“This seems like a really dark chapter in our group story.”

This week’s episode of Community wasn’t based off of some high-concept parody. It didn’t have much wackiness or many sight gags. It didn’t hurl a bunch of pop culture references at its viewers (well, not too many). And for the most part, it wasn’t all that… funny.

Now, that doesn’t mean there weren’t many moments in the show – there were. Hell, I had laugh-tears streaming down my face in under 30 seconds (a new best). And I definitely don’t mean the show wasn’t good. It was. Episodes like these are a perfect counterbalance to the show’s more popular episodes like “Modern Warfare” or “Contemporary American Poultry”. This episode was dreary, but also quite thoughtful and heartfelt. And it conveyed a message that may not be appreciated but will definitely resonate with the show’s (assumed) young demographic. And that message was:

“Alcohol makes people sad… it’s like the Lifetime Movies of beverages.”

Funny. And quite often true.

The episode begins with the study group celebrating Troy’s 20th Uterus Expulsion Day… or so he thinks. Thanks to a reference to the Chinese Zodiac Calendar, Troy realizes that he and Annie were not born on the same year… and he also realizes that not everyone is age 10 for two years (because fifth grade is tough, damn it!). While Troy is initially stunned to hear of his mother’s deception about his age, he quickly rebounds when Jeff reminds him this means he is of legal drinking age. Huzzah!

Jeff and Britta initially squabble about which bar to take Troy to – Jeff’s favorite preppy watering hole, or Britta’s “underground” hipster hangout – but they eventually land on a bar with a gross-but-ironically-fancy-sounding name: The Ballroom. However, this plan is not without its problems: Annie is underage, Shirley is apprehensive about going, and Pierce is having trouble navigating his wheelchair. But all is well when Annie gets an ID (from another brunette named Caroline Decker, from Corpus Christi), Shirley sucks it up for the team, and Pierce… well, Pierce gets caught outside the bar for the duration of the night. Poor Pierce.

Once inside, Troy begins planning what to order as his first “legal” drink once the clock hits 12. He settles on a beer, though this is quickly vetoed by Jeff and Britta. Troy’s next choice is the favorite drink of his uncle, a Seven and Seven, but this is also shot down. Dejected, Troy listens to Jeff and Britta bicker more about their respective bar and drink of preference, and he wistfully waits the time when he will be able to get the context of their arguments.

Meanwhile, Caroline Decker is sitting at the bar, chatting up the bartender. Oh, you don’t know Caroline? She’s just an ex-con, drifting from town to town (or following Phish), living in the moment. Not at all like her “friend” Annie, who’s a total square and plans everything in advance.

(As you can see, Annie, in all of her hilarious neuroses, is so paranoid of being caught drinking underage that she concocts a back-story for the alter-ego on her ID. She then proceeds to act like “Caroline” the entire night. However, she soon begins to like the idea of herself as a free-spirit, and starts questioning the merits of her own life choices).

While Caroline is spittin’ in the wind at the bar, Abed is talking to a pleasant man named Robert about Farscape at a nearby table. Over time, it becomes clear that Robert is less interested in science fiction, and more interested in Abed. Finally fed up with Abed’s obliviousness toward his advances, Robert straight-up asks Abed if he was in the mood for some gay sex. Abed declines. As it turns out, Abed has been aware for quite some time about Robert’s intentions… but come on. The opportunity to talk about Farscape doesn’t come along every day.

Shirley, all the while, has been buzzing around the bar, nabbing pictures of herself off the walls. Shirley used to be a regular at the Ballroom (insert crude joke here) during a time of her life she’s not proud of. Unfortunately for her, Britta finds one of her drunken pictures in the restroom, and she, Jeff and Troy have some fun at her expense. Shirley isn’t laughing, and she leaves the bar in a huff… but not before helping Pierce out of the bar’s foyer.

When midnight finally arrives, and it’s time for Troy’s drink, he ignores the advice of his inebriated friends and buys a Seven and Seven. But while he’s being served, he looks around at his friends in the bar, and sees how miserable and lonely each of them are. Troy collects his study buddies and leaves his drink, untouched, on the bar.

As he’s chauffeuring everyone home, Troy really hits his stride. He tells off Britta and Jeff for their bickering (after they realize that they actually frequent the same bar). He realizes that his supposedly wiser friends aren’t any wiser at all. He tells off Abed for being a tattletale. He helps Annie feel comfortable with being herself. He even gets to drive Jeff’s car. He has reached manhood.

Extra Credit:

- My Quote of the Week is actually a Cake Frosting of the Week, as that was the moment that made me laugh the hardest. When the study group buys Troy his birthday cake, they top it with frosting that attempts to be respectful of his Jehovah’s Witness upbringing (in which birthdays are not celebrated). It reads: “Hello during a random dessert, the month and day of which coincide numerically from your expulsion from a uterus.”

- Other favorites from this week:

* “Well, you were doing it in front of me; I’m not a coat rack.” –Abed, giving an excuse for why he tattled on Jeff and Britta making out

* “It’s not hipster! Hipsters haven’t discovered it yet – it’s underground.” –Britta, defending her definitively not hipster bar in the most hipster way possible

- I realize this episode may not have been for everyone; when something goes against expectations, people can react adversely. But I’m sure next week’s Rankin/Bass-inspired animated Christmas special will be right up your alley. In fact, I’m pretty sure that if you don’t watch it, and convince all of your Nielsen-affiliated friends to do the same, the Communists win.

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