At its core, “Course Listing Unavailable” is about what happens when someone you kind of know, but not really, passes away, and how you’re supposed to react to the news. Some people, like Britta, use it as an opportunity to flaunt their psychology degree, while others, Jeff, handle the death of their creepy kind-of friend, Starburns, the same way they handled their creepy kind-of-friend, Starburns, when he was alive: by ignoring it/him. (Others just want to know where their comb is.) There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to feel. But you’ll probably feel something, even if it’s buried deep down; you just need a catalyst to bring it out, something more effective than a person wearing star-shaped sideburns (ohhh, now I get it). Something like…being told you have to go to summer school.
The connection between Starburns’s death, and Professor Kane resigning because of it, and the anti-Greendale riot at his funeral, led by the Seven who are pissed because they’ll receive an Incomplete in Biology and have to go to summer school due to Kane’s departure, is a little thin. Both set pieces work individually, but having one be the result of the other, even with the heightened emotions of a funeral, never really clicks. Luckily, there’s enough funny stuff (“Come on, I’m Dean/And my hands are so clean”) happening to make the episode a success.
Like The Simpsons, Community loves a good riot scene, and “Course Listing” has a doozy. Food is thrown; Chang, given ultimate power by the Dean, who’s defenseless to contain the Greendale hate speech that’s being launched (and dropped, in one case) by Jeff & Co., has his Changlorious Bastards spritz students with pepper spray; and Leonard is going to steal all the Subway fixin’s, minus the onions and olives, of course. I thought this scene worked better than any of the pillow or blanket fights; it was less expected and there’s an actual sense of recklessness, too. (Chang has rarely been one of my favorite characters, but there’s something in his limp mannerisms and conniving ways that got me tonight.) Having the study group stay seated, minus Pierce, was a nice touch, too, allowing them to see the Greendale we do: absolute CHAOS.
Speaking of chaos: due to their participation in the riots, the Greendale Seven is expelled from the community college (the second best community college in the community, at that), and they all end up Abed, Troy, and Annie’s apartment to drink and moan. And eat pizza and discuss timelines, like they did in “Remedial Chaos Theory.” Even the pizza delivery boy, who bears a strong resemblance to Khal Drogo, returns. Britta, feeling that she really Britta’d the situation, concedes that she is, in fact, the worst, and has such a lack of self-respect that she doesn’t rebuke the stoner charms of the Dothraki at the door – until Troy tells her that she’s actually the best. It’s a sweet moment, and Khal commenting, “There are other timelines?” was a nice way of putting a joke in the middle of the sentimental speeches that have destroyed so many endings this season.
“Course Listing Unavailable” wasn’t the best episode of the season, but it was consistently funny and nailed the third act (not to mention the tag, with Abed and Troy’s video tribute to Starburns), while also setting up an intriguing expulsion plot. Also, I am going to end every post with this from now on: