…an episode reminding us all the importance of being “unable to hear when you’re covered in rocks.”
Earlier in this fifth season, Community used Troy’s impending departure to formulate the basis of its brilliant Mad Max send-up episode “Geothermal Escapism.” Remember that one? Abed, unable to cope with the inevitable loss of his friend, constructed an altered reality wherein the college-wide game of Hot Lava became an activity of necessity because the floor had transformed, in Abed’s head, to real lava. That was some hefty psychoanalytical lifting for a twenty-three minute situational comedy to take on, but the results proved outstanding. It remains one of Community‘s best episodes.
This theme of actively escaping one’s problems through meticulously rendered psychotic breaks carried over in this week’s animated ep “G.I. Jeff.” I quite liked most of it, but–unlike “Geothermal Escapism”–the attempt to connect it to Jeff’s psyche didn’t work for me. Apparently, Mr. Winger consumed a fifth of scotch and took some Korean anti-aging pills rather than cope with the reality of his fortieth birthday. *Gasp!* Say it ain’t so! Turns out, his little bender ended up requiring a brief hospitalization, during which time he imagined life as a G.I. Joe cartoon ostensibly in a subconscious attempt to cling to his youth.
Putting aside the problems resulting from trying to rationalize this episode,** it certainly still had its moments. But part of me wishes there hadn’t been such a clumsy effort to connect it to the Greendale reality. I mean, right? Wouldn’t it have been so Community just to toss this off as an unexplained standalone episode? Now that would’ve been something!
**I don’t believe this part of Jeff’s character for a minute. These animated installments have been Abed’s terrain for awhile now, and–while I appreciate the desire not to lay all of these “gimmick” episodes at Abed’s feet due to his tenuous grip on reality–Jeff just seemed like an odd choice of a character to pick up that particular mantle.
But, damn, this episode cracked me up consistently throughout. From its faux-scratches peppering the screen as a tribute to the film quality of the 80s to the poor lip synchronization, the attention to detail (something I’ve commented on before) really shined here. Plus, what a gallery of cartoon dopplegangers! Wingman! Buzzkill! Fourth Wall! Three Kids (all the lol @ every time Shirley cried out, “I’ve got three kids!”)! Overkill! Vice Cobra Assistant Commander! Brilliant.
I also loved the affectionate, little nods to the G.I. Joe of yesteryear. The credits! That theme song! When bullets shredded Dethstro’s parachute and plummeted him to his death, I laughed. When the camera held on the shocked faces of fellow G.I.s, I howled. For all the bullets that flew in the original show, they never landed, and our heroes and villains of Cobra lived to fight another day. Cobra henchmen couldn’t grasp the nuances of a finely written eulogy here because, well, no one has ever died on the show. Until Wingman, that is! The running gag about the characters never killing each other just didn’t get old for me, and kudos for turning suppressive fire into a Cobra massacre. A hilarious, macabre touch.
I suppose no review of this episode would be complete without a mention of those lovingly created live-action commercials that appeared each time Wingman had a seizure at the mention of Greendale because, again, sure. The arc for the TV advertisements was great, too. Jeff’s increasingly active control of the toys, culminating in crashing a helicopter into the little boy’s head, served as a nice coda.***
***Speaking of codas, I had hoped for a PSA, and who better to serve it in that stinger than Buzzkill? She Britta’ed it but good, and I mean that in the best possible way.
Look, I can completely see where you’re coming from if you thought this episode little more than an extended Robot Chicken sketch. I’d never defend this as one of Community‘s finest half-hours (I wouldn’t put it near the top twenty-five, actually), but it was funny and entertaining enough, and at least Harmon and company went for broke with it. But from Community, would we expect anything less?
Quotes from the Refurbished (and Animated!) Study Room
– Wingman: “Your outfit is three layers of racist!”
– Wingman: “I keep having these visions…about little boys.”
Three Kids: “And are these visions something we should be sharing with the authorities?”
– Abed: “Imaginary Britta is right. And only imaginary Britta.”
– Shirley: “This is Korean.”
Chang: “What am I?”
Shirley: “You’re Chinese!”
Chang: “I swear to God, I feel Korean.”