Jeff: I’m saying you’re a football player! It’s in your blood.
Troy: That’s racist.
Jeff: Your soul?
Troy: That’s racist.
Jeff: Your eyes.
Troy: That’s gay?
Jeff: That’s homophobic.
Troy: That’s black.
Jeff: That’s racist!
Sorry about that unscheduled hiatus (although these are Community reviews so really I don’t know what else you were expecting). I forgot about how there’s nothing really spectacular in these early episodes; they’re still good, of course, and there’s still plenty that they introduce to build on in later episodes, but Greendale isn’t quite the bizarro world it has the potential to become. In other words, although this episode aired sixth, it was third in the production order and damn does that show.
To get the bad out of the way, I really wasn’t feeling the Shirley/Britta plot this episode. The problem with trying to riff on the stand-up staple of “man, what’s up with women and peeing together?” is that you have to actually riff on it. This plot didn’t exaggerate the premise enough to make a point or do anything new or different with it; Jeff observes that the trope comes right out of bad comedy clubs, but that’s also pretty much where this plotline ends. See, Shirley is shocked – SHOCKED! – that Britta apparently didn’t read the page about group bathroom etiquette in that manual that comes with a vagina. So Britta first rejects Shirley’s invitation to join her at the whiz palace, and then, when she does go, does it incorrectly by pointing out how bullshit Shirley’s bullshit story is (perhaps I’m also the worst, but I’d much rather prefer to have the conversation Britta thought they were having than the self-indulgently dull one Shirley thought they were having). So while I’m totally on board with working on developing Britta and Shirley’s relationship, and while this plot does give us Gillian Jacob’s immortal “I’ve peed alone my whole life!”, it’s also weirdly comfortable with its hokey gender roles in a way that comes off a bit lazy.
And that’s a problem with this whole episode; Annie starts out the day being called Yoko Ono by the Dean, and finishes by, well, pretty much doing that. In her attempts to keep Troy off the football team so they can keep studying astronomy and fall in love, she’s set up in this rather unpleasant position of being the female force attempting to prevent the man from reaching his potential or even just doing what he wants. She is, to be brief about it, the “ho” who wishes to insinuate herself before the “bro.” And the thing is, I wouldn’t even have a problem with this plot if it weren’t so bizarrely gendered – one character sabotaging another character so the second character won’t become too cool to hang out is a fine plot, and could have been perfectly enjoyable. But both the Dean and Jeff make it into “boys club versus the female intruder” thing, (Jeff: “She’s a smart girl, but…”) and I don’t think this storyline was sophisticated enough to be making a point about the exaggerated hypermasculinity of football. And then Annie’s resolution, when she realizes that if you love something, set it free, is sort of swallowed into the less-than-stellar Britta/Shirley plot, which discounts Annie’s emotions and has the unlikely effect of making all three of them look ridiculous.
Now, there is a nice contrast set up here in the way Annie and Jeff fight over Troy; both of them bring a sort of manic determination to the mission (hell, when he’s revving up his speech on the football field, Jeff even brings his own theme music), but they do so for very different reasons. See, while Annie is playing out her YA romance, Jeff is in the completely different genre of professional ambition, which is why he’s so disproportionately harsh to her when they inevitably clash. As Jeff points out on the football field with Troy, ruthless lawyering is pretty much his only thing (though there’s a nice irony to his claim that he’s “locked out of his old kingdom” during his demonstration that his talents are still being used), so that’s immediately how he assumes he needs to deal with other people. I mean, Jeff convincing Troy to join the football team (after the Dean accidentally blackmails him into cooperating) is beautiful stuff, from the way he matter-of-factly tears down an “I’m Jeff and I’m a Student at Greendale” poster, to the way he quickly turns Troy around so he doesn’t see the tragic conclusion to 85’s catch, to the way he assures Troy that the school will absolutely at some point have a scoreboard. Because what this plot is about is Jeff learning that he doesn’t have to be a lawyer, that he can still use his talents to establish a new “kingdom” – but that he doesn’t have to do so all the time, and that maybe he shouldn’t be making eighteen year old girls cry. And hey, props to Annie for emerging from a bush, it’s not just for breakfast cereals any more.
– So for a plot that’s ostensibly all about Troy, it’s not really that much about Troy, is it? But I do think it’s interesting how he’s already becoming less of an asshole and more of a sweet fool at the beginning of the episode (Troy: “I used a memory technique. Dwarves hate being called midgets, and midgets are small.”). The contrast between this and his politically conservative high school’s shamefully outdated fight rap gives a neat explanation for the way they played into Donald Glover’s strengths – basically, high school Troy was a dick, but the same lack of pressure that comes with playing football for Greendale also applies to having to be someone he’s not.
– Good lord, the Human Being (TM) just chews up and spits out the uncanny valley, doesn’t it? I loved how this episode was just rolling along, and every once in awhile Pierce and the Dean would pop up from the background where they were being horrifically oblivious to their own inability to look past racist caricatures. Really, once the Dean pointed out that “Grizzlies” was a bad mascot because “a lot of these students have been called animals their whole lives,” you knew his misplaced empathy was going to send him and everyone around him to a dark place. On an in no way related note, do you think Chevy Chase is sick of being in the C-plot yet?
– So, Jeff being so worried about everyone hearing about his disbarment is a little weird, right? I mean, if Michael Jordan gets fired because it turns out that he’s actually a chess player, that’s not the kind of thing that’s really going to stay on the down low.
– THIS WEEK IN “JOKES THAT WILL PAY OFF THREE YEARS FROM NOW”: Troy: “That guy looks like Moby!”
– Abed’s laying low this week.
– “You still know what to think.” “Oh, good.”
– Jim Rash just gets the perfect note of disappointment after touching Jeff’s hair. “Oh, it’s crispy.”
– THIS WEEK IN TAGS: Troy and Abed stage a hostile takeover of the PA system, only to be met with security guard bizzaro versions of themselves.