Community‘s seventh episode of the season, Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality, wisely continues to strip back the high-concept tom-foolery and focus on character development. This season’s changes were obviously deserving of a serious story beat or two, and this episode starts the ball rolling.
The first major character development starts with Abed. This comes after an episode that largely ignored the existence of Troy, which smartly established that the show can survive with the new cast. Abed (Danny Pudi) is a big fan of a movie called Kick Puncher and is frustrated that the studio has crafted an unnecessary remake. Cough. What? Moving on. Abed decides to crash the premiere wearing the original Kick Puncher costume. A few lingering shots quickly establish that Abed is pretty sad he has to fly solo on this particular escapade. He runs into Professor Hickey (Jonathan Banks) who’s busy drawing his cartoon duck, Jim. Abed shows off his costume and ends up accidentally dousing Hickey’s art with a foam gun. Hickey decides to do what he believes no one has ever done before – make Abed suffer the consequences of his actions. Of course they accidentally bond. This particular plot point further demonstrates Abed’s attempts to participate when he feels story worthy moments have arrived. In this case, Hickey starts yelling at him, and Abed starts shouting back “Are we yelling now?… Yelling! Yelling!” Abed doesn’t really learn anything from the experience but does realize he could tap Hickey’s police experience for a script he’s working on. The first draft of the script was pretty terrible, and Abed thinks it’s because he’s lacking “substance.”
Meanwhile the show tries to remind us that Jeff (Joel McHale) and Ian Duncan (John Oliver) have been friends longer than anyone else on the show. Duncan asks Jeff to help him seduce Britta, and Jeff begrudgingly obliges. They end up going to a charity benefit where Britta runs into some friends from her anarchist days, including a man who pronounces Michael as Mick-hail. “I don’t like this Michael guy,” Duncan gripes. “I don’t think he likes himself, otherwise he’d pronounce it Michael,” Jeff quips. Jeff is the funny. Anyways, Britta starts feeling pretty bad about herself when she realizes her old friends are doing more than she ever could. “When was the last time you fed someone other than yourself?” She is just vulnerable enough that Ian Duncan could’ve made a move, but he ends up having a moment of self-realization (not to mention a moment that helps make him a bit more likeable) and drives her home then drives back to drink with Jeff. Then they both cut their hands open trying to whittle, which happens off-screen, but the whole idea of that scene is hilarious to me.
Chang spends this episode losing his tenuous grip on reality. Historically speaking this show doesn’t always know how to handle Chang. He worked best as a teacher, and was well used towards the end of season three, but the writers have yet to find a role for him this season. He actually fit in best last episode, which saw him participating in the events of the episode like a member of the group. Randomly inserting Chang isn’t always as glorious as it was in the drug awareness episode. His tiny plot contribution this episode may be completely unnecessary, but it is pretty damn funny. “Do you guys believe in ghosts, and, if so, do you believe what those ghosts tell you about other ghosts.”
By the next day, most of the Save Greendale Committee, excluding Annie and Shirley, have taken a long hard look at their life. Jeff’s just generally depressed; he’s not given any particular reason to be newly depressed this episode, so one can safely assume it has something to do with his current position. Britta once again questions whether she’ll ever really make a difference with her protests and social mindedness – and buries away with a bubble bath this time around. The show does do a decent job of reestablishing Jeff and Duncan as friends, something that was almost completely hidden from anyone who wasn’t familiar with the show’s pilot.
The biggest character development comes from Abed, as the show is wont to do in this post-Troy world. He seems to have made a new friend in Hickey, who’s been slowly circling the group and befriending each one individually, so as to eventually become a beloved character. It remains to be seen whether he’ll ever team up with side characters like Duncan and Chang. It seems like a good idea – god only knows who might leave the show by the sixth season (a season which seems likely to happen). By the way, if they get their movie afterwards, Troy had better appear – it would be so sad not to have the entire original cast back. (Excepting the now-deceased Pierce, but maybe a flashback could solve that problem.)
And speaking of fleshing out side characters, where the hell is the Dean this season? I appreciate Dan Harmon could be trying to differ this season from the previous, Dean-heavy, season, but Jim Rash is one of the show’s strong points, and he is very missed. Lack of Dean aside, this is a good episode, and Community increasingly seems to have a direction again, and this makes me happy. It might not have been the funniest episode, but part of what makes the show brilliant is its willingness to tone down the humour and focus on character development.