'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."