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Community Review: "Communication Studies" (1.16)

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Community Review: "Communication Studies" (1.16)

Community, as with every other sit-com this week, saw the need to focus on Valentine’s Day. But while for most shows I maintain a certain level of dread for these things, Community is different. The show manages this first off by having a fairly interesting love triangle with its Jeff-Britta-Michelle relationship, which this episode definitely improved, but more importantly because of the show’s intense pacing. In The Office, the Pam-Jim dynamic took years of will-they/won’t-they nonsense before things happened, and while the show has a certain level of changing dynamics ultimately it’s always about bringing things to a nice, easy equilibrium. Community not only moves a lot faster with its character dynamics, which I suspect comes from Channel 101’s breakneck speed, but it also seems willing to let events change things in a meaningful fashion. Having actual suspense makes things a lot more interesting. When Arrested Development lets Buster have his hand eaten by a seal, it’s not just a funny gag, it’s also a complete shift of expectations. Almost from the first episode, Community has maintained this possibility for real change.

Unsurprisingly, “Communication Studies” puts a spotlight on this triangle. Jeff is taking Michelle on his first ever Valentine’s Day date as a couple, so he’s a bit worried about making sure things go right. Not too worried, because he’s Jeff, but there’s definitely some nervousness surrounding the day for him. More pressing is Britta drunkenly leaving him a message which is BCI, which is to say that it has booty call implications. When Jeff makes a joke about this, she becomes awkward for much the rest of the episode, leaving Jeff to figure out how to make things normal again before she drops the Spanish study group and vanishes back into the ether from whence she came.

Jeff does what any person would do in this situation, which is ask Abed for advice and then get good and hammered. Abed says that the only way for Jeff to solve the situation is to leave Britta an equally drunk message and it can’t be just acting. The pair then gets drunk enough to reenact a montage from The Breakfast Club. The only problem is that Jeff also drunk-dialed Michelle and, unsurprisingly, left the wrong messages. So he’s initially dumped when he arrives at the dance, at which point Britta comes in all tarted-up to screw with him, but when he reveals what happened with Michelle she helps him out and the two end the episode together again. Still, this plot leaves 40-minutes of unlistened-to ranting by Jeff to Britta for the future, as well as in general making her a lot more interesting character—before this she’d been the one person in Community who hadn’t gotten more interesting as the series has gone on.

The episode’s only real b-plot is that Pierce and Troy are sad about not having anyone for Valentine’s Day, so they send themselves incredibly phony gifts to avoid embarrassment. Chang immediately reveals, and revels in, how horribly fake these gifts really are. To make the pair feel better, Shirley and Annie send Chang an equally fake joke letter, but Chang believes this to be by Pierce and Troy, and says that they need to wear ladies’ pantsuits to the V-Day dance or they’ll fail the course. It’s kind of a non-starter plot, but still funny enough, if a bit anti-climactic compared with what’s happening in the other half of the episode. Not as good, but still some of the funnier material on TV.

At the end of the episode, it seems obvious that the Britta/Jeff dynamic will have to become a couple at some point, but with how well all of the show’s romances have played before I’m weirdly not dreading it. Kind of like with News Radio, their pairing seems natural to the show rather than necessary to throw together just because they’re two attractive people on the same TV series. Despite Community’s intentional stylization and absurdity, this sort of thing makes it feel more “real” than most other things out there.

Stray Observation:
"As a novice boyfriend, can you give me a map of the minefield known as women's Valentine's Day expectations?"

-The Greendale "Cupid Being" gag is pretty amazing. With the lips he looks a lot like the monster from Pan's Labyrinth.

"They sound like very lucky ladies" "...Yeah, they're not made up."

"She has more fights about stuff that doesn't matter than a youtube comments section."

-Seacrest and Slumdog are some of Prof. Chang's finest.

-Chubby Hubby

-Tweedle Dumb and Tweedler Dumb

"...I'm sorry, Abed just made a turtle face"

-There's another hint here about Jeff's inability to actually pay for the college. I'm expecting much more of that in the future ... season finale?

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