This Week’s Community Recap: “Herstory Of Dance”

By and

Co-authored by Nathan Savin Scott and Ben Branstetter.

Ben: Welcome back, folks! This episode finds Greendale throwing a Sadie Hawkins dance and Britta retaliating with a “Sophie B. Hawkins Dance”, as well as Shirley and Annie setting Abed up with dueling dates.

It’s fitting this episode opens with Pierce bragging about the Americanized version of Inspector Spacetime and Abed rolling his eyes at the common TV tropes he lists as epic. This episode was enjoyable (as I find any Abed-heavy episode) but failed to impress. It’s storyline is predictable yet witty and, as always, self-aware. The problem arises when the show believes it can forgivably use these idioms and cliches as long as it makes direct reference to them. Nate?

Nathan: Bizarrely, I think I liked this episode more than you did. Classic switcheroo. I think this iteration of the show has proven that it can handle one main character plot line during the 21 minutes and change. They alternate characters every week, showing who gets the spotlight, and everyone else takes a step back and supports with one-liners. This week, Abed got the spotlight. And I freaking love Abed.

The episode starts with Abed telling everyone he’s looking to grow out of his TV obsession. When Shirley and Annie both agree to set him up with a date to the Sadie Hawkins Dance, he can’t resist, and tells them to both go ahead with it. Classic two dates to the same dance scenario. One of the girls is the manic pixie dream girl, a girl who checks water wings at the coat check, plays the saw in an all-girl kazoo band (“They need a rhythm section, duh!”) and asks Abed to the dance by speaking the question into a balloon, blowing up the balloon, then slowly letting the air fart out of the balloon. The other date is a nice girl from Shirley’s church who is totally forgettable and given no screen time.

Then, Abed meets a THIRD girl at the coat check when he goes to change costumes in between dates. That girl is played by Brie Larson, and the second she showed up on screen I knew that she was the one Abed would end up with. And so, yes, Abed ended up with her.

So there. That’s the recap. And frankly, I thought it worked alright, even though it was totally predictable. One problem–by making Abed’s first date such a cartoonish version of the manic pixie dream girl, it made the overall critique of that trope fall apart. Especially when they introduced Brie Larson, who has played the manic pixie dream girl in every movie she’s ever appeared in, and was just another, subtler version of the manic pixie dream girl in this episode, thus rendering the first manic pixie dream girl sort of irrelevant and meaningless. Am I making any sense?

Ben: The only thing I know Brie Larson from is The United States of Tara, a criminally underrated show.

Nathan: No Greenberg? No Scott Pilgrim? No 21 Jump Street?!?! I LOVED 21 Jump Street.

Ben: She carried this role quite well, though I have a folder of Bitcoin against her ever appearing on this show again. And I agree the fourth season has carried single storylines quite well and simply combines it with the expert comedic timing of the side characters.

Aside from Abed’s hijinks, we also were treated to some rare Pierce and Britta time. After the Dean announces (in what is possibly the great makeup job this show has ever done) his Sadie Hawkins dance, Britta immediately tends to the misogynistic nature of it by holding a rival Sophie B. Hawkins dance–named after the Lilith Fair favorite and singer of “Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover” (“I’ve always preferred ‘As I Lay Me Down’” chimes in Abed). When she realizes she needs Hawkins to actually appear at the dance, Pierce convinces her to uphold the lie then uses his moist towelette prowess to actually get the singer to the dance. It actually makes a ton of sense Britta and Pierce would find camaraderie; they are both victims of serial mocking by the group–Pierce for being overly offensive and Britta for the opposite. It also continues the trend of showing Pierce’s growth as a character, something that will make Chevy Chase’s impending exit all the more difficult.

Meanwhile, as Annie and Shirley are uneventfully focused on Abed, some of the greatest laughs came from Troy in the background. Perhaps missing the fun he’s had with Abed, Troy helps Britta plan the dance and attempts to match Abed’s own adventures: wearing a fake mustache while buying chips, carrying tall stacks of cups, going out for ice–”it’s wacky ice”, he assures Abed. Combined with the unusual amount of time Troy has spent with Annie this season (and Jeff’s inspiring text to Britta after her dance actually does work out) and I’m fairly comfortable predicting a Troy/Britta (Tritta? Broy?) split later in the season.

Also, Chang was there.

Nathan: First off, it’s definitely Broy. Secondly, I thought they used Chang perfectly in this episode…he’s like a fine dash of cayenne pepper. As long as he’s not overwhelming, he adds a little spice to the whole thing. (See what I did there? They call that a metaphor in the biz, kids.) Thirdly, Donald Glover had about six lines in this episode and five of them made me laugh. When he first sees the manic pixie dream girl, he asks Abed “Is that an alien or a toddler with a growing disease?” And later, my favorite joke of the night, he marvels at Chang’s ability to keep getting second chances despite continually ruining everything by saying, “He’s like the Colin Farrell of people.”

My favorite moment of the episode, however, came when Troy went on a “wacky” trip to get chips from the supply closet for Britta. He puts on a fake mustache, and then sends Abed a photo, via text, of him wackily holding the chips in the supply closet with the mustache on. It was a small moment, but a perfect little reminder of the friendship these two guys have, and a hint at how that friendship can grow. Abed is growing up, starting his own adventures, but his buddy is always a stupid photo text away.

Ben: I also miss Trobed (though I’m totally Team Tritta). And it’s a bit of a role swap for them; typically it’s been Troy who’s attempting to mature and Abed stuck in fantasyland. It also reminded me of dating someone and watching your single friend have single fun, but it also just reminds me this show has done very little to convince me of Troy and Britta’s relationship.

Overall, this episode garners a plain old B from me. It was whip-quick, filled with some of the best visual gags of the season, but I simply wasn’t completely sold on Abed’s story. Not simply because it was predictable, but because I know this was a lot growth we won’t see over the long-term. I know that’s a bit like a professor giving you a C- on one paper because he knows you’re next won’t be as good, but this is supposed to be an evolving storyline. Hopefully, I’m wrong.

Nathan: A strong B+ from me! I liked the one liners, I liked Abed’s main turn, and I liked the Lilith Fair jokes! 

Next week we’ve got “Intro to Felt Surrogacy” where the group takes a balloon ride and spends some quality time together. Bottle episode!

Lastly, before we sign off, Ben and I wanted to give two huge loving thumbs up to the late, great Roger Ebert. This entire blog premise of two guys talking about a piece of entertainment is just one big Siskel and Ebert rip-off, and I know that personally Ebert was a huge influence on me as both a writer and critic. He taught America that it was OK to think critically about the movies, to appreciate them as something beyond a couple hours in a dark room with popcorn. He was a titan, and a good man. Rest in peace.

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