As far as I’m concerned, the worst thing to ever happen to ‘Community’ – worse than Dan Harmon being fired, worse than this season being delayed for months – is Chang. Ken Jeong’s homunculus of a character began the series as an overbearing Spanish teacher, then became a disgraced student living in the air ducts of Greendale (the one point at which he was actually funny), finally devolving into a mad tyrant who abducts the dean and tries to kill everyone. As an actor, Ken Jeong wore out his welcome sometime around the first ‘Hangover’ movie, and his continual presence on ‘Community’ has been a blight on an otherwise good show. So, you can imagine my joy when I discovered that last week’s episode, ‘Advanced Documentary Filmmaking’, was all about Chang.
Following the return of an amnesiac Chang, Greendale applies for a grant from the MacGuffin Neurological Institute (an admittedly clever name) to get support for diagnosing and treating “Changnesia,” a new form of amnesia that involves selective memory loss and the incessant need to make puns. Everyone believes that Chang, now calling himself Kevin, is truly suffering from a serious new medical issue. Everyone, that is, except for Jeff.
Abed is putting together a documentary to aid the grant pitch, but he quickly spins away from Chang to focus on Jeff and his unstoppable need to prove that Kevin is a fake. Jeff realizes that the best way to achieve his goal is to look as if he’s helping, while planting the seeds of Chang’s destruction behind everyone’s back.
Admittedly, this episode is in fact funnier than the previous week’s jokeless marathon, with Pierce being the racist host of the grant proposal. (He has a new blackface bit he’s been workshopping.) Even better is when Annie and Troy band together to dig into the time between Kevin’s disappearance and Chang’s arrival. Annie calls Troy “partner” and he likes it so much that he calls her “Houlihan,” prompting a lot of lines like “I’m Partner and this is my partner, Houlihan.”
Jeff discovers that Kevin has been calling his ex-wife repeatedly, and reveals this information at the grant pitch meeting, complete with Chang’s ex-wife present. When things don’t go as planned, Jeff ends up sexually assaulting the ex, prompting the MacGuffin Institute representatives to award Greendale the funds, since the college clearly needs all the help it can get. This sequence concludes with a funny and unexpected homage to ‘Grizzly Man’, specifically the scene where Werner Herzog listens to a tape of the titular character being eaten by bears and describes it to the audience. Here, Abed watches video of Jeff losing it under the pretense that the footage is too intense to watch, only to realize that it’s not so bad after all.
Jeff eventually realizes that he had become as manipulative as Chang was at his worst, and makes his peace with Kevin. Just as we think that maybe we’ve moved past the worst character ‘Community’ has ever suffered, the jerk writers reveal that – shocker! – Chang has been faking it the whole time. So now we have even more of him to look forward to in the coming episodes. Thanks a lot, writers. Thanks for nothing.