It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia recap: Mac Finds His Pride

IT'S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA -- “Mac Finds His Pride” – Season 13, Episode 10 (Airs November 7, 10:00 pm e/p) Pictured: (l-r) Danny DeVito as Frank, Rob McElhenney as Mac. CR: Patrick McElhenney/FXX
IT'S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA -- “Mac Finds His Pride” – Season 13, Episode 10 (Airs November 7, 10:00 pm e/p) Pictured: (l-r) Danny DeVito as Frank, Rob McElhenney as Mac. CR: Patrick McElhenney/FXX /

Mac takes center stage in one of the most emotionally affecting episodes of Always Sunny in the history of ever.

Always Sunny has finally done it. They’ve crossed over into the land of personal growth and meaning. And… wow. Just wow.

Mac’s gayness has always been a curious component of Always Sunny. Over the first eleven seasons of the show, Mac’s repression of his sexual identity was often played for laughs, whether it was the reveal of his love for a trans woman that he callously called “Tranny”, or when he bribed a drug addicted prostitute to pretend to be his hot girlfriend. But his character was underscored with a deep dissatisfaction with his life, having been traumatized by indifferent and cruel parents, and his subsequent embrace of all the harmful parts of the Catholic faith.

Dude was messed up, and his inability to navigate even the simplest of social situations was frequently funny simply because he was so sad. For ages, Mac was like an angry kid who desperately wanted to break free from the trappings of his own mind, but who didn’t have the tools to do so.

However, following over a decade of anticipation, Mac (Rob McElhenney) finally came out of the closet in the Sunny Season 11 finale. Yet, while he was certain of his sexuality and comfortable enough to come out to the gang, he never really took the time to emotionally process what that might mean for him personally, or to look back on how years of repression may have taken a toll on his mental health and well-being. A total lack of reflection and insight is a Sunny hallmark, and fans would have likely been content for Mac to continue to bumble along his path, unenlightened, just like his pal Dennis did when he struck out in a life as a doting father in North Dakota.

But here, two full seasons after he came out of the closet, Mac puts it all out on the table in the most beautiful way possible. And it’s a glorious sight to see.

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In real life, Rob McElhenney is no stranger to the gay community. On a recent episode of the “Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard” podcast, he shared that his mother left his family when he was younger to pursue a life with another woman.

McElhenney said that his mother doesn’t identify as “gay” per se, but her emotional journey as an individual seeking to express her sexuality in an era that didn’t encourage open exploration made quite an impact on him.

It’s infuriating that in 2018 we still live in a society that places undue stigma and barriers on individuals looking to love openly and freely, but we do. Clearly McElhenney has deeply considered the complex and often thorny task of coming out – not only to oneself and others, but also learning to accept and cherish individual sexuality. So when it came time for Mac to finally find his pride, McElhenney knocked it out of the park with a concept based on a nuanced and respectful understanding of the heavy and often overlooked topic.

The conceit of the episode is simple. Frank (Danny DeVito) needs Mac to dance on the Paddy’s float for the Philly gay pride parade. Obviously Charlie (Charlie Day) or Dennis (Glenn Howerton, who is mentioned, but not seen here, likely due to filming conflicts), can’t do it, because they’re not authentically gay, and people would riot. Also, Mac is jacked and why wouldn’t he want to flaunt those bangin’ abs?

Always Sunny
IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA — “Mac Finds His Pride” – Season 13, Episode 10 (Airs November 7, 10:00 pm e/p) Pictured: (l-r) Rob McElhenney as Mac, Danny DeVito as Frank. CR: Patrick McElhenney/FXX /

Mac is reluctant to participate in the parade, so Frank tries to sherpa his buddy through the self-acceptance process, like “finding pride” is something that one can just do in a few hours like finding a perfect couch or getting day drunk.

They hit up a few stereotypically “gay” places, like an S&M club with a primo buffet and a drag brunch, complete with jumbo mimosas (I want to go to there). They also visit the truly terrifying Luther McDonald in jail – a man who is also in the closet – and Mac tries to come out to him. It’s a spectacular failure, with Luther jumping to the conclusion that he’s going to be a grandfather. Nope. None of the Sunny gang should breed. Ever.

Throughout their journey, Frank is tending to an absolutely disgusting nose infection. He shoves all sorts of nasty stuff up there – including buffalo wing napkins, superglue and lemons, and fiberglass insulation – hoping to staunch the flow of blood. In true Sunny fashion, the wound gets progressively more revolting, resulting in a face so swollen that you could bounce a Lincoln off of it.

Frank’s pus-filled face is the most Sunny way to convey metaphor ever, but it’s also quite apt. By trying to keep the infection in, Frank has only made things worse. Eventually, his face swells to alarming proportions, presumably reflecting a physical representation of the agonizing inner turmoil that LGBT individuals experience when they don’t feel able to express themselves honestly and fully. Frank realizes the only way to heal is to let the levee break. Once he does, he heads to Mac’s apartment to make amends.

Throughout the episode, Mac claims that he has a vision of how he wants to come out to his dad. At first, like everything Mac does, it seems poorly formed and half baked. But when Frank actually believes in Mac and gives him everything he needs to succeed, the final product shines a spotlight on the impossible complexities and tragedies of Mac’s inner life.

Having staged several plays, dance numbers, and musicalsSunny is no stranger to dabbling in artistic theater. And while the use of modern interpretive dance may seem like a strange choice for the show, it’s treated with the utmost respect and used in a way that transcends words. Because in this case, it needs to transcend words. And space. And time. And everything.

Always Sunny
IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA — “Mac Finds His Pride” – Season 13, Episode 10 (Airs November 7, 10:00 pm e/p) Pictured: (l-r) Gregory Scott Cummins as Luther. CR: Patrick McElhenney/FXX /

As much as we try to convey thoughts and feelings through words, language can fail us. Mac’s experience is so similar to many others struggling with their sexuality, but it’s also uniquely his. The choice to express Mac’s journey via interpretive dance was an inspired one that may definitely backfire with fans of the show. It’s a serious, contemplative, and deeply felt performance that stirs up feels upon feels.

On a stage soaked with rain, Mac lives out his fantasy. Accompanied by a skilled dancer (Kylie Shea, proving the old Dancing with the Stars adage that an accomplished female dancer can make a novice male dancer look amazing), the two put everything out there, bodies heaving with the weight of the charge they’ve been tasked with expressing.

The two orbit one another, sliding away and then jumbling together in various positions, seeking intimate connection and then violent distance in various forms. On the surface, the woman serves as a foil for Mac’s desire to conform to his parent’s heterosexual expectations, but also as a stand in for his relationship to his own body and faith. At one pivotal moment in the sequence, Mac holds his partner aloft, her body forming a cross in a seeming reference to Jesus. The conclusion of the performance finds Mac crawling into the lap of the beautiful woman, seeking love and acceptance as they’re both bathed in heavenly light.

Here, words fail me. If a picture is worth a thousand words, I’m not too sure how many words interpretive dance has to offer us. Perhaps movement imbued with felt meaning transcends language? It seems shocking that the art of dance is so often overlooked, even in this era of Peak TV. Recent episode of HBO series Room 104 devoted an entire, nearly wordless episode to a story told purely through concise and affecting choreography, and if you dug what Mac was serving up in this episode of Always Sunny, you should go check it out.

In the end, Mac’s dad walks out on the performance, dismissive of his son’s experience because he may be grappling with many of the same issues. The rest of the grizzled felons in the audience, however, give Mac a standing ovation. Also, Frank gets it. He finally gets it. And his shocked and delighted face is a sight to behold.

Oh, and the float? Rob McElhenney did ride that puppy all night long when the Sunny gang ruled the L.A. Pride Parade back in June. Pride never looked so good.

Random Thoughts Before I Go:

  • Mac’s apartment is dotted with half eaten peaches. Guessing this is a nod to the infamous peach scene in Call Me By Your Name? If it’s not, I’m totally missing the symbolism.

‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ Seasons 1 – 13 are currently available for streaming on FX+.