77. How Mac Got Fat (s7e10)
“Do you guys think that a normal mask of me would look good? And if there was, would you guys wear it?”
Finally, the answer to season 7’s most persistent question. After nine episodes of defensiveness, it’s a relief to hear Mac finally admit that he got fat, and to finally get an explanation. It’s also a hell of a shock to see him back in season 6 form — it was an excellent choice to put this episode so late in the lineup, when we’ve mostly gotten used to the change. Mac’s explanation is, as you might expect, stupid and convoluted and delusional. But it’s also pretty telling. Mac has tacked on all that mass, it turns out, so he can look more like his sexy beefcake avatar, and he’s become so obsessed with it that he hasn’t noticed everyone else abandoned his plan six weeks ago. There are a million early hints that Mac might be gay, but if there’s a time in the series when it becomes overt and deliberate, this is the tipping point.
76. The Gang Gets Whacked, Part Two (s3e13)
“Enough with the ohs!”
This is the second half of the show’s very first two-parter. After an episode of working together toward a common goal, the gang of course split up into factions. Ostensibly they still have the same aim, but they all get very weird with it, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. In the end they almost die, get saved, almost die again, manage to pass the blame off completely, and then they all have a beer. It’s the quintessential Always Sunny ending, and it’s perfect. Thank goodness that nobody important got seriously hurt.
75. The Gang Gets Romantic (s14e1)
“You know, it won’t play in Middle America, but screw it. We’ll jam it down their throats til they enjoy it.”
Is there a reason Mac is dead set on crafting a real-life romantic comedy starring himself, Dennis, Dee, and two hapless AirBnB guests? If there is, it’s not particularly evident. But whatever, Always Sunny episodes have sailed on far more harebrained schemes. And it’s more than made up for by the absolutely heartwarming connection Frank and Charlie make with Nicky and Alexi, their German counterparts and loves of their lives. If there is a God, those two will actually come back next season for a tearful reunion worthy of only the sappiest romcom.
74. Dennis Gets Divorced (s6e2)
How else do you follow an episode in which more than half your characters get married on a whim? With everyone getting divorced, of course. Dee runs Bill Ponderosa’s marriage into the ground, Dennis gets his apartment and his boytoy back, and Frank and Charlie’s annulment is downright sober and touching. If there’s any lesson to be learned from this episode, it might be that you don’t need a piece of paper to have a lasting, meaningful relationship. Or maybe it’s that you don’t need big hands to win big cases.
73. Bums: Making a Mess All Over the City (s3e14)
”Okay Mister Mayor, feast your ears on that Spin Doctors mix!”
It’s a frequent Always Sunny trope to approach a single topic from several angles. Crime is a topic that makes perfect sense. Crime with a specifically 70s bent is a lot stranger, and it does wonders for the episode. Charlie’s Serpico imitation in particular is divine. Charlie Day and Al Pacino are two of history’s greatest yellers, and it’s a real joy to see them come together.
72. The Gang Hits the Road (s5e2)
“I eat stickers all the time, dude!”
This is a great episode that manages to capture all the cramped disorganization of a road trip without ever actually getting anywhere. Let’s be honest — the gang was never going to get to the Grand Canyon. But the ways they manage to thwart themselves again and again, when all they have to do is sit still and be in a car, is an inspiring level of of self-destructive. At least Charlie has lived another day without having to leave Philly. He did have to eat a pear, though. And it was gross.
71. Mac and Charlie Die Part Two (s4e6)
“Did I see you bang that thing?”
The second half of Mac and Charlie’s death isn’t quite as much fun as the first. Now that they’ve crafted the ultimate illusion, all they have to do is lay low. They’re terrible at it, of course, but that’s to be expected. The real gem of this episode is Frank’s utterly bizarre and very real grief. I’ll never stop singing the praises of Charlie and Frank’s weird symbiotic relationship, and this look at how thoroughly Charlie’s death unhinges Frank, especially so early in their friendship, is compelling in ways a screeching mannequin has no right to be.
70. Charlie Rules the World (s8e8)
“We could be in a turtle’s dream in outer space.”
Has anyone on the Always Sunny creative team ever seen a video game? I don’t even care, because it’s such a rush to see Charlie in charge for once. Charlie Day is a hell of an actor, and the ferocious confidence he wields in this episode as the king of Techpocalypse is a sight to behold, even if it does just sort of… end.
69. The High School Reunion Part One (s7e12)
“Looks like you had a rough couple of years there, Nikki.”
We’ve gotten hints over the years of what the gang’s high school experience was like. Now we know a lot more, and it’s worse than we thought. No one in the gang, it turns out, was at all liked. Is it their own fault? Yes, a little bit. But at the same time, high school really doesn’t seem to have been a welcoming place for them. It’s not unexpected, but it’s hard to see them so out of their element and downtrodden. Like the other two part season finale, the first episode is much more establishment than anything. The real payoff comes with the second half, which you’ll find somewhere down there if you keep scrolling.
68. PTSDee (s12e7)
“I know what a juggler is.”
If we ever need evidence that the gang are their own worst enemies, this is it. Desperate to prove that she isn’t Mike the Stripper’s rock bottom, Dee gets him back on his feet and seriously improves his life… as a side note. Because the real objective is to bring him so low that sleeping with her looks good in comparison. It’s incredibly dark and self-destructive, and the way it plays out makes your skin crawl. It’s also an obvious callback to “The Gang Broke Dee,” in which Dee’s the one being played. The difference in endings — what was before a champagne-drenched party is now just a quiet moment of disapproval — speaks volumes about the double standards the gang hold Dee to. This might be everyone’s rock bottom. (Except of course for Mac, who very enthusiastically gets a lap dance from Mike in a blatant but necessary sign that the show’s sticking to its guns and keeping him out of the closet for good).
67. The Gang Gets Whacked, Part One (s3e12)
“Maybe I’ll go to a bank and say ‘Hello, do I have an account here?’”
This is the show’s first attempt at a two-part episode, and it’s a real success. It’s nice to see the entire gang united with a single cause. That cause is not being murdered by the Philadelphia mob for stealing their drugs, sure, but it’s still nice. The diversity of their money making schemes, all for some reason country club-based, is fantastic. The fact that two of the schemes actually bear some fruit is even better.
65. The Gang Goes to a Water Park (s12e2)
“I thought North was, like, up.”
There’s a noticeable trend in season 12 to humanize Dennis. If you follow this link, you can read about what I think it means. Briefly, however, “Water Park” is special because it contains what is probably Dennis’ first ever relationship based on respect, rather than power or sex. Just to drive things home, it’s with a preteen girl. By letting Dennis meet his match (and be bested by her) the episode shows a new, almost likable side to Dennis that still feels true to him. It’s a pretty masterful move. While Dennis’ storyline is the standout, the whole episode is well crafted, with Mac and Dee in panicked stasis and Frank and Charlie in constant movement. Also Game of Thrones creators D.B. Weiss and David Benioff are lifeguards, because why the hell not. If I don’t see at least one Always Sunny actor as a White Walker next summer, I’m rioting.*
*2020 update — Rob McElhenney was, indeed, shot through the eye on a boat in the final season of Game of Thrones, and now the ritual is complete.
64. The Gang Broke Dee (s9e1)
“Zzzt zzt. Va-gi-na. Va-gi-na.”
The first rule of Always Sunny is that nothing good ever happens to anyone. At least not of this magnitude. Certainly no one ever makes their dreams come true. The knowledge that something is going to go wrong for Dee is constantly at play throughout the episode.But with the reveal at the end, the floor really drops out. The gang have always been despicable, but when they turn their designs so completely on one of their own, it’s nauseating… in a good way. It’s yet another season premiere with a step down another rung on the human decency ladder, and it’s beautiful.
63. Paddy’s Has a Jumper (s14e8)
“Yeah hey man, why do you have a casaba melon in a safe? …You bangin’ it?”
That damn casaba melon featured bizarrely prominently in the season trailer, and I waited patiently for nearly the entire season for the damn thing to show up. And it was worth it, in a horrible, disgusting way. It’s a very nice, near-bottle episode featuring Dennis’ patented giant pad of paper — is the D.E.N.N.I.S. System still there on one of the previous sheets? These are the questions that keep me up at night. This feels like a classic Always Sunny episode in all the right ways. With plenty of Dennis psychopathy, Dee bashing, and horrific Frank eating, it’s tied together nicely with a morally reprehensible plot and a sitcom-stupid case of mistaken identity. It’s a great return to basics, good enough to convince me to forgive the fact that Frank hasn’t actually called Dennis his son in upwards of a decade.
62. The Gang Reignites the Rivalry (s5e12)
“I’m doin’ this jerkoff’s taxes. Next year the IRS’ll audit the piss out of him!”
As I was walking down the beach recently, I heard the sweet sounds of the Flipadelphia chant on the wind. Nine years after it first aired, a group of college kids (who were way too young for it at the time) were still celebrating this episode. That’s staying power. And this episode deserves it. Dennis and Frank’s riterall-fueled vandalism really is the stuff of legends. And the gang’s final revenge against the frat kids who’ve scorned them is complex and well thought out in a way that I honestly didn’t think they were capable of. It’s a wonderful episode with a defined beginning, middle, and end that represents a certain growth and satisfaction you rarely get out of the gang.
61. The World Series Defense (s5e6)
“I am sure our relationship would be a real home run.”
One of the hallmarks of Always Sunny is the explanation framing device, in which the gang has to explain an entire episode’s worth of events to an exasperated listener. It’s a wonderful way to pit their insane logic against a real person, and to ensure that the listener is present for every twist and turn in the storytelling. It’s hard to get a stranger to stick around for even a full conversation — adding the necessity of reaching a conclusion makes for some wonderful interactions. And one of the finest examples of this framework is “World Series,” in which a poor judge is obligated to sit through an entire harebrained plea against a series of parking tickets. It’s also a fantastically loving but embattled celebration of the Phillies, who obviously didn’t give the show the rights to film inside the field or say the Phanatic’s name out loud. For shame.
60. The Gang Chokes (s14e4)
“I’m poisoning him, alright? Just a little bit.”
A lovely throwback (sort of) to the incredible “The Gang Dines Out,” this episode sees the gang all at the same table for once, but more divided than ever, when Frank almost chokes to death and no one will help him. There are strong similarities to another exemplary episode, “The Gang Misses the Boat,” in which these five grotesquely interdependent people all go off on their own. It doesn’t have quite the same exuberance as the last time around. (It’d be hard to replicate the surprising sweetness of Charlie and Dee nurturing each other’s strengths and falling into bed together, and the palpable awkwardness between the two of them alone on screen now seems to fully acknowledge that). But it’s still a fun departure from the norm that ends, much like last time, with a warm respect and sense of togetherness among these five horrible, horrible people. All’s right with the world. Dee just had to almost die first.
59. The Gang Makes Paddy’s Great Again (s13e1)
“Look, I know it’s just a lifeless thing that Mac pumps his loads into, but it’s in my head!”
God bless Mindy Kaling for taking on the role of Dennis’ female, ethnically diverse replacement. I’ve seen a couple fans on social media claim that they stopped watching “ever since she joined the show.” A joke aimed at the very people who are most likely to miss it, “Great Again” is two bait and switches in one, tricking fans into believing that Dennis is never coming back and that Paddy’s is becoming a liberal safe space. It’s not the smoothest of episodes, but it’s not meant to be, and the horrible, unsettling fun of Sex Doll Dennis is topped only by the return, at long last, of Real Dennis. Kaling took a lot of unnecessary flak for this episode, but she makes it work wonderfully.