"The Gang Gets a New Member" S6 / E8
- B+ Community Grade
Man, Sunny is really on a roll! After last week's classic, we get another standout half-hour, mostly because it focused on Charlie (always a good move), and it had a nice, understated guest star in Jason Sudeikis, who played the character he often does on Saturday Night Live: the straight man who draws attention to all the weirdness around him. It was also another cliffhanger, but it worked a lot better than the season opener because Charlie not going right back into the gang made sense from a dramatic viewpoint (he's just getting into his job as a janitor!) and was a less drastic twist than Dennis getting married, which made it feel a lot less forced.
I'm always a fan of Sunny episodes that bring in an outsider who reacts with horror to the gang's behavior. But what was really cute and different about this one was less that they behaved in some awful manner, but more that they were just endearingly lame, a quality Charlie can appreciate far more than the normalized Schmitty (Sudeikis), who was spared being warped like the rest of them when they kicked him out of the gang ten years ago.
Charlie's building nervousness about reuniting with Schmitty was hilarious to watch and even more so once we discovered that Schmitty was a normal, if somewhat obnoxious, guy who just draws attention to Charlie's weirdness (his butt dance, the "imagination-based" game that is Nightcrawlers) by being a normal, somewhat obnoxious guy. Charlie being tense about Schmitty before we met him was funny, but his edginess once Schmitty was hanging out was 10 times funnier. "You live with your mom; that's kind of lame." "Yeah, well it's the MS that's kind of lame," Schmitty explains. "Kind of a downer, that story, though …" Charlie retorts quietly.
Quickly, in an entirely precedented move, the rest of the gang decide to kick Charlie out after he makes an ultimatum in a scene that's just about as touching as Sunny could ever be. And then things just kicked into high-gear funny. I honestly don't know what was better: Charlie's new quest to become the best janitor that he can be (and best friends with Dee) or the gang's obsessive courting and re-initiation of Schmitty back into the gang. Charlie's interview with Dave Foley (in a one-scene cameo as a tweedy principal—that guy'll do anything!) was wonderful in that it balanced reality with utter insanity. Charlie's enthusiasm and skill for cleaning makes it possible that he could get that kind of job, but then again, his resume is a photo of Bruce Jenner, and he really, really wants to eat the principal's eraser. "It certainly smells of grapes," he notes.
The initiation ceremonies of the gang were just as good. My favorite scene was definitely the breakdown of Dennis-imposed order at the restaurant, initiated by Schmitty pointing out to Mac and Frank that they're adults and they can order what they want. Sunny is very good at introducing a new "rule" about the gang, like Dennis ordering for everyone ("Linguini's too heavy for lunch," he chides) that we've never seen before—and likely never will again—yet a rule that still makes perfect sense for the characters, so it doesn't matter. Then, as Schmitty is more and more disdainful of the gang's cute but super-lame ceremonies (like Mac's repeated, failed roundhouse kicks), they decide to push him out of a moving car again, but they can't even do that. That nicely underlined the fact that Dennis and Mac might have been slightly cool and/or intimidating when they were kids who could boss Schmitty around but now are just strange, strange man-children.
The only reason this episode doesn't get an A is Dee's story, which was nicely tied in via the time capsule and Charlie becoming a janitor but just wasn't as funny. The gag about kids being lazy and on their phones wasn't too original, and Dee's failed acting/comedy skills and her shitty career should have been riffed on more. Kaitlin Olson is hilarious when she's playing Dee as a comedienne, and she had one great moment when she was taken with her own zinging skills, but even the booming presence of Rene Auberjonois didn't make it work for me.
- Also in the time capsule: a Korn CD and The Cider House Rules on laserdisc.
- Dee gets very hormonal when confronted with her failed career. The gang initially suspects the pregnancy, but Dennis hits it on the head: "I think it's the failure."
- I don't know which outfit at the fancy restaurant was better: Mac's polo shirt and tie or Dennis' pink button-down.
- "I'm not a proud man. … I'll degrade myself; I'll make a genuine ass out of myself."
- The best part of the "men's ceremony" in the bar was the rap/choral music.