Glazomania: Redux – Episodes 14-19
Conflict Resolution (Presented by Classified Phoenix Taco Meat: Classic Flavour!)
All of these episodes share one significant thing in common: external conflict that often involves the study group in direct competition with each other or some other individual(s), whether that's in the court room, debating, facing down zombies, a bully or a pool teacher, or beginning another round of paintball.
19. Basic Lupine Urology (317) (Average Score – 82.27)
(Average Grade – 3.62/A-) (Average Rank – 24.2) (High Rank – 6) (Low Rank – 54) (Standard Deviation – 8.54)
Community has done more than its fair share of genre episodes, but Basic Lupine Urology hews unusually close to the source material; right from the beginning of the special title sequence, it is clear that this is a Law and Order episode. There are more jokes in the episode that require knowledge of the source material than in earlier homage episodes, which isn't ideal, as the Troy and Abed plot that takes up much of the first half of the episode feels like an inferior rehash of the Shirley-Annie plot in The Science of Illusion. But Basic Lupine Urology manages to be entertaining even for a viewer who has never seen an episode of Law and Order.
Where the episode shines is in the Jeff and Annie plot that occupies its back half. Many of the best episodes of the first three semesters feature a plot involving Jeff and Annie, but starting with Political Science episodes with the two increasingly came to be bogged down in attempts at will-they-or-won't-they drama. With sexual tension largely shelved for a week, we get to see what drew people to put Jeff and Annie together in the first place. With these two fully realized characters bouncing off each other, the episode is a delight to watch, and it certainly doesn't hurt that Megan Ganz's script is one of the funniest of Season 3.
– Janine Restrepo
18. Physical Education (117) (Average Score – 82.69)
(Average Grade – 3.63/A-) (Average Rank – 23.2) (High Rank – 4) (Low Rank – 58) (Standard Deviation – 10.43)
Physical Education stands as one of Season 1's best because it's able to legitimately approach questions about confidence and one's own self-perception while simultaneously being balls-out funny. (And after seeing a fully disrobed Coach Bogner, you know how frighteningly accurate that description can be.) The episode also offers some exquisite character development for Abed. Rather than a cipher who exclusively relies on pop culture references to express himself, Abed is revealed to have a fully formed personality of his own, with self esteem flowing out of his butt (to put it in his own words). He's fully confident in who he is, to the point where he is willing to temporarily change for his friends just to make them happy. This reveal inspires Britta to (or at least attempt to) shrug off the group's mocking of her pronunciation of common words, and most importantly, imbues Jeff with the bravery to choose shorts.
And that's fortunate for us, because it happens to lead into one of the most purely hilarious sequences Community ever produced. From the constant one-upmanship between Jeff and Bogner, to an inspired homage to The Color of Money (hey, that's two Scorsese tributes within five episodes of each other!), everything about the scene is pure gold. On top of that, the entire episode turns out to be eminently quotable and memorable from the word go. You've got a Leonard appearance. Abed's Don Draper impression. "Baggel". Pierce's little blink-and-you-miss-it jig while everyone laughs at Britta. And a contender for "best tag ever", Abed and Troy's absurd Bert and Ernie impression. (R.I.P. Demetri)
– Melted Kojak
17. Comparative Religion (112) (Average Score – 83.05)
(Average Grade – 3.65/A-) (Average Rank – 23.9) (High Rank – 6) (Low Rank – 58) (Standard Deviation – 8.54)
The show's first Christmas episode, "Comparative Religion" doesn't go for the stylistic approaches of "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas" or "Regional Holiday Music", instead telling a simple, grounded story about Shirley wanting Jeff not to get into a fight, because Christmas. It also manages some insight into how a group of people with widely varying personal and cultural backgrounds can still come together and find shared moments during the holiday season. Fortunately, it's not all boring lesson-learning, as "Comparative Religion" is one of the funniest episodes of Community as well.
16. Epidemiology (206) (Average Score – 84.26)
(Average Grade – 3.70/A-) (Average Ranking – 21.3) (High Rank – 3) (Low Rank – 70) (Standard Deviation – 10.27)
Community does many things well, but one of my favourite things is it’s ability to take totally absurd situations and make them feel… almost real. Epidemiology may stretch the boundaries of reality for Community, a secret virus that turns people into zombies from the government that the dean just happens to get for the Halloween party? Yeah, that’ll never happen in real life, but somehow Community makes it work. Maybe it’s because everyone’s reactions feel genuine for their characters, and we get to see new sides to some of them like Rich starting to show cracks in his perfect facade… that everyone immediately forgets due to the mindwipe at the end. Maybe it’s because it’s Halloween and zombies don’t seem so crazy on Halloween. Maybe it’s because ABBA and zombies go together like chocolate and peanut butter, and we just didn’t realize it. Sure it’s not completely perfect (again, a secret government zombie virus is purchased so easily it’s ridiculous), and it did start the Shirley/Chang pregnancy arc that most people would rather forget, but within the episode, everything makes sense.
15. A Fistful of Paintballs (223) (Average Score – 84.70)
(Average Grade – 3.73/A-) (Average Rank – 20.7) (High Rank – 2) (Low Rank – 64) (Standard Deviation – 13.52)
It was inevitable they would attempt a follow up to perhaps the most well known, widely praised episode of Season 1 and inevitable that they would try to top it in every way. This episode ups the ante right from the start. While MW had a deceptively normal-seeming cold open, AFOP starts with crazed action from the very first scene and keeps a pretty frantic pace throughout. AFOP is a little more esoteric and maybe a little more focused than MW — while Modern Warfare slyly referenced dozens of diverse action movies, AFOP is a pure Leone homage, right down to the brilliant opening credits and character-introducing freeze-frames. It really only falls short of Modern Warfare in one minor way: the novelty has worn off a little. The original was so jaw-droppingly audacious and well executed, its follow up can't help but feel like a retread, even though it takes the basic setup in a drastically different direction. Like MW, it's impressive how Community can execute an wildly over-the-top plot so perfectly while building on multiple ongoing story lines of the season. Here Pierce's transformation into the pariah of the group, one more divisive story lines of Season 2, starts to see a satisfying conclusion. We also get eerie clues as to the true nature of this paintball war which will have a huge payoff in the final episode of season 2. Beyond that, it's just a helluva lot of fun — equally thrilling and hilarious. As an added bonus, this also features Josh Holloway in his first major acting role after Lost went off the air, as a mysterious uber-badass cowboy. It's one of the best guest appearances of the series.
14. Debate 109 (109) (Average Score – 84.81)
(Average Grade – 3.73/A-) (Average Ranking – 21.9) (High Rank – 6) (Low Rank – 57) (Standard Deviation – 10.64)
As Semi-bored torontonian explained in her review, Debate 109 is essentially a live-action cartoon episode of Community, humming with the kinetic energy and movement of a drawn cartoon, yet we don't think less of it because the material is handled adroitly enough that the jokes don't overcome the content (take note, later cartoonish episodes) and, more importantly, it's grounded by real substance and stakes. Through Abed's films, the show struts its stuff with a sly criticism of how other shows might handle the same material. Jeff takes on a now familiar role for him as the anti-bully, standing up both for Annie and Greendale against the pesky City College. Of course, who can forget the revelatory scene of Annie letting her hair down, where it simultaneously dawned on not just Jeff but us too how much of a knockout Annie really is. The titular debate features the fabulously unctuous Simmons (Troy was right, that dude gets it) and his endlessly amusing sidekick, Ropati Eneki. Elsewhere there's Britta humoring Pierce's hypnotism, Troy Crying Awesomely, Professor Whitman shooting legal motions, Franz Wickmeyer quotes, gay basketball and an impending werewolf attack. This is Community firing on all cylinders early in its first season and that's why Debate 109 is the 14th best Community episode.