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Worldly Distractions: Community 5.1 - Repilot


crazyforkate

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blog-repilot.jpgrepilot

It's back, you guys, it's back, it's back! Defying all odds, Community got renewed for a fifth season. After a fourth season charitably described as lacklustre (I'd call it "eye-gouging"), fans are eager for the return of showrunner Dan Harmon. Will he measure up? Who cares? Community's back!

We begin with a weird animated robot destroying the city. It turns out to be part of Jeff's sleazy lawyer commercial, which portrays him as a superhero liberating the oppressed - too much time around Britta and Abed? Cut to Jeff, who is having everything in his office repossessed. This world is not kind to recently reinstated lawyers, and he wallows in the misery of his failure.

Fortunately, a colleague comes to him with a pity case. A bridge has recently collapsed upstate, and the engineer is suing the school that gave him his shitty degree. His target is - you guessed it - Greendale. He wants Jeff to sneak into the school, get the engineer's records, and comb them for negligent education. Jeff protests against screwing over the good people who helped him. The colleague complains that Jeff has lost his inner bastard, trying to do good as a lawyer rather than engaging in the smarmiest of tactics. Jeff says he's okay, because he has the one thing that keeps him - and they take the booze away, so he has nothing. Back to Greendale it is.

Opening credits, and my heart breaks a little at the lack of Chevy Chase. With Donald Glover leaving halfway through the season, it's even worse. But hey, Harmon's back!

The Dean welcomes everyone back to a new school year. Jeff wanders through the halls, running into a raspberry-blowing Leonard and a picture of himself and Annie winning the debate way back in Season 1. He goes to the office and tries to charm the secretary into giving him the records, but having lost his Manipulative Bastard powers, he's stuck. The Dean comes in. After hitting on Jeff and casually mentioning that the entire main cast has left Greendale, he figures out the true reason for the visit - but believes Jeff is on Greendale's side, not the engineer's. (Marvin Humphries, by the way - I figure we'll be hearing his name a lot before the season's up.) The Dean cries, and Jeff gets the records. They are located in the old study room, which was closed after everyone's departure for "sentimental...and asbestos reasons".

However, he is interrupted by Abed, who tells him "I see your value now." Of course, this is what Jeff said to Abed in the pilot, and Abed does not hesitate to point that out. I love you, you pop culture-obsessed weirdo. I swear he's my long-lost brother or something.

Anyway, the Dean has asked Abed to join the Save Greendale Committee, Abed called everyone else, and the cast is reunited (minus Chevy) with happy shrieks. And it's so good to see them. Britta has weird brown streaks in her hair, Annie could only be hotter if she was tearing a strip off Pete Campbell. Everyone's much concerned about the destruction of the study room, and set to work making it right. Jeff tries not to audibly grind his teeth as they completely destroy his plans.

Abed suddenly has a brilliant idea - they can have a do-over! Jeff can come back and teach at Greendale and it will be like Scrubs, Season 9. Once again, this is the only show that can pull off meta now that 30 Rock is gone. Troy even has a little tantrum about Zach Braff leaving the final season early. Nice wink, there. DONALD GLOVER WE MISS YOU.

The Dean is involved in some terrifying art project when Jeff comes to confront him about Humphries. However, the Dean has been proactive for once and shredded all the relevant files. Nice going, buddy. All that's left is Humphries' thesis, which is made of Lego. The Dean pleads with Jeff not to expose them. Sure, they're a diploma mill - but they're a nice diploma mill.

Jeff calls his colleague, who is also counting on the case to save his career and goes into hysterics. All looks lost - but something in Jeff's shining eyes tells me he has a plan.

Meanwhile, everyone's gotten down to business saving Greendale. Annie is in charge, Shirley wants to run a bake sale. Jeff returns and explains his concerns about Humphries. Britta thinks it's ridiculous, but he assures her that it will be significant in the coming days. He decides it should be made litigation-proof. They all discuss how Greendale damaged them. Annie has convinced herself she's happy pushing pens at a pharmaceutical company. Britta's bartending but claims it's therapy. Troy and Abed are planning to develop the next social media wonder - Abed will create it, Troy will sue him. Incidentally, Abed still hasn't gotten paid for directing Jeff's commercial. They argue about creative differences (Abed thought Jeff's "555" phone number was derivative"), Annie and Britta snipe at each other, and soon everyone's arguing with everyone.

Shirley stops the argument cold with two sad announcements - Shirley's Sandwiches has failed and her husband has left again. Eerie echo of the pilot. At this point, rather unwisely, Jeff mentions that this is the kind of thing you could sue a school about. BULLSHIT. Everyone who fails gets a piece of the litigation pie? Tell that to all my college friends living on their parents' couches and struggling to find anything that pays.

After Jeff storms out, Troy wonders if it's weird to do this without...Magnitude. Pop pop, indeed.

Jeff tells his colleague about the Save Greendale Committee, which leaves him shaking in his boots, then gives him a big take-down speech, Glengarry Glen Ross style. However, he breaks off halfway through, because "no monologue for you". Instead, he settles for bitch-slapping the guy with his tie.

Everyone in the study room cries over their terrible post-Greendale lives. When Jeff returns, they tell him they want to re-enroll at Greendale. WHAT?!

Fortunately, this shocking announcement is interrupted by Chang! Sadly without his Changlourious Basterds. He explains that he went to prison after the Changnesia incident, but is now on work release and free to terrorize the college once more. Because he's homeless and on an ankle bracelet, he is forced to live in the study room. Oh, and apparently he's teaching math. Shudder.

Everyone recaps the Chang saga in hilariously blatant exposition, with Abed finishing off: "That's insane...and I'm Abed." Oh, I missed this show.

This leads to a rant on the uselessness of Greendale. Jeff challenges them to do something about it. The mass re-enrollment is not mentioned again for some reason. Jeff's colleague returns, and the study group gasps. In turn, the colleague exposes Jeff's plan to destroy Greendale in the bridge suit, then promptly leaves him with a group of very pissed-off study pals.

After the commercial break, Jeff turns the group's anger back on them, wondering how they all could have changed so much in four seasons years - Britta from anarchist to airhead, Shirley's destruction of her marital and professional success, Troy and Abed's codependency, Annie's missing drive. An excellent takedown of the group's slow character assassination, especially in the last season. Which, by the way, has been explained away as the result of a terrible gas leak - throughout the episode, you'll hear references to a "gas leak year".

So Jeff breaks out some litigation paperwork and asks his friends to sign it, with one more argument that Greendale ruined them all. First Troy caves, then Shirley, then Annie, then Britta. Abed at least marks his signature with some cutting comments about Jeff's lack of morality. Best character EVER. Jeff assures them that they're doing the right thing, but as he leaves, they all look heartbroken. Abed even suggests burning the study table so no one else can have it. Of course, they agree.

Jeff goes outside and finds...the ghost of Pierce? Well, actually, it's a hologram advertising Pierce's sex museum, which sounds horrifying. Inexplicably, the hologram also advocates sticking by Greendale, no matter how bad it gets - because it helps crappy people get their lives on track. I can't remember if Pierce is supposed to be dead or not, but in any event, he's been banned from Greendale due to an unspecified court order, so it's moot.

Inspired, Jeff confronts the Dean, telling him to turn the school into something better than a degree printer - if only for the sake of the five people who signed that paper. The Dean wants to better, but he'll need Jeff's help - and so he offers him a job. As Jeff curses Abed's name...

...we cut to the group pouring lighter fluid on the table. However, to their exasperation, Jeff runs out and demands that they call off the suit. He reveals that he's teaching now. Annie resolves to go back to forensic science, Abed and Troy decide to take more time to work on themselves, Shirley wants to sharpen her business schools, Britta wants to get a real Psych Master's (which everyone discourages). They gleefully burn the lawsuit, which lights the table anyway. But they're friends again, and that's what counts.

Someone narrates, and it's revealed to be part of Abed's creepy TV series. Everyone settles back into the Greendale routine. Jeff starts preparing for his law classes, regretting it the whole time. Sort of.

Closing credits: we get outtakes from Jeff and Abed's commercial, featuring Abed as Hero!Jeff's nemesis. The CGI is like some kind of 70's Bollywood film. In real life, Abed giggles over his work as Jeff glares.

I'm not going to lie, this series is still on pretty shaky ground. It's starting to feel a lot more like the old Community, for sure - the characters sound like themselves and not cardboard cutouts - and it had a good number of laughs. At the same time, Community has gotten so wrapped up in its own canon that it's hampering the storylines. Maybe I'm being a bit harsh so early in the season, but Season 4 burned us fans really bad, guys. I'm glad they used this episode to push the proverbial reset button. We're back where we started, more or less, and that can only be a good thing.

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