In "The Gang Dines Out," the finest restaurant in Philadelphia gets a taste of just how classy Paddy's proprietors can get.
Every once in a while, shows take risks. Each season has one or two episodes that buck the trend, take a different path and explore unfamiliar scenarios, settings, and story arcs. "The Gang Dines Out" felt like one of those episodes.
Dennis and Mac paired up to throw down in a battle royale of paying tribute against Charlie and Frank, while Dee laid low in the (wind beneath my?) wings unnoticed. There were numerous mentions of paying tribute throughout the night out, so I'm suggesting the episode itself was paying tribute to something we'd see on Seinfeld.
This didn't have the feel of a normal It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. They really piled on the homoeroticism (and the matchbooks), elevating it to near obnoxious two-cologne levels. For years, we've seen Mac become the submissive "woman" in his relationship with dominant "male" archetype Dennis and it came out flaring here.
Likewise, Charlie and Frank have developed their own homoerotic partnership, but theirs is way more explicit and open. At first, I didn't really grasp what The Gang and the show were going for.
But then, as I thought about it more, it kind of came together. They were delivering social commentary - with the big overarching joke being why is it when we go out for a nice night out to celebrate with loved ones does it always turn out ugly, with us extricating the things we hate about our relationships? Coincidentally, they poked fun at social norms, manners, etiquette and maybe our concept of gender roles and sexuality.
Charlie and Frank have the kind of domestic partnership that Mac has sought with Dennis, but has never attained. This was the episode where his frustration came to a head and he got his due, though it didn't feel fulfilling to us despite Dennis' grandiose address on the mic (the best part of the episode, by the way).
For me, the episode was trying too hard to be clever. I can understand a scene in which there's a wink to the audience. Like, okay, we get it, they're inhabiting the roles of boyfriend/husband and girlfriend/wife (or gay partners). But... an entire episode? It's kind of overkill, no?
Dennis' pool party story was the only real laugh out loud moment. That's not to say there weren't comedic scenes that I didn't appreciate, but nothing memorable or iconoclastic. I can see where they were taking the episode and what they were trying to achieve, but it just left me wanting and wondering.
The Gang has long objectified women, subjugated them - that's never more evident than their maltreatment of Dee. But was this episode the turning point? Where Dee steps it up and earns The Gang's respect? Where Charlie (the submissive/woman) realizes he doesn't have take the abuse and oppression anymore? Where Mac (submissive/woman) gets Dennis' respect? It seemed like a win for those three inferior characters, but for Dennis and Frank - the two alpha male leaders who seem to always be butting heads for top dog status - what did they gain?
I'm left with that same awkward mixed bag of appreciation and indifference / disappointment that I had with "A Case of Recycling." I'm sure diehard fans will discard and disregard my comments and cite all the subtle nuances and nods that I missed, but it just felt so-so for me. Golf clap for attempting something new, but let's learn from this exercise and move on. These kind of things happen after eight seasons together (much like in a relationship).