by Mark Greig
After last week's ABBA powered zombie apocalypse, it's back to business as usual at Greendale. I always find these calm after the storm episodes to be very hit and miss. They are never really bad, many are even really funny, but lately they've started to come across as just filler material between all the big, high concept episodes. That is very much the case with 'Aerodynamics of Gender'. It's an okay little episode. There are some cute gags. A few fun ideas. And, as always, a lot of terrific acting from the cast. The problem is, it all feels ultimately disposable, like the episode is just a way to kill some time between the really great episodes that came before and after it.
This is about Pierce and Abed. Even though they are like Phoebe and Chandler and never have stories together, Pierce and Abed have a lot in common. Well, maybe not a lot, in fact there's really very little they have in common, save for one thing: they both want to fit in better with their friends. But, being very different people, they go about achieving this goal in very different ways.
Abed's method is often to go out of his way to try and make his friends happy, even if he doesn't understand why. Last time he did this it resulted in the study group building a mini-crime empire based on chicken fingers. This time, in order to bring down Hilary Duff and her posse, he lets the girls turn him into a Mean Girls machine, one capable of destroying all Greendale's 'bitches'. It makes them happy, so Abed goes along with it. They use Abed to bring down all of Greendales' 'bitches'. But in doing so, the girls themselves become bitches. So, like all machines eventually do, RoboAbed turns on its creators. With no one to keep him in check, RoboAbed rampages out of control. No one, not even juice cartons, are immune from his lethal put downs.
But Abed is not the mindless zinger machine everyone thinks he has become. He quickly realises that his actions have upset the natural order of things. Instead of growing closer to his non-Troy shaped friends, he has become isolated from the entire school. He knows how to fix it. Even though he set it up, it is hard not to feel for Abed in the self-destruct scene. Every single hurtful thing that Hilary is saying is his own words. Is that really how Abed sees himself?
Unlike Abed, Pierce doesn't want to make his friends happy. He simply doesn't want to be excluded. While the girls exploit Abed for their own enjoyment, the boys exclude Pierce so that he won't ruin theirs. The garden is their own special place and they don't want Pierce to come along and Pierce the whole thing. Hmm, don't think I'll be using Pierce's name as a verb again. It just doesn't work as well as Britta's. In the end, Pierce spoiling everybody's fun is a good thing. It finally snaps Troy and Jeff out of their peaceful state of mind and makes them finally see Joshua and his maze tattoo for what they truly are.
Sorry, Joshua, but there is room for only one crazy racist at Greendale.
I was dreading the re-watch of this episode, as the weird, implicit, is-it-meant-to-be-funny link between a women's studies class and bitchiness has always rubbed me the wrong way, no matter how meta it's meant to be. But I had forgotten The Trampoline! The Trampoline! The Trampoline! [said to the rhythm of bouncing jumps, with feet shoulder-width apart]. Watching Jeff find peace is delightful, but the highlight is Pierce's slo-mo cry of "Faaaaather" as he flies out of paradise and into the dumpster of the real world. If only every campus--every neighborhood--every house!--had a cathartic bouncy toy for us all to use. If only.
Notes and Quotes
-- I'm not surprised that Greendale would have a secret magical garden. And I am even less surprised that Greendale would have a secret magical garden tended to by a zen Nazi gardener with a trampoline fixation.
-- I love how they filmed all the secret garden scenes so that they looked extra magical.
-- Look closely and you'll notice that Abed's Robovision foreshadows several future storylines.
Pierce: "Tell me how to get this laid-back, or I'll kill your families!"
Abed: "I'm like Robocop."
Annie: "Yes. Cherise is a bad rowboat. Sink her."
Britta: "Why name your daughter Megan? Are you stocking up for a bitch shortage?"
Two and a half out of four 'bitches'.