After last week’s clever jab at Community’s faux-documentary sitcom brethren (and NBC schedule-mates), “Intro to Political Science” is a return to low-concept mode. Which is to say it is merely an allegory for modern politics and the democratic process centering around a bald man wearing his “sister’s” Uncle Sam costume.
The only reference to the manipulative unpleasantness of last week is Pierce telling war stories about a rehab-center urinal encounter with Tom Sizemore (“More like Size-less!”). It seems the study group might actually have to study until Dean Pelton saves the day with the news that the vice-president is coming to visit the school as part of his folksy yet progressive Biden Time Talkin’ ’Bout Teachin’ Tour. Now he’s got seven hours to cough up something resembling a student government, starting with open auditions, and triggering a political debate among the group that yields one “classic Winger,” one “ab mention,” and, of course, one “notch.”
Tracy Flick — sorry, Annie Edison steps right up, eager to serve. She enlists Jeff to help put up campaign posters, but he’s no worker-bee type. He’s more a silverback gorilla with the claws of a lion, the teeth of a shark, and the quiet dignity of a tortoise. But more to the point, he’s deeply cynical about what passes for ego-driven politics and government, and proves his point by running against Annie. As do Starburns; Leonard (Rodriguez, to help court the Latino vote); Pierce; Vicki, who once didn’t give Pierce a pencil; aspiring backpack-rapper Magnitude; and poor Gareth, who was just lining up to get ice cream. (Britta’s “I believe that humankind need not be governed!” proves an unconvincing stump speech.)
Troy and Abed, who don’t even know how to do margins of error, provide the punditry via their DecisionGate coverage on GCTV, but Abed has bigger problems. His own keen powers of observation have led him to notice the Secret Service agents scouting the campus, which, of course, is the only reason the agents would have to consider him a person of interest. He is a person of particular interest to Agent Robin Vohlers, a severe blonde who shares Abed’s monotone delivery and talent for making elaborate judgments about strangers based on the slightest of information and is attracted to his nice-soap musk. The chemistry is undeniable, but Agent Vohlers leaves after a spot check of Abed’s dorm room; she is sorry he wasn’t a more obvious threat to the country.
Annie is winning the crowd over with her take-no-prisoners, defiantly rhyming “No matter what we’re told, we have to clean the mold!” platform, while Jeff counters with faux outrage that she would suggest Greendale is in any way unclean. On the ropes, Annie then resorts to the basest of political chicanery — she shows Jeff’s “You gotta have Jeff!” George Michael impersonation in his 1997 audition tape for The Real World: Seattle. Jeff Winger’s heretofore undetectable capacity for humiliation is fully tapped, and he hides out in a storage closet. He’s horrified not just by the tape, but by the fact that his jadedness got in the way of keeping a young, idealistic girl from running for student president. Annie is equally horrified at how she treated her friend and drops out, leaving only Leonard and Magnitude embroiled in a political debate for the age. Raspberry versus “pop pop” — who ya got? With eleven votes cast, the winner of the student election, in a landlside victory, is … South Park! Abed signs off reminding everyone that you can make napalm out of common dish soap and cat food, which necessitates another sweep from Agent Vohlers, while Biden is forced to skip Greendale for City College.
As political satire goes, there’s nothing revolutionary or profound here, and not every episode of Community should be charged with pushing the boundaries of sitcom construction and storytelling. Britta only has a line or two of note; Shirley is mostly on hand to clap enthusiastically; and Troy virtually steals the episode with his pressed-apple juice tirade. The on-again/off-again Jeff-Annie sexual tension has a very on moment in the storage room, but the takeaway here is Abed’s understated but confident, and Patriot Act–flouting, courtship of Agent Vohlers, more a match for him than any junior-college student could ever be.