Recap: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (S16, Ep5) — Stellar Cameos Can’t Save Dull Episode About Celebrity Liquor

Well, that was disappointing.

When I learned that none other than Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul were going to be on Always Sunny this week, I was very excited. This has never been a huge "guest star" show, but the occasional A-lister cameo can really make a great episode even better from time to time. And considering I watch good television, I think it's impossible for me to not like Cranston (I'm a bit impartial on Paul), so I was hoping this would end up being a season highlight.

But instead, "Celebrity Booze: The Ultimate Cash Grab" committed one of the greatest sins an Always Sunny episode can: being boring. "The Ultimate Cash Grab" relies on the talent of its cameos to carry the episode through, and while there is fun to be had, it doesn't make a great substitute for the potential this episode had.

Cranston and Paul are in town to promote their (real) liquor brand, so Charlie (Charlie Day), Mac (Rob McElhenney) and Dennis (Glenn Howerton) scheme to pitch their "Paddy's SchlagerSchnappsterMeister" booze to the duo. (All of them are under the incorrect impression that Paul played the titular character of Malcolm in the Middle alongside Cranston, which is a joke that always got a smile out of me both times I watched this.) Only Mac and Dennis make it to the promotional event (Charlie gets waylaid because he drank a bunch of nickels—just go with it, I don't get why he decided to do it either), but their pitch is immediately killed by Paul, who quickly establishes himself as the decision maker between him and Cranston.

But all's not lost—after Charlie vomits up more nickels on the duo's limo driver, he's mistaken as the driver himself and gets the opportunity to drive them to Frank's (Danny DeVito) jet. (Long and mostly pointless story: He's circling it around Philadelphia to cheat on his taxes, Dee winds up on the plane and spends most of the episode bored out of her mind. I can relate!) Come the episode's climax, all of them are clumsily trying to pitch their liquor at once, but Paul refuses to let Cranston take the offer. And this is where my favorite scene of the episode—and probably the only one I enjoyed wholeheartedly—comes in.

I assumed at some point that they were going to have Cranston show off a darker side—you don't just get Bryan Cranston to cameo in your show and not have him do what he's most famous for—and thankfully, just as I was really starting to sour on "The Ultimate Cash Grab," it delivered. When Paul continues to speak for his companion, Cranston turns on the Walter White switch and begins stalking around the jet, monologuing about how Paul is just a human shield for when the public wakes up and realizes celebrity alcohol is just a tacky money-making scheme. It's loads of fun to watch him do his thing, and he even does the Walter hands at one point!

Is this scene worth the entire episode? No, not really. I could watch Walter White clips or random Malcolm in the Middle episodes if I wanted to see Cranston being awesome. But it's certainly a bright spot in what amounts to a pretty dull episode, one that is unfortunately devoid of good jokes or even a really fun plot. The commentary that they try to provide on celebrity liquor falls flat, and the episode ends pretty suddenly after Cranston reveals his speech was all an act. Perhaps the worst thing about "The Ultimate Cash Grab" is just how much potential it wastes—with a funnier script, I think this could've been something really great.

This episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is now available on Hulu.

Picture of the author
Sam Layton

Sam Layton is a Chicago suburb native that's trying his best to make a career out of his (probably unhealthy) habit of watching too much television. When he's not working as the Third Coast Review's current sole TV reviewer, he's making his way through college or, shockingly, watching too much television.