‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ Season 16, Episodes 1 & 2 (RECAP)

Episode One: ‘The Gang Inflates’

In the first episode of the sixteenth season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (Sunny), The Gang is wholeheartedly throwing themselves into what Dennis Reynolds (Glenn Howerton) and Mac McDonald (Rob McElhenney) vaguely and unhelpfully describe as “money talk.” Like all key features of adulthood — politics, culture, or even a general sense of humanity — The Gang doesn’t know anything about money but feels qualified to talk about it ad nauseam. 

Economic terms are thrown about in the cold open: “inflation,” “recession,” and “your nut,” which are only destined to confuse a group who has no idea what any of these things mean but are too afraid to ask. These abstract ideas are quickly taken literally and impossibly by the group. 

In an attempt to be frugal, Mac purchases an inflatable pull-out couch and a large Costco-size can of nuts to work on holding tight to his and Dennis’ financial “nut.” Meanwhile, Charlie (Charlie Day) becomes obsessed with a financial idea he’s concocted from information on the Internet that he is certain will be a moneymaker. When his roommate and maybe-father, Frank (Danny Devito), asks if Charlie is involved in “crypto”, Charlie assures him that he is not being “cryptic”. In short, no one has any idea what the other is talking about. 

Charlie Day as Charlie, Glenn Howerton as Dennis, Rob McElhenney as Mac, Kaitlin Olson as Deandra, and Danny DeVito as Frank in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (COURTESY: FX)

Perhaps the most striking moment of the first episode of this new season of Sunny is one regarding Charlie and Frank’s apartment. Their shared space is iconic and often central to the show—for fifteen seasons, it’s been known to be a single, filthy room with no bathroom (they notoriously have cans of pee filling their apartment) and a single pull-out couch that the duo (self-named “The Gruesome Twosome”) both share for the vast majority of the show. In this episode, Frank discovers that Charlie has both a bathroom and an entire other massive room — two things Charlie nonsensically does not care for because he doesn’t want the space. 

Like children playing pretend, The Gang plays pretend at being investors, business partners, and financially savvy adults. But everything comes out, as usual, atrociously and uselessly. The endless nuts Mac eats from Costco leave him with an ever-growing allergic reaction that becomes so severe he’s horrifically disfigured by the end of the episode. Charlie’s grand financial plan is to spend an inconceivable amount on ancient Hostess Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Pies. Frank is revealed to be a slumlord who steals from unpaying tenets.

To the surprise of no one, The Gang holds no financial finesse and ends up back at their bar, broke with only a horrifically swollen face and a bunch of gag-worthy Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Pies. Ever loathsome of each other, Dennis looks over Mac’s battered face and calmly informs him, “I think we’ll take you to the hospital, and they’ll have nuts, and you can die there.” 

An Extra First Episode Deecap: 

As has been the case for almost two whole decades, everyone hates Dee (Kaitlin Olson). While the rest of The Gang money talks during the cold opening, Dee tries and fails to call all of them in a panic. Dee is trapped with her hand glued to the front door of her soon-to-be-evicted apartment and desperately needs someone to send her money. She has no such luck throughout the episode, though Frank’s money is quickly and happily spent on things like Ninja Turtle Pies. 

Charlie Day as Charlie in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (COURTESY: FX)

Despite being actively excluded, Dee is still obsessed with being involved with her friends. Her attempt to save her apartment is quickly foiled (evidenced by Dee having to haul around a piece of her door still stuck to the palm of her hand for most of the episode), and Dee instead chooses to glue herself to wherever The Gang is hanging out. Dee spends her time glued to the wall for protest-based reasons she’s unsure of until she starts doing it seemingly to have something to do. Dee’s glue obsession is a prime example of Sunny’s capacity to play within their space. Sunny’s expertise is taking reality and turning it impossible; Dee is eventually just carrying around chunks of door on her superglued hands until one of her friends finally pries it off with a spatula. When she can’t sleep one night while stuck to the wall, Charlie helpfully superglues a pillow to the wall for her to rest her weary head on. Like a Looney Tunes character come to life, Dee is obsessed with doing painful, nonsensical, and cartoonish things, reinterpreting and messing with her space in a way that alters reality.

Episode Two: ‘Frank Shoots Every Member of the Gang’

Frank Reynolds notoriously has a well-documented and ceaseless issue with guns. He shoots at everything and everyone nearly all the time. In this episode, when Frank finally grazes Dee and Dennis with a bullet in the midst of one of their many attempts to juice money from him, the twins decide they’ve had enough and need to rid Frank of his gun once and for all. But, using the same logic as one would when planning to euthanize a dog, Dee and Dennis decide to give Frank one last perfect day before taking his precious firearm away. 

The Reynolds twins decide to focus on Frank, insisting only briefly that it is not about the money, before shruggingly admitting that it is, in fact, very much about the money — they want to be rewritten into his will. 

Meanwhile, Mac and Charlie are derailed by notions of family heirlooms and inheritances. Charlie wants to get the Kelly family heirloom — a grotesque jar of teeth collected over many generations. Charlie goes to his mother, Bonnie’s (Lynne Marie Stewart) house, which she now shares with Mac’s mother, who goes by Mrs. Mac (Sandy Martin) and only speaks in gruff monosyllables while chainsmoking.

Rob McElhenney as Mac, Charlie Day as Charlie, and Lynne Marie Stewart as Bonnie Kelly in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (COURTESY: FX)

A theme Sunny creators Rob McElhenny, Glenn Howerton, and Charlie Day frequently mention when they speak about Sunny is their shared fascination with how quirks almost always stem from childhood experience. When Bonnie hysterically tries to rip her own teeth out to give Charlie a new tooth jar, the mother-son duo scream, and sob at each other, and much is revealed about Charlie’s longstanding, raging instability. When driving to Mac’s uncle’s house, Mac’s mother burns him with a cigarette because he’s not quiet enough, and much is revealed about his frequent submission to those he loves around him as he allows it to happen. It’s all played out absurdly enough that it remains funny — cartoonish instead of tragic — but it’s always striking seeing the Sunny characters having explanatory origin stories for their neuroses. 

And something about this specific episode of Sunny does indeed feel particularly cartoon-like. Charlie and Mac are dressed in clothes they have been wearing for many seasons, almost as if they are default, drawn cartoon characters. When someone informs Charlie that he’s well over forty years old at this point, he’s startled, as if mentally he assumed he was perennially the same age. These self-aware moments tap into Sunny’s occasional feeling of being an almost live-action cartoon; like Family Guy but with real people. 

In the second giant, universe-shifting swing of Sunny this season (the first being Charlie’s reveal of his much larger apartment), it is revealed that Mac has an uncle named Donald McDonald (a rhyming match to Mac’s full name, which is technically Ronald McDonald), and that Charlie has two younger sisters. Uncle Donald is played by a clean-shaven Gregory Scott Cummins, who, in past seasons, has played Mac’s violent felon father, Luther McDonald. But Uncle Donald is kind-hearted, and presumably gay like Mac, beating around the bush as he says he was never married and was considered “funny” back in his day.  

Kaitlin Olson as Sweet Dee, Glenn Howerton as Dennis in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (COURTESY: FX)

Mac has spent his whole life seeking his father’s validation, but now that his dream father figure is in front of him, offering old family letters, Mac is repulsed and shifty. He steps around all offers of connection. “Catch is for jocks,” he scoffs when Donald offers to play out Mac’s long-term dream of playing ball with his father.

Finally, the twisted mother-son group makes it to Charlie’s sisters’ ornate New Jersey home, where two shrieking girls explain they have been making topless OnlyFans ASMR using the heirloom teeth jars — a  mish-mash of modern terminology that is insane and Sunny-esque. 

Dennis and Dee’s big day out for Frank becomes increasingly like the day of an actual dog, including a trip to get a burger, sometimes playing with his friend Duncan under the bridge (an event he’s so excited for he almost smashes his head through the car window), and some time at the beach, where Frank can shoot his gun at the ocean — a body of water he inexplicably hates and calls a “polluted sack of shit.” 

Frank turns to Dee and Dennis and informs them that he is ready for them to put him out of his misery, as he assumes they were taking him on this perfect day to prepare to actually kill him. He’s completely at ease at this, asking only that they do it once his clothes are off so he doesn’t poop himself. When they inform him they just wanted to take his gun away, not kill him in public, Frank is outraged. 

This nonsensical, rage-fueled rationale is the very foundation of Sunny —  The Gang regularly clings to ideas of “Americanness,” “freedom,” and “rights” that have nothing to do with anything and are totally tied to whims. They’d rather be shot in the head on the Jersey Shore than lose their precious gun, they’d rather be constantly neglected by their real father than have a secondary relationship with their kindly, relatable uncle; they’d rather have a sacred tooth jar than an inheritance. 

In the final (once again, cartoonish) moments of the episode, a haywire bullet coming from Frank’s gun almost miraculously hits every single member of The Gang as it pings around the bar — they’re fortunate to be such indestructible caricatures of human beings, or they’d be at risk of actually getting hurt at some point.

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  1. “Maybe father”? Season 15 had a multiple episode arc revealing his father is an Irish Cheese Monger.

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