Community has returned after a three month hiatus that had fans freakin’ out with fear their favorite comedy was getting axed. Thankfully, Community prevailed and is back where it belongs, Thursday nights at 8pm on NBC. Make sure you join us every week as we recap the continuing exploits of Greendale’s most infamous study group.
Last night’s episode, “Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts” was for a Community episode, pretty normal. In fact, “what is normal?” was what this episode was all about. It’s almost as if this was meant to hook new viewers tuning in who might have been initially turned off by the constant barrage of pop culture references and absolutely insane situations common at Greendale. Personally, that’s what I love about the show but last night’s episode also proved these characters can grow and develop moreso than most sitcom characters are ever allowed to.
Right off the bat we depart from what’s normal for Community and have an episode focused on Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown). She’s always been the most underused character on the show and it’s great to finally have an episode where she shines. It begins with Shirley and Pierce (Chevy Chase) contemplating a joint business venture with a sandwich shop but that’s immediately interupted by Shirley’s ex, Andre (Malcolm-Jamal Warner) serenading her a la Boys II Men and proposing, again. She accepts, again, and we’re off with a wedding episode. Those pull in the high ratings, right? Good, because this is Community‘s chance to finally win over anyone not yet in on the joke and maybe stick around for those six seasons and a movie.
The central story line of Shirley’s wedding butts right up against Shirley’s dreams of opening her own business. It’s a struggle her character’s been dealing with for some time, is she only a wife and mother or can she have her own identity separate from her family? But her wedding isn’t only affecting her, each of the study group members react differently: Jeff (Joel McHale) thinks any kind of lifelong commitment is stupid, Britta (Gillian Jacobs) thinks weddings demean women, Pierce tries to rank which of his many marriages was his favorite, Troy (Donald Glover) and Abed (Danny Pudi) can only understand them through TV and movies references, and Annie (Allison Brie) is eager to help Shirley plan and brings a wedding scrapbook so big you’d think it was the Book of the Dead not the book to help wed.
But Shirley makes it clear she wants everyone to behave normally.
Troy: We’ll try not to embarrass you at your community college library wedding.
Did I mention they’re holding the wedding in the study room? Yeah, Shirley’s church takes issue with second weddings. And tight jeans. And Calico cats.
This demand that everyone be normal doesn’t sit well with the always absurdly abnormal Troy and Abed, but they’re going to be good sports and act as normal as possible for Shirley’s wedding. Once they figure out how.
Britta sees that all this wedding planning is distracting Shirley from her goal of opening her own business and wants to make sure she doesn’t let go of that dream. So, she offers to plan Shirley’s wedding for her. This is met with a solid two minutes of laughter, shown to us through a title card stating that fact, to which Britta responds that she was serious. This is met with another solid minute of Shirley staring at her in disbelief and is also portrayed with a title card. It’s an unexpected gag but it works hilariously. Poor Britta, she just Brittas everything, doesn’t she? Turns out no, because Britta is surprisingly fantastic at planning weddings.
With Britta handling the wedding preperations Shirley and Pierce get to work on their business strategy for their sandwich shop and it turns out they’re really a great team. Shirley’s got the know-how and determination to see things done and Pierce has got the money. But even more importantly Shirley treats Pierce like more than an old, deranged, joke of man and gives him a chance. It’s such a smart move teaming these two together because it gives each of them purpose. With purpose Shirley can grow into a more independent woman and Pierce can stop feeling like such a colossal fuck up.
Meanwhile, Jeff is struggling to compose a toast for the wedding and asks Annie for advice. She tells him to look into his heart. We peer into Jeff’s heart and are shown all sorts of images cycling by and you can’t help but notice that every other picture is of Annie. Is this a hint we’ll be seeing more romantic entanglements for Jeff and Annie? Maybe, or they’ll continue feeling creepy about it. His heart finally settles on its one true desire and that is, alcohol. So Jeff decides to have a drink. Then another drink. And another. And another, and- you get the picture.
It’s time for the wedding rehearsal and the study room looks beautiful. Annie’s absolutely shocked by the amazing job Britta did planning the wedding but Britta can’t be consoled. She’s realized she’s become what she’s always rebelled against. She’d make the perfect Steppenwolf wife and it’s humiliating, so Britta drowns her sorrows with champagne. Yeah, can you see where this is going?
Jeff isn’t fairing any better and has gotten absolutely nowhere with his toast. His wedding speech might be terrible but at least it gives Annie a chance to deliver the episode’s best line,
Annie: “Webster’s Dictionary defines…” That’s the Jim Belushi of speech openings, it accomplishes nothing but everyone keeps using it and nobody understands why.
Cue, Troy and Abed being normal. The duo have completely de-whimsified themselves thanks to a session in the dreamatorium and arrive acting totally normal. In fact the only one not to have arrived yet is Shirley. She’s busy pitching her business plan to the Dean with Pierce and completely forgets she’s got a wedding rehearsal to be at. While awaiting the arrival of the bride everyone’s getting impatient (Except for Jeff and Britta, who are getting drunk). When Shirley finally does arrive her and Andre have it out and the whole reason he wanted the second wedding is revealed. He wants them to get back to normal.
And we’re back to that question again! What is normal? For Andre it’s having his wife back at home so he can get back to his stereo business. This isn’t what new, improved, independent Shirley wants to hear and the wedding looks like it’s off. Or is it?
Whew! That was close. I don’t think I could have forgiven this show were they to actually have Jeff and Britta get married, no matter how much they’d regret it once sober. Thankfully, Shirley and Andre explain to them why marriage is worth it and in the process reconcile with each other. They turn the rehearsal into the real thing and get hitched on the spot.
But what about the other couple? No, not Jeff and Britta, Troy and Abed! They’re doing such a smashing job at being normal you have to wonder if they can ever be weird again? Abed, when normal, is capable of dancing and flirting with an attractive girl! What’s being weird compared to that? Everything. And thanks to Annie’s Boobs (The monkey, not actually Allison Brie’s breasts) Troy’s reminded that if you’re weird you need to embrace the weird and not be ashamed of it. Slipping into his Constable Reggie persona and reaching out to Abed’s Inspector Spacetime he’s able to remind Abed that being weird is who they are.
By the end Shirley and Andre have reached a new level of understanding and commitment, Jeff and Britta have come to terms, sorta, with their own inner demons about weddings and marriage, Troy and Abed have learned it’s okay to be who you are not matter how weird, and Annie, umm, yeah, she actually didn’t do much this episode unless you want to give her the credit rightly due to Annie’s Boobs.
Oh, and Pierce, well, he’s in for a disappointment when he learns his and Shirley’s sandwich shop won’t actually happen because Greendale decided to go with Subway instead. But at least Chevy Chase wins in the end by remaining the master of physical gags.