Troy and Abed are in mourning.
Pierce Hawthorne has died. It’s no secret that the actor that played him, Chevy Chase, didn’t particularly enjoy working on the show. He didn’t find it funny, and he didn’t enjoy working under Dan Harmon. Despite their disagreements, the two got along fairly well off-set; however Chevy Chase wasn’t even allowed on the set this season. His character had exited the show. He barely appeared in the fourth season, but there was never any real closure. His character just sort of faded away – then he popped up to clumsily explain his departure. Last episode, the sudden news of his death was delivered. This episode, “Cooperative Polygraphy”, finally provides some closure.
Pierce has sort of died before. After he almost ODs on pills in season three, he brings the group in for a “bequeathal.” He tells them all he’s dying and wants to give them one last gift. The gifts prove to be complex mind games designed to make the group realize horrible truths about themselves. His will essentially allows for the ultimate bequeathal, this time with a twist – Walton Goggins with a polygraph machine.
The group gets strapped to the lie detector and asked a series of questions Pierce has prepared. They all consider leaving when they realize the game Pierce is playing, but the sizeable estate Pierce had keeps them going. The group sits around the table learning increasingly despicable things about each other (“In a church Britta? For shame, that’s where Jesus gets his mail!”). There are several rises in the argument, each culminating in a speech from Jeff (Joel McHale) that calms them down. It’s pretty much a brilliant microcosm of Jeff’s role on the show.
The best stuff through all this is probably Abed, played by Danny Pudi. Abed’s faintly robotic nature meant that the show’s first bottle episode didn’t allow him much to do:
Much like Abed’s sudden slow-clap in the first episode there’s a sense that Abed is acting now. He plays up these hilarious fake facial expressions at semi-appropriate moments. In prior seasons, Abed was fairly content to be a viewer, but now it seems he wants to participate more. I suspect this will be increasingly relevant when Troy (Donald Glover) leaves the show.
Turns out Abed’s planted GPS trackers on the group. This feels like another potential plot thread for the future, but it was still pretty funny. (“Your faces are all changing, are you mad or are you hungry?”) It also turns out that Abed created a whole false online relationship with Annie. This was purely to keep her in the kind of happy mood that inspires her to make pancakes. “I did what I did in the name of breakfast,” Abed announces, which is a phrase I desperately need on a t-shirt. All this stuff with Abed is important. It might seem like fairly inconsequential gags, but it’s important to gauge where Abed’s character is right now. He’s the most unstable group member, and his best friend is about to leave.
Because that’s where the show goes. Pierce’s final messages to the group are legitimately lovely. As they went on I fought back a few tears. He may give every member of the group a vial of frozen sperm (apparently it was dehydration from filling the vials that killed him), but he also says wonderfully kind things to them and leaves them great things. But the kicker is Troy: If he sails Pierce’s boat around the world, he will take ownership of Pierce’s shares of Hawthorne Wipes, shares valued at millions.
And Troy accepts. The fallout from this is sure to be monumental. Troy is very moved by Pierce’s comments about his warrior heart, saying that Pierce knew something about him that he didn’t even know: “Because he’s offering me something I’ve been looking for my whole life…millions of dollars. Or, you know, being a real man, or whatever he said.” There’s a quiet reserve to this whole scene, and it’s more than a little moving.
Looking back I suspect this episode will seem like the crux of this season. Pierce gone and Troy leaving make if feel pretty damn significant. It’s funny too. Walton Goggins was hilarious – the way he read Pierce’s questions completely straight was great, especially in contrast to the last scene with him in the bar. Troy was very funny, especially “silence wench!” Everyone gets a pretty funny line. This season is primarily transitional, and the growing pains may be showing, but it’s still good. Now I just want to see where this all goes.