“Are we hugging or dancing?” Jeff asks Pierce near the end of this week’s episode. It’s a fair, if hilarious, question for the show itself. If last week’s outstanding, generally insane installment — which culminated in a pantsless
Ping-Pong pool tournament — was Community at its manic, dancing best, then “Basic Genealogy,” this week’s family-centric episode, was the other extreme: a generally well-crafted half-hour featuring plenty of understanding, compliments, and, yes, hugs. Okay, there was also Britta being bent over and caned by an elderly, wheelchair-bound African-American grandma, so it wasn’t exactly “a very special episode,” but still …
“Family day” at Greendale meant that just about every character brought someone to class with them — even the creepy Greendale Human Being, who was seen canoodling with a smaller, creepier, potentially female Human Being in the hallway. Shirley brought her two rowdy sons, on loan from her “barren” sister who usually babysits them. Abed had his father, played by the always stern Iqbal Theba, on loan from Glee (a loan that was repaid rather uncharitably by Jeff and Pierce’s sobbing assertion that they “don’t get” the appeal of that show at all) as well as a burqua-clad overseas cousin who really only wanted to spend some quality time hopping freely in the moon bounce. You know, normal stuff. Troy brought his switch-friendly grandma. Pierce was shown to have come down with a hereditary case of McPheever, which is a labored way of saying his hot stepdaughter was played by former American Idol runner-up and Tyra Banks squeeze toy Katharine McPhee (see what we did there?). In the show’s best gag, Señor Chang’s tallit-rocking brother was introduced as Rabbi Chang who, naturally, found his brother’s gig as a Spanish teacher to be “ridiculous.”
The only people left to fend without broad-stroke guest stars were Annie (DNP: Moral Sounding Board), Britta (INJURY LIST: ass-lashing), and Jeff who was deputized to Pierce’s subplot because he was recently dumped by the Glee-loving statistics professor and Amber, Pierce’s hot grifter stepdaughter, was super into him. Pierce, you see, had never been called “stepdad” (Jeff: “I don’t think anyone has”) and feels like Amber is his last, best shot for a family. And so Jeff played wingman to his sometimes friend, regaling Amber with stories of how Pierce stared down the school bully and then helping out with a very confused game of Pictionary. (“Happy sideways vagina” is definitely not something we thought you could say on television. Good job, Community!)
All works out for the best in the end: Jeff discovers that Amber is really only there to take Pierce’s money (but still gets to do her in a closet!), Abed’s cousin gets to bounce burqua-free (and his dad is forced to wear his emergency shirt — the one he doesn’t like very much!), Shirley gets to feel like a good mother (even though her baby voice still makes us want to eat knives!), and Britta learns that not all old black women are as cute and quaint as pocket watches (or steamboats!). And all without a single John Hughes reference! So color us satisfied.
But really, this episode became aces in our book the moment it had the moral courage to address the enduring problem of people trying to draw windmills in Pictionary. Chevy Chase angrily circling a swastika until Rabbi Chang walks in on him? Now that’s what we call hugging and dancing, people.