Community Recap: ‘Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism’

For the majority of Community’s two-and-a-half season run, the writers haven’t known what to do with Shirley. Ask fans of the shows what they think of her, and they’ll usually vaguely (in a fittingly Shirley-like voice) reply, “She’s nice? DEFINITELY wasn’t dressed as Miss Piggy in that Halloween episode.” She’s not as developed as the other members of the Seven; Jeff effectively reduces her to a religious fanatic who enjoys baking. She’s tolerated by the rest of the group because they’re in desperate need of a mother figure, even if they don’t realize it — particularly someone like Britta, because as much as she thinks she likes being a political rebel, she’s really just in need for some moral guidance (and Red Hot Chili Peppers tickets, too).

Because of her current Mother Superior-like status, it’s easy to forget that in her pre-Greendale days, Shirley was a wild, reckless drunk, and as we learned in last night’s episode, “Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism,” as a youth, she bullied other kids at foosball, and even made them pee their pants in the process. This is the Shirley I like (my favorite episode of hers is “Mixology Certification” — remember this?), and it’s so successful because the writers rarely go to that well. To use a cross-genre example: the writers of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel showed admirable restraint in not constantly making Angel his badass, soulless counterpart, Angelus. If they had, the shock and impact of the character would have been reduced, and fans would have grown tired of the change. (For a more apt sitcom example: remember how awesome Sideshow Bob was in “Cape Feare”? Remember how not awesome Sideshow Bob was in “The Italian Bob,” his ninth appearance on The Simpsons?) Same goes for Shirley, minus the whole raping and killing hundreds of peoples over centuries thing. It’s wonderful seeing her go absolutely bat-shit insane during her game against Jeff, and it’s obvious Yvette Nicole Brown was having fun with finally being able to let loose. (The anime was an ingenious touch, as well; the writers found a way to heighten the intensity of foosball, while still keeping things funny.)

Yet the episode also had an incredibly sweet ending. Midway through, Jeff realizes that it was Shirley, or Big Cheddar as she was known as a child, that made him as cool as Miles Davis; it’s an event that’s shamed their lives for different reasons, and they both gave foosball up afterwords. But they’re temporarily back on the horse — or whatever people say about foosball — to compete against a trio of Greendale Germans, led by Nick Kroll. (His poop story on Conan was a nice companion piece to this episode.) The game begins and another epic showdown is sure to happen, but Shirley and Jeff (Jirley? Shef?) manage to place the ball in an unkickable spot and walk away from the game, arm-in-arm. We see them as kids again, as if all the shitty things that happened to them as they grew up never happened; they’re just two happy-go-lucky people, one of whom happens to be sporting either a mullet or a rat-tail, who are happy to have found someone who went through the same kind of experiences they did. Aw.

What I liked most about the “Annie loses Abed’s signed copy of The Dark Knight” plot was that it made Angelic Annie look like a bad person. Too often sitcoms make their main characters seem perfect — it’s the rest of the world that’s fucking them over, obviously! On Community, it’s the total opposite: the Seven has temporarily destroyed the lives of Todd, and now, Annie, Abed, and Troy’s landlord. (I’m sure there are others, too, but poor Todd is the first name that comes to mind.) He’s a little creepy, sure, with his closet full of women’s shoes, but he’s not an evil guy either, at least compared to Annie’s previous slum of a landlord. But after she steps on the DVD and is afraid to tell Abed what really happened (and decides her Christian Bale impression isn’t strong enough — though it’s certainly adorable enough), she goes along with Abed’s landlord did it theory.

Other than that, the rest of the B-plot was just fine. I wish the show hadn’t pointed out the fact that every sitcom ever has done the “replacing a treasured item” trope, because, well, every show has, and even though most haven’t featured Abed impersonating Batman (I’m going under the assumption, by the way, that Abed figured out what really happened to the DVD as soon as he walked into the apartment, but he needed time to process what he was feeling and he also didn’t want to get upset at Annie), I guess I’ve just become slightly bored by the story. But I wasn’t bored by this:

And definitely not this:

Josh Kurp actually liked Dan in Real Life

Community Recap: ‘Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism’