Community Watch: Epidemiology

When I heard Community would be doing a zombie episode, I nearly wet myself with glee. I attempted to temper my expectations, but I knew this would undoubtedly be an all-time great episode for the already stellar show. But as the show crept closer and closer, I began to fret that I’d set the bar too high, and there was no way the show would be able to meet my lofty expectations.

Well, to Hell with my expectations. Community knocked it out of the park with its Halloween episode, Epidemiology, and here’s why:

The movie references. Community is perhaps best known and loved by cinephiles for its ample film references, and tonight was bursting at the seams with them. Troy and Abed’s costumes were a nod to Alien, and led to Troy’s “Ripley moment” in the episode’s climax. Also, before Abed is attacked by the walking infected, Troy says, “I love you,” to which Abed replies, “I know.” Troy is definitely the Leia in their relationship. Lastly, the sexual deviant Dean Pelton makes a personal note to rent The Human Centipede. Cue vomiting.

The horror movie references. What TV Halloween special would be complete without a number of callbacks to classic horror films? Well, to be honest, I couldn’t tell you… due to my extreme wussiness personal preferences, I’m not a huge fan of the horror movie genre, and I’m sure much of the jokes geared around those films went far over my head. There were a few nods to Shaun of the Dead that I caught, including the use of unconventional weapons against zombies, the survivor grabbed through the broken window, and the age-old “infected among the survivors” trope that seems to happen in every zombie flick. As far as the zombies themselves go, both the Romero “shamblers” and the modern “scramblers” were represented. Feel free to fill in the gaps of my woefully subpar horror movie knowledge in the Comments.

The trope that wasn’t to be. As the episode progressed, I noticed a pattern about which survivors were getting picked off… it was all the white guys! Pierce was Patient Zero, with Annie and Chiquita MD going next, followed by Jeff (and Star –Burns too, but no one cares about him). That left only the minority study buddies left (including Chang), which I knew couldn’t be a coincidence. I waited for the comment to be made… but it didn’t. Well, not until Abed, in a parting word of encouragement to Troy, says, “Make me proud… be the first black man to get to the end.” Nailed it! Wait… why am I so concerned with race? I better get out of Dodge before I get caught by…

The Racist Prover! In an episode with plenty of excellent exchanges, Señor Chang makes use of limited time to clinch this week’s Quote of the Week. Early in the episode, Chang approaches Jeff and Britta dressed as a figure skater. He asks the pair who they think he’s dressed as, to which they guess Kristi Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan. Nope… he was Peggy Fleming. Beaming with the sweet taste of victory, he boasts, “You’ve just been proven racist… by the Racist Prover!” Then he dons a cape and flies off into the October sky, though that might have just been in a very lucid daydream I had.

George Takei! Sulu himself was able to lend his voice for the show’s introduction and epilogue. I was literally saying yesterday to my co-workers that the use of George Takei’s voice makes anything infinitely better. That still holds true. Trekkies also got some love this episode in the form of Pierce’s costume, which was of Scotty. Pierce served as the unfortunate Patient Zero in Greendale’s zombie outbreak after ingesting some questionable rations from the military surplus store. This led to the hilarious quip from Jeff, who told Pierce: “If you get any more sweaty and puffy, that costume will reach new levels of authenticity.”

The Abed-Troy storyline. When Abed and Troy first arrive at the Library (sorry, LiScary) for the Halloween party, they do so in Alien and Robo-Ripley costumes respectively. However, after getting shut down by a pair of girls (and Jeff), Troy has second thoughts about his exceptionally nerdy costume. He sheds the costume in favor of a much less-inspired “sexy Dracula” costume to Abed’s dismay. However, after Troy is the last survivor remaining, and is Greendale’s only chance to stop the zombie outbreak, he realizes that the only way to save everyone is by wearing his Robo-Ripley suit and embracing his nerdiness. The plan backfires horribly, but it’s a sweet message all-the-same. As a former high school athlete and nerd-in-self-denial myself, that character arc hit home for me, and shows me yet again that the Community writers really get their audience.

The zombie makeup. Pretty darn good throughout. It was especially cool seeing our favorite Greendale students as zombies (with Jeff looking essentially the same, but slightly more haughty and gaunt). And you know someone’s doing an excellent makeup job when they manage to make Annie look unattractive – a feat I previously thought impossible.

Chang gets some love! In more ways than one! Since his heavy involvement in the season’s first two episodes, I’ve been waiting for Señor Chang to become a more permanent staple in the study group. However, Chang has been a fairly ancillary character thus far this season. Hopefully, after knocking boots with Shirley, Chang will be integrated more into the thick of things in episodes to come.

There’s only one thing I didn’t like tonight, and that is the movement from the normal 8 o’clock timeslot. This wouldn’t normally bother me, but it did cause me to watch seconds -- seconds! -- of something called “Scared Shrekless”. Then again, I have to give it to NBC… clearly, that was an excellent Halloween scare that had me fearing Community was pre-empted by some crappy made-for-TV special.