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Community: Cooperative Polygraphy

“Troy and Abed are in mourning.”

Everyone else has said it. Now it’s my turn. Community is indeed back. “Cooperative Polygraphy” was an old school episode of one of my favorite shows. Better than that, it was a GOOD old school episode of one of my favorite shows.

At its best, Community is not only funny, almost unbearably irreverent and starkly satirical. It makes us think. As a culture, we mourn in a very formulaic way. Appropriate sadness, insistence that we “loved” the decedent and they will be missed followed by moving on. Is it better to mourn in the traditional way in which all your negative memories of the deceased are erased (even if that involves erasing 90% of their personality) or is it better to do embrace that person: all of them, flaws included. Isn’t that ultimately a better way to honor their memory?

This episode combined elements of two of my favorite episodes. In “Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking,” Pierce pretends to be dying so he can bequeath his possessions to his friends and indulge in some very Pierce-ish mindgames. In “Digital Estate Planning,” Pierce’s father Cornelius makes him play an elaborate video game in order to earn his inheritance. This episode showed great continuity with Pierce’s character. His father, hated though he may be, clearly influenced him. And naturally he couldn’t resist messing with the study group once more from beyond the grave.

And really, it’s not that hard to mess with the study group. Shirley and Britta have such opposing worldviews it’s frankly a miracle they’re friends. Troy and Abed’s best friendship necessarily means that the other members of the group are kept somewhat at a distance. And then we get into all the secrets Pierce knows about the group, all of which fit perfectly with their characters and aren’t just shoehorned in solely to make jokes. Troy is so desperate to be liked he looked up a best friend handshake on YouTube. Britta needs to be high to sit through a baptism. Annie once drugged the study group to up their focus and steals from Troy and Abed, but only in order to make sure they’re saving money. Shirley feeds meat to vegetarians to save a few bucks. Jeff keeps trophies. Abed has no sense of personal privacy and will go to great lengths for pancakes.

The ending was bittersweet, but, ultimately, appropriate. Pierce wasn’t into façades. He never ‘got’ Abed and he acknowledged so in his will. Abed didn’t seem to mind. Pierce knew and liked Jeff and picked out the perfect gift for him, a bottle of Scotch, but, naturally, couldn’t resist a few more gay jokes. Their relationship was real but wasn’t based on a deep emotional connection. What he gave (and what he said) to Annie, Shirley, Britta, and Troy was beautiful. Pierce had a rocky relationship with Shirley from the pilot episode. Here he acknowledges that and told her what she needed to hear. She is a strong, smart woman. His gift to her was fitting. Shirley works the hardest of anyone in the group and she most deserves a vacation. Pierce always looked upon Troy as sort of a protégé, so it stands to reason he would give him his fortune. Making him sail around the world for it is reasonable compatible with their characters. Plus the writers had to get Donald Glover off the show in some way.

Pierce refers to the events of “Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking” when he finally gives Annie the tiara and tells her again what he told her in that episode. She is his favorite. It was what he said to Britta that got to me. Pierce doesn’t tell Britta she’s perfect. Doing so would feel false; Britta’s far from perfect. He acknowledges what makes Britta special and tells her she hates herself more than she should. I think we all deserve someone to tell us that. He also gave her an iPod, a callback to season one’s “The Art of Discourse,” in which it was revealed that Britta does not have an iPod but will have a “used iPod Nano” in 2014. Well done, writers. And of course, they all get semen. Because it’s Pierce.

Bits and Pieces

I still don’t think Pierce is dead. I fully expect the tracker Abed planted on Pierce to start moving soon.

Polygraphs do not work that way. Nor are they 100% accurate.

Mr. Stone pronounced Abed the same, incorrect way Pierce did, even after Abed correctly pronounces his name on the record. I’m sure that was in the instructions.

If you don’t include the tag, “Cooperative Polygraphy” was technically a bottle episode.


Shirley: “If there is a blurple, the Lord keeps it hidden for a reason.”

Abed: “I always wanted to try a polygraph. They’re like the pie fight of cop movies.”

Abed: “If I had a final wish, I’d use it to stay alive.”

Britta: “Yeah well if I wanted the government in my uterus, I’d fill it with oil and hispanic voters.”

Shirley: “Annie, you should know better than to hoard money. That’s a stereotype.”
Annie: “Was that anti-Semitism?”
Shirley: “No! That’s sensitivity. It’s anti-Semitic to do things like that when you know full well you’re Jewish.”
Excellent exchange.


Abed: “Cool. Cool, cool, cool.”
Woman: “That’s a lie.”

three and a half out of four life essence containing lava lamps


  1. I loved this episode. It was pretty much perfect Community. Totally agree with your review.

    I'm guessing you don't watch Justified. :) I knew Walton Goggins was going to guest star and I couldn't picture him on Community. I should have known that anyone who can do what he can would have no trouble at all. That coda had me laughing like a loon.

  2. I loved this, too. I thought the Troy thing was nicely handled, too: he's off to discover himself for millions of dollars.

    I wonder how that will affect Abed.

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  4. The second I saw Walter Goggins I knew this would be good. A lot of fun callbacks and again managed to be funny while also being bittersweet. Gonna miss Troy as he sails on the Childish Tycoon, which is actually a fun little nod to Donald Glover's rap alias, Childish Gambino.

    The end scene with Mr. Stone acting completely different had me cracking up. And I know he's not the most favorite character here, when Chang immediately started to leave the table on his first question I had to rewind that scene. It was so hilarious in the execution.

  5. Some critics had talked this up a lot, which is a bit annoying as you end up with inflated expectations, but it lived up to them. I loved the lava lamp callback, and the way it sat in Pierce's place throughout.

    It seems more likely now that Pierce is really dead, but I still wouldn't put anything past him...

  6. I got to be honest--I feel like I'm missing something because everyone seems to love this episode, and I didn't. Maybe I need to watch it again to see what I've missed. Maybe because everyone is praising the guest star and I didn't know who he is. Maybe because there was no Jim Rash and I get sick of Ken Jeong. I don't know. But I know that I didn't love it as much as everyone else seems to.

    I will say that it definitely felt like old school Community. I bought season 4 on DVD, to complete my collection, and even the commentaries aren't really up to the old school Community! And I am glad to have it back! Even in seasons 1, 2, and 3, there were episodes I didn't care much for, so I'm not concerned, because I think Community is back!

    (But, boy, Dan Harmon is kind of having a field day with publicly getting rid of Chevy Chase, isn't he? Although, that will was so Pierce, and it was really touching at the same time.)


  7. Like Kathy, I didn't love this one. The set-up was all a bit too meta and too already done for me. I did, however, really like the resolution and I thought the words that Pierce left for each of them were lovely.

    I'm interested to see where the show is going to go without Pierce and without Troy, especially for Abed. The final "cool, cool, cool" and the acknowledgment that it was a lie broke my heart.

  8. This episode was fun and very consistent which is often hard to achieve especially when you have to find a way to get rid of two of the main characters. I'm with Chris B, Abed's "cool, cool, cool" also broke my heart and I do wonder where the show will go without Troy. I laughed out loud at the end bit even though I have no connection to Justified (I know I will watch it, I promise).


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