Sunny has been crying out for a Chase Utley cameo since last season's wonderful Phillies episode revealed Mac's powerful obsession with the second baseman. But I didn't think it'd come in an episode called "The Gang Gets Stranded in the Woods." And I didn't think one of his fellow guest stars would be Tom Sizemore, who I haven't seen in anything for years since his public battles with drug addiction and multiple arrests. And hey, everyone acquitted themselves just fine in an extremely amusing half-hour that took a welcome left turn with its A-plot.
I was worried, during the setup for this episode, that Chase's appearance was going to be non-existent or brief, because as the gang traveled to an animal-rights charity ball Frank had contributed to, it was obvious they were going to, well, get stranded in the woods! But we got to have our cake and eat it, enjoying the desperate antics of Dee, Mac, and Frank trying to survive in the wilderness, while Dennis and Charlie went to Atlantic City for an entirely different set of adventures. Dennis' long, meandering shaggy-dog tale to Charlie about saying yes to everything was a good example of something Sunny can get away with that most other shows couldn't. That joke felt like it was building to something horrible (Dennis is methodical like a serial killer, he's dating a young girl) but it was really just setup for the "say 'yes' to everything" concept. But because Glenn Howerton is so funny as Dennis in evil sex psycho robot mode (his forced laughter is the best thing about it) it didn't matter. A confused, but not quite judgmental Charlie played very well off him, too.
Charlie/Dennis actually feels like a pairing we don't see a lot of on this show, and they were great together, especially in the truck with Mr. Sizemore as Byron, a married trucker who has a penchant for male whores. Or, as he calls them, lizards. "I woulda let you make me into a mailbox, just open the slot and put whatever you want inside," he muses of his lizard days. Honestly, you can barely blame him for assuming Dennis and Charlie are hookers, especially considering they're all dolled up in black tie. Sizemore underplays the whole thing quite nicely, letting his burly frame and considerable crazy-man reputation do the work. Another actor might have overplayed his hand here, but with Byron, the revelation that he really does want to have sex with Charlie and Dennis is almost sweet. He's really trying hard to resist that urge!
Back in the woods, Mac oils his glove in preparation for a game of catch with Chase, Dee frets about her pregnancy, and Frank sweats under a leather suit he bought to taunt the animal rights activists, whom he is preparing to mock in his keynote speech. I enjoyed the ongoing joke about Frank's cheapness (he won't take the highway because he refuses to pay tolls just for using the roads) vs. his happiness to spend vast amounts of money if it's worth it, and jeering a bunch of animal rights activists clearly is. My one big complaint about this episode is that we never got to see Frank's speech; I'm sure it would have been wonderful.
The woods plot was a little less interesting, but it had some cute moments. They sure found a lot of different notes to play off that gigantic bunny, and Frank's Elmer Fudd impression was welcome, as was his conversion to animal rights after they bury a dead crow. "I kicked a dog in a subway once, it was a real jerk move, I'm sorry I did it, I like animals now," he says, sounding like he's five years old. Mac's Chase obsession didn't get quite enough play as I would have liked, although that was the nature of the episode's plot, of course. One detail I enjoyed was that he starved himself "to create that gaunt, angular look with my cheekbones," real athletic, to impress Chase. Funny, that kinda sounds like Dennis.
And indeed, Dennis and Charlie get to meet, play catch, get drunk and wrestle open-shirted in front of Mr. Utley and Ryan Howard, both making grudging but not entirely wooden guest appearances (also, both looking great in suits, I have to say). The montage, set to the Boss' "Glory Days," was about as funny as a montage usually is, but I definitely appreciated Ryan stepping in when Charlie got rowdy with some Mets fans. I love the Mets, but who the hell wears a baseball cap to a charity event? Of course, the picture of Dennis and Charlie finds its way to poor Mac's phone … when they started playing catch in the montage, I really felt sorry for poor Mac. Maybe this won't be Chase's last appearance; Mac abusing him somehow next year would be good.
- Fun fact about Tom Sizemore: He currently has 20 movies in production according to IMDb. And not one of them looks like it's going to be released in theaters.
- Dee wants to go after Ryan Howard. "I'm a hot single woman, he's a hot single man!" "Dee, you're pregnant as shit!"
- Dee thought Frank was wearing a plastic suit. "Who the hell wears a plastic suit?" "I just don't question the things you do anymore."
- Another great detail was Charlie being tied up and locked in the trunk to be taken to Atlantic City, a great call-back to last year's episode. He's suitably freaked out by nature. "I mean, TREES? Everywhere TREES?"
- Dennis always checks their licenses. Good to know.
- "THIS IS FOR THE RATS!" Charlie cries, tossing money during his speech. Another great callback.
- Almost forgot to mention their champagne plane-ride back, a nice way to tie Dennis and Charlie's plot back into Frank's cheapness and use up that $10,000 (in TV shows, if a character wins a lot of money, it usually has to be all gone somehow by the end).