It's been a couple of weeks since we've spent the majority of an episode at Greendale but "Advanced Gay" returns Community to the college for the lion's share of the show. However, it was this season's first few episodes, most of which were primarily set at the post-secondary school, that provided the fewest laughs. Did that make me apprehensive to spend time with the group back within the strict-ish confines of school property? Especially after the last two off-campus episodes helped firmly return the show to its former glory? Well, let me give it to you straight...
"The only thing I'm attracted to, is taking him to court and eating his ass alive" and "Hey, I'm just here for the Tater Tots."
"Advanced Gay" is a perfectly apt title since we spend most of our time with Pierce, who spends most of his time taking a crash course in Gay culture. But before we get to the main storyline, the show opens with Troy's gift. Yes, Troy has a Good Will Hunting style genius when it comes to plumbing and he spies his old friend Jerry having a little trouble fixing something in the cafeteria. It's a problem that's no match for Troy, who suggests the brilliant jiggle the square thing to the left move. The ease at which Troy solves the problem reignites Jerry's desire to see the student pursue his gift, and he even convinces, nay, dares him to unclog one toilet in the third floor men's room and not feel something.
Back at the table with the whole group, two obviously homosexual men approach and ask Pierce to sign their container of Hawthorne Wipes. These 'towelheads' get a little overheated in Pierce's presence, even breaking out into song ("I got my Hawthornes, I got my Hawthornes...") before composing themselves, throwing a little wink Jeff's way and leaving the table. Completely baffled by what just happened - Pierce even failed to realize that they were gay - Abed finds a sweet Urbana Champaign music video and corresponding Wikipedia article that nice and neatly explains the connection between the wipes and gay culture. This, of course, deeply offends Pierce who intends to sue the pants off that lady, after the group stops putting gay things in his mouth.
"Gay-O! Hey what's going on with you bitches? Bitches is gay talk for friends."
Pierce left the cold open hot to get Urbana Champaign into the court room. When he returns to the study room, however, he's singing a bit of a different tune, not to mention wearing an Urbana Champaign shirt. And no, he didn't sue her for it, he's big into the gay movement since his positrons have been negatized and - the real reason, as Jeff predicted - the sale of Hawthorne Wipes went up seven percent. In light of his new-found support for the movement and financial boom, he decides to throw a bash at the school, a 'Gay Bash,' to promote his newest, gay-themed, product called Hawthorne Pride Wipes. While being congratulated for showing the minimum requirement for open mindedness, we first hear him speak of his father, Cornelius, and how he's not the most open minded fellow. Well, only if you consider needing an injunction to force someone to sell their products to Italians being closed minded.
The mention of fathers perks Jeff's ears as well as Britta's new-found love of psychology as she thinks this might just be a case of the 'edible complex' (she's not don the chapter just yet). A few scenes later, while Pierce is prepping for the Gay Bash and posing for some silly photos with the gay gentlemen helping him set up the soiree, we actually get to meet Pierce's father, Cornelius Hawthorne, in the flesh and bone hair. When I said this storyline was crazier than Troy's genre-bent soul search, cue the main reason why. I mean, the man entered wearing an ivory hairpiece and it took a long time for anybody to say anything. Anyway, in comes Cornelius to play the fire and brimstone father to Piercenault Anastasia Hawthorne and he puts the kibosh on the whole Gay Bash. Pierce then brings his father to meet the group (the minorities, the Jewess, the unseasonably tanned) in the study room, where Annie is surprised to find that he's not dead, you know, mathematically speaking. And here's where I went from unsure about the old man in the the ivory wig (Larry Sedar) to laughing uncontrollably.
The introduction of Cornelius in the study room (sounds like Clue) is an amazing, super fast exchange of dialogue - mostly consisting of racist, sexist and homophobic jabs that make me think the writer's room had a stash saved up for a rainy day in case they went with a Pierce episode - that ultimately brings out Jeff's daddy issues as he re-positions himself in favor of Pierce's Gay Bash and anything that will stick it to the old man's old man. Like Britta rightly says, "so Oedipal." With Jeff taking up the mantle, the Gay Bash goes ahead as planned and the Dean has to dance his way over decked out like TRON - "what's a TRON?" - to thank him. Pierce is not so thankful, worried that his father will find out and disown him. In fact, he goes as far as suggesting that Britta was right but (that's obviously preposterous) once Jeff reveals a painting of Pierce, the 'guest of honor,' his ego takes over and suddenly, he feels like partying. Britta returns, and having completed the chapter on the Oedipal complex, she provides insight into how Pierce is symbolically killing his father by dancing to club music.
Enter Chang's brief moments, first patrolling the party or 'sausage fest' before hooking up with a couple of hot cops, "how long have you been on the force," and then finally leaving with none other than Urbana Champaign herself. "Gay!" In the middle of Chang's brief exploits, Pierce has a bit of a bumpy road. First his gay lovin' ass takes the stage to express this love for the gays but when Cornelius arrives he stands down and decides to sever his ties to the gay community and return Hawthorne Wipes to being a 'straights only' product. And now's the perfect time for the Hawthorne family famous fake heart attack. Yep. His old man even taught him that maneuver and a few scenes later, when Jeff is tearing him a new one, he seems to pull the same trick. Nope, he's dead. At the funeral, Jeff apologizes to Pierce for killing his father but he seems genuinely content with the passing and what looks like a large weight off his shoulders. And for killing him, as stipulated in Cornelius' will, Jeff is rewarded with the ivory wig right before Pierce delivers an even worse speech than the first time around - ah the 'suck it' eulogy rarely comes across well. Even the Priest pauses to tell Britta how she's the worst. So, not the nicest funeral but he wasn't the nicest man.
"Now come with me to the second floor, somebody pooped in the sink."
Although Troy is around for most of the major plot points in the Pierce storyline, he also is up to his own adventure, struggling with the decision to use his gift for good or for evil, which for some reason means for plumbing or for air conditioning repair (although John Goodman and those guys over at the Air Conditioning Repair Annex are pretty sinister). In the opening sequence, Troy agreed to meet Jerry at the third floor men's room to help him unclog a toilet and the experience did not disappoint. Troy felt the rush of using his gift but also notices a guy in a light blue jumpsuit taking an interest in his talents. Soon a hood is thrown over his head a he's whisked away into some secret society spoof where he comes face to face with the aforementioned sinister John Goodman aka Vice Dean Laybourne. Here he is told that he's being given a rare opportunity, a chance at admission into the prestigious Air Conditioning Repair School but the first rule of ACRS is you cannot talk about ACRS and to ensure this, at least in terms of believability, an astronaut making paninis and black Hitler are present. Yes, I said that the Pierce narrative was arguably more crazy than this one.
Troy soon finds himself undergoing a kind of ACRS initiation, where he has to fix an air conditioner as fast as he can while blindfolded. Of course, with his gifts, he blows away the competition and catches the eye of Vice Dean Laybourne. They go for a stroll through the history of air conditioning, with Laybourne telling their story of rising up from mere slaves or palm frond fanners to being the pharaohs themselves - it's a pretty funny monologue and Goodman owns it. And that's when Laybourne does the breath-test and they step into the room temperature room, yes, "this is the room" (and I did a spit-take). Troy is offered a position in the school, a secret brotherhood that ensures gainful employment for life but once you're in, you're in. He's given 24 hours to decide if he wants to be part of those that do "the incredible, invisible, inbelievable... the unseen, unknown, unvincible fraternity of craftsmen." It sounds great and Jerry tries to warn him against all trappings but, you know, sometimes you just want to eat spaceman paninis with black Hitler. Needless to say, it's a tough decision.
In his time of need, Troy turns to Abed for advice - after the secret handshake, of course. Once that's done and he's laid out his dilemma, the two try a little role-playing to solve the problem with Abed playing Troy and Troy playing Abed, which means Troy also playing Harrison Ford for a second before realizing that it isn't working. Desperate, Troy asks his friend to just tell him what to do but Abed can't because, well, he doesn't see the difference between being a plumber or an air conditioning repairman even though they couldn't be more or less identical. Abed just tells him to do what will make him happy, before Troy is pulled away to fix a complicated coil fracture and ensure that the Gay Bash doesn't overheat. That's a pretty impressive maneuver, one that even Laybourne couldn't pull off, so the Vice Dean was disappointed but not fully deterred when Troy decided that he'd be happiest sitting on the couch, watching TV with Abed. The chemistry between Glover and Goodman is pretty great actually, and I love the last scene of them together when Troy 'makes his mistake.'
"The question isn't, how old are we, it's when old are we?"
Another great tag featuring Troy and Abed. This time we get an extended taste of TroBed as Inspector Spacetime and Constable Wigglesworth battling Blogons on a distant blue-tinted planet. Of course, the two aren't actually the two TV heroes but are instead standing behind an overturned table, throwing paper balls at just waking Jeff. All comedy directors should take note of that cut, the positioning of the camera, the drop in sound, because it had me rolling on the ground laughing. Jeff leaves but a foxy lady remains standing in the doorway, watching. Troy drops the Wigglesworth to be all seductive. Abed gives a simple, 'pew.' One of the best tags in some time.
One thing that stood out to me about "Advanced Gay" was how fast the dialogue is exchanged on the show. At times it sounds like a 40s Hollywood flick with Joel McHale playing the Cary Grant role as the leader of some screw-ball group of misfits. And speaking of Joel McHale, Jeff's father issues were a pretty big focus and probably not reintroduced without reason. I'd expect a nice guest star to come in and fill that role, maybe (hopefully) sometime this season.
It was also a pretty daring move to base almost the entire episode around the exploits of your least likable character. I think this was a best attempt to try and provide a reason for the way Pierce behaves the way he does, you know, besides just being old and out of touch. However, to ensure that the entire show didn't drown in negativity, they were smart enough to balance the racism, sexism and homophobia by structuring the second narrative around Troy, who is probably the most charming and disarming member of the group. In the end, the mixture really worked and provided us with a very smart, interesting and ultimately funny episode.
Parting note. I also feel like the writers have absolutely no idea what to do with Chang anymore but, limiting his screen time - like this week - is far better than writing him in too much - as was the case in "Competitive Ecology" my least favorite episode of the series. Remember when he was Senior Chang and hilarious? It might be time to face 'la musica' and realize that they've done all they can do with the character. Is it time to make a Chang (see, making puns on his last name, not funny). It's not even that he's terrible in the security guard role but he certainly can't lead an episode and yet throwing him three one-liners somehow feels like a waste. Let's see how he fares the rest of the season.
Community airs on NBC, Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT. It stars Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Alison Brie, Danny Pudi, Yvette Nicole-Brown, Donald Glover, Jim Rash, Ken Jeong and Chevy Chase. It was created by Dan Harmon.
Take Home Test:
"It's Friday night. I'm pulling on my highest heels. My shortest skirt. My best device for concealing my penis."
Especially Bruce Vilanch.
"If Mexicans were buying his wipes, he would have ridden on a donkey."
The Abed of Racism (seriously, too many gems, thrown too fast to quote - look for the inevitable YouTube video).
"I can excuse racism but I draw the line at animal cruelty."
Plumbers deal with poop.
Pew, pew, pew, pew, pew.
"What's up girl, how you livin'?