After last week's truly terrible episode (which I graded a C+, but in retrospect, I would probably swap that plus for a minus), I have to say I was legitimately concerned about the rest of this season going forward. Sure, they can't all be classics, but the fact that the team that has brought us some of the best comedy on television in the last decade considered “Frank's Brother” to be on par with the rest of their work was more than a little worrisome. As I've mentioned here earlier, even after Sunny's less impressive efforts I'd still rather be hanging out with the gang then watching almost anything else, but for the first time, that didn't hold true.
But as soon as I saw the title of this episode, I was pretty sure relief was in sight. For some reason, I can't believe it's taken this long for the gang to be faced with a natural disaster; it's such an open ended scenario and the perfect backdrop for the kind of character-based comedy that last week's episode was so sorely missing. “The Storm of the Century” throws our characters in crisis mode, and they all react about how you'd expect: Dee melts down, Dennis tries to figure out how to use the emergency to get women to have sex with him, and Charlie stocks up on pickled eggs. But there are also some good surprises as well, chief among them being the return of Cricket and the revelation that there is a Y2K/robopocalypse bunker in the Paddy's basement, which Dennis has been using as a sex cave during the last decade. Here's the part where I eat my words about the “Dennis-is-a-rapist” thing being played out.
Though once again, we didn't get any big, fall-out-of-your-chair laughs (perhaps the first three episodes of this season spoiled us), this felt like a very solid episode of Sunny. One of the qualities of this show that initially got me hooked on it was how packed it was with throwaway lines. Especially around seasons three and four, there are so many instances when the characters are basically just shouting over each other, but every line coming out of their mouths would probably be given a full pause for laughs on any other show. Sunny hasn't been showcasing that sort of manic energy quite as frequently in the last year, but it was definitely on tonight, especially in Dennis and Charlie's scenes. (Dennis' astoundingly creepy sex contract and Charlie's failure to understand that it wasn't for him was a definite highlight: “If we're doing a contract, I want to sign it.”)
The episode mostly takes place at the All American Home Center (actual location: Downey, California), a megastore where all of Philly is stocking up for the approaching hurricane. Mac, Dennis, and Charlie head there ostensibly to gather supplies, but mostly in hopes of crossing paths with the ample-chested news anchor they have become fascinated with. (“Charlie, I think I may be in love with this woman, not for the right reasons, mind you.”) Glenn Howerton was super on-point tonight; as a few of you have pointed out in the comments, his line readings have really become a thing of beauty on this show. It was such a great moment to see him totally off his game when he finally comes face to face with his dream girl, and I may have to place that incredibly awkward speech (“This storm is gonna be bad, as you know. So why not be at the bar? With me? Um, and, you know... for the good of the race”) among my all-time favorite moments for his character.
Meanwhile Frank and a hysterical, rain-slicker-clad Dee set about boarding up Paddy's and stocking up the bunker, when they discover, yes, Rickety Cricket, whose devolution as a human being has reached the point where he has literally become a street rat, scurrying and scavenging in the basement. I love how we waste no time kicking Cricket down again; no sooner does Dee's flashlight land on him than Frank shoots him in the hand. I gotta say, Dee and Frank's plot wasn't doing much for me until it became a race to get more supplies/emphatically not take Cricket to the hospital. Rickety Cricket is like something out of Looney Tunes with his resilience in the face of repeated, unspeakable abuse, and his entrance bumped the gruesome absurdity up to just the level it needed to be for the chaotic finale.
“The Storm Of The Century” was good enough to re-instill my confidence in the Sunny team, but one issue that I will have my eye on for the remainder of this season is the use of Mac, or lack thereof. He basically disappears a third of the way into the episode, only to reappear in the final shot where it is revealed he has spent the whole episode in the bunker, watching 3D boobies on his new TV, a gag that wasn't exactly the most rewarding ending for an otherwise strong episode. I understand that Rob McElhenney didn't gain 50 pounds just for the fat jokes, and more as an overall effort to keep Sunny as unglamorous as possible, but it seems like he's not being given much to do beyond chow on donuts and I recently found myself watching season three's “Dennis Looks Like A Registered Sex Offender” and missing the pathetically earnest Mac who hid his crippling insecurities behind muscle tees and karate moves. That Mac was a true character, but I can't exactly put my finger on who Fat Mac really is, besides an imposing beard and a bunch of Tommy Bahama shirts. I'm still willing to wait it out and see what direction McElhenney chooses to take it, but as long as Mac's relative absence continues, there will always be something that feels a little off about this season.
- “Don't make me do it, Cricket. I will slice you in half!” Dee is really giving Charlie a run for his money in the screaming department this season, and I'm totally on board with it.
- Mac has apparently been watching Dennis “bang in the bunker,” and I couldn't quite decide if Dennis' reaction indicated that he was not aware of this or was sheepishly compliant in it.
- “If you wanna entice these ladies, you gotta talk about the bunker. You gotta lead with the bunker.”
- “I hereby agree to be easygoing, to engage in playful conversation, to always act as though I desire your penis, even if I do not.”
- “How do you know the blacks don't have bread in those speakers?”