FX

It's Always Sunny Learns The Hard Way, No Matter How Much You Drink, You Can't Go Home Again

Especially if 'home' is 'high school.'

It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia has, with no current signs of slowing down, been on long enough that looking at its first season is enough to make you ask, "Were we ever so young?" But in the series's third episode, it's our main characters who are forced to deal with that question when a horde of underage kids start frequenting Paddy's. And the result is an episode that, while hilarious in many spots, holds an underlying nostalgia that makes it both sadder and more enduring than most of the show's offerings.

Not that anyone would know any emotional import is coming at the episode's beginning, when the male proprietors are delighted to see the bar enjoying one of its busiest nights ever. Dennis, however, is on the qui vive a bit more than Mac or Charlie, and soon he's asking the tough questions:

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The next day, the bar's owners recap what happened, drawing on their own experiences: The kids obviously heard Paddy's wasn't carding (Mac: "Not my job, dude"), perhaps even having sent a recon crew the weekend before, and now they have a problem. Having a related, more specific problem is Dee; a handsome class-president/football-team captain named "Trey" (of course) chatted her up the night before, and she likes him enough, she's doing her high-school signature move of getting so nervous she's sucking down booze like it's her job to drink it instead of serving it; through this revelation, we also learn that Dennis was notorious for hooking up with younger girls, Mac was a total aggressive jerk who, ironically, found his only popularity as a weed dealer, and Charlie lived a sad existence huffing glue and being no threat to steal anyone's girlfriend. And if all this is true, why would they ever want to go back?

But people don't often regard their own formative years objectively, and no matter how horrible it sounds to us, there's obviously a part of each of them that wants to return to the halcyon days of yore. So when Charlie repurposes their underage problem as an opportunity (missing the chance to call it a "crisitunity," I am chagrined to report), the rest of the gang jumps on board: Instead of leaving the poor kids to buy forties off a homeless guy and almost probably get raped in Fairmount Park, they'll serve them a limited number of watered-down drinks, with further stipulations that no one can drive and everyone has to be in possession of a good amount of chill. Barring the obvious liability issues, as mentorship plans go, it kind of really isn't the worst idea I've ever heard (no, before you call CPS, I do not have kids), but Dee is not impressed:

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Despite this moral stance, Dee later postpones a date with "Steven"

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to meet Trey at Lemon Hill, where all the cool kids (which did not include her, it's unstated but obvious) hung out when she was his age, and while she draws the line, at least temporarily, at making out with Trey

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she's very clearly smitten. But the show never allows the characters to forget their real ages for too long:

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Regardless, Mac and Charlie eagerly get sucked into the teen world, leading to the most hilariously awkward situation of the episode: Dee and Trey show up to a party at another high-schooler's house to find Mac and Charlie already there -- and having supplied the keg to boot.

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And in the morning, things only escalate when the three of them pick themselves off the floor and let us know Dee and Charlie were both invited to prom.

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Elsewhere, Dennis, who's the only one to resist the allure of the high-school kids -- maybe because he was actually popular back then, he doesn't have the same need to do it over -- is forcibly summoned to prom by Trey's ex-girlfriend, barely-legal Tammy (played by a slightly less barely legal Jaimie Alexander in her very first credited role on IMDb). At the pre-prom Paddy's party, though, he doesn't feel too bad about it:

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However, when Trey sees Tammy, he pulls her aside to "talk" as the gang watches with bated breath:

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And if the ep had ended there, with Mac laughing at Dee and Dennis's misfortune, it'd be a typical Sunny ep -- but it doesn't. Instead, we go to prom, with Charlie slow-dancing with his date when her estranged boyfriend shows up

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leaving Charlie to step aside and sway with himself as Alphaville's "Forever Young" plays, and it's this image that convinces me this episode has something atypical in mind; a bit of universal nostalgia to go along with its always hilarious comedy. But like I said above: You can't go to high school home again.

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