Greendale doesn't get the heroes it needs but the heroes it deserves when Abed becomes Batman, and Jeff an ace foosballer

By Christian Blauvelt
Updated December 02, 2011 at 08:46 AM EST
Lewis Jacobs/NBC

Community

S3 E9
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Troy’s frantically gasped “Why? Why? WHYYYY?” as he glimpsed Abed’s broken $299 collector’s DVD of The Dark Knight is pretty much what fans of Greendale Community College have been thinking the past two weeks. Yes, a fortnight has passed since NBC Britta’ed their midseason schedule by benching our beloved Community. I suppose that’s an incorrect usage, though, since we all know “to Britta” means to make a small mistake, and the gaping maw now left in NBC’s lineup is anything but. Just look at last night’s 30 minutes of effortless surrealism, “Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism,” and you’ll see a series in its creative prime.

On the surface, the dual premises of “Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism” were sitcom standbys that Abed would have perceived in a heartbeat: one, a resolving-a-childhood-trauma-storyline, and the other, to use Troy’s own words, about “secretly replacing a broken, priceless item.”

The weekend was nigh. Everyone was asking one another what they’d be doing over their two day respite — or in Pierce’s case, who he’d be doing. (The question, Pierce, is not who, but when.) Britta would be volunteering at an animal hospital to pay off the cost of the Lasik surgery for her one-eyed cat, since a monocle would have been entirely too pretentious. Leonard was prepping another eloquent, erudite video shoot in which he’d continue his series of frozen pizza reviews. And Troy and Abed would be planted in front of their television, glued to their new $299 special collector’s edition DVD of The Dark Knight and all the Christian Bale throat-rasping and unnecessary Christopher Nolan camera spinning that comes with it. In fact, Mr. Bale even recorded a special greeting, “Abed is Batman now,” thus making the passing of the cowl official.

Annie, unwittingly playing the Harley Quinn to Abed’s Caped Crusader, accidentally stepped on the priceless DVD, while trying to dust, and broke it. Not even Troy’s humming of the “Abed and Britta In a Cabin in the Woods” radio Muzak could comfort him, his hums mixed with sobs. He knew Abed would never buy it if they recorded Annie’s gravelly Bale-isms as a substitute, though anyone who’s ever listened to an audio commentary knows that “This scene was a special challenge to all involved” is the usual gist. A cover-up was the only solution, and Troy had to be complicit to protect his new female roommate from Abed’s wrath.

So when Abed laid out his viewing order — “Original version, Directors Cut, Directors Cut with commentary, and original version cooldown” — Troy was more than happy to humor him. But upon their return to Apartment 303, their bachelor pad, gasp, had been robbed! Let’s face it, though. If Annie really wanted to make this “robbery” convincing, she should have declared more missing to the cops than just the DVD and her oddly ornate piece of Hebrew-themed jewelry. A crime of such peculiar minutia could only mean one thing: an inside job. And an inside job could only mean one thing: The thief was their landlord, Rick. Since Rick dressed up as the Joker for Halloween, there really was no other conceivable suspect. Luckily, Abed knew what he’d have to do — or rather who he’d have to become — to solve the crime, and he had a Dreamatorium to make it happen.

NEXT: Abed becomes the darkest of knights, and some taunting Teutons goad Jeff into a foosball smackdown

Dressed in his Batman cowl and affecting his most hyperbolically macho Christian Bale patois, Abed rappelled down his apartment building after dismissing Annie’s tearful confession with a glove-handed caress of her porcelain cheek. Rick certainly seemed like coiled villainy, sitting alone in his La-Z-Boy, watching Quantum Leap reruns, a closet full of women’s shoes nearby despite his lack of women’s feet. And Annie tried to frame him by “discovering” a shard of DVD in his lair. She was even willing to go far enough to bring the police back into this — the copper who fake-shot a guy in front of her last season, no less — but they quickly found out that as renters they have no rights, and they should just be happy their landlord collects shoes, not heads.

Annie confessed her crime to Batman again saying that nobody’s perfect — other than Batman, that is — and order was once again restored to Casa Trobed. Abed will just have to go back to Inspector Spacetime. After all, there are still Blorgons to kill.

Meanwhile, Jeff spent his weekend studying at the feet of a master: none other than Shirley. He had become infuriated by a loud, obnoxious troika of German foosball obsessives — after all, foosball is the soccer of ping pong in Europe. Jeff first tried to wither them with words as Clarence Thaddeus Foos, the “grandson” of the foosball inventor. But no silver-tongued lawyer would penetrate their Prussian pride. Those Deutsch-bags appreciated foosmanship, and foosmanship alone. They challenged Jeff to a Monday morning match. Herr Winger accepted. Turns out, Jeff was a huge fan of foosball as ein kind until some childhood trauma left him disenchanted about the sport.

Shirley warned him not to play — that it’s an evil game mastered only by those who are evil themselves. And she knew of its dark power from firsthand experience. But still, she agreed to take Jeff under wing, be the master to his apprentice like some slightly more carpal-tunnel-prone Mr. Miyagi and teach him to become one with the foos. Use the foos, Jeff. Let go, Jeff! (Full disclosure: I insist on using every foos pun possible in this recap.) But in the midst of their training, Shirley revealed why she gave up the game. Like a prizefighter leaving the ring for good because he accidentally killed his opponent, Shirley left after she taunted a scrawny white boy so hard he went to Tinkletown in his pants. Little did she know…that was Jeff!

Yes, decades before their lives would intersect at Greendale’s finest community college, Shirley destroyed Jeff’s innocence through a scarring foosball match and set him upon a lifetime path of soulless hipsterism. Jeff wanted revenge, and the only kind of revenge that would suit was saucer-eyed, open-mouthed anime revenge. Their battle came to a stalemate. As any foos veteran knows, there’s a sweet spot — and by “sweet” I mean “incredibly annoying” — where the foos can’t touch the ball, and there you stand, spinning your knobs frantically, knowing that your wooden little men will never make contact. It’s a singularity of gaming misfortune — like when a Plinko chip inexplicably gets stuck on The Price is Right. And it was the key to their overthrow of their German adversaries.

NEXT: At my mark, foosball players, unleash hell

After an exchange of some more Teutonic punnery, the battle commenced. Each foos — or to use the proper German, Fuß — flew. But Jeff and Shirley managed to land it in that mystical spot where no foos could touch it, causing the Germans to turn on each other as they tried in vain to reach it. Or, to paraphrase the adversary of a certain flying rodent, this is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. I think they’ll be doing this forever.

Meine sieben Lieblingszitate des Abends.

7. “Great, after three years of religious advice and carb-laden pastries you finally have one thing I actually need.” —Jeff to Shirley

6. “Let’s dawnce, Daffid Bow-ie.” –German to Jeff

5. “Men like Rick operate above the law. But there’s something else above the law: bats…and me.” —Abed as Batman

4. “What are you guys doing here on a Saturday night? Shouldn’t you be making weird art movies or well-engineered cars?” –Jeff to The German Three

3. “You moving in here was supposed to tone us down.” –Troy

2. “Jeff, you don’t need to worry about what foreigners think of you. That’s your birthright as an American.” —Shirley

1. “Sam, Ziggy’s saying there’s an 80% chance you can’t leave Woodstock until you bone these hippies.” –Al Calavicci to Dr. Sam Beckett in Quantum Leap

Dear readers, can you stomach the thought that there’s only one more episode before Community enters NBC limbo? Luckily, it’s this year’s holiday episode, in which Greendale’s famously vocal adrenaline-averse study group has to fill in for the glee club in a Christmas pageant. And if they’re lucky, they might even make regionals! If you’re among those who, um, diss-a-glee, you’ll love it. Or does the thought of only one more Community for who knows how long make you quiver and shake like Abed going through Cougar Town withdrawal?

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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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