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“Sweet Dee” has sunk to a new low on the ninth season premiere of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (airing for first time on new FX affiliate channel, FXX). Though known since the beginning of the series for her self-delusions, desperation to belong and frequent failed attempts to better herself, none of that is evident when the show begins. Aptly titled “The gang broke Dee,” this episode is the story of how a suddenly depressed-beyond-all-hope Deandra Reynolds finally finds success due to her plummet in attitude.
Or does she?
The episode kicks off with a visibly down Dee sitting in Paddy’s Pub and stuffing her face with Frank’s birthday cake - Frank’s month-old birthday cake that Charlie points out was in the trash. Instead of fighting off the gang’s predictable insults, she finishes their sentences and insults herself even more severely. Finishing her trash cake, Dee sulks out of the bar, leaving a stunned gang behind.
Determining that they must be, in some way, responsible for Dee’s decline, the gang heads over to her apartment with ideas on how to fix her. In true Sunny spirit, they’re terrible ideas. Charlie, Mac and Frank are all for forcing Dee to try her hand at standup comedy once again, since she’s so depressed she probably won’t do her usual onstage nervous gagging. This, they assume, will boost her mood and therefore let them go back to making fun of her without feeling guilty.
Surprise! Their predictions turn out to be right. Dee’s sullen statements to the audience about her crappy life come across as clever self-deprecating humor, and Dee’s career takes off. She even lands an agent, played by Ken Davitian (Azamat from Borat!) and starts sleeping with him right away to get more gigs. Her star keeps rising when she starts opening for local comedian “Landslide” (played by real-life comedian and Breaking Bad alum Lavell Crawford) and later topping him in the show billing.
The sociopath in Dennis is in full swing this episode, with Dennis - who is not at all on board with Dee going into comedy again - making it his mission to find his twin sister a man. Not a good-looking or successful man, mind you, but rather one who is incredibly average, for the purpose of, as Dennis puts it, “controlling the situation, and her, as I always have and always will.” Dennis is the only member of the gang who rejects Dee’s career takeoff and instead resorts to ridiculing her cruel brand of humor as much as possible. After Dee lets the rest of the gang in backstage except for him, Dennis lashes back by predicting that she will eventually get too close to big fame and will subsequently fall victim to her nervous gagging again.
Dee is soon invited by a new agent to appear on Conan, and she immediately fires Azamat - er, her old agent - and tells the gang they can’t come with her because she no longer has any purpose for them. Dennis’ prediction appears to be correct when she struggles to get control of her gagging and profuse sweating on the jet over to L.A., but there’s no time for her to worry as her new agent covers her face with a coat and hustles her from the plane to the car, to head over to the studio. Dee is then rushed backstage and prepped, and it is at that point that the audience assumes she’s probably going to fail miserably at her on-air comedic attempts. After all, this is It’s Always Sunny, and something always goes wrong.
Things do go horribly wrong for Dee, but not in any way predicted. It turns out that she was really “backstage” to Paddy’s Pub, and when she rushed out to do her act she discovers that everything was just an elaborate scheme by the gang (save for Dennis) to boost her self-esteem so they could bring her down again. The flight she was on just went in a big circle, and everyone from her agents to her fans were all actors. Dee is naturally furious, and Dennis struggles to hide his anger that he was not included on the joke). It’s a pretty intricate scheme, even by the gang’s standards, and the fact that it must have cost Frank (because Mac and Charlie certainly don’t have the money) a fortune makes it an even more unbelievable end to an otherwise good season opener.
This was the first of 13 episodes for season 9 of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. The show airs Wednesday evenings at 10 p.m. on FXX.