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Worldly Distractions: Community 4.9 - Intro to Felt Surrogacy





How is it that we’re only four more episodes away from the end of Community, forever? Each time a new show airs, I’m happy to see another adventure with Jeff and the gang, but at the same time I mourn a little. The ratings alone make it highly unlikely that we’ll get a Season 5, even though it’s still technically “on the bubbleâ€, but the departure of several luminaries doesn’t help. Six seasons and a movie shall never come to pass, but we can stand together as honorary Greendale students and enjoy what’s left.

On the bright side – PUPPET EPISODE!

We open in the study room with a very tense group. The music is ominous, Britta is tapping her fingers and everyone looks expectant. Troy looks like he’s about to cry, though that is not unusual, as Donald Glover has demonstrated again – and again – and again. With that enigmatic opening, we go directly into the credits. Huh?

The Dean comes in to declare that he’s putting an end to the awkward silence, which has apparently been going on for days. He is going to get to the bottom of it and force the group to live again. Annie whines that it’s too embarrassing. In a show of both creepiness and understanding, the Dean reveals that they won’t have to talk about it – they will instead talk through a set of puppets that look exactly like them which he inexplicably has on hand (Jeff is the only one who finds this weird, especially since his puppet seems to be holding a whip). Britta indulges in psychobabble about puppet therapy.

The Dean suddenly points out that Pierce is missing – so this how they write Chevy Chase out, huh? – and Troy reveals that no one has seen him since he “lost his mind in the woodsâ€. This gives the Dean the perfect segway into whatever caused the silence, and our story begins. Not before Shirley protests on the grounds that “It’s between us and Jesus†and Abed agrees only because he’s a fan of the medium, however.

Also, am I the only one who thinks it’s very creepy that Troy and Jeff can exchange details about having sex with Britta? Eek.

The Dean rips off his outfit to reveal a Deanocchio costume, complete with nose that kind of looks like a dildo. Abed starts the narration.

The puppets (noticeably nicer-looking than The Dean’s puppets) are gathered in the study room doing their typical things – Britta is ranting about something, Jeff is sarcastic, Troy and Abed are planning mischief, etc. The latter two have created “Study Group Bingoâ€, because Abed argues that they have fallen into repetitive patterns just like a sitcom (heh) and need to liven things up a little. Every time someone reacts in a predictable manner, they yell “Square!†and presumably check off a Bingo box. (Full confession: I haven’t played Bingo since Grade Two.) No one seems interested. Here Pierce not only has a puppet but is clearly voiced by Chevy Chase, so I guess we’re not getting rid of him just yet, though his whereabouts will probably set things up. Jeff hates the game, but agrees with the general idea that they’re in a rut. He wonders how they got so predictable. Ohhh, I can feel that this is going to be genius.

Just then the Dean interrupts with a group of touring would-be students. Inexplicably, they are all human (including the Dean) while the study group remain puppets. He explains that the group showcases Greendale’s diversity, then leaves to show them Magnitude. Bye, Dean.

Abed declares that they need a day off just like Ferris Bueller. Annie reminds him that his constant pop culture references are part of what they want to avoid. The gang puts their heads together to figure out where they should go – which gives them a song in which each character gives perfectly typical responses. Finally, Annie suggests a hot air balloon ride, which they agree to immediately. By the power of music they are instantly transported to the balloon, where they meet their balloon guide (Sara Bareilles, not a puppet). She gives them an extremely long run-down of the safety features. HEY – is this a parody of obscure 90’s Canadian kids’ TV series Ballooner Landing? I highly doubt it, but a hoser can dream. Sigh.

Perhaps unwisely, the balloon guide lets them go entirely on their own. As they finish their musical number, everyone realizes what has happened and begins to panic. ChangKevin (puppet) shows up moments too late and is very distressed to have missed it. Something tells me we haven’t heard the last of him.

Back in the non-puppet world, Deanocchio is extremely upset that they almost let Jeff die. Britta points out that the entire group almost died, which is apparently lost on him. Shirley steers them back to the story, where Pierce has ruined things by flying the group directly into a thunderstorm. Everyone is convinced they’re going to die, until Jeff points out that they’re dropping. Abed amends this to crashing. It looks like the end for our intrepid study group.

In reality, the Dean diagnoses the group with PTSD based on a couple of minutes of story. Abed continues the saga. The group is unhurt but terrified, and are desperate to return to Greendale. Immediately Abed starts comparing them to Lost. Troy regrets never having seen Blue Man Group. Annie assures them that it’s going to be fine – until a sudden growling from the bushes prompts her to scream and jump into Jeff’s arms.

It turns out to be a woodsman (Jason Alexander), who immediately recognizes them as being from Greendale, and reveals that he knows Pierce’s name, which creeps them out until he reveals that both pieces of information are from Pierce’s shirt – and that he’s a touch psychic. It turns out that he’s a Greendale graduate himself (which Jeff remarks is the fate that awaits them – transient mountain men). The Mountain Man tells them that this is the life where they can be themselves, which prompts another song about individuality. The group decides that abandoning society to go live in the woods is a good idea after all. By the end of the song, courtesy of Jason Alexander they have all consumed what appears to be “magic berriesâ€. And here shit gets freaky. The screen blurs, the speech slurs, and the music begins to resemble late-‘60’s John Lennon experiments. Looks like trouble is ahead.

Deanocchio comments on what great progress the group has made, as they are now willing to discuss their experiences. Garrett rushes in to inform him that the cafeteria’s on fire. The Dean impatiently dismisses him and goes back to the story.

Shirley picks it up with a line about how “those devil berries freed our minds and loosened our tongues.†In the woods, they are all high as kites. Britta and Annie engage in pseudo-lesbionic chatter by the fire. Troy comments on how free he feels. Shirley mentions that she thought Andre was cheating again, but upon following him realized that it was a different man, and ended up accidentally leaving her kids in the grocery store overnight. In response, Jeff comments that loves women. Pierce goes off to indulge in personal business. Back in the real world, the group falls silent. They stare at the table. Shirley says that they’re treating her like Judas and judging her like Judy. She breaks off, looking guilty...until it’s revealed that no one actually remembers hearing her secret. Britta admits that the reason she’s been so awkward is because she thought everyone heard her secret. Apparently not, but Annie also has a secret about how..she...trails...off...from time to time. Ahem. Jeff gets to the heart of it – everyone revealed an awful secret, but nobody listened to anyone else’s. There is much rejoicing. They’re in the clear!

However, they all realize that Shirley is left out, having revealed the terrible thing already. She’s upset, and the group feels guilty. Jeff tries to reassure her, but Shirley’s about to walk out anyway. They decide after much discussion to share the secrets again, sober, though not before Britta offers up her remaining stash of berries that she was saving for “Laser Floydâ€. It’s better, Jeff theorizes, to have all of them feeling bad together rather than Shirley alone – but to make it easier, they will reveal their secrets through the puppets. Of course, this means a musical number.

Jeff met a perfect woman, then met her kid, and after pretending it didn’t bother him, he skipped out on the kid’s baseball game before never calling again – just like his own father.

Britta admits that she’s never voted, except for on The Voice.

Annie is struggling in History, despite her general academic prowess. She let the professor rub her feet in exchange for the test answers.

Troy caused a fire at Greendale, losing 55 acres because he was burning an anthill.

After a chorus about how they’re all revealing their secrets and it makes them feel better. The Balloon Guide shows up to escort them out of the woods. They start to leave.

Pierce, now alone, wails that he never actually slept with Eartha Kitt, but dry humped her instead. Another thing we could have gone without knowing. That’s Pierce for you, and it looks like he’s gone forever.

With the secrets off their chests, the group is in harmony again, and Deanocchio is thrilled. Inspired by their candour, he starts to reveal his secret, but only gets as far as “I am not what you would call tradi-†when Britta suddenly realizes that Abed never told his secret. It turns out he never had one in the first place, but instead mimicked the entire group’s awkward silence. Everything is falling into place.

They all reassure each other that they are not as bad as their secrets would indicate – as Jeff says to Britta, “the level of respect we have for you as a political activist has definitely not changed.†Free of their burden, the group tosses the puppets on the table and leaves. The Dean is left alone – except for the Jeff Puppet, who has come alive and developed a look one might describe as “come-hitherâ€. Happy endings all around, except for Pierce, I guess.

Instead of a traditional Troy-and-Abed closer, we get clips from production of the episode, which is a nice change actually. It’s fun to see everyone goofing off backstage. Though one can’t help but wince every time they address Chevy.

This episode could have gone farther, could have been funnier – they definitely could have done more with the concept. And the songs lacked a certain something, certainly not possessing anything near the humour of the Glee episode. The guest stars also seemed underused, and the questions they were asking about predictability could have been much darker, funnier and more penetrating – not to mention more meta. All in all, I feel they sacrificed humour for sweetness. It was a decent episode, and I would rank it highly within this season, but it certainly wasn’t great. The puppets were a fun novelty – and it was interesting to see how they’re going to get rid of Pierce for the next couple of episodes – but in the end, I wanted more. You’re doing better for now, Community, but I do hope you pick up soon.

For more Worldly Deanstractions, click here.


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