“The D.E.N.N.I.S. System” was a little lighter on laughs than last week but had an amusingly intricate plot (something that’s rare for Sunny), and a fantastic, disgusting denouement (something that’s very common, but always very welcome). Best of all, though, it took Dennis and it gave him an easel on which to explain his system for attracting women through cute acronyms and silly slogans. It felt like a warped, disturbing take on Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother: rather than the pick-up artist being soulless but still loveable, he was soulless and, well, pathetic. And, of course, hilarious.
I was less than taken when it was just Dennis telling us how he beds women (he tricks them into thinking he’s useful and nice, then sleeps with them, keeps his distance, reunites for one last bang and abandons them forever). Sure, the opening presentation had some gems, mostly Dennis’ evil stalker voice (“WELCOME TO HELL...AHAHAHA”), his creepy look into the camera after forging prescriptions and the Top Gun sex scene with a blue curtain and more licking than actual kissing. But sociopaths like this are a dime-a-dozen on TV.
It got a lot more fun when they started playing around with the concept, introducing a food-chain of sex that features Mac swooping in on the women Dennis discards, with Frank getting to plough any of the most pathetic scraps who linger after that. Mac dons a pair of reading glasses and plays the sensitive intellectual; Frank waves a clip of hundreds and a box of Magnum condoms around, “thus demonstrating that I have a monster dong.”
“It's a delicate ecosystem,” Mac admits. It works because it’s very absurd, while at the same time making a weird kind of sense, and not just with these guys, but any pack of weirdo fratboys you’ve ever known that had one good-looking guy and a bunch of dorks around him that the dumber girls got deflected onto. Also, the sight of Mac in the glasses/sweater vest combo is something we need to see again, I feel.
At the same time, Dennis’ system wreaks havoc with Dee’s mind, as he assumes her dummy boyfriend Ben (who we last saw in the wrestling ep) is only with her, and obeying her every command, as some sort of alternative version of D.E.N.N.I.S. Clearly Dennis has never seen Scrubs, where that actor played the exact same sweetheart moron character, one that he will likely play for the rest of his life. There’s something about his vacant grin.
Dee decides to prove her independence from his thoughtful and selfless attempts to make her happy, and falls down a hill instead. Kaitlin Olsen always steps up whenever they humiliate Dee like this – there’s no actress on TV who’ll make those weird animal noises and make her face look as drained and grotesque. It’s always funny, but I preferred Ben’s lunatic ignorance of just how repulsive Dee is, right until the last second of the show (when he chirps, “you’re a mean person!”). So what if he gets his face painted like a turtle. The dude likes turtles!
Better still was Charlie’s attempts to adopt Dennis’ system to woo the waitress. I’m glad they didn’t try to shoehorn him into the food-chain of sex in some way, because Charlie’s too idiosyncratically obsessed with the waitress for me to handle the concept of him getting sex from anyone else (except maybe Frank). In trying to prove his usefulness, he breaks into her house, disassembles her sink, and has a whole bag of hair ready for step three (is he going to clog the drains, or is it something more sinister than that?).
Charlie’s desperate attempts to make anything in the room demonstrate his destiny to marry the waitress is always solid gold. She’s working at the fair now – that’s good, because plumbers and fair workers go well together. It’s a testament to the two actors’ brilliant anti-chemistry that they’ve basically been doing the same thing for five years now and it’s still always funny whenever she flatly rejects him.
Things fall apart in the end because Frank tries to upset the system, leapfrogging Mac and convincing Dennis’ recent love (a pretty pharmacist lady) that “she’s got the AIDS, big time.” Somehow, it doesn’t work – maybe it’s the lack of subtlety in his performance as Dr. Toboggan, fake physician to Dennis’ fake grandmother, some old crank who reminisces about lesbianism in her family’s history. Charlie tries to arrange for a carnie to stab the waitress so her can save her, but Dee accidentally gets the key to the chest (which, for us the viewer, is the best possible outcome).
Of all the horror in the final minutes, which features all the typical great-Sunny-denouement hallmarks like overlapping dialogue and weird costumes, I loved Dennis’ horror at his system being misused the most. Why couldn’t Charlie understand that he should have let the waitress get stabbed in a major artery and come moments from death? THAT’S how you woo a woman.
"Pizza's good." "You're the one that's good."
Mac’s excuse for being in the living room is the sighting of a black widow spider.
Was the closing shot of poor abandoned Gladys supposed to represent the human toll of the gang’s actions? It got a laugh out of me.