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November 23, 2014

'Community' Season 2, Episode 3 Recap

by Zack Handlen, posted Oct 8th 2010 5:00AM
Annie and Britta experience an ecological disaster on ["Community" - "The Psychology Of Letting Go"]

Being friends with someone, or dating someone, or being in any kind of long-term relationship with someone, means that eventually you're going to have to realize all that crazy stuff about them is never going to change. There's a compromise in dealing with others that isn't always as easy as we'd like it to be: Just because your ways are sensible and logical and -- let's face it -- better, doesn't mean that you can force the people you care about to agree.

Even worse, it turns out some of the things that bother you the most bother you because you find them all too easy to understand. Tonight's episode of 'Community' dealt with some weighty issues: Mortality, oil spills, proper posture. But since this is really a show about the families we find for ourselves when we're trying to figure out our lives, mostly tonight's episode was about realizing how just because you can pinpoint someone's weakness, doesn't mean you should.

Thankfully, there's a lot of fun to go along with the lesson learning. In addition to the Patton Oswalt cameo, we have the return of John Oliver's Professor Duncan, taking over from Betty White in Anthropology 101. (If you stayed through the end credits, you know that White is now teaching 'Inception' to Africans.)

Duncan and Chang spent most of the episode squaring off, and while it was funny, the tone didn't quite fit with everything else. The main ensemble on this show is fairly realistic, at least in TV sitcom terms. This isn't an Arthur Miller play, and often Jeff or the others will stretch themselves to help land a joke. Pierce and Abed in particular walk a fine line between caricature and character, but the writers and actors are careful to provide just enough grounding so that the emotional beats don't feel entirely forced.

Chang and Duncan, though, are pure cartoons. Even more so than Abed, Chang is written to intentionally take advantage of television archetypes: He's the break-out character, the wacky nut, the Steve Urkel, only he's annoying and pathetic, because that's how that kind of character would really look compared against actual people. Duncan started off with some depth, but as the show progressed, he's turned into more and more into an abstract. Putting him against Chang brought out the goofy in both, and it also meant we had a subplot that didn't really utilize any one of the show leads. It worked all right because, again, it was funny, but too much of this and the series balance between lunacy and pathos could tip too far into the former. And without the pathos, it's possible to see 'Community' losing its way.

As for the characters we actually care about, Annie and Britta teamed-up to raise money for the BP oil spill. (Nobody actually says "BP," but any chance I get to associate "BP" with "oil spill," I'm taking.) Which meant that we got a lot of girl fighting, some wrestling in oil, and a bust up that was probably bound to happen ever since both girls played tonsil tennis with Jeff. Not that the fight was about Jeff -- it was more the two blowing off tension over their different approaches to fund-raising. It was cute, and it let both Alison Brie and Gillian Jacobs act outraged, which is always a treat. Besides, while Britta's been called on her shtick before, nobody's ever pointed out how Annie's "little girl lost" routine is clearly designed to appeal to men's ... heart strings. This wouldn't be 'Community' if everyone wasn't incredibly self-conscious about every aspect of their lives, and this giave Annie some nice depth (and no, I'm not making a posture joke).

Ah, but what Jeff Winger and the Temple of Gloom? One of the best things about this series is the chance to see Joel McHale show sides other than "snarky voice of sanity in the wilderness." His arc here, from blithe arrogance to despondancy to something approaching peace, is easy to chart out beforehand, because he's gone through this process before. While 'Community' has grown beyond its initial premise, it still has a tendency to do 'Grinch' storylines, starting with Jeff the jerk, then moving on to Jeff the killjoy, before landing at Jeff should probably see a doctor because his heart just grew three sizes.

This could get old, but it hasn't yet. Everybody loves the Grinch, for one, and this is such a clever show it knows how to reward us for seeing through its ploys so that we feel like we're all in on the same joke. But it also wouldn't work without a strong lead, and McHale delivers. His redemptive moments always seem sincere, even on the rare occasions when the show doesn't justify them. That means when an episode works as well as this one did, it's possible to be a little bit moved when a man decides not to drive his friends to the morgue to look at a dead mother. That's showmanship, dammit.

Oh, and Pierce's mom is dead. Really dead, too, and not a lava lamp, which is probably better for her in the long run.

And another thing...

-- Given the nature of the joke, it seems fitting to mention Abed's sub-sub-sub-plot here: He helped to deliver a baby in the back of a jeep while everyone was distracted by Annie and Britta's oil-wrestling. The gag being, even though Abed is the one character who isn't involved with one of this episode's main stories, he still gets to have adventures. I'm placing bets now that by Community's fifth season, he'll actually be a super-hero.

-- "I'm so glad this tragedy overshadowed Haiti."

-- "And if a guy wants to make a puppet of me, that's not my concern."

-- "You gain levels and at a certain point, you can, actually, eat a ghost."

-- Shirley rocks. "Yeah, you're both so different. Skinny bitches."

-- "Wow. You guys are real downers. I can't believe I made out with both of you."

For a different view of this episode, check out our Skype Second Opinion here.

'Community' airs Thurs., 8PM ET on NBC.

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Powbamboom

Does anyone know the name of the song that Pierce's mom used to play herself out with?

October 12 2010 at 11:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Michael

I got a kick out of Shirley,whenever she ran into Britta & Annie she'd comment how the 2 of them were working together on their oil spill project.You knew she was jealous that they left her out.

October 08 2010 at 5:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
LRM

I love community and I liked the episode but I felt like I had already seen it. Didn't Britta and Annie already have a fight over the exact same thing last season?

October 08 2010 at 9:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dafyd Jones

Once I realised that the oil drum Britta and Annie were using was a Wilde Oil drum (from Running Wilde), I found it hard to concentrate on the rest of the episode...

October 08 2010 at 8:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dutchy

I didn't notice Abed's plot at first. Though I did see the pregnant woman at start, was confused why would you have an extra being pregnant in the background.
After re-watching it, it makes sense.

October 08 2010 at 5:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Dutchy's comment
Edward

Yeah, I noticed that Abed was in the background when Jeff was talking to Duncan in the mess hall. I was wondering what was going on!

October 09 2010 at 4:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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