Danny DeVito, Kaitlin Olson, Glenn Howerton, Bob Wiltfong (Photo: Ray Mickshaw/FXX)

An episode of callbacks, cameos, and score-settling, “Wolf Cola: A Public Relations Nightmare” nonetheless finds freshness in the Gang’s jangling hang-ups and obsessions. Frank, happily starting his morning off with a pistol and a sandwich baggie of cocaine (“Yeah, we just didn’t wanna interrupt your morning routine,” says Dee when he notices everyone staring), brags that Wolf Cola, the mostly fraudulent soda company he set up as a tax scam, is selling like hotcakes among “the Jews in Boca Raton.” When it’s pointed out to him that the news is going wide with the fact that Wolf Cola is, in fact, the drink of choice for Boko Haram, his “whoops” is the signal for the Gang to swing into action.

Well, in their own fashion. Dee and Dennis first mock the hell out of Frank for the horrible mess of his own making (“an elderly cokehead trying to launder money through a dummy soda corporation,” gloats Dee), before Frank tells them that they’re both listed as Wolf Cola executives. Seeing their own reputations on the line, the siblings join forces to help rehabilitate Wolf Cola’s—once Dennis has procured a big red countdown clock to represent the 24-hour news cycle he claims they’re racing against. (Dee: “This is why we had to wait for you to go to Bed Bath & Beyond?” Dennis: “Yes, bitch.”)

Danny DeVito, Kaitlin Olson, Glenn Howerton (Photo: Patrick McElhenney/FXX)

With their complicity in refreshing a terrorist organization becoming a national scandal, the three put their heads together, something that always results in a comically horrifying splintering along personality/psychosis lines. Frank wants to “soften Boko Haram’s brand” by telling the Philly newsman who interviews the group that “at least they didn’t do 9/11.” Dee wants to come right out and apologize, to which Dennis responds with expertly slick corporate malfeasance-speak: “You never apologize. We’re just here to take responsibility, but for nothing specific. All that matters is that consumers believe their voices are being heard.”

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When It’s Always Sunny gets into social satire, sometimes the show loses the focus that comes with exploring the Gang’s tangled morass of personal failings. Here, Dennis’ broadsides against both the hyperbolic, shallow news cycle and the internet types whose hair-trigger judgments and insults play on a crawl during the trio’s two news appearances are as sharply funny as they are slightly intrusive. Not that he’s in any way wrong; Dennis tells Frank, “Now social media will come down on you with the fury of a middle-aged man who has accomplished nothing.” It’s more that when one of the Gang (usually mansplainer Dennis) comes right out and grinds an axe the show’s creators want to wield, it busts up the dynamic. Still, Dee’s resigned summation of Twitter’s soul while checking her phone is dishearteningly funny regarding the online fate of women who dare to be women in public. (“‘Bitch,’ ‘flat-chested bitch,’ ‘pretty much everybody wantin’ to rape me.’”) Dennis’ attempts to mold Dee into the perfect (meaning sexless, silent, standing-behind-him) female presence during the apology has more than a little of the show’s sneaky, acid feminism. (Dennis: “Dee, women hate other women in power.” Frank: “I’m threatened by them.” Dennis: “Everyone is.”)

Splitting also are Mac and Charlie, who are both delighted and shocked that their horrifying “crow-based protein alcoholic drink” for badasses, Fight Milk, has been co-opted by Frank as one of Frank’s Fluids. (That’s the name of Frank’s drink concern; I’m not being gross.) Seizing on Frank’s revelation that Fight Milk has become a favorite of UFC fighters (Charlie: “The best UFC fighters are former bodyguards, and the best bodyguards are former UFC fighters.” Mac: “It’s a revolving door!”), the pair strike out to hawk their beverage at the local UFC gym (and to catch some more crows). Finding out that their odious concoction (“just crow eggs and some of the crow fecal matter,” explains Charlie) is popular with a couple of fighters because it makes them immediately and graphically expel everything from their orifices (thus helping them make weight) does not deter them, naturally. Unfortunately for them (and the fighters), their new, improved Fight Milk is not only guaranteed to stop them up (“Right now you’re crow-loading,” they explain) but also packed with human growth hormone, because they really don’t know what they’re doing.

Separating the Gang into teams for an episode is a time-honored Sunny tradition, allowing the quintet’s variegated madness to play whack-a-mole whenever one member steps too far out of line. The Mac-Charlie pairing here has the double benefit of reveling in the pair’s shared dimness while Charlie Day gets to try out new expressions of dismayed disbelief at Mac’s ongoing struggle with his sexuality, and the attendant inadvertent double entendres it causes. We’re used to Mac sublimating his attraction to other men in violent terms, but his pitch to the UFC gym employee is pretty elaborate, even for him. “I’ve always been very passionate about dominating other men,” he explains. “There is nothing like the feeling of another man submitting to your will. Now that’s power. In a lot of ways, that’s love.” (“What?” deadpans Charlie, finally.) Mac’s attempt to sell Fight Milk to a group of UFC “ring girls” sees his inner conflict spilling into abuse, causing Charlie, again, to apologize: “My friend has really weird woman issues. I didn’t realize he brought a laser pointer.” Sometimes a Charlie-Mac adventure comes down to gross fluids and sexual misunderstanding. Predictable, but funny, nonetheless.

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In the end, one of Frank’s Fluids forces out another, as Fight Milk’s HGH causes a UFC drug scandal that forces Wolf Cola out of the news. Dennis pegs it right on the nose: “If you give it enough time, something new will come along to replace people’s old outrage with new outrage.” Which makes for a unified episode, if not the most memorable one in what’s been a bold and outstanding season 12 so far.

Stray observations

  • Dennis scuttles his own smooth-talking effort at damage control when he can’t hide his disgust at the dog from the news show’s previous segment. Dennis’ reaction is abrupt, but his rant about the hypocrisy of meat-eaters loving dogs spins out into some deliciously insane directions (culminating with him—hypothetically—explaining why he’d be eating a bucket of dog’s legs). Here, too, the show’s disdain for internet culture is pretty spot-on, as the public’s forgiveness of Wolf Cola (“Wolf Cola is back and on the right track! #getmeacase”) sours into immediate, renewed hatred once Dennis’ dog-phobia is revealed.
  • Debating the Wolf Cola debacle, Dee, Frank, and Dennis decide that people can forgive anything (the Holocaust, Floyd Mayweather’s woman-beating), except child molestation. Dee: “What about the Catholic Church?” Dennis: “They did sidestep bangin’ kids pretty masterfully. But they have billions of dollars at their disposal.”
  • Those are a couple of real UFC fighters (Donald Cerrone and Paul Felder) suffering the explosive effects of Fight Milk, and UFC head Dana White vainly denying all involvement with Mac and Charlie. The fighters are game to get gross (“Aw, I just puked on my dick!” “Rock and roll!”), but the whole UFC thing doesn’t add much to the episode.
  • Dennis to Dee: “Now objectify yourself, and humanize me.”
  • According to Mac and Charlie’s new Fight Milk commercial, there are only four acceptable male body types: skinny-ripped, jacked-ripped, dad bod, and fat (if you’re funny). For women, it’s only one: “skinny, big tits.”
  • In addition to the eggs and fecal matter, Chalie promises that each bottle of Fight Milk contains one “ground-up crow.” It’s where the “crow-powered fighting skills” come from.

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