The fifth episode of the seven episode first season, Gun Fever is where the show really comes into its own, at least until the shake-up that is the addition of Danny Devito in the second season.
Gun Fever feels effortless, as though the cast in not having to strain at all to react in character. It is not lazy but natural. This episode feels a bit different from the rest of the first season, possibly because it is the only one credited as being written by Glenn Howerton (Dennis) instead of Charlie Day and/or Rob MacElhenney (Charlie and Mac). It is just a slightly more natural feel.
On to the episode proper. When Paddy’s is burgled, it is predictable that the gang’s, mostly Mac’s, response is to buy a gun, despite how illogical it is. No one was there when they were robbed. There weren’t robbed at gunpoint. The thief took when either no one was their or when no one was paying attention. IT was probably mostly due to just Dee’s locking up negligence.
Dee is against the gun, at least until her supreme douchey boyfriend Colin — guest star Michael Rosenbaum — changes her mind by being strongly for it. Aside from being a big fan of guns, he also might as well have “I did it” tattooed on his forehead, because it becomes obvious almost immediately that he is behind it.
It has to be obvious, because Mac and Dennis figure it out after about 5 minutes of pretending to be the Hardy boys. Actually, they spend more time arguing about which Hardy Boy each of them is than they do looking for the burglar. So they hatch one of their patented hare brained schemes to entrap Colin. The only thing stopping them from enacting it is that Charlie has stolen the gun.
Charlie has a few things going on other than the robbery. Like making the rice crispy treats in his apartment, and given what we learn later about his dietary habits I know I wouldn‘t want one, and paying his rent to his angry Asian landlord who we never see again. Charlie doesn’t have the money. The first time Hwang comes after it, all Charlie has to placate him are the rice crispy treats. The next time he has the gun, and gun fever, to threaten him with.
With as much as everyone is playing with the gun it is obvious that someone will be shot. It’s going to happen. Chekov’s Gun must be shot and Goddamnit, they are going to shoot somebody. So when everyone but Charlie hides out behind the pool table, it is obvious who is going to get it. What is great is that after Dennis wings Charlie, he is still more concerned about getting blood in his car than getting Charlie to the hospital. And at the hospital, it is shown that none of the guy’s Gun Fever has abated.
Gun Fever is an inevitable tragedy. As soon as the gun enters the scene, it is just a countdown until someone has a bullet in them. It is the first episode to really ding past the characters initial characterizations and find more. There is not waitress for Charlie to moon over. Dennis is more dismissive and egotistical. Mac gets to show his sad naiveté. And Dee has trouble with men. I guess that last one never changes.