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‘Community’ Review: “Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality”

Community Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality
NBC

Community‘ finally returns tonight from its Winter Olympics interruption with an all-new episode! In “Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality,” Professor Duncan sets his sights on Britta by inviting her to a charity event, while Chang has a possible ghost encounter. Meanwhile, Abed accidentally ruins some of Professor Hickey’s drawings and the pair square off. 

Tonight’s episode hits a bit heavy on the drama on its way to getting its characters to bond: Jeff and Duncan, Abed and Hickey, and Britta with herself. And then there’s Chang’s hilarious encounter with ghosts, which helps keep things lively throughout — thank goodness. The episode also suffers from a lack of the dean, which isn’t as apparent until the end credits sequence.

It’s not a bad episode — far from it. It just takes a heavier tone than previous weeks, and I do wonder if this episode was meant to air before the previous one (is Brie Larson coming back? Is this thing on?), particularly due to Abed’s focus on Troy’s absence. Tonight Abed dresses up as Kick-Puncher to head to a repertory screening, and on his way out he accidentally sprays foam from his costume all over Hickey’s duck drawings, causing a fair amount of friction between the two. In an effort to teach Abed a lesson, and since everyone tends to put up with his endearing shenanigans, Hickey handcuffs him to a filing cabinet, and the pair spend most of the remainder of the episode bickering. If anything, it feels like a continual attempt to pair Hickey off with different characters so we can learn more about him and see how he reacts. But they do get a sweet ending, and I like the idea of Abed using Hickey’s cop knowledge and depth of character to help him with his script writing.

Then there’s Duncan, who persuades Britta to attend a charity event in the hopes of hitting on her — the only problem is that she runs into some old friends from her anarchist days, and they’ve all grown up and become responsible, successful adults. Britta’s story, while not the most entertaining, is definitely the most relatable and compelling of the episode. It’s easy to measure your worth by the success of the people around you, but that also makes it easy to get sucked into a vortex of self-loathing. So Britta winds up having something of an existential crisis, unsure that she’s taken the right path in life or accomplished anything she should have by now, but Duncan puts his selfish desires aside to tell her that she is worth something, regardless of what others have or have accomplished, and takes her home to learn how to appreciate herself. Too cute. (There’s also a bit of nonsense with Jeff’s feelings for Britta getting stirred up again, but the less said about this, the better.)

The most entertaining portion of the episode comes courtesy of Chang, who gets in a fight with his ex over the phone and walks into a small auditorium at the charity event, and winds up putting on a one-man show … only to discover that apparently everyone in that theater died in 1997? I really love how Dan Harmon and Co. have rehabilitated Chang, who wore out his welcome and became an utter nuisance last season — he’s now become someone I look forward to laughing at again every week. Between this week’s episode and the previous episode, he’s provided some of the best material.

Overall, not an entirely strong episode, but it nails a sweet ending. Hopefully we’ll get more laughs in the weeks to come as ‘Community’ emerges from this post-Olympics slumber.

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