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Sitcoms really aren’t known for their in-depth plots or having much more than a singular story to follow while what passes for comedy in 2011 is draped across the TV screen. It’s because of this exact reason that I have already watched this week’s Community twice. When it comes to writing about a 20 minute show it isn’t usually difficult to remember the beats that made you laugh or who was doing what at any given moment that made the show worth watching, but my memory was put to this test with this.
“Competitive Wine Tasting” was even a departure for Community itself in the plethora of stories told, but after seeing the end result, I can’t help but hope that the writers have enough faith in themselves to try something like it again in their third season. The episode began with the regular cold open style of having the study group sitting around a table discussing what will ultimately drive the plot, in this case, classes that they have undertaken separate from the group. Troy and Britta take an acting class after being encouraged by their dance teacher, Abed brings the usual pop-culture element to the show and takes a class on 80’s TV show Who’s the Boss?, lastly Jeff and Pierce undertake the titular wine tasting class. While going into specifics would take far too long, the cold open itself contained more genuine humor than any other show that I watch and was a perfect setup for what has to be one of the best episodes of Community to date. Roll credits and on with the show.
The competitive wine tasting storyline saw classmates Jeff and Pierce briefly pitted against each other in an attempt to hookup with the first attractive woman that they come across. However, that was quelled almost instantaneously as Jeff is shot down with his first advance. Later Pierce walks into the study room with the same woman announcing that they are to marry. Having laid eyes on Chevy Chase and comparing the extent to which anyone would consider him attractive relative to the beautiful Chinese woman that he is standing next to, you immediately suspect that something is amiss, as it turns out to be, but watching it playout really is worthwhile. Jeff being determined to discover why any woman would pick an old man over him, interrogates Wu Mei assuming that she has ulterior motives. While not learning anything in their face-to-face he ultimately discovers that she is a corporate spy, sent to help her company best Pierce’s in the moist towelette industry and the engagement is swiftly put to an end.
A majority of the episode’s screen time is dedicated to its namesake, the previously alluded to classes taken by Troy, Britta and Abed are by no means left by the wayside. Troy, after having trouble fitting in with the emotionally unstable populace of his acting class, concocts a story of childhood molestation to make himself seem more troubled. The childish terminology used to describe his fake encounter was plenty enough to make me laugh in immaturity and the consequences of his lie were fairly hilarious to witness as well. Essentially Britta falls into the cliche of being attracted the emotionally damaged amongst us and it leads to possibly the most natural yet awkward comedic screen kiss that anyone has ever seen. Eventually Troy is forced by morality and social awkwardness to tell Britta the truth after she outs his “secret” to the rest of the group, and after a brief moment of her hating him, he is redeemed amongst the actors who initially saw him as shallow before his story. Their professor posits the notion that absence of emotional depth is an emotional depth in of itself.
Abed’s thread in the episode, much like anytime that he is ever on screen, consisted of several symptoms of Asperger Syndrome and pop-culture galore. After disagreeing on who really was the boss in Who’s the Boss?, Abed deftly disproves his visiting professor and drives him to near suicide as he destroys his life work in the most charmingly naive way possible. The episode is rounded out by Jeff bringing back Wu Mei, after he feels guilty about ruining Pierce’s fake relationship with her. He points out that they have no moral compass, are both racist, and deceitful... so they're perfect for each other, and whilst I condone racism in no way, the ending joke about Thai people being the Chinese version of Mexicans really did make it hard to hold a straight face.
Overall “Competitive Wine Tasting” turned out to be one of the best episodes of the show’s second season. It wasn’t groundbreaking or filled with exceptionally memorable jokes, nor did it do much of anything to move the larger plot of the show forward, but for a show that is meant to be funny if nothing else, it definitely delivered.