Community made a strong return this week after a loooong hiatus for the holidays. The strength of this season’s past few episodes may prove important in the long run given that NBC has clearly decided to toss all of their Thursday comedies into a Yahtzee shaker with a couple total pieces of trash (Perfect Couples and Outsourced—double shudder) and just let things sort themselves out. This continues to mean a tough go of it for Community which is stuck with the earliest time slot with no lead-in. It’s a difficult position for the show to be in, but I can’t help but think the continuing strength of the show’s writing and the charm of its ensemble of leads will keep it somewhere in this bloated lineup going into next year—the question is where. The Office may go down the tubes rapidly once Steve Carrell makes his exit, and the rest of the Thursday night lineup is a far cry from the ratings draw of that show. Outsourced and Perfect Couples won’t replace any of our favorites, but their presence suggests that NBC isn’t completely in love with anything currently in existence on Thursday nights.
The episode opens with a strong entry into the growing string of great dialogue exchanges around the study table. Annie is busily attempting to spread gossip about her own exploits over break (did they say it was spring break they were returning from?) with a seemingly-too-perfect fellow named Rich or Rick (apparently I wasn’t any more interested in him than the rest of the study group). The group’s speculation about who it might be is hilarious—all of their guesses are campus mash-ups of celebrities, including the brilliant categorization of Abed as “brown Jamie Lee Curtis” (a title he approves of enthusiastically).
“Asian Population Studies” brought a couple of pleasant surprises with it, and even made something charming out of an unpleasant surprise. The least pleasant surprise is that Shirley is pregnant…at the, uh, hands, of Change, potentially. On a slightly brighter note, her old husband is back in the picture, and in the most pleasant surprise of all, her husband is played by the buttery-smooth voiced Theo Huxtable (known in some circles as Malcolm-Jamal Warner). He comes off well, if a bit uncertain of the strange brand of crazy (even for crazy these guys are a bit off-center) the group practices in, but he’s kind and seems genuinely committed to Shirley. It’s a bit of a dark twist for a goofy comedy that she may therefore be carrying an illegitimate child which would threaten their relationship all over again (not to mention creating a messy situation for the baby), so it’s not surprising that by episode’s end Theo (it’s how I know him) pledges to Jeff and then Shirley that he’s in it for the long haul regardless of who the father is. It’s a simple and effective (if a bit sugary) solution to a single-episode problem that works just fine. Whether Warner is remaining on board as a supporting cast member is a different question, but he’d certainly be welcome and provides a strong straight-man to contrast with the unusual world Shirley spends her days immersed in.
So Chang may or may not have fathered a child, but that doesn’t seem to faze him for long. Least of all when the study group (who actually think of themselves as “that study group”, we learn) is holding open auditions for one new member and all Chang has to do to win the contest is beat out the perfect Rich/Rick who is heavily promoted by Annie and even more heavily opposed by Jeff, who may have jealous motives. There are mixed feelings among fans about Jeff and Annie’s odd, sexually tense interactions since their kiss, but I kind of like it and it has provided more than one interesting little side story this season to bolster otherwise thin plot lines. Tonight it isn’t of great interest, but does lead to a head-scratcher of an ending as Jeff visits Rich/Rick at his house (it seems like Jeff already knows this guy—am I wrong in noticing that?) and begs him to make Jeff perfect as well so he can use it for selfish reasons. The whole scene played very strangely, and not just because there’s a misdirect to make us think Jeff is headed to Annie’s. I think they’ve done a nice job with Jeff’s character, but the idea of his continuing vanity and inability to put the feelings and needs of others before his own is wearing a little thin. Isn’t he pretty clearly emotionally connected with these people, and wouldn’t it be okay if we allowed that maybe he’s grown a little for having been around them? We’ll see where this little development takes him the rest of the season, but I’m not a fan of it at this point.
On the whole though, the episode reminded us what we’ve been missing since mid-December, and it managed to introduce several potential new storylines to follow eagerly through season’s end .
Overall Rating: 9.0/10
Great Quotes, Interesting Moments, What Not and Occasionally What-have-you:
- “That sounded so sexy…laser disc.”
- “Why are you using your ‘I love butterflies’ voice?”
“Someone’s finding river fingers with a cute boy!”
Among the guesses about who Rich is: black Michael Chiklis or white George Foreman
“Who has Chang’s pile of nothing?”
Apparently Jeff was okay with Chang “Before he started using his name as a pun. It makes me so Changry! Now I’m doing it!”
Professor Duncan, in explaining his sobriety’s effects, seems to be writing “penis” on the board to emphasize his improved function just as Rich walks in the door—love these little touches.
Rich “has a land line and uses the word ‘album’.”
Pierce’s metaphor for Shirley’s situation is priceless. It’s like having parsley caught in your teeth except “imagine your teeth are a uterus and the parsley is a half-Chinese baby.”
- Jeff’s friend Kendra spells her name AND “kettle corn” with a Qu-. And her attempts to charm the group are great:
Quendra: “I love Star Wars.”
Jeff: “That’s Troy.”
Quendra: “I love footballs.”
Rich spent his summer “fixing children’s cleft palates and teaching them to play acoustic guitar”—what a jerk!
Chang on using his name to create bad puns: “Guilty as Changed”
I love the gross revelation that Chang smells like band aids.
Britta is very upset she only gets mezzanine seats for showing off her breasts to some slob—going in blind, I’d guess they probably are worth main floor with backstage passes, but that’s an educated guess.