After last week’s darker conceptual episode (due to the documentary style and the subject of Trobed*’s rift in their friendship), this week’s “Origins of Vampire Mythology” was a welcome change in tone and scope. The story focused solely on the study group members (with some brief appearances by Chang and the ever-present Dean), and while there were a few different subplots, they all connected to the central story of the group (with the exception of Pierce, but I’ll get to that).
*In this episode, like most, Troy and Abed often function as one unit, so for the sake of brevity and because they are awesome together, I will hereby refer to them by their fan name Trobed.
Britta’s Addiction to Blade (the Person)
The main event of the episode is the arrival of a carnival at Greendale, which causes Britta to confess she has an ex-boyfriend named Blade at the carnival who is her “Andre,” meaning he is someone she just “can’t shake from her system,” even if he’s no good. After the others share a good laugh about Britta’s ex’s ridiculous name, Britta decides she needs to go into lockdown, giving Annie her phone, staying at her shared apartment with Trobed and instructing Annie to treat her like a drug addict who cannot be trusted.
Meanwhile, Jeff is intrigued by the idea of men having an addictive effect on women, pondering, “I wonder how many women I’ve affected this way.” This results in one of the best moments of the episode when Britta laughs naturally at his comment, causing Jeff to fake-laugh insecurely, which causes Annie to fake-laugh guiltily. This is one of the great things about Community: from three actors laughing, you can dissect the underlying relational dynamics, which are so splendidly entangled.
With that, there are three unlikely pairings that ensue (something we always look forward to on Community):
1. Annie and Britta
Though Annie and Britta are usually at opposite ends with Jeff in the middle, the two girls share something resembling friendship in this episode when Annie is put in the rare position of looking out for Britta’s well being. Gullible Annie proves to be tougher than she looks when she catches Britta in multiple lies and replaces Blade’s number with her own to keep tabs on Britta. When Annie finally replies as Blade to Britta’s incessant texting, Britta is inspired to call, giving Annie no choice but to answer and emit a hilariously strange guttural noise as she pretends to be Blade (I think this might be Annie’s episode — her mannerisms are pitch-perfect).
Eventually Troy educates Annie on Britta: she only likes guys who are mean to her because she doesn’t like herself. To end the struggle, he sends Britta a nice text as Blade and immediately Britta emerges from the bedroom, seemingly cured from her addiction. But when Britta calls Blade “a loser,” a hurt Troy excuses himself for bed (or perhaps it’s Troy’s episode — his subtle facial expressions are impressively moving).
2. Jeff and Shirley
Meanwhile, Jeff gets Shirley to come along with him to the carnival so he can check out Blade and why he is such an unstoppable draw for Britta. Blade is revealed to be guest star Kirk Fox (“Sewage Joe” from Parks and Recreation), who seems like a fairly average guy (Shirley: “he’s not as good-looking as you”; Jeff: “he’s a dirtball”). But Jeff must satiate his curiosity, so he spends $300 playing Blade’s BB gun duck gallery in order to draw out more information. After five stuffed animal prizes and repeated probing about carpentry skills and knowledge of aquariums, he’s got nothing and is ready to give up. But at the last second Blade surrenders his secret (revealed later on).
3. Pierce and Chang
When Pierce realizes he doesn’t have a best friend within the group, he seeks outside sources, landing on Chang (“He could do plenty better than me, but I was the first one to say yes”). The two spend the night at the carnival together affectionately eating cotton candy, but out of nowhere Chang throws a fit and abandons Pierce, leaving him alone on a bench with melancholy music playing in the background. I’m not sure why this subplot was written, as it wasn’t very funny (the satirical montages fell a bit flat) and it seemed like they just didn’t know what to do with Pierce, and this wasn’t the first time. (Also, this seems to have an uncomfortable parallel with Chevy Chase’s recent conflict with Dan Harmon and his disgruntled place on the show).
The Resolution: Jeff’s Speech
Although Community is sometimes criticized for using Jeff’s end-of-the-episode inspiring speeches as an easy device to tie up each plot’s messy issues, I thought the way this episode came together was fitting and effective. Right after Annie blows up at Britta for rejecting Troy’s nice text, Jeff arrives with Blade’s secret: brain damage. The easy-going dude had a loose bolt lodged into his skull in a carnival accident, preventing him from feeling shame.
Jeff uses this revelation to arrive at a self-actualizing moment: they should stop seeking other people to ease their self-hatred (like Britta does) and simply stop hating themselves (like Blade). This has been an ongoing theme for the group, particularly for Jeff and Britta, and after Jeff’s speech, they all sit down to watch Blade (the movie). When Britta rereads Troy’s nice message on her phone, she eyes Annie, who confirms with a nod that it was from Troy. The two girls smile at each other. Then Jeff and Annie share a look and smile at each other. It’s such a sentimental moment, but somehow it doesn’t seem forced or out of place.
Last Random Thoughts:
- Community has never been about romance, and I doubt they will ever have two of the characters actually date (none of them are mature enough for that kind of undertaking), but I like how it seems Annie and Jeff have developed this affectionate bond (though Annie is clearly infatuated with Jeff, as evident from her face during Jeff’s mid-afternoon wardrobe adjustment). I also like how they drop these Troy-and-Britta bits every now and then that have become more plausible (particularly in this episode).
- The Dean forcing himself into the group (arriving in his PJ’s at Trobed and Annie’s apartment, sticking around for most of the episode) never seems to get old.
- The end tag seemed like a metaphor for Community itself – Abed performs a stand-up comedy routine for the Dean, Jeff and Troy, but all the material centers around Trobed’s apartment, meaning no one outside the two of them is able to follow the humor. When Jeff points this out, Abed pauses for a moment in consideration, and then continues riffing on “the difference between me and Troy brushing our teeth” and the “toaster oven!” Similarly, I don’t think the show will ever change to allow for a wider appeal, which I’m sure that’s just fine by Community fans. But here’s hoping for a season four renewal! (Plus two more and a movie.)
(Images courtesy of NBC)