It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – Season 16 Episode 4 Recap & Review

Frank vs. Russia

Episode 4 of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia Season 16 begins in Charlie’s apartment where he desperately tries to wake up a sleeping Frank. Charlie is dressed in an all-American outfit, though we are initially unsure why this is and why he is trying to rouse Frank. It becomes clear in the next scene when we realize Charlie needs to get Frank up and ready for a chess tournament against a Russian grandmaster. 

Two days earlier, we are at Paddy’s bar where Dee tells Mac and Dennis she got together with a guy the previous night and accidentally left her phone with him.

Mac, who now considers Frank to be an “ally” to the gay community, asks him for advice. But when Mac starts talking about anal beads that have been inserted into his butt, which are activated with a buzzer by an online boyfriend named Johnny, Frank becomes much less tolerant. 

We cut to Charlie at his mom’s house who is looking through Uncle Jack’s case of spying equipment. These items are clearly for seedy purposes but Charlie’s mom is clueless about this. Charlie says he needs Jack’s equipment because he is entering Frank into a chess tournament with the aforementioned Russian grandmaster. Charlie intends to use these items to see the game, so he can play along on a computer and signal the right moves to Frank with the aid of a restaurant buzzer that is in Frank’s pocket.

Outside the tournament building, Uncle Jack arrives in an ice cream truck with the spy glasses Charlie requested. There isn’t any ice cream in the truck as we are led to understand Frank bought the van for creepy purposes. This becomes clear later when Frank is noticeably more interested in Frank’s junior opponent than the actual game. 

Back at Paddy’s, Dennis is revealing his system to help Dee and Mac get a man to fall in love with them. His tactics involve suppressing instincts to talk about themselves, inflating the guy’s ego, making him feel powerful, and playing the role of a mother figure. We then cut to scenes of dates with Dee and Mac with their chosen guys, with Dennis close by keeping an eye on how things are going. 

In the following scene, we have another conversation about Mac’s anal beads and we find out Dennis is “Johnny”, the guy Mac thought he had met online. Apparently, Dennis invented “Johnny” as a means of getting Mac out of the apartment when he was irritating him. Whenever Dennis pressed a button on his phone, the beads would activate in Mac’s butt, leading him to believe Johnny wanted to meet with him.

Mac is in denial about Dennis being Johnny and even when Dennis activates the beads with a button on his phone, Mac thinks it is a signal from Johnny asking for a meet-up at a motel. As Mac leaves, Charlie arrives with news that Frank is in the final. He tells Dennis that he has been using a buzzer to help Frank but isn’t able to smuggle that buzzer into the final game. 

Dennis has a plan, which is discovered when we go forward in time to a scene when Frank is arriving at the final chess game. Frank is looking uncomfortable and there’s a very good reason why – he has had the anal beads inserted into him. As Frank plays the game, Dennis is with Jack in the van with the spy equipment watching the game. Dennis activates the anal beads to help Frank make the right decisions.

While the game is going on, Mac gets into the van to tell Dennis he blacked out the night before and that he thinks Johnny broke up with him because the anal beads are gone. Dennis argues with Mac, insisting that he is Johnny. During their dispute, he accidentally breaks his phone, causing the button that activates the buzzer to stay permanently pressed. This inadvertently helps Frank win the game but as the beads continually vibrate inside him, he collapses to the floor in agony.

As the episode closes, Charlie and the others are too busy celebrating to notice his discomfort.

The Episode Review

The cast and writers of this show have never been afraid to court controversy by touching on sensitive subjects. We have had episodes about abortion, racism, and faking cancer, to name but a few. Usually, the writing is strong enough to make us excuse the tastelessness of some of its contentious themes but that isn’t the case in this episode. 

Surprisingly, despite the episode’s title, this one doesn’t make crude jokes about the Russians, perhaps because the current situation in Ukraine is too sensitive (and off-limits), even for this show’s creators who are usually allowed free rein to touch on taboo topics. However, they do make passing references to molestation through the character of Uncle Frank and his past relationship with Charlie, as well as his fascination with spying on the young with his perv van. This is a subject that has been referenced before in the show but one must ask the question why. There is no humour to be mined from this topic, and that is especially the case in this episode which is the worst in the season so far. 

Controversial subject aside, this episode is also a bit of a jumbled mess. There are several plotlines thrown into the mix here – the chess game, Mac’s fake relationship with Johnny, and Dennis’s love coaching – but not enough time is spent on any of them. Considering the episode is just over 20 minutes long, this isn’t surprising, but the better decision would have been to make separate episodes using these story arcs.

Ultimately, this has to rank as one of the most depressing episodes of the series. Mac being catfished by Dennis, Frank’s final scenes in agony because of the anal beads, and the plotline about Uncle Frank, were ugly in nature rather than funny. The show is renowned for being darkly comic but this one forgot to bring the comedy. It forgot to bring coherent storytelling too, so consider this episode a complete misfire. 

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You can read our full Season 16 review of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia here
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