Welcome back to Greendale for Community Season 3. First class, "Biology 101."
"We're going to seem like a mainstream dream and be appealing to all mankind."
So, the third season of the smartest, most reference-filled, Emmy snubbed, comedy opens with a bunch of lies in song. Yes, a full on musical number that, in retrospect, takes place all inside's Jeff's mind, his perfect vision of Greendale without Pierce. When you look at it this way, all of the lines are even funnier and you absolutely have to watch it again. It's perfect, the wishes of Jeff Winger, not to mention the lies - something he may be a little familiar and too comfortable with - for what he hopes will be a normal, happy, sex-with-Annie filled year. Obviously, expect the opposite.
And snap back to reality and two of the three threads of this week's narrative are quickly introduced, the first right off the bat and hinted at in the song - life with(or with)out Pierce. Enter the Dean and the second thread for the week, his quest for no more National Lampoon-ery this year at Greendale. And what do you know, Pierce arrives and would like to come back to the group (one cliff-hanger down). He can't because he's not in Biology 101 (spoke too soon?) but not to worry, the table isn't magical and they're all friends. Oh, and by the way, Chang's living in the air vents.
"Cougar Town's been moved to mid-season, that's never a good sign. Not cool, not cool, not cool..."
This third thread is brought in immediately after the break and it's probably the least compelling, so it's as good a place to start as any place. Abed's beloved Cougar Town wound up with a mid-season premiere date (in November on ABC), which leaves him, not only worried but, without his favorite show and nothing to watch. This gets most of the group, well, mostly Britta since she's always on the crusade, to find a replacement.
In a not so subtle jab at British television, not to mention Britta's sense of cultural superiority, the first show brought in is the original series upon which Cougar Town was based (not true) Cougarton Abbey which solves the problem but only for six episodes because that's how the Brits do it, closure! Abed does not like closure. This brings out the ever more common, Troy versus Britta conflict which I always enjoy, especially how he rightfully notes her capacity to ruin everything, even his analogy for how she's a supreme ruiner. All's well in the end, when Britta discovers the thinly veiled Doctor Who - Inspector Spacetime, the best show Abed has ever seen.
"Homey don't Dean this..."
Back to the second story line unfolding, Dean Pelton's quest to clean up Greendale and end the shenanigans of the previous two years. However, this poses two problems for our newly facial haired 'pan-sexual imp' because it, first, sets him on a wild goose - monkey - chase and, second, gets him an air of false confidence that leads him into the powerful path of Vice Dean Laybourne and man in charge of The Air Conditioning Repair School Annex, played by the brilliant John Goodman.
As it turns out, the security team isn't really all that equipped to handle getting a monkey (or a Chang) out of the air ducts but "gas that knocks out monkeys" will do just fine. Unfortunately, the Dean can't afford to pay them for their services after his run in with, or should I say slaughter by, the Vice Dean down at the Annex, where all the school's money actually comes from... Hm. Jim Rash's Dean Pellton is no match for John Goodman's gravitas? Shocking. So, after a quick and forced shave it seems "this year isn't going to be that different." Let the craziness begin!
"We'll see ya, when we see ya."
After the very cold, cold open where it looked as though Pierce would be sitting out Bio 101, Jeff does his best to piss off their Professor (and ex-con) Dr. Marshall Kane, played by the Michael K. Williams. A little bit, Dr. King, a little bit X, this professor doesn't take any of Jeff's bullshit and soon has him fighting to get back into the class and the study group, while Pierce has eased comfortably back into both. My how the magic table has turned. After his meager and unsuccessful attempts to bribe the righteous professor he notices a picture of Pierce and an African American convict. Doing the 2 + 2 math before understanding the equation, he flees with hopes of a return to a spot in the study group. A return thwarted by Chang (carrying what appears to be a large ham) and a bunch of gas that knocks out monkeys.
Cue the 2001: A Space Odyssey inspired dream sequence where Jeff realizes that perhaps, he and Pierce aren't so different, especially in their quest for the monolithic table. So, does this dream cure our friend Jeff? Nope, he enters the room, crazy as ever, spouting a classic Pierce line, "having fun without me again?" And that photo? Sorry, racist Jeff, not all Black people look the same... or wear prison uniforms... or are all in prison. Jeff goes even more Kubrick, Jack Torrence-ing the table with an axe before, in a turn that I was really happy to see, Pierce takes the blame. His character was way off the dark deep end last year and I feel this is a nice fresh start.
"There. Now the table's good as new."
The tag is short but sweet. Troy wants to be more supportive of Britta, who tells the group of her recent life-discovery, her desire to be a therapist. While they all try their darndest to keep from laughing, Chang walks in, dressed in Security Guard. He's back to working at Greendale so you best "keep it down, there's a new sheriff in town.
All in all, a very smart, if not really packed, episode. It was cluttered but excellently structured as to not sacrifice too many laughs (their were still plenty). The problems of Season 2 seemingly smoothed over. Everything status quo for the start of a new school year. The guest stars... uh, you have to ask. Goodman kills everything, except maybe Michael K. Williams, who looks like a formidable adversary for Jeff this season (kind of like John Michael Higgin's Professor Whitman with the whole Carpe Diem theme in the first season).
And lastly, it's great to see Pierce turn a corner and Chang be relegated to the sidelines, in what is probably a perfect position for him as Greendale security. I always liked Season 1. Small doses. Chang's the best. I also don't know if I'm reading too much into this but I did notice two not so subtle hints that this could be their last season if they don't start seeing an increase in viewership, namely the lack of money line from Pelton and the reaction from the group when Chang announces he's the new law in town. Shirley specifically says, "this is our last year." So get watching. Another great show cannot be cancelled! (Community airs on NBC, Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT)
Troy and Abed announce their plans... to move in together. They're registered at Linens 'n Things but "we have plenty of linens, we mainly want the things."
Troy's reaction to the magical table that keeps their books from falling on the ground.
"I know who Sean Penn is, I've seen MILK."
"Idea shower, spray your solution all over me."
Leonard's prescription socks.
Remains of the Day.
"You are a pizza burn on the roof of the world's mouth."
Starburns adding a new piece of flare for the new season.
"You could have lived the rest of your life in blissful ignorance and died a happy, pan sexual imp but you wanted to feel power this year. Well now you're going to feel my power as it surges downward from me straight to you from nostril to rectum from now until the end of time and that's what's up?"
The blade of grass.
"What is with that guy?"
"Pierce isn't crazy, the table is magic. As someone who has been on the other side I can tell you, it's a scary, Chang filled world out there."
'Starface' suggesting a Breaking Bad situation.