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Community: VCR Maintenance and Educational Publishing Review
When I try and think about the specific parts of Community that stick with me the most, it’s the clever exchanges of lines that open each episode in the study room. This week’s episode opened with a level of fun that I felt like the show hadn’t reached in a long while. VCR Maintenance and Educational Publishing felt like the first episode to fully resurrect the show that once was. While it isn’t one people will remember for years to come, it’s probably my favorite episode of the season.
This week’s episode finally gave us the long awaited Shirley episode with her and the rest of the group forming a Breaking Bad-esque enterprise when they stumble upon a secret stash of abandoned textbooks and attempt to sell them off. Meanwhile Annie and Abed compete in a high stakes Western VCR game to decide who should move into the apartment with them now that Troy is gone. I liked how both sides of the episode felt very valuable. What the Shirley-led plotline lacked in heart, it made up for with fun writing that made just as many nods to shows like Breaking Bad as it did find fun ways to push the study group to turn on one another. It was nice to not only see Shirley finally take center stage but also embrace the Heisenbergian-side of her character hinted at in Repilot. Jonathan Banks’ character also had a blast here and while it was no Geothermal Escapism, it was definitely one of his best episodes yet.
While this side of the story in this week’s episode had the most Breaking Bad references, the other side did take the show’s adoration for Walter White’s meth dealing saga to new levels by featuring the creator of Breaking Bad in what is probably one of the most ridiculous roles that Dan Harmon and co. have ever thought up. It was hilarious to see such an iconic figure in modern TV in such a ridiculous role and the final scene with his wife convincing him that VCR-board games are the future was the icing on the cake.
This episode also heralded the third appearance of Abed’s love interest, Rachel (Brie Larson). While Season 4 made a lot of mistakes, one of the few good additions it made to the overall series mythology was introducing Rachel. (It’s weird to think a show like this has a mythology, but then again we’re talking about a campus that devolves into a dystopian society on a daily basis.) I think they have some chemistry, and while I was definitely a skeptic at first, it’s nice to see another angle to Abed now that Troy is out of the picture. Oh and I think it’s worth throwing a commendation out to Abed for his brilliant third act apology which felt like it was probably the most adorable thing the show has ever done (even counting Season 3’s friendship hats).
It was nice to see some of Annie’s back-story explored with the inclusion of her brother (who ended up being the reverse of everything Annie is.) I also liked the way that the episode tied itself into the implications of Troy’s departure on the relationship between Annie and Abed as flatmates. I think Annie and Abed have become one of my favorite pairings over the last couple of seasons and watching them face off at the incomprehensible VCR board game ‘Pile of Bullets’ was hilarious.
I’ve complained for a few weeks running about the lack of the Dean in this season but his rap was not only one of the highlights of this episode but also one of his best entrances ever. The moment when he realized he’d lost control of his own rapping abilities was absolutely priceless. The episode also made good use of Chang as the patsy who gets set up to take the fall if the group’s textbook-racket gets caught out.
This week’s Community was a fun change for me. It was less about watching and appreciating the ways that the show’s changing and evolving this season and more about just sitting back and enjoying the madness.
If you missed last week’s episode you can check out our review of “App Development and Condiments” here and keep checking the rest of Leviathyn’s Entertainment section for more Community reviews as the season goes on.