Season 3 begins with Jeff and Pierce drama and the dean facing off against a new nemesis—hello, John Goodman!

By Christian Blauvelt
Updated September 23, 2011 at 09:01 AM EDT
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It was only a matter of time.

That’s right, season 3 of Community kicked off last night with the inevitable parody of that other campus-set series about students who never actually seem to do any studying: Glee. But though it was a sequined, disco-ball-lit musical number with balletic lifts and jazz hands galore — and Shirley and the dean donning what must be leftover, ’70s-soul-diva get-ups from Sister Act — the opener was really all Greendale with only a smidgen of Lima. “We’re going to have more fun and be less weird than the first two years combined,” seemed like tongue-in-cheek acknowledgment of criticism that Community can be hyperbolically cartoonish (remember the Kentucky Fried Chicken Eleven Herbs and Space Simulator?). But, hey, at least Abed didn’t start singing “La Jazz Hot.”

In non-singing-and-dancing reality, summer was over. But it didn’t leave without bringing about a few changes. Dean Pelton put on a suit and basically declared there would be no more Mr. Nice Dean after his school was virtually drowned in Day-Glo during last year’s paintball tournament. He also grew a goatee, so we knew he really meant business. Starburns embellished his wardrobe with a lizard. Abed and Troy finally decided to move in together — even registering at Linens & Things to make it official.

And an evolved Pierce had an “enlightful” experience at the LaserLotusCelebrityCenter. When he gently put his hand on the study group’s table and declared that he could “accept that this table has a kind of magic in it,” he seemed like he was following the absurdly sunny path marked by A Serious Man’s Rabbi Scott. I half thought he was going to turn and say, “Just look at that parking lot!” Unmoved, Jeff still didn’t let Pierce rejoin the group, even though the grizzled billionaire single-handedly saved Greendale’s hide when he won the paintball tournament. In fact, Jeff was so adamant that he all but said he’d rather break up the group entirely than have Pierce still involved.

Still, I suppose nobody had it worse than Chang, now reduced to living in the air vents. At least, nobody had it worse than Chang until Abed discovered that the new season of his beloved Cougar Town would be pushed back ’til midseason. I loved that Obi-Wan Kenobi-style Krayt Dragon call Abed let out to express his anguish over not being able to see Courteney Cox & Co. until January.

NEXT: Evil deans and evil deeds

Anyway, the new school year offered up some challenges for the dean and the study group — in the form of new enemies, of course. Jeff ran up against the stern ex-con biology prof (Michael Kenneth Williams, a.k.a. The Wire’s Omar Little) who seems to have a fair, but to Jeff, Draconian, anti-cell phone policy. Jeff got the boot, leaving open a spot in the biology class for one Mr. Pierce Hawthorne, meaning that technically he could be a part of the study group, but, by his own rules, Jeff would have to leave. That meant he missed out on a round-up of movies with titles that could be poop-related and was never able to submit his suggestion: Operation Dumbo Drop.

Jeff hit bottom when he hallucinated/reenacted two iconic Kubrick scenes: First, he passed “Beyond the Infinite” à la 2001: A Space Odyssey and saw Pierce lying in bed pointing at the iconic, ape-enlightening monolith; then, driven to believe the study table was indeed magic, he came busting in with an ax, à la Jack Torrance, to destroy it. At the height of his mania, Pierce covered for him and lied, saying that he’d bribed the biology prof to get a spot in the class.

Meanwhile, John Goodman’s Vice Dean Laybourne, head of the syndicate-like Air Conditioning Repair Annex, defied Dean Pelton’s request to invoice expenses…like a new espresso maker. This was John Goodman in his Coen-esque mode, which is to say totally insane like Mad Man Mundt or Walter Sobchak. He understood Dean Pelton’s new gravitas owed itself to his goatee, so he had his minions hold him down and shave it off, as if Pelton were Academia’s Samson and would lose his fortitude with his follicles. Well, I guess he did.

On that note, we come to the Top Seven Lines of the Night (and not lines like the kind Starburns deals). Why seven you ask? One for each member of the study group, of course. And they are:

7. “You could have lived the rest of your life in blissful ignorance and died a happy pansexual imp.” Vice Dean Laybourne (John Goodman) to Dean Pelton

6. Starburns: “Do you have any interest in the person underneath [his namesake Starburns and Lizard]?” Shirley: “No.”

5. “You look like a white Lou Gossett Jr.”—Vice Dean Laybourne’s opinion of Dean Pelton’s goatee

4. “Hey dude, Sean Penn called. He said to dial it back.”— Jeff to his overly serious new biology prof (Michael Kenneth Williams)

3. “The Air Conditioning Repair School Annex seems to think it’s separate from Greendale. But it’s an annex. It’s an appendage on a body with a head. And this head is saying to this appendage, “Wassup?” —Dean Pelton

2. “If you want to get us a gift, we’ve registered at Linens & Things. We have plenty of linens. We mainly want the things.” —Abed

1.The Remains of the Day.” —Troy’s pick for a movie with a title that sounds like a euphemism for poop

What did you think of the premiere? Does it bode well for season 3? What will it take to make Jeff and Pierce friends? Will Chang be able to halt his downward slide? And most importantly, would you watch Cougarton Abbey? Do you think Cougar Town will also end with its characters drinking hemlock?

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Community

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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