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Community: Salsa Verde

It’s Green Week, everyone! Yes, that hilariously contrived Ben Silverman idea that NBC is actually continuing after Silverman’s unamicable departure (as opposed to “Pumas On Hovercraft Week” and the equally ill-fated “Bikini Models With Lasers Week”). Green Week works, partly because it offers the Thursday-night comedy lineup an enormous opportunity for parody — something the producers of Community were clearly eager to run with. Last night’s “Environmental Science” wasn’t just the funniest Green Week-inspired sitcom since 30 Rock’s David-Schwimmer-in-a-bodysuit “Greenzo,” a few years back, it was also the best episode yet of Community’s young life.

The jokes start coming fast and furious when sniveling Dean Pelton announces his own Green Week on campus by changing the name of Greendale to “Envirodale” — which annoys Pierce not because it’s ridiculous (“Green” is already in the name!) but because he feels devoting an entire week to Irish awareness is a bit much. Aside from a predictable but still effective joke about “Greene Daye” — a Lucky Charms tribute band, apparently — performing at the school, the rest of the episode wisely lays off the Inconvenient Truth comedy train in favor of the tried-and-true: Ken Jeong as cranky Spanish teacher Señor Chang and his outrageous homework demands, namely a twenty-page essay due Monday, even though the students only know how to say “hello, tomorrow, and that tables are female.”

Jeff, being both the most effective arguer and the, y’know, star of the show, is selected by the study group to try and convince Chang to lighten up. (“You’re the one with a silver tongue,” says Annie. “Yeah, go tongue Chang,” deadpans Pierce.) In Chang’s sensually-lit office (where he sits underneath a truly impressive “El Tigre” poster), Jeff correctly intuits that Chang is venting on the class because his wife has left him. The clues? Bad attitude, yes, but also wearing the same shirt twice in one week and gluing a Post-it-note dialogue-balloon over a photo of the formerly happy couple saying “Enjoy It While It Lasts … ” Teacher and student are soon bonding, hanging out at strip clubs, and — see the video below! — digging into Chang’s giant jar of pickled bull testicles (“Are you offering or collecting?” asks Jeff when the jar first comes out).

Jeff and Chang’s bonding (and Chang’s disturbing fixation on Jeff’s pecs) results in Jeff getting preferential treatment in class and being exiled from the study group. It also leads to a hilariously racist lesson on the differences between “tu y Ud.” Elsewhere, Abed and Troy lose their test rat, Fievel, and attempt to find him again by serenading the hallways with a tasteful duet of “Somewhere Out There” while Shirley is bad at giving an oral presentation about Brownies (but good at bugging her eyes for the camera!) and needs Pierce’s help regarding sandwich-offering and the dangers of stiff posture (“Do you know what happens when you lock your knees?” he asks. “You die!”). All this general wackiness actually pays off as Jeff contrives to reunite Chang y Señora Chang via a salsa dance-off to the dulcet, pan-flute-involving sounds of Greene Daye. We’re suckers for shows that end with the cast enjoying the pleasures of a good jig.

And so: Bravo, Community! And bravo to writer Zach Paez, who manages to hit outrageously zany comic highs both verbal (Pierce acting like Jeff because he’s sitting in his chair) and physical (Pierce pratfalling backwards out of said chair) while maintaining the line between quirkiness and cartooniness that the show has struggled with in the past. (Paez also seems to maintain a funny Tumblog. One of us! One of us!)

More Recaps:
Alan Sepinwall agrees with us that this was a “strong, very satisfying episode” (One of us! One of us!):
At the A.V. Club, Todd VanDerWerff thinks the show is on a roll.
But John Young at EW.com wasn’t feeling things until Abed and Troy started singing.

Photo: Courtesy of NBC