After the ambitious, mostly masterful musical spectacle that was last week’s season 12 premiere, this week, the Gang fucks around in a water park. And it’s, in its own way, just as successful, a low-stakes goof-around that allows all five members of the cast to do what they do best—make us laugh like brat kids whizzing on Sweet Dee’s head.
That’s what happens when the Gang—splitting up to best exploit the splashy pleasures of the local aquatic amusement venue—ply their particular brands of awfulness surrounded by uncaring lifeguards, gullible park-goers and employees, and a sea of shrieking, pee-scented children. Often an episode of Sunny sees the Gang splitting along ideological lines, or due to differing agendas, and, here, that triple-team approach makes for a variable, versatile assault on all things good and decent that’s consistently amusing as hell. It’s like the three teams’ concentrated, strategically deployed lousiness seeps into the park’s sunny funtime like three slowly decaying, Caddyshack-esque turds, until everyone is running and screaming and fleeing in disgusted horror. Let’s examine the battle plan.
Mac and Dee. Outside the gates of the park, both Dee and Mac are ready to sprint for their favorite rides because, as Dee says, “You’ve got like 10 minutes of clean water and then every slide’s basically a urine-delivery system.” Their plan: To go on a few of the best rides and then get drunk in the sun for the rest of the day. The problem: Mac’s illegal, triple-laminated admission bracelet that he’s been using to scam the park since he was 14 gets stuck on a protuberance in the too-small kiddie slide (inexplicably called “The Titty Twister”), wedging both he and Dee in one particularly tight corkscrew. Cue a steady stream of kids slamming into them behind, a steadier stream of pee from the trapped kids, Dee getting sunstroke from a magnifying observation window, and Mac’s ongoing paranoia about getting your intestines sucked out of your butthole by one of those pool drains.
Frank and Charlie. Always a wild card when they team up, Frank and Charlie are determined to follow Charlie’s plan to methodically hit every ride in the park. (Charlie’s Olympic-style speed suit will help cut down water resistance.) Foiled by long lines, naturally they come up with a plan (inspired by a kid with leukemia getting to cut ahead of them) to loudly proclaim that Frank has AIDS so they can jump right to the front. Things go swimmingly (shut up) until the pair spots the not-yet-operational Thundergun Express ride, a near-vertical slide whose complete lack of lubricating water does not deter them from something incredibly painful and stupid.
Dennis. Going lone wolf, Dennis intends to eschew all water-based amusement entirely in pursuit of bored moms who are, in his estimation, “seeking relief from the insufferable prison of motherhood.” Making up a heartbreaking come-on involving a drowned wife and his plucky nonexistent daughter, he’s understandably nonplussed when a plucky little girl named Abby (Jayden Bartels) interrupts his attempted seduction by claiming to be that selfsame daughter—and asking for $20. Spotting a kindred, unethical spirit, Dennis bonds with the little scammer and they spend a lovely day lifting wallets, raiding the lost and found, and basically grifting the hell out of the entire park.
So we’re not going deep here, is what I’m saying, the Gang’s various adventures an excuse for breezy—if foul—physical comedy and blessedly broad silliness. The brisk and tossed-away nature of the whole enterprise is exemplified when Dennis spies Frank and Charlie hustling past—Dennis deep in a scam with Abby, Frank happily covered in red splotches. (Charlie reveals that he gave Frank’s AIDS gambit verisimilitude with some well-placed hickies, because that’s Charlie and Frank logic.) Without taking a beat, Dennis asks appreciatively, “What are you guys doing, doin’ an AIDS thing?” and Charlie, not breaking stride, susses out Dennis’ game, asking offhandedly, “You doin’ a fake daughter thing?” The Gang knows each other—and their horrible little world—so, so well.
And so do we at this point, a familiarity with the Gang’s trash-heap of neuroses, psychoses, and plain old assholery that makes it particularly easy to just kick back and watch them screw around in a water park for a half-hour. As ever, It’s Always Sunny takes the sting out of the Gang’s patently offensive behavior with our knowledge that the Gang is, collectively and individually, the pits. So when Mac and Dee send an unconscious kid down the slide to free up some room in their tube-prison, that kid (thanks to the park’s shitty lifeguards) may in fact drown. That’s balanced out by the fact that Mac and Dee brought their misery on themselves, including having their greatest fear come true, with the trapped kids sluicing urine down all around them. (Dee’s urine tester kit ends up glowing dark red by the end.) Frank and Charlie’s AIDS plan is patently offensive—not ones for subtlety, they just wade through each line bellowing “AIDS” repeatedly. But there’s, as ever, a childlike aspect to the pair’s irresponsibility (especially when they put their heads together) that makes their insensitive behavior less horrifying than just unimaginably thoughtless. There’s no real meanness, they just really, really want to go down those water slides. And the payoff, with Frank stripping most of his back skin off going down the screeching, bone-dry Thundergun Express slide is excruciating enough to watch (and hear) that there’s the sense of justice being served.
Dennis’ story is a little masterpiece of characterization, with him recognizing something special (meaning Dennis-like and awful) in neophyte grifter Abby. Saving her from a shoplifting rap (and getting his twenty back), Dennis starts to lecture the girl about the dark future he sees ahead for her, before swerving seamlessly, proclaiming, “As somebody who’s been down that road, let me tell you something. You’ve got real talent.” Their Paper Moon-style father-daughter hijinx thereafter are just right, with their undeniably simpatico moral turpitude making them an improbably affecting pair. When the blow-off comes and Abby expertly scams Dennis out of all their hard-scammed booty, it’s only after they share what passes for a genuine moment between scumbags, Dennis praising the girl as a genius, and Abby seemingly touched that someone recognizes her gifts. When Dennis realizes he’s been Keyser Söze-ed, his first piece of advice (“See, an artist takes whatever he wants when somebody’s lookin’ right at him.”) echoing in his head, it’s the perfect comeuppance for him, too.
In the end, there’s chaos, sure. Frank’s “raw-dogged” plummet turns the landing pool red with billowing back-blood, everyone freaks out since Frank and Charlie have been shouting about Frank’s AIDS all damned day, and Mac and Dee finally get unstuck, only to splash down into a reddening pool that only amplifies their initial fears (and calls back to Dee’s red water urine-tester). As the running and the shrieking plays out above, Mac sinks to the bottom of the pool, seeks out one of the infamous drains, and sits on it, a look of pure serenity on his face. It’s all he ever wanted. Perfect.
- Those are Sunny pals, Game Of Thrones creators (and one-time Sunny script writers) D.B. Weiss and David Benioff as the two most apathetic lifeguards in the world.
- I barked out in delighted horror once I saw Charlie’s plan to lubricate Thundergun Express for Frank’s descent—a partly full single bottle of water.
- Charlie, vainly trying to get the others’ interested in his speed-suit: “You’re thinking, ‘What’s that rascal Charlie up to?’”
- Even Dennis’ lust takes a back seat to his curiosity about Abby’s potential. Dennis: “Anything for my little… Abby. Interesting.” Hot single mom: “What’s interesting?” Dennis: “Nothing. I’m done with you. Keep up.”
- “No matter how alluring it is, do not put your genitals or you butthole near the pool drain, you got it? In fact, cover your butthole.” “Mac, stop talking to the children about their buttholes, okay. It’s not appropriate.”
- Dennis, pretending to be a cop to save Abby from a security guard: “Officer Dennis Reynolds. Off duty, of course. This is your jurisdiction.”
- “If you lived in China, you’d be the head of a factory. Or they would have thrown you in a river because you weren’t a boy. It isn’t a great analogy.”
- Dennis, lecturing the woman he thinks is Abby’s mother: “Your daughter is a special kid. A gifted child who should be treasured. If she were born in China, she’d... wait, I already did that, it didn’t work. What country treasures their women?”