Community Watch: Accounting for Lawyers

We’ve learned a lot about Jeff Winger over the last season and change of Community. We’ve learned his motivations, his desires, his vulnerabilities, and more. We’ve even learned how he can go from “selfish egomaniac” to “caring individual” two dozen times a season and somehow not make it boring. But what we haven’t learned much about is Jeff as a former lawyer.

Sure, there are a couple episodes from Season 1 that showcase Jeff in orating action. Here, I’m thinking of Advanced Criminal Law and Debate 109 – two episodes that showed Jeff playing advocate and swaying the opinions of decision-makers. But how Jeff has acted at work, amongst his own ilk, hasn’t really been explored. At least not until this week.

Jeff gets a blast from the past when he runs into Alan Connor – a lawyer and friend from Jeff’s old firm (played expertly by Rob Corddry) – at Greendale. Jeff is initially embarrassed and unwilling to talk to his old coworker. However, Alan makes no attempt to shame Jeff, and the two hit it off like old times. Jeff begins molding back into his former smooth-talking self, and spends less and less time with his study group.

Naturally, the other six don’t take kindly to Alan stealing away their fearless leader. This feeling is compounded when the group learns what treacherous atrocity Alan committed against Jeff. Annie remembers from her time as a recovering pill-head that Alan was once in her Narcotics Anonymous group, and that he once bragged about getting Jeff disbarred. She doesn’t come right out and say this – NA confidentiality and all – but decides there’s a moral ambiguity to acting this out in charades instead. When the group takes their concerns and suspicions about Alan to Jeff, he dismisses them, citing a lack of evidence. With that at heart, the group decides to attend a party held at Jeff’s old law firm to find hard evidence against Alan.

After Annie is able to get Alan’s office number, she plans to break into his office with Abed and Troy. But you know what they say about the best laid schemes of mice and men. Abed and Try break into the office, until they are discovered by a janitor. While Troy is taking an immensely long time to think of a reason why they’re in the office, Annie knocks out the makeshift watchman with a rag doused in chloroform. The trio begins to freak out about the gravity of their crime, until Abed gets a bright idea. The three will also pretend to have been chloroformed by some random assailant! This may had worked, had Annie remembered to take the rag out of her hand when the janitor comes to. In a moment of desperation, she knocks him out once again with the chloroform.

Jeff, meanwhile, is also at the party, and is busy schmoozing up to his old boss Ted (played by Drew Carey). At Alan’s request, Jeff tries to put in a good word for Alan so he can make partner at the firm. Ted, who admires Jeff greatly (but not Alan), is eventually swayed by Jeff’s sponsorship. Ted also makes Jeff a tempting offer – though he isn’t an official lawyer, he can still serve as a consultant at the firm. Jeff is intrigued, to say the least.

Soon after, Annie takes an email proving Alan’s guilt to Jeff, who is unmoved. Jeff, his appetite whetted for his former life, tells the group he’d rather have a tool like Alan around, since he understands that this is behavior a part of his old life. And it’s a life he wants to return to. This feeling doesn’t last long, and by the end of the episode, Jeff has once again decided to leave his legal eagle life behind and kick it with his favorite study group.

The end of this episode may have wrapped up a bit too quickly, with Jeff learning his lesson awfully fast this time around, but it’s excusable because of how darn funny this episode was. Between Annie’s two chloroform attacks, the absurd behavior at the office party by Britta and Pierce, Shirley’s quick guess at charades (see below), some excellent guest starring work by Corddry and Carey, and Sr. Chang’s performance at the Pop-and-Locktoberfest (also see below), there were a lot of laughs to go around.

Extra Credit:

- Hate to be one-note here, but my pick for “Quote of the Week” has to once again go with Troy. Even though he hasn’t been featured in the main plotline of either episode this season, he’s definitely been the most comedic character, delivering lines with pitch-perfect touches of ignorance and earnest. This week, when Jeff asks the group if they have any other conspiracies they’d like to share, Troy answers, “Did you know Go-Gurt is just yogurt?” I want to live in that character’s head for a day.

- The charade scene was probably my favorite from this episode. The scene takes an already funny premise (Annie charading secrets from her Narcotics Anonymous meetings in an effort to be morally upstanding), sets it up, and then takes the wind completely out of its own sails. As Annie is charading Alan’s secrets from NA, Shirley grabs Annie’s notepaper and says “Alan got Jeff disbarred”. This scene is brilliant since it promises hilarity based on our past experiences with these characters, then takes our preconceptions and turns them on their heads. That’s quality writing, folks… and good for a guffaw, too.

- The Señor Chang subplot this week was excellent, and riffs off of last week’s Lord of the Rings tribute perfectly. Chang strikes a deal with the study group – if the group can win the hilariously named Pop-and-Locktoberfest dance-off based on his skills and leadership, they will let him into the study group. However, on the day of the dance-off, the group ditches the event in order to follow Jeff to his office party. Chang dances his ass off anyway, desperate to win the event and the admiration he so craves from the study group. After the group finally shows up five hours into the event, they manage to lose the event for Chang (via disqualification) in around 30 seconds. In a show of unfathomable cruelty, Troy decides not to reward Chang’s effort, and says since the group lost the event, Chang isn’t allowed in the group. This sends Chang into a fit of maniacal laughter. This week managed to set Chang up as the pitiable Sméagol, and I can’t wait for the inevitable retaliation from Gollum.