Jan 23, 2014

Thom Bitches About Community: "Cooperative Polygraphy"

Left to right: Danny Pudi, Walton Goggins, and Gillian Jacobs
In the ashes of a failed column comes the reformed birth of Thom Bitches About Community: a weekly look at the beloved Dan Harmon sitcom that chooses to push boundaries and throw a meta cocktail into the face of every sitcom currently out there. With the return of the show's creator after a rocky, disastrous season four, we take a look at the show and try and capture what exactly makes the show worth checking out all these years later. Keep an eye out for it every Thursday night following the episode unless otherwise specified.

On the heels of last week's episode involving the Ass Crack Bandit, we get to have the final say from Pierce. As majority of people know by this point, Chevy Chase left the show last season and thus left questions on what they were going to do with his character. Would they simply replace him, or would they give them a fond send-off? From the looks of it, they gave him one of the stronger episodes of season five by having it be all about him in a farewell that was full of the group revealing truths... and receiving cans of obligatory sperm from him as parting gifts.

Pierce has always been a lesser character on the show, if just because his premise of being old and racist was a little uninspired compared to every other characters' personal traits. That isn't to say that he didn't have plenty of merit. Still, this heartfelt goodbye does feel like it was done to honor him in the similar fashion of how he lived: calling everything gay. 
The episode, for the most part, is a bottle episode taking place in the study room in which all of the characters return from Pierce's funeral and have a lava lamp of his "ashes" that in a specific dimension can be seen in the color blurple. It is strange and has sci-fi undertones to it, but it is only the first step in a line of ideas presented in the episode that are strange and different. Maybe the polygraph tests aren't necessarily that weird, but there are some other big reveals in the episode that makes me fear for the remaining episodes.
I knew that it was coming that Troy (Donald Glover) would end up having to leave the show due to the actor's desire to pursue his music career. It is never easy to say goodbye, but the concept behind his departure does at least feel somewhat acceptable. In order to receive $14 million of Pierce's Hawthorne Wipes shares, he needs to sail around the world on a boat alone. It has long been established that Troy wants to prove himself as more than this weird kid. In fact, it kind of makes sense, even if this just means we'll have another eulogy for when Troy dies off screen. I hope that it never comes to that, but who knows if Donald Glover will ever consider returning to the series despite being one of the best.

Danny Pudi

This will change dynamics quite a bit. As stated in my failed take down of season four, I felt that Abed (Danny Pudi) was a problematic character when left to his own devices. Here, we get the sense that things may return. Maybe this will be the moment when Abed starts becoming more "human" as it were and becomes less pop culture obsessed. This may end up being a terrible move, but there was a sense of somber disappointment when Abed realized that he was losing his best friend. It was one thing to change the star ratings to The Grey, but quite another to not be able to say "Troy and Abed in the morning" every week. It will be strange and I am fascinated to see what happens, even if it goes horribly wrong.
The rest of the reveals by comparison aren't as changing for the series. We understand how everyone sees each other and dark secrets come up about each other's pasts. They don't create too much of a shift, but it does cause the episode to feel a little more dramatic than comedic, even if the beats are often funny. This is a dialogue heavy episode and it is more interesting how the dialogue is used than what is said.
Mr. Stone (Walton Goggins) leads the group in a lie detector test in order to get Pierce's will. He is in charge of asking questions, but how many he asks is staggering. From what is questioned spawns small tangents that lead to personal arguments and Mr. Stone not doing much but provoking them. In fact, this was all to establish the characters as being as flawed as Pierce while also suggesting that they shouldn't be mad about his absence. It feels like the right way to say goodbye to a loopy character. Then again, his death may have been the ultimate punchline when he hands out obligatory sperm to everyone with farfetched reasons only to reveal that he died from dehydration from filling all of the sperm cans. Prankster until the end.
It was quite a solid episode and while lacked the satirical elements that have refueled the season so far, it did help us to say goodbye to a character in an interesting fashion. The only question now is how they are going to send Troy off. Presumably, if they gave Pierce an entire episode, that they would be doing it on the next episode. Maybe Troy will wuss out and stay around, though with Donald Glover's real life admittance to taking time off from the show, it is unlikely that he'll be around for awhile. Most of all, I am getting the impression that this next episode will be Abed and Troy-centric in dissecting why they work.It may be sad, sadder than this week's, but it is a reflection of a show in change... this time in a good way probably.

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