Let’s talk about ROMANCE. One of the great things about the Jeff and Annie chemistry last season was that it came out of nowhere, suddenly appearing in the midst of the debate episode and then burbling along underground afterward, until it came to full fruition again in the finale. But this season, it hasn’t worked nearly as well. Part of that is just the fact that the show has sent the characters’ various romantic entanglements way, way into the background, in favor of playing up other elements of the show. But part of that almost seems to stem from the fact that the show knows the Jeff and Annie thing exists and it has to acknowledge it every once in a while. Even as the show turns Jeff and Britta into the mirror image of everything it seemed the show wanted that couple to be in the pilot, a distorted, vaguely horrifying (in a funny way) coupling that must be stopped, it’s put on kid gloves with Jeff and Annie, as if it has no idea how to go forward.
That’s the main problem with “Intro To Political Science,” a very funny episode that didn’t quite stick the landing in the third act. Where earlier season two episode “Conspiracy Theories” used the Jeff and Annie almost-pairing to create a nice emotional backdrop for a whole lotta craziness. Here, instead, the show essentially took up a huge chunk of real estate to flirt with going forward with the relationship, then pulling away from it in a way that only served to highlight the one real thing standing between the two getting together—their age disparity. It was just a weird way to use the characters, and Annie’s self-righteous optimism seems like the same note played over and over in these last few episodes. Granted, I liked her a lot in last week’s episode, so it’s not like the writers have forgotten how to write for her or anything. It’s just that the type they reduce her to when they need to play up the other characters has grown a touch irritating.
Let’s not complain too much, now. The central device of “Political Science” was very funny. Joltin’ Joe Biden is coming to Greendale for some reason, so the Dean has decided he needs to elect a student body president. He’s got just a few hours to do so, and he’s not entirely sure what to wear. That means pulling on an Uncle Sam costume that his “sister” likes to wear, leaving Jim Rash wearing one of the most ridiculous outfits in the history of television throughout the episode. (In general, it’s a strong episode for Rash, who gets lots of great laughs here.) Thus, an election is pulled together, and the candidates are Garrett (who was just in line for ice cream, actually), a girl named Vicki (who I hope becomes a recurring character), Pierce, Leonard, Jeff, Annie, and political genius Magnitude. When the dust is cleared, the episode turns into an odd reflection of the 2008 election, with Leonard and Magnitude the final two standing, engaging in a debate that consists entirely of raspberry noises and “Pop pop!” (Actually, that’s not so far off the REAL debates in 2008, amirite?! Cutting political satire here!) Neither wins, though, as seven out of the 11 voters vote for South Park.
The centerpiece of the episode involves this election, which results in most of the cast and recurring characters hanging out in the lunch room. The voters vote just like the kids on Nickelodeon’s Kids’ Court—via applause-o-meter, but it seems like the only candidate they reject is Britta, who doesn’t believe that people need to be governed. Anyway, the debate is the best thing the episode has to offer, as Jeff answers entirely via vague, nice-sounding platitudes, and Annie comes up with a one-issue platform involving getting rid of some black mold on campus. (For a while, she turns into George H.W. Bush, which is fun.) Somehow, every time Magnitude says “Pop pop!” it gets more and more amusing, and I particularly loved Troy and Abed’s commentary on the election via the campus TV channel.
Meanwhile, the Secret Service moves onto campus to make sure things are safe for Biden’s arrival, which brings Abed into contact with the person who may be his dream woman, an agent played by Eliza Coupe, a comic actress who brings joy to all she touches. There’s not a lot to this storyline, but it’s a nice counterpoint to whatever was going on in the Jeff and Annie storyline. The agent’s use of her Secret Service power to figure out ways to get closer to Abed is cute, and the tag, involving her spying on Abed while he talks surreptitiously into the lamp he knows she’s bugged, is also a lot of fun. I doubt we’ll see Coupe again, but she was very funny in the midst of playing a character who spoke almost entirely in monotone, something that’s not easy to do.
Which brings it all back around to Jeff and Annie, working through their issues. As mentioned, I’m not fundamentally opposed to the two characters hooking up again (even if the vibe given off by Jeff toward Annie tonight was weirdly big-brotherly), but I’m sort of ready for the show to go ahead with it, instead of teasing us by playing the same set of romantic beats over and over again. Community’s proved itself so capable of so many things this season that I’m ready to see if it can tackle that old genre that has tripped up so many sitcoms that came before it: the light, romantic comedy. Or if the show is worried about upsetting the delicate chemistry among the ensemble’s members with some sort of relationship, sure, I can get behind that, too. I just don’t know that an occasional scene every few episodes to remind us that Jeff and Annie kissed that one time and were almost a thing is something that’s all that necessary. I'm ready to move forward or move on.
- This week in Pierce: It appears that he’s been to rehab, and we’re supposed to think that’s enough to return him to everybody’s good graces. And maybe it would be enough for the group; I don’t know. But his meanness has gotten to the point where it’s rarely funny (though I’ll admit I laughed at the line about Vicki’s overbite, primarily for Chevy Chase’s aces delivery). He’s just an asshole in an increasingly unpleasant way, and I do hope there’s some sort of point to this, beyond just the idea of figuring out stuff for Chase to do. I don’t mind Pierce being an asshole, but he does too often turn into a cartoon villain now. At least he gets his comeuppance here.
- Jeff’s Real World audition tape is pretty hilarious. Even better: He apparently auditioned for the same edition of the show as The A.V. Club’s own Sean O’Neal.
- Possible spoilers from the news crawl: Looks like there’ll be some sort of Western episode coming up. Slater is still missing (BUT FOR HOW LONG?!). There are still chicken finger shortages, but the dean insists there will be no more paintball this spring.
- Favorite visual gag: Abed has a place on the side of the table where he makes little notches for “Classic Wingers.” Jeff has one where he makes notches for “ab mentions.” Troy has one for “Notches.”
- Sorry for the lateness. This week, not only didn’t I have a screener, but I also didn’t have my normal Slingbox setup to watch the East Coast feed. Thank you for, uh, going nuts in every other article posted tonight, though.
- Don’t blame me. I voted for Garrett.
- What with Pierce's long absence, this almost feels like it was supposed to air after a break of a few weeks. So that may have thrown the whole rhythm off somewhat. (The show is usually pretty good at arcing episodes.)
- And with that, I think we’re off the air until March 17? The horror, the horror, etc. Still, the press photos make the next one look pretty nuts (in a good way).
- "I wanna go to rehab and compare penises with famous people."
- "Oh, Abed. Will your reality ever come out on Blu-Ray so we can enjoy it?"
- "Anyone who wants to be president, line up by the ice cream machine!"
- "I'm more of a silverback gorilla with the claws of a lion, the teeth of a shark, and the quiet dignity of a tortoise."
- "Where were you a week ago?"
- "Well, it's good to know there's a floor on this thing."
- "And freedom? Well, I think that's just a little bit better."
- "And I'm Troy 'Butt Soup' Barnes."
- "It's like God spilled a person."
- "You gotta ask yourself, Abed. What's up with politics?"
- "Do you just constantly have your own little side adventures?" "Yep." "Me too."
- "I'm gonna, Greg Muldunna."
- "You look weird ... because of your overbite."
- "The assailant known only as the Asscrack Bandit will be brought to justice."
- "OK. I'm in the room."
- "I always found the distinction between duck and goose very arbitrary."
- "Could be higher. We don't even know how to do a margin of error."
- "Because you think I'm suspicious or because you wish I was suspicious so you could see more of me?"
- "You smell like nice soap."
- "It's the political showdown of the century."
- "I voted for it." "For real? Me too. Aw. We can never stop being friends."
- "I just had a dream that I was a regular president."