Community: Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations

“I heard your Thanksgiving wasn’t much better than mine, so I thought we could take some time and be grateful for our real family. The one we chose.”

'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.

9 comments:

celticmarc said...

(Wow. Castle's father is also Jeff's. That explains a few things.)

I relatively hated it, BUT, also your review Mark, I am indeed reconsidering it. After all, we had character development. So, this is a big plus. So therefore, let's consider this one as one of the most "serious" episodes of the series.

Paulo Brabo said...

I wish I had enjoyed this one as much as you did, Mark, but Jeff felt very off character to me, so I got no feeling of true closure or character development.

I can't count the reasons I should stay
One by one they all just fade away

ChrisB said...

As soon as I heard half-brother, I flashed to Richard Castle. The downside of one actor playing two such pivotal father figures within the same month.

I wasn't crazy about this one, until the final scene with Jeff and his dad. I thought that it was beautifully acted and my heart broke for the young kid who uses scissors to get some sympathy.

Like you, Mark, I hope this new Jeff sticks around for a bit.

sunbunny said...

I'm with Mark all the way. Fantastic episode. For most of the time. I loved Jeff's admission that he has (as most of us probably suspected) been texting no one all these years and his story about the scar very nearly made me cry.

Daddy dearest is basically Jeff's persona taken to its logical conclusion. Unfortunately for dad, Jeff's persona is just that - a persona. It's not who he is, despite all his efforts to suppress the touchy feely part of himself.

I wish they would de-creepify the dean a bit. He's gone over the edge. Did he steal Jeff's cowboy costume or just recreate it?

Billie Doux said...

I thought it was a good episode with a touching ending, but for some reason, I'm not feeling Community yet. It doesn't feel like it used to. Is it really the same and I'm just projecting?

Great review, Mark.

celticmarc said...

So far, Community is what I call a "diluted" orange juice. Too much water in it.

Anonymous said...

I agree that Community, while not terrible, has felt "off" this season. I hate that I have to leave it that vague, but I can't really be more specific. The only part that has felt like Community to me thus far has been Jeff and Britta's interactions. Britta the shrink is hilarious and her bizarre, sometimes correct, assessments of Jeff (and Jeff's reactions to them) have been hilarious.

I also agree with sunbunny that the dean needs to be de-creepified a bit. He's gone full-on stalker creepy this year and it's making me dislike the scenes with the dean. I want the old dean back.

Mandy

Juliette said...

I loved Jeff and Britta's interactions in this episode. Generally I tend to root for Jeff and Annie, but I like him and Britta as a couple as well, and in the scene in the car, I was wondering if they would get back together - I completely forgot that Britta is with Troy at the moment, which I think says something about the development of Jeff and Britta's relationship vs the development of her relationship with Troy.

I liked the Jeff and Britta stuff, but the Shawshank parody felt like trying too hard again, throwing in a parody where we didn't need one. That story would have worked better as a normal sitcom people-trying-to-escape-uncomfortable-social-situation story. And I agree that the Dean is getting too creepy which is sad coz I love the Dean!

celticmarc said...

who doesn't love the Dean !?