by Mark Greig
'Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations' might not have been an episode that made you laugh out loud repeatedly, but it was a great character piece for Jeff and a major turning point for his character.
After years of teasing, we finally got to meet Jeff’s estranged father, William Winger. Unlike Richard Castle’s James Brolin dad, Jeff’s is not an international man of mystery (as far as we know) who left his son to protect him from nefarious villains. He is just your basic deadbeat dad who ran out on his family and never looked back. At first, Winger Sr. came across like an older Jeff (those Winger men love their Scotch), but it quickly became clear that he was really just a less demented, less racist, less bald Pierce.
Jeff has long refused to even admit that he has any sort of daddy issues, mostly because it would mean admitting that Britta is right. But it is obvious for anyone to see that his father leaving when he was a child has had a lasting impact on his life. Even Pierce can see that and exploit it. It was understandable that he was unwilling to show even a trace of weakness when face to face with the man who'd abandoned him. So he did what he's always done and put on a charismatic front. Jeff showed his father the Jeff Winger he wants everyone to see -- the cool, sophisticated (former) lawyer, unfazed by everything happening around him -- not the screwed up Greendale student.
Papa Winger was fooled. So fooled that he had the nerve to try and say his leaving had been good for Jeff, something Jeff wasn’t going to let him get away with. Just because you turned out to be a terrible dad to your other son (the one you only stayed with because his mother died), doesn't mean you are let off the hook for abandoning your first born (assuming Jeff is his first born, I wouldn't put it past him to have walked out on other children). William leaving still messed Jeff up and left him with many emotional (and physical) scars which Jeff has tried his best to hide from everyone, even the people who love him.
It goes without saying that Joel McHale more than earned himself a boat load of gold acting stars. I just hope that this isn’t forgotten about by the following episodes. Community has a tendency to backtrack on Jeff’s character development. This needs to stick, guys. No more texting!
If the episodes had focused solely on Thanksgiving at Papa Winger's house I would be definitely giving it a four. But Community is an ensemble show so the rest of the cast needed something to do. The rest of the study group ended up attending Thanksgiving at Shirley's house, which quickly became a Shawshank Redemption parody with Abed (naturally) as Morgan Freeman. In concept, this is a rather a good idea. In execution, however, it was lousy. Community probably has a great prison movie parody in it. But this wasn’t it. Maybe it would’ve worked a little better if we’d at least been given a tiny glimpse of the horrors they where hiding from.
Notes and Quotes
--The licences plate on Papa Winger's Merc was WINGINIT. Classy.
--Gillian Jacobs also deserves her fair share of gold stars for the excellent work she did in this episode. Is anyone else annoyed that we didn't get to hear the rest of her therapist rap?
--Someone wrote "Thanks again for watching" on the board behind Annie and Shirley. You're welcome.
--The Dean continues to get creepier and creepier. If I were Jeff, I would be seriously considering getting a restraining order.
Britta: "I just want to acknowledge that there are a lot of emotions flowing right now and you two are probably feeling a strong impulse to sleep with each other. And hey, that's normal."
Troy: "I feel like I'm in jail. And you know what happens to guys like me in jail. They get really into push-ups and I am fine with my upper body the way it is."
Abed: "Maybe the hardest prisons to break out of are the ones without locks. Wait... that doesn't make sense."
Britta: "Why don't we use this bread rolls to do some role play. Oh, I see what I did there."
Jeff: "I am constantly texting and there's no one at the other end. I’m just a grown man who can’t even look his own friends in the eye for too long, because I’m afraid that they’ll see that I am broken."
Three out of four Thanksgivings with the family you chose.
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.