‘Community’ Recap: “Urban Matrimony and Sandwich Arts”
It's been a long hiatus for fans of 'Community.' With its future hazy and ill-defined, it seemed like we might never enter the hallowed halls of Greendale Community College again. But 'Community' has returned, and it's brought its A-game in the form of a unifying wedding storyline that allows all of its characters to interact with each other in ways that are effective both comedically and narratively.
Following the death of his father, Pierce is now running his company and looking for new business opportunities. Conveniently, space in the Greendale cafeteria has opened up, and Britta suggests that Shirley -- a skilled cook -- and Pierce team up to open a cafe, allowing Shirley to accomplish her goal of starting a business.
There's only one problem: Shirley's husband Andre (Malcolm Jamal Warner) surprises her with a proposal for a second wedding, which gives her the best excuse to dodge that pesky life goal.
Britta loathes the idea of weddings, comparing them to tea parties where "the women are stuffed animals, the men make them talk, and instead of drinking tea everyone is drinking antiquated gender roles." Naturally Britta starts pushing Shirley to go into business with Pierce (whose idea for a chair that pops out of your trousers doesn't end so well), while she takes over wedding planner duties with the adorably wedding-obsessed Annie.
Meanwhile, Troy and Abed are trying to get all their weird out before the wedding so they aren't tempted to do anything abnormal. This involves locking themselves in their house and doing things we never get to see, which is sort of brilliant. There's really nothing the showrunners could have done that would have been "out there" enough for this epic de-weirding session.
Pierce reveals a softer side when he tells Shirley that he really needs the business venture because he was fired from his father's company, so Shirley takes all her business knowledge and they throw a plan together. It's refreshing to see Pierce and Shirley working together; Pierce is always more interesting, I think, when he isn't being downright despicable. He's slow-witted and a total goof, and it's enough to have his character be sort of inherently ignorant and unintentionally offensive, rather than outright cruel. All of the plots with the group turning on Pierce have worn out their welcome; giving him something to do with Shirley -- someone he's alienated the most -- allows him to be simply funny and kind of sweet, even. Bonus: the scene where he's looking for a pen and wads of money fall out of his pocket is instantly classic.
But where does Jeff factor in to this episode? He's nervous about giving a speech at Shirley's wedding rehearsal, so Annie tells him to search his heart to see what he's so afraid of. In Jeff's heart? Dogs, Annie's boobs, and whiskey.
As it turns out, Britta is actually quite good at wedding planning, which she chalks up to "coming from a long line of wives of mothers." Troy and Abed succeed in "de-whimsifying, " and Jeff actually shows up. Unfortunately, his planned speech begins with, "Webster's Dictionary defines..." and Annie stops him cold, explaining, "That's the Jim Belushi of speech openings. It accomplishes nothing, but everyone keeps using it and nobody understands why." Bingo.
Shirley is late to her own wedding rehearsal, but at least she's impressed the Dean with her business plan and all systems are go... Until she shows up to the rehearsal and Andre reveals a distasteful alpha male attitude, effectively bringing the rehearsal to a halt, until Jeff drunkenly gets up and reveals the real reason he's been so nervous: his dad left his mom. Britt drunkenly laments her destiny to become a wife and how she's naturally good at it.
The drunken shenanigans bring Andre and Shirley back together just in time to save Britta and Jeff from marrying each other. In the end, Shirley's dream is crushed when the Dean decides to give the empty space in the cafeteria to Subway.
The entire episode relies on simple narrative structure and, like Troy and Abed, de-whimsifies itself for the sake of a little normalcy. It's the perfect episode to herald the show's return, where new viewers might tune in for the first time and would otherwise be alienated by some of the more high concept stuff. The stinger at the end is even a nod to classical comedy, like much of the episode, which does what 'Community' does best by taking simple sitcom tropes and elevating them to something more clever, yet still aware of its genesis.
Welcome back, Greendale Humans!