by Thom Yee

Community images courtesy of NBCUniversal Television Distribution

Community images courtesy of NBCUniversal Television Distribution

5×07:  “Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality”

This is an unusual episode.  This is an unusual episode of a show that’s already extremely weird and introverted.  Not only does it dispel some of the myths most of us take as fact in the Community-verse, but it almost actively goes against what we’ve held to be true all this time. It ends on a strong note of emotionality and sentiment, but it rings more and more hollow the more you think about it.  The whole thing’s still funny and clever, but some of the jokes don’t go anywhere, and it feels like some of the character potential is… starting to bottom out.  I’m getting worried, but I don’t know if that worry is me for the show’s quality or me not wanting the show to change.

When Professor Duncan confides in Jeff that he wants to get with Britta and can’t do it without his help, Jeff suggests he feign interest in a humanist cause of potentially mutual interest so the two can spend some time alone together.  But when Duncan openly states that he has plans to attend a theatre fundraiser for starving children with cleft palates, not only does Britta invite herself, but so do Annie, Shirley and Chang, with the collective consciousness guilt-forcing Jeff to also attend.  Meanwhile Abed is building an original Kickpuncher costume to attend and protest the Kickpuncher reboot playing that night.

Now that Duncan’s been installed as a regular member of the cast (now operating under the pretense of the Save Greendale Committee rather than a study group), we’re finally getting to spend some serious time with a character whose defining traits are not caring about others and being pathetic with women.  With the departures of Pierce and Troy, we’re now watching an entire episode built around a character we once barely had time for, and it’s weird.  As the crux and inciting element of this week’s story, Duncan’s attempt to get with Britta does fall in line with established continuity, and his choice to not take advantage of Britta’s vulnerability is the type of bittersweet moment that the show has so often pulled off well that also works here, but then the writers tack on a Jeff-is-a-good-friend-to-Duncan resolution that just doesn’t feel right.

Community s5 - sad Britta

Sad-face Britta is sad.

Other developments at the fundraiser include Chang ad-libbing a successful one-man show before finding out there hasn’t been an audience in that theatre room since it burned down in 1997, Britta reuniting with some of her former activists, who, at first bestow adulation on Britta, and Jeff becoming temporarily re-attracted to Britta because he’s never seen people who actually like and respect her.  Of the three, Britta going through an I’m-grown-up-now-and-all-my-friends-are-doing-better-than-me crisis as she finds out her activist friends are actually throwing the fundraiser is probably the strongest.  What’s too bad is that not only does this crisis resolves itself mostly off camera, leaving viewers with the same general “Britta is terrible at everything” sensibility that the show has continued to fall back on, but I also might’ve been happier with a fleshed-out, crazy Chang-is-caught-performing-for-ghosts/what’s-real-what’s-not story instead of the half-assed joke we got about him at the end.

Community s5 - sad Abed

Sad-face (Kickpuncher) Abed is sad.

In the B story of the episode, Abed ruins the duck cartoons Professor Hickey had been working on when he deploys ballistic foam from his Kickpuncher suit all over Hickey’s desk, forcing Abed to confront someone who’s not compelled to put up with his crap.  Unfortunately, the sequence of interactions that follow wind up reducing Abed to a bit of a selfish baby, and even though their story resolves positively, I’ve always held stronger to the “Because when you really know who you are and what you like about yourself, changing for other people isn’t such a big deal” Abed from all the way back in season one.  He may be a damaged and fundamentally limited character, but at his core, I’ve always felt that he was the most sorted of our heroes, and seeing his ultimate response to Hickey being an angry “You made me miss my movie!” is a little deflating.

I don’t know if it’s the show’s fault or mine, but “Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality” was only an entertaining show rather than a meaningful one.  It’s full of sentiment and sap and hope for a brighter, more well-rounded future for our heroes, but it all feels off in a way that I haven’t felt since the Gas Leak Year.

Community “Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality” final score:  7


Items of Note

-We open with Duncan speaking to Jeff and I’m like, “Where the hell are they?”, before I remember Jeff’s supposed to be a teacher now (remember?) and they’re in the teacher’s lounge.

-Duncan:  Have you met the women that do like me, Jeff?  Neither have I, but trust me, they’re bad people.

-Since when does Jeff wear cheap Casio watches?  Where are the Concords and Bell & Ross’s and other brands I need to immediately Google after I see Jeff wearing them?


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