You know It's Always Sunny In Philadelphiathrives on raising its dirty middle fingers at social norms and what's off-limits. You also know It's Always Sunny excels at long-running jokes -- like Mac's (Rob McElhenney) long-repressed homosexuality, for example. And in Wednesday's gloriously dead-wrong "Hero or Hate Crime," the show brought all that together, masterfully desecrating social rules about speech we're not allowed to apply to minorities, while pulling Mac out of the closet -- possibly for good this time.
The mayhem begins when Frank (Danny DeVito) screams "Look out!" and then the F-word we're not supposed to use for gay people at Charlie (Charlie Day) and Mac, the latter who is so preoccupied with a lottery ticket on the ground that fell from Dee's (Kaitlin Olson) purse he doesn't see the piano about to fall on this head. Of course, Frank isn't supposed to use that word -- let alone scream it across the street -- and we're not supposed to find it funny, but jeesh, hearing Frank scream the slur is not only funny but somehow... Refreshing, not least because DeVito sounds like a slimy bridge troll when saying it.
The whole setup is utterly ridiculous yet (almost) complex: the old classic piano gag is updated with a very modern and (stupid) quasi-conundrum. Frank has just used a horrible, hateful word, but to save Mac's life. Is it still bad?
Next, the degenerates start disputing the rightful owner of the ticket, and they come to employ the services of a black female arbiter, who is clearly over these crazy white people the second they walk in. Inept, entirely dumb existential chatter ensues: Has a hate crime occurred? Can you use awful language for a good purpose? And, taking this boneheaded discussion to its nadir, the question is posed: If you can use any language you like to save someone's life, what's the worst possible word you could say to this woman?
Silence. Stalling. Dennis (Glenn Howerton) tries to change the conversation. And that's when Charlie blurts out the unthinkable: the N-word. And not the one rappers use, but the one with the -er that dyed in the wool racists use. It's shocking -- not just for the characters but for us too: we so rarely hear it on TV outside of say, documentaries or period shows, and certainly not often by white people in comedy.
And yet, you're giggling, because the web of cognitive overlaps is causing havoc in your brain: he's just done something terrible (has he though? he was just answering a question); you're not supposed to laugh; and these people are so, so stupid.
Somehow, the insanity goes up a notch further. In order to gain possession of the ticket, Mac has to admit (to a new arbiter; the last one couldn't take any more) he's gay, which he resists -- even after Dennis drags in, as evidence, Mac's customized bicycle that's also clearly a very aggressive sex toy. If you still had teeth after your mouth when your jaw dropped here, kudos.
But then Mac says he's gay to get the lotto ticket. Yes, Mac said he was gay last season (on that gay Christian cruise) but this time, the moment is played with sincerity and the slow, sensitive score that implies he really did mean it. After nearly a decade of toying with the gag, Mac's denial seems to finally be over -- and all it took was being called a rhymes-with-baguette and $10,000 cash. See you at Pride, buddy.
It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on FXX.