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Worldly Distractions: Community 6.4 - Queer Studies and Advanced Waxing




For being into Season Six with only half the original cast left, we're actually doing pretty well. The series still has a fair amount of quirk, and the jokes fly pretty fast. Though nothing can top "Pocket Full of Hawthornes", I'm intrigued by another LGBT-based episode. But who does it concern? We shall find out.

Annie helps Chang rehearse for what appears to be an audition for The Karate Kid (for the role of Daniel, you racist). Hey, why has no one in the history of this show besides Shirley ever addressed Chang by his first name? Maybe that's why he's so grumpy all the time. Anyway, Annie is encouraging and constructive. It doesn't help much. Abed arrives to bitch about the Wi-Fi, with Elroy and Jeff shortly behind. Elroy asks Jeff to help him sue some people in what sounds like a super-complicated case. The only two problems: Jeff's not a lawyer anymore, and all the parties being sued are dead.

The group argues over what's more important - oxygen or Wi-Fi. Yes, apparently Greendaliens can survive without the former. Who's inferior now? Wi-Fi wins out, as it usually does in this modern age. The Dean promises to get on it, which means that it's up to the study group. And by the study group I mean Frankie.

Elroy also volunteers to help, but is a bit hampered because he still thinks in bytes. To make up for it, Abed comes along to provide virtually all the technical know-how. The Dean gets miffed and pretends to quit, and then is more miffed when this draws no reaction. Opening credits, and wow, this already has a higher word count than half a Modern Family recap.

The school board goons arrive, bringing a surprisingly positive attitude with them. In fact, they'd like to promote the Dean to one of them - though they don't approve of his sexuality (whatever the fuck that is), they do like to appear diverse and tolerant. However, this means the Dean must come out - and he's not sure he's ready to do that. They walk out of the room singing "Gay Dean" to the tune of "Jolene", which is genius.

Fun fact: Greendale apparently once put on a show called "Gotterdammerung". Tell me you wouldn't have watched that.

Elroy explains his philosophy of computers, which appears to coincide (somewhat bizarrely) with the theory of evolution. Abed is creeped out, and that's something. Annie takes Chang to his audition, and honestly, it's really sweet to see her encourage him. Unfortunately, Chang blows the audition. To calm him down, they ask Annie to read with him. They make the two switch parts. It turns out Annie Edison is a killer Daniel, while Chang makes a rather lackluster Miyagi. A few minutes later, they triumphantly announce that they got the parts. Well, Annie is triumphant. Even so, she tries to comfort the downhearted Chang, telling him they'll make a great team.

Meanwhile, Elroy has found the problem, but is surprisingly evasive as to its nature or any conceivable solution. The Dean is, of course, easily fooled. This might explain why they're so thrilled to hear that he's thinking of leaving. However, the Dean is still struggling with this, so he summons Frankie and Jeff to his office for some serious decision-making. Frankie is horrified that he's expected to be a "token", and Jeff mostly doesn't care. The Dean clarifies that he isn't "just gay". Of course, we will never truly know what that entails, but it's safe to say that you probably can't be that way on a school board. (We also learn that Frankie's sexuality might be a tad ambiguous, by the way. Jeff's certainly interested, considering she's pretty much Age-Appropriate Annie.)

Just then, Jeff (perched on some Dalmatian pillows) realizes that this could be a great coup for the Save Greendale Committee. He lawyer-talks the Dean into making a difference by acting as their mole, even if it means hiding his true self. So the Dean agrees to "come out as two-sevenths of what he is", and pulls the others in for a reluctant group hug.

Chang goes into rehearsal giving it his all, but is quickly shot down by the demanding, JK-Simmons-in-Whiplash director (Jason Mantzoukas). However, Annie is consistently praised, despite looking awful whenever she attempts karate. Not surprisingly, Chang's spirit is soon crushed beyond all redemption. Can this guy ever catch a break?

On the other hand, the director's rants are a ton of fun.

The Dean's appointment is announced, and he gives a little speech emphasizing his extreme gayness. He has even acquired a cute partner, Domingo, whose job is to smile inoffensively and give the occasional kiss on the cheek. Immediately, everyone asks him questions about being a "Gay Dean" and how this will affect his work. The board is quick to demonstrate how politically correct they are. Enthusiastic noogies of friendship are given. At the back of the room, Frankie looks disgusted.

As soon as the Dean leaves the room, he expresses his disgust at the whole charade. However, a gay student tells him that he's inspiring, which makes it more difficult to back down. To the tune of Dolly Parton's "Gay Dean", we see through several whirling newspapers that his appointment has been well-received. In fact, one might call him a sensation.

Unfortunately, Chang is going downhill, berated and abused at every turn by the psychotic director. Later, Annie complains about it to Britta, who suggests that she drop out of the play. Annie thinks that maybe Chang should quit instead. She finally settles on threatening to quit - after all, she was born to act, so really, there's no reason for her to actually step aside. Not if her gifts please the universe. Britta's a little shocked by her intensity.

In addition to fixing the Wi-Fi, Abed and Elroy have found themselves guarding an albatross nest (lodged in the router). Gratuitous Coleridge references, go. The Dean catches them not doing anything, but instead of lecturing, he vents about how bad his job is. Elroy protests that they can't move the nest and risk upsetting the birds. The Dean concedes that he has a point.

The director continues to Whiplash Chang, who has still not quit the play and run off sobbing like I would have twenty minutes ago. Annie continues to doubt her own motives, and finally snaps. She tells off the director and threatens to quit. This goes precisely nowhere. See, the director considers Daniel to be completely unimportant - it's Miyagi who matters, hence the harsh critiques. It turns out Annie was only cast because the costumes suit her, but Chang has real talent, so he's only being cruel to draw it out. Now it's Annie's turn to get Whiplashed. She is kicked out of the play - but as she leaves, Chang takes her aside and thanks her for sticking up for him.


Gay Dean is a media sensation, but the other school board members are a bit concerned with his performance - not to mention the conservative backlash they're getting. They demand he fix all their problems, now, or he's out on his ass. Spurred to action, he goes to destroy the birds' nest, and presumably kill the whole school from dehydration. However, Elroy and Abed are prepared - they are two men of colour, protecting baby birds, faced with two security guards and carrying a working camera phone. Fear backlash, the Dean stops. For now.

It soon devolves into Unarmed Black Man vs Unarmed Gay Dean, with Domingo and Abed hanging out watching (and filming, in the case of the latter). It ends after .5 seconds when the Dean politely asks Elroy to remove the nest. To the sad remix of "Gay Dean", the two remove the baby birds - and secretly raise them in the lab. Right on, guys.

So we montage it. Chang continues to be driven to his limits at rehearsal. And tragically, the baby birds die. Abed and Elroy hold a funeral outside Elroy's trailer. The Dean continues to inspire LGBT students, and Britta, but inside his soul is crying.

Finally, he calls a press conference to clear up some misconceptions. He's not gay - he is a politician. And that means he will say and do anything to win. Tearfully, he asks that they accept him anyway. Afterward, everyone discusses the aftermath, and how politicians need to come out of the closet. Wait, I'm missing something. We know politicians are politicians. This is really strange. Are they doing something meta? Is this show too smart for me? 

The Dean shows up to apologize for all of his misdeeds, but he is met with hostility. Frankie changes the subject to Chang's play, which immediately upsets Annie. Britta tells her to STFU. Finally, everyone decides to go. Even the Dean invites himself along.

The director gives a self-congratulatory speech. Annie has been replaced by Annie Kim, another sore point. Chang gives an inspired performance, moving the audience alternately to laughter, cheering and tears. Even hard-hearted Jeff is misty-eyed. Everyone praises the show to the skies. Chang's confidence is restored, his friends are at his side, and he's a somebody again. He runs off to join the cast party, leaving Annie downcast. Fortunately, Jeff is there, and he offers to take her to a cool new bar. She accepts, and they happily walk off arm in arm. But not in that way gawd.

Tag scene - one of the baby birds pulled through, so Abed holds a releasing ceremony, attended by the whole study group. They all flap little cardboard wings on their fingers, and wear cat masks, in order to encourage the little guy to leave. He takes off into the air, to the relief of the entire group. Abed smiles in a way that can only be described as paternal. Britta praises him for making a difference. Group hug, complete with cat masks. This slightly saccharine moment is tempered, however, when the bird flies into a transformer.

Well. This episode has SO much. It worked as a theatrical drama, it worked as a political satire, it even provided Chang's best story since his capture of the Basterds. There were good jokes all over the place, fine moments of parody, and best of all, there was room for character development. And guys, you know what? This new study group is working. You can't recapture the old days, but Frankie and Elroy can both keep up with the show's frenetic, goofy pace. With each week, I enjoy this season more and more - and I can't wait for the rest of the season to unfold. In the past two seasons, Community lost its way. Happily, it has found its groove again - quite different, but still playing out like the show we started with.

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