COMMUNITY: ‘Asian Population Studies’ - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

COMMUNITY: ‘Asian Population Studies’

January 21, 2011 by  

COMMUNITY is back, you guys! We’ve got Abed’s ticks, Pierce’s senility, Jeff’s sexy sarcasm, and Troy’s amazing fake crying, all back on our TV screens every Thursday night. Thanksgiving may have been months ago, but there’s no moratorium about how thankful I am to have COMMUNITY back in my life.

The episode opened with the gang — is it blasphemy of some sort if I start referring to them as “The Scoobies,” à la BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER? Because a large part of me wants to — greeting each other after spending winter break apart. Over the break there have been a couple of changes within our beloved study group: Jeff discovered a new muscle in his back to exercise (we’ll thank him come swimsuit season); Shirley started dating her formerly-philandering ex-husband; Annie, using her “I love butterflies” voice, plays coy, describing the community service she did over the break picking up condoms and fingers off the highway. The culprit of her high spirits is, of course, of the male persuasion.

But this man is not just anyone of the male persuasion—he is none other than Jeff Winger’s arch nemesis, the pottery-gifted doctor who caused Jeff’s downfall back in season one’s “Beginner Pottery.” Dr. Rich. Or as I like to call him, Ghosting Guy.

And not only is Annie interested in Dr. Rich, but the guy is also the newest member of their Anthropology class. You can practically see the scorn boiling over in Jeff’s brain as he learns of these new developments, but the situation only worsens when Annie suggests that Dr. Rich join the study group. Whether you attribute Jeff’s anger to lingering feelings for Annie or as part of the deep-seated inferiority issues it brings out in our resident egomaniac — I’m guessing it’s a bit of both, but mostly the latter — Jeff is not happy.

While Jeff broods, Shirley’s ex, Andre — THE COSBY SHOW’s Malcolm-Jamal Warner, wearing a Cosby sweater — shows up for lunch at Greendale to spend the day with Shirley. Britta, up in arms over the fact that Shirley would get back with her cheating ex, tries to talk her version of reason into her friend: “Shirley, I have been fed a lot of soft-serve by a lot of guys. Sometimes it’s rent money, sometimes it’s Chili Peppers tickets, and yeah, I’ll admit it, one time it was a gym bag full of nickels. But it never lasts, and they never change.”

Shirley, of course does not listen to her, and the confrontation ends in Shirley admitting to the group that she is pregnant. This wasn’t a huge shocker for me — I figured when they didn’t resolve anything when she took that pregnancy test that they were leading up to a big reveal. But I was surprised that nobody on the show remembered what happened that Halloween night that they all turned into zombies. Translation: Shirley doesn’t remember sleeping with Chang in the first place. In fact, the only reason Troy knew was because of a voice-mail Chang had left on that night. He and Pierce do the math and put together that the baby may not biologically belong to Shirley’s ex.

Aside from the fact that I don’t believe that either Troy or Pierce could do math that quickly, they take this information and their sleuthing skills to try of pry out of Andre if he and Shirley slept together soon after Halloween.

All of this takes place at a mixer thrown by the study group in an effort to select a new group member. Annie’s rooting for Dr. Rich; Jeff’s rooting for anyone who isn’t Dr. Rich, including a blonde bimbo named Quendra. When Quendra exits the scene, however, the only hope Jeff has left is the former professor Chang, who has spent all of this season vying for admittance — and most of this episode making puns involving his name. In the midst of Jeff’s impassionate making of Chang’s case, however, Pierce outs Shirley and Chang’s secret to the room: Shirley and Chang had sex, and Shirley’s unborn fetus may very well be comprised of half his DNA. Rattled, Andre storms out of the room.

Annie, more focused on Jeff’s recent attempts to get rid of Dr. Rich, corners him in the men’s room and accuses him of being jealous. He neither confirms not denies this, and she storms out. Then Britta storms in, worried about Shirley’s relationship with Andre. And in comes one of the most heartwarming principles of the show: Britta, who had spent the entire episode decrying Shirley’s reconnection with her ex, decides that Shirley’s feeling are more important than Britta’s opinions. As Britta puts it: “I don’t deny that I’m not a fan of the guy, but I’m a fan of Shirley, and this is what she wants.” It beckoned back to the scene in season one where Shirley and Britta stood in Professor Slater’s office, Britta dressed as a giant flying squirrel, the two having a heart to heart brought on by their attempts at vandalism.

In the end Andre turns out to be not so bad, not needing any convincing to take on Shirley and her paternity-questionable fetus. And Jeff — realizing that the character growth/epiphany in the episode didn’t have to come from Andre, but from himself, runs slow-motion through the rain to a destination unknown. He stands soaked through in a doorway, giving his speech: “Don’t say anything until I’ve said what I’ve got to say. I’ve known you for almost two years now and I’ve never taken you as seriously as I should have. You are the strangest, coolest, most genuine person I have ever met. And the thing that scares me about you is how good you make me wish I was.”

No, he wasn’t talking to Annie. Of course not. She’s still only 19, it’d still be icky if they went there. No, Jeff went to see Dr. Rich, determined to attain some semblance of Ghosting Guy’s awesomeness. Jeff’s ego falters in Rich’s presence, and he makes what may be his most heartfelt plea to date: “I’m amazing. But I’m not perfect. You are. Give me that power, so I can abuse it.”

The episode felt oddly similar in tone to many that populated the first half of the show’s first season: slower, more unsure of itself, and more focused on moving plot forward and hinting at emotional connections within the group than on the meta-show of it all. In fact, there were hardly any references in this episode at all. For once, the show relied on itself more than on pre-existing icons and tropes.

And that’s nice, in theory. Even COMMUNITY needs something to fall back on, and not every week can be as grandiose as “Modern Warfare,” “Contemporary American Poultry,” or “Basic Rocket Science.” But even sans some of the more ostentatious of episode devices the show often puts into effect, there is usually a certain brass to the show that at times I missed during this episode. The plot moved forward in admittedly intriguing ways, but I couldn’t have been the only one to miss the whip-smart pace and strangely inventive homages that usually pop up multiple times per episode. Right?

I have faith that the show will pick up again. There’s no reason for me to think otherwise, with virtually no track record of disappointment. In fact, it’s often been the opposite: the show’s been built on its brass, its gumption. It’s allowed to slow down from time to time to gather its thoughts and gear us up for what’s to come. I just hope the next episode delivers.


Jeff: Nice sweater.
Andre: My dad gave it to me.

“Guilty as Chang-ed!”

“That was before he started using his name as a pun. It makes me so Chang-ry. Oh god, it’s happening to me!”

What did you guys think of last night’s episode? Did I go blind last night, unable to see the amazingness that lies before me? What was your favorite Chang pun? And what did you think of the big Shirley pregnancy revelation?

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One Response to “COMMUNITY: ‘Asian Population Studies’”

  1. Ben Phelps on January 21st, 2011 2:42 pm

    Great episode, and nice to see they didn’t forget about the Halloween events. And the running “Chang” puns were really funny because of how lame they were.