Community Season 4 Watch: Episode 3, Conventions Of Space And Time

I've been sad, friends. Because, while Community has been back for a few weeks now, it's been, well, sort of dissonant. Almost un...Harmonious. That's a terrible pun. Anyway, I've been missing creator Dan Harmon's influence like a missing limb; everything looks right, and sort of behaves right, but something's been off.

And so, I'm thankful for last night's outing, in which the gang heads out to the annual Inspector Spacetime convention. Additionally, it finally addresses the status of the Troy-Abed bromance--which frankly, is what makes this show tick--after the Troy-Britta hookup.

I found it sort of sweet-creepy that Troy feels the need to protect Abed from the changes that might come from Britta being a bigger part of his life--the revelation that Britta has been sleeping over for two weeks with an elaborate, climb-out-of-window-and-return-with-doughnuts plan in place was very Troy-ish, and also sort of smacked of something a divorced dad would do to protect his young kid in a similar situation. Which, I suppose, makes sense; Abed and Troy are deeply involved as friends, but there's something sharply parental about how they treat one another, too.

It's all kind of moot, though--Abed lets them know on the day of convention that he's known the whole time. She tags along to the convention and Abed is fraught; after some skiing plans go awry, Jeff and Annie are along for the ride as well. And of course, Pierce decides to crash and drags Shirley along. The point is--all seven of our beloved heroes are loose at a nerd convention.

And here's where the Troy-Abed relationship is tested from the other side--Abed finally meets his pen pal Toby, and the connection is instantaneous. Troy is cerimonously ditched for the new friend; turnabout is fair play. I liked this aspect of the episode a lot--we've seen this friendship tested over pillow forts before, but this season is about the weirdness of growing up and facing the real world, and a big part of that is making new friends and suddenly finding different values in old relationships. This episode echoed that well, and it added a level of connection and understanding to Troy and Abed's bond.

In side-plot land, Annie becomes "Mrs. Winger" in a hotel-room adventure, and Jeff gets some fan service because he looks like Spacetime villain Thoraxis. Annie's role-playing goes a little far when a hotel employee publicly outs Jeff's "affair," and Annie tosses a drink in his face. Was I the only one chortling at the Mad Men-y riff here, a little bit? Layers upon layers, my friends.

Anyway, Abed eventually realizes his incompatibility with Toby, who gets super-clingy and kidnappy. Troy saves the day, and we celebrate with a glow-in photo session and a stripped-down Jeff telling a room full of fans to bow to him. Which, of course, they do.

Oh--Pierce and Shirley get wrapped up in a focus group that leads to Pierce making some terrible suggestions in a sharp riff on the Americanization of British TV. And it leads to maybe my favorite pair of obscure cameos in the show's history: I'm pretty sure that's Luke Perry and Jennie Garth at the end, as the new American Inspector and his sidekick. Brilliant.

All in all, this felt like having my friends back. The episode was quirky, and weird, and moved relationships forward without feeling forced or needlessly sentimental. We needed this, and Community finally delivered. And I'm relieved and happy to say I'm looking forward to next week.