‘Community’ Recap Week Four: “Alternative History Of The German Invasion”

Co-written by Ben Branstetter and Nathan Savin Scott.
Community
Community

Nate: Ben, another week, another so-so Community episode. This one wasn’t one I’ll tell my kids about, but I got a couple chuckles, so I think it fits right in with every other episode this season.

The episode found our gang pushed out of History of Ice Cream (“It’s as informative as it is delicious!”) and forced to enroll in a real history class, taught by Malcolm McDowell, the genial British actor you’ve seen in everything. He tells them that history is recorded by the victors, and asks them to imagine a world where the losers got to write the history. That’s right. Community is getting Howard Zinn all over everybody’s asses.

Ben: Indeed. AP History burn. Along with actually attending a course, the gang reunited with the uber-annoying German bros from “Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism” only to engage in a brief war for the study room. I agree with this episode’s mediocre nature. The repartee with the Germans was top-notch (via Troy’s “Did someone just change the channel to USA? because I just watched a Burn Notice.”) As the war escalates, we get to enjoy the complete incompetence of Greendale as institution, which is always a treat. However, the episode feels very empty. The anger the group feels comes off as genuine and I’m glad the rest of the school finally voiced their anger at these study-room hoggers (I especially loved the callbacks to “Cooperative Calligraphy” and “Advanced Dungeons and Dragons”). However, it seems celebrating its past is all this show has left to do. While smartly written and whip-quick humor, it’s hard to see this new story really entering the canon. Nate?

Nate: It’s a bad sign that we are able to completely summarize this episode in one sentence. Well, one sentence and one fragment. Germans battle gang for the study room, gang realizes THEY’RE the Nazis in this school geopolitical hierarchy, gang makes amends. Subplot with Chang. Honestly, the most I laughed during the episode was watching the group try and wake up earlier and earlier to reserve the study room. Watching Chevy Chase try to adjust his eyes to the 6 AM light was the funniest moment of the episode, and I’m not sure it was scripted.

Ben: ”OK, crew. Pretend you woke up early.”

Nate: I think the saddest part of the episode was that I imagine the showrunners thought that comparing Jeff to Hitler might be edgy, and I couldn’t even get up enough ire to shrug at it. (Though it was funny that Pierce was pissed he didn’t get to be the Hitler.) Also, when has Community ever done the closing-montage with music playing, showing the gang learning a lesson? I felt like I switched over to Grey’s Anatomy for a minute.

Ben: I actually had hope for this episode up until the ending. More than anything else it reminded me of their Law & Order spoof from last season, “Basic Lupine Urology”. Full of fantastic jokes and gags but with little character development; why, exactly, did it matter that Abed and Carl (one of the fascistic Germans) knew each other? One would hope the show plans on expanding Abed’s world, but this felt like a panel idea that eventually went nowhere. And whereas “Lupine Urology” had a fantastic twist ending, this episode felt somewhere between Full House and M. Night Shyamalan (“it turns out we were the Nazis the whole time!”).

Nate: Don’t bring M. Night into this. He’s suffered enough.

Ben: Rewatch The Last Airbender and tell me if you still feel that way. And does Community need another war-spoof episode? Three paintball episodes, “Pillows And Blankets”. And what about Chang?

Nate: I don’t mind another war-spoof episode, as long as they do something with it. What I originally loved about Community was the way that the writers would create a world and then DIVE into it, you know? It reminded me of Calvin and Hobbes in the way that reality would cease in those episodes, and an entirely new reality would be created.

Ben: A state of mind the writers addressed directly when Abed and Troy dressed up as Calvin and Hobbes for this season’s “Valloween” episode.

Nate: This season has now wasted two fantastic premises — The Hunger Games and a WWII recreation — by introducing them and dismissing them just as quickly. This might be simply for economic reasons. Creating a new world means creating new sets. The show runners may have come on with the promise to run a tighter ship, and simpler story lines might be a byproduct of doing business. (On the plus side, no more Claymation.)

As for Chang, ugh. Who knows. We lamented the show wasting the characters of Shirley and Pierce, but Ken Jeong should press charges against them for how little he’s been given to do this season. The man is too good to spend half an episode picking apart a stuffed Dalmatian.

Ben: And here’s where I’ll disagree with you. Chang has always been my least favorite character; the only times Jeong has gotten a laugh out of me he was either kidnapping children or crawling out of ventilation systems. I was desperately hoping he was done after his climactic ending last season, but he’s back with his obnoxiously cartoonish ways. The central conceit of Community has always been “this is a TV show about real people who behave like TV characters and a real environment which feels like a TV show.” It’s about the expected reality against the reality we fictionalize, and Chang fits nowhere in there simply because he doesn’t feel like a real person.

Overall, this episode garners a C+ from me. As we’ve seen throughout this season, the best asset of the show is the ensemble cast which can turn lead into gold. As previously stated, the jokes ruled the night even while the plot stuttered and jerked to an immensely predictable ending.

Nate: D from me. See you next week, when there’s a special Thanksgiving episode, “Cooperative Escapism In Familial Relations,” when Jeff finally meets his father (James Brolin). We’ve been waiting for this! Also, Thanksgiving in March is my favorite kind of Thanksgiving! In the meantime, Chang and I will be chilling, kidnapping some kids and hanging out in ventilation systems. TC mark

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