After several episodes that took the study group out of their normal environment, last week’s episode of ‘Community’ brings everyone back home to Greendale. And it really seems like everyone. All manner of characters make an appearance here, from the small and neglected like Todd to major personalities that haven’t been seen in some time.
In ‘Alternative History of the German Invasion’, everyone laments that they can’t take the History of Ice Cream course that was offered in the season premiere. (The final is a sundae bar.) Meanwhile, Jeff is bothered by the return of the Germans from ‘Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism’ (though Nick Kroll is nowhere to be seen). Their new plot involves signing out the study group’s room, forcing the group to use the inferior, inadequate and downright dangerous remaining study rooms.
Staging a fake Oktoberfest, the group gets the Germans banned from the study areas for celebrating their own heritage on campus, based on a Greendale rule that allows people to celebrate other cultures but never their own. However, they soon discover that everyone at the school hates not the Germans, but the study group. When their history professor (a brutally underutilized Malcolm McDowell) reveals that in the midst of their plotting, they forgot to take a test and all failed, even Jeff admits that he’s in the wrong.
Meanwhile, Chang returns, suffering from “Changnesia,” and put in Dean Pelton’s care. Pelton is certain that Chang is faking, but changes his mind when Chang goes to jail for his actions at the end of last season. Whatever plans the writers have for Chang don’t matter, because he’s always been the most annoying and useless character in the series. He’s also so far removed from everything else going on that the last season suffered for his asinine and unfunny B-plots. Nothing has changed, and the episode grinds to a halt whenever he’s on screen.
Luckily, the main plot is the best of the season so far, and the interplay among the group feels more like the ‘Community’ of old. When Jeff realizes that he’s the “Hitler” of the group (running off of an extended ‘Hogan’s Heroes’ metaphor), Pierce’s indignant reaction that no one even considered that he could be their Hitler is expertly timed and elicits a genuine laugh. Similarly, when the group finds a collection of students protesting the group’s monopoly of the sole good study room, Britta’s reaction is to protest first and ask questions later. Moments like that remind us why ‘Community’ was worth watching in the first place, and the episode’s conclusion actually seems to go somewhere. Let’s just hope things don’t get too Changnoying before this season is over.