This week's episode was Sunny's 100th, and perhaps in celebration of that, the gang offered us a protracted peek into each of their warped minds. When I realized that this was just going to be a collection of fantasy sequences, I groaned in anticipation of 22 wasted minutes of screen time that many long-running sitcoms phone in once in a while (e.g., "it was all a dream" episodes, "what if" scenarios, the dreaded clip shows). But I should have known better. In the hands of skilled writers, these types of hackneyed plot devices can actually work and seem fresh. And while "The Gang Saves the Day" isn't quite as inventive as, say, Community's "Paradigms of Human Memory," it's still pretty damn funny.  

The fantasies start flying when the gang finds itself crouching in a convenience store aisle as the clerk is being held up. As Charlie asks what they should do, each imagines a way out of their predicament...among other things.

Mac's Fantasy
Despite being shown up by Country Mac last week, Mac still believes in his own badassery enough to cast himself as a gravelly-voiced action hero, complete with awesome karate skills and punny catch-phrases that he doesn't quite understand. Dispatching the robber - who turns out to be with the Yakuza - results in the store being invaded by an army of ninjas, all of whom Mac expertly vanquishes to the awe of the rest of the gang. (Except Dee, who dies almost immediately.) But when Mac's final victim turns out to be the clerk's dad, not the crime boss, Mac gets a throwing star to the neck, dies a hero and ascends to a heaven of shirtless beefcakes. And Mac gets to sit at the right hand of the biggest stud of all: God.

Dee's Fantasy
Even in Dee's fantasies, she knows that the guys kind of hate her, so it's no surprise that she imagines that Dennis offers her as a sacrifice to the robber so that the rest of them can escape unharmed. But when the robber turns out to be a woman, she gives Dee her gun so that she can blow those boners away (including the clerk). What seems like a set-up for a Thelma and Louise-style romp quickly shifts gears when Dee blames the robber for the murders and gets placed in the Witness Protection Program. She "becomes" a British butler, and is so convincing in the real-life role that she eventually brings the character to TV, in the "most successful sitcom of all-time." From there, her star continues to rise, as she is cast as the lead in a "Hunger Games" ripoff. She also has a high-profile but short-lived marriage to Josh Groban, which ends when she dumps him for Brad Pitt. I can't believe she dumped him after he wrote that beautiful song about how her feet are not big and she doesn't look like a bird! Some women are just never satisfied.

Dennis's Fantasy
When Dennis tries to negotiate with the robber, he gets shot in the head, but doesn't die. While in the hospital, he is cared for by Jackie DeNardo (from "The Storm of the Century"), the big-boobed reporter-turned nurse. Once fully-recovered, Dennis confesses his love for Jackie, right before she rollerblades into traffic. As she lies in the hospital bed, the doctor tells Dennis that her breasts were "obliterated," prompting Dennis to mercy-kill her.

Frank's Fantasy
Frank sneaks up behind the robber to the hot dog grill and gets his Babe Ruth on. The cops come, sh!t goes down, people die...but Frank never looks up from his neverending meal.

Charlie's Fantasy
OF COURSE Charlie's fantasy is animated. In many ways, he's very much a child, so it makes sense that he sees life as one long Disney movie. When The Waitress enters the convenience store, Charlie saves her, and she finally falls in love with him. They get married, move into a cute house (built by Charlie's rat army), have tons of babies who grow up to be janitors and waitresses, and everything is great until The Waitress finally dies of old age. And once she's gone, Charlie ties a bunch of balloons to his house and flies away.

While there were a lot of laughs packed into each one of these segments, Charlie's fantasy was the winner by far. There have been a few times when this show has brought a tear to my eye, and each time was because of something Charlie-related. Even when he's doing awful things, there is an underlying sweetness to Charlie that can't be denied. And even though I knew his fantasy was basically just a rat-infested, slightly weirder version of "Up," I still got a lump in my throat during the scene where Charlie kisses The Waitress goodbye, which morphed into him kissing her coffin. And when he flew off into the clouds, I practically had to stop myself from cheering, "Go, Charlie! GO! YOU CAN MAKE IT TO PARADISE FALLS!!" *sigh* I always want better things for that guy.

Frank's fantasy was the second-best because it was utterly believable. Mac's and Dee's fantasies were both pretty good, with parts that worked and parts that were just meh. The only segment that really disappointed me was Dennis's. When he first approached the robber, I thought to myself, "HERE WE GO." It could have gone so many different, and better, ways. He could have killed the robber and then turned into a Dexter-like character. (Or just a full-on American Psycho, once he got the taste of blood.) He could have used his brilliant analytical skills to get inside the robber's mind, save the day and become a powerful and sexy police negotiator. He could have offered to take the robber under his wing and show him how to REALLY get off. The robber could have been a chick, and he could have distracted her by popping his shirt off. Or he could have just realized after getting shot in the head and not dying that he really was a god. Any of these imagined situations would have been more satisfying than the big-boobed nurse fantasy. Yes, it was great that we finally got to see Dennis kill someone, but it took much too long to get to that payoff.

Speaking of payoffs, the episode's final punchline was juuust right: the gang's ultimate reaction to the robbery was to steal a bunch of food and run out of the store. The fantasies were fun, but that last blast of reality is what this show's all about. It never hurts to be reminded that these are terrible, terrible people.

Grade: A

Random Thoughts:

• When the gang first walked into the store, Dennis mentioned something about not buying beer because they were heading to the bar. As a Pennsylvania resident, I found this kind of funny, because we can't buy beer in convenience stores. We have plenty of strip clubs and we're allowed to gamble now, but our state leaders still think that allowing us to buy beer to go with our frozen pizza would somehow destroy the fabric of society.

• I love that Dee died in 3 of the 5 fantasies, to absolutely no one's dismay. And even though she didn't die in Dennis's dream, she wasn't there, which still shows how little regard he (and the rest of the guys) has for her.

• Great seeing that beefcake Rex as an angel in Mac's heaven. I wonder if he died from eating cockroaches?

• Why was Mac wearing a long-sleeved shirt under his RIOT tee??

• Even though it wasn't the best fantasy, Mac's had some of the funniest moments. The whole debate over whether his one-liners were good enough puns, until he eventually asked, "What IS a pun?" had me in stitches. I also loved when Charlie, Frank and Dennis were apologizing for not taking Mac seriously and begging him not to die, that Mac's last words were, "I....don't forgive you!"

• Speaking of that scene, was anyone else thinking (or hoping) that Dennis was going to kiss Mac? ROBBED!

• I'm not sure if "Covington's House" was supposed to be a parody of "Mr. Belvedere" or "The Nanny." Or both. I've never watched a full episode of either one.

• As disappointed as I was in Dennis's fantasy, I still thought Glenn Howerton was excellent in this episode. His slurred gibberish after getting shot in the head was wonderful.

• More reasons to love Charlie: He thinks people get married at the Marriage Store and get babies from the Baby Store. He loves each of his rats like children and gives them proper burials when they die. He's happy to remain a janitor for the rest of his life as long as he's with The Waitress. He obviously loves "Up" as much as the rest of us do.

• That "her breasts were obliterated" line from Dennis's fantasy was the best of the night for me. I seriously couldn't stop laughing. The actor playing the doctor gets an A+ and two snaps up in a circle for that delivery.

• Rest of the best quotes:
Josh Groban: “Groban likes his ladies to pop."

Dennis: "Does my dick work?"
Doctor: "No. Your penis does not work."
Dennis: "Kill me."

Dennis: “A fisherman always spots another fisherman from afar.”

From the "Covington's House" theme song: "Life for a single parent is full of stress/Makes you want to put
a gun in your mouth/Or get real high."