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Community: Of Pens and Pillow Forts

Since I was out of town last week, I wasn’t able to do a Community recap on Friday. I know the lack of closure is killing you, so I’ll just do a quick rundown of the last two weeks of everyone’s favorite non-zombie show.

Last week’s episode, “Cooperative Calligraphy,” had its ups and downs. Referential humor being one of the show’s hallmarks, it felt a little strange for them to be “referencing” something that the average person didn’t know there was a name for: a bottle episode. This is an industry term for an episode of a sitcom that takes place entirely in one room, or on one small set. In this case, the study group remained in the study room for the duration of the episode, missing a puppy parade in the process.

The reason for staying sequestered? For the millionth time, Annie’s pen has disappeared and she takes a stand against the group for the culprit to come forward. Until they do, she’s not letting anyone leave the room. For some weird reason, everyone complies despite the fact that they all have better things to do (Hello? Puppy parade!). My one frustration with Annie’s character is the fact that she seems to get away with the most bad behavior, usually because she responds to being called out with a gasp and a wide-eyed, shocked look on her face. Meh.

This episode paid off, though, when the search through everyone’s bags for the pen unearths a pack of condoms (Britta), a chart of the women’s menstrual cycles (Abed) and even a pregnancy test (Shirley). Also! You get to see the gang in their underwear.

After the sappy conclusion of “Cooperative Calligraphy,” (Our friendships are more important than this pen!) I was ready for more hijinks and less Jeff-And-Annie-Looking-Into-Each-Others’-Eyes. Also! Two weeks ago, I observed that the writers seemed to be straining to include all of the gang in the plot of the episode. In what is irrefutable evidence that Community’s writers read Persephone, I got my wish with last night’s installment, “Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design.”

While Troy and Abed are busy making the ultimate pillow-and-blanket fort, Annie (ugh) heads off with Jeff to figure out what he’s up to after the Dean confronts him about a fake class on his schedule. Turns out Jeff was pretty lazy with his deception, even naming his fictional instructor “Professor Professorson.” (Jeff: It’s Dutch!) Jeff decides to commit to the lie, though, leading the Dean (and Annie!) to the fake teacher’s office”¦only to discover a man who introduces himself as Professorson to the Dean. Annie apologizes to Jeff for not believing him, but Jeff admits he’s never seen the man before in his life. Looks like Jeff and Annie have a real-life mystery to solve!

Thus triggers a series of double-, triple-, and quadruple-crosses. This plot was ostensibly a spoof of mindless action movies and their increasingly implausible and irrelevant twists”¦I think. They just didn’t break enough new ground, or commit enough to this plot, to make it as funny as the many other genre spoofs that Community has done in the last season and a half.

However, the blanket fort subplot was delightful. After his dorm mate wants in on Troy and Abed’s fort, the guys decide to extend the whole thing out into the hallway, where it quickly takes on a life of its own. In fact, the giant fort makes a great setting for a low-speed chase between Annie and Jeff and Professorson, where they encounter a few ethnic districts that have developed under the blankets. (This part of the episode must have been so much fun to film.) The best thing about Troy and Abed’s friendship is their nerdy, childish imagination, and it was fun this week to see everyone take the journey to immaturity with them. I think it was also telling that as soon as they sensed the fort had “gone mainstream,” they took out the structural socks and all the blankets came down.

All in all, a solid episode. Catch it online if you missed it! And see you next week.

Photos: nbc.com

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