If "The Gang Tries Desperately to Win an Award" was the Sunny creators' way of putting the Television Academy on notice, "The Gang Gets Quarantined" is an exercise in providing some excellent material for Glenn Howerton's Emmy nomination reel. As a whole, it's not one of the best episodes in recent memory, but thanks to Howerton's performance and some really funny moments, it manages to stay just above average.
One of those funny moments is the cold open, which finds the original gang doin' a little East Coast swing. It's been a while since we've seen them harmonizing their hearts out (my favorite is still their rendition of "More Than Words"), and they do a great job with "Motownphilly." Turns out, they're practicing for a shot to open for Boyz II Men at an upcoming concert. But Frank breaks up the song and dance with his announcement that one of his neighbors died from the flu, and to prevent everyone from getting sick, he wants them all to lock themselves up in Paddy's, at least until there's a vaccine. (You mean there's not a Walgreen's on every corner advertising flu shots in Philly?)
Dennis is fine with this plan, as being quarantined will protect the gang's vocal cords, while giving them plenty of time to work on their act. But while Dennis is focused on honing the group's talent, Charlie, Mac and Dee are all more interested in coming up with a good backstory for the group, because that's what really wins talent shows.
When Frank discovers that Dennis has been contaminated by outside pizza, he banishes him to the men's room, effectively "quarantining him inside the quarantine." This is when things start to drag a bit, because all of Dennis's scenes are priceless, and once he's double-quarantined, there simply aren't enough of them.
While Dennis is locked away, Charlie and Mac go on a shopping run (wearing bubble boy suits that Charlie's mother apparently owns) and Frank slowly starts losing his mind thinking about how dirty humans are. After much thought, he comes to the conclusion that shaving all of his hair off will somehow keep him clean.
Eventually, Frank busts Dee also eating delivery pizza and discovers that Mac's bubble boy suit suffered a breach, landing them both in the men's room with Dennis, who, despite his protestations, is clearly very ill. After Frank freaks Charlie out by trying to shave him, Charlie puts himself in the men's room quarantine with the rest of the gang, who by this time are ALL sick.
None of this is all that interesting until we get to the comedic twist. When Charlie reveals that he's been hiding liquor in old bathroom cleaner bottles, the gang magically drinks themselves healthy. The realization finally sets in that none of them ever had the flu; they're all just bona fide alcoholics who were suffering withdrawal. When they leave the bathroom (Charlie had the key all along, of course), they follow a slimy trail of hand sanitizer to find a shaved, nearly naked Frank slithering around on the floor like a slug.
As funny as certain bits were, I was more than a little puzzled by this episode. First of all, the overall premise just seemed weak. Secondly, Frank's obsession with cleanliness really threw me. How does one of the dirtiest, scummiest weirdos in the world suddenly care about his health so much? And all of the parts where he gave his "crazy" speeches felt like a very specific parody of something I've never seen, so I always felt a little bit outside the joke. I had a hard time grading this one, but I can assure you that had it not been for the awesome Dennis moments, and the gang's final revelation that they're all dependent on booze, it would have earned a straight C.
• Parks and Rec's Jerry Gergich had a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo as Frank's doctor at the end. I guess he didn't get any lines because he probably would have just messed them up. Dammit, Jerry!
• Charlie and Mac's trip to the store wasn't particularly funny (yeah, even with bubble boy suits) but I did laugh out loud when they started kicking in the direction of the lady who coughed on them.
• Although this episode belonged to Dennis, Charlie had some typically cute moments, like misunderstanding what Mac meant when he said they would all be wearing the same outfit for the concert, and trying to figure out a way to cram four people into some kind of Transfomers-type suit. And then there was his assessment of Boyz II Men's style: "Are they bat-boys or are they butlers? You don't know, but it's a sweet look."
• As a frequent garbage-TV viewer, I appreciated that Dee cared more about creating a sob story for the group than working on their vocals. In fact, a stuttering, Southern, Jesus-loving ex-Marine with a dead friend will more than likely be our next American Idol.
• Best of Dennis:
Critiquing the gang's rehearsal: “You think 'fine' is good enough for the Boyz II the Men?"
"I can go from flaccid to erect in a moment's notice," followed by a very long demonstration of this. Not too hard, not too soft.
"If I found myself getting sick, I would simply say, 'SICKNESS BE GONE!!'"
Dennis: *creepy, ultra-long high note* "Does that sound like a man who needs to be in the hospital?"
Mac: "Yeah, dude."
Dennis: "I think I may be coming down with something, too."
Charlie: "Dude, are you serious? I think you're gonna die."
Upon realizing he and the rest of the gang are alcoholics: "What do you do with any information? You stuff it deep down inside and keep an eye on it."