“Caring about six people can be a horrifying embarrassing nightmare.” Or so says Jeff Winger at the end of a very long, Magnitude-filled Valentine’s Day, before finally, a year and a half in, admitting his love for his motley study crew. What Community is about has always been right there in the title: seven unhappy unlikelies united because they have no one else in the world. And the success of this episode derived from the clever ways writer Karey Dornetto managed to corral all of the disparate, England-mocking plots and bring them back to the show’s core concept. Because, really, all the stories here were the same: various characters seek to expand their circle only to realize the goodness of what they’ve already got. Or, as Magnitude would put it, “Pow Pow!”
There was, of course, something else that made “Early 21st Century Romanticism” a great, gimmick-free episode of Community and that something is “jokes” (or, as the English call them, “humorous fannies”). There were some great jokes! From the verbal (Jeff is a “stylish American” who has been “forcing” himself to be into soccer since 2004), to the visual (Andy Dick in the role of his life as a miniature helicopter pilot who is also the imaginary embodiment of Pierce’s raging pill addiction), to the very, very strange (Leonard arrives at a party demanding to know where the “white women” are). Even the show’s pop-culture references were used for good: People really are super defensive about (the most celebrated Canadian alt-rock band of the mid-nineties, a.k.a.) the Barenaked Ladies!
Of the individual romantic foibles, well, we liked Britta’s the best. Gillian Jacobs attacks any opportunity
to wear a butch leather vest to play clueless and self-important like Professor Duncan attacks a room full of half-bricked beers. And Britta truly is the sort of person who would be friends with a fedora-wearing (fake) lesbian just to feel smugly superior about it. We loved it all, from the way she says “lesbian” after Annie meekly mumbles “friend of Ellen,” waving her denim-framed arms like she’s about to take off on the short runway at La Guardia, to the way she pulled away from Annie’s curious, “acquaintance of Ellen” attempt to smooch her. Jeff’s exile from the group — clearly he prefers the Tragically Hip! — not only taught him a lesson in friendship, it also taught him that 6:30 p.m. is called “Gravedigger’s Biscuits” in England, a land where “everything” means vagina. (It also brought him an extended visit from a newly homeless Chang, who breaks a lamp with nunchaku, does his laundry in the dishwasher, and has Starburns throw a “Wing-Ding at Winger’s” just to maybe kind of move in with his hermit crabs. To be honest, we preferred the performance by the hermit crabs.)
Abed and Troy’s joint courtship of a busty librarian (!) named Mariah (!!) who has the answers to all of their most pressing questions, including “Will You Marry Me?” and “Why Are There Still Libraries?” (between this and Parks and Recreation, a lot of anti-librarian humor on NBC last night!) was a bit more problematic. Not because we didn’t love the setup (Troy and Abed’s solemn high-five when told that their partnered pickup attempt was the cutest thing ever to happen to Mariah was almost as good as their briefcase full of tacos, which still might not have been as good as Abed’s geek-chic purple ensemble), but because the payoff was a little odd. Sure, no one wants to hear a woman drone on and on about Nicholas Nickleby, but would Troy really rather be hugging his admittedly weird BFF than a lady in red who appreciates a subscription to Starz Black?
We’re not so sure. (Troy started out as a football star! Can’t he be a childish gambino and still have a libido?) But the overall point was solid: All these knuckleheads love each other and when they stray, they’re a bit of a mess. Case in point: Pierce, who, in a surprisingly dark coda, ends up passed out on a park bench with no Andy Dick in sight (this is both a good and a bad thing). We predict a huggy intervention just around the corner. Which, to be honest, could be a horrifying, embarrassing nightmare for all involved! But that’s (streets) ahead. Happy Valentine’s Day. And, in summation, good luck. And bon appétit.