Community S05E09: “VCR Maintenance and Educational Publishing”

…an episode showing us all the importance of “a third act apology”

In the year of our Lord 1991, a little video board game called Nightmare hit the shelves and–for the luckiest amongst us–left a deep, enduring impression on our hearts.  I’m not sure how much you know about Nightmare (hint: the correct answer is you know everything about Nightmare  because obvs), so let me regale you.  At its center, the Gatekeeper presided over all, the emcee of a game with seeming never-ending rules and cacophonous jump scares.  He heckled you, you answered  “Yes, My Gatekeeper,” frantic rolling ensued, cards were drawn.  By the end of it, you’re left exhilarated and very likely without a clue as to what transpired over the course of the previous hour.

Now, this might just be the steady diet of freezer-chilled Thin Mints talking, but am I crazy to think that Dan Harmon and company had this little title on their minds when the pen hit the paper for this ninth episode of Community?  Because, you guys, in my world that is exactly what happened and so I loved this episode SO.  MUCH.

But what made this such a great episode is that, even if you are (a godless heathen and ) unfamiliar with the 90s craze of interactive video board games, it didn’t matter.  Can’t we all agree that Rachel’s anniversary gift** to Abed, a copy of the Western-themed Pile of Bullets,  seems like the next television game ripe for a real version, a la New Girl‘s “Young Americans?”

**We non-Abed human beings would consider this a one-month anniversary, but due to his relationship with Rachel being twelve times as efficient as the standard relationship, it equated to one year anniversary.  Makes sense.  God help me, in the world of this character it makes a great deal of sense.

That Annie and Abed decided to settle the argument of who should move in to replace Troy (Anthony, Annie’s brother, or Rachel) through a game of Pile of Bullets was perfect.  Also: Vince Gilligan because everything is better with Vince Gilligan!  (#ScientificFact)  Although it seemed inevitable that their competitive streaks would alienate both Anthony and Rachel seemed obvious, I was so drawn in  by the parallels to Nightmare I think I I broke my face from smiling so hard.  Abed and Annie feverishly trying to roll their “bullet number” before the time winds down?  CLASSIC NIGHTMARE, you guys!  Shouting “Bang”*** as Vince Gilligan chastises you?  We’re talking pages ripped out of the Nightmare playbook.

***Anthony’s unenthused barrage of “bangs” at the screen had me laughing so hard I needed to pause.  Which of course is a big no-no when immersed in the interactive board game experience of Nightmare.

Seriously though, watching Annie’s and Abed’s competitive natures overtake them as they essentially began to play against one another was comedic perfection.  For me, right up there with Danny Pudi’s Nic Cage stuff from earlier in the season in terms of impeccable comedy.  Um, and also wtf with that twister spin?  Hilarious.

What caught me off-guard was the way this episode became yet another echo of Troy’s absence and what an integral role he played in balancing the Annie-Abed dynamic.  With Troy off sailing the high-seas and/or disentangling himself from a piracy situation, these two need to find new ways to connect and redefine their friendship.  That means, of course, posting an ad in Craigslist rather than offering the vacancy to Britta because she would be the worst to live with.  Great stuff, and well-spotted on those unresolved issues there, Anthony.  And yes, you can go poop now.  But only when you’re done peeling those carrots!  Ha! Typical Anthony!

The A plot would have been enough to convince me that this installment was one of the greats, but then Harmon had to go an throw in a B plot about Hickey, Jeff, and Shirley stumbling across a hidden cache of Intro to Chemistry 3rd Edition (*gasp*) textbooks, and this episode soared into the comedy stratosphere for me.

Shirley once again proved her social dominance when in a scenario befitting her particular set of talents, fresh off the MeowMeowBeenz debacle of last week.  I love powerful Shirley.  She’s all about making plays, proposing using her sandwich shop as a front for moving the merch (#SerendipitousAlliteration).  And before you can say, “Hickey has questionable access to rope,” this devolves/evolves into a take on the heist movie.

Friends betray and tie another one up with rope, Britta offers to act as the go-between for a cut of the profits, Chang gets forced to make a video confessional about having stolen the books out of a deep-seated sexual predilection for licking them.  Standard stuff, in other words.****

****Of course, the textbooks are worthless because they’re missing a little thing we in the business of textbook importation call page numbers.  Apparently, pages numbers are critical or something.  (#TheMoreYouKnow)

Oh man, this one was a winner.  Seriously, it’s hands-down my favorite post-Troy episode, and not just because of my (so may say) unusual love for the interactive video board gaming subculture.  Keep these coming, Community, and you’ll be more than en route to that #SixSeasonsAndaMovie.


Quotes from the Refurbished Study Room

– Dean Pelton [after his aggressive freestyle rap]: “I don’t know what that was.  I don’t know what they was.”

– Abed: “You’re putting me on the spot.  I guess my knee-jerk concern would be that he’s a Viking and he might only use our home as a temporary based before moving inland where lumber is more plentiful.”

– Jeff: “Let’s just slow down and have a nice, long chat about possibilities.”

– Shirley [about Chang]: “He can’t leave.”

– Rachel: “I do not like this side of you, and I don’t like that side of VCR technology.  I’m glad it’s a dead medium.  That was creepy.”

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