liquor cabinet in front of him. Later, they have lunch with her parents, during which Lip and Amanda's father bond over her father's projects. They smoke pot in private and talk about Lip's summer plans. Amanda's father regrets that Lip took on a construction job, and offers him a paid internship the following summer.
Lip accompanies Mickey when he shoots up a new coffee shop that will soon open and gentrify the South Side. Lip is surprised when Mickey's gang pulls out machine guns from their truck, and he refuses to take a part in the shooting. Mickey calls Lip a "college bitch" when he realizes that Lip didn't actually shoot the storefront. When sirens are heard, Lip bolts and jumps into the dumpster in a nearby alley.
After the incident at the coffee shop, Lip returns to college early. His Resident Advisor application is accepted, and Amanda paints a mural of a naked woman in his room. When Lip finds that his schedule is blank, the Registrar tells him that his family never gave him the documents to renew his financial aid. Even after taking out a five thousand dollar cash advance on a dozen credit cards, he's still short on his tuition. He goes to his critical theory class and persuades his professor, Helené Runyon, to take him on as a student by going down on her. The Registrar tells a wealthy friend about Lip's plight, and he pays Lip's tuition.
Lip begins developing stronger feelings for Helené after she takes him to an academic conference in "Going Once, Going Twice." Helené, extremely drunk, says that their relationship isn't just a fling but something "deeper", although she takes this back the next morning. However, this makes Lip convinced that they're in love. In "Refugees", Amanda exacts revenge when she exposes Lip's relationship with Helené by sending the naked picture Lip took of her to the entire school. Lip asks Amanda why she did it, and she claims that Lip ruined her life by "making" her fall in love with him. He loses his RA position and private room because of Amanda's mural, which violated res life rules.
Lip has sex with (or, he tries to -- he has erectile dysfunction, which Frank's ex, Queenie, cures with foot reflexology) many girls in the sorority he works for, but his heart is still with Helené. After his ED disappears, he starts having orgies and his drinking habits get worse. At one point, Lip wakes up in the hospital after being diagnosed with alcohol poisoning, his BAC at a deadly 0.35. He is expelled for bashing Professor Youens's car and assaulting a campus guard. Youens shows Lip tough love by driving him to rehab, and the audience is left to wonder if Lip will finish the program.
Lip successfully completes rehab, but still grapples with alcohol addiction. He works at Patsy's as a dishwasher and interns for a tech start-up, which Professor Youens secured for him. However, the internship isn't what it seems: Lip isn't paid, and he's forced to be a drink-food runner and change his supervisor's urine bag. Later, he discovers that the start-up is scamming people by using proxy servers to hide their illegal activities, and the gig falls through when the FBI shows up.
This season, Lip and Fiona aren't on good terms. Fiona cracks down on the family and demands that they start pulling their weight, since she wants to secure her own future. She resents Lip for his arrogance and how he prioritizes his internship above helping out his family. Lip is frustrated that Fiona is using the Gallagher home as collateral for an investment in a laundromat near Patsy's that he claims might not work out. (Eventually, it does.)
In "The Defenestration of Frank," Lip organizes a wire fraud scheme at his second tech start-up internship. He's assisted by Juaquín, a hacker he met in college. No one at the company catches on, so Lip starts wiring larger amounts of money. When Kev asks how Lip can afford top shelf booze, he replies, "we ripped off a bunch of corporate crooks: two wrongs do make a right." Although he isn't entirely unaware of this, Lip is becoming more and more like Frank.
Earlier this season, Lip begins a casual relationship with his co-worker, Sierra, a single mom. Lip thinks Sierra is good for him, but he's cautious about repeating the patterns of his past relationships. They share an intimate moment in which Sierra female ejaculates on him, which apparently means she's "comfortable" with him. This makes Lip both fascinated and scared about things getting too serious. Sierra asks him to take things to the next level and become Lucas's dad, but Lip wants to keep it casual.
In "You Sold Me the Laundromat, Remember?", Professor Youens encourages Lip to attend his appeal hearing at Chicago Polytechnic Institute, and Lip reluctantly agrees. Ian and Professor Youens testify that Lip has changed, but the committee refuses to expunge Lip's disciplinary record and let him re-enroll. Lip drowns his sorrows in alcohol and attacks Sierra's drug-addicted baby daddy, Charlie, which prompts Sierra to break up with him. Lip copes by going on a bender; he ends up sleeping on L and missing an interview Professor Youens arranged for him. He finally hits rock bottom when he wakes up wasted in Helené's house. Helené tells Lip to get help, and he leaves in tears.
Monica dies from brain trauma in "Requiem for a Slut", and Lip is surprised that he doesn't want to drink. He talks to Sierra after his mother's funeral and decides to eventually return to college, even though he feels too old. The season closes with him going into an AA meeting with his new friend and sponsor, Brad.
After his mother's funeral, Lip is sober and working at Brad's motorcycle shop, Born Free Cycles. He is left with some meth by his mother and seems to have sold it for money. Later, after Carl and Ian are attacked by thugs led by a man named Eric who owned some of the meth and threaten the family for his money. He and his family are forced to try and gather up money but have no luck and soon go to Fiona. They all apologize for not listening to her before Frank arrives and offers them help. The family then dig up Monica, since Fiona put her share in the ground with her. They arrive at the storage unit and pay Eric, Lip gives him some of his money but its still not enough and Eric threatens them as Lip protects Carl from the danger. Fortunately, Frank (who had decided to change) steps in and successfully intimidates Eric to accept the payment or be faced with death if he comes near the family again as Lip is surprised by his father's actions and leaves the area.
He's still preoccupied with Sierra; to work his way back into her heart, he babysits Lucas while she goes out with Charlie. Lip tries to sabotage Charlie by tempting him with a pizza topped with a baggie of coke. However, Lip gets second thoughts about sending the pizza when Charlie turns up at his AA meeting. Lip attempts to retrieve the drugs by breaking into Charlie's apartment, but he's attacked by Charlie's Rottweiler; he drops his fidget spinner, which gives away that he was the intruder. Charlie interprets the incident as Lip trying to save him from getting back into drugs.
Very soon, Lip faces another problem with getting no women and is surprised when his father gives him helpful advice which is supported by a coworker. His action distracts him from work and this causes his co-worker, Eddie, an edgy girl with tattoos and a mean streak to hook up with him. Lip enjoys the encounters but is put off by the latter's aggressiveness in bed.
Lip's issues with co-dependence are further explored when he helps Brad get back on the wagon and tries to rescue Professor Youens when the latter crashes into a house and gets his fifth DUI. Lip reaches out to Youens by bringing AA meetings to him, despite Youens's protests that he doesn't want help. Later, Youens accompanies Lip on his search for Brad, who disappears after going on a bender. Despite Youens's cynicism, Lip helps Brad clean up his act. On the day of Youens's hearing, Lip gives a touching testimony about Youens paying for his stint in rehab. Everything goes well until Youens gets drunk in the bathroom, which lands him in jail.
After Debbie thinks she might be pregnant after a series of drunken hook-ups, so Lip takes her to Planned Parenthood. Charlie happens to walk in with a heavily pregnant woman. He begs Lip not to tell Sierra, and Lip reluctantly agrees. In "The Fugees", Charlie's ex has her baby, and Sierra is extremely upset when Charlie tells the truth. Charlie persuades Lip to convince Sierra to forgive him, if only for Lucas's sake. Lip shows up at Sierra's door; he starts to explain that Charlie is crazy about her, but then she pulls him in for a kiss. After they hook-up, Sierra asks him to stay, but Lip insists he should leave.
In "The Church of Gay Jesus", Lip is stunned when he discovers from Youens' daughter that the latter The service is emotional and filled with touching stories about Youens. After one of the students comments that Youens was "like a father" to him. A look of epiphany crosses Lip's face as he acknowledges that he, too, found a father figure in Youens. He goes back to the shop and has a breakdown. The following morning, Youens's daughter shows up at the Gallagher house with a draft of a recommendation letter. Lip says he's "too angry to keep it", despite how highly Youens spoke of him.
Sierra continues to look to Lip for emotional support. When her father (who went to prison for murdering her mother) makes parole, Lip stages a fight that lands her father back in jail. She sleeps over at Lip's house and says she loves him; Lip says it back. Yet in the season finale, "Sleepwalking," he admits to Sierra that he isn't sure how to love her (even though he wants to). He urges Sierra to give Charlie a second chance. Sierra protests, but Lip insists it isn't her fault: he's been "sleepwalking through [his] life" and "loaded" since he was 12, and he isn't sure who he is or what he wants. He wonders if he can truly love Sierra when he was drunk during most of their relationship. Sierra is devastated and tells him to go.
Eddie splits and leaves behind her niece, Xan. Lip offers to take in Xan for a few days before CPS places her in a home. The season closes with Lip testing out the bike he's worked on since the first episode (which Xan named 'Keith') as Brad and Xan watch. The audience is left to interpret this scene as Lip riding off to discover who he is and where he's headed in life.
- He is one of the few Gallagher children to call Frank "Dad".
- Lip is Frank's third child and first son.