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Looking for a new TV series to watch? We recommend them based on your preference for musicals, ensemble shows, mysteries, and more!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Hip-Hip Hooray: It's Turkey Day!

Happy almost-Thanksgiving, readers! 

Since Community is on holiday hiatus for the week (unfortunately, hiatus is also a word I will have to get used to hearing more often, come December), this is the perfect time to catch up on some excellent episodes from season 3! 

In shamelessly plugging this blog, should you have free time during your holiday - in addition to re-watching some fantastic episodes - you should check out their subsequent reviews:

Thank you all for reading and commenting on all of these blogs. I'll be back on December 2nd to review "Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism"! :)

Friday, November 18, 2011

3x08 "Documentary Filmmaking: Redux" (Greendale is Where I Belong)

"Documentary Filmmaking: Redux"
Original Airdate: November 17, 2011

The latest episode of NBC's third-year comedy Community fell on the heels of some disheartening news this past week: when NBC's January line-up was announced, the show was noticeably absent from its traditional Thursday night 8PM time-slot. This caused a wave of backlash and sorrow across the fandom, and everything from petitions to creative ways to generate support for the show have since popped up across the Internet. People have hashtagged #SaveCommunity and #sixseasonsandamovie like no tomorrow - everyone from TV critics such Michael Ausiello and Meg Masters to writers for Lost, SNL, and Happy Endings have also taken to Twitter to garner support for the little show that could. So it was with nervous anticipation that thousands of us tuned into last night's episode - perhaps because we felt like "Documentary Filmmaking: Redux" had so much riding on it. And it's true, if we are being honest with ourselves: before we even watched the episode, we either consciously or subconsciously held the episode to a higher standard simply because of the week's unfavorable news. But as I have said dozens of times in these reviews, the best thing about Community is that it always exceeds my expectations, and - moreover - always exceeds expectations that I never knew I had. We've had a rough week as Community fans, and this is just the episode that we needed to talk us down from the edge. Not only was it full of laugh-out-loud humor, but also what the show's strongest suit is - heart.

So last night's plot premise was pretty simple: Dean Pelton recruited the study group to help him re-shoot a commercial for Greendale, because their current one looked like it jumped straight out of Blossom and any other late 80s/early 90s television show you could think of (complete with the awesome graphics of that era). The study group reluctantly agreed to help, because for one thing, the Dean manages to guilt them into helping, by mentioning how Greendale "mainly gives" to its students. I thought it was interesting that everyone did have the decency to look slightly guilty at this. After all, what school's Dean would let you do the things that these students have done? (Remember that time Jeff took an ax to the study room table, or when they trashed the study room looking for a pen or when a giant paint grenade exploded and destroyed the study room? You get the picture.)

The whole episode is shot as "Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking" was (in documentary-style), so naturally Abed is behind the camera the entire episode, doing what he does best - observing and filming. Jeff somehow ends up as the Dean in the commercial (and Joel deserves an Emmy on his imitation of Jim Rash-as-Dean alone), and naturally attempts to screw the commercial up by standing in front of the Luis Guzman statue so that the Dean can't use the footage. His excuse? "I'm always willing to go the extra mile to avoid doing something." Initially, the whole commercial was going to be shot in a day - the Dean didn't have high expectations of himself or his cast/crew (or even those watching), so he simply accepted things the way they were. That is, until Luis Guzman called to inform the Dean that he'd like to be in the commercial. This is the trigger for the Dean's descent into insanity.

And it's interesting - I've always thought of the Dean as kind of this comic relief character (much like Troy), in the way that he is aloof and not very serious. Or, rather, so serious in devoting himself to causes that don't matter, that it becomes comedic (so maybe a bit of Troy with Britta thrown in, for good measure). I never really once questioned what the Dean's motives were, though. I always assumed he just wanted to have a sense of pride in himself because he had never felt that way before. Regardless, I'll cover the later scenes momentarily, but the takeaway from the beginning of this episode is that once the Dean discovers that someone famous wants to be in his movie, he goes full-on crazy. And it's entertaining to see other characters (Annie, Jeff, Britta, Troy) slowly dissolve into the craziness as well. Annie, in particular, is fun to watch insofar as character degeneration - notice how her outfit and hair become more and more disheveled. (Also, take note of: her binder with stacks of Post-It notes on the front and papers spilling out from inside, as well as her lanyard of Sharpie markers).

It is now day twelve of a commercial shoot that should have taken the Dean 24 hours to create. Everyone is exhausted and borderline psychotic. Jeff - who initially detested wearing the Dean costume, complete with a bald cap - has an epiphany, which I know was meant to be played for dramatic laughs, but is really quite interesting to parallel against the Dean. Jeff says: "I've become a stranger to myself. I'm bald now. I've always been bald. I've really only dreamt of having hair. But now, the bald man's awake." 

So here's the thing - the next scene that occurs is between Jeff and the Dean and is a great sense of role reversal. And I couldn't quite put my finger on why it was role reversal the first watch-through of the episode, but I think I've discovered it thanks to my re-watch. Jeff is finally beginning to accept himself the way that he is - flaws and all. We've seen him struggle so much over the course of two years with his love for the study group, and also his acceptance of actually being at Greendale. In "Football, Feminism, and You," Jeff tells Annie that he needs to make peace with being at Greendale. And you know, I don't think he truly had up until this season. It seems like Jeff has grown to accept the fact that Greendale is where he belongs. It's not where he would have chosen to end up, but it's somehow just weirdly exactly where he NEEDED to end up. What's ironic is that right as Jeff realizes this in the episode, the Dean realizes that he doesn't like who he is. He would rather pretend to be someone else than see himself for what he actually looks like. Because the truth is that he despises that man, and we've never really seen this side of him before. The Dean can't accept the image that stares back at him, so the logical thing is to change. But while Jeff's change is good in that he is learning to adapt and grow, the Dean's change is bad because it's a forced change - it's trying to shove a square peg in a round hole. You can't make someone be something they were never meant to be in the first place. Greendale is all about molding students into who they were supposed to become, not entirely different people in general. Does that make sense? Jeff comes to terms with his flaws, while the Dean asserts that Chang's hair "is reality" (and it's obviously not). It's this, again, skewed view of reality that the Dean would rather accept than face the real reason why he is so obsessed with the commercial in the first place. Remember the footnotes I have been giving about facades this season? Here's another!

(Interesting note: This is the second time in two weeks that Jeff has cried during an episode. It makes me wonder how therapy has affected him. My question is answered by the end of the episode, more fully.)

With the Dean going full-out crazy (and even Annie realizing how insane he is), the entire cast quits the commercial, which then forces the Dean into a very dark place. We've reached the Dean's breaking point by the time Luis Guzman arrives. "Of course you think that," he spits to Guzman in anger (Guzman is attempting to assure the Dean that the first commercial was good), "You went here." Now, this is a bit of a shocker because we all know how much the Dean has tried over the years to assert his school as a real school (and to compete with City College for recognition, etc.). So it's a bit of an eyebrow-raise moment when we hear him express disdain for Greendale. "Worship this place," Guzman advises. "It changes peoples' lives."

I think it's interesting that we finally see the motivation for why the Dean acts as obsessively as he does. He's trying to force change on something that's not meant to change. Greendale will never be an Ivy League school, or even a top community college, but it's not supposed to be. It's supposed to be a place that fuels acceptance and tolerance. A place where people are embraced because of their flaws. Let's face it - there are too many places out there that shun people with flaws. Shouldn't there be a school that wants you the way you are, and wants you to be the best version of yourself you can possibly be?

There's a quote by Andy Stanley that says: "A true friend is someone who accepts you just as you are, but who loves you too much to leave you that way." And I think that genuinely encompasses the whole feel of this storyline and also the season in general. Truly, the characters within this show have been changed by one another - not, again, forcibly - for better. It's what Community has done for its fans, as well. 

At the end of the episode, Abed comes to the Dean's rescue by finishing up his commercial (and one thing to note about Abed is that he really always tends to rescue those who need it in the face of creative disaster). He exemplified the same humility and kindness when it came to Shirley in "Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples." And you know, I love that it is Abed - just Abed - who does this. It's nice to be reminded that he is not a robot. At the end of the episode, Abed asks a poignant question: "Will your story acknowledge the very nature of stories and acknowledge that sometimes sharing the sad ones will make them happy?" Ponder that question for a moment.

The Dean enters the study room to apologize to the group and ask their forgiveness. And in a very un-Jeff-like manner, he forgives him. When the Dean asks why (puzzled, as we all may have been too), Jeff responds with: "Because we've all been there. It's why we're all here." Then, to further this un-Jeff-like behavior, he offers the Dean a hug. (I swear that therapy is molding Jeff in a very unique way this season). Ludwig Goransson's "Greendale is Where I Belong" (which first played during the Jeff and Annie kiss in "Pascal's Triangle Revisited") begins to play. And I will admit it: I began to cry. Because Community is something special. It's that place that we all yearn for - a place where we can be loved and accepted. A place where we belong, because we're flawed, but where we are loved all the same. That's what Greendale is. That's what Community is, to its fans.

Additonal de-lovely aspects about the episode:
- Take note:  Jeff hasn't given a Winger speech since 3x03. Just something to point out.
- "Britta Perry: Anarchist cat owner."
- "Troy and I are buds. Best buds. Air buds." Troy/Britta is quickly becoming too adorable for me to handle. Their hug at the end was perfection.
- The montage of Troy and Britta's commercial hugs literally had me rolling with laughter. Donald's "STOP SAYING I'M DIFFERENT!" stole the entire episode for me.
- "I'm in Psych 101 and even I don't know what's happening."
- Joel McHale continues to look good in every episode. That green sweater was nice.
- "Okay, I don't know why, but this is the last straw."
- "Some flies are too awesome for the wall."

According to sources, episode 3x09 will be Jeff/Shirley themed and titled "Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism." Until then, folks! :)

(P.S. Since the news broke of the hiatus, I've contemplated what to do with this blog once the last episode for 2011 airs. I could take weekly requests via my Twitter, where I would do re-watch reviews of either season 1 or season 2 episodes. Drop me a comment or a tweet if you'd be interested in reading. Otherwise, I may retire this blog until Community returns to the air). 

Friday, November 11, 2011

3x07 "Studies in Modern Movement" (#AnniesMove)

"Studies in Modern Movement"
Original Airdate: November 10, 2011

I went to college away from home for two years. It was only three hours away in West Palm Beach, FL, but obviously this meant that I would live on-campus in a dorm. And that would mean that as a freshman in college for the first time in my life, I would have to share a living space. I'm the oldest child at home, so I've never really had to share anything before. My freshman year, I was paired with a random roommate, which turned out to be worlds better than the vast majority of my college friends' initial living experiences. The two of us were friendly with one another, but kind of did our own things. We both went to bed around the same time though, and had the same standards of cleanliness and organization. My sophomore year of college, I decided to live with one of my friends, Ali. There were five girls and I that were close friends during freshman year, and both Ali and I thought that it would be good to live together because we weren't so close that it would ruin our friendship. And it truly didn't, but (I bet you were wondering where I'd segue this to) as Britta mentioned in last night's episode, when you live with someone, all of the things you used to find endearing about them when you were just friends are the things that you really begin to hate once you actually live together. And for Ali and me, our friendship never got so rocky that we fought. It's this strange sensation though when your roommate has certain quirks (like always being late, or never organizing their side of the room, etc.) - it's not an anger that bubbles up, necessarily. It's a tiny, grating feeling that prickles throughout your body. And this doesn't occur because you love your friend any less or because you think you're more mature or better than they are - it's simply because you aren't used to this side of them. For some people, rooming with friends never works out. For me and Ali, it did, but only because we learned to tolerate each other's quirks and also to set boundaries.

(The moral of that digression was that Britta Perry was right. That's the point.)

So this week's episode featured moving day for Annie. We recall from 3x04 that Abed offered Annie to live with him and Troy, and apparently the young woman took them up on the offer. Thus, we open the episode by watching everyone (minus Jeff) help Annie pack up her things from her beyond sketchy apartment to move into Abed and Troy's place. This is where Britta warns Annie that she's going to start hating Abed and Troy once she discovers that she'll have to live with their quirks and games and habits 24/7. Annie cannot accept the fact that she'll hate her friends, so Britta lets it go... for now. 

Yesterday afternoon, Twitter exploded with tweets from the characters, which were all hashtagged with #AnnniesMove. So in last night's episode, Troy and Abed wore #AnniesMove t-shirts and tweeted events throughout the episode (which had occurred on Twitter earlier that day). Sometimes, this show is so meta that it makes my head want to explode. ...and then hug it.

Britta calls Jeff because she doesn't buy the fact that he's sick, and believes that he's just faking in an attempt to get out of helping everyone move boxes. And Jeff, being Jeff, of course is faking but performs such an elaborate scheme in The Gap dressing room that Britta buys it. Interesting to note too is the fact that the saleswoman clearly is hitting on Jeff, but he is either a) aloof, or b) openly declining her advances. And both of these things are definitely un-Jeff-like, so I found them interesting to note. The scene of him trying on clothes is pretty funny though, I must add.

Back at the apartment, Annie pulls Britta aside because the boys have started their antics and already Annie is feeling overwhelmed with them. There's this fantastic exchange of dialogue in the hallway which ends with Annie vowing to be looser. "Is it loosey-goosey or goosey-loosey?" she asks. "Is it hyphenated? You know what - don't tell me. I don't need to know...Ro...heim?" And the end of this dialogue (as well as Pierce's "Easy peasy George and Weasey" line a few moments later) is a fantastic callback to both 2x08 and 2x17. I love that it appears to be an intra-group joke where they end things with rhyming names of people.

At the mall, Jeff exits the dressing room only to find himself running into Dean Pelton. And since the Dean follows Troy and Abed on Twitter, he knows that Jeff should be helping Annie move, and is instead at the mall. Therefore, he blackmails Jeff into spending a day at the mall with him. And I love that the Dean managed to do this because the last time we saw him blackmail Jeff was in 1x06 (nearly exactly two seasons earlier, might I add), where the deal was that if Jeff got Troy to join the football team, the Dean wouldn't release photos of Jeff attending Greendale or distribute them to law firms around the area. See, the most important thing to Jeff in season 1 was himself - he was entirely focused on how the outside world saw him because he wanted to be anywhere but Greendale. He wanted his old life back because he thought it was the best thing for him - the only thing that mattered. Two years later, however, the most important thing to Jeff is the study group and the people he loves. Because he doesn't want to disappoint them anymore, to be looked at as the person who causes their problems. So he'll do anything to keep himself as faultless in their eyes as he can (which is selfishness directed at a slightly less selfish cause, I suppose), because he loves them that much. 

Now onto the Shirley/Britta storyline this episode. It's funny - last week people criticized Dan Harmon for how he portrayed the gay community (and then criticized him for the apology that he wrote to his audience). Can I pause here momentarily and just vocalize something? I want to thank Dan Harmon for writing an apology, because it was unnecessary. And to those who are critiquing his apology, I must ask - what other showrunner would do something like that? Do you  honestly think Ryan Murphy would write an apology message to his audience? Has Simon Cowell apologized for the vast majority of (clearly offensive) remarks he has made? No. Therefore, I think that putting his apology into perspective in that scope may be beneficial. And that is all I will say about that. Okay, let me share something - I am an evangelical Christian and I haven't once thought to critique Dan Harmon for how he portrays Shirley. I could easily take up arms and say: "Don't you see how you're making us look? We look like  bigots and hypocrites and etc. etc. etc." Look, I get it guys - everyone wants their particular demographic (or the one that they affiliate themselves with) to be portrayed in the best light possible. But shouldn't we be exposed for how we are rather than try to pretend otherwise? It's funny because Shirley and Britta are the most backwards in what they believe, I think. Shirley believes so strongly in Christianity, but often that causes her to become judgmental so she  becomes a lot less Christ-like than she should. Britta, on the other hand, believes so strongly in nothing, that ironically she ends up becoming so accepting of every individual that it's hard for her to locate flaws. See, neither are completely right or complete as characters, and that's what's great about the end of their storyline - they realize this about themselves, in a small way. Yes, you can be compassionate and an atheist. Yes, you can be a Christian and also be judgemental. Yes, you can be a Christian and be loving. Yes, you can be an atheist and be hypocritical. Thank you, Community, for reminding us of this.

Annie is really attempting to be a good roommate to Troy and Abed - even when they inform her that her bedroom is a blanket fort and not an actual room. They then perform a puppet show for her, and I think that this is honestly the first time that I have ever teared up while watching the show. It was so sweet how they wanted to make her feel at home, and really loved and appreciated. I really like the Troy/Abed/Annie dynamic because I feel like they also compliment each other so well. Also, they're the youngest of the group, so it's like they really get to grow up together with each other. I don't think that Annie wants to be on her own, or has ever wanted to. Her parents are divorced and she doesn't appear to have the best relationship with them. I feel that maybe she just feels like (because of her neurotic behavior) she deserves to be alone. I think she wants to be independent, respected, and thought of as an adult. But in doing that, I feel like she's ended up lonely, somehow. And perhaps she's insecure because of it. She says she's better off living alone at the end of the episode (before the boys make a room for her). She's afraid of herself (as I think is a common thread between her and Jeff, for varying reasons), and afraid of letting people down. And she is always reminded by others of her age, but rarely of how awesome she is. And I loved that Troy and Abed got a chance to tell her.

After the Dean coerces Jeff into lunch, he also manages to blackmail him into karaoke (singing "Kiss From a Rose," which is hilarious because I love everything about Joel McHale, but he cannot sing). And, as I mentioned last week, I think that you expect an episode to focus on one character solely, but it really highlights every character. So even though this episode was #AnniesMove, it also gave us a surprising revelation about Jeff. We learned that Jeff is in therapy. And it really explains his emotions throughout the season (if he has been in therapy since the start of season 3). He hasn't always been very Jeff-like (aggression,  admitting feelings for Annie so openly, vulnerability at the end of this episode). I am choosing to believe that his therapy has something to do with his father, since we also saw him become pretty abrasive with Britta last week when she brought up the subject. Though it is interesting that Jeff wanted to be alone during that particular day (November 10th), so he e-mailed his therapist to cancel. Why was that day so important? Any speculations?

Back at the apartment, Annie discovers an extra bedroom that Troy and Abed have turned into something they call a "Dream-a-torium" - a virtual imagination room, essentially. And I am sure that there will be people who argue that Annie took away Troy and Abed's fun and is going to squash their adventures together, but that's honestly not the case at at all. Here's the deal - living with someone (or multiple people) is all about compromise. Troy and Abed had been so used to living care-free that they forgot about Annie's needs. They tried to think about what she may have wanted, but not needed. Because Annie Edison is Annie Edison - the dayplanner, organized young woman who has other needs to. And remember what I have been saying in past posts? About the study group growing up? I love Troy and Abed and their adventures, but let's remember that we can't have adventures ALL the time. Sometimes we need to be grounded.

The fact that Troy and Abed made their behavior up to Annie by getting Shirley, Pierce, and Britta to help redecorate the bedroom was very sweet. I also loved that Abed knew Annie would want her throw pillows arranged by color instead of size (but Shirley didn't). It's nice that they're going to learn things from one another. Jeff, at the end of the episode, arrived at the moving party, just like I had a feeling he would. Because he cares immensely for the group.

The tag this time around was really intriguing because Jeff starts crying at the puppet show that Annie, Troy, and Abed put on. I really am interested to know what the catalyst was that has caused Jeff to explore a more emotional side of himself. Did he voluntarily enter therapy? Was it mandated? Because there's been a change in Jeff's character. Perhaps his therapist has found Jeff's father and provided him with the opportunity to meet him? Again, my theories are endless, but I would love to hear some of yours in the comments!

Additional note-worthy aspects about the episode:
- My love for the wardrobe department dressing Joel in blue is endless. Endless, I tell you.
- "Awww, who's this wittle guy?" Best Britta voice ever.
- "Britta! Don't make jokes - you're bad at it!"
- Gillian's hair and make-up was awesome this episode. She looked so pretty.
- Alison appeared to be sick in the episode, sadly.
- "I'm just a Craig-ular Joe!"
- Britta's: "Oh, that's nice" was spot-on
- Annie was in the process of hanging up her award from "Debate 109."
- "I don't want a candy cigarette. I want our Annie."

Next week is "Documentary Filmmaking: Redux," which I am honestly stoked about. The plot is that the Dean is filming a commercial for Greendale and everyone becomes involved with it (from Jeff and the study group to Leonard, Starburns, Magnitude, and a special guest as well). All of this process is going to apparently be filmed as as documentary by - who else but - Abed. Until then, folks!

Friday, November 4, 2011

3x06 "Advanced Gay" (The Pierce-Jeff Parallel)

"Advanced Gay"
Original Airdate: November 3, 2011

It should really be no surprise to you by now that I love Community. If, for some reason, you had believed otherwise... shame on you. What may surprise you about the show is that I really don't have a least favorite character. If someone were to ask me, I would say that all of the characters have exhibited both qualities that attract me to them, and qualities that (at times) cause me to cringe. But I've never detested a character. That being said, Pierce is definitely not my favorite component of the show, and so when I read the synopsis for this episode, I immediately had my doubts. I won't lie to you - I was thoroughly prepared going into this episode to hate it (literally, I prepared myself for another "Psychology of Letting Go," or worse - "The Art of Discourse"). I was wrong. During my initial watch, I was pleasantly surprised by how a) funny it was, and b) how poignant it was in terms of character development (especially in the cases of Jeff, Britta, and Pierce). By the end of my second watch through the episode, I was even more convinced that this was a fantastic episode. Now, will "Advanced Gay" take the place of something like, say "Remedial Chaos Theory" in my heart? No. And I think that perhaps that's one of the most dangerous things this season in regards to the show - "Remedial Chaos Theory" was so flawless, and it took place very early in the season, whereas the timeless "Modern Warfare" seemed like the culmination of season 1. Now I fear that every viewer is watching this season with a measuring stick - that stick being 3x04 - and perhaps that's why they were disappointed with this episode. If 3x04 had occurred later on in the season, viewers may have enjoyed episodes like this one more. But that's just a personal theory. Now onto the episode!

One of my absolute favorite things about this show, which I mentioned last week, is the continuity. We open the episode with a callback to Troy's mysterious plumbing skills from "English as a Second Language," and learn that the janitor wants Troy to plumb (strange to use that word as a verb in an of itself) a toilet with him later on. Troy agrees, only so the janitor will leave him alone. We meet up with the rest of the study group as a pair of gay boys approach their lunch table. They ask for Pierce's autograph on a tub of his Hawthorne Wipes, which everyone finds surprising (that is, until they discover that Pierce's wipes now have a huge following in the gay community thanks to a drag queen named Urbana Champaign). Pierce is initially enraged and threatens to sue the singer. However, when he realizes how much more money he could garner if he invested himself in creating wipes targeted to the gay community, he's all on board.

(Let me pause to just say that one of my additional favorite aspects of this episode was the fantastic callbacks to "Inspector Spacetime" - only a show as meta as Community would mention a fake show that has a rabid real-life fanbase. I'm a sucker for anything that is remotely related to Doctor Who, and especially to the show that parodies it. We actually learn the companion's name, too - Constable Reggie!)

Upon Pierce telling the group that he's decided to market his wipes toward the gay community, Britta responds with "Wow, Pierce. Congratulations on meeting the minimum requirements for open-mindedness." (Which literally made me think of how Jeff used to refer to studying for Spanish as "meeting the minimum requirements for a language credit") I don't know if Dan Harmon is attempting to sway my allegiances, but he must be, because I'm finding myself loving  Britta more and more every episode. And that's not to say that previously I hated her (remember, I don't have a least favorite character). I'm glad though that we're having Britta steal the show recently without using her as a crutch for a Jeff/Annie/Britta triangle. Show, how far you have come since last season.

Britta then attempts to delve into Psych major mode with referencing the "Edible" Complex (never change, Britta), to which Jeff asks: "What's that complex called where you're wrong about everything?" And thus, pretty much the winning line of the night. The reason I really appreciated this episode is because I feel like it solidified the start of some great character development on Troy and Jeff's ends. And it's appropriate that we highlighted these characters because (from what I hear) they'll be sparring for control later on in the season. The one thing that I thought was ingenious was taking a Pierce-driven plot and using it to highlight Jeff's character. Again, this episode seemed to draw parallels between Jeff and Pierce as characters, and who they want to become versus what they don't want to become, as well as the constant struggle to achieve that. More on that later. Let's talk about Troy, briefly.

I really like that we're setting up some great character development for Troy, as well. Traditionally, he's the character that gets to be the most hilarious on the show, often due to the fact that he's the goofiest/most aloof. But I really like how he's being forced to assume certain roles now within the show, and within the realm of Greendale. And I think I remember Harmon (or someone) saying that the whole subplot between Troy and Vice Dean Laybourne resembles a Star Wars motif, and I was definitely getting that vibe throughout the episode with him. It was also nice to see a Troy-driven plot for a change. Donald was top-notch with his comedic timing last night, but I often forget how fantastic he can be in scenes that don't require him to be goofy or crazy. Also, I'm thrilled that John Goodman has returned as the villain.

Anyway, Pierce decides to throw a "gay bash" for his newly marketed brand of Hawthorne Wipes, and while everyone else seems excited to attend the party, Jeff (unsurprisingly) says that he won't be attending. And then, Pierce enters the room with his father in tow. Okay, Community - I'm glad I haven't lost faith in your continuity. One of the quips I had going into tonight's episode was that the audience, I felt, was made to believe in season 1 that Pierce's father had died. I believe it was in "Introduction to Statistics" where Pierce is on the phone with his mother and she says that she saw his father's ghost. However, I should really learn to trust the writers of this show to not overstep such a large hole. Thankfully, they addressed that by saying that Pierce's mother often wished his father was dead, thus eliminating the need for me to compose an angry letter to the continuity fairy.

There is a great bit of Jeff/Britta dialogue throughout the episode, and I wish I could have quoted it all (but then I'd be quoting a span of a half hour, and we all really don't want to read that). See, here's the thing - I love Britta so much because she's trying so hard to be good at what she does (and not the worst), that she's doing the exact opposite (being cliche and being the worst) and yet, somehow manages to get things right. This is kind of the epitome of the show though too, right? Everyone in the show tries so hard to do something, they end up failing at it. But in failing, they end up doing something better or more beneficial than if they would have succeeded (isn't that why they are all at Greendale in the first place?) I remember Harmon said that this season Britta will be a force to be reckoned with in Jeff's life. And she will be. And she wants to be right, in the case of Jeff and his father issues. That's why I'll call it now and say that she will either a) be the one to reunite Jeff with his father, or b) have a huge hand in it. And there's a fundamental difference between Annie and Britta in this - Annie would never do something like call Jeff out on his daddy issues. But see, Annie is a pleaser (much like me). She wants everyone to be happy. Shirley is similar in this respect. Britta wants people to be fixed. Or maybe she just wants Jeff to be fixed so that she can be right. Whatever her motivation, I think that's the fundamental difference: Britta wants Jeff fixed, and Annie wants Jeff happy. You can't have it both ways, kiddos. Unless... we can... (this is the cue for dramatic music) Anyway, Britta may be a better therapist than Jeff wants to admit (and we saw that she would assume this role in "Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking" when she had a conversation with Jeff about his father).

Pierce, in fear of his father, cancels the party (there's this awesome Pierce's father vs. the study group scene), but Jeff un-cancels it. So now we're going to travel back to the Pierce-Jeff parallel. They're seriously more alike than each of the characters wants to admit. And this whole plot also adheres to a great sense of role reversal too, with Jeff being the younger but guiding Pierce (and in a way, himself) through this rocky father-son relationship. Someone said it on Twitter, but I think Jeff would actually make an awesome dad. Honestly, we all love Jeff Winger to an extent because he's the leader of this band of misfits and he's the one who saves the day with his speeches, but this episode caused me to actually love Jeff. The fact is that he's grown up a lot, and he's learning who the important people are in his life and who the unimportant people are. But let's not forget a core aspect of both Jeff and Pierce - pride. Both men are extremely proud and hate admitting their issues. Both of them, though, clearly have issues with their fathers (and really, throughout the study group, there seems to be a thread of family drama), but both are too proud, jaded, and/or defensive to own up to that. Again, let's go back to another fundamental concept I believe I mentioned in my "Biology 101" review - both Pierce and Jeff are so afraid of becoming villains that they act like villains (and thus become the people they don't want to be in the first place). I think that they, as characters, realize this. And it's an underlying fear for them - becoming their fathers - so they distance themselves from those very relationships, from even acknowledgement of those people, and sweep it under a rug. But Pierce has become weak, and Jeff embittered (thanks to their fathers). The characteristics that they despised so much about their own dads surface within them simply because they have not dealt with emotions before. I would say that it's a weird cycle, but it's not even a cycle. And Jeff has broken mostly free from his (albeit still embittered, so he has to deal with those emotions, lest he end up like Pierce).

Jeff gives a pretty epic Winger-speech after Pierce's father appears at the party, causing Pierce (in his fear of his father) to sever Hawthorne Wipes' ties with the gay community. Here's what he says:

Jeff: I could live a million years, and I could spend every minute of it doing important things. But at the end of it all, I would have only lived half a life if I had not raised a son. This was a gift that was handed to you. You squandered it. And the reason you have so much hatred in your heart is because you're trying to fill the hole where your kid was supposed to go. And now, it's too late. Now, you're just stomping around, trying to prove you exist. Well, mission accomplished. But here's a question I'd like to pass onto you from every son of every crap dad that ever lived: so what? I'm done with you. He's done with you. The world is done with you.

(Honestly, regardless of your feelings of the episode overall, I think it's hard to deny that the above speech is anything short of brilliant. Again, this solidifies how much I feel Jeff has grown, how much he wants to grow, and how awesome he would be as a dad. Because he doesn't want to become his father. And he would love his son because he knows what it feels like to not be loved. Sorry, digressing.)

Jeff's speech actually causes Pierce's dad to keel over and die and at the funeral, Jeff finally admits that he's sorry for something (inadvertently causing Pierce's father to die). It's not a first, but it may be one of the most sincere firsts for the Pierce/Jeff friendship.

Troy's storyline involves Vice Dean Laybourne attempting to recruit him for the air conditioning repair annex of Greendale (by having his minions, we'll call them, kidnap potential candidates). Troy is evidently extremely talented and beats out the other contenders. Vice Dean gives him 24 hours to make a decision. At the "gay bash," Troy repairs a complex issue with the air conditioner, and is approached by the janitor from earlier, who attempts to dissuade him from joining the Vice Dean's school. Troy is torn between these two options, and consults Abed (which leads to one of the greatest Abed/Troy scenes in the history of the show), who encourages him to just do what he would be the happiest doing.

At the end of the episode, Troy decides to choose neither air conditioning nor plumbing, and instead vows to just have fun watching television with Abed instead. The Vice Dean ominously tells his cohort that this wasn't over - he would recruit Troy (to the dark side) eventually.

We end with an "Inspector Spacetime" tag, so I honestly couldn't be happier. I felt that "Advanced Gay" probably won't be my favorite episode of season 3, but I encourage those of you who have only watched it once, to re-watch. In fact, I really feel like this is a show that deserves a second-watch for each episode. Honestly, the last two seasons I haven't been doing that, but through writing this blog, I've come to realize that a first watch is a good way to establish initial reactions that can be expanded upon (or even changed) during a re-watch.

Additional de-lovely aspects of the episode:
- "Abed, look!" "Cool. Stonehenge."
- The gay kid winked at Jeff and it was adorable.
- "That's not what I meant! Stop putting gay things in my mouth."
- Everyone dancing to the Hawthorne Wipes song was adorable
- "Why is there an astronaut in the corner making paninis?" Oh, I don't know - maybe because that's the real astronaut that killed The Doctor. ...sorry.
- "...why are you smiling?"
- Everyone had a lot of wardrobe changes in this episode. I am particularly fond of Annie's purple ensemble. Also, Joel continues to look better and better every episode.
- "So Jeff, what are you wearing to Pierce's gay party?" "Nothing." "Ooh, they'll love that."
- "...and the unseasonably tan."
- "Oh, the party's cancelled? I bought a cone bra." Annie, this is why you're my favorite
- Can someone please make up a side-story as to why Annie and Shirley were off by themselves dancing with gay men?
- "So Edible." "You're the worst." WINNING LINE.
- "That may be, sir. But at least it's my mistake." "That doesn't change the fact that it was a mistake." "Doesn't it?" "...no. It doesn't."
- "The question isn't what they want from us, but when."

Next week's episode is titled "Studies in Modern Movement" and it's the episode where everyone helps Annie move in with Abed and Troy. Apparently, there is also a sub-plot involving the Dean and Jeff at the mall. And literally, this is all I can think of:

Let's go to the mall - today!

Until next week, friends. :)