‘Community’ Recap Week Three: “Conventions Of Space And Time”


Co-written by Ben Branstetter and Nathan Savin Scott.

Ben: Welcome back to TC’s weekly Community recap and review. This week found the Greendale Seven visiting an Inspector Spacetime convention. Troy becomes jealous of Abed’s new “constable,” Britta tries to replace Abed in Troy’s life, Jeff and Annie get into their own trouble back at the hotel, and Shirley and Pierce find themselves trapped in a focus group test for an Americanized Inspector Spacetime. Your thoughts, Nathan?

Nate: I’ll be totally honest, Ben. I watched 13 hours straight of House of Cards yesterday for this publication. I watched Community at some point last night, I’m pretty sure, but I don’t remember much. I’m gunning it up on my DVR right now, or else this recap will be thoughts on the show intermixed with fever dreams I had last night of Kevin Spacey. Kick us off while I refresh myself on the show, sip some coffee, and think for a little bit about the decisions I’ve made so far in my life. Where does this one rank for you in season four?

Ben: This is easily the first episode of the season which feels like Community. While it had plenty of roadblocks and stumbles, the humor was quick, the character arcs made sense, and it built upon the fictional world the show has always been great at sustaining. Perhaps the most pertinent storyline to this end was between Abed and his German online friend, Toby. After losing much of his time with Troy to the latter’s relationship with Britta, Abed finds himself seeking a new “constable” to his “inspector.” As the two participate in various convention activities, it becomes obvious Toby is attempting to separate Troy and Abed.

Abed’s realization near the end of this episode touched upon topics the show hasn’t always been comfortable handling. Toby and Abed throw around the phrase “neurotypical” to describe the less Spock-like and more emotional people around them. This is a term out of the autism community to describe those whose developmental functions society would recognize as normal. While Abed has only been diagnosed once (and by Jeff in the first episode of the first season at that), his role as an Aspie has been front and center before. Throughout last season, we see Abed struggling to come to terms with the nature of a social life, and in that season’s finale he even comes to believe that he is actually more advanced than the others and therefore can rearrange their lives around his wishes. This episode furthers that growth storyline wonderfully, having Abed conclude — “Mind if I pull a Winger?” — that every healthy relationship is made up of the rational and the emotional, the chaotic and the orderly.

Nate: You’re right to find the best storyline of the night. I could have done without Pierce and Shirley’s turn on a fictional TV show’s test panel… the meta-commentary on what makes a “popular” TV show vs. a good one is getting exhausting and I wish the showrunners would just drop it. Three episodes now and three subplots made to make the audience aware that the show, even though it’s been handed from Dan Harmon, is still weirder than anything on TV. Show don’t tell, guys. That’s Creative Writing 101.

I did dig Annie’s subplot a little more, where at the fantasy convention she finally gets to play out her fantasy — being a successful, married woman who’s also the number one police detective in the world. I wish they hadn’t tied it so explicitly to Winger, though. (Annie constantly refers to herself as “Mrs. Winger” throughout the show.) I think a bit of the real issue — that Annie really is just living out her fantasy of wedded bliss, while still being independent — is clouded by the fact that a lot of people will just think she’s imagining being married to Jeff. I don’t think it’s so simple.

Lastly, re: Abed, I liked their storyline the best, and I think the show is right to continue exploring the Abed/Troy dynamic. It was a bit of gold struck, the chemistry between these two characters, and it’s only right that they explore the next steps as the men step into adulthood. I thought it was a little strange how explicit they made Abed’s diagnosis — other than the “fake psychologist” and Jeff’s insulting diagnosis, they’ve never made it this clear before. Was that a step towards clarity/understanding for the character? Or are they just trying to help a more literal-minded audience come to terms with this weird-ass dude?

Ben: Fantastic connection between Annie’s fantasy while they visit a fantasy convention. I’d like to say every character got this arc, but as you stated, Pierce and Shirley were pushed to the boundaries for the sake of some more navel-gazing on the writer’s part. Community has always been fantastic at revealing why we like stories in natural ways which fit into the plots and made the characters even more real. Yet why does Shirley give a damn about Inspector Spacetime when we’ve never seen her talk about the topic before? It’s too rushed in and felt like the writer’s room was just lecturing to me through Shirley. That said, I can’t be the only one who was reminded of the differences between the BBC’s Sherlock and the Americanized Elementary (Lucy Liu as Watson?!?).

And I agree what should have been a storyline about Annie’s search for what her future should look like was clouded in some more Annie-and-Jeff sexual chemistry. While that can be quite enjoyable from time to time (and it did allow Alison Brie to break out her Trudy Campbell mannerisms), a solid set-up for a relationship should be based on who those characters are — not free room service.

Aside from Pierce and Shirley’s near uselessness (which I’m sadly coming to expect), the storyline which troubles me the most is Britta and Troy’s relationship. We are never really given reasons these two characters should be together, and each episode this season has shown us precise reasons they shouldn’t. They have very little in common aside from (arguably) being the best looking-people on the show. That said, the episode started off with some fantastic slapstick from Gillian Jacobs who is far better at physical comedy than I think even the show realizes. Thoughts?

Nate: I’m fine with Troy and Britta being together, but you’re right that the decisions to hook up have been glossed over. Those reasons are there, too — Troy needs someone to lead him into adulthood, Britta needs someone earnest and honest, after the slew of hipster assholes she’s gone through. The show is dealing with a lack of time more than anything, I guess, and though I did love that the show skipped over the typical six-week “will they or won’t they” story arc, they also forgot to tell us why they’d get together in the first place.

Otherwise, I enjoyed the episode. I still think the one-liners are a little too cruel and biting for some of the characters (those only used to belong to Winger and Pierce), and I think some of the show’s inherent strangeness has abandoned it, but I thought the discussion of the “neurotypicals” was the closest I felt to this show feeling like home all season. Plus anytime you can have Joel McHale prattling in a cockney accent, I’m in.

Ben: Agreed. While this episode provided plenty of missteps, it wasn’t enough to sink an honest (if chaotic) portrayal of characters we’ve come to love, and even the humor was smart-yet-broad enough to fulfill what the network believes is the show’s core mission: attracting new viewers to justify its own existence. Even with several fantastic characters given less to do, it’s quite obvious the writers are finding their stride under a new administration.

That wraps it up for this recap. Join us next week for “Alternative History Of The German Invasion,” in which this group of seven community college students actually attend a college course. 

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