Community recap: John Hodgman and the expelled Greendale Seven
Huzzah, Community fans! Our beloved show has been saved! Yes, word broke yesterday evening that NBC has picked up Community for a fourth season of 13 episodes. I’ve pretty much worn a hole in my carpet from the Lindbergh Lean I’ve danced to celebrate.
However, in Greendale proper, things were not as rosy. Rape was up 8%. General Chang still secretly controlled the school with his Puppet Dean, Fake Moby. And our study group had now lived two months in the cruel exile known as expulsion.
But as this show tells us every week, there’s comfort to be found even in the midst of the cruelest adversity. Comfort to be found in…community. And so the Greendale Seven still convened for potluck dinners. Troy really wanted to make his own food: bagel bites in a deconstructed hot pocket reduction with a Doritos glaze. Not quite the thing for hungover Britta, who had turned to Demon Rum after being cast out of paradise. At least Jeff brought a pack of lifesavers as his potluck contribution. Those are organic, right?
And Abed? Abed decided to bring “delicious Police,” as Troy would say. I’m afraid Mr. Nadir—I’m sorry, that’d be Inspector Spacetime– had become increasingly obsessed with Greendale post-expulsion and was rummaging through the garbage bins on the outskirts of the campus looking for evidence that the Dean had indeed been replaced by an impostor. A Blorgon plot? Possibly. No matter what, this police officer — I believe the same one who acted like he shot a guy in front of Annie — could use a lesson in intergalactic protocol. I love how Abed tapped the cadet’s badge for good measure. The cop had two items of advice to share with them: First, the Dean had ordered Abed to see a shrink, or else he’d press charges. Second, they really need to stop propping open their front door with that fire brick. Forget the safety issues. That thing’s an antique! And a unique piece of Americana that could fetch them $60. Line of the Night No. 7, Courtesy of Troy Barnes: “Sixty dollars?! Hello, rich people? Troy’s joining you! Yes, I’ll hold.”
For moral support the whole study group joined Abed for his session with Dr. Heidi. Who better to play this nefarious headshrinker than The Daily Show’s own stuffy-academic-in-residence John Hodgman? Sure, he had his hands full with all seven of them, but at least since Britta’s a psych major, she was able to have his back, bro. Good for her, especially since Abed really doesn’t like doctors and even tried once to remove his own tonsils. He’s always been a little crazy, we know, but lately it had gotten worse. Line of the Night No. 6, Courtesy of Troy Barnes: “You have to understand about Abed…he’s usually ‘adorable weird’ like Mork from Ork. But since we got expelled he’s been ‘creepy weird’ like present-day Robin Williams.” Not that there wasn’t a bit of a ramp-up before.
NEXT: Diagnostic Procedure, Step 1: Determining the symptoms, including Brett Ratner-related phobias.
Diagnostic Procedure, Step 1: Determining the symptoms
Abed had been known to scream like a wittle baby when losing an hour for Daylight Savings Time, though the thought of getting that hour back six months later proved even more terrifying. (Admittedly, I’m inclined to feel Abed’s pain here. For years I’ve railed against Daylight Savings Time as a conspiracy masterminded by the Pro-Light Agenda.) He had also been seen to lash out at friends who praise Brett Ratner. Though the fact that Shirley called the Tower Heist director not only a “master of comedic action adventure, of storytelling” but “the new Spielberg,” totally justified him telling her Line of the Night No. 5, “You’re a bad person. You’re a bad person.” He had also taken it upon himself to narrate Pierce’s life, even while the moist-wipes heir was oldly eating a sandwich, and he’d started to film Annie while she sleeps. But anything that puts more of Alison Brie in states of undress into the world is a good thing, if you ask me.
All that being considered, though, the truth was that everyone was a little “crazy town banana pants.” You can’t ignore the behavior of Abed’s friends.
Diagnostic Procedure, Step 2: Assessing the influence of the peer group.
Actually Abed might be the least crazy one of the Greendale Seven. Well…Britta once stormed into the study room looking like the Wild Woman of Borneo and asking how long peyote lasts. Troy scolded Annie when she encroached upon his morning talk-show territory with Abed by attempting to brand “Troy and Abed and Annie in the Morning.” (Line of the Night No. 4, “Nothing, my ass. What are all these cameras doing here?”) Jeff kindly gave Annie his coat at Wig-Out 2012, then undermined his gesture by ordering her not to bend her elbows, sit in chairs with backrests, and to hang it only on wooden hangers. Troy drove a dune-buggy into the study room. Because it’s an all-terrain vehicle, dummy! And he thought karate skills had been downloaded Matrix-style into his cerebral cortex when Shirley gave him her son’s second place karate championship trophy, chopping the study room table with as much force as when Jeff took an axe to it.
NEXT: Diagnostic Procedure, Step 3: Assessing the patient’s environment, living chess matches and all.
No, there was only one remedy here for Abed, especially considering that his peers were likely to make him more crazy: Commitment. This led to one of the most beautifully written exchanges you’re ever likely to see on TV. It may involve multiple characters and several lines, but it’s still Line of the Night No. 3:
Dr. Heidi: I think Abed should be committed.
Jeff: You mean to his character work, right? Because he already is. Abed, show him your Don Draper.
Dr. Heidi: No, I mean an institution.
Jeff: You mean like marriage?
Dr. Heidi: I mean a mental institution.
Jeff: Ah, so do I! Will somebody please help me lighten the mood?
I particularly loved how sheepishly coy Annie looked during Abed’s Don Draper impression. Remember, her close relative Trudy Campbell was married to one of Mr. Draper’s colleagues.
Anyway, the Greendale Seven were stunned. Troy was weeping uncontrollably, which, as I’ve said before, is the most beautiful sound in the world. Line of the Night No. 2: “Please Mr. Doctor, psychiatrist, sir! Please, don’t send my friend to crazy people jail!” Everyone quickly pivoted and said that Abed isn’t dangerous. I mean, the psych test that Britta administered on Halloween proved that Abed is actually the most sane of the group. He just flies of the handle if you confuse Star Wars and Space Treks. I would too. Maybe we just need to blame Abed’s environment for his dysfunction. Yeah, that’s it.
Diagnostic Procedure, Step 3: Assessing the patient’s environment.
Greendale is a messed up place. They have classes on baby talk, advanced breath holding, the frying arts, and ladders. (Hold your applause on the last one.) Homeless men sleep in parts of the campus. They celebrate the 10,000th flush of a toilet. Dean Pelton and his rival at City College hold a living chess match to determine parking for a job fair. Think about this for a moment. The two schools we know feature living chess? Greendale…and Hogwarts. Who else cracked up when Vicki’s knight shouted “Neigh”?
As crazy as it was, though, Greendale had always been on their side. Certainly the Dean had wanted to be on multiple sides of Jeff. But he really had been there for everybody.
NEXT: Diagnostic Procedure, Step 4: Determining the influence of an enabler named Dean Pelton.
Diagnostic Procedure, Step 4: Determining the influence of an enabler
I mean, the Dean warned them about a campus fire first, before alerting the rest of the school, because “It’s not right to play favorites, but it’s no more right to sit on your feelings, and I don’t know what I’d do without you guys.” He declared Darcy to have a cold when she showed up wearing Annie’s outfit and ordered her to go home. This was the kind of guy who’d pose as a bearded janitor in order to save the last six pieces of pizza just for them. Who’d sing a song to “those who aren’t celebrating anything”—and who would that be?—to the tune of “Troy and Abed Off to Dreamland.” Who’d take a paintball for Abed so that he could win tickets to see Chicago with George Wendt and Stefanie Powers. (By the way, now that we have a season four, I totally want to see a film noir-style paintball episode.)
Greendale hadn’t driven them crazy. It wasn’t a bad place, nor were they bad students. That means something else, something nefarious, was at work. Maybe Abed was right and the Dean had been replaced by an impostor. Unfortunately, they couldn’t go back. Because Greendale…doesn’t exist.
The Diagnosis: Abed is insane, because they’re all insane. And Greendale isn’t a community college. It’s an asylum. In order to make their hellish existence in the asylum bearable, the seven of them developed a shared psychosis in which they’d imagine themselves community college students. That explains the ridiculous level of joy they could get from something like a trampoline. When Pierce sang his “Baby Boomer Santa” song and declared himself an “American pearl” he was really in a straight-jacket. And that whole matter of the missing pen that drove the study group crazy last year’s bottle episode? An experiment conducted by deep-voiced psychiatrist Garrett to assess their respective reactions. Most importantly, doesn’t real community college end after two years?
When they left Greendale Asylum, it wasn’t because they had been expelled. Their insurance had run out. Community had just out-St. Elsewhered St. Elsewhere.
Okay, that’s totally crazy. As Jeff said, Dr. Heidi’s lies weren’t even good. When he attempted to sneak out through a window, they pulled him back in and began their interrogation. Turns out there was another explanation all together: Greendale was purgatory, and Dr. Heidi was the Devil. Troy, and all of us, knew it. Line of the Night No. 1 as Jeff slaps Troy across the face: “Stop letting him make you realize stuff!”
But what’s so impressive about Community‘s storytelling, is that, for a moment, we all did believe Dr. Heidi’s story. Am I alone in this? I mean, it’s entirely plausible that the “crazy-town banana pants” things that have happened on this show really did exist in the minds of mental patients who were experiencing a shared psychosis. Obsessing over a missing pen until everybody strips down to prove they haven’t stolen it is pretty darn crazy. Or thinking that your peers have turned into zombies because of eating army rations. Or even just for a moment taking seriously the idea of a Kentucky Fried Chicken Seven Herbs & Space simulator. Each of the study groupers are a little crazy. But what’s so brilliant about the concept behind Dr. Heidi’s lie –the idea of Greendale as an asylum –is that it shows how normal crazy people can be. Three seasons in, you almost take for granted the logic behind Troy’s freak-out that 100 people will die in China if Jeff stops talking. The genius of “Curriculum Unavailable” is that it’s Community‘s statement that people are only deemed crazy based upon the context in which they find themselves. If you’re on the same wavelength with somebody else, you’ll probably find each other perfectly normal, even if others want you committed. It’s also why Community fans can find no common ground with Whitney fans.
Okay, so really, the truth this time. It turns out General Chang had hired Dr. Heidi to throw Abed and the study group off the scent, as he replaced the Dean with an impostor and took unlimited power upon himself at the school. Crazy? Sure. But this is a guy who snorts sunflower seeds and then shouts “Hot damn!” like Mrs. Mia Wallace. Who thinks that Garrett is a pre-cog. Who tests his fortitude by tasering his genitals.
The true enemy is clear. And the study group now has their mission: retake Greendale from the clutches of Chang. The General himself was aware of their threat. and the fact that they now know about Operation Doppel-Deaner. But he still found time for an appletini in between evil plotting. And Troy and Abed found time to don leisurewear and tape an installment of Troy and Abed in the Morning’s nighttime spin-off, Troy and Abed in the Morning—Nights! Real Neil with Pipes of Steel is going to have some late-night competition.
Next week, the great battle of our time begins. The Battle to Retake Greendale. Until then share your thoughts about “Curriculum Unavailable” in the comments below. And, as Troy said, “May your dreams be sweet and your nightmares be ‘Spooky Monster’ scary and not ‘Grandma Died’ scary.”