By: Matt ErnColumnist
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia- “Charlie’s Mom Has Cancer” B+
This was the best “Sunny” has been in a while for me, it felt a lot like a classic episode that would have fit in perfectly in the earlier seasons. Of course, the whole conceit of the episode was that it’s a rehashing of “Charlie Has Cancer” from season 1. Whether or not you’re into the weird meta-storylines this season has been doing you might have loved or hated “Charlie’s Mom Has Cancer,” but for me it was an example of everything I loved about the show firing on all cylinders.
When Charlie’s mom reveals she has cancer, she suggests that they raise $4,600 so that she can be cured by Dr. Jinx (a great guest spot by Sean Combs); a man who lives in a garage surrounded by plants and whose answer to Dennis’ request for a cure for his apathy is a bass line. The Dr. Jinx scene is one of the funniest things the show has ever done. When Mac asks him about his eczema he suggests it may be sailor’s rot (“When was the last time you’ve been to Haiti?”) and sprays Mac with a heavy dose of pesticides.
The gang then turns to the church for help, which is a great scene for Charlie who loses it between all the kneeling/standing and the church’s requests for money. Later, at a fundraiser at Paddy’s Charlie’s mom reveals she never had cancer and was just hoping to get some money to replace a statue outside the church that she and Mac’s mom had broken. This all resolves itself similarly to “Charlie Has Cancer,” his mom even pointing out that she got the idea from him.
The episode ends, rather darkly, with a Frank and Dee subplot that takes “Sunny” to crazy new territory. After a psychic tells them Dee and Dennis’ mother is still alive, they get the rest of the gang to help them exhume her body. But Frank gets the last laugh when all they find in the coffin is a skeleton; he paid off the psychic to teach Dee a lesson. Dennis and Dee crying “My mother is a skeleton, I feel too much!” was both incredibly funny and deeply disturbing. It’ll be interesting to see if Dennis’ newfound ability to feel feelings again will carry over to next week.
The Walking Dead- “Hounded” B
For an episode that spent its whole first half spinning its wheels in typical “Walking Dead” fashion, “Hounded” picked up at the end and finished up strong. Just when I was afraid the hot streak the show has been on was cooling down the writers find a way to surprise me, expediting the inevitable clash between Woodbury and the prison.
After spending so much time hanging out at the farm, I didn’t expect the crossing over of the Woodbury and prison stories to come so soon, but it’s great that they are. Merle runs into Glenn and Maggie, taking them hostage. While he attempts to get the location of their camp and his brother Daryl out of Glenn, Michonne meanwhile staggers her way up to the prison gates. I was a little disappointed with the Merle-pursues-Michonne story until it ended up with the run in with Glenn.
The bulk of the episode, aside from some pretty boring scenes between Andrea and The Governor, dealt with Rick receiving mysterious phone calls. At first they seem like a deus ex machina solution to the survivor’s problems- a safe haven far from walkers. But as the episode progresses and Rick takes more of the calls it becomes apparent that Rick is simply cracking up. Lori comes on the line and he apologizes for letting her die in a moving scene. Andrew Lincoln’s performance as Rick has been great all season but especially in this episode. The phone call at the beginning of the episode was also very touching, with Rick sobbing “We’re dying” while completely covered in blood. It’s a strong image for sure.
“Walking Dead” has been pleasantly dark this season, and hopefully that tone will continue as it heads into the fall season’s home stretch and some of the best bits from the comics.
Parks and Recreation- “Leslie vs. April” A
“Parks and Rec” found a way to perfectly balance some very funny stories this week with meaningful development of Leslie and April’s relationship, and still squeeze in a flawless cameo from Vice President Joe Biden. Not to mention the return of Orin, whose “Human Farm” conceptual art piece has become the stuff of my nightmares.
Leslie’s intense work ethic has finally rubbed off on April who gets inspired to propose a new dog park in Pawnee. The problem is that she’s determined the best location for it to be the lot behind Ann’s house, where Leslie has been trying to build a park for years. The two of them clash at first, until Councilman Jam backstabs April and the two unite against him. It’s a strong story for both characters, and even fits in the time for a trip to Orin’s Human Farm.
Elsewhere Andy is attempting to solve the mystery of who stole his computer, the episode’s funniest B-plot. He assumes one of his coworkers did it to help him with his police training and quickly launches an investigation worthy of Bert Macklin. His interrogations or Donna and Jerry are both great, but when it comes to Chris, a man Andy has deemed as guilty as he is sexy; they realize the theft may be an actual crime.
Tom’s new Rent-a-Swag business continues to pick up steam when he enlists Ben to help him approve his business plan and find some investors. This has been my favorite subplot this season because it showcases the fact that Tom, while a ridiculous person, is still a fairly smart human being with decent business sense. Tom got very cartoonish last season during his stay at Entertainment 720 and later with his courtship of Ann. I’m glad to see a more humble, grounded Tom now.
Plus, any episode with a cold-open featuring Joe Biden meetings a gaga-Leslie is bound for greatness, even if all the other stuff in the episode didn’t work at all.