‘Critical Film Studies’ is another ambitious, polarizing, and possibly genius episode.
Of course, there was “Pulp Fiction” in the background, including a glowing briefcase, a 50’s diner, and a gimp. But all of that was regulated to almost less than a “B" plot; the centerpiece was a pair of monologues and some heady exchanges over fine food, with extraordinary performances from Joel McHale and Danny Pudi. They were moments of outright comedy naturally. There was even a bizarre, extended love letter to “Cougar Town” in Abed’s description of his dream about being a background extra (“I said to the director “Can we have one more take?” but they were already moving on. Courteney had nailed it.”). But because both actors have the chops to carry off this kind of serious and more complicated material, the show took the risk of several long stretches that were essentially joke-free. Granted, it was undercut by the reveal that Abed had been setting it all up as an elaborate attempt to “have an unexpectedly enjoyable evening with a weird friend he been avoiding lately.” But that segued into an actual heartfelt conversation between Joel and (the real) Abed, and a slightly melancholy party for the whole gang.
In the end, “Community” cannot be easily divided into “gimmicky” conceptual episodes and ones with more conventional sitcom tropes. What it does best are episodes like this one: a challenging combination of ridiculous and sometimes edgy comedy, with a slightly queasy examination of the pathologies and foibles of group of slightly (maybe severely) damaged people. As “Critical Film Studies” pointed out, just citing pop-culture references isn’t enough; sometimes it’s important to have a real conversation.
- “I saw “Pulp Fiction” on the plane. It's sweet. It’s a thirty-minute film about a group of friends who like cheeseburgers, dancing and the Bible."
- “If you want me to take it seriously, stop saying its name.”
- “After they get frightened by the evening news, many seek the comforting foods and soothing music of a pre-racial America.”
- “Do you know how many fake people are talking about how fake the world is right now?”
- “Baby chickens. Diamond forks. Brand-name sodas.”
- As promised: “Cool. Cool. Cool cool cool.”
- “Ooo, no-no juice.”
- Spock does go without saying, Abed.
- “Take it from someone who just had a meaningless one, sometimes emotional breakthroughs are overrated.”
When Michael Scott finally gets down on one knee, it's sweet -- and funny
‘Save My Love’ ratchets up the tension in a finely tuned episode
It just keeps barreling forward, doesn’t it? Picking up right where we left off last week in “Blaze of Glory”, Winona’s theft of the evidence money escalates into a tense and wonderfully circuitous wild goose chase pretty much confined to the one building. Throw in an intriguing new development for Boyd that draws him in deeper with Raylan and the (sadly, again absent) Bennetts and it made for an incredibly entertaining hour.
It’s true, the obstacles constantly thrown in front of Winona and Raylan as they attempted to put back the money rose to the level of darkly comedic ridiculousness. Extra security because of the high-profile federal case against coal company Black Pike? Check. The return of eccentric, oddball Judge Reardon (the fantastic Stephen Root) and his arbitrary demands? Check. A bomb threat that gets called off JUST as the bag full of stolen bills is about to be discovered? Final check. Still, everything was paced so relentlessly and swiftly that it worked in spite of itself. The fact that it was actually lucky they were NOT able to replace the money in the evidence locker was probably the cleverest twist, but what are the chances Art figured something was up? I’d say very good.
In retrospect, the most unbelievable aspect of Winona’s impulsive and brief life of crime was the fact that she stole only ONE bill out of a huge stack of money. So it was a strange relief to find out she actually took it all, which makes more logical sense if you accept that she took it in the first place. All of the reasons that she was yammering about in the motel room sound fine, but it would be much more interesting if this provided new insights into her character. Is getting involved with her ex-husband making her feel more reckless? Is the constant financial insecurity (due to Gary’s dumbass ideas) pushing her to the edge? And just how does she view Raylan in her life – as the strong cowboy who will rescue her from every predicament? What was going on in her subconscious throughout this whole ordeal?
Just as mysterious in motivation was Boyd Crowder’s new employer Carol Johnson – at least until her bold statement at the end of the episode about Mags Bennett “getting in the way of my plans.” She is a welcome addition to the cast, with a thin veneer of folksy straightforwardness covering a decidedly sinister agenda. By introducing the specter of an all-powerful coal company into the mix of drug dealing and violence, and bringing Boyd into potential confrontations with both Raylan and the Bennetts, “Justified” has raised the stakes considerably for the next half of the season.
- Only a tiny bit of advancement on the Gary sub-plot, but that tiny bit contained a lot of Jere Burns as Wynn Duffy (which in turn caused a lot of delighted squealing in my living room).
- “Watching you slide into decrepitude” Art and Raylan’s banter keeps getting more fun every week.
- Also fun? The running gag about the coffee. (“It was your day.”)
- “So, you’re telling me that you found yourself someone better than that?”
- Charlie, the evidence room guard. Never around when you need him and always around when you don’t.
- “Tall drink of distraction.” Yeah, sounds about right.
- “My. Sounds like a love story.”
Chickens come home to roost in ‘Rainmaker’
“Haven’t had a problem yet that money couldn’t solve.” – Johnny Leary
Charismatic guest stars can be both a boon and a curse to an ongoing series. While it was certainly a shot in the arm to have the compelling Eamonn Walker around as Ed Romeo, it was quite a letdown when he disappeared after only two episodes. Likewise, the always stellar David Morse showed up tonight and brought real gravity to his washed-up ex-champ Jerry “The Rainmaker” Raines. So it was disappointing to realize he was only there to serve as Lights’ deus ex machina with a convenient mental handicap.
Still, David Morse for only one episode was still better than no David Morse. With his perpetually boyish demeanor and great reserves of vulnerability, he packed a lifetime of pitiable sadness into just a few scenes. It’s clear that as Margaret says, “there but for the grace of God” goes Lights, although it is not unlikely that our hero hasn’t already put himself in harm’s way enough to suffer some of those ill effects in the near future. But it was a stark reminder that Patrick will have to deal with the consequences of his chosen profession sooner rather than later.
“Rainmaker” was actually all about the repercussions of events that took place earlier in the series, most importantly Lights’ assault on the indebted dentist and subsequent delivery of a bribe to make the charges disappear. It is important that even a fundamentally decent guy like Lights continues to confront the evidence of his own dark side. Nothing can change the fact that he did break a man’s arm, that he got in bed with a local criminal, and that he sent a mentally impaired man to viciously beat up a corrupt councilman to protect his own interests. All of the things that once meant something to him seem to be falling by the wayside in order to get to the holy grail of the rematch with Reynolds, not the least of which is his own integrity. Will it be worth it? Only two more episodes until we find out.
- The opening sequence, with the whole family reunited around the BBQ for Independence Day, was just horribly off-key and odd, like a dress rehearsal for the actual scene. The stagy silence that fell when Theresa’s family was mentioned was hilariously bad; all that was needed was a “Dun DUN” musical cue.
- On the other hand, Pops Leary has developed into one of the most multi-faceted and interesting characters on the show. His advice to Lights about Brennan and the FBI (“Let ‘em arrest you; at least, you’ll be safe.”) was refreshing and actually intelligent.
- Wow. Lights finally fills Theresa in on the whole story, and suddenly she’s Lady Macbeth? Bet he’s kicking himself for not enlisting her as an accomplice a long time ago.
- “This state. The corruption. It’s bottomless.” Never change, Hal Brennan.
- I’m sure this Gus has been around before as Hal’s bodyguard, but did we know he was a fighter, too?
- “How long have you been carrying this around?” He says “Since March”, but he means “My whole life”.
Like pal Mario Lopez, Elizabeth Berkley says she'd sign on
Like Slash and Kings of Leon before him, Dave Grohl dismisses Ryan Murphy's musical advances
'Harvest Festival' dreams come true for Pawnee in another outstanding episode
The eagerly awaited Harvest Festival is almost derailed by Pawnee-wide collective delusion: the carnival is situated on the site of a historical battle between an Indian tribe and Pawnee settlers, making it the ultimate “sacred burial ground”, and therefore cursed. Of course, the tribal leader, Ken Hotate is deliberately playing up the well-known fact that white people are “terrified of curses” (also, they love Matchbox 20 but that doesn’t seem to be as important). Even with Larry Bird’s aunt signing autographs, 15 extra cotton-candy machines, and the triumphant return of mini-horse Lil Sebastian, everything seems to fall apart the minute the awful Joan Callamezzo gets wind of the curse. Before you know it, the carnival’s generator fails, the horse escapes and Ben has walked off sulking that he has jinxed the whole thing. Who saves the day? The awesome Leslie Knope, of course – by borrowing a generator from the same Ken Hotate who inflicted the curse in the first place. She even has the bright idea to let him do a bogus Native American ceremony to lift the bogus curse (per the subtitles “I am not saying anything. No one can understand me anyway. Doobee doobee doo.”) Using Tom Petty’s “American Girl” to close out the episode was a fitting tribute to the fabulous Ms. Knope.
Meanwhile, in Too Adorable To Live Town, April spontaneously tells Andy that she loves him. Andy, in his own way, says he loves her too. Unfortunately, “I love you too” in Andyspeak is “Dude, shut up! That is awesome-sauce!” This causes an understandable rift until Ron F’ing Swanson clarifies the situation; as Andy endearingly explains, love is what makes “the sauce so awesome”. And that phrase is as good as any to describe this show.
- “Eagle-eyed tiger new band name I call it!”
- “I’m going to suggest you bottle that noise up.” “That’s what my mailman said.”
- “Murder the most melons.”
- Lil Sebastian wears a tail scrunchie. Like you do.
- “Just treat him and release him and then don’t say anything to anyone about anything for the rest of the month.”
- I love how Donna basically hangs around in the background and doesn’t seem to do any work. She did wear a stethoscope for a while though.
- “Crap on a spatula.”
- That sweeping overhead shot of the maze and the carnival? Seriously, when was the last time the final shot of a sitcom gave you chills?
'Custody Law and Eastern European Diplomacy': The series returns with a more straightforward sitcom vibe
In tonight’s episode, Chang goes to extreme lengths to prove he could be a good father to Shirley’s unborn baby, transforming into an odd Mr. Rogers clone (“Why does the VCR have to be on 3 when “Bones” is on 5?”) and ending up as the kidnapper of two young boys he mistakes for Shirley’s kids. This plot was frequently funny, particularly as Shirley tries to coerce Jeff into making Chang forgo his parental rights, only to have that plan backfire when Jeff sees a way to get Chang to finally move out of their apartment. In addition, Malcolm Jamal-Warner continues to fit in nicely with the regular cast and has a warm rapport with Yvette Nicole Brown. But Chang is so thoroughly unpleasant that it is hard to have any sympathy for him; I confess that I was more invested in Jeff and Shirley’s plan to put him away in jail for 20 years than I was in seeing them bestow any forgiveness.
Fortunately, the other main plot was consistently amusing and a great showcase for Gillian Jacobs as Britta. Troy and Abed have a (very attractive) new friend named Luka to play video games with them, and they order Britta to stay away (“We like him a lot. So you’re not allowed to bone him.”). Apparently she “ruins” guys Troy and Abed like by dating and then dishing the dirt about them. She even ruined Jeff Winger (nipples were involved). When Luka turns out to be a bona fide war criminal from the Balkans, Britta turns herself into knots trying to get the boys to figure this out for themselves. With many clever callbacks to past episodes - the hoodies from the paintball tournament (emblazoned with “It’s all downhill from here”), Britta channeling Annie’s Boobs as she snakes the DVD from Abed’s room, - and a firm belief in the supremely irritating personality of Britta, it was a winner of a plotline. Unless you haven’t seen “Catfish”.
- “I believe the theme is “Stuff Lying Around My Apartment.”
- “You just guaranteed she’ll bone him.”
- “Hit my genie bottle?” “What the? What was that?”
- “Pieces of paper, stapled together, lot of writing. I’m afraid this is as far as I can go.”
- “God bless you!” “Not lately.”
- The “wah wah” trombone sound effect from next door while Britta and Luka were making out? Priceless.
- “Don’t saw the floor! Don’t saw anything! I’m tired of confiscating saws.”
- “Lots of fork foods. Don’t want to grease up the troops.”
- “Girls are so un-desensitized.”
- “Didn’t take? You’re not giving him a perm, Jeff.”
- “I’m just here for my “Trekkies Do It In The Final Frontier” hat.”
- Joel McHale in tight running clothes = one for the fans.