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Worldly Distractions: Community 6.1 - Ladders




My bad - I forgot Community is on Tuesday now, not Thursday. Anyway, can you believe this day is here? We're almost to #sixseasonsandamovie! Despite great odds, this little show continues to linger (thanks, Yahoo). But can it live up to its stellar first years? Or do we have to declare another gas leak?

The butt flag proudly waves as the Dean extols the "heroes who saved Greendale" (essentially the study group) over the PA. Jeff has an electric car, Britta's homeless, Abed is still aware that this is a TV show, Annie is still attending to every conceivable problem with obsessive zeal. And that's all that's left you guys, because Shirley deserted us like the traitor she is graduated from the institution, and Donald Glover can't be coaxed back onto Internet television for some reason. (As far as the fans are concerned, however, Pierce can stay dead.) A lot of minor characters are back, too, like Gareth and Leonard.

At this point, something unfortunate occurs. As it seems that the students of Greendale have nothing better to do than play Frisbee, there is an enormous pile of the things on the college's roof. Presumably due to the shoddy building codes you can be sure they used, the roof collapses and an ocean of Frisbees falls onto the helpless students. Disaster movie parody? Disaster it is. At the very least, Leonard is (briefly) reunited with his lost toy after fifty years.

We get the most tragic opening credits sequence ever, which has so many missing cast members that the cootie catcher actually needs illustrations of nothing to fill in the blanks. I can't handle it, you guys. Even if they're replaced by new cast members in an episode or two, those impostors will never fill the original cast-shaped hole in our hearts.



Everyone mopes about the roof, which Jeff confirms was mostly made of Styrofoam. Someone finally notices that Shirley is missing, which apparently Annie was keeping from Abed so as not to upset him. However, he takes this pretty well, as he concludes that Shirley has "spun off". Britta offers more information - Shirley went to take care of her dad (which was why YNB left the show in real life, actually), and is now the personal chef to a brilliant but troubled Southern detective. I say fair enough, they haven't given her a decent storyline in years.

In the meantime, Britta (now a brunette) is taking over the sandwich shop. Chang points out that all the people of colour in the group are disappearing, which no one takes seriously, at least until the Dean introduces Paget Brewster as "New Shirley". Okay, there's being meta and then there's being ridiculous. I'm giving you a hand slap from over here, Harmon.

Actually, her name is Francesca Dart (Darth?) and she's a new administrative consultant, and presumably Jeff's new conquest. Sorry Jeff/Annie shippers. The Dean is also forcing them to add their new "friend" to the committee, especially because she's good at not collapsing roofs.

He leaves Frankie to a very hostile group, who forbid her from sitting in Shirley's chair and demand an explanation. Businesslike, she takes another chair and explains her new marketing plan for Greendale. She is hoping to streamline all of the school's wacky classes, including "Ladders" and "When is it OK to Shake a Baby?". Everyone's non-plussed, and once she's gone, Annie makes fun of her binder.

Frankie shows up at Shirley's Sandwiches, now incompetently run by Britta, and demands to know how much it costs Greendale. She also takes the liquor from the faculty lounge, because she's apparently never been on a college campus ever, and eternally pisses off Jeff. She proves to be more hyper-competent than Annie. All in all, she does not make friends with Greendale. Annie concedes that she's improving the school, but Jeff worries that Greendale will lose its spirit. They decide to bring her down, and to enlist Abed, who loves Greendale more than anything, to help.

Meanwhile, Abed is re-enacting movie quotes with French fries when he has his own confrontation with Frankie. However, he is more than capable of handling it, listing all his concerns with her, which seem to mesh perfectly with our concerns about the show's new direction - too many to name here. He absolutely kills it. Brilliant monologue. Why doesn't Danny Pudi have an Emmy by now when Eric Stonestreet has at least two? Screw you, Emmy people.

To our surprise, Frankie addresses these concerns quite ably - especially those of her role. Apparently, her virtue is that she's excruciatingly boring and will make everyone's quirks an asset. I guess Frankie's role is to be a mouthpiece for how the show is changing. Well, no, I don't guess, she actually says it. Er, I don't quite get this, but Abed is going along with it, so I guess I will, too.

Annie summons him to Shirley's sandwiches at that moment. He hears out the others' complaints about her, and then declares that he thinks they can get along. The others more or less ignore him and vow to set up a secret committee of their own. Abed accuses them of overreacting to change like he does, to which Jeff orders him to "leave reality to us". They ask if he's in or out. They then deny him pretzels. Guys, this is not the Community I remember. Abed declares them bad friends.

Annie tries to help Britta with the business, but between the burnt sandwiches and Britta's tendency to give lectures out with her sandwiches, there's a long way to go. Jeff keeps sneaking drinks. Soon enough, the customers turn out to be more interested in joining Jeff in the corner. Sounds like Greendale's first speakeasy is about to open.

The next morning, Abed tells Chang and Frankie about the schism. Chang is mortally offended that he wasn't included, Frankie is still dull, and the three of them agree to save Greendale themselves. This is portrayed in montage, complete with electronic music, but Frankie quickly puts the kibosh on that, mostly because he's not sticking to her list. So instead we get a montage of Abed doing slightly more mundane stuff. And since he's not allowed to act like he's in a TV show anymore, I do have to wonder how long his alliance with Frankie will last.

Indeed, within minutes he has gotten past Todd (the cashier at the shop) and infiltrated the other committee. "Ordering the special", apparently, gets you into an elaborate secret bar, run by Annie the cigarette girl, Britta the (worst) bartender, and Jeff, who more or less acts as Humphrey Bogart from Casablanca. Actually, Abed informs me that it's actually Miller's Crossing. Some film preservationist I am. Abed declares the whole thing "conceptual", everyone's friends again, and we settle into a drink montage.

The next morning, he tries to conceal his hangover while Frankie looks on suspiciously. Talking to his friends, he can't stop bringing up her name. Do I detect a ship about to sail?

Just then, Frankie raids the speakeasy. She lectures them on their defiance and tells them she's taking Abed back. Abed declares that these are his friends, and he's sick of Frankie's bullshit tasks (not those exact words). Frankie declares that he doesn't know better. Cue a gasp from everyone. Caught out, she stammers, and winds up calling everyone "a fart". Smooth, lady. A drunken orgy of destruction follows.

The Dean is confused as to why Frankie has disappeared and the school has suddenly lost its insurance. Jeff plays dumb. He also manages to mollify Pelton by suggesting that he put the cost of the insurance premiums into the school dance budget. So the staff and faculty go back to normal, complete with "Ladders" class. Unfortunately, alcohol and ladders are not a great combination, so Annie winds up getting hurt.

Though Annie declares her crippling pain "worth it", the medical bills for her, the professor, and various other students are staggering. Everyone tries to take the blame for letting the school fall into chaos. Finally, the Dean shuts them up and demands that they find someone who knows how to handle this stuff.

We see Frankie on a job interview, so completely obsessed with looking poised that she sounds like a robot with no syntax. Her would-be bosses are totally confused. They advise her to find a company run by insane people. Just then, Jeff and Abed burst in to bring her back to Greendale. She says she'll come back - after some apologies. Jeff and Abed, naturally, montage it.

So Frankie is back and the school is more or less running. However, Gareth and Leonard seem to be plotting something. Could this be the end of Greendale?

Tag scene - SHIRLEY'S BACK! Well, Shirley and her Southern detective (Steven Weber). Cliched dialogue and gratuitous references to the bayou. I love it. Over the end credits, a promo for next week's "The Butcher and the Baker" plays.

There's no question that the cast is looking a little bare these days, but fortunately, the four who are left are more than able, especially the magnificent Danny Pudi, who knocked it out of the park tonight. As for Frankie, well, I'm growing to like her. I read an article recently comparing her to Frank Grimes and think that is apt. Her job is to be sane in this weird world, and Brewster's pulling it off well, so we'll see how that works. Otherwise, there wasn't much to write home about. All in all, tonight's episode was here to ease us into a new state of affairs, and it did that job well. The speakeasy scenes were funny, the montages just about destroyed me, and there were enough gags to keep the show on the road. Looks like this season might be a fun ride after all.

Tonight's episode is actually a double - look for the second episode sometime tomorrow!

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