‘Community’ Review: “Digital Exploration of Interior Design”
This week 'Community' sees the delightful return of John Goodman as Laybourne, and he wants you all to know he's going through some stuff right now, but more importantly -- he wants to destroy Troy and Abed's friendship, and he'll do so with pillows and blankets.
At the end of last week's episode we saw the inkling of a possible growing rift between Troy and Abed; Troy was growing tired of Abed's immature preoccupations and his inability or unwillingness to recognize the rescue he received from his friends as an indicator that he should change.
This week the two decide to build a pillow fort, and Dean smells the perfect opportunity to bring attention to the school by having the pair build a record breaking pillow or blanket fort. Abed is intent on building the pillow fort, but Troy recognizes that a blanket fort (something they did in the season two episode, "Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design") of that scale would be easier to accomplish. Abed thinks that just because something is easier, doesn't make it better, and tells Troy he can build a blanket fort if he wants, but it won't be integrated with the pillow fort.
Enter Laybourne. Sensing an opening to get Troy to enroll in his air conditioning repair school, he nurtures the conflict by comparing Troy and Abed to Inspector Spacetime and his sidekick Reggie.
The Inspector is, as Laybourne says, a selfish nerd type, and Reggie is just a lackey with cool abilities who only gets to use them with the Inspector says it's okay. This gives Troy the notion that Abed doesn't respect his capability or his ideas, so he sets about to create the biggest blanket fort he can without Abed's help.
Conflict between Troy and Abed has proven compelling two weeks in a row now, and it's a smart move by Dan Harmon and Co. to take the only two characters who seemingly never have issues with each other and explore the cracks in their relationship. It's a beautiful friendship, but like any friendship (or relationship), there are bound to be conflicts and bumps in the road.
Instead of exploring this with rote, petty squabbling over girls or masculine competitiveness like other TV shows, 'Community' takes a clever approach by using Troy and Abed's whimsical commonality to create conflict that breeds character growth while still allowing breathing room for the exceptional humor we've come to love. And again, this week finds the heart, too, like the moment when Abed tells Troy he can build his blanket fort, but he better keep it away from the blanket fort. There's a sinking look on Troy's face, and this moment is such a testament to Donald Glover's ability as an actor because it's a small, but stirring emotional moment in an incredibly absurd atmosphere.
Meanwhile, a new Subway sandwich shop has opened in the space where Shirley and Pierce were going to open their own sandwich shop. Pierce discovers a bylaw that states that any establishment on premises must be at least 50% owned by a student, which is when the Subway corporation sends in an Aryan dreamboat named Subway to enroll as a student and represent the corporation's interests. Shirley and Pierce enlist the liberal Britta to undermine the operation and gather some dirt on Subway from the Subway guy, but they end up becoming enamored with one another.
Pierce continues to be endearingly goofy as he works alongside Shirley this week in another fresh development that seems to break from the show's previous redundancy. The characters had become so settled in their types, and while those types were new and engaging and fresh when the show began, they inevitably became familiar. It's not necessarily bad, but it's good to see Dan Harmon and his writers can still find ways to mix it up.
Jeff discovers that the school has lockers (something he never noticed) and in his he finds an angry note from someone he jaded named Kim. The egotistical Jeff doesn't recall this Kim person, so Annie proposes they do a little digging, only to find out at Kim's locker that she passed away. Annie suggest that instead of apologizing to Kim, he can apologize to her locker.
It's a sweet, minor story sandwiched (see what I did there) between the two main plots, that finds Annie and Jeff interacting the way they do best, with Annie trying to mine some sensitivity from Jeff, and Jeff attempting to be a better person -- though he never really learns anything, does he?
The Jeff/Annie and Britta/Pierce/Shirley plots are successfully comedic, providing the perfect beams of support to the main plot between Troy and Abed, which ends with an epic face-off between the pillow fort people and the blanket fort people, featuring all the minor characters rallying around either side in a scene that feels positively Springfieldian. The only other show to have such rich minor characters is 'The Simpsons,' and characters like Starburns, Leonard, and Magnitude are all reminiscent of that patchwork.
"Digital Exploration of Interior Design" ends with a cliffhanger as Abed and Troy and their teams retreat into their respective forts, and Laybourne (he's going through a lot right now, you guys) watches from afar.
One last note: Donald Glover's 'Mystery Team' co-star and Derrick Comedy companion DC Pierson makes a cameo as a member of the blanket fort team. The episode also reunites Pierson and Glover with their 'Mystery Team' director Dan Eckman.
Notable and Quotable:
Pierce: "And the deadliest weapon of them all: the penis fly trap."
Leonard: "I was going to invest in IBM in 1952, but life is full of disappointments." Bless you, Leonard, you pizza-loving weirdo.
Bonus appearance from Magnitude: "Pop pop, Captain."
Britta had a column in her school paper called "Britta Unfiltered." Can this be a reality, please?