Most 30-minute sitcoms out there have become less sitcom-my. They are rarely taped on a soundstage, in front of an audience. They pretty regularly leave the set when the plot calls for it. Examples that come to mind are 30 Rock, The Office, or It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. While the main set (or sets) ground the series, it’s often refreshing when the cast takes a trip outside for a change in scenery.
Community almost always takes place at one of several locations (the quad, the study room, the cafeteria) on the campus itself. When the gang does venture off-campus, it’s usually for one of their over-the-top plots (hellooooo KFC rocket episode!). This week’s episode, Mixology Certification, let the study group leave campus in one of the more natural, realistic, and enjoyable episodes yet.
I liked that they left the school and that the gang behaved like a normal group of friends. It’s pretty realistic at this point that these people would hang out outside of school. So, if you missed it last night, check out the episode on Hulu and let’s get started.
It’s Troy’s birthday, and after a discussion about his zodiac sign, Troy realizes that he’s not turning 20 as he’d thought; he’s turning 21. Apparently his Mom created an intricate web of lies to keep him from feeling bad about having to repeat the fifth grade. Troy’s childlike cluelessness helps sell this setup, not to mention that, as a Jehovah’s Witness, he’d never made a big deal about his birthday anyway. (Points to Abed and Britta for getting him a nonchalant cake stating “Congrats on your expulsion from a uterus”)
Side note: Donald Glover’s grin and thumbs up right before the opening credits was ADORBS. In case you still haven’t watched this awesome show, the good folks over at F Yeah Troy and Abed already have a gif for your enjoyment.
So, the group decides to take Troy out for his 21st birthday, but not before Jeff and Britta have a pretty hilarious fight over which bar to go to. They agree that a generic Irish bar is the perfect inoffensive option. They split up into gendered car groups and head out.
While the women try to calm down Annie, who gets carried away crafting an accent and persona to go with her fake ID, Jeff calls to say that Finnegan’s Hole shut down (Britta: “That’s what they get for trying to please everyone”). They decide to meet up at the dive-y Ballroom instead, over Shirley’s objections.
So we find out, through a series of hilarious Polaroids on the walls of the bar, that Shirley used to be a Ballroom regular. It was actually great to see her get to play something beyond the “Wholesome Mom” character for once. When the gang confronts Shirley with a picture she missed, though, she’s hurt and embarrassed and storms out of the bar. Troy doesn’t seem to understand why she gets so upset.
Jeff and Britta ask Troy what he’s going to order at midnight, and as always, I love Troy and Britta as an antagonistic team. They shoot down Troy’s ideas for his first drink: Don’t get a beer, you’ve had a beer. 7&7? That’s a high school girl drink. Jeff lectures Troy on how to drink scotch, and then mocks Britta’s vodka with four olives (“What’s that called, a “˜too-cool-to-care-tini?'”)
Abed, meanwhile, is approached by a fellow nerd and starts discussing Farscape and The Last Starfighter. Abed’s response to getting hit on by the guy, who tries to use nerd lingo to get Abed to go home with him: “That doesn’t make sense. Wormholes and teleportation are two different things.” Our dear Abed gets a drink thrown in his face.
Annie has fun at the bar as her carefree, troublemaking alter ego, Caroline from Corpus Christi, Texas. Annie tends to annoy me, but she was properly sympathetic this week, even if her struggle is pretty well-worn territory: she’s a college sophomore who has the next several years of her life planned out but she doesn’t know what she really wants! Bleh.
It finally strikes midnight, and Troy goes up to the bar to order his 7&7. But he looks around the room at his friends, and decides not to have the drink but to take his intoxicated pals home instead. I have to say, the biggest laugh in the whole episode for a Jeff and Britta-phile like me was the 3-second shot of the two of them drunkenly arguing in the corner of the bar. You can’t hear what they’re disagreeing about but it doesn’t matter; it’s the perfect meaningless drunk debate.
The car ride home is also pitch-perfect, from the drunk making out (Abed: “Why’d you do that in front of me? I’m not a coat rack”) to the lazy antagonism (Britta: “Crash it, Troy. Crash his car.”) Annie gets dropped off first, and for some reason we are treated to a three minute scene that culminates in an “Annie, you’re great!” speech. The last shot is of Jeff, earnestly this time, telling Troy he’s become a man.
All in all, I loved this episode. Probably one of my favorites, and certainly the best so far if you eliminate the genre spoof episodes like Zombies and Paintball. The over-the-top episodes are what make this show special, but it’s great once in a while to get a more grounded, character-driven show like the one this week. I hope they continue to pepper shows like this into the crazy.