'Tell Your Disappointment to Suck It; I'm Doing a Bottle Episode!': Community Recapped

Before recapping what has been universally acknowledged as one of the best episodes of Community in quite some time, just a point of annoyance. Speaking purely as a reader, it bothers me when recappers feel the need to discuss industry terminology like "bottle episode" as if they're in the know. They aren't; they're just watching at home, like you and me. That said, yes: "Cooperative Calligraphy" was a bottle episode. And a funny one!

As with these one-set adventures, the plot was pinhead simple: Spurred on by Annie's missing pen, the group -- reluctantly at first -- locked themselves inside the study hall with the hopes of finding the thieving culprit. Friendships were tested, bonds were strained, and in the end, all seven left closer than they've ever been before. (Well, maybe not closer to Pierce, who has been increasingly dick-y in his interactions with the group.) Abed might hate the messy human emotion that comes with bottle episodes, but that doesn't mean they aren't occasionally necessary. After a season of outlandish stunts, it's nice that Community finally dialed things down to a more personal level.

Of course, that's the trick of Dan Harmon's skill as a showrunner. Everyone is writing today about what a great step forward "Cooperative Calligraphy" was because it focused on character, and yet it was just as much of a stunt as "Epidemiology." Sure, there weren't zombies running loose, but it was still a reference-heavy half-hour of television, stuffed with asides that TV nerds like recappers love. (That Annie's Boobs was responsible for the pen stealing, was inspired; that Chang might have impregnated Shirley during the zombie epidemic that no one remembers was less so.) Hell, even Jeff made mention to the fact that they were in a "bottle episode."

So, why was this half-hour of Community different from all others? Because of unity! There wasn't much more to the development of Jeff, Britta, Annie, Troy, Abed, Pierce and Shirley (at this point, they are who they are: barely two-dimensional tropes and portals for hilarity); there was simple cohesion. If there has been a flaw with Community during season two, it's that too often the cast is isolated from one another. Putting aside the two parody episodes (which were more about the parody than the group, anyway), Community has too often left the group to their own fragmented devices -- Jeff and Troy find a trampoline; Pierce meets old people; Annie and Britta wrestle in hot oil. This divide and conquer strategy has yielded a good deal of laughs, but it hasn't won the war. Community is best when the entire group is batting around their stereotypes together. That's what made "Cooperative Calligraphy" so strong, and hopefully that's what Harmon and his sharp writing team -- this winner was written by Megan Ganz -- have planned for the remainder of the season.

Normally, I end things with a clip, but since the tag this week was nothing but an (adorable) puppy parade, how about my four favorite Troy lines. Donald Glover, you will always be a future Emmy winner to me!

· "I wanna see if those wiener dogs are born that way, or if they start off normal and then grow into a wiener."

· "Sometimes I think I lost something really important to me, and it turns out I already ate it."

· (About George Orwell's 1984) "Do they find thoughts in our butts? I knew I should have read that book!"

· "Have you ever gone to a puppy parade halfway through, Britta? Ah, It is pointless."


  • Martini Shark says:

    Once I realized they were going to center an entire episode on a missing pen I grinned like a fool (only way I know how) and sat back to revel. Loved the way things pinged between every character.

  • Sarah says:

    At this point, for me, Troy can do no wrong. I also loved Abed's sarcastic aside last night. "Can I get you anything? A best friend medal?" Loved this episode!

  • Charles says:

    Christopher obviously loves Community, which is probably why he way, WAY overrated last week's episode. (I thought it was horrid.) But this week he is right on the money with his remarks, particularly the paragraph about unity, cohesion and the cast not being isolated from one another.
    After the last episode, I thought Community had completely lost its way. But last night it came back with not only its best episode of the year, but one that ranks with the best of last season. I couldn't be happier!

  • Christopher Rosen says:

    This is true, Charles: I do love Community. But I like to think I'm (slightly) unbiased. I thought last week's was pretty solid, if only because I did like the trampoline stuff (especially on second viewing). The only truly bad episodes for me this year were the season premiere (castrated the love triangle aspect too fast) and the one where Abed makes his Jesus Movie. That was putrid; I'd rank that the worst episode of the series ever...

  • nex5guy says:

    It seems to me like this whole season has been written by guest writers who have never watched any previous episodes. Last season seemed very cohesive as far as style, and now every week we have a completely different style... sometimes funny, often not. The Britta / Annie wrestling episode was so poor I though it had been written by a network executive's kid. Suddenly Annie bouncing her boobs around like Kelly Bundy all the time? Where did that come from? Completely out of sync with the previous season. I love community, but this season has been a train-wreck overall.

  • kendra says:

    I dislike how you bailed on your originally good opinion of epidemiology (assuming it was you who did its recap).
    The episode did-too have character development! Troy evolved. Majorly. He had all sorts of discoveries and such
    Last weeks didnt work at all for me.
    Havent actually seen this one yet... but im excited for it!

  • I don't think I bailed on that one -- I just think as the weeks have gone on, it hasn't remained as strong in my memory as I would have liked. For instance, I still think about the Rob Corddry episode and laugh; not so much with "Epidemiology." It was very good, just might have been overkill coming on the heels of the space episode.