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November 26, 2014

'Community' Season 2, Episode 8 Recap

by Zack Handlen, posted Nov 11th 2010 11:15PM
['Community' - 'Cooperative Calligraphy']

It's called a "bottle episode" because it simulates the sensation of being trapped. In, y'know, a bottle. Because most shows operate on less than ideal budgets, showrunners are always looking for ways to cut costs that don't harm production values; given its regular indulgence in movie parodies and guest stars, 'Community' can't be the cheapest show to produce. So we get tonight's "Cooperative Calligraphy," which, credit cookie aside, took place entirely in one set, the study room at the library, and had no character appearances outside the ensemble and a few visits from the Dean.

Unsurprisingly, Abed realized what was happening early on. After Annie found she was missing a purple pen, she freaked out and demanded the whole group stay behind to help her look for it, or else confess they took it. This wasn't the first pen she's lost, and beneath her adorable, girl-next-door exterior, Annie hides the heart of a deeply insecure control freak, paranoid that everyone is out to get her because, after all, she deserves no better. So she stopped the exodus to the puppy parade and started pointing fingers. Abed recognized the bottle episode set-up, but he couldn't stop the inevitable; soon, friends were going for throats, and then everybody got naked.

That was it, really. There were a lot of accusations thrown around, a lot of great beats, and an ending that satisfied the basic requirement of the set-up: Nobody we saw could've been responsible for the pen loss, but someone had to have taken it. Why not the monkey, aka Annie's Boobs? (And was anybody else a little creeped out by the grin on the thing's face at the end?) 'Calligraphy' was beautifully constructed. It didn't reinvent the wheel, like other episodes have tried to, and there was very little homage or parody here. Instead, the ep was full of terrific character work and sharp gags, strengthening the relationships these people share.

The series' self-referential humor has always been one of its strengths, but it's also essentially fleeting material. When it lands, it lands beautifully, but when it doesn't, there's a sort of hollow feeling at the core. The ensemble needs to be strongly defined so that there's always an inherent reality to their universe, even if blatantly implausible events are happening. 'Calligraphy' stripped away the tricks to show once and for all that this group makes sense as a unit. There
wasn't a false note here. Everyone was hilarious, and when a little darkness edged into the proceedings, it made perfect
sense.

The Greendale Seven are losers. Jeff is cool only because he hangs out with losers; Pierce is a pathetic old idiot; Troy is
a goofy young idiot; Shirley doesn't understand popular culture, and she slept with Chang (who may have impregnated her? ew!); Britta is beautiful but endlessly spastic; Annie is way too tightly wound; and, of course, Abed. Tonight's version of Abed is the best the show has done so far -- we've seen him distant, we've seen him commenting on that distance, but this was the first time there was actual rage buried underneath his layers of detached observation. Everyone in that room was an outcast, and they were all mad because of it, because these are people who've spent a lifetime losing pens. 'Calligraphy' was funny, sharp, and consistent. Kind of makes you wish they were all bottle episodes.

Also ...

-- Again, if Shirley is pregnant with Chang's baby ... ew!
-- "Accidents don't just happen over and over and over again. This isn't budget daycare."
-- "Sometimes I think I lost something really important to me, and it turns out I already ate it."
-- "Do they find thoughts in our butts?"
-- "I'll make your ass linear." "That doesn't make any sense." "I'll make your ass sense."
-- "But I much prefer being entombed in a mausoleum of feelings I can neither understand not reciprocate."
-- If you're curious where the name "Gwynifer" came from (Jeff's mystery date), read this.

'Community' airs
Thursdays at 8PM ET on NBC.

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jim

I thought the name "bottle episode" is due to the bottleneck of funding after expending too much on the initial episodes.

November 16 2010 at 1:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Davide

You forgot probably the best one-line in the episode, from Jeff:
"Well, tell your disappointment to suck it, I'm doing a bottle episode!" :D

November 13 2010 at 2:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
lucycaruso

This is defienely the best episode of the season... possibly ever

November 12 2010 at 10:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Lacy

I thought the Stephen Fry joke was brills.

November 12 2010 at 3:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tricia

The best part about the Shirley/Chang incident is that only Troy and us know about it. I loved when the camera cut to him with wide eyes as he was figuring it out at the same time I was. I'm very interested to see how this plays out, but I'm so grossed out at the thought of a baby Chang being out there. Ugh.

November 12 2010 at 11:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Sander

Awesome indeed! Also, did anyone else notice the writings on the whiteboard said: "If we evolved from monkeys, how come we still have Monkeys?" And Monkeys was crossed, saying Pierce instead :P

November 12 2010 at 10:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Sander's comment
R-Bro

I have to stop deleting these eps right away so I can go back and look for stuff like this. That's hilarious!

November 12 2010 at 10:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
GrumpyOldMan

Incredible. If this episode doesn't win scads of awards...nothing is ever worthy.
And it all boiled down to monkey love.

November 12 2010 at 8:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
radfordavenue

samsnee on TWOP pointed out that you can see the pen being taken at the bottom of the frame when Troy says "I want to lick it." (talking about the puppy)
Awesome. And totally hard to spot. I love these little things - similar to Abed's background delivery.

November 12 2010 at 4:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to radfordavenue's comment
Dutchy

Just watched it again, and indeed you see the monkey take the pen. Awesome detail.

November 12 2010 at 4:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Piper

Dan Harmon tweeted a screen shot of it here
http://julvett.tumblr.com/post/1550680050/tonights-community-amazing-you-can-even-see

November 12 2010 at 12:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
a jug of Clorox

You didn't mention Abed serendipitously charting Annie, Britta, and Shirley's menstrual cycles. The "next period" prediction charts were actually part of his Robocop Vision in the last episode! Really nice detail that most ppl wouldn't even have noticed. You almost can't even call it foreshadowing. Pre-reference? Anyway you cut it, it shows the remarkable attention the writers pay to their product.

November 12 2010 at 2:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
MosquitoControl

Good update, but can I request we not get shortened links? I'm not clicking that. Not that it's clickable, anyway...

November 11 2010 at 11:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to MosquitoControl's comment
Edward

it's safe...

it's this:

http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2010/11/11/replying-with-the-enemy-showrunners-on-twitter-ii/

not that the link had any spoilers

November 11 2010 at 11:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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