S3E2: Whew. After last week’s lackluster episode – though I’ll admit it had its moments – I was worried we’d lost Community. However, this week, it tapped back into the things it’s good at. Granted there was little shock or surprise, and that may be because we just know the characters too well at this point, but it was an entertaining, funny, biting episode and that’s all we’re really asking for.
“An Asian Annie? Only in Obama’s America…” -Pierce
We start with the much teased premise that there’s a new Annie in town: Asian Annie (or Annie Kim as regular people prefer to call her). At first, Annie befriends her little copycat after she shows up our Annie in Professor Cligoris’ (Martin Starr) Political Science class. The study group is naturally worried that the obvious tension and competition between Annie and Annie Kim will turn our Annie back in to Little Annie Adderol, as she was known in high school.
Things only get worse when Annie mentions wanting to start a Model UN and Annie Kim beats her to it. The mental breakdown she starts having is the perfect kind of freak-out for Annie’s character. There are few things better than Alison Brie flipping her lid – like the loss of articulate language or the incessant squeaking of her straw. I especially liked the way Troy removed the squeaky lid without her ceasing her straw motion or even noticing. It’s the little things that really make this show.
Anyway, Jeff, who’s awfully protective this episode, marches into the model UN with Annie in tow so he can demand the club back for her. This turns into a bickering match which Professor Cligoris solves by mandating a Model UN battle royale to determine who gets to be the club president.
“Ready, Set, Peace. [gunshot]” –Professor Cligoris
When the competition gets underway, we endure Garrett’s shrill, overly-used voice as the teams work their way to a tie. I must pause momentarily to applaud Troy (Donald Glover) – as I am generally bound to do – for his hilarious commitment to the joke that while Troy clearly studied up on the politics and culture of the country Georgia, he’s still convinced they all talk like they’re from Savannah. Hilarious.
When they’re just about to win, someone on the team farts and everyone loses focus. I get why this happened – it’s just one of many immature elements in the episode meant to undermine Annie’s blooming maturity and the adult nature of what the UN should stand for – but it was just a bit much. Eventually, they are losing so badly that Annie has a mini-mental breakdown and does what she does best: writhe and scream like a tormented girl in need of an exorcism. When Jeff tells her to stop because she’s acting like a schoolgirl “and not in a sexy way” their relationship is ripe for the picking. He follows her and gives her a talk that is supposed to be about Annie Kim but descends into a discussion of his feelings for her and his tendency to father her. He says she’s mature and it’s time for that to stop; they almost kiss but agree it’s too creepy. Are they really doing away with the Annie/Jeff story? What will the folks on Tumblr do?!
They go back to the battle royale and end up winning by extending the olive branch to the other team. Annie Kim logically turns it down in order to take an actual victory, but as Professor Cligoris so astutely points out, it goes against the UN’s focus on symbols, high-minded rhetoric, and empty gestures (ha!) and so Annie’s team wins. Doesn’t that just give you the warm and fuzzies about our political world? Side note: Starr was good as usual, but I almost wish they gave him a little more to work with because he has the ability to be great. But maybe he just needs his own TV show.
“I haven’t been tear-gassed in so long.” –Britta
It’s really rather unfortunate that this episode aired this week. This C plot deals with Britta’s desire to continue protesting -- after she sees one of her former hippie friends is imprisoned in Syria -- and how her bad streak supports Chang’s desire for some real action on the security guard force. The issue here is that while the truly funny thing about this plot is the dysfunctional pseudo-romantical relationship the pair forge as they feed each other’s needs, it is completely overshadowed by the fact that we witness the recent violence in New York during a large-scale protest. Unfortunately, this seems to put this whole plot into the bad taste basket.
While we watch Britta stage meaningless protests and Chang show mild force towards her so she can react in a grandiose way and later post it to Facebook, we should be laughing at the characters’ ridiculousness, but instead all I can do is compare it to the New York protests. Damn timing.
Even so, it’s saved at the end of the episode, when Britta enters the Model UN dressed in body suit inexplicably covered in Barbies and as “Hello” by Lionel Richie plays, Chang tasers her and then carries her off like some twisted re-imagining of the last scene in An Officer and a Gentleman. It went to an absurd enough place that I think most of us were able to shake off current events long enough to have a laugh at Chang and Britta’s similar level of insanity.
While I liked this episode, I worry that Community is beginning to run out of steam. It’s still incredibly smart and it’s still funny, but it’s lacking the punchy spark of the last two seasons. Maybe they’re trying for a different feel this season and I’ll soon be eating my words when they ramp up to something amazing, but until then I’ll reserve my “huzzah.”