S2:E12 We've come to expect a lot from Community, so it's not going to get a gold star every week. This is one of those weeks. This week's episode was solid (and to be honest I can't think of a time when an episode of Community wasn't), but my favorite aspect wasn't the plot or even the one-liners, which are always on-point, it's the element of incredible attention to detail. So many other sitcoms put in pieces here and there to add color or to get a quick laugh, but they rarely come back to those details and use them for plot or extended gags that arch over many episodes. When you watch Community, pay attention, because those little jokes at the end of a tag could come back as something important later. This episode is one of those cases.
"Pierce, if someone had sex with Chang and gets to not remember it, it's a gift from God." -Troy
Remember back in October, when Greendale went all flesh-eating zombie thanks to some top-secret government grade mystery meat? Remember how Shirley and Chang totally did it, but then everyone lost their memories? Remember the tag that episode? This episode takes that little vignette of Troy getting a voicemail from Chang about his Halloween tryst, and it was funny that time, but now it's the premise for an entire episode. That happened months ago. See what I mean about those details? None of them are useless.
The secret incident comes up when guest star Malcolm-Jamal Warner stops by as Shirley's ex. Her surprise pregnancy (which also came up months ago in the bottle episode thanks to Abed's creepy menstruation chart) is the reason for the reunion, but the voicemail on Troy's phone throws a wrench in the whole system. It could be a Chang baby. While this whole thing was a little soap opera-esque for me, it did afford an occasion for Jeff and Andre (Warner) to have a conversation about his Cosby sweater - "My dad gave it to me" - because if you have Theo Huxtable on your show, you can't ignore the Cosby element. Well done.
Of course once Pierce shatters Shirley's world (in all fairness, he totally warned her that he would) with the news about Chang, Andre decides to stay with Shirley and we enjoy one of those sweet Community moments. I'm all for sincerity when necessary, but I'm not going to lie - when Pierce ruined all the sweetness with his creepy yawn and grab on Britta, I was a little relieved that the sentimental part was over.
"Why are you using your 'I love butterflies' voice?" -Troy
Annie's got a new man, and they found a finger in a ditch. How romantical. That's another thing I love about this show; Annie's complete lack of connection to reality. They play up her young, innocent ignorance to hilarious levels, allowing her to go all googly-eyed over trudging through crap with Rich the 30-something year old banana doctor (also from the Halloween episode and the pottery episode last year).
The whole episode sets everything up like Jeff is jealous of Annie's new crush, leading him to try anything to keep Annie from inducting Rich into the study group. But in true Community fashion, it's not that simple. Time and again we see that jealousy flash across Jeff's face and those fans hoping for a romantic resolution felt their hearts flutter at the idea of Jeff and Annie's reunion. (Hey ladies, you know Jeff's like 30-something too, right?) Right up until the point Jeff reaches what should be Annie's apartment after running through the rain upon hearing the Rich turned her down, it seems that this episode is following the expected romantic arc, but when Jeff stands drenched in the apartment doorway something is amiss. Remember the first episode of the season, when we see Annie's room and there are piles of trash bags lying outside of her barred windows? Remember Troy's 21st birthday episode, when they drop her off in a bad neighborhood at her rundown apartment? Those details weren't arbitrary. When Jeff stands in a hallway with fancy sconces on the wall and a delightful shade of yellow paint everywhere, we know he didn't go running for love. He went running to learn the ways of the Jedi master of being perfect, "Doctor-do-no-wrong" Rich.
This plot also allowed for a double encounter in the men's room - another detail which though seemingly silly, occurred with purpose. I loved that when Britta barges in and talks to Jeff, his exit is immediately followed by her flashing one of the Greendale nerds for concert tickets. This is partly because this episode doesn't have enough "buzzkill" Britta and because it makes me happy when everything in an episode has a reason.
"Guilty as Chang'd." -Chang
When this whole gag started up during the cold open, I actually rolled my eyes. I was just about fed up with the former Spanish teacher, but somehow as it continued, I found myself chang'ing words in real life. Damn you, Ken Jeong. Of course the reason for all this is a twist I'm on board with: Chang finally joining the study group. We know this can't last, but it's nice to shake things up a bit.
Also of note, Jeff's lawyering is back in play. His little "with Chang what you see is what you get" speech was entertaining, but made hilarious with the help of Chang's emphatic interjections like the above quote. The dude's complete lack of self-awareness and pension for ridicule is almost admirable.
"Who is this kettle corn-popping phantom?" -Jeff
Okay, that quote isn't from the tag, but the tag was about kettle corn so let it go. Troy and Abed in The Morning is back and this means I will be singing that little jingle until next Thursday night. I just hope that Rich isn't going to become an incredibly permanent fixture on the show. The dynamic between he and Jeff worked on Halloween and it works here, but he's going to reach intolerable levels of obnoxiousness really soon even if he does make the best kettle corn ever.