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Worldly Distractions: Community 5.9 - VCR Maintenance and Educational Publishing





Four episodes left and almost a third of the original study group gone. Can Community still deliver the laughs? Let's find out.

Annie conducts a Committee meeting, though Jeff ruins it by pointing out all her strategies in advance. Abed arrives with Rachel, who has just purchased "Pile of Bullets", a VCR game, to honor their anniversary. Heh, I just remembered those existed. There was a Gargoyles one, right? Abed wants to play it with Rachel that night, but Annie kind of wanted the house to herself since her brother's visiting. Nonetheless, Abed manages to turn it into a four-person evening. I am totally not surprised that Abed still owns a VCR. Hell, everyone knows the good movies are on VHS anyway.

The Dean shows up, dressed up as a peanut bar (that's the pic above), and raps about a late payday for Jeff and Hickey's benefit. It's racist, horrendous, and really freakin' hilarious. Jim Rash has a perfect face. It ends with the Dean running away crying while everyone stares in astonishment. Opening credits.

Annie's taciturn brother Anthony, who appears to be a total hippie or possibly Young Dumbledore, arrives. He immediately endears himself to Annie by fixing the fridge door, and Annie asks Abed if her brother can move in. Three "E" names in the same house? I can feel my brain cringing already. Abed does not favor the idea, preferring Rachel as a roommate instead, but Annie thinks the relationship is too young - and she has a point. (Despite the "anniversary", they've really only been dating a month, as Abed has a weird system for compressing time.) Anthony continues to be gross and awkward with no social skills whatsoever, but not in a charming way like Abed.

Shirley, Jeff and Hickey organize a storage room. Jeff complains, while Hickey complains about Jeff complaining and Shirley makes offensive jokes about Catholics. Jeff gets curious about an old vent. They open it to find a whole bunch of shrink-wrapped textbooks, probably stolen, which Hickey immediately decides to sell at an outrageous markup on the street. That's right - they're textbook dealing. If this does not result in an elaborate Breaking Bad money, I demand that the $0.00 I spent watching this be refunded immediately. Shirley questions the ethics involved, but Hickey and Jeff elaborately convince her to STFU. With that settled, she negotiates the deal like a pro.

The dinner of four continues to go badly, with Abed and Annie using the conversation to convince each other that their roommate pick is best. Why they don't just kidnap Troy from his boat (and Donald Glover from wherever he's hiding) is a mystery. Okay, yeah, Glover seems to need the break, but I'm a sad fan, okay? Annie takes Abed out to tell him to stop it, while Anthony and Rachel continue to weird each other out. In the hall, Annie and Abed try to figure out how to decide. Dice, rock-paper-scissors and coins are rejected because of the timeline problem. They settle on using Abed's new game. Abed and Rachel vs. Anthony and Annie, winner gets to move in. They force their guests into suggest the game and drag their guests into the TV room. Maybe you're always broke because you have a damn TV room?

Britta helps them find a deal for the stolen textbooks, though she commands a steep price. However, Shirley brings back her serious negotiating skills and winds up winning the moment. This from the woman who was scared to even think about starting a business in Season 1. Unfortunately, Chang walks in at that moment and wants to know what's going on. Shirley coolly tells them to keep him hostage.

The game is pure 1990s, with needlessly convoluted game pieces, a flickering video along with it, and instructions that make no sense. The host of the game (Vince Gilligan - how do they get all these show creators on?) is practically incomprehensible and has the worst accent you've ever heard. Soon enough, they're in total chaos. Determined to solve their argument, Abed and Annie rewind the tape and start over, totally confusing their guests. The game continues.

Chang is forced to say he stole the textbooks, while Jeff and Hickey record it Al-Qaeda style. Jeff becomes upset by this and wants to bow out, making dangerous enemies. The game continues. Abed and Annie are fiercely competitive. Their guests stare into space. Eventually, no one can figure out who won, so it's suggested that they play again. Rachel and Anthony protest. When the notion of moving in is brought up, they insist that they don't want to live there. Rachel even ends up leaving.

Jeff and Chang remain hostages while Britta negotiates the deal. The hostages sow the seeds of mistrust among their captors. Shirley takes matters into her own hands, and soon has all four of the others tied to chairs. Oops.

Anthony leaves earlier than planned, citing "issues". Annie assumes they're between the two of them, and unloads all her childhood sorrows on him, but Anthony says no, it has to do with Troy's absence. He walks out while Annie stares at the wall, covered in Troy-and-Abed-and-Annie photos. Abed attempts to apologize to Rachel, getting a guy to pour water on his head so he looks like he's run through the rain. (It helps that Danny Pudi looks awesome dripping wet.) She accepts his apology, saying it's going to be just fine. The dude holds a rainbow cutout over Abed's head, and they reconcile.

Shirley tries to sell the books, but learns that they are worthless - there was a misprint, and the book has no page numbers. She returns to her friends, ashamed. Abed and Annie agree that Troy's departure threw off the balance, and they need someone special in the apartment with them. Just then, Britta walks in - so Annie and Abed mutually decide to check Craigslist instead. Shirley, Hickey and Jeff return, having been in the storage room all night. They start their meeting. The Dean writes a rap, and gets upset again because he's lost his touch.

End scene: It's 1993. The VCR game host (Vince Gilligan, I should remind you) gets the job he's been waiting for. His wife flips out, telling him that VCR games are the way of the future, and they make insane plans for their new life on the A list.

Is this the week of "ehhh" episodes or something? Nothing has been particularly bad this time, but nothing has stood out either. It's the same old debates and the same old quirks. Rather than half-assing like they did with the hostage situation, Community is in serious need of an all-episode overhaul. The David Fincher parody they did was great. Play with the concepts, do something bold, like what made you special before. I feel like the show has stood back a bit too much this season. Next episode, step forward. Please.

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