Community, “Advanced Safety Features” (CREDIT: Yahoo! Screen)

This review was originally posted on Starpulse in April 2015.

Just one episode ago saw the Greendale crew at its nastiest.  That conflict was not resolved so much as brushed aside.  So it was quite the contrast to have the very next episode focused so strongly about everyone working to like each other.  But maybe that need to be liked explained why everyone was so upset about the airing of the hurtful secrets.  Or maybe everyone just learned a lesson about vulnerability really quickly.  Either way, “Advanced Safety Features” showed these people more convinced than ever about the value of vulnerability.

Both the potentials and the pitfalls of opening up emotionally were present here, and in Britta’s case, they were both on full display.  When she first fell in love with Subway – now going by his given name, Rick – it was sufficiently passionate, but it was also a bit of a joke.  He was a corpo-humanoid, having sacrificed his native identity for the sake of marrying himself to the fresh ideals of a fast food chain.  Britta is known for not responding to things appropriately, and there was a forbidden love aspect to their affair.  If that illicit element had not been present, perhaps they would have made that strong a connection.

Taking Britta/Rick initially felt unnatural because Rick never fully seemed like a person.  In fact, he was not a person; he was a corpo-humanoid.  But actually he was a person.  Whatever process Subway had concocted, it was too benevolent to really take away his humanity.  This coupling by design seemed like it could not survive beyond one episode.  Nonetheless Rick was something of a perfect fit for Britta, and whether that was by design, or just because of the circumstances, her feelings resonated beyond one episode.

Rick’s return to Greendale confirmed that he was affected just as much as Britta and that he was in fact a human being.  That he was still sponsored by a corporation made his motivation a little suspect, but it mainly illuminated his character.  Salesmanship was a part of his core, just as much as a penchant for dangerous liaisons.  He consistently demonstrated how much he genuinely cared for Britta, but he could never get out of the game for her, even if he tried.

Rick was so willing to put himself out on the line that Britta was willing to jump into a life that ran counter to her principles.  The episode began with Jeff asking her if she even believed in half her own politics, and she had to think about it, and answer twice, to be sure.  That was less a comment about lack of integrity than it was about lack of coherence.  Britta has no dearth of passion, but she could use more cohesion.  A stereotypical marriage and shilling for a multinational company would usually be anathema to her, but here she was devoted to them, because Rick appealed to her with honesty and Billy Zane the Honda boss appealed to her desire to help people.

Ultimately, Britta/Rick could not survive, and it was because both of them were honest and open about who they really were.  They knew what they wanted and what they could offer each other and that they were mostly complementary, but in one fundamental way, they were just not a good fit.  The Britta of old who did not respect herself may have believed this was worth overlooking, but now she can be honest enough to know she deserves the best.  What could have been a joke coupling was instead heartbreaking.

For Jeff, the value of opening up could not have worked out more perfectly, even though it seemed like his story was heading in the opposite conclusion.  He has the biggest heart of the group, and for years he has been hiding it under his cool veneer, but now he is barely hiding it.  Instead, he pretends to conceal how much he cares while showing off obvious hints about how much of an effort he is actually putting in.  He could have memorized Elroy’s favorite band in privacy, but he probably wanted Annie, Abed, and Chang to still be in earshot while he muttered under his breath, “Natalie Is Freezing, Natalie Is Freezing, Natalie Is Freezing…”

Jeff eventually came to the realization that he likes having friends, and he wants Elroy to be his friend, and it would only complicate matters if he were not as direct as he decided to be.  Luckily, Elroy had at this point come to the realization that he has his own hangups about people putting an effort into liking him.  His defense mechanism was only exacerbated by the presence of Natalie Is Freezing’s Julie, an old flame of his.  He maturely decided that he was tired of manipulation and protective walls and that he would much rather be straightforward.  This meant that he would give a warm hug to whomever felt the same way, and thankfully Jeff was there at the moment.

The Dean and Frankie also discovered the importance of opening up, the former in his own weird, slightly pathetic way and the latter in a slightly harsh, but important way.  Thanks to his Level 7 Susceptibility, the Dean blew his budget on every Honda product he could find, whether or not Rick specifically endorsed it.  Frankie may have tried to soften her response by holding back on her typical insulting rhetorical questions (a tactic she has presumably been criticized for before), but they were what the Dean needed to hear at that moment.  Everybody is a work in progress, and pretending that you are not who you really are is only going to stall that progress.

Notes & Quotes:
-The utter inanity of Chang’s PowerPoint presentation made for one of the best non-sequitur gags in “Community” history and, bizarrely enough, demonstrated how well Ken Jeong has been utilized this season.
-Annie and Abed did not have a whole to do, but Alison Brie and Danny Pudi did mine as much from their goofy off-screen friendship as they could.  And Annie did manage to have some snappy repartee with Jeff (particularly the childlike – not childish – tongue sticking-out).  Hopefully the rest of Season 6 gives them some more significant moments.  Annie has had decent screen time, but not really a plot of her own, while Abed has been utilized less than he has any other season.
-Credit to Travis Schuldt for making Rick come across as a real person despite his corporate identity and even making that coroporateness a genuine part of his humanity.
-“We know you have your choice of friends, and we thank you for choosing us.”
-“Would you say I’m a Level 7 Susceptible?” “No, because why would I? Because that’s moonman talk.”