Sunday, November 22, 2009

Community 1.10: "Environmental Science"

“Well, print five thousand more. I’m trying to save a planet here!”

-The Dean

While watching “Environmental Science,” I think I laughed out loud more than I have during an episode of Community in a while. There may have only been one other episode, I believe it was “Social Psychology,” that actually really made me laugh. I’m actually sort of surprised that I enjoyed an episode that focused so heavily on Señor Chang, since I usually find him over-the-top and ridiculous, and not in a good way. He certainly had his grating moments, but overall, he was tolerable. I liked that even though the episode used some of the more conventional character pairings instead of mixing it up, the plots were fresh, and for the most part, genuinely funny.

This episode really focused on testing the friendships of the study group and exploring how far they would go to help each other out. Jeff was given the assignment of buttering up Señor Chang because Chang has been assigning a ridiculous amount of homework lately. Troy and Abed work together on a biology experiment involving a rat even though Troy has an intense fear of rats. Pierce offers to help Shirley with public speaking so she can give a good presentation in her marketing class. Britta and Annie are kind of just there to be judgmental about Jeff, but that’s okay because you really can’t have a significant story for every character in just 22 minutes. It’s probably best that a few of the crew are put on the back burner every week.

Although Annie doesn’t have a big part in this week’s episode, Alison Brie does have several great comedic moments. One is when Señor Chang pulls her desk out of the classroom because she kept working beyond the allotted time for a test. The look on her face as she goes sliding out of the room is priceless. There’s also her declaration of “I vote we all look at Jeff at the same time” when the study group is deciding who should convince Chang to rescind his twenty page paper assignment. Last but most definitely not least, there’s her little choo-choo dance as she tells Jeff “Well guess what, Handsome Hobo, you’re gravy train’s leaving the station.”

My favorite plot of the episode was Abed and Troy and their rat, Fivel. The assignment is to get the rat to respond to a song. Abed, being the lover of 80’s pop culture that he is, decides that he and Troy will sing “Somewhere out There.” Troy, even though he protests a little, goes with it. Everything falls apart when Troy is scared by another student holding an uncaged rat nearby and accidentally knocks over Fivel’s cage. Abed is very attached to Fivel, and he’s upset that Troy isn’t enthusiastic about helping him get Fivel back. Things are made worse when The Dean calls in an exterminator.

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about Jeff’s story in this episode. After he’s given his mission by the rest of the study group, he quickly hones in on the fact that Señor Chang is giving them crazy amounts of work because he’s upset that his wife just left him. Jeff decides to use this knowledge to his own advantage. Chang wants to go out partying with Jeff, and when Jeff conveniently mentions that he can’t because of the paper, Chang lets him off the hook. He later does the same for a quiz. When the rest of the group figures this out, they are obviously not pleased, and it leads to a temporary “break up” between Jeff and the rest of the group.

Jeff, however, has a bigger plan in mind. At the “Green Daye” concert (The Dean thought he was booking Green Day for a special eco-friendly week at Greendale aka “Envirodale”, but he got a Celtic band instead…highly amusing), he arranges for Mrs. Chang to be there. The Changs are reunited and dance (and by the way, I want Mrs. Chang’s dress, it’s very cute). While this is going on, Shirley is recovering in the middle of her marketing class speech (about selling brownies on the Internet) thanks to the techniques Pierce taught her, and Troy is getting over his fear of rats to help Abed, only to be rewarded by Fivel running up his pant leg. Señor Chang, now in a better mood, cancels the twenty page paper. He decides to give Jeff a one page paper as punishment for his emotional manipulation, though.

The rest of the study group, having just arrived in the auditorium in time to see this, offer to take Jeff back and help him with his paper. I guess the reason I’m not sure how I feel about Jeff’s plot is that I’m not sure about the motivations behind his final actions. Was he hoping that by reuniting the Changs, he would be able to help out the rest of the then-ex study group, or was he hoping to gain more rewards for himself. It’s hard to say. Jeff is incredibly self-involved, so it’s certainly possible he was only thinking of his own benefit and not the group. On the other hand, Jeff has shown moments of personal growth…occasionally.

I think this episode really brought the study group closer together. Pierce stopped being offensive for just long enough to help Shirley, and Shirley truly appreciated it. Abed definitely appreciated Troy saving Fivel from the exterminator, and I was glad to see Troy get over himself and step it up for his friend. I had been kind of annoyed at him earlier in the episode when he was refusing to help Abed. I was especially annoyed when Troy was going on about how it makes sense Abed would be willing to help Troy because Abed considers Troy a friend, but it doesn’t go both ways (implying Troy doesn’t consider Abed a friend), but he came through. And Jeff, whether he wants to admit it or not, helped out his friends as well. All in all, the group is starting to rely on one another, and they’re truly starting to become the community Jeff proclaimed them to be in the pilot.

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