Community Recap: Born Again

COMMUNITY -- "Applied Anthropology and Culinary Arts" Episode 221 -- Pictured: (l-r) Gillian Jacobs as Britta, Yvette Nicole Brown as Shirley, Alison Brie as Annie, Danny Pudi as Abed -- Photo by: Lewis Jacobs/NBC Photo: Lewis Jacobs/?NBCUniversal, Inc.
Episode Title
Applied Anthropology and Culinary Arts

Whether one loves it, hates it, or merely gets paid to nitpick it in on the Internet, it can’t be denied that Community is both lightning-quick and densely packed. So many jokes to tell! So many characters to service! So many mid-nineties cultural touchstones to reference! It’s a wonder the show pulls it off as often as it does. We say this with real admiration because “Applied Anthropology and Culinary Arts” — in which Shirley gives birth; the class takes its anthropology final; the Dean withstands a hard-hitting interview with Dean magazine; Britta learns about herself by staring into … well, never mind; a race riot kerfuffle breaks out in the parking lot; and Pierce Indecent Proposals (1993!) Troy and Abed for a handshake — came and went in twenty minutes. That’s not a typo: Your half-hour major-network NBC sitcom now totals 1,200 seconds of actual show, slightly less if you subtract the opening credits and closing tag. It might take you longer to read this recap than to re-watch the show (especially if we overdo it again on the hyperlinks). That isn’t just skillfully focused writing. It’s downright heroic.

And so, considering the time limitations and the storytelling ambition, we, like Drunk Professor Ian Duncan, are most assuredly grading on a curve this week. The jokes that, like Annie before everyone started throwing paper balls at her, came prepared included the perfectly utilized John Oliver (dig his peerless exit in search of a made-up exam that might — might — include a lump of clay); Star-Burns’s flask-swigging reaction shots; and (finally) even ol’ Pierce, whose manipulation of poor, money hungry Woody & Demi Troy and Abed made us sit up in our seats and cry out “Betty Grable!” Also best? Notorious “backseat birther” (which, let’s be honest, sounds like someone who doesn’t want to speak up but continues to harbor deep-seated, not-at-all racist doubts about the citizenship of certain presidents) Britta also slayed the way she tends to when there’s an opportunity to get preachy. Thus we have a “30-year-old slacker with two one-eyed cats” recommending chewing on eucalyptus leaves to someone in labor with her third child. She also womanly goes “under the hood” of the Shirley bus (a later metaphor courtesy of experienced, gender-conflicted baby-deliverer Abed), leading to two network firsts: a POV vag cam and a character vomiting into a wastebasket after coming face-first with the miracle of life.

Anyway, all’s well that ends super quickly: Britta toughens up and delivers the baby; Andre arrives and the baby is his; Troy and Abed’s handshake becomes cool again; and, thankfully, Dean magazine folds after just two issues (“worst idea for a magazine ever”). There was also a healthy sprinkling of Chang throughout making intense Asian jokes (He’s addicted to duck sauce? Really?) and telling stories of how his hardy family has survived despite generations being born underground and under noodle-stall tables. This was an attempt to soften him — his stories actually do relax Shirley — and make it feel earned enough that the happy, reunited Bennett family would plausibly name their newborn after him: Ben Bennett. To which we say: Sure. Our views on the character and his insistent weaseling into the show are well established; if Community can edit itself so tightly, so can we.

A baby was born. Mazel tov! Now let’s all huddle in the back of the banquet room and gossip about how much the bride’s parents spent on the cake. As Professor Duncan might say, “THAT is what Jews do at weddings!”