It’s been one, two, three weeks since Community the Internet phenomena has returned to being Community the reference driven TV show. And, the latest episode brings one, two, three plot lines together in a coherent but rushed 22 minute episode. “Digital Exploration of Interior Design” separates the study-group members into chunks of narrative that have bubbling for quite some time.
As the two cast members constantly associated with one another, Troy and Abed have been waiting to have a conflict for quite some time. Appropriately enough, the tension building between the two for the last couple episodes (remember when Abed went to the Dreamatorium by himself only to encounter evil Abed?) creates a direct parallel to the tension between the mass television audience and those dedicated to Community. Fortmaking (and Fortsmanship) is back (Season 2 “Conspiracy Theories”), but to distinguish the new endeavor from one’s past Abed is resigned to making a pillow fort, which would really be more appropriately described as a cushion fort. The Community writers have played with recurring ideas before (paintball for example) and generally try to aggrandize them as they move from episode to episode. Not this time.
Troy asks Abed to make a blanket fort so they can set a Guinness world record. Abed has no regard for records and would rather stick to the novelty and quality (though there’s no real explanation of what makes his fort better) of the cushion fort. In a territory struggle, both the cushion and blanket forts need to expand into the space the other occupies, Troy and Abed go to war. Sure, it is a meta commentary on the perceived success of the show. But more importantly, everybody loves the factionalization a good fight delivers. John Goodman as Vice Dean Laybourne is back to apply the essential force to start the war by comparing Troy and Abed to Inspector Spacetime characters—almost every episode now has an Inspector Spacetime reference; it’s getting out of hand. Laybourne essentially plays the physical manifestation of the Evil Abed seen in the last episode. Important to note, a ponytailed John Goodman who’s “going through some stuff” in a red Onesie was a life changing experience.
There’s no real reason for Abed to insist on the preservation of his pillow fort which makes his argument and actions seem childish to an extreme. I think it’s a weak plot line but the purpose it serves is mandated by the progression of the story. It will bridge two episodes and hopefully in the next we will see how the other primary characters pledge their allegiances. Leonard, Starburns, and Magnitude are on #TeamAbed. It only seems like Garrett is on #TeamTroy. Most audible laugh went to the moment when pillow war breaks out and Jeff nonchalantly steps out of the fray, texting all the while.
Meanwhile, whilst Jeff is visiting Annie at her locker, he realizes that Greendale students actually have lockers. Turns out Jeff missed orientation, among other things. Jeff and Annie locate his locker (and somehow look up his combination) only to find it filled with junk posters and at least one hate letter from someone named Kim. Since the locker has remained unopened for the two and a half years Jeff has attended Greendale, they assume it’s particularly old. To understand why Jeff would have received hate letters in his first year, you have to think back to season one Jeff—the Jeff who constantly renounced the study group. Season three Jeff wants to be a better person though, so he goes to find Kim. At Kim’s locker some dude tells Jeff that Kim died two weeks ago (It’s so painfully obvious that aforementioned dude is Kim). Jeff brings flowers to dead Kim’s locker and apologizes only to discover the truth. Annie rages when she discovers Kim is not some girl Jeff loved then left, revealing her own unresolved issues with Jeff.
Jeff gets a lot of attention so it was nice to see him off on a side quest with Annie. To be honest, Annie completely stole the show. She had the best lines and was easiest to empathize with. For an episode that was intended to be character, not plot driven, Annie seemed to be the only character that mattered.
Third storyline is a continuation of Shirley and Pierce’s stab at entrepreneurism with Greendale’s sandwich shop. Subway has opened a store in the cafeteria, much to Shirley’s dismay. In a nod to Britta’s conspiracy leanings, a man named “Subway” is in charge of the new Subway (though we never see him doing anything with the shop). It’s a new industry practice called Corpo-huminization where corporations have humans represent their businesses culture to the extreme of legally changing their name, abstaining from certain acts, and whatnot. The entire storyline is a George Orwell 1984 parody. But that’s quickly addressed up front in a conversation between Britta and Subway. They either did that to make it more palatable or clue in those who wouldn’t have made the connection on their own. Pierce and Shirley want Britta to use her exceptional Whoresmanship (err Whoreswomanship) to infiltrate Subway’s world and bring him down. Pierce wants to bug Britta with “microphones in lipstick. Lipstick in microphones.” Shirley seems to be there just to prevent things from getting too out of hand. There’s also an awesome repeated gag of Pierce breaking open pens, drinking the ink, and dying his mouth blue.
It’s another way for Community to address whether they stick to their values and integrity as a show, or selling out. This isn’t the first time a show has accepted sponsorship money. It’s not even the first time a show has accepted Subway monet (Chuck). But it doesn’t leave a foul taste in the mouth so I’m okay with it. Eat fresh fist bumps all around.
While the main stories were okay, it was the stray jokes that made “Digital Exploration of Interior Design” watchable. Annie and the Dean were at their best, a John Goodman cameo is always welcome and “saving Garrett” was one of the best sub-gags in a while. The episode is just a set up to the second act coming next week. If it’s going to succeed, this has to be the epic conclusion to addressing the show’s relation to the audience because it’s getting tiresome. This week we see each character stand on their own feet to redevelop our understanding of them. Next week, Community has to go to war and let the victors write history.