Episode 222: Applied Anthropology and the Culinary Arts
S2E22 Applied Anthropology and Culinary Arts by DavetheDouchebag
Applied Anthropology is a weak episode of Community. Its main problem is that it feels remarkably lazy and cheap. This is a bottle episode, but no one would think to compare it to Calligraphy (or at least, I would hope they wouldn’t). It was a bottle episode that was almost certainly done to save money, which is why this episode pointedly refuses to let Abed comment on the fact they’re “doing a bottle episode”. Additionally, it also concludes one of the lamest, most pointless stories the show ever did; Shirley’s potential pregnancy with Chang’s baby. This storyline made Chang horrifically creepy and Shirley rather unlikeable, and was a fairly massive waste of time. Compared to Season 2’s Pierce arc, the Chang storyline holds no weight, and so neither does Applied Anthropology, the suitably ungrand finale to this ungrand storyline.
The episode starts off rather promisingly, during the Anthropology final which is being administered by Duncan. Duncan! One of the show’s most consistently funny, most dearly missed characters opens this rightly maligned episode. He’s giving everyone an automatic A, and has turned the class into a rowdy drinking session which all the students but sweet, lovely Annie seem to be enjoying. Annie is pelted by paper balls to punish her passionate love of learning, which was killing the buzz of the slackers she is forced to share the class with. The whole sequence at the beginning of this episode is funny and fun. Things go downhill quickly, however. The Dean and a writer for “Dean Magazine” walk in, and Duncan winds up fleeing the room, and alas, the series. The Dean’s material is often not up to the level of Jim Rash’s performance, but his lines struck me as being especially unfunny in this episode. “Dean Magazine” is a rather lame joke, and so all of the Dean’s humor which revolves around trying to impress the reporter falls completely flat. Once Shirley goes into labor, we are treated to some of the worst Chang material the show has ever given us. All of the shit that runs forth from his mouth like a waterfall in this episode is unfunny, and worse, it’s sentimentalized in the most unearned way imaginable. It’s unclear why his nonsense is supposed to comfort Shirley, and even if one accepts that it does, this doesn’t justify Shirley’s later decision to actually name her baby after Chang! Shirley’s loathing of Chang was previously established as so great that she actually told Chang to his face that even being reminded of the fact she had sex with him was inhumanly cruel. It’s ridiculous to set up a conflict this contrived and then end it so lazily. The subplot with Trobed and Pierce isn’t nearly as obnoxious, but it still feels monumentally inconsequential compared to all the great episodes that dealt with Pierce’s darkening personality so effectively and so movingly.
This episode does have its bright spots. It is Community after all, which guarantees that it will have a few good lines at the very least. There are plenty of funny moments in this episode, though a lot of the humor feels oddly telegraphed. The episode’s greatest element is its strong Britta storyline. It beautifully showcases Britta making the difficult leap from talking the talk to walking the walk. All of Britta’s clichés about natural birth are made ridiculous by Britta’s experience of the real thing. But if Britta knows little about the way the world actually works, she cares a hell of a lot, and she’s too good a friend to truly fail Shirley. It is Britta’s ability to transcend her own self righteousness that prevents her from being the genuine Worst. No episode that deals with Britta’s character this well can be completely dismissed. In spite of all of its flaws, this is an episode of Community, and I’m glad it exists.
Alison Brie does a wonderful job silently conveying Annie’s disgust with Duncan’s travesty of an anthropology class. Her look of indignation when a paper ball hit her in the boob made me laugh pretty heard.
This episode makes me miss Duncan. It’s a shame he had to go out on a rather weak episode. It’s an interesting experience to see John Oliver on Community after I had the wonderful opportunity to see him live.
“You have a booger.” “I know, it’s part of me” Oh, Britta.
“Make your money, whore!” I’m not a huge fan of the Pierce story in this episode, but that line is delightfully cruel.
Abed calls attention to the fact he delivered a baby in his now infamous background plot from the Psychology of Letting Go. Should the show have revealed this? I have mixed feelings.
That shot of Britta staring at Shirley’s cervix in horror is rather brilliant, I would say.
“Are you saying I’ll be a good mom?”
Sorry I don’t have more of these. It’s hard for me to write everything down and watch at the same time.