Episode 108: Home Economics
108 Home Economics
"Home Economics" is one of the most complete and satisfying episodes of S1, with 3 witty, intersecting character-based plots that find skewed, rapid-fire approaches to the humor that effortlessly circumvent typical sitcom expectations. In the A plot, Jeff is temporarily homeless due to a dispute with his condo board, and while taking up in Abed's dorm finds himself easily seduced by the slacker life. The somewhat more memorable B plot shows Vaughn and Pierce fueding over credit for a catchy, passive-aggressive song that calls out Britta by name. The C plot is a standard: pushover Annie helps Troy prepare for a date while desperately wishing it was with her. Britta deftly moves between plots A&B, showing how connected the campus is before a concert at the end ties all 3 stories together and makes the characters' private neurosis the subject of a very public Greendale-wide celebration. (Not to omit Shirley, who hovers around the A&C plots, her bluntness forcing Britta to consider her possible attraction to Jeff, and refusing to let Annie stay entirely quiet as Troy takes her for granted.)
A: The Jeff/Abed plot is great because of how quickly it bypasses the lifestyle differences between the two, or Jeff's forced exile from the perch he once held, and gets right to the bonding. Plus, it's easy to identify with the fun Jeff has letting himself go. He has as much gusto in finding an ice cream bar or an unlocked vending machine as he puts into a Winger speech or chasing an attractive woman. Also, this is the first time he talks (however briskly) about his father's neglect, and his self-invented world and cocoon of a persona suddenly seems very comparable to Abed's, even though one is highly social and the other virtually antisocial. Also, for the second week in a row, Abed tries to protect the group's dynamic and get them to do what's best for themselves, a growing core to his place in the Study Group. Honestly, the Jeff/Britta stuff isn't as unique, except in how it connects to the Vaughn story, both physically – in showing how close everyone is in terms of space and time on campus, and emotionally – in how Britta's once again rejected by the world outside the Study Group and finds it worth her time to connect with Jeff (by helping him out of his rut) and Abed (by helping him get Jeff out, albeit ignoring Abed's hilariously inappropriate advice to seduce Jeff, and doing it on her own terms).
B: The highest triumphs of this ep revolve around Vaughn's songs (and as with all the best things in S1, Britta's quietly pained reactions). The scene where Britta goes to hear Vaughn's band Some Worries play is one of the quickest, funniest escalations I've ever seen. It's been established that Britta wants to use her sense of superiority over him not to mock him or remain angry with him after the events of "Social Psychology" but to apologise and be supportive. So the moment when he begins singing explicitly and rudely about her, and she's forced to stand there and listen while registering gradual shock and horror on her face is amazing. It doesn't sound funny as I describe it, but the song is so upbeat and jaunty, and Vaughn's dopey innocence is just as present as in his stupid poem. The chorus of "She's a GDB" takes it one step further into ridiculousness, using network TV's abolishment of swearing in a way that makes the nasty edge of the song even funnier. You know, in decades of TV, the lack of swearing was always evident, but it never became the joke up until a few years ago, and it makes for a fresh, wide target. (Made more blatant and strange by the fact that he calls her a bitch outright earlier in the song.) It's such an abrupt reversal of the social dynamic between the two, it's a perfect comic sequence. Later, when Britta confronts Vaughn (and Pierce) about the song, it's another brief scene that exceeds expectations. Because of how Chevy Chase and Eric Christian Olsen each add physical histrionics that elevate the material and spell out their characters even better than the dialogue, it tells a story while making both of them seem absurd. Vaughn's oblivious, childish pouting and overseriousness about his band are priceless. Especially in contrast with his disregard for Britta's concerns, which you'd think would be the whole point of this plot but are basically brushed aside by the end (which secures Britta's larger role in things: when she tries to be a good person, she ends up finding out how unimportant she really is). By the final outdoor concert, when all these little problems smooth out into kind of a cohesive joy binding all of Greendale, everyone (including Pierce) finds their worries unfounded because none of them are alone. I see this ep as the 2nd part in a "Vaughn trilogy" along with "Social Psychology" and "Romantic Expressionism", where every old trick of half hour comedy gets a new wrinkle, then each wrinkle gets another wrinkle, till it's this precise spiral that defamiliarizes a rigid format and makes it feel real again.
C: Speaking of old tricks, the Troy/Annie stuff is a lot more fun to watch now, knowing what better material they'd soon graduate to. It's an opportunity to see both actors and the writers gradually developing the characters. Alison Brie is adorable in her futile stabs at expressing her feelings for Troy, unspoken emotions and repressed sexuality playing in a constantly shifting map across her quivering face. Luckily, Patton Oswalt is inserted as a school nurse who wants to get rid of Troy so he can hit on Annie, and her disproportionate response ("My appendix is exploding!") is great cause it makes the situation so much worse, much like Vaughn's songs escalate what could've been a simple truce between he and Britta, or Pierce.
- Britta is quick to show gratitude to Pierce for (kind of) sticking up for her with Vaughn. The wall between those two has grown so much greater in the two years since, I can't imagine anything like that now.
- "Like a grownup date, but within biking distance of my parents' house."
- "You're welcome. And I hate you. And I want to have your children."
- "Can't we still be friends? And isn't the word -later- already short enough?"
- "It's better if it's man to man. That way we won't be thinking about our chubby thighs or whether or not we can have babies."
- Jeff doing arm curls with weights while getting dressed out of his trunk is hilarious.
- "My room has a bunk bed, which is kind of a misnomer cause…it's the real deal!"
- Jeff: "Hey, wanna see my place?" Britta: "I can see it from here. Two girls are making out on the hood." This one great exchange justifies all the banter between the two in this ep.
- "What kind of an offer is that? These are mint condition issues. I mean, the premise alone is priceless. The guy has the powers and strength of a spider." One of those quick bursts that turn a barely-there establishing couple of lines into a nudging joke. They stuffed this episode with humor.
- "You're Goldie Hawn, Jeff." "Is it the lips?"
- "A picnic blanket. Genius! I was just gonna lay down newspaper."
- "TV's the best Dad there is. TV never came home drunk. TV never forgot me at the zoo. TV never abused and insulted me. Unless you count Cop Rock." "Cop Rock. That sounds cool." "Doesn't it?"
- Pavel immediately recognizes Britta from Vaughn's song (and does a half assed rendition of it). Jeff says "Coolcoolcool."(!)
- Pierce: "Are you trying to Garfunkel me?" Vaughn: "Maybe. Assuming to Garfunkel somebody means to put up with them even though they're a fat, lazy cat who hogs the spotlight and eats all the lasagna."
- "Maybe because when I put on these skinny jeans my ass looks like a baby pumpkin." Who comes up with lines like that?!
- "A shadowy flight into the world of a man who does not exist."
- "Tell him you'll make love to him if he showers and finds a nice place to live."
- "Abed! It's open!" <– line of the ep, and a solid contender for 10 funniest lines in the whole show.
- "I know, honey. Let's go get you some pants."
- Rap/reggae section of "Pierce, You're a B":
This is a song for Pierce, he so old
His body made of wrinkles and foldsStupid and ugly, he smell like a fartPoo-poo in his pants and poo-poo in my heart
- Pierce's revenge rap about Vaughn:
East side, West side, North side, SouthVaughn's breath is so bad, his butt's mad at his mouthThis rap is by Pierce, Vaughn is dumbHe wears diapers to bed, sucks his Mother's thumbAnd when he wakes up, stupid wishing he was meHe has a big poop breakfast with a glass of peeThen he goes to school where he's stupid againAnd everybody hates him, even all his friendsWhen you come after Pierce, the battle is onSo this rap goes out to stupid Vaughn
- Just a great tag that's goofy and brings the ep full circle.
- Britta calls Jeff "the worst" !
- With Harmon, Joel, Pudi and writer Lauren Pomerantz. Lauren is super shy, speaks very little (and very quietly when she does). Harmon says how great it is to get good first drafts that he doesn't have to rewrite, how well she connected with the show, and how he'd like to have her back but she's contracted with Ellen now.
- They tease Yvette throughout. She can hear them in the other room, but can't respond. They keep joking about her destructive drinking (she doesn't drink alcohol). Harmon sums it up like this: "Have you ever known somebody so sweet, but who rewards you so much for being mean to them?"
- At one point, Harmon finally calls Pudi out for explaining the jokes. Danny's super nice and charming, but he's way below the level of conversation on most of the S1 commentaries.
- On the other hand, after Joel laughs at something Jeff says in the episode, he dryly quips: "I laughed at my own joke. What a jerk. What a dick."
- They had Pudi add ADR saying "I'll race you to the bunk" out of concerns that Abed racing to jump on the bed, then propping his head on his arm to look back at Jeff made him seem gay (you know, like he's calling Jeff to bed or something).
- The songs were written by Ludwig (music) and Harmon (lyrics). The rapper is KU (aka Kustoo http://www.jacquesslade.com/ab… ). He was Community's "in-house rapper" for S1, and performs all the raps heard in episodes. Harmon's original version of Pierce's rap in the tag was "an amateur's attempt at a violent song" that'd talk about shooting Vaughn with bullets that were also tiny guns, etc. But KU told him it'd bring down the scene with negative energy, so Harmon re-wrote the classic we have today. (He also seems understandably pleased with the line "Poo-poo in his pants and poo-poo in my heart.")
- The writers had a long discussion about the marks on Jeff's faucet, about the best way a vain person could recognise his own faucets.
- Harmon says "someone" (no name, no hint, but it sounds like he's serious and not teasing Lauren) called him to suggest cutting the whole Troy/Annie plot, and he feels vindicated that it worked.
- They crack on Britta's leather vest, saying it reminds them of Mad Max, Rent and The Legend of Billie Jean.
- Harmon wonders aloud why they make Gillian wear those awkward stilts/heels in nearly every scene. "What's the worst that could happen if she didn't?", he asks. Joel answers honestly, "it'd be harder to frame the shots." This leads them to bring up Peter Dinklage, and none of them can remember the title of The Station Agent.
- Joel quips that all Chevy's vests from this ep were donated to Planet Hollywood, which cracks Harmon up. Danny then tries to remember which Planet Hollywoods, if any, still exist. It ends with Lauren chiming in, for the first time: "I used to collect shot glasses from Planet Hollywood."
- Final random exchange to end the commentary…. Joel: "Let's go out to my car, Danny, I'm gonna get you that quilt." Danny: "I'm gonna get a quilt, guys."
On the A.V. Club: http://www.avclub.com/articles/regional-holiday-music%2C66270/#comment-401067974 (page 52)