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Community – Biology 101

Community returned with an interesting episode, which did well to introduce the many season changes and new players, but felt a little light on the jokes, which is unusual for the typically entertaining, offbeat comedy.

The episode opened with a traditionally bizarre scene, which made me think that it was about to lead into a full-blown musical episode, Glee style. Although everyone knows that it's coming, this wasn't it (Community loves its theme episodes, and a musical one seems to be inevitable, considering how the show doesn't shy away from the strange. Perhaps they will combine a paint-ball episode with a musical?)

Although the opening sequence felt a little contrived and forced, it did come with my favorite line of the episode: "Don't tell the monkey I'm living here," as uttered by Chang when he crawled out of the air vents. You really have to love Ken Jeong; he's a marvelous comedy actor, and Señor Chang is a great character whose flamboyance never fails to inject comic-relief into the more serious scenes.

Don't tell the monkey!

We were introduced to two new major characters in this episode. Firstly, Biology 101 teacher Marshall Cane (Michael Kenneth Williams), whose intensity and personal history as a long-term prison inmate—as well as his immediate dislike of Jeff—could prove amusing, particularly due to Jeff's inability to accept it when somebody doesn't love him. The second new character, played by John Goodman, is Vice Dean Laybourne. Not to be outdone by Professor Cane's badassery, the Vice Dean is setting himself up to be this season's bad guy (possibly replacing Pierce in that role, who had a hilarious stint as the bad guy last season, particularly during the Dungeons and Dragons and paint-ball episodes). Goodman already made his mark in this episode, going from seemingly playful and jolly in one scene, to wrathful in another, where he ripped Dean Pelton a figurative new one. Yes, I'm unabashedly jumping aboard the gay double entendre train. Community is really great at those.

Speaking of the Dean, his outfit gets a 8/10 this episode for his fabulous sparkly gospel-style diva dress. Much to Shirley's chagrin.

Abed also had a few amusing moments in this episode. Since he is a chameleon-like individual who mirrors roles and scenes from TV and film, it seemed fitting that the writers explore the scenario in which his favorite shows get canceled. Amusingly, he seems to shut down like a robot, as though he doesn't have an active personality to draw from when his fantasy world is stripped away. The joke also gave us two fake parody shows; one of
Cougar Town, and one of Dr. Who (called “Inspector Spacetime”). Both were worth a few chuckles, but they could have done more with them, and perhaps they will in later episodes.

So aside from the jokes about British television and monkeys in the air vents, the episode had a slightly more serious look at the character development of Jeff Winger this week, where we saw him growing more dependent on the friendship of the study group. In fact, the dream sequence alone, wherein Jeff finds himself becoming Pierce(and staring at THE TABLE) could be analyzed for various clues into the deeper psychology of 'our fearless leader'. As it is a comedy, we wont look too deeply into things, and suffice it to say that Jeff has grown as a character. He cares more about the friendship of the group now than he did a year ago, back when he wouldn't have been overly upset by being forcibly detached from them, had he been forced to pick another class as he is now.

"See prison is my walls,” the new Professor Cane said, talking to Jeff about his time in prison. “But you put your walls up. You and your phone and your attitude and your fruit-loops cologne. Your walls put up so tight, man, that a blade of grass couldn't get through. But even if it did you wouldn't appreciate it." This monologue was mirrored at the end when Starburns presented the professor with a potted marijuana plant, growing up through a crack in Jeff's now-broken phone.

Actually, there was quite a bit of symbolism in this episode, which is rare for a comedy show. The destruction of THE TABLE by Jeff's fire ax, while insane ("I can't believe Jeff attacked a table with a fire ax and still only managed to be the second craziest person in the room!"), represented the turning of a new page in the group's friendship, in that the table wasn't the thing holding them together, and neither was the study group, or even the college itself.

I initially wanted to complain about a lack of change in the usually-dynamic show. Pierce looked as though he was returning back to his old role after so pointedly saying “I'm done with this” at the end of last season. But by the end it felt more like the theme of the episode was change. New characters, developing relationships, and Chang, in a uniform, holding a nightstick.

Yes, Chang(e) is scary.

Rating
7.5

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