Community Watch: The Psychology of Letting Go

After two back-to-back Jeff-heavy episodes to start Season 2, we finally got to see plots revolving around our other favorite students of Greendale Community College.

This week begins on a somber note (well, as somber as Community gets), as we learn from Troy that Pierce’s mom has died. However, Pierce is his traditional happy self when he visits the study group and is unfazed by the passing of his mother. Due to the teachings of his almost-cult religion, Pierce believes that his mother has been vaporized, had her energy transferred to a vessel that looks suspiciously like a lava lamp, and will be harvested in the future for transfer to a new body. The rest of the group is at first critical of Pierce’s response to his mother’s death, but Jeff straightens them out with a reminder that they should all be open to each other’s religious beliefs.

Jeff’s own advice is thrown out the window once his own belief structure becomes fractured. Jeff is outraged to find that – despite years of peak physical upkeep – his cholesterol is a bit above average. As he laments that the years he spent treating his body well have gone to waste, Jeff lashes out against Pierce and his religion to make himself feel better.

Pierce is unfazed by Jeff’s insensitive remarks, and Jeff decides to up the ante. Under the rouse of getting ice cream, Jeff plans to take Pierce and Troy (who is slowly cottoning to Pierce’s beliefs) to the city morgue. There, he will show Pierce that his mom is dead -- not vaporized. On the way to the morgue, Pierce’s mother steals Jeff’s thunder from beyond the grave! Pierce finds a CD that his mother recorded in her last moments, in which she reveals to Pierce that she truly is dead. She further says that she prefers this, as she is pleased with her long life as a culmination of her triumphs and failures. Pierce is undeterred in his beliefs, but this post-mortem speech helps Jeff come to terms with his own imperfection and mortality. No longer set on his immensely evil plan, Jeff takes Pierce and Troy out for ice cream.

The other major and much more humorous subplot centered on Annie and Britta, who were raising money to save animals affected by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Both are pleased that the Gulf of Mexico oil spill shifted focus from the earthquake in Haiti, as they had no ideas for how to help fundraise for that catastrophe.

Annie is much more successful than Britta in her fundraising attempts, and Britta thinks she knows why. After a day of unsuccessful soliciting, Britta tells Annie she is only doing better than her because Annie plays dumb and acts flirtatious with boys for bigger donations. Annie, feigning ignorance, says Britta isn’t doing as well as she is because she is too cold and calculating. Shirley, meanwhile, is content to let the two go at each other’s throats, as she is hurt that neither thought to include her in their fundraising activities.

This escalates into a hilarious bit in which each girl imitates the other. Eventually, the two break into a fight on school grounds which ends up drenching them both in oil from their own diorama. As the two oil-wrestle for five minutes (watched by the student body, including Jeff, Pierce and Troy with ice cream in-hand), they find that their brawl raised more money total for their cause than a week of fundraising did. The two apologize to each other, admit mutual jealousy, and realize that no matter how gross and disgusting they get, men will always be more so.

The last minor bit of this episode was an awesome running joke between Señor Chang and Dr. Ian Duncan. Duncan, a hilarious recurring character played by John Oliver, has taken over teaching the study group’s Anthropology class, despite not actually knowing anything about the subject or even what it is (the required book for the class was expensive, after all). Duncan also still harbors resentment for Sr. Chang, who assaulted him back in Season 1. Duncan reveals to Chang – a student in his class – that he can’t be within 25-feet of Duncan due to a restraining order against him.

Realizing that Chang legitimately fears the repercussions of violating the restraining order, Duncan uses his Chang-repelling superpowers to uproarious effect. Duncan delights in making Chang’s life difficult as he forces Chang to spend his classes in the hallway and eat his lunches away from the cafeteria. However, Chang earns Duncan’s respect after crafting a plan of mutually assured destruction; Chang gets his own restraining order drafted against Duncan, on the grounds that Chang is being harassed by Duncan’s restraining order. The two let bygones be bygones, and Chang even takes Duncan’s picture next to the oil-soaked brawlers for the school paper.

Extra Credit:- Quote of the Week: While Britta accuses Annie of using her sexuality to part men from their money, she states that men have socks at home with Annie’s name on it. Annie, in her innocence, replies “If a guy wants to make a puppet of me, that’s none of your concern!” Sorry Troy, you’ve been dethroned. That wins it for this week.- If you’re wondering what Abed was up to this week, the writers – as always – are aware of this. Shirley asks Abed this very same question near the end of the episode, and he answers, “Not much.” The writers have driven the meta humor into the ground at this point, but I don’t care -- that joke never gets old.- Betty White made another (small) appearance on Community this week, as we get a glimpse of what Professor Bauer is doing during her paid time off. Bauer is seen speaking with an African tribesman about the intricacies of Inception, and how Tom Berenger’s character was just a projection in a dream. And if you consider that a spoiler, too bad -- even the tribesman was shocked his friend hasn’t seen the movie yet.- Speaking of guest stars, Patton Oswalt had a one-scene cameo this week in which he played an unnamed male nurse at the campus health center. Come on, NBC, really? I mean, don’t get me wrong… Oswalt was funny. The knock against Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in particular had me in fits. But how do you waste Oswalt on a one-scene cameo? The man’s a comedic goldmine. I’d have loved to see him join the show as a recurring character. I guess he conceivably still could, but I’m guessing not.- On the other hand, I’m ecstatic to see Oliver get a bigger role on the show. It would have been great to see Betty White stay on (and her cameo this week leads me to believe she may be back later), but I’d also love to see Prof. Duncan teaching Anthropology for the remainder of this season.