125. The Gang Wrestles for the Troops (s5e7)
“I was under the impression that we were presenting ourselves as bird men, which to me is infinitely cooler that just sort of being a bird.”
The most visually memorable part of this episode is, of course, the Birds of War costumes. But the best part is the late “Rowdy” Roddy Piper as Da’Maniac, a character inspired by the 2008 film The Wrestler, who is perfectly terrifying. It’s not often the gang meet someone who makes them truly uncomfortable, and it’s wonderful to see Da’Maniac do it so effectively just by being himself.
124. The Gang Gets Racist (s1e1)
“I tore his ass apart!”
The very first episode of Always Sunny, “Racist” puts a lot on the table in 22 minutes. The completely uninitiated viewer is treated to very frank dialogues about sexuality and race… told from the perspective of a bunch of assholes. The show has become far more surreal and extreme as the years have gone by, and, I would argue, a lot more satisfying and tightly written. But as a tone setter, the premier holds up remarkably well.
123. Underage Drinking: A National Concern (s1e3)
Dee doesn’t have much of a chance to be horrible in the first season. Kaitlin Olson famously complained about it, and the problem was eventually and beautifully corrected, making her one of the most vilely funny women on tv. But while she spends most of the first season as the voice of reason, “Underage Drinking” lets her shine at least somewhat as a drunken mess not long out of a back brace. It’s an episode that shows a lot of promise for Dee, and one that helps cement the whole gang’s position as the perpetual losers we love.
122. The Gang Goes to Hell, Part 1 (s11e9)
“Whelp. I’m gay.”
The format of each member of the gang succumbing to a different deadly sin is fine, though it would play better if each sin couldn’t just as easily be attributed to someone else. (Dennis is brought down this time by (an extremely creepy version of) lust, while in “The Gang Misses the Boat” it’s specifically wrath that he has to wrestle with). But the reasons the gang wind up in boat jail are almost disposable. What matters is that they get there. And the obvious center of the action is Mac, who’s finally forced to confront his homosexuality head-on. His coming out is a cathartic moment, and the best in an episode that functions mostly as a setup for the much better second part and season 11 finale, which you’ll get to read about if you stick with me for a few dozen more entries.
121. Mac and Charlie: White Trash (s6e5)
“I do backflips every single day of my life.”
A nice thing about the gang’s dynamic is that while Mac and Charlie grew up dirt poor, and Dee and Dennis grew up loaded, it very rarely comes up. They’re all somewhere around the bottom now, being endlessly financed by Frank, who actively chooses to live in squalor. Class doesn’t factor into it all that much. But when it does, the gang stand firm on their own lines, and it’s great to see where it takes them. In the end, it’s surrounded by trash and being pelted with rocks. Was the private pool truly at capacity? Some questions we may never know the real answer to.
120. Thunder Gun 4: Maximum Cool (s14e2)
“Save the dong.”
It’s exciting to get to see Always Sunny try its hand at making a “real” movie, and one starring Dolph Lundgren no less. (Even if he doesn’t smell any crimes). And it’s always fun to see the gang participate in a roundtable discussion, unleashing their bonkers logic on a poor unsuspecting outsider charged with trying to steer them toward some semblance of sanity for 20 minutes. But this is far from the best of this brand of episode. The points the script tries to make are a few too many, too varied, and too buried. And the genuine laughs (such as Dee throwing off the gang’s rhythm and Charlie not knowing what the hell is going on) are relied upon a few too many times to stay consistently funny. It’s a fine episode, but one of the weakest of the season.
119. Mac’s Big Break (s6e4)
“You keep using this word ‘jabroni’… and… it’s awesome.”
God bless the Philadelphia Flyers for letting Mac and Charlie on the ice — I believe they’re the first Philly sports team to actually do so. Mac and Charlie’s training montage is pure fun, and Charlie’s deference to Mac despite the fact that he can actually skate and hold a hockey stick is downright sweet. But the star of this episode is Rickety Cricket and his dog vagina neck. That is the future of radio.
118. The Gang Goes on Family Fight (s10e8)
“Nightman. Don’t know what that is. Just don’t know what it is.”
“Family Fight” is a fun, if not super memorable romp. It’s nice to see Dennis taken down a peg sometimes, and there’s no one better at that than himself. And it’s nice to see Charlie vindicated, even if it’s by himself. The best part of the episode is Keegan-Michael Key as a pitch-perfect Steve Harvey type who’s slowly losing his mind.
117. Dennis and Dee Get a New Dad (s2e10)
“Is it any more ridiculous than our dad having brown eyes, black hair, and being 4 foot 10?”
The best decision Always Sunny ever made was bringing Danny DeVito on board. Its second best decision was abandoning his role as Dennis and Dee’s dad. By distancing him from his original father figure type, the show gives him room to grow into full-on old weirdo, and it’s fabulous. Turning him instead into Charlie’s ambiguous father is an inspired choice, and one that does wonders for ushering the show into its weirder period.
116. Pop-Pop: The Final Solution (s8e1)
“Let’s not try and justify why a man would join the Nazis…”
I’ve always loved that German Shepherd painting in Charlie’s apartment, despite the dark truth. The interweaving plots of this episode (searching for Pop-Pop’s Nazi treasure and working up the nerve to kill him) come in second to the great visual humor of Mac’s ocular patdown glasses and Charlie’s new braces.
115. The Gang Goes Jihad (s2e2)
“You dropped a hard J on us.”
The Israeli/Palestinian conflict is a delicate issue, but the gang manage to make it pretty simple… by accidentally becoming terrorists. And in true Always Sunny fashion, being a terrorist actually pays off in the end, when Frank buys the other half of their bar and the full gang is cemented forever. Is it an excuse to shoehorn Danny DeVito into the plot? Absolutely. Am I happy with the outcome? You betcha.
114. The Gang Solves the North Korea Situation (s3e6)
“Oh shit. Look at that door, dude. You see that door right there, the one marked pirate? You think a pirate lives in there?”
“North Korea” may not be the show’s subtlest outing, but it’s not going for subtlety. It’s going for pure comedy, and it succeeds. While the Duster gets an honorable mention, Charlie is real the star of this episode. It’s genuinely sweet to see him find love, even if it’s for an afternoon. And even if it’s with a twelve-year-old.
113. Dee Gives Birth (s6e12)
“You know, a baby would’ve screwed up our chemistry.”
Always Sunny doesn’t get mushy often, and this time they might go a little too far. But they deserve this one. Rob McElhenney and Kaitlin Olson met on the show and made a life together on it, and if that isn’t a love story for the ages, I don’t know what is. It’s great to see Carmen and her husband make one last appearance as the baby’s parents — a touching and deserved gesture from the show that originally introduced her as something as of a joke. It’s also a very convenient way to get Dee’s baby out of the picture and return to business as usual. A little bit of mush is okay, but in the end the swift removal of parental aspirations is the only logical way to go.
112. Charlie Got Molested (s1e7)
“Look at this guy, huh? I was cute, I was energetic, I was fun! I mean what exactly was this prick looking for?”
Each episode in the first season deals with a different hot-button issue: racism, abortion, underage drinking, cancer, guns, Nazis, and… child molestation. This is perhaps the most unforgivable of the issues, but that also makes it the best conduit for the gang’s megalomania. Dee and Dennis desperately want to prove their psychology training by “helping” Charlie admit that he was molested. Mac desperately wants the confidence boost of getting molested himself. Charlie plays the rare straight man, but it’s necessary to balance out the wonderfully bizarre introduction of the McPoyle brothers. I find it strangely soothing that even at the show’s conception, the McPoyles were weird as hell.
111. Ass Kickers United: Mac and Charlie Join a Cult (s10e10)
“Did the Master not make that crystal goddamn clear?”
The saga of Mac and Dennis’ apartment continues. There’s something about the fact that all five Always Sunny characters share two tiny apartments (and eventually two beds) that brings me so much joy. It’s as if they’re being more and more condensed as the years go by. The concept behind “Ass Kickers” is a fun one, even if it is extremely dark. Like all cults, Ass Kickers has glommed on some idiots (poor Charlie included) but at its center is Dennis’ willingness to completely manipulate Mac and change his life just to get him to stop eating his cookies. It’s no slipping him Mexican Ephedra, but it’s close. While the episode is mostly light (apart from Dax Shepard burning to death at the end, but what can you do?), it offers a wild glimpse into the secret and complex webs binding the gang together. It’s funny, of course, but it’s also delightfully horrifying. Bonus points for the return of Space Turtle, who may or may not be Lord Zolo… I choose to believe that he is.
110. Paddy’s Pub: The Worst Bar in Philadelphia (s4e8)
“Charlie. If we’re gonna smash the window, I would simply do it with a roundhouse kick.”
A rare Frankless episode, “Worst Bar” is an exercise in escalation and a festival of bad ideas. At times it feels like it’s going too far, and Korman the critic’s rationale for not pressing charges has a slight deus ex machina taste to it. But if you can keep the consequences (or lack thereof) out of your head, it’s a fine episode in which every member of the gang is equally horrible.