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Quick Hits

It's Always Sunny Welcomes Back the D.E.N.N.I.S System

The Season 16 episode "Frank vs. Russia" sees Dennis help Mac and Dee pick up men.
  • Glenn Howerton, Kaitlin Olson, and Rob McElhenney in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (Photo: FX)
    Glenn Howerton, Kaitlin Olson, and Rob McElhenney in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (Photo: FX)

    Everyone in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is a terrible person, but the worst of them all is undoubtedly Dennis Reynolds (Glenn Howerton). Over the course of 16 seasons, the sitcom has relentlessly illustrated how much of a narcissistic sociopath he is, whether it’s through frame banging or “allegedly” murdering his ex-wife. Yet perhaps the most memorable instance of Dennis acting absolutely depraved appeared in the Season 5 episode “The D.E.N.N.I.S System.”

    The D.E.N.N.I.S System refers to a scheme that Dennis deploys to emotionally manipulate women into sleeping with him. Each letter of the acronym proves to be more sinister than the last, with steps like “Nurture Dependence” and “Neglect Emotionally” showcasing his twisted approach to relationships. The June 21 episode “Frank vs. Russia” sees the return of this sleazy system, but with a twist. After Mac (Rob McElhenney) and Dee (Kaitlin Olson) beg for his help with their respective love lives, Dennis seizes the opportunity to introduce the S.I.N.N.E.D System — a new, foolproof method for attracting a man.

    It’s a much tamer tactic compared with Dennis’ previous scheme, considering none of the steps involve making any anonymous death threats over the phone. Instead, the S.I.N.N.E.D System focuses on a much subtler form of manipulation. Take the last letter of the acronym: D stands for the phrase, “Do you want a tissue?” which is intended to create a dynamic where the man falls in love by viewing the person employing the method as his mother. This final step proves to be the turning point for both Mac and Dee, as they are surprisingly successful at securing second dates.

    Much to his dismay, Dennis finds out that Mac and Dee have both decided not to proceed with the men he set them up with, each for their own reasons — Dee roofied herself the night before and stole her previous date’s phone, while Mac remains steadfastly convinced that his online boyfriend, Johnny, is real, despite Dennis’ attempts to convince him otherwise. In reality, Dennis invented Johnny as a means of getting Mac out of their apartment when he was irritated, and has since been manually controlling him on his phone via vibrating anal beads. But Mac, blinded by his infatuation, remains naively ignorant.

    Meanwhile, Charlie (Charlie Day) and Frank (Danny DeVito) have been cheating their way through a variety of local chess tournaments, using a restaurant buzzer as a signal for which moves to play. Before the final match against a Russian grandmaster, Charlie seeks Dennis’ help to secure a win, since they’re unable to sneak the materials into the game. Dennis, intrigued by Charlie’s reference to controlling Frank and in need of a solution to Mac’s Johnny problem, agrees to assist.

    In typical Sunny fashion, the episode takes a vulgar turn when Dennis, ever the sadist, roofies Mac and Frank in order to transfer the anal beads. He takes delight in torturing Frank, relishing the opportunity of controlling him like a puppet. Amidst the chaos, Mac reignites their argument about Johnny’s authenticity. In a comedic twist of events, Mac accidentally breaks Dennis’ phone, causing the anal beads inside Frank to malfunction. Surprisingly, this glitch ends up being crucial to America’s victory in the tournament. As the gang celebrate their patriotic win, the episode concludes with a freeze frame of Frank writhing on the floor in pain.

    In the grand scheme of things, the S.I.N.N.E.D System may not have the same level of impact as its predecessor (what could?). But it serves as an entertaining callback to one of Sunny’s most popular recurring jokes while continuing to highlight just how unhinged Dennis is. Even 16 seasons in, that will never get old.

    New episodes of It’s Always Sunny on Philadelphia air Wednesdays at 10 PM ET on FXX and stream on Hulu the next day. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.

    Dianna Shen is a TV Writer at Primetimer based in New York. Her work has been featured in Paste Magazine and Decider, among other outlets.

    TOPICS: It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, FX, Charlie Day, Danny DeVito, Glenn Howerton, Kaitlin Olson, Rob McElhenney