This season, the ‘Community’ writers have played me like a harp. Just when it seems like they’ve devolved into complete self-parody, they rebound with an episode that reminds me why I started watching the show in the first place. Last Thursday’s episode, ‘Economics of Marine Biology’, feels like the ‘Community’ of old.
The Dean is courting Archie, a new student. He’s what administrators of community colleges call a “white whale,” – rich, aimless and stupid. The Dean wants to milk him for years, and enlists the help of the study group to do it. Britta and Annie join in, Britta reluctantly and Annie more enthusiastically, while Jeff agrees to distract Pierce. Dean is afraid that Pierce, the school’s current white whale, will be jealous of the new student and sabotage the recruitment effort.
Abed decides to form a fraternity, the Delta Cubes, to oppose the dean, but this storyline barely goes anywhere. Better, although wholly unrelated, is when Troy and Shirley take “P.E.E.”: Physical Education Education. Instead of being a normal P.E. class, it’s a class where they have to learn how to be P.E. coaches. This results in several good gags, including Troy being unable to corral the drama students at the “mockers” (mock lockers, as Troy’s not ready to go to the real lockers), and even a reasonable use of Chang. The show also introduces a new fake product, potato chips called “Let’s.”
Jeff and Pierce end up bonding at an old-fashioned barber shop, getting shaves while drinking scotch. Jeff comes to really appreciate Pierce and what he has to offer, going so far as to reveal his real reason for hanging out, which disappoints Pierce. Jeff later defends Pierce to the rest of the group, which feels like a genuine character moment.
Meanwhile, Britta quits early when asked to wipe Archie’s shoes clean with her scarf. Annie stays for the long haul, but even she is dismayed when Archie decides to claim Magnitude’s signature phrase, “Pop pop!”, for himself. The Dean tells Magnitude that he can no longer use the phrase and has to find a new one, prompting the best gag of the episode: Magnitude revealing endless scrawls of potential new sayings on a chalkboard, such as “Not in my backyard!”, “Haaaamburger!” and “Schneep!”, among many others.
Once again, when the focus is Greendale and the people who populate it, ‘Community’ fires on all cylinders. This isn’t the best episode of the season thus far, but it’s one of the better eps, and actually feels like ‘Community’. If we get a few more episodes like this, I’ll be a happy fan.