I’m going to be frank. Thus far, a lot of Community’s second season has been garbage. “Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples” might have been one of the worst half hours of comedy through which I have ever willed myself to sit. “Epidemiology” and “Anthropology 101” weren’t much better. Part of the problem was the overuse of meta gags and reference humour, but perhaps the larger part was inscrutable character motivations. I just didn’t get why Annie wanted to transfer in “Basic Rocket Science,” for example. Even worse was Jeff’s 180 on Pierce’s religion in “The Psychology of Letting Go.”*

So what do you do when you’ve focused too much on parodies and outlandish jokes to the detriment of the characters (while wasting a good portion of your budget on a crappy zombie movie spoof)? As Abed so insightfully tells us, you do a bottle episode! It gives a chance for the show to refocus on its characters. Sure, the conceit that everyone would go bananas** over the theft of Annie’s pen was ludicrous, but it allowed the show to give us an episode that examined our favourite study group in our favourite study room.

So what did I love about this episode? Britta’s speech about civil liberty. Pierce’s state-of-the-art wheelchair. Troy’s continued obsession with butt stuff. Abed’s “sarcastic” rant. Everyone stripping down to their undies behind the tables. Abed’s menstrual chart. Troy’s ghost story. And much, much more.*** The jokes were working this week, and I found myself laughing at Community for the first time in weeks.

“Cooperative Calligraphy” also gave us some insight into the characters. We know that Abed has weird coping mechanisms for his inability to deal with people normally, but we also know that he tries because he cares. As such, his menstrual cycle chart for the female members of the group didn’t come across as creepy, but rather sweet in a weird way. We also saw Britta and Shirley arguing about their respective viewpoints and hypocrisies. Their differing opinions on religion have normally not been explored with great depth, but here we saw just what they thought of each other’s attitudes.

I was going to say that I had a major complaint about this episode: promising the viewers a puppy parade without actually showing one. But then, we got the parade in the end tag…and it was hilarious! I love Dean Pelton.

Overall, a great return to form for Community. (I might have said that last week, but I really mean it this time.) Keep up the good work, Harmon & Co.

 

* I don’t want to get into a lengthy and ultimately pointless discussion of plot versus character. Such discussions usually don’t address the notion that a character’s actions can fit his or her established personality, but may not be congruent with the character’s development. Furthermore, these discussions sometimes degrade into calling any undesirable or surprising action “out-of-character.”

** In light of the revelation of the pen thief’s identity, I’d just like to say that no pun was intended.

*** Although it was a pretty cheap joke, I had a good chuckle at Pierce’s “three legs?”

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