Last week’s episode of the fifth season of Community saw the loss of Troy Barnes, a series regular since the first episode. Donald Glover will be missed, as he lent emotion and honesty to a role that in worse hands might have been summed up as, “Look at how dumb this guy is!” Whether the writers will choose to dwell on the loss, suffer from it, or move forward is illuminated in this episode.
Immediately we learn that Chang is more or less officially admitted into the group, at least in equal capacity to Ian Duncan and Buzz Hickey. The Save Greendale Committee discusses projects that will make Greendale suck less, and in doing so invokes a conversation about obvious Game of Thrones reference Bloodlines of Conquest. What follows is a conversation that anyone who has had to talk to Game of Thrones fans has heard: someone makes a claim about it being great, someone else complains about spoilers, and no sane person gives a damn. After Abed spoils something for the two-seasons-behind Britta, she threatens to read all the books and spoil it for him. He claims that would be “insane.”
Meanwhile, Annie assigns jobs: Britta and Abed are to update the student census; Annie, Jeff, Shirley, Chang, and Duncan will decorate for the Mid-Term Dance; and Hickey is given the “easy” task of rehanging the bulletin board. Everyone attempts to make progress, but to little avail. Buzz won’t handle the janitorial bureaucracy, Abed wears headphones to block out Britta’s spoilers (with a wonderful reference to the one-episode-romance of one of last season’s only fun episodes, “Herstory of Dance”), and the dance decorating group is left without Annie as she attempts to assist Buzz in getting the work-order in. Unfortunately, the janitors inform her that it will take a few months, so she’s told to find a custodian, which is different from a janitor.
Luckily, the custodian they need to talk to, Bob, is played by Nathan Goddamn Fillion. While that doesn’t make much sense, considering Chang said he loves Nathan Fillion in the previous episode, which one might think would bar him as a character, I’m willing to let it go. Bob says he’ll hang up the board if Annie and Buzz unblock their sites, i.e. pornography, so they go to IT. Meanwhile, Abed is learning sign-language to communicate with a young deaf woman, and the dance decorating folks attempt to make the cafeteria not look like a cafeteria. Everyone dismisses Chang’s dumb theme, “Bear down for mid-terms,” but his tears and proclamation that people dismiss him for past actions change their tone.
Annie manages to convince the IT lady to unblock sites for the custodial worker, as long as they do a favor for her. Buzz opines about the politics of getting basics accomplished via favors. So, they go to the parking guy, played by Robert Patrick, who wants control over the boards in order to remove Car Pool notices, making parking scarce and him more powerful. Buzz is pissed, but Annie is fine as long as the job is accomplished. In the cafeteria, Neil alerts the group that the bear idea is offensive considering a recent news event involving bear-sourced child mauling. Chang then remembers that the news is where he subconsciously got the idea. Whoops.
The Dean praises Annie’s ability to get the job done. Buzz, however, chastises her for abandoning her idealism and—contrary to the goals of the Save Greendale Committee—making the school a slightly “darker” place. Whoops. Following the other whoops, Jeff, Chang, Duncan, and Shirley emergency-change the decorations to Fat Dogs; when Annie expresses confusion, everyone pulls the crying game and makes her feel bad.
At the dance itself, Abed and his new friend flirt, but she spoils Bloodlines of Conquest via sign language to earn some cash from Britta. Abed, though, is distraught, as he actually liked her. Luckily, he runs back into Rachel (Brie Larson) from last season, and—while apologizing for never calling her since their one-episode thing last season—asks her out to dinner. Character growth! Continuity! Woah! What a fresh turn of events!
On top of all this, we learn Annie did not do all the favors, and Buzz decides to say “bollocks” to the work-order and put up the board himself. Resolution is always nice, and the character growth’s extension into each arc is a refreshing turn-around. Truth be told, this is a great episode, and it shows Troy’s absence might not be detrimental to the series’ humor and pacing. In fact, the writers seem to be focusing more on each individual character and returning to plot lines that were left sadly forgotten. And, again, I cannot express my happiness enough that this isn’t a theme episode. Character-driven, normal stories are great, and while special episodes can work, they only work when they’re sparse. Good on you, Community people. Good on you.