Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Community 1.20: "The Science of Illusion"

“Nice frame job, Brittadict Arnold.”


So, I kind of forgot to blog this episode back when it originally aired. I’m glad I finally got to see it, though. I thought it was freaking hilarious- easily one of the series’ funniest episodes to date. It was an April Fools themed episode, and there was definitely a lot of foolishness going on. What was great about it (besides being really funny) was that much of the foolishness also illuminated character. That’s something all the best sitcoms need to be able to do. I like my sitcoms with equal doses of laughs and heart.

The Dean wants Greendale’s students to handle April Fools in the way he wants them to handle everything- as inoffensively as possible. He’s even had pamphlets made up to advise them of approved pranks. The pamphlet says Greendale will be hiring extra security for the event, and Annie and Shirley think that sounds like fun. Meanwhile, Jeff is already on his way to conducting a non-approved prank. Pierce comes into the study room cheerfully talking about how his “Buddhist group” (cough…crazy cult…cough) is having a ceremony to make him a Level Six Laser Lotus this coming weekend. Thanks to Jeff’s quick thinking and Abed’s quick trip to the theatre department, the gang soon has Pierce thinking he’s the proud owner of a Level Six robe…aka a wizard’s robe complete with stars and moons.

At first, whenever the rest of the study group is talking about April Fools, Britta starts on one of her preachy speeches about how it degrades people and such. She’s accused of being a buzzkill, and it definitely gets to her. She decides to pull the most inoffensive April Fools prank possible- she wants to prove you can pull a prank while still treating people with respect. The prank will involve Britta going to the science store room and getting a frog. She plans to dress the frog in a mini sombrero that says “Señor Chang” and place it on Chang’s desk before Spanish class. Britta tells Jeff her idea and Jeff thinks it sounds pretty lame.

Annie and Shirley get deputized into Campus Security by the Dean. Abed’s DVR is broken, so he decides to watch Annie and Shirley’s security adventures for fun instead. He wonders aloud which one of them is going to be the hard ass of the typical buddy cop show pairing. Both Annie and Shirley want that role, and they go to ridiculous lengths to prove it. Somebody has pushed over a sign on the Greendale campus, and investigating it is Annie and Shirley’s first assignment. They try to outdo each other being aggressive in their questioning as Abed looks on while happily snacking. The Dean tells them they have to solve this case if they want to stay deputized.

Britta’s prank doesn’t go at all as planned. She gets her frog and puts the sombrero on it but then, as frogs tend to do, it jumped away. To make matters worse, when she tries to catch the frog again, she accidentally knocks a gurney with a cadaver on it (I thought those were just for med school…don’t look at me like that! I’m a lawyer, which means I avoided taking any science classes in college!). To make the situation even worse, the cadaver flies through a window, making quite a few Greendale students freak out.

The Dean is not happy that such disgusting shenanigans happened on Annie and Shirley’s watch. He is incapable, however, of chewing them out about it, so Abed steps in. Abed becomes the stereotypical movie police chief, which made me start thinking about HIMYM. Particularly, the episode “Murtaugh,” where inspired by Murtaugh from the Lethal Weapon movies, Ted makes a list of stuff he’s “too old for.” Abed even says he’s “too old for this” in his rant. He sounded just like the Laser Tag manager who kicks Barney out in the beginning of that episode. “Murtaugh” is one of my favorites, so anything that reminds me of it makes me happy. I find it fascinating that even though he has trouble relating to other people, Abed can draw from pop culture to do things others are afraid to do.

Annie and Shirley’s security detail scenes were funny all the way through the episode. I especially liked a scene where Jeff is suspected of the whole frog/cadaver fiasco, and Annie opens his backpack to find all sorts of items to confirm the story (like other small stereotypical Mexican paraphernalia to go with the sombrero). Jeff first says that Britta is trying to frame him, but then he makes a run for it, and Annie and Shirley aren’t very successful following him in their little Security golf cart. The chase is hilarious with Jeff jumping over a wall and Shirley getting the cart stuck because of two poles separating the parking lot from an athletic field. Words can’t really do it justice here- it was a great bit of physical comedy that ends with Annie accidentally getting caught in the mist of her own pepper spray.

With Abed’s talking-to in mind, however, Annie and Shirley realize they need to band together to solve this “crime” and get back in the Dean’s good graces. They confront Jeff back in the study room, who still maintains that Britta framed him. Things get more than a little out of hand with Annie slamming Jeff’s head against the table repeatedly and Shirley brandishing a pizza cutter. The threat of real violence prompts Britta to finally fess up. She wanted to do the prank because she was sick of being the buzzkill, but she only made things worse. In typical kind-of-sappy-but-not-overly-so Community fashion, the group tells Britta that she doesn’t need to change. They see her as the heart of the group more than the buzzkill. Oh, and Pierce totally realized those robes (which he wore throughout the episode complete with a cookie wand…long story) weren’t really from his “religious group.” He failed the Level 6 test, and he was embarrassed by that, so he went along with the joke.

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