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Community: App Development and Condiments Review

This week’s episode of Community was a very interesting one. It was the first to break from the recent season’s pattern of recreating the successes of previous episodes in the series and while the took on some more ambitious ideas than Community usually does, it didn’t end up succeeding or failing in any spectacular fashion. “App Development and Condiments” stood on its own as a weird hybrid of the series usual set-destroying shenanigans and a commentary on the way people obsess over social networking apps.

The central thread of the episode followed the introduction of a social networking app called MeowMeowBeenz that uses Greendale as a beta testing ground. It isn’t long before the school has completely fallen apart (to the surprise of literally no-one) with the students clinging to the MeowMeowBeenz app and the social clout it brings. The school becomes divided with Level Fives living in luxury whilst Level One’s and Two’s are social outcasts. It’s a good bit of fun but on some level, it’s hard to get too excited watching Greendale’s social order crumble given how many times it has already happened in this show.Community s05e08 sc2

Given last week’s remarks from Shirley about not really having much attention this season, it wasn’t too surprising that this episode centered on her and in particular the her and Jeff’s relationship. The episode did use a few storytelling cheats here and there but I did like the way it confronted the manipulative side of Shirley’s character. Although this is one of the many Jeff & Shirley centered episodes of the show, it did stand out as one that went slightly further than the others due to it being one of the more conceptual episodes of the series.

While most of Community’s more conceptual episodes tend to go off the rails pretty quickly, “App Development and Condiments” took its time with the earlier part of the episode exploring a Greendale slowly succumbing to the hooks of the addictive social networking app. It was fascinating to watch the social structures of the app supplant the existing ones of “cool people get more.” I also like how the satirical side of the episode played when it came to Jeff’s attempts to become popular and Britta’s outrage at the idea of a social system where the opinion of popular people is more valuable than that of the less liked. It was also fun to see the reactions of each group member towards the implementation, from Jeff’s and Hickey’s skepticism, Britta’s outrage and Abed’s delight at the college social experience being distilled into pure mathematics.Community s05e08 sc1Speaking of Abed, I thought one of the episode’s strengths was changing up the way his character usually functions in these zanier episodes by making everyone else in the show speak a language he can understand – cold, mechanical numbers. It was a shame we didn’t see his plotline cross paths with anyone else. Particularly since it was yet another episode with very little happening with the Dean (although that line about Ones being garbage was pretty good).

I thought the weird subplot of Britta finally realising her anarchist dreams was actually one of the episodes stronger elements, with things beginning slowly with a few snide remarks from Jeff and Annie and later developing (as Community is wont to do) into a full blown revolution. Britta’s anarchism streak is often the butt of the joke in the show and it was fun to see Britta actually succeed at bringing down the reign of the Level Five regime using her mustard powers (“Long live the review-lution!”).

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Like many of Community’s conceptual episodes there were a lot of references and allusions to other works, from The Hunger Games to The Social Network. In fact, looking online I wasn’t surprised to find other people comparing the episode to the “Fifteen Million Merits” episode of Charlie Brooker’s superb British science fiction anthology series Black Mirror. Lastly, it would be impossible to talk about this episode without touching on Koogler. Guest star Mitch Hurwitz does a great job as the never before seen but much beloved Koogler and the fake movie trailer that closed out the episode was a fantastic touch.

If you missed last week’s episode you can check out our review of “Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality” here and keep checking the rest of Leviathyn’s entertainment section for more Community reviews as the season goes on.