There have been several times on this season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia where it’s seemed like the episode was ending just when it should be getting good. In “The Storm of the Century,” the episode ended right when the gang started looting and getting all sorts of crazy, while last week’s episode “The Anti-Social Network” ended right when Dennis was getting ready to seek revenge on a guy he spent the entire episode trying to track down. In “The Gang Gets Trapped,” we get a rare episode where the usual structure of It’s Always Sunny is taken apart, by starting the episode mid-caper.
Dee and Dennis are trapped in an unknown closet, which we soon find out is due to a rousing speech that Dennis gave earlier about stealing an important vase from a house. Charlie and Mac have taken initiative to keep watch on the outside while Frank has no problem wandering the house pretty freely. What should have been a simple case of breaking and entering becomes much more complicated as the woman who lives there comes home, and we quickly realize that her daughter is also in the house, she has been cheating on her husband, she is trying to run away from her husband and her husband has found out about the other man. By the end, the gang realizes that this family has much more on their plate to worry about, so they decide to just walk out the front door. The family sees the gang as they leave, staring in awe, and Frank breaks the coveted vase with his Indiana Jones whip as they make their escape.
It’s pretty conventional for the show to have a great Charlie or Mac episode, but “The Gang Gets Trapped” was clearly one of Dennis’ shining episodes. Not since season five’s “The D.E.N.N.I.S. System” have we had such a great Dennis episode. There’s something so great about Dennis wondering after being stuck in the closet “how have we not gotten caught yet?” The episode’s highlight was when Mac and Charlie question whether they should run away and do what they’ve always talked about, moving to Arizona to start a leather store, having Dennis shooting them down by saying “a leather store in Arizona? You’d be out of business in a week’s time!” I argue the discussion of Arizona leather stores, while completely random, is probably one of the funniest tangents the gang has gone on all season.
“The Gang Gets Trapped” was a pretty uncharacteristic and a bit of a weird episode. It jumped straight into their crime, without any reference point as to what was going on and let the audience put together the prologue to their decision throughout the episode. While it seems like the episode could have included this little bit of story as well, it does seem like this would have made this much more like the usual episodes. It’s nice to see It’s Always Sunny trying out some new things, even when the show itself acknowledges that it can usually do the same thing, when Dennis points out that they always go from mild interest to cranked all the way up to 10, while questioning why they are in this house in the first place. “The Gang Gets Trapped” has some great elements that worked, but It’s Always Sunny still needs to figure out how to be different while being able to serve the story in the best way possible.