Just the other day, I was discussing with someone my favorite moments of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. There was hardly any mention of the craziness of Green Man or Rum Ham, but rather, it was about the rare moments where It’s Always Sunny shows its heart. What did come up was when Charlie gives a box of hornets to the guy who cheated on Dee, or when The Gang gives Charlie the present of a new hammer to beat rats with, or how in the Christmas special, we see the friendship Mac and Charlie have shared over the years. Those moments where It’s Always Sunny shows affection are some of my favorites, and that’s what “The Gang Dines Out” really gets right.
In “The Gang Dines Out,” Mac and Dennis go to the finest Italian restaurant in Philadelphia for the monthly dinner that they apparently have together. While there, Frank and Charlie come in, also sharing a dinner to celebrate their anniversary of living together. While the two groups stare each other down and discuss paying tribute to each other, Dee is eating alone, since she has an expiring Groupon she has to use. While she tries to hide from the other four, the rest of the group doesn’t even realize she’s there as well.
With The Gang in a nice place, especially an Italian restaurant, it seems fair to expect the episode to end in wall-to-wall pasta, the complete destruction of the restaurant, or a screaming match that disrupts everyone else’s evening—yet it doesn’t do any of these things. They hint that they might start throwing vases and lobsters, but they don’t. They contemplate yelling at each other, then give a series of toasts that make sense to only them. While the episode does end with a waiter on the ground— shoelaces tied together, covered in spaghetti—it’s not as large and loud a display as is immediately expected.
Sure, there’s an alternate universe where it would be great to see a finale where The Gang throws handfuls of Italian dishes at each other, but what would that do, other than hit all the expectations? The entire episode has The Gang split up, staring down each other and insulting each other in various ways, but as the two groups begin to collide and fight, the waiter who has had the misfortune of working these three tables, falls to the ground and spills food all over himself. The two groups see this, put down their minor squabbles and just laugh. When they realize that Dee has tied the waiter’s shoelaces together, The Gang seems just as happy to be together as they are with the tumble the waiter has taken for their amusement.
There is something so joyous in the episode’s last minutes; as mentioned earlier, they spend every waking minute together, but when they separate from each other, they are so excited in the moments they are reunited. It’s a nice touch, one that seemed unexpected. “The Gang Dines Out” isn’t as laugh-out-loud funny as you’d expect, or close to as wild as it could have gotten, but that’s not the point of this episode. Most of the humor comes from how restrained they actually are, as Mac just wants to have a nice dinner; it’s all so much calmer than The Gang usually is.
Like Dennis and Mac’s monthly dinners, it’s kind of nice to have a change of pace every once in a while—just sit back, relax and enjoy. Maybe “The Gang Dines Out” does become a bit too much like a typical sitcom, but it’s such a rare change, and such a welcome show of friendship between these five who are usually at each other’s necks, it’s hard to not appreciate the change and show of affection these five have for each other.