This post contains spoilers through the April 12 episode of Community.
There’s something sort of fitting that as Dan Harmon and Chevy Chase’s feud becomes the thing that keeps Community in the news in a way it never was before, the show gave Chase some of the sweetest scenes he’s ever gotten. This was a decidedly minor episode of Community, one without a major schtick or even really a signature joke. But it was a reminder that Community, in addition to being a wildly inventive experiment, can also function as an entirely solid conventional sitcom.
To take the Pierce story first, even though it was the C plot, I thought this episode did a nice job of teasing out that Pierce is essentially responsible for his own isolation, and that he’s aware of that and regrets it. “How come I’m not best friends with everyone in the group?” he asks mournfully, then snaps “Don’t patronize me,” when Annie and Shirley coo sympathetically. Then, when he muffs his moment of bonding with Shirley, we see him regret it, sighing “I was one of the gang. It was in my hand.” So, as he has before, Pierce goes outside the group, wooing Chang with blue stuffed ponies, cotton candy, and the kind of mild deafness that means he overlooks Chang’s suggestion that they play Russian Roulette. But at the end, even Chang leaves him, and Pierce is left holding the stuffed pony, wondering why he’s alone. Pierce is with the group because they’ll the people who have him, and to a certain extent, maybe that’s where Chase is with Community: like it or not, it’s the show that would have him, and while it can be tough on him, it’s given him more meaningful material than many comparable shows would.
In the main story, Annie, Troy, and Abed team up to keep Britta from going back to Blade, her carnie boyfriend who is “named after a kickboxing vampire movie”—or as Troy puts it, accurately, “a fantastic kickboxing vampire movie.” It’s been a while since Community’s done much with the fact that Annie is a recovering addict, and it’s very funny to listen to her hear Britta explain that “Left unattended, I will end up doing him like a crossword,” and beg Annie to “Handcuff me to the radiator like a motherflipping carnie-banging werewolf,” and take up the challenge, using her experience to help her friend. Her Lying Junkie Banana was a fantastic lo-fi joke.
And I’m glad to see the show keeping alive Dean Laybourne’s attempts to get Troy to join the air conditioning repair school, or what Dean Pelton calls “a wonderful opportunity for a young man of an urban race.” Laybourne’s decision to put the task on Pelton was very funny. “Natalie, could you get me a book on how to do things?” Dean Pelton asked. “Nevermind. Make me a scotch and soda.” “Do it yourself!” she snapped, only to be left by his wail of “I don’t know how!” And I love that the solution he came up with was crashing Troy and Abed’s Blade-viewing party in his pajamas. At the end of the day, he’s even more of an outsider than Pierce is. “Hi Dean! Why are you here?” Britta says on emerging from Annie’s bedroom. “Hi Britta!” the Dean says back to her. “And ouch!”