The combination of another round of great guest stars (Alison Brie, Vince Gilligan, Spencer Crittenden, Paul Willams and Gina Gershon), Abed & Annie being overly competitive over Pile of Bullets, a VCR board game and the rest of the group involved in attempting to sell a stash of
drugs textbooks they found while organizing the storage room, made for a very solid episode filled with a few outrageous moments as well as some very sweet sentimental moments of growth for Abed.
First things first. That Dean, that glorious rapping Dean. If you were to ask anyone what their favorite moment from this week’s episode was, I feel you would be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t love the Dean’s rap. Jim Rash delivered not only one of the funniest moments of the episode and probably season, but a top moment from the series as well. The Dean’s descent from happy go lucky Dean, to angry, aggressive rapper stating, “And Barack Obama is scared of me! Cause I don’t swallow knowledge and I spit it for free!” emotionally crumble and admit, “I don’t know what that was…” was nothing short of masterful.
The episode started out on such a high note, you almost knew nothing else would or could compare to the Dean’s rap but it still delivered some solid laughs and did a great job juggling the new group dynamics while playing with some new(er) characters in Rachel, Abed’s new girlfriend and Annie’s deadpan brother, Anthony. Spencer, who some may know from the ‘Harmontown’ podcast, did a wonderful job delivering his lines with the perfect amount of dryness that made him a believable as a character, brother of Annie’s and somewhat similar but opposite counterpart to Abed.
Abed and Annie being directly competitive with one another regarding who would move in, felt like a nice fresh feud that we don’t get to see to often. Their scene together during their “side-bar” was quite delightful, as we got to see how stubborn and logically illogical they both are, as well as a glimpse Abed’s and Annie’s work-in-progress handshake, and learned that rock-paper-scissors is just a “nine sided die.” Their competitive nature evolved into playing Pile of Bullets, a convoluted VCR board game, (featuring a more than pleasantly surprising cameo from Vince Gilligan) the involved yelling “BANG!” spinning around, betting bullets and collecting tokens. Abed and Annie’s conflict was wonderfully built up to it’s boiling point only to reveal that the root of the problem was the individual insecurities of Annie and Abed. The reveal that Annie’s personal problems stemmed from her mom turning her back on her when she went to rehab and the confession that she was still somewhat peeved at her brother for siding with her, was a wonderful, humanistic turn. It reminded the audience, that as ridiculous as these characters are sometimes, they still feel things and their acting out is a result of deeper seeded problems that are very grounded in the real world. Abed’s insecurities stemmed from the “vacuum” in the apartment as a result of Troy’s departure and Abed’s overall insecurity of being left behind and alone. Troy’s absence felt very important to address as he was such an instrumental part of the show, but perhaps more notably part of Abed’s life. Typically when an important person in someone’s life is no longer there, one can’t just address it once and move on, there’s a process to it. It was extremely refreshing and quite important that Harmon and crew recognized and addressed the idea of the process of moving on because it helps to bring a more natural flow to the evolution of characters, particularly Abed. Aside from that though, it allows the fans of the show to have small moments of grieving and helps with the process of letting go of a character that was loved so dearly.
The other story that was occurring during Community involved Jeff, Hickey, Shirley, Chang, and a stack of new Chemistry books. The whole storyline paralleled such movies as A Simple Plan, with Jeff Hickey and Shirley slowly turning on each other as a result of discovering a stash of new textbooks in a vent and essentially treating them as a drug stash they needed to move and sell. It was a bit lacking on the sentimental side and didn’t seem to reveal any deeper layers that we hadn’t seen before, but overall it was quite amusing and fun. From Shirley quickly going from Christian woman to tough loving, control hungry boss over Jeff and Hickey, to Britta testing the product and working as a middle man to sell the books to “people who know people,” was done with a playful spirit that kept you smiling. Chang even made a quick appearance to remind you how wonderful a performer he can be, as well as how psychotic and emotionally unstable Chang is.
My favorite moment from the episode, apart from the rap of course, had to be Abed’s “third act apology” to Rachel. He delivered such a wonderfully adorable, serious and heartfelt apology that showed such growth and proved that Abed is trying to move on from Troy and accept change into his life . The fact that he did the “boyfriend in the rain” bit as Pavel poured water over his head just made me smile from ear to ear. What made it even better was the fact that Abed didn’t let the bit do the apology for him by stating, “just because it’s adorable, doesn’t mean it’s not important,” as he goes on to explain how his concerns about the relationship and losing Rachel. This just showed me how much Abed has grown from Season 1, as subtly as growth is shown on Community at times.
There were no real slow points in the episode, though I would argue the Abed & Annie’s storyline was both more humorous and rewarding as we saw deeper layers and some sparks of growth in both. The textbook storyline was still quite enjoyable and served to deliver up some great moments and laughs, it just didn’t have the emotional impact that Abed & Annie brought this week. But perhaps a balance is needed between playful and emotional as to not get bogged down or focus on one aspect too much. It wasn’t a top 10 episode and probably won’t go down as a fan favorite (except for the Dean’s rapping skills), but it was still a very good episode that should be commended for the the spectacular use of cameos, and character growth.
OVERALL GRADE: A-
(photo credit: NBC via hitfix.com)