Thursday marked the third season premiere of NBC's cult darling, Community, and we PostBourgie Human Beings couldn't be more amped. When last we left our motley study group, they were "sleeping on" their decision of what class they'd take together in the fall semester. In this episode, we find out what they've decided: they're taking Biology 101.
In keeping with that biology theme, the word of the night is evolution.
We open with a musical number -- a device I'd just as soon have network television shows retire -- wherein our stars make a promise to us to be more normal, less fanciful, and more grounded in reality. Jeff and Annie also earnestly croon that this year, they're going to sleep together. Joke? Fake-out? Or a real occurrence we can actually expect? The semester will tell.
The song-and-dance turns out to be a daydream of Jeff's and when the group rouses him to lament their loss of Pierce as a group member, he bluntly declares he's glad to have him gone. So, of course, that's Pierce's cue to pop up and declare that after a summer of soul "re-zoning," he is a more evolved version of himself. He wants back into the group, because their study table is magic.
Jeff goes into one of his lofty spiels about how they've all evolved, insomuch that they don't need to be part of the group to be friends. (And besides, Biology 101 is full.) Pierce won't have anything to study with them. So they'll just see him when they see him.
There are two side plots -- and I'll leave these to the rest of our Human Beings to flesh out, as they both involved characters I just can't get into. Basically, Dean Pelton has a goatee and pops into the study group as the "meta voice" this week, promising no more paintball and spaceships; things will be different this year. But halfway through the ep, when John Goodman makes him his... pansexual imp, he's forced to shave the goatee and w/a face full of toilet paper, he slinks back to the study group: "Things won't be that different this year. We just won't really have any money."
Also: Chang is squatting in Annie's Boobs' living space: the building's vents. He's homeless and unemployed.
Now let's talk about Michael K. Williams --- aka Omar of The Wire. (Before we move on, I have to make my obligatory I-didn't-watch-The-Wire confession, so that you guys don't expect me to get all the obvious and subtle callbacks to that acclaimed drama.) Please feel free to post them all up in the comments section. I'd like to be in on the joke, but I don't have time to go back and catch up right now. Anyway, I'm already feelin' Omar as Professor Marshall Kane.
Back to class. Professor Kane begins his introductory monologue, which reveals the exact number of hours it took him to earn his PhD--it's over 6,000. He knows this number because he earned it during the one hour a day day he was allowed in the prison library, where he was doing a 25 to life bid.
During this compelling speech, Jeff's phone goes off three times. Third time's a charm; Professor Kane ejects him from class, permanently. This, of course, gets waitlisted Pierce readmitted.
During the rest of the episode, Jeff feels increasingly displaced. When he meets up at the study table later, obsessing over how to get the prof to let him back into class, the group alienates him, the way they often do in situations like these. They'll see him when they see him.
He winds up crawling through the vents with Chang, at one point, as exterminators prepare to gas Annie's Boobs out. Jeff hallucinates growing old alone. Pierce is there. He emerges with red-rimmed eyes, covered in monkey gas dust. The group is creeped out at the sight of him and they're discomfort makes him increasingly hysterical. He takes an axe to the study table to prove it isn't magical.
It's probably just me, and I did like this ep, but it dealt with a lot of things we've dealt with more than once within this group. We know that they're prone to Lord of the Flies hierarchy: every few eps, somebody has to be the Piggy. It's usually Jeff or Pierce, but the person who incites the ostracism varies. In this ep, Jeff is responsible for his own undoing. Professor Kane tells him that it's because he has impermeable walls up and refuses to let people in. But I'm not sure that I buy that, since Jeff is the self-appointed "dad" of the group--and he's been slowly becoming more invested in the other study group members since the start of the series.
In the end, Pierce confesses to bribing Professor Kane to kick Jeff out of class and let him in. It isn't true, but it helps the group reestablish the dynamic they're most comfortable with: Jeff is bad in the paternal seat; Pierce is back to Piggy status. Pierce says it's okay; he handles being the outcast far better than Jeff does. Clearly.
But what of getting Jeff back into Bio? Starburns inexplicably approaches Professor Kane with a meth cooking proposition: "I'm a drug dealer; you're a scientist." Blah blah Breaking Bad blah blah. And he's unceremoniously kicked out of class (though why he isn't expelled from the school is beyond me. Is this one of those Wire references I'm supposed to get?).
In the end tag, Britta announces a major: psychology. She wants to be a therapist. More on how she came to this epiphany in the Crib Sheet.
- Abed's only duty in this episode is to be distraught that his beloved sitcom Cougar Town is a midseason replacement this year. Troy--his new roommate(!)--tries to talk him down, to little avail. It isn't until Britta informs him that Cougar Town is actually a US adaptation of a British sitcom, Cougarton Abbey(!), that he calms. But then, in episode 6, everyone dies, effectively ending this series. Interestingly, as funny as these proceedings are, they also serve as a callback to Abed's implied Asperger's syndrome. He is completely incapacitated at the unexpected outcome of this show. It isn't until Britta finds him another British show, a bad outerspace drama that's being running in seeming perpetuity since the '60s, that he returns to himself. So now we know that he literally cannot function without those pop culture references he spouts compulsively.
- Less Chang. Please. I probably won't get this wish, now that he's been hired as a (volunteer) school security guard.
- Troy to Britta, after the Cougarton Abbey thing: "You are tennis elbow. You are pizza burn on the roof of the world's mouth. You are the opposite of Batman."
- "Homey don't dean that."
- "I know who Sean Penn is. I've seen Milk. Get out."
- John Goodman to a goateed Dean Pelton: "You look like a white Lou Gossett Jr."
- "... Monkey gas?"
- Shirley as an aside, upon seeing catatonic Abed: "I don't wanna push it but this would be a good time to baptize him."
- I'm still not sold on John Goodman. You guys?