Some of the best episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia are borne out of competition. Usually it’s driven by revenge, jealousy, or there’s a reward involved. And sometimes frat boys get poisoned in the process.
None of those things are associated with escape rooms yet in “The Gang Escapes,” a teamwork exercise turns into Five Characters in Search of an Exit. No logic. No reason. No explanation.
Okay, the Gang wasn’t exactly placed inside a Twilight Zone episode. In fact, a better comparison to that classic Twilight Zone episode would be “The Gang Goes To Hell: Part Two” when they’re trapped in cruise ship jail driving each other mad. However, “The Gang Escapes” is another partial bottle episode in which the characters are locked in close quarters for the majority of the runtime. Naturally, they turn on each other and worst comes out of them.
The goal was to work as a team to escape Dennis and Mac’s apartment using a series of clues. Dee’s plan all along was to emasculate the guys by solving an escape room she’s already done. It hilariously falls (literally) apart. The guys bicker until they become avatars for every negative male stereotype, eventually taking credit for escaping the room only when Dee manages to free herself from Dennis’ expertly researched and soundproofed sex chamber. They reward themselves with steaks because men apparently need “stakes” to complete a task. As awful as they Gang is to each other in this episode, it ends with them finally giving Dee credit and letting her bite the first piece of steak.
Always Sunny writer Megan Ganz took time out of her busy schedule of doing escape rooms (she tells us she’s done over 50!) to answer a few questions about the episode, writing for these distinctly awful characters, and creating topical episodes in the tone of the show.
DEN OF GEEK: All the characters on Sunny have very distinct voices. What’s it like to try to write to those? Who do you enjoy writing for most?
Megan Ganz: Yes, they are very distinct. One of the best parts about Sunny is that as soon as you hear the premise of an episode, you’re already laughing just imagining what each character might do. It’s a dream come true to get to write the gang. But really that distinct voice comes from the actors, who are obviously heavily involved in the writing process. That said, I enjoy writing for Dee a lot. It’s freeing. She’s the worst type of woman and I love her so much.
Have you ever done an Escape Room? What was the experience like? And were other venues within the Always Sunny universe considered as the setting for the escape room or was Dennis’ apartment too good to pass up?
I’ve done about 50 escape rooms. My husband and I are obsessed. I talked about it nonstop while we were writing season 12. I can still remember trying to nervously explain escape rooms to Glenn [Howerton], which did not go well. But then a few months later Rob [McElhenney] and Kaitlin [Olson] tried one and loved it, so bang! We got an escape room episode in season 13. That’s the agenda I’m pushing.
We considered putting the escape room in the bar, but I think it felt a little similar to “Chardee MacDennis.” Setting it in their apartments meant we could discover things about the characters as they hunt for clues. Rob and Charlie liked the idea that it goes wrong immediately. Because no one really wants to watch the gang solve a puzzle. You want to see them bicker and turn on each other and fundamentally misunderstand the concept of “teamwork.” Of course they lock up Dee right away. Gotta get rid of her. I guess we thought Dennis and Mac’s apartment might have some unexpected locks in surprising places…
But seriously, escape rooms are the most fun ever and you should go try one if you haven’t. Except sometimes they suck. But go anyway!
With very few exceptions, these characters have not learned lessons or grown as people throughout the show’s run. Why did it feel right for them to actually recognize Dee at the end on the episode when it could have been really easy to put her down once again?
I love the rare occasions when the gang gives Dee her due. She’s a terrible person and she’s done nothing to deserve it, but it’s still nice to see. Like in “The Gang Dines Out,” when Dee ties the waiter’s shoelaces together and she kind of wins the day? It’s as unexpected as it is fleeting. Rob and Charlie added that nice ending to “The Gang Escapes” and it does feel right. The quarterback taking one for the team. Plus, Kaitlin really sold the crap out of that touching moment, which made that awful photo in the end so funny. What a bunch of monsters. (I’m referring to the gang, not my bosses.)
You have three episodes in a row that deal with toxic masculinity or the #MeToo movement in some form (including next week’s women’s reboot of “The Gang Beats Boggs”). Was it hard breaking those stories knowing the history of these characters? And what’s the writers’ room process like this year considering Rob, Charlie and Glenn didn’t write any of the first four eps?
As far as the process goes, the guys were always in the room. They break every story and take a pass on every script. Their voice is in every ounce of Sunny. They’re just kind enough to let us write the first drafts. But yes, I think everyone agreed we had to address sexual harassment in some way. In a way, that kind of made it easier. We just approached it head-on. I’m really honored that Rob and Charlie allowed me to write that script, because it helped me exorcise a lot of demons in a productive and funny way. Dennis was the perfect character for doing just that. And Dee. Those two are the yin and yang of toxic mascufemininity (TM).
Shows like South Park have evolved to primarily make statements about society (with some outlier episodes), but Always Sunny will still just get weird and silly without overdoing a social point. Is there a concerted effort in the writer’s room to balance “topical” episodes (season 12’s race episode, season 13’s Me Too episode) with episodes that don’t do anything more than tell an “Always Sunny” story?
I wouldn’t say the effort is concerted. There’s just an equal sense of excitement among the staff for both “topical” and “regular” Sunny episodes. We don’t make columns or anything. The funniest ten ideas eventually win out. I suppose they might air the episodes in a certain order to balance out the season, but I can’t say for sure.