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Worldly Distractions: Community 5.2 - Introduction to Teaching





Okay, so we've started the first season by hitting the reset button. Let's see what they do with it.

Jeff starts out his first Fundamentals of Law class stammering and behaving in a manner most robotic. I get it, teaching is super hard - my first class was a disaster too. This joker, though, didn't even think to prepare a syllabus or a grading scheme. He is under the impression that, like in his law practice before, he can simply make things up. Winging it, get it? Well, his class is unimpressed. No wonder Greendale has such a stellar academic reputation.

It's awkward fitting into a new role, and Jeff is not pleased to discover that his status has shifted with his title change. No longer can he freely wander the halls of Greendale. He is an object of scorn and staring, just like Chang in Season 1. He shares an office with a Criminology prof, Mr Hickey (a splendid Jonathan Banks), who bitterly tells him he'll be "teaching to make ends meet" forever. Opening credits.

Abed has designed a new study table, and everyone is suitably impressed. They also tease Jeff for being a teacher. He mentions Mr Hickey, who happens to be Annie's professor. Abed discovers a course called "Nicolas Cage - Good Or Bad?" and vows to sign up immediately. And to be honest, I would be right there with him. Jeff decides to take it, just to keep his mind off teaching.

The Dean comes in, bearing a basket of gifts for his newest staff member. He puts an apple in front of Jeff and fixes glasses, a mortarboard and a pipe on his face, while Jeff looks like he wants to die. He also tells everyone about how Jeff's going to save the school. No pressure there.

At Nicolas Cage class, Abed questions Prof. Garrity. We learn that he's gotten quite a reputation after the "Who's the Boss?" debacle. The professor assures him there's no answer to the Nicolas Cage question, and assigns five movies for homework. Abed wants to know - "Only five?" As much as I love this detour into movie madness, it would have been the icing on the cake if they'd actually gotten Nicolas Cage to play the professor. But that is a small quibble.

Hickey shows Jeff the ropes in the school cafeteria. Leonard tries to mess with the new prof, but Hickey takes him down, fast. This could be a fun character. Jeff is taken to the teachers' lounge, which has more drunk people than a pitch at Sterling Cooper and Partners. They laugh at the idea of anyone planning a curriculum. The Dean comes by looking for Jeff, but is shut out, much to Jeff's delight.

The study group (minus Jeff) has a Cage movie marathon, where Abed continues to be confused. Shirley shockingly suggests that maybe Cage is good in good movies and bad in bad movies. Abed rejects this. Cage is good or bad, no in-betweens. The question is, which one? Everyone else is just confused.

Annie calls Jeff, who is working on his syllabus partying with the entire faculty. He claims he's hard at work. Annie is no fool, however, and when Jeff arrives for his class on Monday, he finds Annie seated in the front row. Standing in the door, Chang laughs uproariously.

Jeff manages to dismiss the class five seconds after it started, especially when Annie decides that she's qualified to dish out assignments of her own. As everyone else leaves, she goes up to his desk (rocking a pair of professional-looking slacks, by the way) and takes him to task for his educational shittiness. Since he apparently knows nothing of law whatsoever, Annie decides to teach the teacher, handing him a stack of law books. Jeff protests - but come on, that's not going to work. We all know what happens when Trudy Campbell Annie makes up her mind.

In the cafeteria, Hickey berates Jeff for letting his student friends take over his work, and suggests giving her A- grades until she drops out in frustration. To his credit, Jeff knows that Annie is smarter than this, but Leonard distracts them before any decisions can be made.

Annie and Troy get home to find Abed stringing up post-it notes with Nicolas Cage movie titles all over the apartment. He's come up with a theory, which is exceedingly complex, but is confident he's on the road to the answer. Annie, a little bit frightened, suggests he drop it. Danny Pudi excels, as usual.

Jeff is still being half-assed, and I recognize my own half-assery and feel a bit ashamed. Fortunately, Annie keeps him on his toes. I need an Annie. They wind up arguing, and Annie leaves the room upset. Garrett (remember him?) asks Jeff how he won so easily, and Jeff explains his theories on the courtroom. He needs the blackboard to demonstrate, of course, and soon he is actually teaching! Point to Annie this time.

However, she did flee in tears, so Jeff goes to apologize. She tells him that the classroom isn't the issue, it's that Hickey's been sending her threats - in the form of A- grades on all her work. For Annie, this is the equivalent of an atom bomb. She is defeated, and tells Jeff she's dropping his class.

We return to Nicolas Cage class, where Troy thinks Cage is a genius just for getting hired and Shirley thinks he accidentally won the Oscar. Britta actually tries to sound smart, and ends up seeming the stupidest of all. Abed comes in, looking dazed and toting a huge binder. The professor gives him the floor. However, he soon begins to fall apart, and even Professor Garrity is a little concerned. Of course, we all know there's no stopping Abed. As he launches into his theory, it becomes clear that it doesn't hold. Nicolas Cage has broken his brain. Soon, he has a full-on nervous breakdown, running around screaming in a Nicolas Cage voice and climbing all over the professor's desk. Danny Pudi has been a gem throughout the series, but by God, he outdoes himself in this scene.

When he comes to, he's standing up front under the gaze of his horrified classmates. He runs from the room, pursued by Troy, who urges him to "think of Holly Hunter...or Don Cheadle!" And now I'm sad that Donald Glover is leaving and this friendship will be destroyed. The professor remarks that Abed's outburst was brilliant.

Jeff confronts Hickey about the A-. The man says he was just helping Jeff, and won't back down. "We do not work for them," he hisses, forgetting that with no students he'd be out of a job. Their alliance is shattered.

He goes to the study room and tells Annie she really got an A. Oh, the mark's not changed, but an A- is really an A when the teacher doesn't like you. Wait, my grades were almost all A- in university. What the hell does that mean?! Annie is rightly upset to hear this, and Britta and Troy are firmly on her side. While Troy yells "Et tu, brute?" at random intervals, Annie and Britta leak the news that "minuses are made up" and start a school-wide revolution. We get our first Magnitude appearance, screaming "Pop pop!" as he smashes the library windows. Godspeed, soldier.

Shirley is worried about Abed, so she goes to his apartment. He's throwing away all his movies, claiming they make no sense anymore. Nicolas Cage broke his love of film. The destruction that man has caused cannot be underestimated. Let us have a moment of silence.





Okay, a moment to recover from that image, and back to the episode. Shirley suggests he find solace in a "skinny little Hebrew handyman". Oh, COME ON, there are times to proselytize (almost never) and times to act like a damn friend. Abed explains that he's not interested in Christianity, or practicing Islam, because film was his religion. Nicolas Cage broke his faith, reminding him that life can be random and pointless. Here Shirley actually comes up with a good answer, saying that a tenet of her faith is that sometimes you can't understand everything - but sometimes there are people who can guide you through it anyway. "Prophets, messiahs, kung fu pandas - so you're saying Nicolas Cage is Jesus?" Abed asks. Shirley says that's not quite what she meant, but he does work in mysterious ways, after all. He accepts this as an explanation. Shirley name-drops a couple of Cage movies, proving she knows what she's talking about, and all is well again.

Annie and her friends lead the revolution, storming into the cafeteria and chanting "Slightly higher grades!". The Dean asks Jeff to defuse it by removing his shirt. Instead, he steps up on a table (fully clothed) and gives yet another inspirational Winger speech. This one's about commonality. Their unifying point? They all suck at life. Way to go, Winger, you nailed it. The revolutionaries are not convinced, and Jeff is subjected to a merciless cafeteria food onslaught.

The Dean intends to start a riot reduction plan, involving a student-teacher "Save Greendale" alliance - and he wants Jeff to chair it. As you can imagine, Jeff would rather stick his hand in a scorpion nest, but the Dean is persistent. Hickey comes in and gives an extremely grumpy apology. He also mentions that he gave Annie an A. Then he tries to quit, but Jeff won't let him go - and adds him to the Save Greendale committee. I guess Hickey is the new Pierce? We'll see how it goes. Everyone sits down to a happy lunch, Hickey reveals that he is just as weird as the rest of them, and Britta whines about the lack of Asian-Americans. The Dean looks on wistfully as a French song about learning Excel plays.

Tag scene - Troy and Abed dress up as a pot plant and armchair to trick Jeff somehow. Instead, Hickey comes in and has a long, boring phone call with his pharmacy. Then it turns inexplicably sad, and Troy and Abed are moved to tears. Weird, but I like it.

And really, that could apply to this entire episode. Community is finding its feet again, and it shows. Once again, too much series canon, but the characters are back to normal and the plot works. Not sure how I feel about Hickey yet, but he looks promising and sufficiently different from Pierce. It also included hilarious minor plot threads, like the Dean trying to use Excel - barely mentioned but still a part of the story. It's those little touches that make Community great. Can they keep it up? I guess we'll find out next episode.

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