As was the case in last week’s triumphant It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia return (“Chardee MacDennis 2: Electric Boogaloo”), season eleven’s second episode, “Frank Falls Out The Window” sees the show reaching back into its tangled, twisted history for a lot of its humor. Unlike “CM2: EB,” however, this exercise in filthy nostalgia doesn’t stand on its own as well, relying on viewers’ affection for the show and the referenced jokes to supply much of the comedy. What saves it from being solely a study in fanservice are the performances, which make the whole goofy enterprise consistently entertaining in its own right.
That premise is set up by Frank—exiled to windowsill-sitting because of excessive farting—yes, falling out the window of his and Charlie’s apartment and thinking it’s 2006. (The prosaic, predictive nature of It’s Always Sunny’s titles is almost always one of an episode’s best jokes.) Suffering a truly horrifying head-gash (Kaitlin Olson’s shriek upon seeing it is the episode’s biggest laugh), Frank bursts into the bar to tell the thoroughly unimpressed Dee and Dennis that their mother’s dead (she died in season three), before revealing that he’s just softening the news that they’re getting a divorce (which they did in season two). It’s the exact speech he gave in his first ever episode, a trend that continues as the Gang, assuming Frank’s finally lost it, plans to take advantage of his condition to fleece him out of his money once and for all. (Dee and Dennis’ hairtrigger reaction to Frank’s injury is hilariously abrupt: “Oh, oh—he’s finally lost it. Should we toss him in a home?” “Yeah, I’ll get the car.”)
It’s a fine setup for an episode of Sunny, especially since the Gang’s main dilemma zigs into awfulness so fast as opposed to zagging into any semblance of human empathy. Dennis’ excitement at having a do-over with his father, expressed as “We can’t repeat the mistakes of the past,” to him (and to Dee and Mac), obviously continues with the unspoken “because we didn’t end up with all of Frank’s money the first time and we’re stuck with each other in a hellhole of our own making.” Charlie’s swept along with the other three, but mainly because he—with exemplary Charlie logic—assumes that the apartment window is actually a portal back to 2006.
Playing along in blissfully blithe confusion with Mac’s scheme to keep Frank from moving back into his apartment, Charlie can’t help but choose Frank as his ideal roommate all over again, despite the sketchy candidates (including the Waitress) Mac’s assembled. (Frank does answer Charlie’s half-full can of cat food question with the proper response. “In what scenario do you not eat the cat food?” “I always eat the cat food.”) “The Charlie-Frank bond, summed up succinctly by Dee, remains a simultaneously insane and touching one:
He wanted to, like, give all his money away to charity and reconnect with his kids and shit. Then he started hangining out with Mac and Charlie, got a taste of the bar lifestyle and decided he’d rather live in squalor.
The resulting callbacks are funny enough, although the show never puts as much spin on them as would make them stand up and sing on their own. Dee and Dennis take Frank (without dressing his head wound) to the ever-unfortunate Cugino’s, where Dee’s inability to keep up the whole 2006 ruse (on the Haiti earthquake: “Oh, had that not…”) sees them desperately vamping that they simultaneously invented 2016 cellphone technology. “Oh, Dee…you bitch…,” murmurs Dennis through his gritted smile.
Indeed, Olson and Glenn Howerton play their shared frustration and humiliation in the face of Frank’s guileless advice (“Give it a few more years. If it doesn’t work, then move on. You don’t wanna be almost 40 workin’ at a bar”) with increasingly funny, monomaniacal lunacy. Having a lobster and champagne sitdown to rationally examine how they should use Frank’s money to change their lives, their unctuously solicitous advice (to abandon their dreams of being an actress and a veterinarian, respectively) quickly becomes another opportunity for Olson and Howerton to let the siblings’ depths of awfulness burst forth in torrents of wild-eyed abuse. Howerton especially shines, adding yet another page to the whole “Dennis is a secretly a serial killer” conspiracy theory file, his admission that he really only wanted to be a veterinarian to have access to animal skins (“There’s no denying that the skins are fascinating”) before launching into an epic rant in response to Dee’s evaluation of his aging body:
There’s no reason why a bald man who enjoys skins and who has a little bit of extra something something around his belly can’t be a goddamned veterinarian… You are a wrinkled bitch!
“We just jumped back in,“ concedes Dee, before the the pair’s make-up toast turns into a binge that culminates with them addicted to crack once again. Typically, their plan is the same one from the first time around, bringing Frank’s doctored “not a donkey-brain” certificate to the social services office (or, as they put it “welfare store”) in order to get on welfare so they can buy more crack. Their immediate agreement that they will use Frank’s money to go to rehab “‘cause we’re not gonna stop smoking crack” is equally funny in their acquiescence to their own awfulness.
Mac and Charlie, too, see their attempts to avoid repeating the past come to naught, as Frank follows them to the same strip club where he first brought home and bedded two of the strippers (in Charlie’s bed) back in 2006. Having less invested in Frank’s reversion, Mac and Charlie’s buffoonery serves more to allow Rob McElhenney and Charlie Day to play out the farce of Charlie’s new roommate search. As ever, the two make a great team, their combined dimnesses producing an unpredictable volley of sublime silliness. Mac, trying to punch through Charlie’s clipboard of cat food-based roommate questions, exclaims, “Oh, see now he assumes you have a cat!” Still, the depths of Charlie’s unfathomable brain is always Sunny’s wildest card, here seeing him attempting to throw the Waitress out the same window once she expresses her revulsion at the idea of sharing Charlie’s squalid apartment (Mac hadn’t told her Charlie would still live there). Sure, Charlie thinks it will set things back to 2006 (when the Waitress only found him annoying, rather than repulsive), but it’s still shocking to think how Charlie’s relatively sympathetic position in the Gang sails upon a seas of potentially dangerous madness.
In the end, and in keeping with the episode’s parade of past references, it’s the rum ham that saves the Waitress, and Frank’s memory. Like Charlie’s toe-knife, like the argument about the Gang’s plan to contaminate steaks with chicken (or vice-versa), or like the very grilled Charlie (ill-advisedly larded with rum ham) that was at the root of Frank’s window-falling fart-storm in the first place, it’s the taste of that booze-soaked chunk of meat (a fan favorite meme and memory) that brings everything full circle. “Frank Falls Out The Window” is something of a closed loop, too—a funny one, to be sure, but the last time Sunny became so self-referential, it lost some of its vitality. As enjoyable as the first two episodes of season eleven have been, it’ll be encouraging if the series strikes out into uncharted territory soon.
- Charlie, dispensing some sound dietary advice: “Rum ham on a grilled Charlie? That’s a stomach bomb, bud.”
- Dee, to Dennis’ morning-after question as to whether they have any crack left: “No one in the history of crack has ever woken up in the morning with more crack!”
- Frank-centric episodes are never my favorite, but Danny DeVito does an excellent job of recapturing the slightly gentler awfulness of 2006 Frank. It’s a testament to the show, as well, that Frank’s current, blunter awfulness doesn’t feel like character drift so much as character inevitability.
- Frank finally sports a bandage over his wound about five minutes before episode’s end.
- Frank writes Dee and Dennis an $8,000,000 check—dated in 2006, of course.
- Mac, finally getting Charlie on board with his plan to keep Frank from moving back in to the apartment: “He is on a bang path straight to the Waitress!”
- Charlie, brushing off Mac’s hard sell of a prospective musician roommate: “Don’t really care for jazz though—lot of unnecessary notes.”
- The Waitress is now living in a women’s shelter. She’s still not going to movie in with Charlie, though.
- Apologies for the outside links—I always forget that the A.V. Club never covered the first two seasons of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. No pressure, but that should be rectified, right?