‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia Season 16, Episode 5 – “Celebrity Booze: The Ultimate Cash Grab” (RECAP)

Finally! A very Sunny celebrity cameo episode! “Celebrity Booze: The Ultimate Cash Grab” opens on The Gang hearing that Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul, stars of Breaking Bad, are coming to Philadelphia to promote their in-real-life mezcal, Dos Hombres. The group is offended by the notion of this celebrity booze cash-grab. “Any idiot could take a bottle of booze, slap a celebrity’s face on it, and make a fortune,” Dennis (Glenn Howerton) complains. Though, like many atrocious schemes before, in less than a minute The Gang has decided to create their own booze label and convince Cranston and Paul to get in on it. 

Glenn Howerton as Dennis, Rob McElhenney as Mac, and Charlie Day as Charlie in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (COURTESY: FX)

Sunny has been known to dabble in the meta before, on differing levels of intensity. “Celebrity Booze: The Ultimate Cash Grab” is one of their more distinct, obvious, and deeply explicit meta episodes. It is similar in obviousness to “The Gang Wins an Award” episode, which is more about an attempt to be nominated and win at awards shows—something Sunny notoriously never does—than about the actual storyline. Depending on how deep you are in Sunny lore, you may also know that there is a consistent meta throughline in the series regarding various characters’ strange dynamics—simply due to the interpersonal web of many of the creators and stars being married and/or close friends in real life. 

In “Celebrity Booze” Cranston and Paul’s cameos as themselves promoting their mezcal, in turn, promotes their mezcal in reality. And secondly, and perhaps more notably, the Sunny stars and head writers — Glenn Howerton, Rob McElhenney, and Charlie Day — recently sold their own whiskey, which was frequently promoted on their recap podcast. Dennis’ sneering disgust at the idea of a celebrity booze scheme is one that is self-aware and pointed inward. 

After deciding to come up with their own booze brand, Dennis, Charlie (Charlie Day), and Mac (Rob McElhenney), agree that the fanciest drink currently is Goldschläger, with the second being Jagermeister — a belief held by them and the average early 2000s high schooler (evidenced by the fact Goldschläger is also the preferred “fancy” drink of the teens in Superbad) — and that their celebrity drink should be a “blend” of these liqueurs. 

Meanwhile, Frank (Danny Devito) and Dee (Kaitlin Olson) are on Frank’s private plane, eating spaghetti out of styrofoam and drinking boxed wine. As the boys try and coax Frank into getting in on their plan, they explain that their big celebrity “get” is the dad and the child from Malcolm in the Middle a complete misunderstanding of the actors who are in town. 

As Dee and Frank circle Philly in Frank’s jet for one of Frank’s various questionable financial loopholes, the boys head out to meet Bryan and Aaron. Charlie is detained at the metal detector as his stomach is filled with “Nickelschlager”, his repulsive attempt at creating a “working man’s spirit” with coin-infused alcohol. 

Aaron Paul as himself, Glenn Howerton as Dennis, Rob McElhenney as Mac, and Bryan Cranston as himself in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (COURTESY: FX)

For the event, Mac is dressed in his best attempt at “Michael Jordan in the 90s” — replete with a tan, high-waisted suit and a large gold hoop earring. Between their television interests, their fashion reference points, and their preferred “luxury” alcohol, this episode emphasizes heavily that The Gang seems perennially stuck somewhere between the late 90s and the early 2000s, and has not checked in on cultural trends meaningfully since then.   

Cranston and Paul’s performance in this episode is so wonderfully gung-ho and in line with the tone of the series; perhaps a willingness to be truly ridiculous is a prerequisite for appearing on Sunny

When Bryan greets Mac at their photo op, Mac quickly explains Dennis’ rules: “I’m not supposed to talk.” Bryan shiftily nods toward Aaron: “I’m not supposed to either.” It is quickly revealed that Aaron and Bryan are playing themselves as a reflection of Mac and Dennis, with Bryan Cranston being a sort of submissive, earnest, overly-agreeable sidekick to Aaron Paul’s narcissist existing on inexplicable cruelty, borderline abuse, and made-up rules. When Bryan admits to his gambling issues, for example, Aaron announces brutally, “This guy was a week away from sucking off tourists to make his rent.” 

(Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul are not the only major cameos, however, as Dennis and Mac also have a run-in with Philadelphia Flyers mascot Gritty in the club bathroom.) 

Aaron Paul as himself, Bryan Cranston as himself, and Charlie Day as Charlie in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (COURTESY: FX)

After Dennis is thrown off by the inability to shake Bryan or Aaron’s hands at the photo op, all hope for pitching their alcohol line seems to be lost, until a misunderstanding (and a puke full of nickels) on Charlie’s part lands Aaron and Bryan in Charlie’s limo.  

The Gang gets Bryan and Aaron on the plane and waits until they are in the air to reveal they have all been hiding in the back. The Gang ambushes the group with their collection of pitches — nickel alcohol, an app lifestyle brand having to do with big suits and vacations, an “opportunity” to buy Frank’s plane. 

The overkill, and Aaron’s continued attempts to control him, have Bryan having a villainous, Walter White-esque meltdown as The Gang awkwardly watches on in the back of the plane. “So I ask you, bitch,” Bryan sneers at Aaron at the end of the tirade, “who is really in charge here?” 

The group sits in stunned silence until Bryan snaps back to his affable self, revealing the spiel to be a joke, at which point The Gang suggests that “the dad” from Malcolm in the Middle should really try out drama acting. 


During the various flawed pitches toward the celebrities trapped on the plane at the end of the episode, Dee is the first to reveal her hiding spot. She does not have any ploy or sale for the acting duo. Instead, Dee simply asks if Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul are “ready to party”. Dee is a simple woman, with simple tastes, and absolutely no sense of how strange and socially off-putting she is.  

Early in the episode, when Dee first dares to speak on the phone to the boys while on Frank’s jet, she is instantly berated by the group. In the midst of a chorus of “shut ups”, she is informed by her twin brother, Dennis, that when she comes back “we’re gonna shut your lips and we’re gonna sew your mouth shut”. 

Something about the cartoonish nature of Sunny makes the intense abuse thrown at Dee constantly not just watchable, but funny. Where else do we see such full-throated vitriol toward someone for absolutely no reason? What kind of threat is “sewing someone’s mouth shut”? And why does Dee not react to such insanity, opting instead to just stare blankly outward at the onslaught? 

Perhaps the most meta throughline of the show sits in Mac’s sheer hatred for Dee—his screams of “shut ups” are the most intense of all the men in this scene and most scenes—as actors McElhenney and Olson are, in reality, married. This interpersonal dynamic is used to the show’s great advantage, with the duo doing stunts that would be near impossible to ethically stage with anyone but a comfortably married couple, as well as gags that are made both more sensical and funnier when done between people who know each other extremely well. 

Perhaps my favorite trick within Kaitlin Olson’s robust physical acting roster makes an appearance in this episode — her stunning ability to fake gag and fake puke. After eating a tin full of oysters that Frank belatedly announces is from a Tony Danza-promoted 1980s shellfish company, Dee heaves up repeatedly with stunning throaty realism. Olson’s deeply realistic fake puking is a tangible example of her willingness to give so much in the minutia of her performance of Dee. Everything about Dee is so pathetic and so raw. I love her so much. 

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