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‘Community’ Review: “Cooperative Polygraphy”

Community Cooperative Polygraphy
NBC

On tonight’s new episode of ‘Community,’ Pierce’s will is being read, but before any of the study group members can partake in the goodies being offered, they must all participate in a lie detector test. That’s right: Pierce is still putting them through the ringer, even in the afterlife. Walton Goggins (‘Justified‘) guest stars on tonight’s episode, titled “Cooperative Polygraphy,” and it looks like we have the first great episode of the season.

The first two episodes of season 4 brought back all the qualities of ‘Community’ that we love while maintaining equal parts humor and heart, and last week Dan Harmon revived the theme episode with a wonderful homage to David Fincher, but this week’s episode is truly our first great episode of the season. The script just pops and never once loses momentum, from the moment Troy and Abed open with “Troy and Abed are in mourning!” as the group convene following Pierce’s funeral — which is suitably outlandish, with Pierce’s life force contained in some sort of tube.

From there we meet Walton Goggins’ Mr. Stone, there to administer a group lie detector test before anyone can receive the benefits of Pierce’s last will and testament. Of course the whole thing seems like one last scheme to pit the members of the group against one another, revealing harmful truths like how Abed has installed GPS systems to follow each of them, or how Annie has been overcharging Troy and Abed on their rent. It’s not necessarily that the revelations are that funny, but that the little asides around them are hilarious, like Abed telling Jeff to stop rating ‘The Grey’ four stars on Netflix to send Liam Neeson a message about the roles he’s taking — that and Shirley’s aside to Annie about her self-antisemitism were probably my favorite jokes of the night.

Beginning to end, tonight’s episode is on fire, with joke after joke hitting beautifully and every actor bouncing off of each other with perfect timing. It’s not just a jokey episode: yes, of course we know the whole point is for Pierce to turn these guys on each other one last time for his amusement, even if he isn’t there to witness it. But his real point is to break them down and annoy the crap out of them, and when they least expect it, do something good. See, that’s what Pierce was all about. He could be a really annoying, horrible jerk, but ultimately, deep down, he was a good guy. So in the end he’s got nothing but admiration for these people who spent their time dealing with him. He leaves a time share to Shirley, that tiara to Annie (a lovely callback), an iPod with optimistic music for Britta, a fine Scotch for Jeff, and tubes of sperm for everyone because it’s Pierce, so what else would he do. And for Troy, he leaves the remaining shares of his company, valued at over $14 million dollars, if Troy promises to sail his boat around the world over the course of the next year, giving Troy the chance to become his own man and figure out what he’ll do with that fortune — and take the opportunity that Pierce squandered.

I also loved the tag with Goggins’ Mr. Stone, who finally loosens up with the gang at a bar, telling them all about his idea for a script about a lie detector administrator and demanding they all do shots. I really wish we could spend more time with his character — what an awesome guest star.

It’s a sweet ending for Pierce, and a nice segue for Donald Glover’s exit, though we’re already getting hints of conflict with Abed that I suppose we’ll see resolved in the coming episodes. I’m sad that Glover is leaving, but I can’t wait to see how they send off the Troy and Abed friendship, which has remained one of the most wonderful parts of ‘Community’ over the years.

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