‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ Season 16, Episode 3 – The Gang Gets Cursed (RECAP)

The most recent episode of Always Sunny opens on The Gang getting some news. Mac’s (Rob McElhenney) weekly, repeated, almost harassment-level pleas to be on the reality show Bar Rescue have finally been answered, and the reality show has agreed to come and help out Paddy’s Pub. 

The rest of The Gang is at first reluctant — what if that show makes them look like jerks, or stupid, or out of shape (in classic Gang fashion, they declare that they can only be made to look bad, as opposed to the truth, which is that they are bad). In his traditional, almost animalistic hierarchy submission, Mac is excited to have his “ass handed to him” by Bar Rescue. 

But as they try and prepare, Dennis (Glenn Howerton) suddenly can’t find his words (and each time he struggles, a haunting, shrill, string instrument chord appears, as if a mystery is a afoot), Dee’s (Kaitlin Olson) face seems to be practically melting on one side, and Frank’s (Danny Devito) daily egg oozes bright red blood instead of a yoke. Instead of moving through the causes of these events rationally, the group instead quickly works themselves into a lather and decide they are collectively cursed. 

This is one of Sunny’s most lore-rich episodes in seasons, loaded with character callbacks and cameos that make it feel almost like an episode from the early days. 

Mac soon remembers he was literally cursed by Rickety Cricket (David Hornsby) the other day. This is one of Cricket’s first cameos in seasons — he looks grotesque as ever, with his scarred and tattooed face, all caused by The Gang with differing levels of responsibility. Cricket is now a pimp with “boysluts” but still is as desperate and broke as ever, even willing to drink the pee that Mac has left in a beer bottle as a “gift” for Cricket because he’s “just glad to have a beverage.” 

Cricket is helping Mac get face-to-face time with ex-Phillies player Chase Utley, to whom Mac has been writing pathetic fanmail since season six. (In fact, the lore behind this gag is a testament to Sunny’s longstanding cult status — a video shown in this episode of a younger Chase Utley reading Mac’s fan mail is, in fact, a real gag made by The Phillies seven years ago). While the rest of the group grapples with their curses, Mac is doing quite well, which he claims is thanks to a monkey paw he found recently. 

McElhenney’s performance of Mac this season is a definite highlight. Between his impossibly strange deliveries as his mouth swells in the first episode of the season and now his strange, halting speech patterns as he speaks to Chase Utley, Mac seems to be reaching new levels of social strangeness. Mac butchers the conversation with Utley so severely (“Your hair… It’s throwing me… It’s making me very nervous,” Mac calls out with averted eyes) that he somehow concocts a fictional son who is dying of cancer in hopes that Chase will at least play catch with the nonexistent kid. 

(For keen-eyed Sunny watchers, it will be of note that this is the second fake dying child The Gang has concocted for their own personal gain—the first being Dee’s fictional child she was using for tax breaks in the episode “Sweet Dee Gets Audited”).

Meanwhile, Charlie ends up at his mom’s house to try and help resolve Frank’s curse — which they presume is his karmic punishment for killing a seagull. His mother, Bonnie (Lynne Marie Stewart), is midway through a tragic birthday party for Charlie’s lecherous Uncle Jack (Andrew Friedman), another major Sunny character in seasons past. Frank admits that a burial of the seagull will be easy enough (this option is Bonnie’s most sane advice, while the other suggestions include killing Frank or fashioning a necklace out of the seagull’s skull) because Frank didn’t even bother getting rid of the dead bird, opting instead just to kick its corpse under a booth. 

Charlie Day as Charlie and Danny DeVito as Frank in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (COURTESY: FX)

The magic of Sunny is that it somehow makes it equally funny to have The Gang interact with both normal people and with people as freakish as themselves. It’s funny watching Mac bumble with Chase Utley. But it’s equally as funny seeing The Gang interact with one of Cricket’s working boys, disturbingly nicknamed “The Kid” (C.J. Hoff), who is filthy and off-putting and flirtatious and as strange as The Gang, or with Charlie’s mom who nonsensically screams bloody murder at the news of Frank having killed a bird. 

Dennis begins to wonder if his dead wife, Maureen Ponderosa (Catherine Reitman), who spent the last years of her life working to cosmetically transform herself into a cat before “mysteriously falling” (read as: definitely pushed by Dennis) off the roof of Paddy’s Pub, is haunting him. When a neighbor of Dee’s mentions she once had a cat named Maureen, Dennis muses to himself in a Freudian slip, “Huh. That was crazy, I was murdered to a woman named Maureen.” Dennis’ potential curse can be found in the fact that he disrespected Maureen’s final wish — to be buried in an animal cemetery. 

When The Gang gathers back at the bar, before any of them have a chance to meaningfully fix their curses, Mac reveals his monkey paw, which he claims he “randomly” found behind the bar. The Gang quickly pieces together that this is not some lucky token, but remnants of the pet bartending monkey they bought last season. It is the paw of the monkey that, as Dennis succinctly describes, “worked here, robbed our bar, and fucked our faces.” 

The Gang does their equivalent of a sitcom wrap-up, a moment usually tied up neatly with a bow, but in this Sunny-fied case, it is mostly convoluted and impossible. Chase Utley arrives at a pet cemetery to play catch with Mac while they realize all of their brain fog, melting faces, and filthy bar issues are from black mold covering the rotting monkey. 

An Extra Deecap: 

Of all of The Gang’s curse problems, Dee’s is undoubtedly the most visceral, immediately apparent as Dee barges into the bar with half of her face melting. Her eye droops with an appalling severity, and her mouth is turned into a severe downward grimace in what appears to be a combination of incredible facial acting skill on Olson’s part and some grotesque effects. 

Olson’s overwhelming sense of willingness—to throw herself around, look godawful, play pathetic, desperate, and cruel all at once— is often the backbone of Sunny episodes. This horrific facial damage is no exception. 

The Gang posits that the origin of Dee’s curse is perhaps the run-in she’s just had with her neighbor (played by Rhea Pearlman, a one-time costar of Danny Devito’s as they iconically played Matilda’s cruel and stupid parents in Matilda.) 

Rhea Perlman as Bertha Fussy in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (COURTESY: FX)

Dee’s neighbor kindly asks her not to scream as she plays video games at all hours of the night, and Dee ignores her pleas and gives her a trophy labeled “Cunt of The Year” that is at first inexplicably sitting in her apartment. When Dee tells the group about the interaction, and they panic, Dee quickly soothes them: “We call old ladies cunts all the time.” 

Dee is right that this particular word is a favorite of The Gang’s — canonically, in fact. In the season twelve episode, “Hero or Hate Crime,” The Gang explains they love the word because it so quickly makes a woman “feel small.” While it’s been used in the show before, it’s used with a frankly laudable regularity in this episode. “Cunt” is a word used while killing seabirds, or talking about Dee, or, as they all fondly reminisce, used against old ladies.

But The Gang is deeply displeased with Dee’s interaction, not so much because of the curse or the cruelty of the action, but mainly because of the fact that they were the ones to give her that trophy. “Dee had no right to give that trophy away,” Dennis explains to the group. “We worked very, very hard on that.” 

The “Cunt of the Year” trophy discussion encapsulates what is so consistently striking about Dee as a character the fact that she almost transcends “pick-me girl” behaviors. Dee is not only willing to participate in misogyny against others to fit in with the group, but she is also willing to bear the brunt of the misogyny as a cost for hanging out with them. 

It feels unfathomable to consider Sunny without Dee, who is somehow both the group punching bag and as awful, atrocious, and irredeemable as her oppressors. She occasionally feels like the very orbit of the show — without Dee to accept the “Cunt of the Year” award and all of the abuse that comes with it, where would Sunny be? Would The Gang be able to exist without her nonsensical involvement? Perhaps she is the very glue that keeps the Sunny universe together. 

Like this article?

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Related Posts