This Always Sunny review contains spoilers.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia Season 13 Episode 4
“Is it sexual harassment when a man constantly calls his female co-worker a bird?”
Accountability is an important thing. The gang from Always Sunny have been doing reprehensible things since the pilot episode and they’ll continue to do them until the series’ final outing. Terrible, selfish behavior is as essential to the gang as breathing, but the idea of accountability and being held responsible for their actions is wholly new for these characters. Hell, Dennis now has a child and even that isn’t something that he has to be held fully accountable for.
Furthermore, sexual harassment and assault have never been off bounds for this series. A wide range of complicated sexual abuse has gone down in Charlie’s past and this is a show where the final beat to their first episode is the reveal that Dennis has ostensibly been raped (there’s definitely no consent in that situation). That being said, with the power of #MeToo thankfully now reaching most areas of the world, it’s only fitting that a show with such awful characters addresses it, too. While an episode that dips into this territory could be a total misfire, Megan Ganz delivers an exceptional script and “Time’s Up for the Gang” is a triumph (you can read our chat with her about season 13 here).
The episode finds Paddy’s Pub on a “Shitty Bars List,” and so Dennis enrolls the group in a sexual harassment seminar to combat these bad optics and get them off it. Rather than pull from specific complaints, Ganz’ script lets these characters speak for themselves, which works so much better. The characters in Always Sunny are terrible, but they also almost always operate from a place of ignorance and insecurity. They’re fools, not devils (although Dennis makes a strong case for a character who’s legitimately evil). “Time’s Up for the Gang” understands this and its strength is in how it explores the honesty in these characters’ obliviousness.
It’s easy for an episode to become repetitive when it largely revolves around characters being given a lesson, but “Time’s Up for the Gang” avoids falling into a predictable pattern. The gang may start off together, but very quickly Ganz’ script begins to separate the group and takes advantage of the different characters pairings and how their various levels of ignorance enable each other. The group dynamics also continue to change as the episode goes on. Furthermore, the entry knows when it’s funnier to distill these personalities and watch them panic or when it’s better to let them operate as some unruly mob (Kate’s frustration when she can’t even get through her introduction is perfect).
It’s perhaps best to start with Frank’s performance in this seminar, as he’s a bit of an outlier in the episode. Frank brings a generational awfulness to his tone-deaf behavior that’s distinct from the rest of the cast. He basically goes rogue from the gang as he plays telephone relay with his attorneys while he tries to cover his ass for decades of being Frank. Frank’s nature to fixate on the fringe legalities of sexual harassment, like how long ago or what state they happened in, feels very on brand. He also gets to parade around in a bathrobe, which is a visual gag that never stops giving throughout the episode. On that note, Ganz and director Kat Coiro find a beautiful way to visualize the exact moment that these characters realize that they’re sunk. Everyone gets to experience “Broadcast News levels” of flop sweat as they go from feeling invincible to ruined in seconds. It’s a wonderful recurring gag. Plus, that moment where Mac crotch-lifts Dee off the ground is pure magic. That’s your new Golden Gif God.
Mac, Charlie, and Dee begin with Alan, the seminar’s male instructor, as they work through workplace harassment. This is an uphill battle as Mac becomes totally fixated on a non-existent point system and Charlie fails to fundamentally grasp the idea of a hypothetical situation. It’s very entertaining to see Mac and Charlie criticize the actors and the structure of the exercises, rather than their content. Their lesson quickly goes off the rails and they focus on unimportant minutiae as the patience of the instructor slowly gets broken down. This becomes much more about Mac, Dee, and Charlie picking apart each other than them gaining any empathy for others. Charlie manages to largely go unscathed through all of this, but when the seminar touches on aggressive stalker tendencies that sound awfully similar to his “courting” tactics of the Waitress, he also grows concerned.
Dee’s reaction to all of this is extremely interesting because she takes the seminar the least seriously of the lot. She approaches this like she’s a rowdy heckler who’s stopped caring about the entertainment. Instantly she tries to deflate the momentum and professionalism of the seminar and it’s only until she hears about the immediate perks that are available to her that she becomes invested. Dee severely weaponizes her use of harassment and grows eager to initiate lawsuits just because she technically can. Dee’s behavior brings an unwieldy chaos to the installment that’s enjoyable and Kaitlin Olson’s utter delight when she learns that she’s able to sue someone is just incredible.
Finally, Dennis may seem like the person who should be the most concerned at this seminar. Everyone points out that he’s definitely the one that got them on this list, yet he models himself as the perfect student here. He’s responsive in all of the right ways and comes armed with sexual harassment knowledge as ammunition to continually prove how understanding he is to this cause. This is all rightfully terrifying, and it’s a pretty fair representation of those serial killers who just practice on how to be a “normal” person. The fact that Dennis puts in so much time to come across as non-threatening and empathetic is much more dangerous than if he was simply uninformed on these matters. Dee aggressively tries to get others to see through Dennis’ fake veneer, but he continues to impress those at the seminar.
Dennis also appropriately tries to puppet master this situation and manage the behavior of everyone in this seminar. He spins a warped narrative where women are a growing power that need to be stopped before “the climate” gets out of control. Dennis’ actions come as no surprise, but the fact that he wants to control people during a seminar on sexual harassment and that he doesn’t see what’s wrong with that is the beauty of his character. The episode’s final act sees him commandeer the seminar from the professionals to provide his own unique (see cringe-worthy) slant on the subject that boils everything down to attractiveness (or lack thereof).
Dennis’ presentation becomes strangely personal to the Paddy’s Pub crew (although Charlie missing Dennis’ hints about him is one of the episode’s best jokes), but it turns into a lecture on how to cover your tracks rather than how to be a better person. The installment concludes with the rather clever reveal that Dennis’ forces of manipulation extend so far that he’s the reason that they’re in this class in the first place. Yes, “Time’s Up for the Gang” perfectly demonstrates why Paddy’s Pub should be on a Shitty Bar List, but Dennis is actually the one that created said list and put this seminar together. It’s all a situation that he’s orchestrated in order to further disarm the world and teach his friends a lesson. Dennis just wants to keep himself safe and he’s willing to expose his friends in the process if it means they’ll adopt his creepy level of dedication.
“Time’s Up for the Gang” effectively handles a sensitive topic and still delivers one of the season’s strongest, funniest installments. Everyone gets their moments to shine here and even though the episode does split up its cast in some respects, Ganz’ surprising, satisfying ending brings everything back full-circle. This is far from a preachy endeavor, but it still feels like these characters have perhaps learned something by the end of all of this. Even if it’s just to better tie up a bathrobe.
Daniel Kurland is a published writer, comedian, and critic whose work can be read on Den of Geek, Vulture, Bloody Disgusting, and ScreenRant. Daniel knows that the owls are not what they seem, that Psycho II is better than the original, and he’s always game to discuss Space Dandy. His perma-neurotic thought process can be followed at @DanielKurlansky.