by Mark Greig
I've been dreading this one. This was one of the two episodes sent out to critics before the season started and reactions to it were less than positive. Now that I've seen it for myself I have just one question: were they watching the same episode I was?
This was the strongest episode of season four so far. Granted, it was no classic. Some jokes fell flat, Jeff and Annie's storyline, while cute, was fairly predictable as far as Jeff and Annie storylines go, and the Pierce/Shirley thread just screamed 'contractual obligations'. But it was first episode of the season that felt like an episode of Community, not a show trying too hard to be Community. I knew from the opening scene I was going to enjoy it. That entire escape sequence (complete with Tarzan swing) felt like the show I have known and loved for the last three years.
What I was most surprised about was how much I actually enjoyed Matt Lucas' performance. I'm one of those people who really doesn't get the appeal of Little Britain, and whose skin crawls at the mere mention of it. And yet Lucas did a good job as Toby, Abed's fellow fan/potential kidnapper. It helped that he was at least given some good material to work with, unlike poor Tricia Helfer. She was completely wasted as the super hot Inspector Spacetime fan whose name I don't think was ever mentioned so I can let myself off the hook for not remembering it. It was a rather thankless role that anyone could've played.
With the exception of Pierce and Shirley's, each of this episode's story threads focused on one of show's central couples -- although that is something of a misnomer since Jeff and Annie are not officially a couple (yet) and I'm not sure what to call whatever it is Abed, Troy and Britta have going on. Try as I might, I'm still struggling to see them as a boyfriend and girlfriend. The way I see it, Troy and Abed are married and insanely inseparable from each other. But they don't have sex, so Abed is okay with his husband having a mistress (especially if it means doughnuts) because he knows that Troy will always come back to him. That's nice for Troy and Abed, maybe not so much for Troy and Britta.
So what exactly is going on with Jeff and Annie this season? Last week they were planning Halloween costumes together. And this week they were going skiing. Together. With adjoining rooms. That sounds almost exactly like a date. Are they going to follow Troy and Britta into the complicated world of couples? If Dan Harmon was still running the show I'd say probably not. He wasn't keen on pairing up his characters. He liked to tease with potential romantic pairings but never committed to any. Well, teasers are all well and nice, but sooner or later, for better or worse, you actually want to see the movie. With any luck that might just happen this season. But I'm not exactly holding my breath.
Notes and Quotes
--The credits tags for the last two episodes have been almost painful to watch. This one was much better. And props for staging a mini 90210 reunion.
--I counted at least four different Kick-Puncher posters in Troy's bedroom. I don't know about anyone else, but i really wanna see Kick-Puncher: Detroit.
--Jeff's Cockney is as bad as you would expect it to be.
--Although it was ultimately a disposable setting (the Abed/Troy/Toby storyline could've easily taken place at Greendale), the Inspector Spacetime convention was a fun backdrop for the action, full of more references to Doctor Who than I could count.
Britta: "You are not being crazy. That dude is trying to steal your boyfriend."
Abed: "If I could Winger you for a second?"
Toby: "Sure. I don't know what that means, but..."
--How long before everyone's name becomes a verb?
Randy: "Normally we don't concern ourselves with adultery because then hotels wouldn't exist."
Toby: "In England Cadbury Creams Eggs are sold year round."
Abed: "I thought that was just a legend."
--That one had me howling with laughter.
Abed: (to Pierce) "I hate you."
Abed: "You have to let me out!"
Toby: "No, not until Stockholm Syndrome sets in."
Jeff: "I can tell you one thing your fantasy got wrong, if we were married you wouldn't find me flirting with another woman in a hotel bar."
Annie: "You're on your own, Al Capone."
--This joke isn't new. They've been doing this since season two. But do they really need to do it every week now?
Three out of four blondes with long legs and tennis rackets.