TV Recap: Community “Digital Exploration of Interior Design”

(Image © NBC Universal)

(Image © NBC Universal)

"I was raised in the Bay area, but I-I’m a father now.”

Community is far from the first low-rated network show to utilize product placement to help justify its expenses. But it is now, I believe, the first show to ever have one of its main characters fornicate with that sponsor — unless there’s some outtake from the first few seasons of The Office in which Michael Scott mounts a Chili’s restaurant. I guess you’ve got to give credit to whoever is in charge of product placement at Subway, to allow their brand to become, well, intimately involved with the crazy world of Greendale Community College.

But bizarre product placement aside, Britta’s storyline in this episode was exceptionally smart. She falls in love with “Subway”, a forthright young man who is devoted to wounded animals and the works of George Orwell, but has agreed to become the living personal embodiment of the Subway corporation. This both disgusts Britta and ignites her fantastical dreams defying totalitarian corporate rule. In that sense Britta engages in her fantasies as fully as Troy and Abed do with their dueling blanket and pillow forts. Notice that Britta’s (apparently disgusting) consummation with Subway even takes place in the fort itself.

John Goodman was back as Vice-Dean Laybourne. Considering that this is already the thirteenth episode of the season it’s surprising that we’ve not seen more of this character (I believe this is his third appearance and longest screen time). But in this episode he was crucial in the Abed and Troy face-off. Goodman finally seems to have found the right tone with his haughty, villainous voice and presence. Laybourne must stand a bit outside of Greendale itself, but he’s still a part of the show, which means he must, in some way, be a weird dude. Tonight’s episode, and his new beard and ponytail (not to mention the hat for his band “Kelvin and the Zeroes”) seemed to be the start of that. He was fun to watch here.

The Troy and Abed story was interesting, but hit the same notes that we’ve seen in the past few episodes. We see Troy anxious to grow and experience things, while Abed becomes increasingly isolated. All of the character arcs the last few episodes have been a little messy and repetitive. Last week’s episode was obviously aired out of sequence, but even with that change there are inconsistencies in Troy and Abed’s relationship — arguably the heart of the show. At least next week’s episode promises a climax of some sort, and maybe a move past this slight stagnation in plot (hopefully in both the Troy-bed and Jeff arcs).

Jeff’s storyline was the slightest. It was a little too obvious from male Kim’s hurt reaction that he was lying. And while there were some funny moments along the way, especially Jeff’s incredulous reaction to an off-screen student’s “Gesundheit” for Annie’s sneeze. Funny, but again, much too close to where we’ve been with Jeff the last three episodes. In fact, this entire storyline could have been jettisoned for more of Troy and Abed building their respective fort cities, and maybe time for a bit more of the goofy Greendale students helping them. It’s always great to see Magnitude and Garrett pop (pop) up, and Garrett’s health (or probable lack therof) was the best running gag of the night.

The ending, and Abed’s mysterious “to be continued” seem to set up an all-out war of imagination in the halls of Greendale, and a return to the kind of balls-to-the-wall wackiness that has been notably absent since the show’s return from hiatus. I look forward to that, and withhold any real grumbling with the wheel-spinning plots until the conclusion.

Community, Episode 3:13 “Digital Exploration of Interior Design”: B+