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Episode Recaps: The Office and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

December 12, 2009
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secretsantaThe Office: “Secret Santa”

There’s something about holiday episodes that always puts the writing staff of nearly any show on their A game. I don’t regularly watch The Simpsons anymore, but I do make it a point to catch their Halloween episodes (and, damn it, “Treehouse of Horror III” and “IV” are shamefully neglected on most “Best of” lists); It’s Always Sunny delivered a lot of great laughs with their Christmas special; even Family Guy did it right (the special-within-a-special KISS Saves Santa was a delightful send-up). “Santa” was no exception. Sure, it’s not as good as “A Benihana Christmas,” but I did like it more than “Yankee Swap” (shots of David Koechner passed out notwithstanding [and where has he been lately?]).

This year, Phyllis gets to live her lifelong dream of playing the office Santa Claus, to the dismay of Michael, whose petulance at someone else filling his holiday boots leads to him dressing up as a counter-Claus to Phyllis’ “Tranny Claus.” Not surprisingly, everyone else seems to prefer Phyllis, which leads Michael to dress up as Jesus (Toby: “Michael, you can’t push religion in the workplace.” Michael: “Aaaand it’s the anti-Christ”), which goes over even less well. Continuing his role as the spoiled-Christmas-child, Michael calls up Dunder-Mifflin CEO David Wallace to complain, but David’s main concern is the recent buyout of Dunder-Mifflin, a bombshell that he asks Michael not to reveal. Of course Michael doesn’t.

The better B plot dealt with Andy’s rigging of the Secret Santa exchange to further his increasingly tireless courtship of *sigh* Erin. In typical fashion, Andy goes, way, way over the top and gives her the Twelve Days of Christmas (the seamy underbelly or sordid politics of the office’s Secret Santa could have been an episode in itself). Equally expected are the disastrous results (Erin: “My cat killed one of the turtledoves; the hens have started pulling out my hair to make a nest. Please, stop.”). But, as Andy rightly points out, “Is it my fault that the first eight days is basically thirty birds?”

And rounding out the episode is Oscar’s romantic pursuit of Mark, the gay warehouse worker.

As in the best episodes, every character gets a chance to shine, from Creed’s dread of what consequences he will suffer from Santa, to Stanley’s very Cosby-Christmas sweater, to Michael’s “Santa” voice (was he channeling Bob Odenkirk?). The buyout twist dampens some of the Christmas cheer, but this one still deserves a hearty Christmas pass.

4/5

thegangreignitestherivalryIt’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: “The Gang Reignites the Rivalry”

Last episode of the season for Sunny has some big shoes (or tight jeans) to fill, going up against such powerhouse enders as “The Gang Dances Their Asses Off” and “The Nightman Cometh,” so the depravity is all-out. Frank gets tased, addicted to Ritalin, and eats shampoo-laden sandwiches; Charlie and Mac infiltrate a saucy body-paint/shower-it-off frat party only to get cock-blocked-bounced by some uppity frat boys; and poor Sweet Dee showcases her overenthusiastic lack of talent at Flip-Cup.

The titular rivalry refers to an annual bar-sponsored sporting (drinking) event from which Paddy’s has been banned for the last 10 years due to poisoning their opponents. However, the ban’s finally been lifted, and in a good-natured demonstration to bring it on, the gang trashes their rival’s much-more upscale establishment, with Dennis urinating in the corner as the icing on the challenge-cake.

Looking for some practice partners, Dennis and Frank stop by Dennis’ old fraternity house right during pledge week, which entails tasering the testicles of new recruits and basically anyone else who comes through the door. Wounded and angry, F&D set off to trash their rival’s house (a segment I include in this write-up only so I can mention Frank cutting the shower curtains in half to expose the bather’s “wang”).

Mac and Dennis then decide to infiltrate the frat party…oh, already mentioned that. Well, that’s about it, save Sweet Dee practicing flip cup periodically throughout the episode, getting really good, then choking horribly at the final showdown.

I don’t know, there were some good moments, but more often I felt like I should have been laughing when I wasn’t. The gang gets put into a lot of strange and terrible situations, but they don’t really do much with them. The ideas are funny, but at the last minute, it chokes.

3/5

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