Community Review: "Social Psychology" (Episode 1.4)

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First, a quick recap: In its first three episodes, Community has introduced us to the college, the main cast of characters, and Joel McHale as Jeff, an asshole lead with a heart of gold. It’s just that he doesn’t really know or believe that it is a heart of gold and is more than content to play the guy you know who’s so charismatic you can’t help but like him despite all evidence pointing to him jerking you around like everyone else. It’s the role McHale was born to play, and topped off by some keen writing from Dan Harmon and others, the show’s one part heart, one part character-based comedy, and one part plain old goofiness.

“Social Psychology”’s main plot focuses on Jeffs jealousy for Britta’s new boyfriend, a hippie-esque, questionably literate, green tea-drinking, poetry-writing superhunk who really isn’t that bad a guy except for his inability to be anything more than a stereotype. He still acts as a perfect foil for Jeff, with his genuine attitude, earthy rather than preppy good looks, and his ability to play hacky sack in the quad without an ounce of irony. He doesn’t last the length of the episode and seems highly unlikely for a return, but I kind of wish he would given how much he ends up as a sort of happy, bizarro Jeff.

Needless to say, Jeff needs someone to vent to about his usurper, which leads him into an unlikely friendship with Yvette Nicole Brown’s character Shirley. Shirley and Jeff bond over their mutual dislike for pretty much everyone and everything. Britta tries to remain friends with Jeff nonetheless, revealing to him her fears of her relationship becoming, you know, a relationship … and also that her boyfriend writes milk-curdlingly bad poetry. Jeff makes a copy of the poetry with his cell phone, which goes public after he shares it with Shirley. Of course, Britta is dumped when his private ode to her goes public and her and Jeff reconcile their friendship in the end for more episodes of will they/won’t they drama.

In the second plot, Annie (Alison Brie) joins in a rather insane psychology course taught by none other than John Oliver, who returns for the first time since the pilot. He immediately and unrealistically leads the class in an experiment on what he calls “The Duncan Principle,” which basically posits that when you leave people in a room forever, eventually they go crazy. This backfires when Abed, one of the participants in the experiment, fails to crack, leading to Oliver himself cracking after 26 hours spent waiting for his experiment to be a success. This secondary plot doesn’t really go anywhere after that. Annie makes up with Abed, but basically it’s to tie in with the show’s other themes of friendship and what sort of trust is expected from these sorts of relationships.

There’s also Chevy Chase on the side listening into things with a set of “ear-noculars,” but it’s not really a plot so much as it is a way to get Chase into a series of odd gags. It works, but is more there for thematic reasons and because he’s a secondary character they don’t want to leave too minor of a part to.

Despite some nicely deepening relationships, the fourth episode of Community ends up the weakest so far. Not as heavyhanded as the last episode nor as wonderfully anarchic as the second, it failed to nail quite as many perfect laughs as its predecessors. That being said, there were still plenty of great moments, and deepening Annie and Shirley’s characters is a nice addition to the series, though it sometimes feels like the cast is a bit too large for how focused the show is on its central character.

Stray Thoughts:

-I missed John Oliver for the past two episodes, but now that he’s here, I find myself missing the gloriously insane Robin Williams rip-off of the last one. Anyone else really hoping he’ll return?

-If psychology courses actually featured experiments that fun, I would’ve added that as a major.

-The college itself is staying pretty ill-defined, an every college that doesn’t seem so much community as it does state school with all ages. Not sure if that’s good or bad yet.

“tight, yes, I’ve heard that about green tea.”

“What, a community college Spanish teacher can’t use 80 bucks?”

“Two cute white people going in a school together just seems right.”

-Joel calling Gillian “Bra” was one of the highlights of the episode for me. One word led to many chuckles—good economy of writing.

“It’s not gossip when it’s bad.”

“Go kill John Lennon, ya loser.”

“And what makes frisbee ‘ultimate’?” “If I had a nickel for every time I wished somebody asked me that.”

-Did anyone get a good glimpse at the poem, or at least transcribe what was said? It was the other highlight of the episode.

“I heard you with my own ear … noculars.”

“How about the friend level where you sometimes have to cat-sit?”

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