It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia: "The Gang Reignites the Rivalry" 
B+

It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia: "The Gang Reignites the Rivalry" 

B+

It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia

"The Gang Reignites the Rivalry" 

Season 5, Episode 12

Last year’s Sunny finale was "The Nightman Cometh," and that’s pretty tough to top. So I’m glad the gang went the other way and just did a more typical Sunny episode, albeit one that felt more … coked-up than usual. If we want a more epic cap to what has been maybe Sunny’s most satisfying season, I guess that Sunny Christmas DVD where you see a naked Frank birthed out of a leather sofa will have to do.

"The Gang Reignites the Rivalry" didn’t really make a lot of sense. At all. Which was fine, but … man, it really didn’t make much sense. The gang decides to take their old Irish pub rivals on in a flip-cup grudge match, but discovering that the rivals have turned into a fancy wine bar, they start to mess with a U Penn frat-house instead. Or something. There wasn’t really a strict through-line on the plot in this episode. Instead, things just kept happening, and then it kinda tied together nice in the end.

The real standout of the episode was Glenn Howerton getting more and more amped on rails of something called "Riderall" (assumedly a mix of Ritalin and Aderall? I’m very behind on street lingo) and his increasing outrage that his frat brothers had disrespected him by tazering him and Frank repeatedly. Which, let’s be honest, they kinda did. This episode wasn’t nostalgic about college days, rather making the frat house this alien, out-of-control wonderland where kids just go around torturing each other, then paint each other and shower together at night-time.

With Dennis and Frank, who got tortured, we see the ever-building rage about becoming lame in one’s post-college years; common feeling, right? An alumni pic of a fro-wearing Dennis of yesteryear has been defaced with “I chug dick,” which he can’t abide. "That’s homophobic, right?" Frank, wearing skinny jeans that make it look like his body is exploding out of his legs, attempts to hula-hoop (just how old IS Frank? Cause the hula-hoop’s kinda been around for a while!) but ends up getting tazed too.

With Charlie and Mac, who get painted, we see the flipside – college is a sexy paradise neither of them could have ever dreamed of. Rather than getting veiny and stressed, they play almost the whole episode either sleepy-drunk or very high, barely aware of anything but their desire to paint, and then shower, with nubile sorority girls. Note: how weird did Charlie and his beard look painted up? He was like an extra from Apocalypse Now.

It all comes together, sort of, when they challenge the frat kids to flip-cup. Dee, hampered by her bison fingers but training in the background of the episode, has become a flip-cup savant, but predictably, she chokes on the big day. Less predictably, and very amusingly, the gang has poisoned the beer, so all the frat kids, and Dee, end up vomiting everywhere, in a repeat of Paddy’s matchup with Molly’s a decade ago, we’re told. I liked the climax, but honestly, it was just the manic majesty of some of the individual scenes that worked better for me.

Best was Frank and Dennis trashing the house of Art Sloane, Molly’s gentrified owner, for some reason. It played like an improv skit where the director keeps shouting "more coked-up! more coked-up!" Nothing that they were doing was very shocking, but their raging dialogue and some of Dennis’ long-remembered pranks (like shoving a banana up somebody’s ass and saying “HEY! BANANA ASS!”) had me on the floor. Even better: Frank does Art’s taxes, to get him audited by the IRS next year. "That's long-term shit!" And Dennis spells out a weird long sentence in fire on the guy’s lawn that really seemed more aimed at the frat kids. I actually thought that scene was set in the frat house, at first.

Charlie and Mac just kinda sit around on bar-stools half-thinking up plans. Charlie wants to ape Good Will Hunting to freak the kids out, but as Mac points out, in that movie Matt Damon was a genius janitor – he’s just a janitor. Who can manage lines like "You think you're wicked awesome doing that, and how about them apples, and all that garden wood business?" I also enjoyed Charlie’s reflection on "The amount of book learning I would have put in my brain and let it stay there" to get into college.

Like I said, the episode didn’t even try to rival "The Nightman Cometh" in terms of over-the-top awesomeness, ending with the a typical Sunny moment: the gang, haughty all of a sudden, talking over each other about the latest slight someone made against them. "Who slams a door?" "Babies!" "Goddamn savage!" Looking back on season five, it was the most consistent, and it also shied away from a lot of the the stuff it’s used before – there were no McPoyles, and not much of Cricket or even the Waitress. Instead, there were a lot of gimmick-lite plots that sometimes didn’t cohere all too clearly but always had enough straight comedy to prop them up. Start debating the classic episodes, and moments, of the year now, fellas.

Stray observations:

Fox didn’t put up pics from this episode, so I’m using this vague all-purpose one from a previous episode instead.

Charlie’s poison-hiding system is very complicated, and it puts mayo in the skull-and-crossbones jar, with shampoo in the mayo jar.

The best single moment of the episode (and maybe the season) was Dennis shrieking “IDIOTS!” over and over again.

As expected, they’re gonna have to burn Frank out of those jeans.

Did anyone else go “aww” at the sight of a post-poison Dee eating soup dejectedly in her pajamas?

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