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Community: Modern Espionage

“Colloquialism aside, the thing to hate this year is the game.”

When a secret paintball game overtakes Greendale, the Save Greendale Committee—briefly rechristened “Dean Force One” (by you-guess-who)—must unearth the Silver Ghost whose alliance to City College is as well-known as his identity is shrouded in mystery.

Have I talked yet about the clown joke in these reviews? It’s hard to remember, as we’ve been slogging through Season Six for over a year. Anyway, here goes:

The clown joke is a joke about jokes. The premise, as I learned it, is simple. A man goes to the circus because he loves clowns. A clown calls him onstage and teases him. The man freaks out and decides to get his revenge. He goes to clown school, then winds up back on the circus stage, where he insults the clown.

The beauty of the joke is in the telling. Like the “Aristocrats” joke, this one is endlessly expandable. How much did he love clowns? Well, he had clown sheets and clown shoes and…you get the picture. The joke can take hours if told by the right teller. It’s a form of humor that depends on mutual acknowledgement that what is happening is only funny because it is so prolonged.

And that seems to be the motif of this last season of Community, especially in this episode, which rehashes some of the most famous early-season masterpieces: the paintball action movie “Modern Warfare,” the paintball Western “A Fistful of Paintballs,” and the paintball sci-fi “For a Few Paintballs More.”

Like those episodes, this one parodies a movie genre (spy films, especially the sort of James Bond spy film that requires the spy to wear a tux at a gala). Unlike those, it does so while constantly undermining the humor. Numerous characters—not just Abed—call attention to the fact that paintball is overdone. As Jeff says near the end “I thought this was going to be a whole gauntlet, and my heart was not in it.”

That’s not to say this episode is bad. It isn’t. I sorta love the massive slaughter at the party, and I really like Kumail Nanjiani (Custodian Lahiri), so it was nice to see him do his thing. The dean’s meltdown (his Deandown?) was comical. And the Annie/Abed friendship continues its subtle surprises, as in their over-the-shoulder shooting, followed by the inevitable too-soon celebration during which Annie gets shot.

But “inevitable” might be the key word there. Community returns despite all odds, and it checks all the boxes. The heart, however, is no longer there, and this episode gives the impression that even the players are starting to hate the game.

Cool Cool Cool

• Dean: “Desperate deans call for deansperate measures.”

• Jeff: “We need clean intelligence, Abed. No references, no callbacks.”

• Dean: “A cleaner Greendale is like a healthier cigarette.”
Jeff: “Yes, a carrot stick! Frankie can make us a carrot stick!”

Two out of four Silver Ballz

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

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