First of all, Jeff, your forehead is perfect, never change! Okay, onto the recap.
We start with a meta-clue: The gang is making a diorama of themselves making their last diorama. For the first time since the Great Pen Debacle, Annie’s Boobs appears, this time to steal Shirley’s paintbrush, then quickly scurry back to his home—the vent. Huzzah! The mere appearance of the mischievous little monkey hearkened back to Community at its greatest. I knew instantly that this would be just the palate cleanser I needed to wash away the taste of meh left in my mouth from last week. I didn’t even mind the visual of Chang lubing himself up to launch into the vent like a reverse cow birth. (Thank you, Annie’s Boobs! You can keep him!)
Since we last saw the little thief, he’s had time to create a sentimental treasure pile, spawning a recollect-a-fest of memories both real and faux for the study group. It’s clear before the opening credits have even finished that we’re in high-concept Community territory, a place I love. The premise—the reappearance of Annie’s Boobs causes the group to recall their year through flashbacks—coupled with the rules determined by the high-conceptyness set forth (rules are there are no rules!) can mean only one thing: Community is free to run off the rails tonight. So yay.
After a disagreement over whether the group’s trip to a ghost town inhabited by a racist was fun (the whiteys liked it, everyone else, not so much) Troy acknowledges what the gang and frankly I (and admit it, you) failed to notice: It’s been a dark year! The glee club died, forcing Annie and Troy into a sing-a-ling-a-ding-dong (thank you for acknowledging that Glee is annoying, Community!), Pierce became a pill popper, Abed had a Claymation-involving psychotic break and Shirley got knocked up with a maybe-Changby. See? Dark! (PS: We can finally see Shirley’s baby bump!)
You know who doesn’t think the year’s been that bad? Breff. They think everyone should look on the bright side. But hey, why wouldn’t they? THEY HAVE SECRET SEX ALL THE TIME. (Gasp!) Okay, so, am I the only one who didn’t know this was a secret? Abed’s revelation—he’s a computer, he figured it out—shocks the group. I guess I assumed everyone knew about their paintball sex. At the very least, Troy saw them making out on his 21st birthday, and during Fat Neil’s intervention, Jeff asked rhetorically if there was anything he wasn’t good at, and Britta said “sex,” and I guess they could have thought she was just joking but…oh. Okay, yeah, I need a hobby or life of some sort. Moving on….
I’m a big fan of Breff (and a slightly less enthusiastic though ultimate supporter of Jannie). What I am not a fan of is Broy (you’re getting all this, right?), so no matter what, I was glad to see that plotline from last week abandoned. (Though, I’m sure the writers are storing it in the vent for later. They are such hoarders! )
Anyway, the group is pissed, prompting a roll of flashbacks that serve as proof that Britta and Jeff are both selfish. Like that time in BARBERSHOP CLASS when Jeff stole Troy’s much more impressively coiffed toupee (Oh god, I love this show so much) or when they let the rest of the group take the fall for the Habitat for Humanity house they wrecked. (No, really, this episode is making me giddy. I can’t handle it.)
Britta and Jeff aren’t going to take that lying down (like the time they had sex on the table in the study room), so they’ve got some memory pops of their own they want the gang to feast their ear tongues on. (If you’re still with me, I love you.) What about that time Pierce gave himself flu shots that were reserved for the day care center or when Shirley bilked them out of 50 bucks apiece for Lady Miss Lady cosmetics?
The group’s not buying it (that was just them being cute, Annie says), but Jeff and Britta think everyone’s missing the point: They took one for their quirky little team, compartmentalizing their libidos for the good of the group. They are selfless! Annnnd, Annie does not like this one bit. What about all her and Jeff’s passing glances and too-long stares? Angry robot, double-dutch tournament—do I even need to form complete sentences anymore?
This is one of those episodes that’s nearly impossible to recap. You’d be much better watching it than reading about it. (But please keep reading. I worked medium-hard on this! You’re almost done, it would be silly to stop now.) The culmination of the group’s bickering is an Inception-style flashback within a flashback within a flashback, and it doesn’t end well. Troy’s got a nosebleed! The group is always fighting, it never stops. What’s the point?
The point comes via a montage of Wingerlogues, those touchstone we—and they—have come to rely on. The point is, well, it has something to do with Caesar salad, but I’m pretty sure what it really means is that they love and care about one another and also that we are nearing the end of a really fucking amazing 22-ish minutes of comedy. Oh yeah, and also that Jeff and Britta aren’t interested in group-endorsed screwing.
Then there’s a cartoon! Teeeeeee!
A flashback special—the laziest, most disappointing sitcom trope—turned on its head with fake flashbacks: It’s so brilliantly obvious that of course it took Community to think of it. This is the show at its best. Not afraid to be different and kooky and use the word meta in dialogue and trust that everyone watching will understand. A show that can throw in a nod to an episode of the Twilight Zone that maybe some of us get and maybe some of us get only because of Felicity and maybe some of us don’t get at all but still think is funny. (Second group, right here.) It’s what makes Community that show that maybe not all our friends dig, but the very best, very smartest ones do, and we like it that way. (Because we are bitches, we Community fans.)
This episode felt like a gift to us, the ones who get it. It was just fun. It didn’t really matter in the scheme of things; you could have skipped it and picked up next week where you left off. But what you absolutely could not have done is tune in to the show for the first time tonight and have any fucking clue what was going on. You had to be a fan—even better if you were a superfan, an Abed-scale fan—and if you were, you were rewarded.
Okay, now you can stop reading. Just go watch it again. I’m gonna.
The full episode is right below.