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Community: English as a Second Language

“¡Nuestra amiga está moriendo!”

Chang’s revelation that he’s not really a Spanish teacher shouldn’t come as a surprise. (Although I do wish we’d gotten to see the classes in which he really taught Klingon.) Annie discovering Chang’s revelation was not a surprise. But Jeff’s reaction to Annie’s discovery of Chang’s revelation? A bit of a letdown.

Jeff’s reaction to Annie’s actions reveal the fundamental flaw that is—still—at the heart of his character. He’s all for friendship, and warm feelings, and even (as we saw in the previous episode) some sacrifice, but he’s not willing to put up with a threat to his bigger plans just because some girl has a case of the honests. Sure, he comes around in the end, like he always does. But don’t you sometimes with that the moral lessons he learns at the end of each episode will actually stick some day?

“Hey,” you say, “it’s a sitcom! What do you expect?” And you are right: I expect more of Community. I expect more, because the show is better at bending (and breaking) the rules than any other sitcom out there. Even in Season One, arguably the least avant-garde season of the show, we have such stand-outs as the paintball episode, Troy’s breakaway pants, and the consistent meta humor of Abed, the human media-pedia. Community draws attention to its own status as a sitcom, except when it comes to (especially Jeff’s) character development.

While Jeff’s arc in this episode followed the same cookie-cutter mold as at least a dozen other episodes, Troy and Annie both began the slow transition to adulthood. Annie dressed up as a professor to hit on Jeff (in a very subtle way) and to help Chang find himself. (Someday, Annie is going to realize that she’s quite good at making people find the better parts of themselves.)

Troy’s transition is still in the resistance stage: he has a Good Will Hunting-like skill at plumbing, but he wants to be a useless, unemployed intellectual. He wants college to mold him into a particular kind of person, rather than let college help him find his skills and a way to use them in the world. Although the plumbing element is a bit of a twist, Troy’s arc is one that many college students have, and it’s great to see Community taking the idea of college and really running with it: a transformative place of self-discovery even in the face of self-resistance.

Mark Says...

Unlike the rest of the study group, I have to say that I'm with Britta regarding Avatar. I've seen that movie twice and it does not hold up to repeat viewings.

Moving on from overrated sci-fi epics, let's talk about Annie. Oh, Annie. Sweet, innocent, Disney faced Annie. Why did you have to go and do what you did? No, I'm not talking about you exposing Chang as a fraud and getting him fired. That I fully understand and wholeheartedly approve of. You may have screwed your closest friends out of a language credit, and inadvertently caused serious damage to Jeff's car, but if it meant a Chang-free Greendale then it all would've been worth it.

So why did you have to go and make amends and persuade him into becoming a student. Now we'll never be rid of him and his feckin' keytar. I'm sorry, but I just can forgive that. Don't bother trying to apologise. There is nothing you can say or do that make me -

Oh, I can't stay mad at you.

Cool Cool Cool:

• Troy: “The only thing that makes sense is this. Learning. Thoughts. So I can think, and get a student loan, and grind my own coffee, and understand HBO.”

• Jeff: “You are insecure, because you didn’t get hot until after high school.”

• This episode clarified the question of exactly how long a community college degree should take. Most community colleges offer associate’s programs, which are typically two years, full time. Most community-college students take longer than that, because budget cuts can mean fewer courses are offered, or because the students have other commitments. But some C.C.s offer four-year degrees (although not many do). And Greendale is apparently a place where one can acquire a four-year degree to replace one from Columbia. The country. I’ve spent an entire paragraph talking about this because some people seem to be vaguely obsessed with this question.

Two and a half out of four keytars. Okay, that might be too harsh for an episode with a taser joke. But it’s hard not to miss the exuberance of the paintball episode.

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)


  1. Ahhhhhh

    The one after the spectacular paintball war.
    I shouldn't really comment on your excellent review(s), since I vaguely remember most ep's of the first season. Oh heck. But reading you is always a pleasure (and the rest of the staff as well) (of course).

    Mark :

    LMAO for Avatar. Totally awesome on the big screen with READ 3D. Wow. After that ? Nah. (but the 2D still looks spectacular on my Mac, oh boy) Don't expect me to rush to go see Avatar # 2, 3, 4 and 5.

  2. Any episode that follows the previous one would seem like a bit of a let-down, but I thought this one was all right. I agree that Jeff's arc seems to be two steps forward, one and a half steps back, but he seemed to be less Jeff-like in the beginning than he has sometimes been.

    One of the funny things about watching this show years after it originally aired is that Jeff mentions May 23, 2013 as the day he will become a lawyer again. Wonder if that's prophetic?

    Also, wonder if the others will ever know how Pierce helped them get those grades? Loved the coda on this one.


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