Love is a special sort of torture. And believe it or not, Community's trip to the nerdiest of all pursuits, The Inspector Spacetime convention, is the strongest foray into L-O-V-E in a long time.
Of course, it probably helps that Britta and Troy are sleeping together now, sending Troy and Abed into a relationship tailspin. Abed seems to be okay with the secret relationship at first, relishing in the fact that their refusal to tell him results in free morning donuts, but when Britta joins the duo as InspectorCon, the panic sets in. Part of that is due to the fact that Abed, in anticipation of Troy's probability of leaving him for Britta, contacts the world's greatest Inspector Spacetime fan, Toby (Matt Lucas of Little Britain and Bridesmaids fame). The problem is Toby is totally trying to steal Troy boyfran.
Toby's evil plan involves magically appearing tickets to a sold-out panel and a false sob story about losing his Constable Reggie (Troy's counterpart to Abed's Inspector) to a woman, who he calls a total Minerva (the name of the only female Inspector is synonymous with b**ch because she sucks, not because they're sexist, of course). But it doesn't take long for Abed to realize that something's not right, and it helps that Toby calls Abed's friends "neurotypicals" and literally says that he and Abed are above them. Abed's BS meter goes off a little too late and Toby traps him in a wannabe TARDIS is hopes that Stockholm Syndrome's onset is only a few hours. But that's when the magic happens.
Abed knows Troy will find him, because that's who Troy is to him. When Britta finally does her job as the best girlfriend ever, cheering Troy up and telling him that his "crazy girlfriend" act is totally justified (and buying him that weird Inspector Spacetime toy that "light up and plays music or something!") before sending him off to get his Abed back, the heartwarming begins. Troy scares off Toby with his ability to actually make a fist (Toby only knows how to slap-fight), and Abed is reunited with his human counterpart, which he's realized is necessary as he and his somewhat alien disposition try to navigate regular human culture. What's great about this trio and the way they all learn to appreciate the way in which their relationships can support the other is that it's, in a sense, a wonderful picture that we can all comprehend, whether we've got an Abed or a Britta or both. Romantic relationships and those of extreme friendship require balance, compromise, and understanding, and here, under the light shining on a poster of Thoraxis, we found that timeless lesson.
Of course, it wasn't just something we learned from Troy, Abed, and Britta (wow, it's strange to write Troy and Abed without the "and" in the middle). Jeff and Annie do a little friendship soul-searching too, though their interaction this week will have the shippers going nuts. When Jeff decides to leave because their ski resort is shut down and he doesn't do nerd stuff like the InspectorCon, Annie heads up to their hotel room alone, where the room service attendant assumes she's Jeff's wife and the power of imagination goes to her head. Before we know it, she's got an elaborate back story for both of them (even something to explain their separate hotel rooms). The problem is that Jeff is downstairs being hit on by super Inspector fan Lauren (Battlestar Galactica alum Tricia Helfer), who thinks he's Nigel, the guy who plays Inspector super villain Thoraxis. The hotel staff loves Annie so much, they spill the beans on her "husband's" infidelity and she winds up throwing a drink in his face and scaring away his hot nerd lady. Season 3 Jeff would have stormed off immediately, never to return, but new Jeff (NEW JEFF!) sees the truth: Annie is a young woman desperately seeking her friend's attention that he so callously denied her when his "cool" plans fell through.
He finds her, apologizes for ditching her and he even offers to buy her a drink: the dreaded, manhood diminishing appletini. Jeff begrudgingly orders it for his Zach-Efron-loving friend, which is the mark of true friendship. But there's enough hints of flirtation that those hoping Jeffannie will become a thing eventually just got some fuel for their fire.
Finally, Pierce and Shirley invite themselves along on the convention trip, even though the gang didn't invite them because they knew they wouldn't like it. They're immediately scooped up by a marketing team who knows they don't belong there and are ushered off to a hotel meeting room where they become the focus group for the American reboot of Inspector Spacetime. It's clear that this is an opportunity for Community to lament the tastes of mainstream America (the same tastes that kill their ratings despite being a smart, innovative comedy), as Pierce tells the market researchers that he wants simple, easy jokes and blondes with big breasts in his Inspector Spacetime. Shirley attempts to do the right thing and tell the marketers that the reason people like the original show is because it's smart and it doesn't talk down to its audience. Her words almost stick with the pencil pushers until Pierce has a genius idea: change Constable Reggie to a blonde with a Tennis racket! In the end, we find a CW/CBS-ified series starring Luke Perry and Jenni Garth as Abed's soul is slowly shattered into a million pieces. And while it's fun to get a little catharsis by making Pierce the face of whoever generates 15 million viewers for the Big Bang Theory while Community can barely crack 3 mill, it's the sad truth of the world of network television and no amount of on-point joking can change that.
Still, "Conventions of Space and Time" is the sort of episode that makes you giddy NBC is letting this little show continue. Wrapped up in the silliness of an Inspector Spacetime convention is an episode that truly understands the delicacy of human relationships, both those with other humans and those with television shows that arrest them so heartily. If this is the beginning of the end, and there is no Season 5, at least Community is going out on a note that speaks so heartily to its adoring fans.
Grading on a Curve
A+: Britta (yes, actually)
“Do they even have to talk? They could just touch tentacles and download.” +20 (solid burn, girl)
“You are not being crazy, that dude is trying to steal your boyfriend.” -Britta being the best girlfriend ever +300
“I’ve told you before (breathy whisper) I don’t care about Inspector Spacetime.” +20
Britta is the best girlfriend. Mean it. +1000
Total: 1340 points
A: Jeff (Yes, Actually)
“Jeff why is everyone staring at you?” -Britta “Because they’ve never see a man who’s had sex before?” -Jeff -30
Jeff’s move to “practice his American accent” for an audition. A reluctant +20
“Is that my actual hair? And if it is, did it fall out naturally? Because if it did, tell me right now because I have to call science.” -Jeff +30
“If we were married, you would not find me flirting with some woman in a hotel bar.” -Jeff to Annie after their faux-marriage debacle +100
Buys Annie the appletini, potentially wounding manhood. +50
Jeff stands on stage as Thoraxis. +100 nerd points
Rips his shirt open while doing it. -15 for vanity
Total: 255 points
“Are you sure it’s okay Britta is here because she can just wait in the car.” -Troy -20 (but still hilarious)
“It’s Troy. It’s the first word in Troy and Abed! Toby and Abed in the Morning? That’s ridiculous! I am not psycho!” -Troy +60 for Troy and Abed in the Morning reference and the fact that rage Troy is the best kind of Troy
Troy simply knows that Abed is in the phone booth. +100
“I always say if you love someone, set them free, if they don’t come back, they were never yours to begin with.” -Britta “That makes no sense. What if they get hit by a car or fall down a well? Remind me to never put you down as my emergency contact.” -Troy +75
Abed knows that Troy and Britta are sneaking around on him but he lets them keep up the charade to get free donuts. +10
Abed is so trusting that he buys the Nigerian cry for help email, but it actually turns out to be real. +50 (because, aww)
“Cadbury Cream Eggs are sold all year round there.” is a selling point for Abed -50 (ew)
“If I could Winger you for a second?” -Abed (as he squints his eyes slightly and makes his voice just slightly more gravelly) +15
Abed’s distress noise sounds like R2D2 +10
Abed's realization that regular humans are super important to his strange lifestyle. +100
Total: 125 points
Annie’s alter ego is as a world famous police detective. +50
“Mmm, tastes of... fog.” -Annie drinking scotch +15
Annie has a Charlie St Cloud poster in her bedroom. -15
Annie’s attention to detail: she takes bites out of both dishes to make sure it looks like there’s been a couple hanging out in the room. +30 crazy points
Total: 80 points
Shirley’s ominous comment, in reference to the ruined Inspector Spacetime spin-off: “Just remember, Abed. I did my best.” +50
Total: 50 points
D: Pierce (Doing better, buddy!)
“See, it’s funny because it’s clear.” -Pierce, helping to ruin Inspector Spacetime for America -100
Pierce lays face-down when the entire room obeys Jeff’s “Bow before Thoraxis” command +20
Luke Perry and Jenni Garth are the bimbo leads of America’s Inspector Spacetime (Pierce’s fault) -1000
Total: -1080 points
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
[Photo Credit: Vivian Zink/NBC]