"It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia” shook up its formula this week with "The Gang Gets Trapped," a creative yet odd episode that caught up with the gang in media res. For a story that was pretty much all "middle"—with no flashback to its beginning and an awkward ending—it was easy to follow, wildly entertaining and jam-packed with laugh-out-loud moments.
The episode takes place entirely in an unknown person's home, and begins with Dennis and Dee trapped in the closet with R. Kelly nowhere to be found and Frank hiding under a bed. With a clever bit of exposition, Dennis quickly gets us up to speed on the how and why: the gang read about an ancient "artifact" (ugly vase) that these homeowners either stole or legitimately purchased at an auction (does it really matter?), which, due to both their collective idiocy and Mac's affection for the Indiana Jones movies, prompted them to concoct a scheme to steal the artifact and put it where it belongs—a museum. Of course, things hit a snag when the "extraction team" of Dennis, Dee and Frank break in to the house and discover that the owner is home, forcing them into hiding. Glenn Howerton is fantastic in these opening segments, as he always is in "exasperated Dennis" mode, especially when he gives the short, meta explanation of how the gang always ends up in these types of jams: "We immediately escalate everything to a 10. It's ridiculous."
But according to Mac—who is keeping an eye on the house from a van with Charlie—Dennis is the one mostly responsible for escalating the situation by giving an apparently soul-stirring speech earlier that day about how they could easily complete this caper. Now, most viewers would agree that those "scheme escalation" scenes are, in large part, what makes this show so damn funny, so it's a very risky move to completely eliminate that part from an episode and start with a scheme-in-progress. It's a risk that ends up paying off, although I do wish we could get at least one flashback to Dennis' oration, because it sounds like it would have been right up there with his "hammer of Thor" hospital speech.
Dennis, Dee and Frank continue to skulk around the house unbeknownst to the clueless woman who lives there, and eventually discover that she is planning to leave her husband and run off to Disneyland with her daughter and lover. The family's southern accents fill Dennis with Texas Chainsaw Massacre-esque visions, so he is exceptionally antsy to get the hell out of there. Charlie joins the extraction team inside after getting fed up with Mac's refusal to let Charlie have any of his potato chips or push the button on the walkie-talkie, and Mac soon leaves his post to get a burger. Eventually, the man of the house returns and confronts his wife, and the family decides to all sit down and talk out their problems. Although Mac calls on his way back from the burger joint and proposes to distract the family by posing as a Swedish plumber (wonderfully random), the gang finally has enough of hiding and figures that if they've gone undetected this long, they could probably just stroll right out the front door with no problem. As they walk past the living room, the (surprisingly Asian) family looks at them, the gang looks back, and then they just kind of leave with neither group really acknowledging the other. But not before Frank smashes the vase to bits with his Indy whip, of course.
As I said earlier, it was risky to mess with basic story structure and form an entire episode around the gang trying to get out of a jam we never saw them get into in the first place. However, I think it worked because we know these characters well enough to imagine how they got there, so it doesn't really feel like we're missing anything that crucial. More importantly, skipping the plot development just freed up the entire length of the episode for a barrage of jokes and hilarious dialogue, which more than made up for the storyline's lack of dimension.
• There were a lot of weird little moments here and there that really made me laugh, like Mac in the Indiana Jones hat, the E.T. reference (pictured), Dee's "I have to pee face" and Dennis' disgust that she would go while he was still in the bathroom, discovering Mac and Charlie's heretofore unknown dream of owning a leather store, and the teddy bear repeatedly saying "I love you" as Frank ripped it apart.
• Dennis should have just let Dee choke the female homeowner out. She deserved it, right? I mean, she's cheating on her husband, trying to steal away to Disneyland with her kid, loves Jay Leno and is completely unaware that people are wandering around her house and using the toilet.
• The cavalcade of quotes!!
Dennis: "Nobody's thinking. Everybody's just talking over each other with one idiotic idea after another until finally we find ourselves in a situation where we've broken into somebody's house and the homeowner is home. I'm sick of it, Dee. We've got to examine our process."
Dennis (via Mac): "I have the grace of a falcon. I'll be in and out like a demon's whisper."
Mac: "We are men of honor who protect artifacts from those who steal them."
Charlie: "There's a man coming to the house with pointed feet of some kind, so be careful."
Dennis: "We are in a very dangerous situation here. These people are from the South!"
Charlie: "That's weird. People from the South don't usually move up north."
Frank: "Deandra, your breath is dogsh!t."
Frank: "If some hillbilly comes up to me, I'm gonna lash him in the face, that's all."
Mac: "You don't get chips!"
Dee: "I'm beginning to think this family has zero awareness of their surroundings."
Dennis: "Dee, you gangly, uncoordinated bitch. I'm not getting hog-tied over your lack of grace."
Dee: "A leather shop...in Arizona? They'd be out of business in a week's time!
Dennis: "That's what I said!
Mac: "I'm a Svedish plumber, I'm here to fix your pipes."
Frank: "I'm gonna whip this little bitch in the face if she makes a peep."
Dee: "It was weird that they were Asian, right?"