…an episode reminding us all the importance of “getting an estimate to add grass to the soccer field.”
My gripes about this post-Troy version of Community have, at this point, had their time in the spotlight, with character inconsistency and lazy subplots chief amongst the more egregious issues. But I’m pleased to say that I will be taking an express train out of Negative Town and headed for the greener pastures of Liked It-ville! Hurray progress!
First off, can we all just agree that MeowMeowBeenz sounds like one devilishly addictive social media platform? That was part of the episode’s genius: taking a plausible idea to its absolute extremity in a way only Community can manage. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the British anthology series Black Mirror, but this sure felt like an almost direct homage to it. That show uses our obsession with technology as the basis for its storytelling (the titular black mirror referring to the screen of any powered-down tablet or phone or computer). And I’ll be damned if there wasn’t more than a tad of that on display here! In fact, this reminded me of Black Mirror‘s second episode, “15 Million Merits.” Seriously, watch the two back-to-back, and I guarantee your appreciation for Community‘s latest installment will grow manyfold.
I’m not going to dissect the plot machinations too much, though it’s worth noting how Community committed so completely (#AccidentalAlliteration) to this idea. Because, man, things certainly escalated quickly! Eight days into the beta test for MeowMeowBeenz, Greendale had descended into a futuristic dystopia. The flourishes of detail–cordoned off sections for 4s and 5s, the costumes, the “inspiring” intercom announcements, the Outlands–coalesced to somehow create an almost fully realized world. Cool. Cool. Cool.** At the same time, I’m a bit over every episode ending with a #Greendalepocalypse. Just sayin’.
**Of all the characters, I loved how the dehumanizing nature of the MeowMeowBeenz system allowed Abed to fine-tune the art of small talk. That made such perfectly contradictory sense. Loved it.
Let’s face it, this episode was really about Jeff and Shirley. And Britta smearing mustard on her face because obviously. But for reals, I loved the way Shirley dominated MeowMeowBeenz. Her complete transformation from semi-outcast–dinner plans on Tuesday would just never work–to full on queen bee was well played because the episode didn’t shy away from the vindictiveness lurking under the surface. The chip on Shirley’s shoulder might as well have been the Grand Canyon, as she bullied the likes of Vicky for not doling out the expected five-beenz rating to her just for entering the room. And holy hell was that Talent Show creepy.
Meanwhile, watching Jeff’s meteoric rise through the Beenz rankings did a great job playing into his well-documented need to control, well, everything. Along the way, he made some delightful pals named Tinkle and Mulch who seemed like real princes if your idea of royalty is linked with your idea of date rape. Jeff’s social ladder climbing, of course, culminated in that killer stand-up routine that earned him his fifth beenz at the Shirley-hosted talent show.*** Thanks, Koogler! You’re a delightful perv. Don’t ever change! But seriously, sort of change because you’re on a collision course with a lawsuit. I’ll still totes watch your movie though.
***Apples, am I right?
After Shirley and Jeff participate in what I can only describe as the single greatest dance sequence ever committed to film (hyperbole warning), they ultimately find themselves banished to the Outlands thanks to Britta galvanizing the downtrodden 2s and 3s to revolt. Warmed by a nearby trashcan fire, our two beloved study group members acknowledge their own foibles and gain a better appreciation of one another. It sounds cliche, I know, but maybe it helped that the scene after this had Britta desperately smearing mustard on her face as her dynasty as Mother of Ones came crashing down? This show!
What a wacky half hour of Community! Seriously bonkers stuff! But here’s the thing: when it remembers to ground itself in the character relationships, there really is no limit to the story it can tell. I’ll follow it anywhere as long as I feel like the characters form its basis. I certainly felt that way this week, and it didn’t hurt that Community remembered to bring the funny, too.
Also: Hickey committing to his birthday party ruse to maintain a steady influx of Beenz. Man knows how to GET. IT. DONE.
Conversations from the Refurbished Study Room
– Jeff: “Haul it, ball it, never call it!”
– Dean Pelton: “You know what they say. Fives have lives, fours have chores, threes have fleas, twos have blues, and ones don’t get a rhyme because they’re garbage!”
– Britta: “I’m a psychology major. Words are my weapons.”
Security Guard: “I’m a security guard. Weapons are my weapons.”