“Ok, we need to hatch a scheme.” That was the defining line of last night’s episode of Community, which as usual does a great job illustrating both how the show embraces sit-com tropes while nonetheless belittling these formulas as absurd. How often in your life have you ever hatched a scheme? Aside from a couple really odd friends of mine, I’ve never seen this sort of behavior in reality, let alone any other type of fiction. Within sit-coms, though, scheming is only natural and in some shows happens on an almost week-to-week basis. Aside from the Simpsons, though (which is well-known to have done everything), this ridiculous plot device somehow usually evades reference to how stupid it really is.
In this case, the scheme is concocted by Jeff and Britta to keep Annie from dating Britta’s ex from sometime back, the hippie songwriter Vaughn. While they both frame this in the guise of keeping her from dating a jerk, it’s actually just an excuse for them to stop people they were or are attracted to from having lives of their own. Jeff still has something for Annie
—which isn’t as weird as the show makes it seem as the actress, Alison Brie, is actually 26
—and Britta doesn’t want to see Vaughn with anyone, especially not one of her friends.
The scheme involves getting Troy, who Annie long had a crush on, to hit on her. Unlike 30 Rock, which continually insists Tina Fey isn’t beautiful, the show explains why Troy wouldn’t be attracted to her: When they were in high school together, she had a panic attack and breakdown. As is the way of these things, this backfires horribly, though she and Vaughn end up together again by the end of the episode.
The B-plot, which is a bit more throwaway, just focuses on Troy, Abed, Ken, and Shirley making fun of bad movies to the exclusion of Pierce, who just doesn’t really get, well, jokes. It’s probably the funnier part of the episode, but there obviously isn’t anything lasting to it beyond that. The best aspect of this part of this plot is in fact the terrible fake-movie that was constructed for them to make fun of, which is a bad superhero movie starring a robot enforcer whose punches are as strong as kicks. And in the sequel his kicks are as strong as punches? Something like that.
These two plotlines link up at the end of the episode as the scheme blows up, which involves the entire cast of the show. That everyone has interest in at least one of the other members of the study group, apparently even Abed, comes into play here in a brilliantly directed sequence of eye-line matches. It’s at this point in the episode where it’s hard not to realize both how much a show like this makes you root for cast members to get together, and how wonderful all of the show’s leads really are as comedic actors. It’s a masterful set piece that’s played to perfection, which is becoming par for the course with Community these days. Even so, with its pitch-perfect jokes and wonderful balance of plots and character-dynamic, this episode stood out as one of the strongest yet.
“You know what I don’t get—he never wears a shirt, he never wears shoes: why hasn’t he died from lack of service?”
“If she doesn’t mind enforcing a stereotype, I bet Shirley would love talking smack about bad movies.”
“I’m younger than the three of you put together.”
“Gateway douchebag” is a phrase that’s opaque yet contradictorily completely obvious in meaning.
“Kickpuncher, starring Don ‘The Demon’ Donaldson as a cyborg cop whose punches have the power of kicks.”
“I know chemistry is sexy, but Annie … I don’t see it.”
It’s horrible to say, but Annie’s nervous breakdown sounds AMAZING. Here’s hoping at some point we’re given a flashback of that tour de force.
“I have the weirdest boner.”
“And Tom Selleck just stood there … just stood there and watched him die.”
The episode really plays up the Troy/Abed thing, and more power to it. Community proved ages ago that it’s one of the few shows that can do self-referentiality correctly
I rather love the unexplained guy behind Vaughn doing random percussion. He really adds the show’s special dash of insanity to the mix.
“His songs are dumber than he is.”