Community: Custody Law and Eastern European Diplomacy
I’m not gonna lie—I wasn’t terribly psyched when I learned that we were Chang-ing things up this week (hi-yo!). Chang’s kind of a one-note dude. A funny one-note dude, but still…a one-note dude. So yeah, I wasn’t so happy. I was, you might even say, disa-Chang-ed? (Last terrible Chang pun, promise.) Anyway, on to the recap!
We open on an Annie-organized baby shower for Shirley. The mom-to-be is sandwiched by her former-ex Andre (Theo Huxtible) and her possible baby-daddy Chang. (PS: Sweet touch, writers, always keeping Andre in Bill Cosby–esque sweaters. For those of us who were ostensibly raised by the Huxtibles, it’s a nice little wink.) Our little overachiever has thrown a party in her impossibly Annie-esque way, trying to accommodate all the cultural indications of both possible papas: A black doll and a “very nice letter from the manufacturer promising to expand their selection,” egg rolls and a maize porridge popular in Ghana.
Shirley informs everyone (a little insensitively to Chang, if you ask me) that regardless of what pops out of her lady canal, she and Andre will be raising this baby. Chang, surprisingly, seems okay with this, offering to be a lovable uncle—nay, a creepy uncle.
Up next in Weirdest Baby Shower Ever gift-a-thon are Troy and Abed, who give the new parents a gallon of water, because, “When your child is a lone scavenger in a nuclear wasteland, clean water will be worth its weight in gold.” Sawed-off shotguns were already too expensive, natch.
Speaking of the hapless duo, they have a new friend, Luka, a hottie with a nonspecific Eastern European accent who plays violent video games with them (remember that) and who they like a lot. That means, Troy says, Britta is not allowed to bone him. (So…of course she will.) Watching Britta in action as an awkward flirter is satisfying because our usually adamantly faux-feminist gal is easily swayed to act like a pop tart to gain Luka’s affection, singing her version of a Britta-ney Spears song (“Hit me with your genie’s bottle/rub it all over me.” Um, what now?) Abed and Troy insist that Britta stay away from Luka because when she dates their friends, she ends up telling them terrible things they can’t unhear. (Case in point: Jeff “Nipple Play” Winger. Yeah, I’d like to unheard that one, too.)
Meanwhile, Shirley tries to enlist Nipple Play’s help in getting Chang to sign a waiver of parental consent. (Again—insensitive, Shirley! WWJD?!) NP urges Shirley not to “poke that bear,” that her best bet is letting things be, that Chang will never be a hands-on baby daddy. (Does anyone sympathize with Chang here? Is that the point? Or am I cracked?)
Cut to Britta and Luka making out, and Britta getting her fix of Tragic Boy Toy when Luka (who’s from the Balkans, it turns out) starts to unload the pain of his past on her—or so she thinks. “So much killing,” he teases, as our predictable girl hero’s face fills with sympathy. Only, it turns out, Luka is the bringer of all that killing. (There it is, the nipple-play moment Troy and Abed portended.) At Greendale, Luka misses home, he misses cleansing the fields and forests of all the unclean. Uh-oh, Britta—crisis of conscience. Love it! Good move, producers! This is exactly how to keep Britta tolerable. Put her in squirmy situations and see what she does. It’s sort of a win-win: If she makes the right moral decision (sacrificing that sweet, sweet Balkan ass for her ideals), we’ll like her. And if she doesn’t…well…she’s human. And relatable. (My money’s on her playing around with Luka for as long as she can and then realizing she can’t stand his inhumanity, thereby getting her domaći kolači and eating it, too. (That’s totes Balkan cake! I Googled it, y’all! Is that right? Any of you guys from the Balkans out there?)
Back at Jeff’s pad, Chang (oh yeah, they’re roommates now!) is busy sawing down the legs of the coffee table to stop it from wobbling. (Momentary digression: Has Chang gotten more and more…um…special-seeming this season? I mean, this guy *did* hold down a gig as a professor for years. Granted, it was at Greendale, but I’m finding his character a little hard to believe these days.) But then there’s humanity in Chang: When Jeff presents the parental waiver to him, he starts to cry. You see, he doesn’t Chang a lot of chicks (his pun, not mine!), and what if this is his last chance to be a dad? Jeff, in season-one Winger fashion, sees an opportunity to exploit Chang’s sadness and unwittingly convinces him that if he gets a job and his own place, maybe Shirley will let him be a part of his maybe-Changby’s life.
Shirley and Andre (in a disappointingly plain sweater) meet Jeff in the caf and inquire about the waiver. (Side note: Anyone else think it’s strange that they’re not having a paternity test? Also, shouldn’t she be showing? Is she showing? How far along is she? What month is it? Help me, readers, help me!) Chang approaches in what can only be described as full-on Happy Days garb: specs, cardi, pipe, gigantic mug, newspaper. Shirley susses out Jeff’s selfish plan immediately. And she is pissed.
Shirley wins a sympathy point, at least, when we learn why she’s so adamant about keeping Chang away from her kin: She’s worried about the welfare of her baby, convinced that a Chang-as-father scenario will undoubtedly wind up with her kid being dangled over a lion’s cage. (Is Andre a much better option? He took up with a stripper, after all, leaving Shirley to care for their two young boys. Stripper, lion; stripper, lion. Okay, I *guess* I get it.)
Back in Abed’s dorm, Britta sets out to make Troy and Abed realize Luka’s true nature without coming right out and telling them. Though the daffy duo seem to be noticing more and more of Luka’s strange video game tactics (“I didn’t know you could earn extra points for killing villagers!” and “He just set fire to a farmers market!”), they’re still adorably unaware that their new BFF is a likely war-crimes criminal. Spying a copy of Kickpuncher 4, the Final Kickening, in Abed’s crib, Luka wants to borrow it. No can do, Abed tells him. Thanks to guys like Pierce, he’s instituted a strict no-lending policy. And there’s Britta’s opening: “What would happening if somebody broke that rule?” Why, Abed says, they’d be dead to him forever. (Dead like the dog mothers in hell!)
There’s a forgettable scene between Chang and Theo about giving father-to-father advice, and then…Abed reports that his Final Kickening DVD is missing. (Dun-dun-dun!) Brillz little interlude of Britta having a conversation with herself about the likelihood that Luka’s snatched the disc, and then—OH, SNAP—Troy and Abed have video of Britta lifting the disc. (“You have security cameras in your room?” “It’s for an extremely thorough documentary I’m making on my life.”) But he’s a war criminal, Britta insists! “In what war?” Troy wants to know. “The battle for our affections?” (For such a numbskull, Troy gets some of the best one-liners on the show.)
Cut to a scene about Jeff’s guns. Ok, wait, sorry, no, there’s actual stuff happening. But I’m focused on the guns. (This is a Jeff-lite episode. I gotta take what I can get.) Chang is busy hanging with Shirley’s kids, trying to be all dadlike, proving that he’s a responsible dad. (Seriously you guys, all’s I heard while Jeff was yelling at Chang and waiving that delicious arm to and fro was Charlie Brown’s teacher.) “Who’s Shirley?” Kid No. 1 asks after Jeff’s rant. Whoops! Turns out Chang is a perpetrator of All Black People Look the Same Syndrome, as he’s nicked the wrong kids. (“My mom’s name is Laquanda,” Kid No. 2 says. “Hey, hey,” Chang counters, “that’s racist. [Beat.] Wait, wait, is your mom’s name really Laquanda?) Yes! This is where Community always succeeds—the unexpected. Did I see this coming? Nope! Even worse? We’ve seen Shirley’s kids before (in the Katharine McPhee episode last season and a few others, I think). So I am as bad as Chang! And Jeff! We’re all terrible! Isn’t it wonderful???
“You are a horrible human being,” Jeff tells Chang. “I will never feel sorry for you again. I don’t care what happens to you.” (I don’t know what to do with this. Are we supposed to sympathize with Chang? It doesn’t seem like it. But then…why bother with him? He must have some redeeming qualities, right? Only he doesn’t seem to. He functions a lot like Pierce—purely for laughs. Only, we know more about Pierce’s back story. At the very least we can point to his cold childhood and wonder if his cruelty stems from that. With Chang…well…we better get there soon, that’s all I’m saying.)
Or! They need to go in the complete opposite direction, and in this Choose Your Own Adventure, the Community crew goes with the latter: Chang, as he is wont(on) to do, follows his id instead of his superego, reporting Jeff—currently driving Laquanda’s kids home—for kidnapping. Cut to the police precinct, where Jeff is free to go, but not before recovering his wallet, keys and nipple guards (for running, obviously. Or is it for all the nipple play? Oh god, I don’t want to know!) Shirley’s convinced Laquanda not to press charges against Jeff but has encouraged her to keep at it against Chang for child endangerment, which could bring 3-5 years. Jeff thinks she’s being rash…in not going for a trafficking conviction, which could bring 20-life. For some reason, Theo is the only one sympathetic to Chang. He’s more realistic: Things can’t be perfect. That’s what Shirley tried the first time. (Cold, Theo. She is not the reason you stuck your thing in a stripper.)
We close in the study lounge, or touchstone, our calming force. Troy and Abed tell a lonely Britta that they (sob!) asked Luka about his time in the army and now know the truth about their new assassin friend. She should have told them, Troy says. “There’s a difference between telling us a guy likes nipple play and telling us a guy makes hats out of babies.” There sure is, Troy. There sure is.
I thought this week’s episode was…fine. Now, let me confess: I am currently in Las Vegas, reporting to you poolside, two bloody marys in. So if I thought this week’s episode was sort of middling, I’m going to go ahead and assume that’s on me. (I’m a little distracted. It’s 7:1 guys to girls here now, March Madness time, so I’m on date-rapist patrol.) Until next, you guys, when I’ll be back in Brooklyn and sober (maybe).