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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia: “Chardee MacDennis: The Game Of Games”

Illustration for article titled It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia: “Chardee MacDennis: The Game Of Games”

I think we can all agree that when they combine forces, the Reynolds siblings are fucking terrifying. It doesn't happen too often, and it's sort of a win-win situation since it's still hilarious every time Dennis emotionally batters Dee and calls her a failure, but watching these deranged twin WASPs in full battle mode is great and scary and hilarious. Glenn Howerton and Kaitlin Olson have both been stepping up their already formidable games all season, and “Chardee MacDennis: The Game of Games” was a great culmination of their combined mania.

Tonight Sunny once again gave us a very welcome hangout episode. I wrote in my notes half-jokingly that it was a “bottle episode,” but we didn't leave Paddy's once, nor did any secondary characters enter the scene, so I guess it technically qualifies. It's a rainy day, and the gang is bored, Mac's arrival on the scene does nothing to help the situation (which was a little wincey for me after having put Fat Mac on notice last week), so they decide to revive a beloved old tradition and play a game of Chardee MacDennis, an incredibly elaborate, three-stage competition whose rules barely fit into a three ring notebook, and which I'd be insane to try to summarize here. Briefly, there are three stages: Mind (Trivia, Puzzles, and Artistry), Body (Physical Endurance, Pain, and Endurance), and Spirit (Emotional Battery and Public Humiliation), and the two opposing teams try to complete the three stages first. There are cards to collect, and different varieties of booze, and you know what, I'm just going to stop right here. The game is a mess, obviously.

So it was that much more fun to see the gang treat it like a cricket match, complete with pre-round breaks and mannered conversation (and followed, of course, by a Maori war dance). Every new detail and stage of the game seemed at once improvised and yet totally appropriate, from the dog kennel jail (and the way out of the dog kennel jail), to the nailed-down board, to the game pieces and team portraits. (Dennis and Dee's portrait, a romance novel cover with their faces pasted over the man and woman, was among my laugh-out-loud moments.) Plus, it was great to have Frank there as an audience surrogate insomuch as he hadn't the foggiest clue what was going on but was having the time of his life.

But as fantastic it was to see the whole ensemble in such fine form, and obviously all so firmly in their element, Dennis and Dee are still what moved this beyond merely very enjoyable high-B territory. Those two have seriously leveled up, or officially slipped into the deep end, however you want to see it. There was something distinctly McPoyles-y about them tonight; half of it was just physicality – the glazed eyes, the sweat, Dennis turning nearly purple as he struggled not the blurt out the answer to a trivia question (Q: “Dennis is asshole. Why Charlie hate?” A: “Because Dennis is a bastard man.”) But there was also a delightfully icky, borderline-incestuous synergy between those two, and it occurred to me that we probably hadn't seen either of those characters in that intense a state of bliss for a really long time. It's almost as if Dee's insane emotional masochism (“You guys always emotionally batter me. And I'm fine, I don't care about it, I'm getting good at it now”) and Dennis' physical masochism (his weird pleasure at the dart in his hand, and a history of self-starvation) combine to form a screaming, chest-pounding sadistic force to be reckoned with. There's a lot of weird shit going on between those two that this show can still mine, and a lot of it is stuff I'd rather not think too hard about.

In the end, it is revealed that Dennis and Dee have been drinking water not just during this game, but during every game of Chardee MacDennis, the mysterious black card is drawn, and the tie is broken by a coin toss. Of course, there was no way that Frank, Mac, and Charlie would ever win, even with the game left up to chance, and there was no way that Dennis and Dee wouldn't still stomp all over their poor figurines, even though they didn't technically earn their victory. And that was it, and I love that the episode just ended there. There was zero attempt to pretend that tonight's show wasn't about anything more than a few assholes playing an incredibly stupid game, and while I've got nothing against baseball and I've heard great things about this year's World Series, Sunny is just a half hour.

Stray observations:

  • I didn't have a screener tonight, which is why this recap is up later than usual, and why this is one of the first times this season I've watched the show on the TV with the masses. Have they been playing the ad for the Flip Cup app all season? Has anyone played it? Mildly curious, also mildly disappointed that it isn't a Grape Gobble app.
  • Mostly because of Charlie's Hungry Hungry Hippos face.
  • “What is the best band in the world?” “Chumbawumba!”
  • I love how Sunny can flat out tell you that a particular gag is coming, and even when it happens, it's still funny. Case in point, Mac: “I will forget that the board is nailed down later.”
  • I was trying to think of other episodes of Sunny that didn't leave Paddy's, and “The Gang Gets Held Hostage” was the first that came to mind; also a classic. Have there been any below-average “bottle episodes” on Sunny? It just seems like such a foolproof (but thankfully not overused) formula for this show.
  • “Jesus, Dee, your back is so crooked and bony and all over the place I can't get a flat surface!”
  • “I am not going to play any game in which I'm not getting annihilated."