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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Community: "Pascal's Triangle Revisited"

Illustration for article titled Community: "Pascal's Triangle Revisited"

I love season finales. Of all of the crazy things TV does, I really only love the series finale concept more. I like forced attempts to make everything have a sense of finality. I like strained cliffhangers. I like big plot twists that have been delayed all season long. Normally, I wouldn't buy that, say, someone would declare their love out of the blue like that, but I've been there on the last day of school. You need to say something, or that whole summer's going to stretch out in front of you, and you're not going to know if the feelings will last or if they'll fade. You're going away for three months. Will anyone be there when you get back?

Inevitably, everyone's still there when you return, and the way that you got all sentimental about something that wasn't going to end - just pause - feels kind of silly in September. But in the moment, it can feel like the most important thing ever, even if you don't really believe what you're saying. Because, you know what? I don't really buy that Britta would say "I love you" in that moment, unless we're accounting for the idea that she suddenly needs to say it because she's got the full summer stretching out in front of her, and she needs to say something dramatic, to make sure that Jeff's still there to explore whatever it is they have in the fall.

Really, "Pascal's Triangle Revisited" forces quite a bit of stuff. It's a funny episode with some good stuff going on all around it, but it doesn't feel effortless. It feels like it's working a little too hard to make a SEASON FINALE, rather than just a good episode of Community that has some degree of finality to it. I'm more forgiving of season finales than other episodes, sometimes, because of the reasons above, but when the show wasn't poking fun at the conventions of the finale - like Annie threatening to move to Delaware or Troy and Abed thinking about moving in together - and when it was actually trying to create something like a real season finale, it forced a lot of the drama.

This isn't the worst thing in the world. Community is in a real bind next season, going up against the immensely popular Big Bang Theory (which probably shares a good deal of the show's audience), and it's going to need all of the help it can get. No one involved in the production of this episode knew it would be going against a similar skewing show when it returns next season, so I'm not saying this was intentional, but there's nothing that can't draw eyeballs to a cult TV show like a good, old-fashioned shipper war. And as soon as the episode was finished - before I even had a chance to see it - I could tell this one was going to drive fans a little nuts, as they competed with each other over whether Jeff belonged with Annie or Britta. (No one would be on Team Slater. She's a guest star.)

At the same time, it really did feel to me like the show was trying to force moments between Jeff and both women. The kiss with Annie at the end didn't have the chemistry the two had in the debate episode, simply because there was no build to it. It just sorta happened, and while that's something that might be fun to explore, I'm not sure it's the moment to close the season on the show thinks it is. And, again, I just don't know that Britta would tell Jeff that she loved him. (Slater might. She's a guest star. They do crazy shit all the time.) She might, indeed, love him. But I don't know that she'd even believe it if she did.

It's that transition from commentary on the genre it's a part of to being an actual part of that genre that trips this episode up, which is odd, since Community is usually pretty good about managing that transition from snark to heart. And there are moments here that work really, really well. Jeff's speech to Annie about how Slater is who he wants to be and Britta is who he actually is is ridiculously well written, the sort of thing that is at once funny and sweet and insightful, the kind of sitcom writing that just isn't being done nowadays. Similarly, Abed's attempts to turn the scenario into a season finale were both funny and an odd commentary on the strengths of the Troy and Abed friendship. It was a reminder from the show that it knows what it is and that it's not going to completely overplay the things that make it as good as it is.


I don't want to give the impression that I didn't like "Pascal's Triangle Revisited." It's a very funny episode (as you can probably tell from all of the quotes below), and there are things in it that are funny but can't really be expressed in quotes, like Troy spending much of the episode munching on a giant cookie or the dean dancing with a pair of people in giant Dalmatian costumes. And I did like the vibe the episode gave off of a bunch of people coming to the end of their first year of college and realizing that they really do like each other as much as they always said they did. Hell, the episode even used all of the characters pretty well, when it wasn't making them do stuff for the sake of drama. I can think of reasons that these characters would do what they did, but the problem with the episode is that the main reason I can think of is that they did these things simply because they were in a season finale. Even if they knew it, it doesn't quite work.

Stray observations:

  • I appreciated the show's overt commentary on the fact that Pierce was initially set up to be Troy's foil before the whole Troy and Abed thing happened.
  • OK, yeah, I was wrong about the Annie dressing like a professor thing last week. But I don't think my theory was CRAZY or anything.
  • Side discussion point: When was the last truly effective TV love triangle? Ground rules: All three points on the triangle must be series regulars, on the show at the same time (so no Angel/Buffy/Spike). Both possible relationships must have potential arguments in their favor. The best I could do was Pam/Jim/Karen on The Office. April/Andy/Ann on Parks and Recreation misses out because, well, who wants Andy with Ann?
  • Man, Rashida Jones just always loses in love triangles. This is not how it is in real life, I have to imagine.
  • NBC didn't bother putting up photos from the finale on its press site, so let's all remember when Annie hid in a trash can, shall we?
  • "It's called chillaxing. Duh!"
  • "I finally get to click send on so many I toldja so e-mails!"
  • "Banana penis."
  • "Amazing. It's like an evil genie."
  • "We're just gonna call it the tranny dance!" "Much more Greendale."
  • "There are bugs on the windshield of your mind you may never be able to Squeegee, like a certain birthday party attended by a rather enterprising transient in a dinosaur costume."
  • "He listens to you for a year, then recommends a makeover."
  • "Don't wear as much makeup as you did on Valentine's Day. Your mouth looked like a coin purse."
  • "It's not a Jane Austen novel. We have cell phones."
  • "See? It's alarming, right?"
  • "I will find a loophole. … Then I'll kill you."
  • "Guys. Cleanest face ever."
  • "You. Me and Jeff and Rainman and Big Boobs and Medium Boobs and Black Boobs. We're a family."
  • "More of a spinoff vibe."
  • "Oh, and for the record, there was an episode of Happy Days where a guy literally jumped over a shark. And it was the best one."
  • "Who has your car keys?" "In the taco meat."
  • "What say you and I blow this pop stand and head off for a spot of slap and tickle? I mean sex, in case the lingo hasn't made it to the States."
  • "Jeff needs a girl who doesn't just not wear underwear because Oprah told her it would spice things up. He needs a girl who doesn't wear underwear because she hasn't done laundry in three weeks. He's been to flavor country now. They should retire the table we did it on."
  • "I'm sorry. I have to go. I just won a contest for being hot."
  • "Hey, man. How's it going? Don't shoot the messenger, but everyone at this dance is kinda waiting for your reaction to all this."
  • "My friendship with Abed is a giant cookie!"
  • "I got a real big penis, and I drink lots of tea."
  • "Who is it here who has a Dalmatian fetish?"
  • "Do you try to evolve, or do you try to know who you are?"