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Community works best when its characters' story arcs are separate, and yet are bound together with one central plot line. This episode follows this structure, with each character pivoting on Pierce's story. Pierce, having been admitted to the hospital after collapsing on a bench, summons the group. Upset at his friends' lack of empathy, Pierce pretends to be dying. He gives each of the members (except for Abed, but we’ll get to that later) a bequeathment. These gifts both seem to be a blessing and a curse for the receiver, and they shape the multiple story arcs.
Pierce gives Shirley a mixtape of what he describes as a recording of the group speaking about her behind her back. Britta is given a check for $10,000 to use as she pleases. An appearance from Actor Levar Burton (from Star Trek fame) is Troy’s gift, and a fancy tiara is Annie’s. Each character’s gift, while in varying degrees, can be seen as a positive gift, however they each have a negative twist. Shirley decides not to listen to the tape, and simply expects the worst from her friends. Britta struggles with selflessness, Troy struggles with idolism and shyness and Annie struggles with her own vanity.
Throughout the episode, Jeff is promised a reunion with his father. This is a relationship we have only heard hints about, and it takes almost center stage this episode. Pierce tells Jeff that his father is coming to visit, and Jeff seemingly has mixed feelings about it. Pierce would like to believe that he is seen as a father figure for the entire group, and this relationship is played within interesting ways throughout the episode. The way this story ends up is both emotional and still in character for all involved. It was a delicate situation masterfully handled.
Abed is not seen in front of the camera much this episode. I say in front because this episode’s quirk is that it is filmed in the style of a documentary. In the story, Pierce asks Abed to document his final days, and as such we see the entire episode through the eyes of Abed. The episode feels very reminiscent of other ‘mockumentary’ type shows like The Office and Parks and Recreation. Abed explains to the camera in the beginning of the episode why it is that he is drawn to this style of filmmaking, and throughout the episode Abed has his own storyline portrayed through how he controls the camera and what he points it at. This dual story telling is an excellent experiment for the show and is just another quirk added to the list of interesting ideas Community has played with throughout its run. The documentary style gives us a chance to listen to a few monologues from different characters and there are some very funny lines buried within these moments. Once again, Troy is the standout of this episode, as his infatuation with his childhood icon is both completely real and amazingly over the top.
One of the criticisms I had for the show a few weeks back is Pierce’s wishy-washy behavior. It has been difficult to stay empathetic to the character, as his attempts at revenge were getting more and more harmfully sinister. Pierce has been continuing his journey to the dark side, quickly becoming the main antagonist of the show. This episode continues this in a way, yet it also subverts the trend. While Pierce is the main antagonist of this episode, we see more clearly how he feels, and why he does what he does. His actions seem drastic, but this is a character flaw, and not a writing flaw. Jeff even mentions Pierce’s crazy schemes late in the episode.
Overall, this is another excellent episode of a show which seemingly can do no wrong. It is hard to say whether the show will get a 3rd season. The ratings have been declining from an already low point, but NBC needs all the hits it can get. All I can say, though, is that if the show continues its level of quality throughout this season, I will be praying for another, and another, and another.