Welcome back, Greendale Human Beings!
What a long, lonely time it’s been away from the study group. How was your summer? I spent a couple of weeks up in the Catskills at Camp Recapsalot honing my craft but got kicked out for sneaking into the boys’ bunk. Oh well! Anyway, no time for moping—we’ve got a TV show to get to!
We open on Jeff flying through the air and singing about how he and his buddies are gonna have the best year ever. (We know it’s not real because Jeff would never compromise his hair like this.) It’s a candy-color sing-along that’s got Shirley and the dean in matching Dreamgirls-worthy gowns and everyone promising to be less weird than the first two years combined. They’re cartoon-happy, belting out promises both good and bad for the year to come (less weird, bad; Annie and Jeff doing it, good). They’re finally gonna be fine. Yay.
Except this super-gay hootenanny is all in Jeff’s head (with one noticeable absence: Pierce). No time to worry about that, because something deany this way comes: Our usually ebullient leader, in a disconcertingly brown suit and disconcertingly ‘90s goatee, iterates that things are going to change this year: no more paintball, no more trampolines, no more spaceships. It’s a new dawn, it’s a new dean—and I don’t like it. That’s twice now we’ve been told that things are going to be different, and we haven’t even gotten to the opening credits yet. What are they setting us up for??? I’ll sit tight because I trust these guys, but I’ve got my eye on you, Community.
And guess what—Pierce is back! He underwent intensive soul rezoning and, no fooling, it shows. (Seriously, Chevy Chase, lookin’ good. I mean…for Chevy Chase. I am not some perv, you guys. Whatever.) He realizes now that the study table has a sort of magic to it. (Tight shot on Pierce’s arthritic hands. I looked for symbolism there. Nothing.) Jeff’s not buying it. He argues that they’ve evolved beyond needing a study group—they’re actual friends now—and so Pierce can’t come in. The table isn’t magic at all, he says, it just keeps their books from falling on the floor. Meanie.
Over in bio, Annie’s troubled by their unceremonious dumping of Pierce. “Excluding Pierce is what drove him crazy last year,” she says. “No, being crazy drove him excluded,” Jeff counters. FORESHADOWING.
Then, a high-pitched shriek from Abed! Turns out Cougar Town’s a mid-season replacement, which can’t be a good sign. (At this point I want to reach into the TV and assure Abed this is not the kiss of death, as the brillz 30 Rock starts mid-season, while that abysmal-looking Whitney is sandwiched in right after The Office, but then I remember, Duh, Abed never listens to anything I say.)
Anyway, the gang’s new instructor, Professor Kane—an ex-con who got his Ph.D. in the clink, played by Michael K. Williams of The Wire fame—is obsessed with life, blades of grass and disliking Jeff. And it’s Jeff’s own fault: He’s totally back to his arrogant season-one self, not turning his phone off during class. As a former adjunct at schools not unlike Greendale, I have to side with the prof here. Unacceptable, Jeff. Out you go. (Also not great student behavior? Bringing your baby to class, plagiarizing and telling me you didn’t do your homework because you had an abortion.)
Monkey hotel! Banana buffet! Idea shower!!!
And then…what we’ve all been hearing about: JOHN GOODMAN. But this is not the Dan Conner you know and love. This is Vice Dean Laybourne, the head of the Air Conditioning Repairs Annex, the only reputable program at Greendale. He and his authority-flouting, espresso-machine-buying ways stand to undermine our fearless leader’s dreams of power, and our brand-new inspired dean will not have that. Greendale is the head; the annex is the appendage. That’s wassup. Game on. (There is no way this will go well for our poor, anemic dean. Oh dear.)
Back in the study lounge, Britta gifts Abed with videos of the 1990s British series on which Cougar Town is based, Cougarton Abbey, and Jeff finds himself in a bit of a pickle: Getting kicked out of bio + speech on not needing to take classes together =one lonely Winger. (And one meaningful sound as the camera pulls in tight to get Jeff’s hand brushing over the surface of the table. THE TABLE.) And oh yeah–guess who’s got his spot in class.
Over in Cougarton Abbey, everyone is dead via self-inflicted hemlock poisoning. Hooray! Another high-pitched shriek, then nothing. They’ve broken Abed. Oh yeah, Chang is living in the vents. (Don’t tell Annie’s Boobs.) That hits a little too close to Jeff, who fears he could end up a bathrobe-wearing homeless Asian man, too. He’s gotta get back in that class.
Over in Laybourne’s super-fly lair, the happy pansexual imp is getting schooled: The Air Conditioning Annex is Greendale’s cash cow, and the vice dean will not stand for the regular dean stepping on his paws. (Hooves? What do cows have? Feet?) A lot of talk about the dean’s rectum, Dan Conner doing a weird English-ish accent and then some scary-looking dudes are upon us to renegotiate Laybourne’s contract and shave the dean. Ouch.
Jeff begs Professor Kane to let him back into bio, to no avail. See, Kane has his number: He was imprisoned by actual walls, but Jeff’s imprisoned by the walls he puts up himself. That’s true of course, and we all know it. Soooo…where’s this going, exactly?
Oh, hey, look, a photo of Kane and Pierce in prison. Just lying there. On the desk. Exactly what Jeff needs to get back in with his friends. Only, there’s Chang with a ham. And into the vents they go, just in time for smoke ‘em and choke ‘em. (That’s what she said? I don’t know.)
Monkey gas does bad things to Jeff, who imagines himself as Pierce, eating his phone, dying, etc., etc. Oh, and the table. (Don’t miss it.) Yeah, that was weird. And also, Abed is catatonic. (Really? Because of Cougarton Abbey? Hmm, Community. Just hmm.) Britta tries to right her wrong by introducing her fragile friend to another British show, Inspector Spacetime, which has been on since 1962 (i.e. poses no threat of a psychotic-break-inducing finale). Zzzzz.
Jeff’s out of the monkey death trap and accuses Pierce in front of the group. But oops, turns out it’s not Professor Kane in the photo after all—it’s rap artist Sugar Cube. Then Jeff has a wack attack, destroys the precious table and there’s the bloodied dean, here to tell us that, turns out, this year’s not going to be so different after all. C’mon man—really?
Jeff is cracked out and ready to face the music: Sitting on an orange couch I never noticed before in a really weirdly lit study lounge (anybody else notice that?), he knows now that the table is magic. Annie revokes her friendship anyway. (Way harsh, Annie.) But turns out Pierce has some confessing of his own to do: He paid off Professor Kane to kick out Jeff. Except he didn’t! Double-double-cross! “You seem to have a harder time being the bad guy than me,” Pierce says. Nice work, Laser Lotus Celebrity Center. (That could 100% be someplace real in Malibu.) He’s evolved! Annnd…even though Starface has a tempting Breaking Bad offer for Kane, Jeff’s blade-of-grass-growing-through-his cell-phone project gets him his spot. (Seriously, was Walt Whitman the only author available in the San Vincente Correctional Facility library?)
In the end, everything is fixed. The table, Abed’s brain, Jeff’s heart. Britta’s going to be a psych major (this makes sense to me; psychologists are crazy, yo) and Chang is the school’s new security guard. Yup.
So what did you think? They said it would be different—and it was—but was it better? And now that we know it’s not actually going to be different, what can we expect? I didn’t love tonight’s episode—it tried too hard to make table happen and just wasn’t as fun as usual, but I forgive it. Just don’t let it happen again, Community! Until next week, homies.