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?" " 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. :)

1 comment:

  1. Another great review! This wasn't my favorite episode, but I didn't hate it as much as I thought I would. There were some funny moments, and Jeff's "dad speech" was amazing! I am so looking forward to the rest of the season.