Better Call Saul S04E10 Recap: ‘Winner’ [Season Finale]

Juxtaposition.

I’ve probably sounded like a major rube uttering that word in most of these reviews reviews this season, but it bears repeating; as much as Better Call Saul is a show about people with good intentions beaten down to the point where they feel compelled to turn to the life of evil they seem accustomed to when we see them in Breaking Bad, it’s also a show about varying scales of such descents into depravity.

This show has always been about propping up the bad things that Jimmy McGill does for comparison against the bad things that are happening in the world of New Mexico’s drug cartels that he will eventually be introduced to. For we know Jimmy to have that aura of a slimeball within him, resorting to doing bad things when life pushes him down one too many times. But bending the law and, as was the topic of discussion in his arc in last night’s finale, “Winner”, feigning sincerity, is still a far stretch away from the moral bankruptcy of his eventual employers. So it’s not enough to merely explain how the mild-mannered, fast-talking, sometimes two-timing brother of a respected lawyer can go from Jimmy McGill to Saul Goodman, it also has to be explained how things on the other side of the spectrum get so crazy and dire that they need to drag a Saul Goodman into things.

Last night’s finale ends with Jimmy quite literally becoming Saul, after four years of fans wondering when and how that was going to happen. And the funny thing is that it happens so subtly, with little fanfare. After successfully appealing the bar’s decision not to give him his law license back by pretending to be moved by a letter his brother wrote him before his death, Jimmy nonchalantly tells the clerk who gives him the good news that he wants the form needed to change the name under which he’ll be practicing law. When a confused Kim asks him what’s going on, he merely responds “S’all good, man,” much to her dismay, just moments after shedding legitimate tears at what turns out to be his phony sincerity.

It probably isn’t the big, crazy moment that some might have envisioned. Jimmy isn’t forced into becoming Saul because of a deal gone bad or a threat on his life or anything like that. Life merely chips away at him enough that he decides to shed his persona and the name attached to it and become something else in order to flourish. In his eyes, being in the shadow of his brother Chuck has never given him an advantage (even though, as we saw in the cold open, Chuck gladly stood by his side when he first got his license and even carried him home after he had one too many to drink at his karaoke celebration later that night). Obviously the point is that Jimmy isn’t 100% in the right here. Chuck was a dick, and he probably didn’t care for Jimmy as much as you’d expect a brother to, but Jimmy was a fuck up regardless of Chuck (just as Chuck’s problems weren’t sourced to Jimmy). In “Winner”, Jimmy uses his brother’s name one last time and chooses to fully divest himself from it and go his own way. Like I said, not a big, crazy moment, just another inch forward on a long road. Still, the show manages to stick the landing on this moment with grace, as it always does, rendering yet another gut punch to an unassuming Kim and to the audience.

Things aren’t so subtle, however, at the other end of of the spectrum, as Mike races to find a recently escaped Werner before Gus does, in hopes of saving him from certain death. Mike does his thing, and it’s wildly entertaining. But unbeknownst to him, he’s being followed by Lalo, who is a welcome wrench thrown into this show’s works. He doesn’t have the kind of grace that the writers have had us grown accustomed to with Mike. He’s sloppy, unpredictable and crazy. When Mike first notices him following his car, he drives into a parking lot and breaks the ticket machine. It distracts Lalo just enough, but like I said, he’s crazy, so he plows through the car in front of him and the barrier in order to make his escape. He then returns to the money wire store where the hunt for Werner first began, and instead of appealing to the clerk the way Mike did, he simply crawls into the vents, comes crashing through the ceiling and takes what he wants. He proceeds to deliver the nail in Werner’s coffin when he calls the resort Werner is staying at, waiting for his wife, and pries some information out of him regarding the meth lab. It’s not much, but it’s a leak that very much convinced Gus that his agreement with Werner cannot be salvaged.

And because Mike has come to know and like Werner, he offers to be the one to kill him, a development that’s paramount to where this show is headed. We know that Mike’s killed before, but we’ve never seen him do it, and certainly not yet for Gus. There is a tangible difference between the stoic, grumpy man who wants to do right by the family his son left behind, and the cold-blooded fixer we came to love on Breaking Bad. Being forced to murder his friend in cold blood (no less to fix what could be perceived as his own mistake or lapse in judgment, for getting too close to someone on the job) makes up a lot of that territory.

Killing Werner is a huge, character-defining moment for Mike, and paired with a smaller moment with larger implications for Jimmy as he takes the official steps to become Saul, it spells massive change for Better Call Saul in its inevitable fifth season. The way these two move in parallel is very important to all of that. And what’s so interesting about it is that Mike and Saul only shared one scene together this entire season, and it very much felt like a breakup. I’d need to rewatch the season before saying for certain if Mike’s refusal to help Jimmy steal his Bavarian Boy had any tangible impact on either of their paths, but it’ll be interesting when they meet again, Jimmy now practicing as Criminal Lawyer Saul Goodman, Mike now fully in Gus’s grasp as his killer/fixer. Maybe it’ll even be in the fallout of the whole mess with murder.

And let’s take another moment to highlight how awesome Tony Dalton has been as Lalo Salamanca, making a huge impact in his first few episodes of the show, and truly upping the ante of the craziness that will eventually fill out the environment which creates Walter White and enables everything that he does. Lalo brings a certain flair to the show that some might say was missing. At the very least, he’s an unpredictable, combustible element that makes everything around him more dangerous likely to burst into flames. I can’t even imagine the impact he’ll have next season.

Thus, two, now three very different aspects of the show begin their convergence. Jimmy is now officially Saul, Mike is a newly-minted killer, and the cold war between Gus and the Salamancas will only continue to flare up in unique, unexpected ways. Season 4 of Better Call Saul has been about revving up that convergence, and it did so in a way that never really felt boring or improperly paced, as the stakes consistently rose and as its main characters found their way to that point of no return so brilliantly depicted in the season finale. With “Winner”, and with season 4 as a whole, Better Call Saul continues to prove why it’s one of if not the best show on TV, and it gets 9.5 watermelon pickles out o 10.


Notes & Quotes:

  • I’m so happy this show found a way to get Chuck freaking McGill to sing some ABBA at karaoke.
  • To show how much Jimmy has changed, think about how he goes from singing karaoke with his brother to desecrating his grave for personal gain from basically one scene to the next.
  • Also boasting about his anonymous donation reminded me of that great episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm.
  • My only worry about the show going forward is all the characters it seems to be leaving in its wake. Nacho and Howard are basically non-factors at this point. What does Kim have left to do now that she’s helped usher in a new era of Goodman?
  • I just want to point out one final time that Lalo is the best.
  • “We can get by on one nipple, am I right?” – Jimmy

 

Advertisements

The Best Lines From The Good Place S03E03: “The Brainy Bunch”

 

Having spent the first two episodes of its third season setting up its latest delightfully convoluted conceit, The Good Place‘s latest episode, “The Brainy Bunch” felt like something akin to a proof of concept. There probably wasn’t anything you could label as a big twist (although there were certainly some interesting plot developments) and it felt as if the show was trying to show us how this idea of the group continuing their efforts to better themselves in a new setting could work over the long haul. Of course, anyone’s who has watched The Good Place from the beginning knows that nothing it does is meant to last for a long time. This is a show that is constantly on its heels, constantly evolving, growing, bettering itself the same way it tasks its characters to do in the story. We can probably be reassured that anything set up in any given episode probably won’t apply for very long, and that’s a big part of the beauty of the show.

And yet, if one is to review the show on a weekly basis, it has to be pointed out that “The Brainy Bunch” feels like more of a letter move than you would expect from a show with all the accolades I gave it. Not much of consequence really happens, and yet the episode is still extraordinarily funny, and the plot developments at the end of the episode signal that the next round of change is probably around the corner.

The episode follows the efforts of the group to bond, while their newest member, the evil demon Trevor (Adam Scott), tries to undermine them and break them up. He not-so-subtly starts to annoy Eleanor and tries to push her away from Chidi and he tries to have Tahani and Jason hook up, which will certainly be problematic for the group’s dynamics. Michael and Janet arrive to thwart his efforts, but Michael, while convinced that the group’s magnetic attraction cannot be stopped, is not his usual self, incapable of lying and coming up with any decent comebacks, and Janet is having trouble adjusting to life on earth without her powers. In the end, Trevor’s meddling has mixed results. Tahani and Jason didn’t hook up, but there is clearly something budding between then (again). Eleanor almost quits the study but Chidi, as he is wont to do, stops her and brings her back.

More intriguingly, however, the Judge catches up with the efforts of our three eternal beings. She flicks Trevor out of the picture (literally) and informs Michael and Janet that while the experiment can continue unimpeded, they will have to be returned to The Bad Place. Luckily, all the stuff that Janet couldn’t materialize on earth suddenly appears and they’re able to escape back to earth with the one and only key that the Doorman lets them take.

All that tells me that more change is around the corner. Michael and Janet can’t be running around on earth without their abilities for too long, at least not without eventually revealing themselves and their intentions to the group, which further changes the group dynamics and moves the story forward. In that sense, the episode feels like it might be doing a little more table setting than you would want from this show. And yet, it’s still incredibly impressive that these four characters have such good chemistry and such an interesting dynamic even though, technically they have no knowledge of their prior interactions and are meeting each other for the first time yet again. The show doesn’t miss a beat and doesn’t repeat itself in the slightest in spite of this.

And, like I said, it’s still incredibly funny! Tasking myself to write down my favourite lines from a show like this has been a daunting task, but it’s worth it, because on top of being super original and really good, it never forgets that it’s a comedy, which is something that a lot of the higher quality shows in the half-hour format have trouble with.

So “The Brainy Bunch” feels somewhat transitional, but still really funny and compelling, and for that, it gets 9 devastating Dick Tracy burns out of 10.


Notes & Quotes:

  • Tahani Namedrops: I only caught two this week, Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively.
  • The “Cowboy Skyscraper Buffet” Mount Rushmore has replaced its presidential faces with David Hasselhoff, Paris Hilton, Judge Judy and Hulk Hogan.
  • Stuff that happened because Michael and Janet went to earth: Brexit, The Greatest Showman’s success, the Jacksonville Jaguars are good now, Byron Allen owns The Weather Channel.
  • Eleanor: “It’s so nice to hear someone say ‘Eleanor, you’re the reason this is all happening’ who isn’t a judge in small claims court.”
  • Trevor: “Eleanor, do I have the right number for you? Because you haven’t responded to any of the dank memes I’ve sent.”
  • Jason, holding a spider: “Mrs. Teacher, for my turn is there any way to get, like, extra radiation?”
  • Trevor: “Dick Tracy called, he said you’re a buttface and he’s been plowing your mom.”
  • Michael: “Well Dick Tracy called me too, first, and he said he was about to call you and say a lie about me that was actually true about you instead.”
  • Trevor: “What did you think, we were just going to sit around in the Bad Place blowing beefers while you’re down here boning us in the meathole?”
  • Michael: “First of all, I’m currently formulating a better comeback to your Dick Tracy burn and it’s gonna devastate you.”
  • Michael: “Dick Tracy called you back on his watch phone and said you better watch out.”
  • Jason: “Optimus, Bumblebee, Jazz, Megatron. That’s what you can each call me, now we need nicknames for you guys.”
  • Michael: “Every part of my body is either too dry or too wet.”
  • Chidi: “We could be colleagues, associates is pushing it. And by even having this conversation you’re becoming my confidant.”
  • Michael: “It’s me, the librarian. From the library. I’ve been in every situation. Because I’m a librarian.”
  • Trevor: “I like putting my hands on the toilets so everything I touch gets a little bit of poop on it.”
  • Jason: “Crazy story, after you got out of the cap I forgot where I lived, but I looked across the street and there was a motel. And behind that there was a dumpster. I slept in a dumpster!”
  • Jason: “You’re the fanciest person I know. Next to my friend Ronnie who drives a limo. He’s in limos all the time. What a life!”
  • Michael/Trevor: “Hey, Dick Tracy called. He said that I was right about Eleanor and Chidi having an unbreakable bond.” “I don’t think you understand how that joke works.”

The Best Lines From It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia S13E05: “The Gang Gets New Wheels”

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has been the recipient of much praise on my part for the changes made over the course of the season, changes necessary following the (very temporary) departure of Glenn Howerton and the increasingly busy schedules of all its stars/creators. Instead of sunsetting a show that clearly still has a ton of life left in it, The Gang used it as an opportunity to inject it with new life behind the scenes, stacking its writers’ room and director’s chair with a bunch of new talented people, many of whom are women, such as Megan Ganz, one of TV’s best writers.

The result has been a lot of meta commentary about equality, the patriarchy, trump-era politics, etc., all culminating in last week’s brilliant, raucous episode, in which The Gang attends a sexual harassment seminar (from which, of course, they learn nothing, as it turns out it was all orchestrated by Dennis in an attempt to gain a leg up in the group’s confusing political structure). And that’s great. But that’s a high concept and it really isn’t a sustainable format for this show. Eventually, The Gang has to wrap up all the sexual harassment seminars and  Wade Boggs flights and whatever else have you and return to their normal array of despicable hijinx.

Luckily, that’s exactly what happens in “The Gang Gets New Wheels”, a hilarious return to form for the more standard style of IASIP episode and the second straight uproarious, perfectly lecherous episode of the show, especially in its final act.

The episode sees Dennis looking for a new car after he finds his Range Rover suffering the effects of being left on the streets of Philadelphia for an extended period of time. When Frank opts to get the new 2018 model for himself instead of financing Dennis’ schemes as he usually does, he’s forced to get a Prius, a more economical car, which leads him to making what he deems to be economical choices with his lifestyle, such as playing fantasy football. While Dennis is losing his Golden God powers, they wind up transferred to Dee, who is drying around in Frank’s new car while he gets his license renewed. She Gangs up with a couple of other Range Rover housewives, who eventually slight Dee to the point where she resolves to cuck one of them. Meanwhile, Charlie and Mac revisit their inner child by buying a couple of bikes, only to find themselves in trouble with a gang of young bullies, one of whom happens to be the kid of their own childhood bully (played by Tyler Labine).

A lot of that is setup, and it plays off that way in the episode, but it’s utterly necessary for the Curb Your Enthusiasm way it winds up weaving together in the final act. You see, Dee thinks she’s having sex with her foil’s young husband, when in fact it’s her teenage son, whom Frank promised he would get laid. Charlie and Mac decide to, in their words, take back their identities and confront their antagonists, it just so happens that this means beating the shit out of a bunch of kids in a scene as funny and unexpected as when Mac grabs Dee by the pussy last week. As for Dennis, he gets lucky when he finds that his new economical buddy owns a ’93 Range Rover, which he acquires for a modest sum. On his peaceful way home, listening to Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up”, he finds the rest of the Gang running from their respective problems (aka the cops), and picks them up, declaring everything to be fine now that they’re back in the Rover.

It’s no surprise that the episode ends with everything returning to normal (despite the various manhunts likely being staged for most of them) but it plays so beautifully over the course of the episode. Every string they lay pays off. It’s a ridiculous episode that shouldn’t make sense when you think about it, but it’s also the product of a show that’s spent 13 years building that seasoning, ensuring that they can pull of a brazenly ridiculous, offensive episode such as this with effortless precision. As much as I love how meta this season has been so far, to see a return to the classic style of Gang hijinx and to see it be as good as the show’s always been is incredibly impressive and refreshing.

“The Gang Gets New Wheels” will compete with the best episodes in recent seasons, and it gets 9.5 bowls of chili out of 10.


The Best Lines from “The Gang Gets New Wheels”:.

  • Goddamnit count: I only counted 1 this week!
  • Frank license picture is clearly an old still from Danny DeVito’s Taxi days, which is amazing.
  • Nothing makes me happier than the fact that they used “On Your Bike” as the song choice for when Mac and Charlie are riding their new bikes.
  • Mac: “Radical!”
  • Mac: “Well, I am gya, but he’s not my boyfriend. I could do much better than him.”
  • Charlie: “Don’t push your agenda on them, Mac!”
  • Dee: “Brenda, you gotta upgrade you stupid bitch. Don’t be a dumb idiot.”
  • Frank: “What you wanna do is you lurch into the intersection. It’s kinda like a game of chicken. You lurch and then you lurch some more and whoever doesn’t flinch gets to go first.”
  • Frank: “You can’t be PC on the road and expect to live. You will die. If you go to a four-way stop and you think the rules of the road are going to apply to an 80-year-old Asian woman, you’re going to get blasted.”
  • Dennis/John: “You got a good economy face on you too.” “What?”
  • Dennis: “It always seemed foolish to me before, but this economy car is starting to make me think I can enjoy economy activities.”
  • Charlie: “I got a Chuck Knoblock, that’s like pre-yips, man!”
  • Dee/Nail Lady: “You probably don’t speak English.” “I speak English, it’s just not funny.”
  • Dee: “Oh Karen, you bitch. You dumb idiot. You stupid savage. You’re not the alpha you crusty-ass fool. Oh, I’m gonna cuck you so hard. Your boy-toy, he’s mine! I will destroy you! I am a 2018 Range Rover woman! I am a Golden Goddess! Who are you? Idiot! Savage! Idiot!”
  • Dennis: “I don’t suck. Dude, I’ll suck YOU.”
  • Dennis on chili: “It makes me fart, and I don’t wanna fart right now. My sister farts a lot.”
  • Dennis: “The Minnesota Twins, you know what I’m saying?”
  • Mac/Charlie: “Are you drinking the Fight Milk?” “It makes me so sick.”
  • Tyler Labine: “What are you gonna do about it?”
  • Dee: “I am a Golden Goddess! You idiot! Savage! Idiot! And I banged your man!”
  • Dennis: “Clutch!”
  • Dennis: “Begone from me you soyboy beta cuck, the transaction is complete!”
  • Frank/Dee: “We almost got t-boned by an Asian. It was totally my fault, she did everything by the book, very surprising. Also Dee banged a kid.” “No, I was trying to cuck a bitch!”

Better Call Saul S04E09 Recap: “Wiedersehen”

As Jimmy McGill’s life was torn apart in front of my very eyes in “Wiedersehen“, the latest episode of Better Call Saul and the penultimate of the fourth season, oddly, I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face. Not because I was enjoying what he was going through – it was tragic – but because it was yet another example of TV’s best show once again defying expectations and taking the story in a place that I don’t think anyone could have anticipated.

I think all of us were getting a little too complacent and comfortable with the show this season. Things were starting to seem too obvious! Mike and Gus were building their underground meth lab, and while much of that arc has been about teasing something bad happening with one of the workers (foreshadowing which came to fruition in this episode’s B-plot), we know that the lab winds up getting build, and that Gus’s empire will continue to grow whilst tensions between him and the Salamancas fester, all while the black hole of New Mexico’s drug trade winds up swallowing the seemingly innocent people around them, including one Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman. In fact, that’s exactly what all of that is building to; the show has literally been building the foundations of a world that will eventually rope Jimmy in.

So the path for this season seemed obvious. Jimmy spends his year suspended from practicing law peddling burner phones, all the while either alienating Kim or drawing her to the dark side (depending on which theory you believe), culminating in Jimmy going full Saul after flying too close to the sun with his schemes and falling in with all the wrong people in that other story we’ve been following. And while we’ll still ultimately get to that point, “Wiedersehen” winds up throwing a hell of a wrench into the works, rendering the immediate direction of this show unpredictable. In the episode, not only does Jimmy have his reinstatement denied, he winds up taking his anger out on Kim, who herself has spent the last few episodes straddling the Jimmy/Saul line, leading to a blow-up that may or may not finally spell the end for their relationship and that puts in question how Jimmy finally winds up going full Saul.

How did we get here, exactly? Kim and Jimmy were finally looking like they were back on track at the end of last week’s episode, following months and months of them growing apart. After successfully scheming to get Huell off the hook, Kim declares that she wants to do more of that kind of stuff with Jimmy, and this week’s episode starts with a successful grift that nets Mesa Verde a bigger conference room at one of their branches. Yet when Jimmy talks about how they could do this for all of his clients after he gets his license back, Kim confusingly suggests that they should only use their powers for good, as if a career goon and a fledgling bank obsessed with the size of their branch atrium are “good”.

In other words, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Kim is using Jimmy to gratify her dark side, and the show is subtly painting her with shades of grey as Jimmy slips further into his own, which is important, because that forces us to side with Jimmy when he fails his interview, even though, as Kim points out after the fact, they were probably justified in doing so. At first, Jimmy seems to nail it, projecting, in his own words, sincerity that occasionally slips into corniness. But a last minute question from one of the panelists trips him up, when asked what the law meant to him and who inspires him to practice it. It’s obviously a set up for him to frame his answer around his recently deceased brother. But Jimmy genuinely doesn’t think about Chuck anymore, so he puts together some bullshit answer that’s devoid of any modicum of remorse for how he got here and what happened to Chuck, and the lady sees right through his facade. Jimmy is incensed; angrier than we’ve ever seen him. He’s pissed that he spent most of the past year playing it safe only to be told it’s him, not his actions. That board, and later, his own girlfriend, basically paint him as a narcissistic, unethical slimeball, and it pisses him off. He feels hurt, and entitled, and he realizes his girlfriend isn’t there to back him up, but instead to feed off his negative energy.

The episode ends, seemingly, with Kim offering to help him appeal and get his license back, but it seems clear that at least one of them, if not both, are now passed the point of no return. And yet, it still remains unclear how we get from here, to Saul Goodman, Criminal Lawyer. Nevertheless, the performances from Rhea Seehorn and especially Bob Odenkirk are phenomenal in an episode that’s very important for where their characters wind up next, and for reminding us that this is a character-driven (not plot-driven) show.

And while those performances were great, and the result truly surprising, I couldn’t help but feel as if the 78-minute episode was somewhat unnecessarily bloated, and probably not the best outing of the season. The subplots are all still table-setting, and while it’s cool to see Lalo strut around town, antagonizing Gus (his reaction to Nacho bringing him to the restaurant is priceless) and giving us the origin of Hector’s bell are both great, as are the scenes with Werner missing his wife and plotting his unexpected escape. It’s just that with Jimmy suffering that setback, it feels as if these worlds are still way too far apart, seemingly more so than they have been in seasons past, and I’m curious to see whether or not the show does anything to bring them closer together in next week’s finale.

Wiedersehen” is an episode propped up by an unexpected twist and two great performances, but it’s a little too self-indulgent in episode length and in stretching things out the way Better Call Saul is wont to do, therefore it gets 8 loose dynamite wires out of 10.


Notes & Quotes:

  • This was Vince Gilligan’s one and only directed episode of the season. For the first time, he has no writing credits to his name this year. It’s interesting because there wasn’t much in this episode that distinguished the directing style from the previous eight. I suppose that speaks volumes to the consistency of the cinematography on the show, and the level of writing and directing no matter how involved Gilligan is.
  • I love to talk about dichotomies in this show, and there’s a whole other review I could have written framing Jimmy against Lalo. We know their paths will eventually collide, and it’ll be interesting when they do, because Lalo seems like he’s much closer to what Jimmy/Saul’s final stage will be. He oozes bullshit that everyone can see through but doesn’t get called out for it because he’s so good at it (compared to Jimmy, who doesn’t get realize that he’s full of shit). Look at how Lalo tells Gus that he wants no bad blood between them. Gus hates every second of their conversation and certainly doesn’t exude trust for Lalo. That’s where we’ll eventually get to with Jimmy. But seeing it now through this new character is certainly a breath of fresh air for the show.
  • Werner first breaks down when he goes back into the bunker to check on the wires. I’m unsure of this is just him showing his emotions in a rare moment of solitude, or something else, but it’s truly powerful. Later, of course, after an extended call with his wife, he decides to plot his escape by fooling the cameras. We’ll have to see what comes of this and how it will reflect on Mike, who would have normally seen this coming a mile away.

 

The Best Lines from The Good Place S03E01&02: “Everything is

 

The continued and consistently touted brilliance of The Good Place tends to center around its uncanny ability to evolve into something new and different without ever losing sight of the tangled roots of the relationships between all of its main characters. In other words, while the semi-annual changes in the show’s format and plot will garner headlines and critical praise, the actual thing that keeps the show at an unmatched level of quality among network sitcoms is that creator Michael Schur and his writers never lose sight of the fact that, no matter how much you change the plot, you can’t change the dynamics between Eleanor, Chidi, Jason and Tahani (not to mention Michael and Janet as the all-knowing beings that they are).

“The key was Eleanor and Chidi’s connection,” Michael declares to Janet at one point in the two-episode, third season premiere, “Everything is Bonzer!”, as they monitor the progress of their four subjects, resurrected on earth in an experiment to see whether or not people are capable of bettering themselves and earning a spot in The Good Place. That rings so true, not only with regards to where the show finds itself plot-wise, but also about the show and its spirit as a whole. From Michael revealing himself as an evil demon, to the way season two blew through over 800 reboots in the span of a couple of episodes, to Michael deciding to be good and help his gang of four, to the ultimate reboot that we find ourselves in now, I love every single twist The Good Place has given us. But those twists don’t work if it isn’t for character development and the chemistry between said characters.

The show has no problem displaying this, because it’s forced Chidi and Eleanor, and of course many of the other characters, to meet each other and learn about each other over and over again. Sometimes, characters evolve and turn into something completely different, like the aforementioned Michael, or Janet changing and becoming more human, or characters like Vicki revealing their true colours. And the show is portending to go through the same motions, as the conceit of this third season is that Michael has reset the four’s lives, saved them from death and, through their near-death experiences, put them on a path to betterment, in hopes of proving to the judge that their system of determining who’s good and who’s bad is flawed. But Michael’s gambit, just like all his others, is flawed, and in the premiere, he finds himself interfering with their lives more than the Judge would probably want him to. And, of course, Michael still has Shawn and his fellow demons chasing after him, as any change to the system would likely mean less people for them to torture.

“Everything is Bonzer” mostly recounts the year that our four heroes have spent living the lives that had previously ended around the same time, recounting to one another how their near-death experiences initially set them on a path to betterment, only to find themselves some months later back in their old habits. Michael surmises, as mentioned, that they need each other in order for the plan to work, so using a slew of increasingly hilarious pseudonyms, he nudges them together under Chidi’s tutelage and the pretense of a study about them and their experiences over the past year.

So, there you have the premise for season 3. Roughly similar to what we’ve seen before, Chidi is teaching everyone else about philosophy and how to be better. But there are wrinkles. As we see at the end of the hour-long episode, Adam Scott’s Trevor makes a return, posing as another survivor of a near-death experience, likely at Shawn’s behest. Michael and Janet are still watching from afar, with Judge Gen lurking over their shoulders. As it’s always been on this show, things will likely blow up long before we have a change to get used to them. And that’s a big part of what makes it special.

That being said, if I’m being honest, part of wishes that this two-episode premiere was somehow merged with last season’s finale. I wasn’t a huge fan of where the show left us last year. We spent most of the finale following Eleanor’s new life, and it really felt as if it was missing the rest of the crew. The premiere basically recapped what Eleanor was doing and gave us the other three stories. Ending the season with everyone being saved and picking up with the four full stories post-resurrection would have felt a little less clunky. But I suppose that’s a nitpick, because I still really enjoyed this premiere.

And another big reason for that is because the show is still hilarious, so without further adieu, let’s get to the jokes and gags!

“Everything is Bonzer” picks up right with The Good Place left off in season 2, and it’s just as smart, poignant, meaningful and hilarious as it’s ever been, so it gets 9 crystals that prevent erectile dysfunction out of 10.


Here are all the best lines from the season premiere of The Good Place!

  • Tahani Namedrops: Prince William, Bono, The Edge, Nicole Kidman, the Dalai Lama, and through book quotes that both suggest they’ll stop writing because of how brilliant Tahani is, Malcolm Gladwell and Cormac McCarthy.
  • Michael uses three pseudonyms in this episode and they’re all perfect: Charles Brainman, a professor Chidi has never heard of, mogul Gordon Indigo, and of course, Zach Pizzazz, international talent scout. That last one is especially zoncatronic.
  • There’s also a muffin stand called “We Crumb from the Land Down Under”, continuing the show’s tradition of amazingly-named restaurants.
  • Michael/The Doorman: “So, how long does this trip take. Hope I don’t get a middle seat!” “Wow, I haven’t heard a joke in 8000 years. And I still haven’t.”
  • Michael: “I saw this place that was at once a Pizza Hut and a Taco Bell. I mean, the mind reels!”
  • Michael: “I put a coin in a thing and I got a gumball. And then someone came up to me and said, ‘hot enough for ya!?’ And you know what I said? I said, ‘Tell me about it!'”
  • Eleanor: “Eat my farts, Benedict Cumberbatch.”
  • Police officer to Jason: “Do you think my name is the letter K?”
  • The Doorman: “It’s only 4:30. My shift doesn’t end until nine billion.”
  • Eleanor on why she’s an Arizona Trashbag: “Our biggest exports are racist sheriffs and HPV.”
  • Eleanor: “I had no choice, I was in his driveway taking pictures when he walked out, so I said, ‘Hey Mr. Crowe, I’m from the gas compayny. I loved you in Gladiator.'”
  • Janet: “I’ve been running simulations on what their kids will look like. One of them is hot enough to be on The Bachelor AND smart enough to never go on The Bachelor!”
  • Janet: “If you keep disobeying mommy something bad is going to happen.”
  • Jason: “We are going to eat, breathe and vape dance!”
  • MC: “Would the owner of a 1998 Toyota Tercel with golden pythons painted on both sides, license plate GOTMILF please see an usher? Your car has exploded.”
  • Jason: “I know it sounds crazy, but I’m starting to think there’s more to life than amateur street dancing competitions.”
  • Jason: “Clausterphobic? Who would ever be scared of Santa Claus? Oh! The Jewish!”

The Best Lines from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia S13E04: “Time’s Up For The Gang”

 

It’s funny, the question of how a show like It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia could survive in the post-MeToo world (or even, more generally, in the increasingly progressive/”woke” world we find ourselves living in) has never really crossed my mind, despite the fact that this is a show that almost persistently ventures into crass and offensive territory, or maybe it’s because I’ve always trusted the people behind it and their intentions. And yet, here we are, in the show’s unprecedented 13th season, witnessing the show’s strong attempts to change with the times and evolve. Not only by addressing these topics head on (without losing track of the no-holds-barred sense of humour that’s kept it around for this long), but by addressing them behind the scenes as well.

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the Sunny writer’s room and troupe of directors, which has been predominantly male for over a decade, is now considerably more female, with The Mick import Kat Coiro and one of TV’s best writers, Megan Ganz, front and center, having written/directed two episodes so far this season including tonight’s impeccable “Time’s Up For The Gang”.

It’s impressive in and of itself that the show made these changes preemptively, before anyone noticed or really said anything. But it makes sense, not only because it allows the show to remain topical when the topics at hand are becoming increasingly sensitive, but also because the show’s creators are becoming busier and busier and changes were going to have to be made anyway. They made the changes the right way, and while some may say that these first few episodes of the season have been weak, I personally feel as if the show has felt like a breath of fresh air, on top of having a renewed sense of relevance.

Previous episodes this season have tackled such things already, but “Time’s Up” is the season’s most topical episode to date, and it not only delivers on some great commentary, but it’s also probably the funniest episode of the show in recent memory. The episode has The Gang attending a sexual harassment seminar after someone put them on some sort of online list. They are as disruptive as you expect them to be, antagonizing both the moderators and each other as, progressively, each of them experiences the “heat” of the changing climate, before Dennis, in a long-winded speech, reveals that he orchestrated the whole thing in order to get a leg-up on the group.

The episode is riddled with poignant commentary about Me Too (both about sexual harassment itself and the misguided attempts to take it down with arguments such as “not all men” and victim blaming, things that seem especially touchstone at a time where an alleged rapist is being thrust onto the Supreme Court)  and said changing climate, but it doesn’t lose sight of the things that make Sunny great. For starters, the whole point of the episode isn’t really to make fun of Me Too or to try and put men down, or whatever. It’s all about the power dynamics in the group. Dennis does this because he sees things shifting, not in the climate but among his gang of degenerates. He wants them to know their place.

And it’s also great because it’s probably the funniest episode of the show in a good long while. From Dennis’s speech, to Frank’s antics trying to keep his stolen robe on, culminating with Mac literally grabbing Dee by the pussy, there’s a lot of great stuff here, stuff we’ll mostly get to in the notes below. It works because it balances the funny and the relevance. And it’s exactly why IASIP needs to continue to exist. “Times Up For The Gang” gets 10 year passed the statute of limitations out of 10.


  • Frank: “You kids and your climates. Back in the day I banged all my secretaries. That’s the way you did it. You hire some girl with no experience, you bang her, you promote her. It’s a win-win situation for everyone, except for the wives.”
  • Dee: “Eh yo! Who’s ready to party ! TimesUpTimesUpTimesUpTimesUp!”
  • Kate/Frank: “Yes, you have a question?” “Statute of limitations?”
  • Frank: “They got nothing on me passed ’92, tops.”
  • Charlie: “We really don’t know how funny the joke is yet because we haven’t seen the girl’s boobs. Can we see them?”
  • Charlie on Mac: “He’s just, like, our gay guy now.”
  • Mac: “Now, should I take my shirt off for this scenario?”
  • Dee: “It made me feel tiny, like Thumbelina!”
  • Frank: “I’m sweating through my clothes. It’s this damn climate!”
  • Frank: “Shit, I just looked at her tits.”
  • Dee: “I like the tactic here. Get em all horny with your titties. That’s when they make their mistakes.”
  • Frank: “Hey, Larry? How soon can you get to the Hyatt? My dong fell out. A woman saw it.”
  • Dennis: “You’re lanky and your hair looks like a wig. Is it a wig? What’s going on? Doesn’t matter, your time’s up.”
  • Dee: “You guys think that Allan guy’s got a big dick?”

Better Call Saul S04E08 Recap: “Coushatta”

 

The brilliance of the writers of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul is a notion that has become memefied over the years. Praising creator Vince Gilligan is usually met with in-jokes and laughter among fans, and I sort of get it, because there’s a lot more that goes into making a show like this than just one man, and as good as it is, at the end of the day, it’s just a TV show. How “brilliant” could it truly be?

Well, it’s episodes like “Coushatta” that justify that kind of behaviour. “Coushatta” is an episode so-well crafted that pays off the finest details of the season in such a grandiose manner that you can’t help but admire it and disproportionately praise it. It’s an episode that turns fan theories on their heads for the umpteenth time in as many episodes, and before the credits roll, it even finds a way to set the next stage of the game in an unexpected but welcome way.

The main focus of the episode revolves around Kim and Jimmy working to get Huell off the hook for hitting a plain clothes cop who was accosting Jimmy with a bag of sandwiches. The DA see this as a slam dunk case so they’re throwing the book at Huell, who, as we found out in last week’s episode, would rather run than go to prison. Jimmy knows this is a bad idea and feels bad for getting Huell in this mess, so he’s willing to do something stupid (as last week’s episode title implied) to help get him off. But Kim, who after a long time-jump still cares for Jimmy despite the fact that they’ve grown apart, doesn’t want to see him get in trouble, so she comes up with a plan of her own.

That plan manifests itself over the course of the episode, and it’s glorious. It involves putting Jimmy on a bus to Louisiana, where he and his fellow passengers write hundreds of letters addressed to the judge, posing as members of Huell’s hometown church and pleading with him to go easy on their beloved Huell. The judge is incensed, but the ADA doesn’t back off, and that’s where the plan really gets good. Some of the letters have phone numbers, numbers from Jimmy’s stock of burner phones, which he and his commercial crew from last season sit around and answer using various accents. At the end of the day, it’s enough to convince the ADA to let Huell off the hook, fearing a full-on freakout from Judge Munsigner.

It’s the perfect, ridiculous kind of plan for this show that plays out in BCS’s signature meticulous fashion, with a long cold open during which we see Jimmy writing all these letters without knowing what the endgame is. And when it’s all over, we see Jimmy reassuring Kim that this won’t ever happen again, only to find out that she got a thrill out of it and, realizing her life of opening bank branches bores her, wants to do it again. Combined with the fact that she came up with the plan, one that put both her and Jimmy at risk of not only losing their licenses but also going to jail for mail fraud and other crimes, it once again says a lot about Kim and where the show might be going with her character. As I’ve spoken about a lot this season, many believe that she faces some tragic end during the course of this show, as we never see her at Saul’s side during the Breaking Bad days. And maybe that’s the case, but seeing her act as the mastermind behind this plan only reaffirms my belief that she’s right there next to Jimmy/Saul that entire time, just off screen. She may even be with him in Nebraska when Jimmy becomes Gene.

bcs_408_nw_0416_0585-rt-1014x570

That may seem farfetched, but remember that slobbering praise for Vince Gilligan and his fellow writers that we talked about earlier. They’re no strangers to doing something crazy like that. There’s even proof of it in this episode, in Nacho’s story. The closing moments of the episode introduce us to Eduardo Salamanca, AKA “Lalo” (played by Mexican sta. Now, it’s been a while since Breaking Bad, but that’s an important name in this universe, as it is the first name that Saul Goodman utters when he’s introduced on that show, kidnapped by Walt and Jesse, right before he mentions Ignacio, making Lalo the second character birthed from a throwaway line from a decade earlier.

On the surface, Lalo appearing as a foil to Nacho’s newfound wealth and status is important because it advances that story, it gives Nacho something to do and it breeds a certain kind of conflict on that side of the BCS story spectrum that’s been desperately missing for a few episodes now, as Nacho ponders escaping to Canada with his father and a couple of fake IDs. But if you dig a little deeper it’s even more important than that, because we know that Jimmy eventually comes to know Lalo (likely through Nacho), so this is probably the table-setting for Jimmy’s introduction to the cartel world.

But I think there’s even one more layer, a subtle one at that. The idea that two characters can come to life based on a line of dialog from season 2 of Breaking Bad is sort of magical. It tells us that what happened on Breaking Bad isn’t the only thing that was happening. Nacho and Lalo represent what’s going on in the background. When Saul utters their names, the presumption is that they’re still alive at that time, even though we never see them during the course of the main show. It means that if this show intends to give Lalo and Nacho complete stories, we’re going to need to see what they were doing at the time that Saul utters their names for the last time. It means that, inevitably, the timeline of Better Call Saul needs to intersect with the timeline of Breaking Bad. And it reinforces my belief that Kim can exist during that time as well, because it means that we’re not seeing everything that Saul was up to.

And that’s where the brilliance of this show lies, in how it can take a single line of dialog and expound on it infinitely. It’s in the details of the details. It’s in how it tells the viewers to trust it and almost always pays off. “Coushetta” is a fantastic, layered episode of Better Call Saul and it gets 10 chartered buses from Louisiana out of 10.


Notes:

  • Quickly since I didn’t get to it earlier, the bunker storyline sees Kai get kicked out of a strip club, but the show once again throws a wrench in the works when it’s Werner who messes up the most by chatting up some bar rats about their construction plans. Mike scolds him and gives him a pass, but he seems uncertain when Gus asks him about it later on.
  • It’s kind of jarring when you consider that this is the first time we’ve seen Nacho in nearly a year. He’s healed, heading up the Salamanca business and clearly benefiting from it financially, but he’s unhappy and scared and contemplating trying to leave. Still, he’s doing his job, ripping earrings out of his dealers ears when he needs to, so why Eduardo comes out to play remains to be seen, but you can already tell he’s going to have a big impact on the show.
  • Jimmy’s southern pastor impression is his best impression yet. “I’ve got crawdad in ma pants. It’s a thing that happens to you when you’re sittin’ in the bayou.”
  • And finally, Guillermo Del Toro (rightfully) thinks Better Call Saul is better than Breaking Bad. Read about that here.

The Best Lines from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia S13E03: “The Gang Beats Boggs: Ladies Reboot”

 

Any other show would bungle an episode like “The Gang Beats Boggs: Ladies Reboot”. But for It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, it’s exactly what we needed to see. Thirteen seasons in, a show unabashedly borrowing a concept from an earlier popular episode, replacing the cast with female side characters for the sake of making some meta commentary points and ending with everyone puking and shitting their pants would probably signal its death knell. But here’s, it’s unironically a sign that IASIP hasn’t lost a step.

The episode has Sweet Dee gathering all of the women she knows and can tolerate on a flight headed for the women’s march. But they’re not on it to celebrate their womanhood or to protest the current administration, they’re there because Dee is constantly trying to figure out how to stick it to the guys, and her latest scheme involves having one of the girls beat Wade Boggs’ record of drinking 71 beers on a flight to Los Angeles before winning the big game the next day. Only Dee doesn’t actually want “the women” to beat the record, she wants to beat the record and all the other women herself, because she’s a narcissistic misanthrope with a warped sense of feminism, and it says a lot about her that the only women she can harangue are two of her friends’ moms, The Waitress and Artemis (and, as we find out later, Snail, who is hiding and drinking quietly on her own in first class). Also she’s a bird.

It’s kind of a perfect setup. The show does well when re-exploring its own conceits, as this isn’t the first time its rebooted an episode. It also does well when it sets Dee up against everyone, because she’s a frustrated failure and she only gets funnier when her back is up against the wall (this episode features a lot of “goddamnits”). And it’s nice to see some recurring characters get their time to shine, as each of the four ladies have several great moments in this episode.

In a weird way, this episode does a lot to show that there is a version of IASIP that can survive without all of its main characters. While Frank, Charlie and Mac all sneak in cameos (The Waiter is also there, although who are we to remember every man we’ve seen fall into a plate of spaghetti), this is the first episode of the season with no sign of Dennis. While he still looms over the show (there is a lot of talk about his stay in North Dakota and, in fact, Dee winds up there herself, which may play in to a future reveal about Dennis’s kid there), this episode works without the classic Gang chemistry, and it works because Kaitlyn Olson is a great actress who has spent fifteen years honing what kind of character Sweet Dee actually is. And, as I said, she doesn’t hog the screen either.

The meta-commentary about feminism and lazy media attempts at representation were pretty spot-on as well, continuing the trend started in last week’s episode and that clearly seems to be a priority this season, with a lot more women working on the show behind the scenes and a concerted effort to make the show more relevant and topical. Without, of course, losing any of its charm, as suggested by the episode’s crux, where Artemis’ spiked Goop-style products induce mass vomiting and diarrhea amongst the women on the flight.

There’s little more you can hope for as a creative person than to see your meta-episode about lazy, diversity-induced spinoffs actually wind up being funny and memorable. And there are plenty of moments in this Boss Hogg sequel that work. “The Gang Beats Boggs: Ladies Reboot” gets 8 pussies on the track out of 10.


Here are some of the best lines from “The Gang Beats Boggs: Ladies Reboot”:

ve5z8o5tljjodeegmwkl

  • Goddamnit Count: 7
  • A couple of great sight gags: Drunk Dee imagining Martina Navratilova all wrong and then picturing Boss Hogg instead of Wade Boggs, Charlie and Mac repeatedly yelling that Dee’s a bird before their facetime cuts out.
  • Mrs Kelly: “I didn’t know it was an all female flight. That feels dangerous.”
  • Artemis/Dee: “I don’t get it. You already did this. Shouldn’t we do our own thing? Why are we copying the guys?” “That’s the whole point. It’s the exact same thing, but with women. So it’s a new idea.”
  • Mrs. Mac: “What kind of a plane is this? How come the coloreds are allowed to sit with the whites and we’re way back here?”
  • Dee: “Wow, I’ve never heard you talk so much. Truly awful.”
  • Dee/Waitress: “What’s your secret?” “I’m an alcoholic.”
  • Artemis/Mrs. Mac: “Let’s at least beat a female sports star.” “Secretariat?”
  • Dee, to The Waiter: “That’s great, you’re a soyboy beta cuck.”
  • Mrs. Kelly: “Oh dear, watching a woman do math scares me!”
  • Frank: “In every reboot you gotta have someone from the original to make a cameo.”
  • Artemis: “She’s gone full Judy Garland, isn’t it glorious?”
  • The Waitress: “I had sex in the bathroom with Frank and now I’m in a shame spiral. I’m going to drink my self to death.”
  • Martina Navratilova: “Now you’re imagining me as Lori Petty in A League of Their Own.”

Better Call Saul S04E07 Recap: “Something Stupid”

 

One of my favourite things about Better Call Saul is its fascination with the mundane. It’s a show that exists in a world growing increasingly crazier, a show that perennially promises to notch up said craziness as the timeline gets closer and closer to the days of Breaking Bad, yet also one that, even in the midst of all that, can devote a good chunk of the episode to routine and minutia, even while it’s pushing the time frame forward.

The cold open for “Something Stupid” is the perfect encapsulation of this. Its purpose is to push the show eight months into the future, to place it in a time where Kim and Jimmy have mostly grown apart, to the end of Gus’ timeline for building his underground meth lab, to the precipice of Jimmy getting his law license back. But the way it does it is almost comically simple, presenting this lapse in time through a montage of Kim and Jimmy’s routines. With a thick black bar splitting the screen right down the middle, we see Kim and Jimmy getting ready for their days, Kim as she works for Mesa Verde and on pro bono cases, Jimmy as he peddles burner phones out of a van. At first, they’re brushing their teeth together, sharing meals, doing, you know, couple stuff. By the end, Jimmy’s eating alone, watching movies alone, brushing his teeth alone as Kim buries herself in work, eventually fading out the opposite of how it fades in, with Jimmy and Kim in the same bed, but worlds apart.

It’s bittersweet, melancholic, and extremely well done. In other words, par for the course for a show like this as Director Deborah Chow knocks it out of the park. It’s also necessary. A big part of this fourth season has been about Kim and Jimmy growing apart, potentially realizing that their relationship is a matter of convenience rather than actual affection. I mentioned last week that while we’ve seen them kiss and do couple stuff, the show has always strayed away from showing them in any significant amount of intimacy. And while I don’t expect a show from a writer as unconcerned with salaciousness as Vince Gilligan to venture into the territory of sex scenes or indiscriminate intimacy for the sake of portraying a relationship (Kim and Jimmy brushing their teeth together, watching movies and deciding on that night’s takeout order is enough), the lack of intimacy or even the words “I love you” from their relationship is a clear choice, one that’s been manifesting itself more and more in recent weeks as they realize they’re different people, as Jimmy realizes that Kim’s goals are different from his own, as Kim realizes that Jimmy might not be the man she thinks he is.

But eight months to be out of love with someone and stay with him is a long time. They’re still “together” after that montage. Kim brings Jimmy to an office cocktail party where he schmoozes with her coworkers and even sort of embarrasses her boss by talking up how cool it would be for him to take his employees on a company retreat to Aspen on a private jet. On the way home, Jimmy and Kim barely even have anything to say about it before returning to their routines. And it’s particularly jarring in a scene late in the episode. Jimmy’s security, Huell, gets busted for hitting a plain-clothes cop with a bag full of sandwiches when he thought Jimmy was getting accosted. Facing an unnecessarily cruel amount of jail time, Jimmy enlists Kim’s help to get him out of trouble since he won’t have his license back for a month. Kim’s immediate response is surprise that Jimmy’s been spending his days peddling phones out of a van. Jimmy brushes it off as unimportant, but for the sake of storytelling it’s crucial. Kim doesn’t know what Jimmy does with his time. She hasn’t known for the better part of a year. In previous episodes we’ve seen Jimmy brush off his job as boring an uneventful, but it’s been eight months, and it’s just as much on Jimmy for not telling her as it is on Kim for not even caring enough to figure it out.

And that tells me a lot about where this might be going. Most people will point to this episode as proof that when Jimmy goes Full Saul, Kim won’t be around to suffer the consequences. But part of me still wants to stick to my guns and hang on to the other (admittedly unlikely) scenario, where the Kim we see now, the one that stuck by Jimmy all this time and even joined in on grifting with him at one point, is way past the point where she can escape Jimmy’s black hole of gravitational pull. It’s been nearly a year since Chuck’s death, since Jimmy’s behaviour in the wake of what happened left her concerned and even recoiling from him and who she perceived him to be. Yet they still share a bathroom vanity and a fish. If they passion is gone, then why are they still even together?

What’s more, even after Jimmy reveals the terrible thing he’s been doing for the better part of the year and the seedy people he’s associating with, even after he suggests doing something shady to get Huell out of prison as if it’s the obvious solution, she still agrees to help him and even, as we see at the end of the episode, enacts a mysterious plan involving loads of office supplies to help him and Huell without Jimmy having to slip and slide. I believe that this show is daring us to think that Kim will leave Jimmy when he breaks bad. The question is whether she’ll be a willing participant or enabler in the Saul days, or whether a more Chuck-like fate awaits her.

The time jump does a lot advance the story between Kim and Jimmy, but it also serves an important purpose on the other side of Better Call Saul’s coin, as we catch up with Gus, Mike and the construction as well. The German suggested it might take eight months to build the underground meth lab, but after that amount of time they’re barely halfway done, and frustration and boredom seems to be getting the best of some of the young workers; an ennui that’s put on display through a second musical montage. Mike floats the idea of sending Kai home but it probably wouldn’t lead to anything positive. Instead they decide to give them some much needed R&R. In any case, this looks like it’s heading down a no-good path in the final episodes of the season. Meanwhile, Gus sends Hector’s brain doctor home after he sees what he does (spilling some water to get a good look at his nurse) in the latest test session, satisfied that, even without his ability to speak, he’s back to his former self.

That stuff seems to mostly be setup, but it doesn’t really take away from another great episode of Better Call Saul where the characters and their relationships are still paramount. “Something Stupid” gets 8.5 bags full of sandwiches out of 10.

The Best Lines from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia S13E02: ‘The Gang Escapes’

 

After It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia devoted its thirteenth season premiere to the pressing question of whether or not Glenn Howerton’s Dennis would return to the show, things were unsurprisingly back to normal in “The Gang Escapes”. In fact, the episode holds itself to Dennis’ word, not worry about why or how he’s back or for how long, plunging The Gang right back into the type of low-brow, inconsequential misadventures we’re here for.

The funny thing is that the episode, which, at Sweet Dee’s request, has The Gang locked in Dennis and Mac’s apartment doing one of those escape room team-building challenge thingies, opens with Dennis actually trying to justify why he and the other guys would do something like that, establishing that there need to be stakes; in this case, an actual sirloin steak, to be purchased for the winner by Amanda, the girl setting all of this up, along with disturbing promises of sexual conquest. In true Sunny form, however, Dee has ulterior motives, having already done this exact escape room before, attempting to make herself look good in front of the guys.

Things devolve pretty quickly, as you might expect. The guys lock Dee in Dennis’ bedroom the moment she starts being annoying. In there she must escape a room of her own, as Dennis has set it up for his deviant sexual conquests. Outside, the guys pair off when their egos get in the way and they can’t decide on a leader between Dennis and Frank, but when they match each others’ tactics (The Art of the Deal, bro!), they decide to hold a summit where a pecking order is decided and they put their clues for the escape room together, only to discover it’s just the beginning. Luckily, Dee falls off the building forcing Amanda to open the door before the deadline, thus earning everyone their steaks and their picture on the company’s website. In fact, in a surprisingly sweet moment for this show, the guys let Dee take a bite of her steak first for leading them to victory.

The episode wastes no time delving into topics such as machismo and toxic masculinity, putting the guys against both Dee and each other in a bid for dominance. It treats the idea of an escape room like mice in a laboratory maze, compacting all the terrible things about the guys into an environment where they can quickly manifest themselves and explode. But it all kind of works because obviously it’s satirical and tinged with irony. What’s more, it’s an episode written and directed by women. Megan Ganz, formerly of Community and Modern Family fame joined the show last season (writing the equally hilarious and meta The Gang Tends Bar), and while I consider her to be one of the best working sitcom writers and she certainly earned her job based on skill and merit, it’s also clearly part of an attempt to diversify the Sunny writer’s room. This is a show that has been largely written by men (even outside the bulk of the episodes written by its three main stars and creators), and while most would likely consider the likes of McElheney, Howerton and Day to be relatively woke, it’s an interesting direction for the show to take after so many years. Not only is this episode written by a woman and directed by a woman (LP), but so are most of the next four episodes, and that’s probably a bigger deal than most will give credit.

It doesn’t really affect the quality of the show one way or another, it’s still just as funny and ridiculous, and the stars’ influence over it still persists, even though these changes were likely made to accommodate their increasingly busy schedules as actors and producers. But it’s a positive sign to see a show thirteen seasons old capable of making big changes in the way it’s written and produced, capable of tackling subjects not outside of the show’s realm, but potentially from different angles, all without losing much of a step. “The Gang Escapes” is both topical and timeless, hilarious and well-made. And with everything so quickly going back to normal for The Gang, it reassures me that this is a shot that still has a lot of life left in it.

“The Gang Escapes” gets 8 ounces of sirloin steak out of 10.


 

Here are some of the best lines from “The Gang Escapes”:

  • First and foremost, the Goddamnit Count. I forgot to do this last week, but I don’t remember hearing any. This week the show comes out swinging, with 5 instances of the gang (mostly Dee) expressing their displeasure with the show’s signature word.
  • I also want to shout out Charlie’s speech as speaker during the summit. Too much of it was hilarious to transcribe but the whole thing was just phenomenal.
  • Dennis: “I’m fully aware of this practice. It’s a highly sexual experience for people. You’ll get no judgements from us.”
  • Mac: “This sounds very nerdy. Is this a nerd thing?”
  • Mac: “Men don’t do things just to do them. We’re busy running the world, providing for our families. We need stakes. If there’s no stakes, what’s the point?”
  • Dennis: “I get out of the room, that means I win the game, the lady here, she takes me out for a steak, then it becomes sexual.”
  • Charlie: “Frank hasn’t been locked up since the nitwit school, so he gets a little uptight about it.”
  • Frank: “Everybody knows quarterbacks are men.”
  • Dennis/Mac: “By constantly chewing so loudly he’s sending a very clear message that he is the head cow. And as we all know, the head cow is always grazing.” “Aren’t all cows female?”
  • Dennis: “Mac, sometimes I’m just riffing. Would you allow me to riff? As the leader, can I riff? CAN I RIFF!?”
  • Mac: “Just to clarify, are we monkeys or are we cows?”
  • Frank: “It’s a power play. Everybody knows that the head cow is always grazing.”
  • Mac: “Never trust another man in negotiation! That’s textbook. Art of the Deal! Art of the Deal, bro!”
  • Computer Dennis: “Remember, if you’re having too much fun, it ruins it for me.”
  • Computer Dennis: “Ugh ugh ugh! You didn’t say the safe word.”
  • Amanda/Dee: “This is insanely disturbing.” “You do it for a living, get off your high horse.”
  • Dennis: “Clever girl.”
  • Dennis: “You figured out the only loophole in my carefully curated and well-researched bondage facility. You’re the only person who’s ever done that. The only one. THE ONLY ONE.”