After the lackluster “King of the Rats” episode, "It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia" bounced back beautifully with last night’s little tale of a road trip gone awry. Unlike in last season’s “The Gang Hits the Road,” the gang actually manages to make it out of Philly this time—and the change of scenery was just the breath of fresh air this somewhat uneven season needed.

Frank takes the very well-dressed gang on a trip to an Atlantic City casino, where—thanks to a very large donation—he’s scheduled to be the keynote speaker at an animal rights event. That charitable move doesn’t really make sense until Frank (clad in a leather—not plastic—suit) reveals that what he actually paid for was a chance to stick it to the animal rights activists in his speech. Because of his innate tightfistedness (which has probably kept him so rich), Frank “shortcuts” it down a dirt country road to avoid the tolls. Unfortunately, he can’t avoid crashing the car when Mac jerks the wheel to avoid a squirrel. (Gotta be the funniest “SQUIRREL!” shout since John Randolph in Christmas Vacation.)  

With the car out of commission and no cell phone reception, Charlie and Dennis decide to go look for help. On the walk, Dennis starts to tell a seemingly pointless story about getting a “wonderful and very sexual hickey” from a young girl (totally legal), which turns out to actually be a Tony Robbins-esque lesson to teach Charlie how to just “say yes” to new adventures. Or maybe it was a nod to that Jim Carrey movie, Yes Man. I have no idea, because I’ve repeatedly said no to that movie.

Dennis’s wise words lead him and Charlie to ditch their friends and say yes to hitching a ride to Atlantic City with a trucker named Byron (the brilliantly-cast Tom Sizemore). Seeing their fancy duds, Byron assumes that Charlie and Dennis are “lizards,” aka truck stop whores. Not hearing or believing the boys’ denials, Byron softly says, “Save your seduction for someone else…I will not suck you and will not be sucked by you.” Although there was a time when Byron loved the lizards, he’s a happily married man now. Or so he claims, right up until he pulls into a motel parking lot and propositions them. Charlie and Dennis pick the right time to say no, and get the hell out of there. Thankfully, Byron had forgotten to lock the doors.

Back in the woods, Mac oils his baseball glove in anticipation of having a catch with one of the scheduled guests at the event, Phillies’ second baseman Chase Utley (revealed as Mac's obsession last season). Dee hopes to hook up with Chase’s teammate Ryan Howard, despite the fact that she’s, as Frank so delicately puts it, “pregnant as sh*t.” When daydreams give way to hunger (naturally, everyone had been starving themselves to prepare for the free buffet), Frank decides to hunt for some food. However, when Frank locks eyes with a mystical rabbit, his outlook on animals (they should only be “food, rugs and trophies”) suddenly changes. But Dee, still hungry after refusing to eat a dead crow that Mac found, captures Frank’s bunny friend and tries to decide how to kill it.

While those three struggle in the woods, Charlie and Dennis manage to get to the casino, where Charlie wins $15K at roulette. (And I waited for a “Rain Man” homage that never materialized.) And since he’s still saying yes to everything, he tells the event organizer that he is Frank Reynolds. With that one little lie, Charlie has one of the best nights of his life. After being applauded by the crowd for his charitable contributions (and showering the crowd with $5K), he and Dennis party with Chase Utley and Ryan Howard (shown in a wonderful “Glory Days” musical montage), get completely wasted and then blow the rest of their winnings on a private jet ride home.

Realizing that no one is coming to rescue them (and with Frank violently ill after deciding to eat that dead crow), Dee, Mac and Frank go looking for help. When Mac notices that he finally has cell reception, a picture message from Dennis comes through. Mac stares in disbelief at the photo of Dennis and Chase Utley together and, as he screams, “No, NO!” a text pops up: “YES!” And if that didn’t bring the two plots together well enough for everyone’s liking, Byron comes driving by and offers the three a ride.

Grade: A

Random Thoughts:

• Move over, “The Gang Buys a Boat.” This is now the best episode of the season (so far). There was so much good stuff (especially the quotes…my God, the quotes!) packed in here but I couldn’t include all the best parts in the recap or it would have been 30 paragraph-long ramble. Thank God for this Random Thoughts section.

• Why don’t Dennis and Charlie pair up more often? They are great together. I loved when Dennis said he was “methodical” and Charlie wholeheartedly agreed, “like a serial killer,” both of them chuckling all the while.

• There were lots of great callbacks in this one: Chase Utley/Ryan Howard (“The World Series Defense”), Charlie’s fear of leaving Philly (“The Gang Hits the Road”), and Charlie’s empathy for rats (“Charlie Kelly: King of the Rats”).

• Charlie’s decision to say yes to everything reminded me a lot of George Costanza doing the opposite.  

• As funny as it was, I honestly felt bad for Mac when Dennis crushed his dreams. And really, Dennis and Charlie just left their friends stranded in the woods and never looked back? Wow, these people are a-holes. May they never change.

• Tom Sizemore was great. He’s a good actor and I used to have kind of a crush on him, so I felt bad when he became just another “Celebrity Rehab” tabloid staple. For the short amount of time he was onscreen, he fired off a string of memorable sexual euphemisms:
   - “I would’ve let you turn me into swiss cheese.
   - "I would’ve let you make me into a mailbox—just open the slot and put whatever you want inside."
   - "I thought we’d slip into a room and you could check my oil."
   - "What do you say we slip into a room, and you two split me open like a coconut?"

So many great quotes…head going to…explode:
   -“You want me to give all my money to some toll jockey? Just for riding down the street?” – Frank
   -“You leave Philly and bad sh*t happens. I mean, trees? Everywhere trees?? What the hell is this place?” – Charlie
   -“I just don’t question the things you do anymore.” – Dee (to Frank)
   -“It’s wabbit season!” – Frank (channeling Elmer Fudd)
   -“Whoa, we’re having a moment here, aren’t we?” – Frank (to the wabbit)
   -“Just to reiterate: We don’t suck on people. We own a bar.” – Charlie
   -“Animals can see souls. That is just a fact of nature!” – Mac
   -“If anything, you should be more afraid of truckers.” – Dennis
   -“Maybe I’ll suffocate your rabbit face and then suck all the life out of it.” – Dee
   -“If animals have taught me anything, it’s that you can easily die, and very quickly, under a bus and by the side of the road.” – Charlie
   -“This is for the rats!” – Charlie (throwing money)
   -“You guys drank more than anybody I’ve ever seen.” – Chase Utley
   -“I named him Peter Peter Nickel Eater because last night in the car, he tried to eat a nickel.” – Dee