Glazomania: Redux – Episodes 20-24
Artificial Community (Presented by Senor Kevin's)
This is an odd group. From robotic cops to simulated realities, this is Community trying on a bunch of different hats. We're also entering the region where concept episodes are the majority.
24. Virtual Systems Analysis (316) (Average Score – 80.28)
(Average Grade – 3.53/A-) (Average Rank – 26.2) (High Rank – 3) (Low Rank – 66) (Standard Deviation – 15.23)
While this may be a challenging, unorthodox episode that embodies the complaint that Community went too far up its own ass in season 3, it comes close enough to extricating itself from said ass to still rate as a well above average episode.
Some moments rise to the level of the best we have come to expect from Community, such as Troy’s Inception freakout, Joel McHale playing Danny Pudi’s interpretation of Abed’s vision of Annie’s perception of Jeff, and the entirety of Annie’s speech in the locker. However, it takes a bit of setup to get to the funny stuff, even longer to get to the really deep emotional stuff, and Annie’s claim that she was in love with the idea of being in love doesn’t ring true at all, based on her actions in other episodes.
Much like some other episodes in season 3, a less than stellar start is redeemed by a beautiful and devastatingly emotional final act. Ultimately, there are a few quibbles and character beats that just feel off that keep this from being a top tier episode of Community. VSA had great ambitions that were ultimately slightly out of reach, but only slightly.
– SG Standard
23. Pillows and Blankets (314) (Average Score – 81.02)
(Average Grade – 3.56/A-) (Average Rank – 25.7) (High Rank – 2) (Low Rank – 65) (Standard Deviation – 13.32)
This is just one of those episodes of Community that you couldn't believe managed to air on prime-time network television.
As a man who has watched a ton of Ken Burns documentary specials over the years, I found it mesmerizing to watch just how spot-on "Pillows and Blankets" was in copying its look, tone, and storytelling techniques back when it first aired. Whether it's the "famous actor" (in this case, the Morgan Freeman impersonator from "Contemporary Impressionist") beginning the episode by reading a quote, the use of Leonard and the blind guy as the resident "old eyewitness/historian testimonials," the manner in which they introduced the episode's featured players, or even the narration by Keith David (narrator of such previous Burns works as The War and The Tenth Inning), many of the documentaries' trademarks were there, made hilarious when its seriousness was juxtaposed with a subject as absurd and mundane as a community college pillow fight. But the spoofing elements wasn't the only thing which made the episode memorable, or any of the show's great concept episodes for that matter. "Pillows and Blankets" served as the climax to the two-part Troybed conflict arc that began in "Digital Exploration in Interior Design," which managed to be compelling through the level of nastiness the two got at each other, from Abed pointing out Troy's weakness to Troy's equally hurtful e-mail response . Some criticized the way the episode managed to wrapped this arc by having the two bury the hatchet without any ripple effects to their friendship later on in season three, and while these people have a legitimate complaint, Jeff going to the Dean's office to find and give them their magical friendship hats was still a genuinely sweet moment that also managed to avoid going overly sappy thanks to Jeff giving the documentary crew his journal entry in another moment of self-absorption. Other highlights included Britta's terrible photography work, the Changlorious Basterds (arguably the best use of Chang in season three), Pierce's horrifying fighting suit, "Leonard likes this post," and the confusing explanation of English Memorial and the North Cafeteria battleground.
– Not the Real Randy Jackson
22. Romantic Expressionism (115) (Average Score – 81.07)
(Average Grade – 3.57/A-) (Average Rank – 26.5) (High Rank – 4) (Low Rank – 61) (Standard Deviation – 14.38)
Some episodes of Community are just really, really funny. Romantic Expressionism is one of the best episodes of the show because it contains countless classic scenes and moments. This is the episode that brought us Kickpuncher! Leonard and the macaroni (it's messed up that he knows)! And of course, it has one of the greatest study room scenes ever, which Todd described as: "secrets come out and everyone tosses sarcastic putdowns at each other and then the characters all make kinda creepy eyes at each other." This episode really has a hangout feel to it. Part of this is because a significant amount of the episode is the cast watching a movie, but even the Jeff-Britta scenes have this great low-key energy.
Other things I love about this episode: the score and the pacing. This episode really flows. Just look at how the "weirdest boner" scene goes into the scene where Pierce is with Derrick Comedy. Troy is really funny in this episode. Pierce falling down for comedic effect is used more than once this season, but it really works here. Also, Britta looks great and the tag is one of the best ever.
21. Digital Estate Planning (320) (Average Score – 81.33)
(Average Grade – 3.57/A-) (Average Rank – 24.6) (High Rank – 3) (Low Rank – 60 (Standard Deviation – 12.67)
If only LeVar Burton had been more than a "maybe," this episode may just have been a little farther up the list. Community is a show that makes its concept episodes work on both a comedic and emotional level, and Digital Estate Planning is no different. Pierce's road to redemption following his season 2 …erm…antics?…has been a rocky one but comes to a bit of a head in DEP, finally finding a family that isn't headed by a racist, ivory clad, crazy person. The episode is beautifully rendered, looking like every fourth generation computer game we played when growing up, if with a tad more racism and all round hatred towards humanity then most 4g games. It also contains two scenes that never fail to make my sides hurt. Annie and Shirley accidentally murdering the blacksmith and his wife before stealing everything they own is just brilliant, again showcasing the sheer awesomeness of that particular duo, before burning the house down to cover their tracks. And of course, Abed's army of children. It was a bit predictable that Abed would somehow be the savior when he stayed behind with Hilda, but I doubt many of us thought it would have been through an army of child miners he had created. The initial reveal still gets me every time. The biggest problem facing this episode was it's odd placing in the season, making Pierce's accepting of his friends and Gilbert a little less punch. All in all though, Digital Estate Planning deserves it's high entry on the list, bringing us all the comedic value and emotional resonance we expect from an episode as well as cute as hell avatars and references to Mega Man and Super Mario Brothers. What more could you ask for?
– Hector the Well Endowed
20. Introduction to Statistics (107) (Average Score – 81.94)
(Average Grade – 3.61/A-) (Average Rank – 25.5) (High Rank – 7) (Low Rank – 56) (Standard Deviation – 10.22)
For many, Introduction to Statistics was the first episode to indicate what an exceptional series Community could potentially become. Jeff’s struggle to maintain some semblance of his lawyer lifestyle (in this case, being a smooth operator with the ladies) and still remain loyal to his newly-found Greendale family appears mostly front and center here, but the way the rest of the study group is utilized all throughout is fairly impressive. Everyone is given a moment to shine by means of revealing character development, hilarious comic material or a combination of the two. We learn of Annie’s social scarring in high school while being treated to her clever hallway manipulation techniques; we witness Shirley’s repressed rage towards the woman who broke up her marriage after chuckling heartily at her ambiguous costume; we understand and empathize with Pierce’s fear of mortality via a crazy-bad acid trip; we are impressed by Abed’s strong sense of self, not through his incredible Batman persona, but his momentary suspension of it; and, we notice Troy subtly becoming more open to an unconventional friendship during a conversation about donut cannibalism. Furthermore, Britta dresses up as a squirrel and it is possibly one of the most adorable things of life. Thus, the tradition of fantastic Hallowe’en episodes (Mexican or otherwise… hehe) begins.