Community Watch: Cooperative Calligraphy

Anyone who’s seen even one episode of Community is familiar with the study room. The majority of time on the show is spent in that room. It’s been involved in damn near every major plot development or hilarious joke in the series’ two seasons. The room is virtually as big a part of Community as its wonderful cast.

But can you spend the entire episode in the room and still keep the show entertaining? The Halloween episode came close, but that had a lot of other distractions and zaniness going on to keep our attention. But this week’s episode – continuously referred to as the “bottle episode” – takes place almost entirely within its hallowed walls. And yes, the show is still as funny and captivating as ever.

The show begins as the study group is about to leave the library to see what will undoubtedly be the cutest thing ever – a puppy parade. However, as they are leaving the room, Annie discovers that her pen has gone missing. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal, but this is a common occurrence for Annie, and this was the pen that broke the camel’s back. Annie blames the pen’s disappearance on her friends, as she assumes one of them has taken it yet again. The study buddies are kept in the room by Annie’s sheer force of will as she interrogates each of them in turn.

Things take a turn for the unpleasant as Britta is asked to empty her bag. Britta, ever the outspoken activist, claims this is a violation of her civil liberties and refuses. When she finally cooperates, and the pen is nowhere to be found, she joins Annie’s tirade to find the culprit.

Abed, meta as always, continually makes references to this turning into a “bottle episode” (i.e. a low-budget episode that takes place over few locations). This is Abed’s Hell-on-Earth, as bottle episodes predominately involve a lot of emotionally charged scenes, which is not his forte. Jeff attempts to calm his increasingly agitated friends, but when he is accused of taking the pen, he orders the room to lock down and joins Abed in breaking the fourth-wall.

Hell-bent on finding the illusive pen, the group searches through everyone’s bags. The pen isn’t found, but other items of interest turn up. In Abed’s bag, Annie finds a notebook with some very personal information. Abed, it seems, has been secretly tracking the menstrual cycles of the three ladies in the group in an effort to understand them better. The ladies feel violated by this very diligent note-taking, and Abed grows even more frustrated with the current situation.

When it’s Shirley’s turn to have her bag searched, she is unwilling to cooperate. However, Pierce tricks Shirley and grabs the bag from her, and the contents of her bag are made public. Shirley doesn’t have the pen, but she is hiding a pregnancy test in her bag (which is hilariously branded “You know, girl!”). Shirley reveals that she has reconnected with her estranged husband, and that she believes she may be pregnant with his child. However, Abed is quick to rebuke this; the rekindling of Shirley and her husband does not match with her ovulation, which occurred over Halloween. This means, if she is pregnant, the father of her child is… Señor Chang! Shirley realizes this, as does Troy, but the rest of the group remain in the dark.

When the pen still doesn’t turn up, things get hot and heavy. Britta and Annie get in each other’s faces, saying that they could be hiding the pen on their person. Jeff attempts to mediate, but begins ripping off his clothes (along with Annie) to prove he doesn’t have it. This doesn’t reveal the pen, but it does reveal plenty of skin (to the delight of millions). Between this and the girl-on-girl oil wrestling, I have no idea how this show is on The Bubble.

Abed, the killjoy, has to ruin everything by making an appeal to modesty. The group separates by gender and they disrobe behind overturned tables, inspecting each other. Once again, no pen is found. Hostilities flare once more, and the group discovers that there is only one place they haven’t checked… Pierce’s cast. Pierce is assaulted by Jeff and Troy, who cut off his cast with scissors. However, when the cast is removed, the pen is still nowhere to be seen! Pierce isn’t concealing it… though he is amassing a collection of Slim Jims, which he’s been using to scratch his leg.

Morale reaches a low-point after the pen still doesn’t turn up. Eventually, Jeff makes an appeal to sanity… or perhaps to absurdity. Rather than continue to wonder who stole the pen, Jeff decides to instead pin the crime on a ghost – a notion that Troy came up with earlier. The group unanimously agrees that the pen is not worth tearing their group apart, and they leave contented and united.

But who stole the pen? In the show’s closing moments, we finally see the culprit… Annie’s Boobs! By which I of course mean Troy’s pet monkey from Season 1 (featured in the Goodfellas-inspired episode, Contemporary American Poultry). Annie’s Boobs, which was briefly mentioned by Troy earlier in the episode, has apparently been stock-piling possessions from the study room for ages. Inside his secret air vent lair, we see that he’s the one who’s been stealing pens all along. Twist!

Other than the brief foray in the air vent, the episode takes place entirely in that one room. But in that room, there are just as many laughs as any other episode, and even more emotional pulls and plot developments. Sure, Community has zombies, and space flights, paintball wars, and female oil wrestling… but when you take away all the zaniness, you still have a damn good show. This is thanks in whole to an excellent cast and probably the best comedy writers in TV today.

Extra Credit

- I try to branch out with my Quote of the Week selections. Really, I do. But Troy is too consistently funny. As the group is attempting to leave the room for the puppy parade, Annie keeps holding them back. However, Troy makes the best argument ever on why it’s vital to leave in a timely fashion. “Uh, have you ever been to a Puppy Parade halfway through? It’s pretty much pointless.”

- Other great moments worth mentioning: Pierce’s “three-legged” dinosaur model (pictured above), the comfy contents of Troy’s bag, and the controversial puppy parade float.

- I was very impressed with the amount of continuity this episode kept with previous episodes. This week’s episode continued storylines from Contemporary American Poultry (with the appearance of Annie’s Boobs), last week’s Aerodynamics of Gender (with Pierce’s injury) and the Epidemiology (with Shirley’s pregnancy and rendezvous with Señor Chang). Not bad for a sit-com.