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Aside from episode 3 this season (which I didn’t like at all) Community has been in a roll, at least to my eyes. We’re past half the season and it feels like the show has regained its former self; I’ve already discussed why I didn’t like season 4 as a whole (even when there were very good episodes) and I said a ton of stuff, but I let something slide: during the 4th season the show seemed to forget how to deal with characters conflicts, it was so centered in its own plots that apparently it wasn’t able to draw out the dynamics as they once were. Season 5 was forced into this by the departure of both Chevy Chase and Donald Glover, and it has kept it that way through these 2 episodes; I’ll first talk about episode 7.

It has mixed the characters together, essentially re-discovering their relationships while also finding out the chemistry that Jonathan Banks has with the rest of the cast. In that regard, this episode is a huge success, it moves the pieces of the chessboard right in a way that open all kinds of possibilities for the episodes to come, while clearly developing an end game, and that end game is that, by the end of the season, we will once again know who these people are and why are they together.

The key to a great Community episode lies on diversity, on using a lot of the shows elements while maintaining balance; this is a really hard task to achieve, something that How I Met Your Mother aims to do on a weekly basis with mixed results (though on its final season I’d say it’s been on the same roll as Community), and it’s not surprising that there and there we find an episode that feels unbalanced. For instance, the reason I disliked episode 3 of this season so much was mostly because Community centered on one of its elements only while leaving all the others behind, underusing its cast and sacrificing lasting emotional touch for immediate laugh; upon discussion, I was able to see why people liked the episode, but I couldn’t come to like it myself, because I still felt it was unbalanced. This episode is the exact opposite for me; it manages to focus all of Community’s strength into a single half hour episode with splendid results.

One of the things I like the most about the episode is how it finally came to use Duncan and how it came as a reply to his friendship with Jeff; I think the only time it was pointed out that Duncan and Jeff were friends was way back in the pilot, so it’s nice that the show focus on creating conflict between the two of them over Britta as a way to take a look to their relationship. They are supposed to be friends, but they don’t really act like it, that’s something that strikes both Jeff and Duncan during the episode.

Also, the part with Britta is pretty strong too. I like how season 5 has set the character straight as she has the chance to show that she can be smart and mature just like when she says “I’m no hero, just a bar tender and drop out, don’t listen to me… or anyone, just listen to yourselves and make sure you tell yourselves the truth”; those lines bring out the best of Britta, and she will learn her very own advice later on in the episode. It’s one of those moments when you realize that the character hasn’t just been reduced to one single characteristic: Britta is not the air head of the group, sometimes yes, but it’s not who she really is and I feel this episode is a fantastic way to show us who Britta actually is, and it’s pretty tragic how she is dismissed by her so called friends when they face her and tell her that they are not really activists anymore and someone asks her “when was the last time you feed anyone but yourself?”. That question hurts Britta, because she lets herself be defines by what other people think of her.

Once Duncan convinces Jeff to back off, as Jeff’s feelings for Britta are briefly reignited, he offers Britta consolation. And as Duncan drives Britta away from the benefit show and they talk about friends, Britta points out how Duncan and Jeff don’t really act like friends; that’s the Duncan’s cue to stop trying to pull something on Britta, because deep down he wants to reconnect the friendship he once had with Jeff, and that’s pretty poignant.

Talking about poignant, the whole Abed and Hickey storyline was outright touching. From the very beginning when Abed dress like Kick-puncher, as he plays around the school he can notice how the absence of Troy affects him; he doesn’t say anything and he doesn’t need to, he just has a sad gaze that tells it all and that proves how affecting an emotion can be when it’s just shown and not yelled out loud (props to Danny Pudi for pulling such an amazingly touching moment).


He notices Hickey is still in his office and he decides to stop by for a bonding moment, and as he arrives he accidentally destroys his drawings, which makes Hickey so mad that he decides to punish Abed by locking him to a desk drawer so he can miss his movie. This produces a real bonding moment between the two: Abed hates being controlled and Hickey hates people who get away with things with no repercussions, so tensions are through the roof as their scenes rolls.

I must say that it’s nice that for once Abed doesn’t get a free pass just because he’s different, something that hasn’t happened since the third season when Troy called him out for spending too much money on Hollywood doubles. Abed tries to figure out what makes Hickey so mad that he had to lock him out and he touches some sensible nerves; he figures out that Hickey is ashamed of his drawings. Once he gets to read some of them, Hickey is happy to see that Abed finds them funny and they bond for a while around it. Abed apologies for destroying the drawing, but he still doesn’t get the permission to go; and that’s when all hell break loose. As if he was lying his way out of the draw desk he starts calling off Hickey for being jealousy of other people’s creative ideas and how his little petty problems were all assembled in a duck with no real feelings in them, which makes him a bad cartoonist. Hickey is so mad that he just lets Abed go, he knows he is right deep down, and that’s why it hurts so much.

Abed does realize that he went too far; he is not able to understand feelings the same way we do, but he is able to realize he hurt someone, so in a rare moment of vulnerability, he shows Hickey his script for a cop drama (which Troy thought was a comedy) in order to look for substance; all what Hickey ever wanted was being recognized as someone able to create, and Abed asking for help on that script is pretty much what he always wanted. It’s touching, it’s well-crafted and it’s a nice resolution for a conflict that brought both laughs time to time as well as tension.

Chang’s involvement in the episode is Community’s usual craziness; I like that instead of making Chang someone who acts crazy the show decides to put him in a directly crazy situation. Wherever he actually saw ghosts or never went to the benefit show in the first place it’s nice to see him losing his mind as he has always acted as he already lost it, but now we get to see how the process of that would be and the results are pretty hilarious.

Though I pretty much missed Annie, Shirley and The Dean in the episode I was so happy about how the rest of the storylines played out that I didn’t mind their absence that much. I like to see the whole cast being used, but when the execution is so great, I can excuse an episode that sidelines some characters.

Grade: A

Now, “App Development And Condiments” is a very weird episode that work and doesn’t work at the same time. It’s one of the concept episodes of Community (which this season has done fairly a lot) and it revolves around the beta test of an app in development called “Meow-Meow Beans” which rates people with a certain amount of cat beans. As Community usually does with concept episode things go crazy and the craziness is there in order to portray something other than the craziness itself.

Now when I say this episode doesn’t work it’s because I see some structural problems with the episode such as the pacing shifting way too fast, some moments I didn’t really care for and the underuse of the cast (most notably Hickey, the Dean, Chang and to some extent Annie). But all in all, I fairly enjoyed it; I’d say the goodwill of the episode is enough to consider this a good one.
The episode starts with Chang asking Jeff at what time is dinner and Shirley feels left out as Jeff didn’t invite her, because he knew she’d be busy. Still it hurts Shirley and as she usually does she pulls her manipulative skills into making the rest of the group feel guilty, but Jeff knows Shirley well enough to realize she’s just playing her game. One of the things I like the most about the episode is how through conflict the show recognizes how well Shirley and Jeff know each other, both of them have power issues and both of them can be fairly manipulative and they see that in each other and are almost immune to those manipulative acts. All of that is seen through an episode that put Greendale into chaos.

At first it seems like the episode is going to play it smoothly, with Meow-Meow beans just planting seeds of discord around everyone at Greendale and generating conflict; it does, but it goes farther than that. The App starts a whole new ranking system in our beloved community college, in which those who are ranked 5 by the app are gods, 4s are the great ones, 3s are standard, 2s are mediocre and 1s are filth. The show becomes so committed to that in such short notice that it becomes a little bit overwhelming how the tone of the episode just change out of the blue. Usually the show sets the tone right from the start (as seen in episodes 3 and 5) and then it sticks with it. Here, instead, we have a massive shift near half of the episode, just after the whole ranking system is explained. That doesn’t ruin the episode (not at all), but I was at first on the mood for a more common episode and then I had to get on the mood for a completely different episode.

It feels a little bit disjointed, as if the episode was divided on 2 parts, the lighter one and the heavier one more committed to make this a concept episode. The drastic change of tone also leads to some moments that are less than stellar such as Britta and Jeff being spotted together as a 4 and a 2 being together (and a creepy guy saying “I once loved a 2… your secret is safe with me”) which adds nothing to the table, and the talent show of which I am not so fond of.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. On the lighter part of the episode, Britta set up against the ranking system of Meow-Meow beans, and she is only considered when she has mustard on her face (“something about the mustard makes me want to listen…”). Jeff seemingly joins ranks with Britta because he wants to take Shirley down, who has been gathering popularity via her nice comments, which are obviously manipulation shenanigans. The part that I love most of the episode is the constant passive-aggressive stand off Jeff and Shirley deliver right up to their actual confrontation by the end of the episode, because you can feel all the tension between the two and, as I said before, it reveals how deeply these two know each other.

Once Greendale falls into the ranking system, those who are ranked 5, excluding Abed who was happier with the 3s which a comment that only keeps him around the 5s (“You people are monsters”), decide to throw a talent show where 3s and 2s can rise and fall so they don’t question the authority of the 5s. Here we’re on the deep on of the heavier part of the episode, the one committed to the concept, and for the most part is focused on Britta’s attempt to take the system down and Jeff climbing up to the 5s. I already explained my issues with the tone (and the little scene when Jeff and Britta are busted talking to each other even though they are ranked differently), but those aren’t my main issues with the second half of the episode: the talent show is my main issue.

It’s probably the part that I enjoyed the less of it, as not only it has a predictable pattern, but because Jeff’s performance has no real humor than inn-show humor; it causes laugh to the public inside the show because he is making fun of ranked people, but it lacks of substance. I understand why it amuses the inn-show audience, but the Jeff’s routine feels so incredibly forced that I was left bored for that whole bit (which relied mostly on Joel’s experience on The Soup, where he makes fun of everything).
But after what I considered to be the weakest link of the episode came what I thought some of the best; for 1, I loved that Britta had a chance to take power and to be listened for once (even with mustard on her face) and I absolutely loved that Jeff and Shirley finally got to confront each other, both of them falling into the 1 ranking, which saves them from the revolution Britta has so quickly formed.

Finally, Shirley and Jeff fix things up, with Jeff admitting he actually loves to have control over every situation and how he subtly let Shirley know how she always has seemed as a threat to that power; Shirley responds with a very good line “You think we’d be better friend because we are both big fans of the same thing”. That makes for great development in a relationship that is rarely explored on the show and I love how Community is so decided to mix things up with the cast and have episodes that revolve around those relationships that haven’t been explored much (which also explains why Hickey has had so many episodes with different cast members).

By the end, Britta has sized control, and she loves it just as much as Jeff and Shirley, but easy comes easy goes, and Jeff is the one who takes the system down making everybody know that they don’t have to abide to it, they just have to delete it with from their phones, and Britta is so obviously crushed over losing power that she tries to put more mustard on her face (sadly for her, it doesn’t work).

The episodes ends on a sweet note with Jeff asking Shirley for dinner and then offer take out when Shirley tells him she can’t make it. It is obvious how glad Shirley is for being considered and how their relationship has become stronger than we ever have seen (except maybe for the episode about foosball).

The episode works great developing the theme of control, power and manipulation and how it affects Jeff and Shirley’s dynamics, but it has a great deal of structural problems around it, and it doesn’t help that The Dean, while seen, mostly sits this one out (and the previous episode too… and as so far most of the season), Hickey gets a little to say, and Chang and Annie little to do too. The pace is abruptly changed midway through the episode, the talent show was dreadful to my eyes, but all in all, it was an episode I fairly enjoyed and that has brought some of what I like the best of this season of the show.

Grade: B

Stray Observations:

-I laughed really hard when Chang told the stage audience the story about how his mother killed a chicken and everybody seemed so into that. Also, who was he talking to on the phone? (or who did he think he was talking to?)

-I love how Annie immediately questions Chang’s sanity when he says he saw a ghost; the group has their red flags ready to pop up in case they see Chang about to pull some weird shenanigans.


-Annie recognizes she had her share of focus lately, to which Shirley mutter “speak for yourself”. This was clearly an indication that the next episode would focus on Shirley. I love when Community goes meta on such simple line drops.

-Hickey gets on the 5s ranking by pretending that everyday it’s his birthday. He’s right; nobody is going to get mad at a birthday boy.

-I opened the section of episode 8 with the photo of Vicky being Meow-Meow bean terminated because I loved that bit; it shows how Shirley can tear you down with just nice words. She is really terrifying.

-Abed: “Those are 3s, we talk about how glad we are that we aren’t 2s”.
The way Britta shakes her head after that statement is gold.
Abed: “Small talk guys, I make small talk now”.
And Jeff’s nod was equally awesome.

-Annie to Leonard: “Leonard, would you rather a 3 serve the 5s food?”
Didn’t know Annie could be so racist! Also, gotta love how Star Burns is a 2 working with Britta to take the system down (even if he doesn’t say a word).

-Dean through speaker: “Remember, a happy 3 is a future 4”.
I’m sure that line (and the whole futuristic set up) is a reference to something; I just can’t remember what exactly.

-Sorry for the delay, episode 7 was aired during my last week of vacation so I decided to wait for episode 8 to make a double review, but episode 8 aired just when I was about to start my junior year at college and I did not imagine they would slam us as hard as they did in the first week. Hopefully I’ll bring you the review of episode 9 either tomorrow or Saturday.

About the Author - Pablo
I'm currently studying Psychology while also writing fantasy books (one already published in my home country, Chile, you can check it out on the facebook icon). I watch many different types of shows, including my favorites Revenge, Game of Thrones, Once Upon a Time and about 23 more. Currently writing reviews for Once Upon a Time, How I Met Your Mother and Community

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