Community, “Laws of Robotics and Party Rights” (CREDIT: Yahoo! Screen)

This review was originally posted on Starpulse in April 2015.

Jeff Winger has mostly accepted that he has a big heart, and he has made peace with the fact that he is at Greendale indefinitely.  But there is a difference between accepting your station and actually doing the work of getting through that station.  Jeff may have learned to open his heart up just a little bit during his time at school, but when it comes to work, he still prefers going to great lengths to take the easy way out.  It would take something unusual to knock him out of this routine.  A convict attending his Law class via telepresence robot proved to be just the right unexpected development to touch several of his nerves and really set him off.

Last season, Jeff was too busy saving Greendale or dealing with personal crises for his teaching career to be much of a focus.  But when there actually was an episode focused on his classroom, he really did seem to take a liking to it.  It took some prodding from Annie, sure, and he got there in a sort of roundabout way, but regardless, it did not seem like he would end up the professor who just puts on “Planet Earth” the whole class.  The negative side of acceptance is stasis, and maybe Jeff just does not feel motivated enough to do more than the bare minimum.  But the semesters can be long, and maybe this was one of those days that he just had to slog through.

Jeff was not initially too thrown by a criminal calling him out on his lack of law-teaching bona fides.  He had something prepared to talk his way out of that.  What was really unnerving was just how immediately overboard Willy’s response was.  He may have been revealed as innocent of the murder he was convicted for, but the personality he displayed made it clear why people thought he was guilty.  He went all Single White Law Professor on Jeff, insinuating himself (via iPad) into places that Jeff was kind of annoyed to lose.

This all played out a little ridiculously, with a scooter-mounted tablet attempting to push a man to his death, and that man throwing the tablet to its destruction, prompting the Dean to punish him with a paid “sabbatical.”  But the emotional points that were exposed were resonant.  The Dean fell into the charms of Willy thanks to his folksy personality and the cachet that befriending a convict on an iPad conveyed.

The Dean-Jeff relationship can often veer into the intrusive and creepy, and in this episode it was not at its most palatable.  The Dean was getting a little too touchy-feely, which Jeff is often able to brush off and even occasionally smirk at, but now was not the time.  So it was an odd episode, then, to ultimately emphasize Jeff’s friendship with the Dean.  But it worked because it allowed for the distinction that Jeff was making between different forms of manipulation to ring true.

Jeff’s outburst made it seem like he was jealous of Willy and the Dean, but he insisted that his point was that he respected the Dean enough to never take advantage of him, while Willy was not so straightforward.  Annie accepted this explanation without hesitation.  She has shown herself to unfailingly believe in Jeff, especially when he actually shows moments of idealism.  She insisted that he needed to declare his feelings for them to be at their most effective, once again serving as the conscience that he has needed throughout the years.

In her own storyline, Annie was just as direct as she was telling Jeff he had to be.  Her insistence to Britta that there be no more than 8 guests in the apartment at a time seemed a bit draconian, and maybe a little surprising.  Annie has loosened up over the years – just a few episodes ago, she was going along with running a speakeasy on Greendale.  But there is a difference between committing to insanity and letting shenanigans go on unabated.  Especially since moving in with Abed, she has realized the limits of focusing on play at the expense of responsibility.  She was not uptight so much as uncompromising.

It was odd that Annie disappeared for the middle of the episode after guaranteeing to Britta that by the time all this ended, she would be begging for her forgiveness.  She understandably would not be taking part in the partying, but she could have been shown in her bedroom, peaking out and throwing shade at the proceedings.  But as it played out, it was Abed’s frightening commitment to incorporating the party into the context of a movie that brought Britta over to Annie’s side, and Annie probably knew that was going to happen all along.  For this plan to work most effectively, she had to completely step aside.

Abed was more particularly unnerving than usual here.  The actors he hired to continue the roles of his friends once they left the party were rather creepy matches, and those sequences were editing to powerfully suggest the unending purgatory that Britta had unwittingly led herself into.  His attempts at pop-back gags, and failures therein, were also subtly alarming.  Even though Abed is rather strange, he is generally able to comfortably incorporate his quirks into most social situations.  With much of this episode focused on his home life, he was shown working through his weirdest tendencies that may not be fit for public consumption.

That the point of this storyline was ultimately about affirming Annie and Britta’s friendship felt a little out-of-nowhere, but it did land.  They indeed need to be united if they are going to survive living with Abed.  The “Female Friends!” freeze frame was just as jarring (and hilarious) as the “Hard Drive and Wing Man” title from “Lawnmower Maintenance and Postnatal Care,” but it was also richer in backstory.  Annie and Britta have never been the closest of friends.  Their personalities are not great matches, but by circumstance of living situation, they could very well become closer than ever this season, enough so to be the stars of a randomly appearing new TV show.

Notes & Quotes:
-Elroy still does not have a clearly defined role, but he continues to work well as a reactive presence.  His objection to being the black guy whose purpose is to approve or nix discussion of blackness allowed for a series of great gags in the opening.  The Dean’s enthusiastic mention that the group used to have two (black people) was pointedly amusing, especially considering that the diversity of this group was originally thus because it just happened to be that way.  Also, the moment when the security guard readily accepted him as one of the convicts had some edge to it while still keeping the tone light.
-Abed’s Jerry Seinfeld impression (“She sleeps on the couch! She’s a coucher!”) was totally unnecessary but very welcome.
-Elroy on the telepresence robot: “I resent the idea that this is alarming.”
-“They keep dancing like it’s today.”
-“Ben, aren’t you homeless?” “Yeah, but I poop in a house.” “Whose?”
-Abed’s droning of “party party party” was reminiscent of the Escherian nightmare that is Key & Peele’s LMFAO sketch. (LINKKKKKKKK)