After a raucous, delightful and even experimental string of four or five episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, the show decided to get a little weirder than we’re probably used to with the eighth episode of this season. “Charlie’s Home Alone” is, for all intents and purposes, an experimental episode of IASIP. It mostly features just Charlie, it’s mostly set in the bar, and it goes to some bizarre places and extreme lengths to depict the events of what he went through during last year’s Super Bowl, when the Philadelphia Eagles finally won football’s top prize. What’s more, it’s only half the story, as it ends on a cliffhanger, promising to show us what Dee, Mac, Frank and some of the show’s fringe characters were up to at the same time, as early in the episode they depart on a party bus, bound for the Super Bowl, thinking Charlie is with them donning the Green Suit (the description suggests that Cricket might be the one that stole Charlie’s suit, leading to him being left behind).
Once they do, and Charlie realizes he’s been left behind (actually, he believes he’s wished his friends out of existence), the first act plays out exactly like the first act of Home Alone, from the Christmas music right down to the beats of certain scenes from that film as well as lines of dialog. This is in no way a Christmas episode of IASIP, which makes it all the more hilarious that they use the exact songs from that movie, as does the fact that Charlie never once acknowledge what he’s spoofing. After rifling through everyone’s stuff and taking his turn on Mac’s dildo bike, Charlie sets up shop at the bar, waiting for the game to begin. But when a couple of locals try to get into Paddy’s, Charlie assumes they’re intruders and begins setting up a bunch of traps.
The episode takes a drastic left turn when he sets off one of his own traps, namely a bear trap. The loss of blood, the brutal cauterizing scene and everything that follows take this from Home Alone to something more along the lines of 127 Hours or The Revenant, as Charlie fights to fulfill his usual superstitions, thinking that if he doesn’t, the Eagles will lose the Big Game. He drops a green paint bucket on his head, because he has to wear green. He eats a rat, because he has to eat brown. He drinks his own pee (of course) because he has to drink yellow. And when hallucinations of Eagles players inform him how he could (easily) get out of the bear trap and he turns on the TV to see Tom Brady in possession with time on the clock, they tell him he has to get back in it as it’s part of his superstitions now.
That’s about where the episode ends, following an extended, brutal sequence of torture porn. We, in reality, know that the Eagles go on to win the Super Bowl, but the show decides to save that fact for next week and the other side of the story. Which is, honestly, a little frustrating for a show like, no less an episode like this, which is already a tad unusual. Don’t get me wrong, despite the fact that it’s an incomplete episode and that it lands on certain uncomfortable extremes with how it treats Charlie, it’s still full of laughs and has some good highs. But it also doesn’t feel like what I would have wanted out of an episode like this.
It’s funny, because it kind of reminded me a little of the seminal “Charlie Work”, the seminal season 10 episode rightfully lauded as one of the best of the series, in large part for its experimental, precognisant parody of Birdman and other movies with long tracking shots. But that episode was written by Charlie Day, Rob McElheney and Glenn Howerton. This one was written by first timers Adam Weinstock and Andy Jones, likely part of the show’s effort to diversify and rejuvenate its writer’s room as those three co-creators took a step back, thanks to their increasingly busy schedules and, notably, Glenn Howerton’s teased semi-absence from the show. Howerton in particular is completely absent from this episode, as it takes place during a time where his character would have been away from Philadelphia and The Gang. I don’t want to blame it specifically on those two guys, because the makeup of the show has been completely different and other combinations of new writers have paid dividends this season, but it does feel like the failures of this episode could probably be pointed to a fundamental misunderstanding of what makes experimental episodes like “Charlie Work” so special. And what makes them special is that while they’re trying something crazy, something new, they still feel like the core of the same show. Charlie Day does his best to make that work here, and I don’t exactly mean to say that the stuff his character is doing isn’t stuff we’d think he’d do, but something feels off about it, or missing, and it’s more glaring when there’s only one character to carry the plot and the comedy.
“Charlie’s Home Alone” isn’t a terrible episode. It’s an incomplete episode, and unfortunately it’s probably the worst of this thirteenth season, so it gets 6.5 sticky bibles out of 10.
The Best Lines from “Charlie’s Home Alone:”
- Goddammit Count: unless I missed some during Charlie’s wailing, I didn’t hear any this week.
- Dee: “First of all, how is ‘salmonella’ the only word you spelled right?”
- Charlie: “I made my friends disappear. I made my friends disappear!”
- Guy: “Well, which one is it? Is it closed for salmonella or is it closed for Super Bowl?”
- Charlie after doing the aftershave bit from Home Alone: “I don’t know why I’m screaming, this doesn’t hurt at all?”
- Charlie after getting a nail in the shoulder from his own trap: “Why would anybody do that to anybody?”
- “You bought the trap, Charlie. I only know about the release lever because you know about the release lever. You get that, right?”
- “Every single thing a fan does, at home or at the game, has a direct impact on the game.”