Silly is an underrated quality at times, and tonight’s episode of Community brought the silly in a major way. For all of you folks out there who were clamoring for Gillian Jacobs to spastically protest a Model UN competition while dressed in a black jumpsuit covered in Barbie dolls while strains of Lionel Richie’s Hello played, you can finally check off that box on your to do list because that most certainly appeared on our televisions this evening. That Community can have a plotline this absurd and seemingly nonsensical and be successful while doing so is a good thing almost in and of itself, that it can do so while weaving in and out of a more heartfelt and serious look at how difficult it can be to leave behind the passions of our youth is all the more impressive.
That loftier goal isn’t perfectly executed here, it steps over the line into being too touchy feely in its final moments rather than having something truly profound to say, and the Britta/Chang storyline doesn’t quite make sense with the final message of the episode, but that doesn’t stop a whole lot of this episode from being silly and crazy in a way that is unmistakably Community. The gist of the episode is that both Britta and Annie start sliding back into their old habits when they’re confronted with some startling revelations. For Britta it’s that an old protesting buddy has been locked up abroad which reminds her that she’s left her agitated rabble rousing in the past and for Annie it’s the revelation that there’s a younger version of herself in Annie Kim who brings out her old competitive streak. Both see something they lost in these people and take drastic steps to try and regain a part of themselves.
In Britta’s case that means raging against “The Man” and now that Chang’s been promoted to Greendale security the two are thrust together in what turns out to be an inspired pairing. Chang’s always been delusional but “Geography of Global Conflict” perfectly draws out Britta’s long history of being just a tad overblown in her outrage over injustices in the world. The two bring out the crazy in each other in ways that are both hilariously overblown and totally in line with their characters. I don’t think Gillian Jacobs has been this good on the show in a long while, and she’s consistently very good week in and week out, but she nails everything she’s given here. Her facial expressions alone during the slow motion sequences are fantastic and Ken Jeong matches her step for step in the pair’s ridiculous co-dependency.
I really can’t overstate just how funny I found this part of the episode, it was one of those moments where Community manages to spin new ideas out of long standing character traits and it bodes extremely well for Chang’s changed role on the show. It’s already allowed for one new pairing to great results and while it’s not like Community needs more ways to pair off its characters, it could already mix and match just about any two and get comedy gold, it’s still nice to see the move paying off so quickly. Sure it doesn’t really add much on a thematic level, but it’s just so gloriously weird and skillfully played that I couldn’t help but love it.
The other plot line proves a little more problematic, but only in its final act, until that point it’s another example of the weird lunacy that Community has such a flair for. Annie tries to impress Asian Annie by mentioning she’s going to start a Model UN, but then Asian Annie swoops in and steals her idea. Annie’s furious even if she hides behind Jeff in her aggression, and before long Martin Starr’s Professor Cligoris has suggested a Model UN off as a way to resolve just who should get credit for the idea. Starr’s not bad here, but doesn’t quite get enough to do outside of being one of Greendale’s ever-expanding roster of weird professors. He gets a few solid laugh lines, especially as he slowly reveals his love of Model UNs and appreciation for discussions over the potential logistical ramifications of two model UNs and the two separate Earths they must inhabit, but he’s not really integral to the episode in any major way.
One of the highlights of the episode comes from the montage that results from the Model UN off, as recurring character Garrett spouts off Crisis after crisis the entire sequence changes into a montage of disembodied heads floating across the screen rather than rapid cutting to each character. It feels like a scene out of an old screwball comedy and it’s a wonderfully oversold moment when you consider that the reality of the situation is just a bunch of people sitting in an auditorium creating fake policy about fake world events. The whole sequence is Community at its finest, shooting rapid-fire jokes at the audience while throwing a bold aesthetic out there as well. It’s silly, inspired fun of the type that the show does so well.
It’s too bad then that the episode loses some of its focus in the final act by falling back on a few tired tropes that don’t feel clever enough to justify the conclusion. The group is on the verge of winning the competition when a deadly, seemingly impossible fart breaks their focus. Annie freaks out and Jeff chases after her to talk her down. Their moment together where he discusses just how easy it is to revert to childlike behavior when threatened is nicely observed, but then when the group gets back together we head into a Spartacus homage where Jeff tries to stop Annie from taking the blame for the fart that was actually his. The group interprets this as another attempt by Jeff to bring the group back together, but he was legitimately trying to own up to the fart. The show tries to go meta here, joking about the ways that it uses meta moments like these to bring the group back together time and time again, but it’s a moment the episode needs to complete its story all the same so it feels a little cheap to just write it off as a throwaway meta gag.
The final major moment of the UN plot feels undercooked as well as the group suddenly bursts through the competing UN’s backdrop, having broken through into the parallel universe that had previously separated the Earths. It’s a well-structured moment since Abed, in typical Abed fashion, has been harping on it for throughout the episode. There’s a strange oddity though, Annie’s holding a cardboard TV cutout in front of her face while she talks about how they’ve cut through the trans-dimensional fabric to bring peace to the world. It’s a metaphor for the actual process of watching TV that feels like it was lost along the way in the drafting of this episode but was never cut from the final scene for some reason.
That lack of thematic resonance continues when Britta’s plotline ends up with her reuniting with Chang after the pair broke apart when Chang realized Britta actually wasn’t a criminal. The two do their dance once more, and Chang almost lovingly tazes Britta as she attempts her protest. The episode ends with Chang carrying Britta out of the auditorium and the pair just barely maintaining their antagonistic facades. It’s funny stuff, but it doesn’t really connect to the message of growing up that the episode has largely been focusing on. As much as I might have wanted a little more out of this episode, I can’t really fault it too much because it’s just too beautifully and successfully weird in a way that only this show can be. Not every episode has to change the way I see the world, sometimes it’s enough to just have Britta locking herself in a cage and pouring pain all over a globe while Chang drags her out of the room.
- “My first cop flashlight, I can’t wait to get some brain on this bad boy.”
- “The badge says ‘To serve and protect.’” “No it doesn’t.” “How’s my smile.”
- “Wow Annie, how progressive of you to have a multicultural evil twin.”
- “You be careful Annie, they are ruthless. What? Not Asians, women.”
- “Looks like someone woke up on the regular side of the bed.”
- “Don’t worry, she’ll be bad at it.”
- “Sneak attack, that’s just like them. Not women, Asians.”
- “Ready, set, peace!”
- “Georgia, the country, is much obliged.”
- “Earth-2 is out there, we can’t ignore it forever.”
- “CRISIS ALERT!”
- “Switzerland is very concerned about Earth-2”
- “I did more than make a mess, I turned your whole system inside out.”
- “You’re acting like a little schoolgirl, and not in a hot way. Okay, that made me sound creepy, but here’s the thing.”
- “Abed what did I tell you, you can’t just mumble nonsense, no one’s cutting away.” “OK here’s my actual plan…”
- “I got one of those see through yellow pens where you color over the words.”
- “You know what else was the best? The rain forest, too bad the fascist oligarchies are raping them to make hamburgers. Look it up!”
- “Maybe my path is a war path that leads to the terror dome N-Words! Okay, maybe I went too far, maybe I don’t want to offend my African American friends, but the larger point is maybe I’m not done raging against the machine!”
- “Yes, Somalia has 900 miles of coastline, a government that knows its place, and all the guns and wives you can afford to buy. Why have I not heard of this paradise before?”
- “Ohhh, China has money, does anybody want some?”
- “Is anybody seeing this, is the world seeing this, are we facebooking this?”
- “Gooder than grits!”
- “Get through it, it’s almost a solid.”
- “They can’t do this!” “The science works out.”