Tuesday, March 31, 2015

6x04 "Queer Studies & Advanced Waxing" (Chang, Chang, Chang)

"Queer Studies & Advanced Waxing"
Original Airdate: March 31, 2015

We don't like being vulnerable with each other. It's a fact of life, really, because being vulnerable means that you need to let people in and when people are let into your life, you cannot control how they respond to you or what they think of you or what they say or do to you. Being vulnerable is terrifying, really, because it means letting a person understand what makes you inherently you and when you do that, there's a chance that they will be horrified at what they see. There's a chance they'll bail. There's a very good chance that they won't understand. So to protect ourselves, we construct these lies about our life: we call them "walls" or "boundaries." We only let people up to a line that we draw in the sand and not any further than that. Walls protect us. They also keep other people away -- away from seeing our insecurities and the depth of our problems and our confusion.

But walls are dangerous. And we weren't meant to live behind them. We build walls emotionally every day because we are afraid. But when we allow other people into our messy, weird, broken lives, sometimes they run away, yes, but sometimes people will stay and will sit with you in your brokenness and will understand you because they're broken, too. That's the real definition of a relationship, actually: being unafraid to be broken with people who are broken just as badly as you are. Community has always been a show that has centered on the idea that broken people need each other if they have any hope of becoming better. That's the series' goal in a nutshell. And Greendale has always been this zany place where the weirdest loners find a home and where the young and irreparably broken sink into love. .... Wait, no, that's a line from The Fault In Our Stars... 

Nevertheless, Greendale is home to a lot of weirdos. And they're the best kind of weirdos. They're the weirdos who care. This week in "Queer Studies & Advanced Waxing" we examined three different stories of three different weirdos and their journeys, so let's talk about them, shall we? 

Dean Pelton

Full disclosure before we begin: I didn't love this episode. I didn't hate it, and it's the most I have liked Chang in probably years, but it's definitely not one of Community's best (and, as Alan Sepinwall pointed out, it was also the series' longest and felt like it) and that may have something to do with the fact that so much was happening it was difficult to choose which story to emotionally invest in (since "Queer Studies & Advanced Waxing" asked a lot of us in that we were required to emotionally invest in all three stories equally). But I do love Dean Pelton, so let's talk about his story first: our favorite school board members approach the dean about joining the board. Unfortunately, they want him to join because he would be the token gay board member. And after a pride parade was cancelled, it's politically wise for the board to appoint someone gay to show that they're accepting and inclusive of all people.

Dean Pelton though isn't gay. At least, that's not all of who he is. (Jeff and Frankie's faces during this scene were fantastic.) But he lies because it's easier to lie, sometimes, than to try to explain everything that makes you... well, you. And it's good for the school. And it's good for the board. It's good for everyone, right? Especially the gay student who approaches Dean Pelton in the hall after the press conference and explains how grateful he is that someone like him is represented in the school board. This fills the dean with a tiny burst of hope -- maybe lying is morally questionable, but he's helping other people out by doing so. And isn't that all Dean Pelton has wanted to do in this show? He's always wanted to make Greendale the place where everyone feels welcome and where people can be who they truly are.

The problem is that Dean Pelton isn't being honest. And it's his inability to be honest with his own school that causes him to reveal his true self: he's a politician. He's the kind of person who will say or do anything if it means that people will like him or that people will care about the things he cares about. I thought the press conference revelation from him was pretty nice and very accurate. It's easy to focus on whether or not Dean Pelton prefers men to women but that's not even really who he is and this episode confirmed that. Who Craig Pelton is more than anything is the person who wants to do whatever it takes to get other people to care. And he will say and do whatever in order to accomplish that.

Though Dean Pelton's story felt oddly sandwiched and a tad overstuffed in the episode, I definitely appreciated this glimpse into his character because it a) illuminated a facet of his personality I had not considered before and b) made me care more about him.

Ben Chang (+ Annie Edison)

Annie's such an overachiever, so of course she volunteers to help Chang run lines for an audition to be in The Karate Kid at a local theatre. And of course she throws herself into her role when both she and Chang get parts in the play (she as Daniel, he as Mr. Miyagi). And of course Annie gets carried away with becoming someone else (remember "Mixology Certification" and Caroline Decker, anyone?) and of COURSE she gets offended when the director tells her that she is not important and that she is not needed. And of course she watches Chang and Annie Kim (her replacement because of course) in the play with sadness and a bit of disdain. But that's Annie Edison, really: she cares too much about things and people. Always.

Ben Chang, meanwhile, has been a character that I haven't consistently enjoyed since the second season. I think both Deb and I discussed this with our reviews, but it seems like the show isn't quite sure of what to do with him and hasn't been for years. Is he a villain? A replacement for Troy? A... person with "Changnesia"? (Can we just forget that story EVER happened?)  Chang was his most interesting when he was opposed to the study group. He was the best when he was Senor Chang and really great when he was Student Chang. But ever since then, Chang has been this weird, half-developed presence hovering in the background of the show to make a stupid comment that was supposed to be funny or fall or get bitten by a cat.

"Queer Studies & Advanced Waxing," in the beginning, felt like much of the same: Chang couldn't learn his lines and Chang was bullied by a tyrannical director insistent on torturing the man. And honestly, I expected to leave the episode disappointed by Chang even further. But when the director explained to Annie that the reason he was so harsh on Chang was because he wasn't living up to his potential -- because he had promise as an actor because of how deep his emotional well ran, how consuming and raw and wonderful his pain was, I began to see glimpses of the character I loved in season one. Remember Chang, who had a wife who he loved and screwed up a relationship with? Remember Chang who was broken and vulnerable with Jeff? Remember Chang who just wanted to be accepted and loved by people he considered his friends?

See, that is the compelling Chang. That's the Chang I care about. I don't care about the guy who got bitten by a cat or got Changnesia. I felt more connection in the latter half of this episode than I have in... well, years. And the rest of the characters did, too. They wept at his performance and were compelled by him. And Annie was still envious, but Jeff gently pointed out that the reason Chang was so great and praised so much was basically because his horrible, miserable life translated really well to the stage.

I felt emotionally invested in Chang in the last half of this episode, and only wish I would have felt that way throughout the entirety of it. As I said above, the problem with "Queer Studies & Advanced Waxing" is that it gave us three stories we were expected to completely emotionally invest in and I felt like my time was being divided unequally between the three. But if we can keep THIS Chang around for longer... I'm okay with a few bumps in this episode.


Is it required for Abed to have an entire story devoted to bonding with the eldest new member of the study group? (Like last year's "Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality"?) I was, quite frankly, a bit bored with the story of Elroy and Abed trying to get Greendale's wi-fi back up and running for the majority of this episode. Abed wants to protect a baby bird's nest within the router and Elroy... well, he does too, actually, which was a really refreshing change of pace from the trope. (The trope being that we would have spent the entire episode with Elroy and Abed battling to move the nest. Couldn't you have seen that story playing out with Pierce and Abed or Hickey and Abed?) Elroy is such a great character though because he clearly doesn't understand the study group but he likes them. He's easygoing and he's a bit stubborn but he's an actual human being.

What was weird to me was Abed's fixation over the protecting of the bird's nest. It fits with Elroy's character since... well, we don't actually KNOW that much about him so it can be an established character trait. But after a bit of contemplation, Abed's insistence that they protect the bird eggs because if they move the nest, the mother won't return actually makes sense. The emotional connection established there is the fact that Abed's mother left him and his father and has a new family. It's something that Abed has really grappled with over the years ("Introduction to Film," "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas") so it makes sense that he would be concerned over the mother bird returning to take care of her young ones. 

Still, as with the other two stories in this episode, that emotional connection is not as strong as it could be because my time was trying to be divided equally between empathy for all of the other characters. When the bird's nest is moved by Dean Pelton, Abed and Elroy are distraught and bury two out of the three little birds. One, however, survives and the episode ends with the study group watching as the little one is released into the world, free to become whoever it wants to be and do whatever it wants to do.

... And with its freedom, the bird promptly returns to Greendale in another electrical box. And if that's not a giant metaphor for the fact that every one of the study group members has the freedom to do whatever they want and be whoever they want and yet all choose to remain at Greendale... well, then, I'm not quite sure what to do with myself.

Additional de-lovely aspects about the episode include:
  • In his review, Alan Sepinwall said: "I look forward to Zapruder-like analysis of Jeff and Annie's milord/milady scene and whether that means they are or are not secretly having an affair." Here we go, Sepinwall: I don't think Jeff and Annie are having an affair, to be honest. I'll analyze this scene though because that's what I do best: I think that Jeff will always be there to pick Annie up. He knows her better than anyone else in the study group and knows the reasons that she cares so much about what others think of her (think of the closet scene in "Intro to Political Science"). He understands why she's looking at Chang's life and his success with envy because Jeff knows that her deepest desire is just to be accepted and loved. So he reassures her by telling her that the reason Chang is being accepted is because his life, frankly, sucks and it makes for a compelling theatre performance. But her life? It doesn't suck. She doesn't suck. And as always, he's there to cheer her up and to pick her spirits back where they belong. And if we're going into deep discussion and analysis here -- because why not, right? -- then Jeff typically calls Annie "milady" and she always responds "milord" after she's gone through a little blow to her self-esteem ("Football, Feminism and You" & "Intro to Political Science" are two instances). This exchange? It reminds her of who she really is -- a person that others -- and he, specifically -- care deeply about. I mean, "milady" literally means "my lady" right? He shows her how much he values her. Jeff will always pick Annie up when she needs it and he knows exactly how to remind her of her value and -- again, specifically -- that she means a lot to him. And there's my analysis of that scene. #micdrop
  • With all that said, I don't think Dan Harmon thought too deeply about that. I think he just likes throwing Jeff/Annie shippers bones and this was a great way to do so. But hey, a girl can hope, right?
  • Jim Rash and Nat Faxon directed this episode together and it was delightful. Also they're delightful. I think if this show gets another season, Jim and Nat need to actually write an episode together. Or Nat needs to guest star. I'm not picky.
  • "The wi-fi's still broken." "What happened to 'good morning'?"
  • I always love a good "Intervention? Intervention? Intervention?" callback.
  • "I'm not openly anything and 'gay' doesn't begin to cover it."
  • Jeff and Dean Pelton's glances during the scene where Frankie implied she might be gay were perfect. Joel really does make some of the best faces.
  • "I am so curious. Intellectually."
  • Britta and Annie had a scene at the bar together and it's ALMOST as if this show remembered that it had two women who used to be friends.
  • "I was born to act, Britta. When I do... I can feel it pleasing the universe." "That's... dramatic."
  • I'm so excited Annie Kim reappeared. More please.
  • "Milady?" "Milord."
So what did you all think of this episode? Did it make you laugh (that's my only qualm so far this season -- the episodes haven't been THAT funny to me)? Did you enjoy Chang? Hit up the comments below with your thoughts and come back next week for Deb's review of "Laws of Robotics and Party Rights." Until then. :)


  1. (Haha! Now that I've figured out commenting on here, you can't keep me away!)

    I think I'm a bit more enthusiastic about this episode than you were, but I do agree: this episode was overstuffed. I think all three of the stories were strong stories (unlike last week's punchline-only B story) but as a result, they had to shove a lot into a single episode.

    However, I think I'd rather have an overstuffed episode where I care a lot about each of the stories than an episode with fluff-only B and C stories. And I cared about all of these stories, because finally, finally, two of the trickiest characters for the show to deal with in the last… what, two seasons? three? - the Dean and Chang - were actually people for a change instead of punchline generating caricatures of themselves.

    Like, the Dean's sexuality isn't just limited to "he has the hots for Jeff"! He's actually able to emote and react to things like a person again! And Chang isn't just some weird guy who says weird things because it's funny, he's a person with an interest - and talent, albeit one born of his terrible, terrible life - in acting, who wants to do well at a task! I could definitely see THIS Chang calling his brother and telling him he's in a play.

    I am overjoyed, even though I know there's a chance the show might revert back to the status quo in the next episode. In fact, the knowledge that Community might go back to caricatures next week makes me want to appreciate the volume of content we got in this episode even more.

    I think you're right about the episodes not being THAT funny, though. I don't hate it, but I do have to suspect that the lack of laughs-a-minute might be due to a lack of Troy. He was the perfect punchline character because he got in the punchlines AND the character, and a lot of heart.

    Also: excellent #micdrop on that Jeff/Annie analysis. When are people going to get that we are more interested in the evidence of those two characters caring about each other than the idea of them having a secret affair? And that them showing they care about each other doesn't mean we're automatically going to assume that they're having a secret affair? The secret affair ISN'T THE POINT! The CARING is!

    1. I WOULD NEVER KEEP YOU AWAY. You're stuck here forever, Deb. Accept it. ;)

      1) I liked the episode well enough. If we're comparing to season four or five, it's worlds better than anything either of those delivered. CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT! CONSISTENT BEHAVIOR! GROWTH! But I wish, I guess, that I could have ENJOYED each story more? Like, it felt like either of those stories could have been the A-story in three separate episodes. But I totally agree with you: an overstuffed episode is better than a stuffed A-story and a B-story filled with fluff.

      2) I sincerely appreciated the dean's story but Chang was the best we have seen him in YEARS. He wasn't relegated to a punchline or being weird and wacky! You actually cared about him. Shocker, right?

      3) Yeah, let's all take the opportunity to appreciate the substance of this episode because I hope we continue that trend but... well, let's be real here. We probably won't.

      4) THANK YOU. I feel like a lot of the humor of this show fizzled when Troy left. And that's not to say that it can't be funny or that the people who remain aren't funny, but it just feels... incomplete without him there? It feels like they all fed best off of Troy's responses and that's what makes everyone else funnier. They're clearly trying to have Chang be that comedic springboard but it's not working at all.

      5) *drops mic again* *picks it up* I honestly don't care if Jeff and Annie ever get together. That comes from a shipper of the two, mind you. And we've had this conversation numerous times: the misconception on shows is that shippers are unhappy because they're not getting romantic scenes. Okay, no. We are unhappy because we're told Jeff loves Annie and then it's... dropped? Never to return again? I just want some consistency and movement in one direction or another. I just want these characters to acknowledge their feelings and a) make it work or b) move on. It's the in-between-dangling thing that makes it feel like what it is: shipper baiting. If you wave a bone in front of a dog, they'll latch onto it but you can't stop feeding your dog. A bone isn't meant to sustain an animal and neither are these little shipper "bones." You can't keep an audience full that way, Harmon.

      ANYWAY, we both have a lot of feelings about the Jeff/Annie/romance/non-romance of this show that we could probably fill up like, ten blog posts with it. ;)

  2. Okay, maybe it's just shipper hopefulness talking, but if Dan Harmon was serious that "Milord/Milady" in 5.13 was definitely "Jeff loves Annie, and now he knows it," then this exchange was Jeff doing their routine and knowing what it means - to him - for the first time on screen. And maybe asking her out for a drink is his first attempt at seeing where it goes. And maybe Dan Harmon has finally realized the comedic potential of Jeff and Annie attempting to date, and even if they fail at it spectacularly it will at least be a conclusion to the longest unfinished plot element this series has ever had.

    But maybe not. Still, the amount of character-based storytelling in these early episode has given me some probably-unrealistic expectations. Or maybe I'm just trying to keep myself from being disappointed and they really ARE going to make this season about completing characters arcs. Maybe they got most of their homages out of their system last season, or maybe they heard all the people complain...

    Maybe. Well see.

    I agree that my favorite part of the episode was Chang getting a win in life. I've wanted him to get his redemption (hell, I wrote a book-length fanfiction in part to do that) and this story did a lot for that. I also agree that I wish they'd put the Dean and Chang's stories in separate episodes because having so much in one episode felt a little overwhelming.

    1. Okay, maybe it's just shipper hopefulness talking, but if Dan Harmon was serious that "Milord/Milady" in 5.13 was definitely "Jeff loves Annie, and now he knows it," then this exchange was Jeff doing their routine and knowing what it means - to him - for the first time on screen.

      That's something I hadn't really thought about, considering the event that supposedly triggered the door opening was his love for Annie and recollection of that exchange. So while, in the hands of any other showrunner, I would say: "Yes, beautiful, it's symbolic of him expressing he loves her without saying the words," in my mind I'm thinking: "... Yeah, but Harmon has already said he's not pursuing anything romantic this year with them."

      the longest unfinished plot element this series has ever had.


      I'm just going to be pessimistic over here so everyone else can be optimistic. I'm appreciative of the character-focused stories instead of the crazy homages. I truly am. But again, if you don't pursue or at least talk about romance in your sitcom, it can be the funniest show in the entire world... but something fundamentally human will be missing from it.

      CHANG. He was so great this episode. So so great. I want more of this, please, show. No more Chang being the butt of jokes or only there to deliver a punchline.

    2. Yeah, Harmon's continuing problem is that he still seems to think in either/or categories on romance in sitcoms. You're either about romance or you're about other stuff. To which I would point energetically in the direction of "Parks & Recreation" and say, "It can be an 'and' if you do it right!" Jeff and Annie Attempt to Date (and Hilarity Ensues) could be a hilarious running B-plot in a season, while the main focus could still be on the group and the school.

  3. I think part of the problem is the same problem S4 and S5 had: no time. So when episodes just skim the surface, I have grown more tolerant, because I know they are stuck, particularly these last two years of cast changes, to tell a story with a group of connected people. Groups don't form together at once. They form one bond at a time, and that takes time that 13 episodes just seems too short to achieve.

    Part of what makes Harmon so good is his rejection of traditional tropes. Yes, that means those of us that want a traditional relationship arc (J/A, J/B, or T/B) are going to be disappointed. Completely disappointed. The exchange should be a more inventive show than others. The moment Harmon can't deliver highly original, inventive content, J/A needs to happen to give people to watch. So as much as I want to see it, I think it will be the sign of the end.

    I think what we are seeing in S6 is the moderating of the characters. Is Chang crazy anymore or is Britta ruining everything for no reason? Well, not really. It seems that this is the grounding Harmon couldn’t pull off last year because Glover left. So we get episodes like this one that flesh out the Dean and Chang after episodes that establish the new characters. The problem then is the group dynamic (my personal favorite part of the show) suffers with groups splintering off to deal with 3 separate plot lines. The A plot (Dean) was good, but the ending was unfulfilling. The B plot of Chang is a setup for later episodes (you can't just say Chang is a celebrity without a setup so...here is the setup), and it spends too much time with the guest star (another Harmon sin from S4). The C plot then ends up lacking the emotional punch (a concept better understood from reading this blog), because it seems so unimportant, and the whole show just felt long when it didn’t need to be long.

    The episode would have been better with more A, less B, and no C, but I get it. When you only have 13, and it might be your last 13, you try to get it all in. They tried to do too much to avoid just skimming the surface. It is noticed and accepted.

    1. Then just have an UNconventional romance arc, like they did with Jeff and Britta over the first two seasons. I loved Jeff/Britta throughout the first two seasons, and they got what was, for me, a satisfying conclusion. I reject the dichotomy that it's either romance or creativity/unconventionality (note: I reject most dichotomies). I don't think fans of any pairing on the show want a conventional romance for their characters - not in their heart of hearts. They - okay, we - want Harmon to come up with something fun to tie up the romantic loose ends HE created. It's a dangling plot thread at this point, and it needs to be concluded. I don't want Jeff and Annie to ride off into the sunset together at this point, I just want a resolution.

      That's what was so frustrating about last season; other than Troy's departure, it avoided actually advancing or resolving stories in favor of gimmick episodes and guest stars. Gimmick episodes are wonderful when they serve the story and characters, as the Lava World episode did, but that was rarely the case in season 5. Season 6 looks like it may - MAY - be trying to reverse that trend.

      Otherwise I agree with you that this should've been 2-3 episodes rather than one, but I'm still glad they're trying.

    2. I kind of wish they would too, but Harmon's version takes episodes. S1 - Jeff chasing Britta was Episodes: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, & 16 with J/B in 23 and triangle in 25. S2: 21 (because he spend most of his time with Annie). With Annie there is no chase. They are right there, together, and unwilling to change. What I wish would be the end of an episode in the middle of dozen, where they have a moment and just go for it. In the next episode the A plot would explore the problems of J/A the couple so the next episode could include a B plot on the third episode to tie it off done as love, but love that can’t be. But I will take ANYTHING. I don’t expect it.

      I don't think of it as a dichotomy exactly, and I kind of wish he would go ahead and take his perspective and take the J/A plunge, but I think the way he engages in it now is ultimately frustrating. Basically, I am afraid he wouldn't really explore it unless he ran out of ideas so if it ever comes to pass it would just be peddled to us as red meat instead of the inventive stuff of Community.

      I completely agree about last S4: too many gimmicks and too much time for guest stars. The network dangled the possibility of more episodes in front of them so they ended up with a delicious mess that had some flat parts.

      I think we are really in agreement.

    3. I think part of the problem is the same problem S4 and S5 had: no time.

      Okay, but I hate this excuse when it comes to the romantic relationships or any character development, really. Sure. Seasons 4-6 had 13 episodes. But... a lot of shows can do a LOT in 13 episodes. Prime example: "Enlisted." Probably one of the best comedies in recent years. They managed to create an entire arc and develop their characters in only 13 episodes. Same with Sleepy Hollow's incredible first season. I know that was an hour drama so they had more time but they only had 13 episodes total. The thing is, Community had 71 episodes before they even GOT to season four in which they could have made some decisions or character development in terms of romance, etc. But they didn't.

      And I don't want a show about lovey-dovey couples. I want character growth and development. So if Dan Harmon says, oh, in a commentary that Jeff loves Annie... that seems pretty significant to me. It seems like something that shouldn't be glossed over. The problem here is that Harmon is unwilling to commit. To ANYTHING romantic. Which is, in turn, dragging down his show. You don't get to bait shippers with a Milady/Milord and then turn around the next moment in an interview and say: "But IDK maybe Annie doesn't actually love him." Like... really? And the basic problem is that the actors have a clearer version of what their characters want and who they are than Harmon does. Joel plays Jeff like he has feelings for Annie. He really does.

      And really, it's the lack of addressing ANYTHING that makes me so frustrated with Harmon and with this show. If you don't want anyone to date in the study group? Fine. I couldn't care less. BUT THEN DON'T BLATANTLY PUT IN MOMENTS THAT YOU KNOW ARE INTERPRETED AS SHIPPY. DON'T SAY IN COMMENTARIES THAT A CHARACTER LOVES ANOTHER CHARACTER AND THAT IS WHAT OPENED THE DOOR. Harmon thinks romance ruins sitcoms. Bad romance ruins sitcoms and NOT ADDRESSING ROMANCE ruins sitcoms. Which is what has soured him for me in terms of this kind of development. He's stifling his characters by not allowing them to breathe and explore their feelings for each other. He really is. And ten more episodes in a season would not have changed that.

      (Apologies, but this subject makes me rant.)

    4. Part of what makes Harmon so good is his rejection of traditional tropes. Yes, that means those of us that want a traditional relationship arc (J/A, J/B, or T/B) are going to be disappointed. Completely disappointed. The exchange should be a more inventive show than others. The moment Harmon can't deliver highly original, inventive content, J/A needs to happen to give people to watch. So as much as I want to see it, I think it will be the sign of the end.

      But again: he's not subverting a trope. At all. He's not being clever. He's being lazy and scared. He's choosing to give his audience moments between each couple that are cute but then refuses to act on those moments and, in turn, regresses his characters as a result. He diminishes their feelings for each other by sweeping any prospect of a relationship or any conversation about a relationship under a metaphorical rug.

      When Dan Harmon said that Jeff's love for Annie is what opened the door last year? He then added: "What a comedy." He doesn't believe romance has any place in comedy but -- I say this ALL the time -- if you remove romance from your show, you remove something fundamentally human from it. I don't care if Jeff and Annie date. Or if they date and fail. Or if they tell each other they have feelings but decide it's better if they don't pursue anything at all.

      But NONE OF THOSE SCENARIOS ABOVE HAVE HAPPENED. If you can't even allow your characters the time in your show to be honest with each other... what are you even DOING? Community's weak point has always been the romantic aspect and I admire Dan Harmon a lot for all he's done but this is the part that I'm extremely adamant he is wrong about and just plain bad at.

      (Also: it does hurt that he has so few female writers on staff. I did a post a year or so ago, which you can find somewhere, about how seasons 1-3 had a strong female staff -- 50% in the first two seasons I believe -- and how it's declined SO FAR over the years. That definitely hurts the quality in terms of this subject matter, I can tell you that much.)

    5. Okay, glad I didn't strike a nerve. ;-) I'm going to go in reverse order, but overall, I don't think we disagree all that much.

      I 100% agree you can tell the difference in the writing and the loss of female voices in the writer’s room hasn’t made the show better. Shirley’s character seemed to lose ground to stereotypes, and Britta just kept getting sillier. Part of that was Megan Ganz arguing to keep Britta Britta’ing everything (which wasn’t remotely fixed until S6), but overall the writing for the women has continually tapered off. The two biggest problems in the writer’s room are the loss of continuity from year to year (not just female voices), and Harmon’s struggle to run it. I am not sure he will ever be a quality show runner.

      I agree Harmon dangles J/A too much without following through. When it comes to romantic love, Harmon has shown nothing to suggest he can write romantic love through its stages between two people. He had 7 people and the only semi-stable relationships were Shirley’s to her husband and Troy and Abed. Sheesh. He likes playing on with the beginnings and the endings, but it is just like turning the key to a car that never cranks. I would like to think that his failure here is the price to pay for the stuff he really does well, but yeah, I don’t know if I would call it lazy, but he definitely harms the show by avoiding the obvious relationships. A lot of what Community is and its ability to dance around tropes is 100% Dan Harmon, but here he is not subverting trope or being clever.

      I don’t think it is fair to compare the first 13 episodes of Enlisted to S4, S5, or S6. Enlisted was working from a fresh slate. If you want to compare Enlisted to S1’s first 13, okay, but time is a real problem with older shows because they have to work around and from canon. S4, with 13 episodes and no Harmon, tried to make fans happy by tying off loose ends expecting those episodes to be the last of the show. S5, Harmon and Co. had the possibility of more episodes dangled in front of them during production, they had to deal with Chase and Glover’s departure, and they had to deal with S4, which Harmon treated cruelly. S6 is the last year on the contracts for the main cast with only 13 episodes on a new format. I’m not saying he couldn’t have done more (they have really overused guests on that show the last 2 seasons), but to say the short seasons haven’t been a problem isn’t accurate.

      We may disagree on the particulars, but I think we can agree at least on this: In the end, nobody likes how the show has handled Jeff and Annie, and Harmon deserves all of the blame.

    6. 1) Consistency is key in any show and especially Community. The writing, you're correct, has been so uneven in terms of both staffing and quality (and also vision because like, you can't have a solid writing staff when half the people think Jeff loves Annie and the other half think he's pathological, lol).

      2) I think I mentioned this in... I can't recall which post. Maybe it was my season four review, but like, for a show all about relationships NO ONE has had a successful and lasting relationship. Shirley? Marriage fell apart once, came back together, then fell apart AGAIN. Jeff? Nope. Britta? Nada. Annie? Apparently she was dating last season but doesn't have a successful relationship. Troy? Nuh-uh. Abed? Nope, we got a girlfriend for a few episodes and then dropped her. Not even PIERCE got to have a solid relationship. Chang and the dean either. So... what's the giant takeaway, then? That people don't need to have successful relationships, romantically? That's the giant stumbling block in this show is the lack of consideration in terms of romance. It's like it's off the table because he doesn't know how to write it. So in the end, you're right: all he does is really dance around them and not address any sort of romance. And it's not clever and it's not creative: it's being so afraid to write something that he's failing before he even starts.

      I think my problems with people talking about "but he didn't have enough episodes" is that you're right -- they HAD 71 episodes to launch from. After 71 episodes they should have known their characters. I agree that season four was rough. It was a curveball. It was the writers being thrown into the deep end of the pool without any floaties and I don't HATE that year as much as I bemoan season five because season five HAD Harmon back at the helm and it was a complete mess. No one grew. Not one single character. It was an overstuffed season with no real trajectory and that's what gets me. Yes, he had surprises. Yes, that happened. Donald left. But he should have had a better grasp on his characters after five years. Last year was a season of random, one-off episodes that the writers seemed to just want to get in in case they weren't able to write any more after that season. Right? Like, it felt kind of like their jumbled dream journal, full of ideal guest stars and episodes they've always wanted to do but couldn't, lol.

      In the end, I think we do agree: the romantic part of Community suuuuuuucks and it's all Harmon's fault. :P

    7. "I think I mentioned this in... I can't recall which post. Maybe it was my season four review, but like, for a show all about relationships NO ONE has had a successful and lasting relationship."

      A very minor nitpick, because I agree with everything else you've said, but I'd just like to say that, in my opinion at least, the show has actually managed ONE successful relationship. There has been one couple who revel in each other's company, who have a relationship that is passionate, committed and joyously physical and who are a delight to watch every time we see them together.

      Unfortunately, the couple in question is Evil Jeff and Evil Annie! It probably says something that the only successful relationship the writers have seen fit to give us is one that is almost certainly a figment of the imagination of the regular characters and effectively a nightmare...

  4. Really good review, and nothing much to say about the fact other than – yeah, really good review:-) In fact I think the only disagreement I had with it is that I think I actually really liked it, the focus on character instead of zaniness really helped. It probably also helped in that, unlike others, I didn’t try and care about all three storylines equally – Abed/Elroy got thrown off the back of the sledge so I could concentrate on bringing the other two storylines home (it didn’t help that I could easily imagine Abed/Troy doing that storyline and being absolutely hilarious about it) so it probably felt less stuffed...

    Reasons for liking –

    Dean & Chang character development. Nothing to add to what’s already been so fluently expressed.

    For a show that seems to pride itself on rewarding careful viewers with references to previous episodes, there was a really nice one at the start – Frankie is ranting about how she can’t find the IT lady and every time she tries to call her she gets nothing but feedback – I’m guessing this is a reference to the fact that the only time we actually saw the IT lady (Analysis of Cork Based Networking) she was also being played by Paget Brewster in her previous appearance on the show. Frankie obviously can’t get in touch with the IT lady because Paget can’t be in two places at once!

    And Jeff and Annie, we only got one real scene with them together but it was a delightful reminder of just how well Joel and Alison work together. There were however what seemed like a couple of potentially significant moments to me – firstly, you folks may know better than me, but was the first Milord/Milady moment we’ve had since the moment in “A fistful of paintballs” (2:23? That long ago?) when Jeff did the “milady” thing only for Annie to snap back with “what do you want, Jeff?” If so, I hope it means something, even if only that they’re now finally back in a place where they’re completely comfortable with each other. And secondly, what may be another first (corrections welcomed...) – but is this the first time we’ve seen on-air Jeff and Annie do something that normal couples do (take in a show and go to a bar afterwards) without reference to the rest of the group (okay, he bought her another drink in “Conventions of Space and Time” but as that was basically an apology for another Winger fiasco I’m not sure it counts)? I’ve watched that scene a couple of times now, and at no point does Jeff look around to extend the invitation to the others, and as they walk out arm in arm at no point do they look around to see if the others are following. It really does look for that moment at least that for the two of them the universe has reduced itself down to two components - “Jeff and Annie” and “everything else”. I’m probably reading too much into rather thin gruel – I suspect you’re right the writers haven’t thought that deeply about it – but I’ll take what I can get...

    1. Richard: Hello and welcome! First off, thank you for your comments. :) I think I just didn't care for this episode as much as last week's because it felt more scattered with all the stories. But I'm in 110% agreement with you: character-focused plots will always >>>>>>>>> homages, for me.

      For a show that seems to pride itself on rewarding careful viewers with references to previous episodes, there was a really nice one at the start – Frankie is ranting about how she can’t find the IT lady and every time she tries to call her she gets nothing but feedback – I’m guessing this is a reference to the fact that the only time we actually saw the IT lady (Analysis of Cork Based Networking) she was also being played by Paget Brewster in her previous appearance on the show.

      I did totally pick up on that! I see what you did there, show. Clever job.

      I love Joel and Alison's natural chemistry. Their characters are always at their best when they're allowed to have real, meaningful interactions. And yes, you are correct. The following are all of the Milady/Milord exchanges, in order:

      1) Spanish 101 - Jeff kisses Annie's hand and calls her "milady"
      2) Football, Feminism & You - Jeff offers his arm outside of the pep rally
      [*technically a bonus mention in Investigative Journalism when Buddy calls them both Milady and Milord*]
      3) Intro to Political Science - Jeff calls Annie milady after the election (she doesn't say "milord" back this time)
      4) A Fistful of Paintballs - Jeff calls Annie milady and she rebuffs him with: "What do you want, Jeff?"
      [*technically a bonus mention in Basic Sandwich when Jeff recalls their milady/milord exchange]
      5) Queer Studies and Advanced Waxing - a reciprocated milady/milord exchange

      Actually wow, you just helped me realize that up until this episode the last time Jeff and Annie had an exchange where they BOTH said "milady" and then "milord" was in season ONE. SEASON ONE. Geez.

      but is this the first time we’ve seen on-air Jeff and Annie do something that normal couples do (take in a show and go to a bar afterwards) without reference to the rest of the group

      VERY good point. I wish I could say that I thought it means something, but alas. I'm bitter and jaded. ;) Ugh, Jeff and Annie were basically in their own little world the entire show and afterward. I just want them to discuss their feelings already. PLEASE AND THANK YOU.

      Again: thanks for your comments on the review!

  5. Thanks for confirming my impressions - have to say I'm genuinely rather surprised to see there were only two proper milady/milord moments prior to this one, and that both occurred in the first season. Given how iconic it is in the fandom in particular I just sort of assumed it had happened more often than that, it's funny the tricks memory sometimes plays. Thanks again...