…an episode reminding us all the importance of having “all bones removed from the football field.”
While Troy Barnes sails the smooth waters the world over** as Levar Burton’s right-hand man, Community itself flounders in some choppy waters these days. (#NauticalAnalogy) While this week’s installment certainly improved over the previous one by presenting plots that were at least marginally more amusing, it’s clear that Community wants to redefine itself in these post-Troy days. Its fully realized transformation hasn’t manifested yet–far from it–but I’m pleased to see Harmon making those first hesitant baby steps.
**Well, if episode six’s Easter egg is to be believed, maybe the waters aren’t quite as smooth as indicated, but you get the point. Pirates, am I right?
The best thing, hands down, about this episode of Community is that it remained true to its characters. I griped about Britta’s bout of uncharacteristic cruelty last time, and I am relieved to report that no such nonsense rears its ugly head for this go-around. In fact, the show went out of its way to deepen its characters–three in particular–in a way that felt honest and true. Unfortunately, the journey wasn’t all that funny.
Take Abed, for instance. In light of the theatrical release of the Robocop remake, having Abed don his very own Kickpuncher outfit for a Kickpuncher remake felt just about right. The shot of him laboring at the study table by himself and muttering a clipped “Cool, cool, cool” upon completion of his outfit served as a great assurance to the audience that Troy’s absence continues to haunt Abed. In many ways, this week’s episode stems from Abed’s loneliness and confusion that resulted from his friend’s departure. Pitting curmudgeonly cartoonist Buzz Hickey with Abed worked well for both characters. Chained to Hickey’s filing cabinet, Abed forces Hickey to confront the fact that his insecurities prevent his duck-centric comic book from retaining any soul.*** As the man enforcing a consequence on Abed for spraying his sketches with foam from his surprisingly functional Kickpuncher outfit, Hickey forces Abed to confront an inner rage he’s more comfortable channeling into missing a movie premiere than in processing the loss of his friend. Great stuff character-wise, but a few more jokes wouldn’t have hurt. Just saying. However, the thought of the two of them as writing partners makes me giddy. Also, Police Justice is an excellent name.
***But, guys, publishers are interested!
Other than a much-warranted slam on Dane Cook, Jeff’s plotline had even less to chuckle at aside from the initial set up: Professor Duncan’s attempted courtship of Britta under Jeff’s tutelage. First off, eww. Second, I appreciated the revisitation of Jeff’s not-so-dormant feelings for Britta, particularly when he sees her as a hot commodity at the barrels-of-laughs Starving Children with Cleft Palates fundraiser (they should have extra food, not less; please donate responsibly). It seemed a foregone conclusion that Duncan would fail to woo her, but I liked that this became the story of male friends reconnecting rather than competing for Britta’s affections. It turns out Duncan just wanted to get to third base with Jeff. What’s so wrong with that? Humor-wise, Duncan had a line or two that amused me (stupid American steering wheels), but nothing would land in the upper echelon of great Community quotes.
Meanwhile, Shirley and Annie spent nearly the entire episode at McDonald’s. Did I just write that? Ugh. What a waste.***
***The meta-joke near the end of the episode about both of them having enough screen time earlier in the season felt like a “so-close” joke; it probably read better on the page but certainly didn’t make up for them being sidelined.
Fortunately, Chang delivered the comedy goods this week with his throw-away plotline about delivering a one-man show to a crowd of ghosts. Or was the janitor the ghost? Or was Chang the ghost? The madcap absurdity of this fell in stark contrast to the slower character-based beats of the rest of the episode, but maybe that’s why it came across funnier than it might have otherwise been? I don’t know, but regardless, the button on the end of the episode: a mocking allusion to the closing shot of The Shining, with Chang in a black and white posed picture for the Old Timey Photo Club closed out the episode with a laugh from me. Plus, I could watch Chang stumble into a room, confused and irritated, over and over again.
Diverting enough, this episode didn’t wow me with its comedy but added interesting flourishes to a handful of characters. Now that we’re back in tune with these characters after last week’s hiccup, let’s just add more humor to the formula, shake, and serve. I mean, this is Community, after all. If nothing else, it deserves our patience as it irons out the kinks of a world without Troy.
Quotes from the Refurbished Study Room
– Duncan: “You know how you’ve come to respect me?”
Duncan: “Well prepare to stop.”
– Abed: “If you were a post-apocalyptic survivor…”
Hickey: “…I would raise goats, horde cinnamon, and travel only at night.”
– Britta: “I will Banksy that mother!”
– Chang: “Do you guys believe in ghosts? And if you do, do you believe what those ghosts tell you about other ghosts?”