Return to Greendale at last! Trobed purge their weirdness in an elaborate metaphor for Community itself

By Christian Blauvelt
March 16, 2012 at 06:35 AM EDT
Lewis Jacobs/NBC
S3 E11
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It’s baaaaaaack!

After an interminable three-month hiatus, NBC finally un-Britta’d their Thursday-night lineup and gave us back our beloved Community. Finally, I can stop gasping “Ugh! Ugh! Ugh! Ugh! Ugh!” like the outraged characters in the movies Annie likes.

For me, being able to return to Greendale Community College felt as triumphant as Pierce standing over his father’s grave and shouting, “Look at me now, Dad! Look at me now!” I mean, it really felt like the fans’ #SixSeasonsAndaMovie campaign paid off, though personally I’d prefer to hold off for #TwelveSeasonsAndaThemePark. Pierce’s outburst was such a perfect expression of victory for all of us who love Community that honestly I’m surprised he didn’t just launch into an impromptu version of Chris Brown’s “Look at Me Now” on the spot. Well, I will not let such an opportunity go by. For some reason Community brings out the lyricist in me, so, by way of that venerable wordsmith Lil Wayne and, let’s face it, Karmin, here’s all that happened in “Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts.”

Britta model chick,

Jeff bottle sippin’,

Shirley makes paninis,

Annie’s top missin’.

Yup yup, Community’s got a new chance,

This show gives the laughs of ten years in two eps.

Trobed’s de-weirded,

Inspector Spacetime.

If you get their con-cepts,

Why would you whine?

Shirley’s love? It waxes on and off.

Mrs. Miyagi.

And her sexy voice sounds…like Miss Piggy.

Look at Pierce now, look at Pierce now, oh-oh.

He’s gettin’ papered!

Look at Pierce now, oh-oh, look at Pierce now. Yeah, yeah.

Trouser. Bench. Huh? What?!

Needless to say, that is not the kind of song you’d have been able to buy at Greendale’s now-defunct coffee-shop along with your cappuccinos and Sarah McLachlan CDs. However, it may very well be the kind of song Pierce, looking like a wealthy murderer (or entrepreneur, depending upon your point of view), listens to while killing his victims. Or maybe, like Patrick Bateman, he just listens to Huey Lewis.

NEXT: Shirley gets a proposal…and a proposition.

Before Pierce attained his ephemeral triumph he was trying to figure out his next step. Hawthorne Industries needed to expand by investing in new products. Somehow, I don’t think there was ever much of a future in this security camera he was particular excited about. It scanned whitebread Annie and Britta and announced, “Your guests have arrived.” But for Middle Eastern-derived Abed? “Threat Level 4!” And Shirley and Andre? “Shall I notify authorities?” Instead, Britta suggested that Pierce invest his money in Shirley—no, not that kind of offer!—and help her launch a new sandwich shop for the Greendale cafeteria. Now that was a sound idea!

But before Pierce could come up with a marketable concept, in swept Shirley’s ex-husband Andre like a quick-footed tornado of ‘90s neo-soul. Boyz II Men must have gotten a lot of play at their house. With three gleefully anonymous backup dancers in tow, he announced via open mic that he adored Shirley from the moment he first saw her in Hammer pants. (Line of the Night #7, Courtesy of Andre: “Baby girl, I’ve loved you ever since there was a Soviet Union and only one Damon Wayans.”) All the while, his backup trio was still harmonizing and soft-shoeing behind him. A shame Mr. Rad was hauled off to prison, because these three dudes—and Andre—would make the perfect nucleus of a new glee club. How could Shirley resist this new style of cafeteria-meets-bedroom jam? She couldn’t, so she said yes, to the delight of Troy and Abed, who realized that there had been a whole generation of fans who had never seen their original marriage. (Line of the Night #6, Courtesy of Troy: “Let’s hope it’s more of a Bale than Kilmer situation.” Also, make that more Picard than Archer. And more Moore than Lazenby.)

However, Shirley’s impending re-marriage offered some challenges to the rest of the study group. Jeff opposed the whole institution of marriage due to his deep-rooted, Edward Abbey-style individualism. (Line of the Night # 5, Courtesy of Jeff Winger: “It’s a mutual cop-out. Just nut up and die alone.”) Britta opposed it on militant feminist grounds, likening a wedding to a little girls tea party in which “the women are the stuffed animals, the men are making them talk, and they aren’t drinking tea. They’re drinking antiquated gender roles.” (Line of the Night #4, Courtesy of Britta: “I know what an analogy is. It’s like a thought with another thought’s hat on it.”) This would also lead to her exploring some unresolved teacher-student boundary issues from 9th grade English class.

Another facet of Annie’s borderline obsessive-compulsive disorder—this time, wedding planning–would be indulged. Pierce would have to invest in a different product, the highly dangerous trouser bench.Troy and Abed would have to purge themselves of all their weirdness via a 24-hour weirdathon in their Dreamatorium, so as to appear normal for the ceremony. And Shirley would have to plan a Greendale-set wedding since her very strict church has certain policies against “second weddings, tight jeans…calico cats.”

NEXT: Pierce delves deep into the Pam Grier oeuvre to market Shirley’s Sandwiches.

The trouser bench was a no-go, if the presence of all the ambulances in Greendale wasn’t an indication. So it was back to the sandwich shop idea and Pierce had one last chance to convince Shirley to come aboard. His pitch? A modern, urban, hungry black woman wearing a pink halter top, hot pants, stilettos, and lots of rouge, who was reclining on a croissant. Shirley’s Sandwiches! Make that half-urban, half-suburban. And she definitely wasn’t a stereotype: after all, her father was a record producer and her mother was a Shirelle. Honestly, I’m surprised Pierce just didn’t go the full blaxploitation angle with a name like, say, Coffy’s Coffee. Shirley announced that she would rather be with her man, while Pierce would clearly rather be with “Halle Berry circa 1999.” (I beg to differ. That’s clearly more Flintstones-era Halle.) So Pierce had to level with her. He’d been fired by the board of Hawthorne Industries, and he needed to find his purpose in life again. Shirley’s Sandwiches might just be that purpose!

Meanwhile, Britta had definitely found her purpose. Maybe she didn’t know the difference between seaglass and cerulean, but she sure was good at flower arranging. Yes, despite being at the advance guard of post-post-feminism, Britta found she had a disturbing knack for domesticity. And Troy and Abed found they had a disturbing knack for being normal. They emerged from their Dreamatorium with Troy wearing Daddy Hawthorne’s ivory hairpiece and Abed donning Kickpuncher’s mask. This is how they choose to spend their time in their prototype holodeck? That’s like CNN using their nascent holographic technology to recreate the interior of the Tampa Convention Center.

NEXT: Jeff has to look inside a place he hasn’t seen in untold years…his heart.

Jeff had to ask Annie for advice on how to write a good speech for Shirley’s wedding. His disbelief that such a thing as connubial bliss was even possible was giving him some serious writer’s block. So Annie, being sentimental and all, should have been able to help, right? Well, she basically just said that Jeff had to do something he hadn’t done in a long time: look in his heart. But when Jeff did in fact look in his heart, he saw only a few things: playing cards, a tumbler of Mr. Walker’s amber restorative, a columned-house with a three-car garage, a sportscar, a BlackBerry, a Golden Retriever, Alicia Witt, Annie, and Annie’s boobs. (No, not the monkey.)

While the wedding rehearsal was set to begin, Shirley and Pierce made their pitch to the Dean. Their presentation included that most effective of sales techniques: a cartoon rendering of their potential investor carrying bags of money.

Troy and Abed arrived at the rehearsal wearing gray three-piece suits that seemed straight out of their very handy 1940s party-planning guide. The very definition of normalcy, right? And remember, it’s not good decorum to discuss the Negro Problem.

Britta was in the midst of a full-scale, alcohol-fueled breakdown. Her talent for flower arranging and wedding planning meant she was doomed to be one of the “Steppenwolf Wives.” Though Oscar-winner Jim Rash would probably have preferred it if Britta had made reference to the Groundlings, while she’s namechecking improv troupes. “I’m going to make some guy very happy someday,” she said as she straightened Abed’s tie, which the new man’s man seemed to like since we know from his fantasy in “Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps” that he has a crush on Britta. It’s a sad and profound moment in a young person’s life when you realize you’re not nearly as transgressive as you once thought you were, or in Britta’s case that she came “from a long line of wives and mothers.” (Line of the Night #3, Courtesy of Britta: “I refused to give Santa a Christmas List because I didn’t want to depend on a man for anything.”)

NEXT: Needless to say, Jim Belushi will not be guest-starring on Community anytime soon.

Jeff was having a breakdown of his own trying to write that damn (sorry, Shirley’s minister!) speech. He opened with a “Webster’s Dictionary defines…” line, the last resort of a frustrated writer. (Line of the Night #2, Courtesy of Annie: “’Webster’s Dictionary defines’? That’s the Jim Belushi of speech openings. It accomplishes nothing, but everyone keeps using it and nobody knows why.”)

Andre was also getting frustrated. Where was his bride? When she finally showed up two hours late on account of her wheeling and dealing, he wasn’t a happy groom. He told Shirley he couldn’t play Mr. Mom any longer but needed to get back to building that stereo business. Even the strategic application of her “sexy voice” couldn’t sway him…so she turned her back and walked away. Somehow I don’t think Abed’s comment that “these shrimp are to die for” was any consolation to poor Andre.

At that moment, Jeff and Britta’s boozy, Edward Albee-style meltdown reached critical mass. Jeff announced to the crowd that he had found nothing nice to say and that he realized marriage was a sham the moment his mom left his dad. And Britta said she was going to be a wife and mother, and that’s all she’d ever be good for. (Line of the Night #1, Courtesy of Abed: “It’s almost too conceptual to follow. But I love it!” Doesn’t that describe Community as well?)

Somehow these 80-proof fireworks brought Andre and Shirley back together. Shirley asked Andre if he’d accept that 10 years is a little long to get a business off the ground, that iPods aren’t going away, and that maybe somebody else should take the financial lead. Andre’s answer? “I do.” Well, they basically married themselves, so the minister said that if they agreed to it, he could pronounce them man and wife now and save them seventy bucks. They agreed!

Which meant it was Lindbergh Lean time! Hard to believe a man who’s been dead forty years, whose greatest achievement occurred 80 years ago, could still be inspiring dances. But if you ask me, the Lindbergh Lean is way better than the Lindy Hop. It’s like a Jitterbug that’s also a line dance, with beyond-odd, high-stepping, twirling paces. If this doesn’t sweep the nation and become 2012’s “Macarena” I will finally lose faith in American culture.

The time had come for Trobed to be weird again. How did Troy know this? Because he saw Annie’s Boobs pop out of an air vent. (Yes, the monkey. Not a nip slip.) He turned to Abed, cutting a rug with an unnamed blonde, and tried to launch into their Inspector Spacetime routine. Abed said this was hardly the time, he had to get back to his Lindbergh Lean with What’s Her Name. (Danielle!) “Or is it hardly…the space?” Constable Reggie Reborn asked. Quite frankly, what kind of being would do a dance called the Lindbergh Lean? Blorgons! And now they can take human form! Give the Inspector his photonic bowler hat and let them begin their Blorgon patrol. Trobed was weird again!

Wasn’t this just the perfect metaphor for Community? Sure, it could try to appeal to more viewers by purging its weirdness…but then it wouldn’t be Community, so what’s the point?

Alas, Shirley’s deal with Dean Pelton fell through, as the Greendale Board of Trustees decided to award the bid to Subway, the sandwich shop, instead. Pierce would invariably be devastated. Even more so than when Adam Sandler stole his idea for Jack & Jill. But at least he’d have one last moment of triumph: metaphorically dancing on his father’s grave.

Doesn’t all feel right with the world now that Community’s back on the air?

Check out Ken Tucker’s take: ‘Community’ review: Purging weirdness while being weird

Episode Recaps

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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