Review: ‘Psycho Pete Returns’ Keeps the 10th Season of ‘Always Sunny’ Rolling

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So far in the 10th season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, the gang has attempted to break a record of alcoholic endurance and used the internet for the purposes of group dating. Each of these adventures went as well could be expected from everyone’s favorite group of narcissists. In this week’s episode, Psycho Pete Returns, the gang ventures into territory where they are, with the possible exception of counseling alcoholics, least qualified – mental illness. Mild spoilers follow.

Charlie (Charlie Day) and Mac (Rob McElhenney) enter Paddy’s Pub blasting Psycho Killer by the Talking Heads on their boom box in celebration of the release of their old friend, Psycho Pete (Dominic Burgess). Locked away for supposedly killing and eating his family, the return of Psycho Pete isn’t greeted with joy by Dee (Kaitlin Olson), Dennis (Glenn Howerton), and Frank (Danny DeVito). But for Charlie and Mac, Psycho Pete isn’t as psycho as they recall. He’s quiet and reserved. They believe Psycho Pete is carrying the burden of guilt and, at the behest of Mac, must see a priest to be absolved of his sins. Since neither Mac nor Charlie have kept up with the Catholic Church, they track down Cricket (David Hornsby), a fallen priest who carries the physical burden of the gang’s sins. While Charlie and Mac try to have Psycho Pete absolved of his sins, Dee, Dennis, and Frank are trying to figure out ways to get Psycho Pete recommitted to the asylum. After discovering that many inmates were released due to budgetary cuts, Dee and Dennis try to secure meds for Pete while talking to a doctor, each trying to play up a psychotic angle. Meanwhile, Frank is having flashbacks from own youth spent within the confines of a mental institution. Needless to say, a group of solipsistic alcoholics’ attempt at helping the mentally ill doesn’t exactly yield the most desirable results for anyone involved.

What really makes Psycho Pete Returns stand out from the other two episodes this season is how it’s explicitly about the consequences of the gang’s actions. Not only is there Cricket, who over the previous 9 seasons has been left broken, bloodied, and scarred by his interactions with the gang, but it’s revealed that Psycho Pete wasn’t psychotic and didn’t murder his family. All the talk surrounding him was fabricated by the gang which directly led to Pete’s voluntary stay at the mental institution for social anxiety and depression. This revelation leads the gang to purchase Pete a train ticket to Los Angeles. In a nutshell, that’s the extent of the characters’ apology – “Our bad. Go away now.”

The episode also works as a continuation of the Season 8 finale, Reynolds vs. Reynolds: The Cereal Defense, when Frank revealed his youth in the mental ward. When visiting the closed down facility that used to house Psycho Pete, Frank realizes that it was the very same institution that once housed him. Concerned for an inmate he befriended, Frank goes searching for Dr. Zimmerman (Aubrey Morris, most recognizably from A Clockwork Orange as Alex’s guidance counselor), who was the attending doctor of the institution. Frank discovers more than he bargained for when he finally meets with Dr. Zimmerman.

Every so often in the twisted world of fantasy that is Always Sunny, they’re able to sneak in some very astute jokes about our society and the way we handle certain issues. In one particular great moment here, Dee and Dennis are aghast that the mental institutions have been closed due to a lack of funds. When Dee informs Dennis that the institutions could’ve remained opened with a marginal tax hike, Dennis scoffs at the thought. This continues for a while before they realize that the public funds to keeps these institutions open were shifted to provide the Philadelphia Eagles with a new practice facility. In a few brief moments, they’ve illustrated so many debates about funding public services as well as the ridiculous nature of giving taxpayer money to multi-billion-dollar sports franchises.

Three episodes into the new season and there’s yet to be a disappointment. They’ve managed to make each episode debauched in typical Always Sunny fashion while not shying away from the nuances within their own gags. As far as television comedy is concerned, it’s remarkable how consistent the show has remained throughout the years. Be sure to check back next week when we recap Charlie Work.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia airs Wednesdays at 10pm on FX and is streaming through the FX Now app


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