McHale is the king of snark, which made him the perfect choice for prickly, self-obsessed Jeff Winger. But here's the surprise: As Jeff continued to…

There are off nights, and then there is last night’s episode of Community. After being spoiled by two consecutive weeks of dynamite comedy, I sat there wondering whether I was watching the same show. Yesterday’s episode was the equivalent of a bologna sandwich that had been left outside in the scorching sun for two-and-a-half weeks and then still deemed suitable to consume. Even Homer Simpson would have turned it down. I have no doubt that Community will rebound from this, and that last night’s show, “Home Economics,” will be remembered as merely a peculiar gaffe in an otherwise consistently engaging series. But what a gaffe it was!

Practically nothing worked here. I never believed that Jeff would suddenly devolve into a living-in-his-car slob — he’s way too self-conscious for that, not to mention too clever to not figure out an alternative solution. Also, I was dismayed by the return of Vaughn (Eric Christian Olsen), a character who wore out his welcome the first time we met him four weeks ago. Speaking of which, NBC seems to have been airing some episodes out of order. There have been minor continuity issues before (particularly in regard to Jeff and Britta’s friendship status), but it was especially strange to reintroduce Vaughn an entire month after his breakup with Britta, and to make us believe that Britta would still be interested in that tiny-nippled hippie.

Other problems: Annie’s devotion to Troy — to the point of helping him prepare for a date with another girl — never resulted in any laughs. The story line really veered off course when Annie faked having appendicitis to keep Troy by her side. I was momentarily cheered up by the appearance of Patton Oswalt as a school nurse, but even he couldn’t save the awkward scene in which Annie pretended to scream in pain and Troy repeatedly tried to dart for the door. And then there were Vaughn’s reggae songs about Britta and Pierce, the former song a bore and the latter an embarrassing descent into third-grade humor: “Stupid and ugly, he smell like a fart / The poo-poo in his pants, and poo-poo in my heart.” At least we could rely on Abed and Troy’s weekly credits gag, right? Nope, the two buddies were nowhere to be found. Instead, we were left with yet another song featuring lyrics about digested waste.

Despite all that, “Home Economics” had a sprinkling of memorable jokes, so let’s end on a positive note by accentuating five moments that did work:

1. The sight of Pierce rocking a keyboard during band practice was a splendid reminder of Chevy Chase’s comedic gifts. Pierce made all sorts of amusingly contorted faces while banging on the keys, but he saved the best for last: As Pierce launched into an extremely high note, he tilted his head back and (silently) screamed into the sky. For one brief second, Pierce was on top of the world, and you couldn’t help but feel glad for the guy.

2. Britta was encouraging Jeff to forget about his condo. “You need to move on with your life,” she said. Jeff’s response: “Yeah, move on with my life. Shmoo shmon shmiff mife mife!” It was pure gibberish, but it caught me off guard and resulted in a rare chuckle.

3. Abed: “Sometimes I like to pour hot cocoa mix into cold milk and drink it like a cold hot chocolate. I call it Special Drink.”

Jeff: “And someday, you will know it by its true name: diabetes.”

4. Abed informed Jeff that television was a sort of father figure during his childhood, and Jeff agreed with that assessment: “TV is the best dad there is. TV never came home drunk. TV never forgot me at the zoo. TV never abused and insulted me, unless you count Cop Rock.”

5. Britta was impressed by Jeff’s new dorm lifestyle. “You guys are really dorming it up in here,” she observed. “Yeah. In the last two days, I’ve spent a quarter,” Jeff replied. Ah, to be back in college, when you could get by on a diet consisting of Pop-Tarts, Ramen noodles, and video games.

So, PopWatchers, what were your impressions of last night’s episode? Are you guys hoping that Annie and Troy will eventually get together? Or would that be a bad idea?

Episode Recaps

McHale is the king of snark, which made him the perfect choice for prickly, self-obsessed Jeff Winger. But here's the surprise: As Jeff continued to…
Joel McHale and Alison Brie star in this comedy about a community college study group that turns into a surrogate family.
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