It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is rarely a show that’s ripped from the headlines. Sure, the gang has tackled inflation, recessions, and gas prices, but they tend to be more focused on the big picture issues rather than anything specific. Unless of course, that specific thing is someone cheating at chess using anal beads, in which case the gang gets very specific.
In the show’s latest episode “Frank vs. The Russians,” the fourth episode of season 16, the gang decides to make Frank Reynolds (Danny DeVito) a chess champion in the only way they know how: cheating. Things start out with the gang giving Charlie Uncle Jack’s camera glasses and having him communicate with Frank via a restaurant buzzer. Once they reach the finals, things escalate and Charlie decides to aim for a vibrating device that’s a little more discreet (and hilarity ensues).
For the uninformed, this is all part of a very real(ish) discussion that happened in the world of international chess. Last year, chess grandmaster Magnus Carlsen, the greatest chess player to ever live, lost a game to Hans Niemann, a player Carlsen claims was cheating. When Niemann volunteered to play Carlsen naked, the chess community responded by thinking up all the most elaborate ways he could cheat in the nude — including anal beads which would vibrate and clue him into the optimal move. In other words, this is the rare case of real life playing out like a Sunny episode before the show even had a chance to get to it. But thank god they went back, if only for Danny DeVito’s incredible facial expressions while he’s winning one for the good ol’ U.S. of A.
The episode’s other plot is a reversal of an Always Sunny classic: The D.E.N.N.I.S. system. Dennis explains the male version of the system, which he calls the S.I.N.N.E.D. system, to Mac and Dee. It doesn’t quite reach the meteoric highs of the original D.E.N.N.I.S. system episode, but coupled with Frank’s defeat of Russia, it makes for a fantastic Sunny episode. Dennis’ new system gets a whirlwind montage of Mac and Dee trying to put it into action and both failing in their own unique and hilarious ways, all while Dennis tries to keep them on track by operating at the absolute peak of his barely-holding-it-together mania. Meanwhile, the team-up between Frank and Charlie leads to some predictably hilarious gags, including Charlie being completely baffled that he’s not allowed to bring beer into a chess tournament.
More importantly, it serves as a fantastic reminder that whether they’re pulling a story directly from internet speculation about international sports, or playing their own greatest hits in reverse the gang’s still got it, even 16 seasons later.