May 14, 2010

Episode Review: COMMUNITY, "English as a Second Language"

Following up last week's "Modern Warfare" was a daunting task, so I don't think many fans had high expectations for this week's "English as a Second Language", but the latter was still able to generate some serious laughs.

The main plot focused on the revelation that Señor Chang was not really a teacher, and how that impacted the gang, especially Jeff and Annie. Chang confided in Jeff because he was interested in obtaining fake credentials like Winger did, so he could look like he was legit. The ever studious Annie accidentally recorded the secret conversation and ratted Chang out. Annie's motivation to get Chang ousted was she didn't want the gang to break up after they were done with Spanish 102, and if they had to retake the class they would still be together.

Annie's reasoning for outing Chang made sense, but obviously the execution wasn't very thought out. Instead of the making the class retake Spanish 102, Dean Pelton told the class that they'd just take the final with a new (competent) professor, which bums everyone out.

This may sound odd, but the fallout from Chang's dismissal was the best part of the episode. Jeff pretty much laid into Annie about being immature while telling the rest of the group to avoid her "Disney" eyes so they wouldn't feel sympathetic towards her. It was kind of a hard scene to watch (especially for Jeff/Annie shippers), but it felt believable. Jeff plays it cool, but he's at Greendale for a specific goal, and we got to see how he'd react if something gets in his way. Even though Jeff's rant was harsh, it also had some of the best lines of the night ("She's the Ark of the Covenant").

The only part of "ESL" that was just as good as the fallout was the reconciliation between Jeff and Annie. Annie was going to tell Chang that it was her fault that he was fired, which panicked Jeff because he thought Chang would kill her. The gallant hero runs off to save the maiden in distress just to find out that she's fine and helping Chang deal with not being a teacher. The show wrapped up with a nice little Jeff/Annie moment that probably had the shippers a flutter. While I wouldn't consider myself one of those fans, I do have to admit that Jeff and Annie are a more interesting pairing than Jeff and Britta. I see a love triangle (or pentagon if you factor in Slater and Vaughn) next season.

The B-plot was subtle but in many ways just as funny because it was essentially Troy and Abed playing Matt Damon and Ben Affleck's characters from Good Will Hunting. The catch was Troy ended up being a plumbing prodigy instead of a math genius. One of the plumbers tried to convince Troy to be a plumber instead of going to school, which pretty much made Troy and Abed's story Good Will Hunting in reverse. Nice touch.

Pop culture references are the show's bread and butter, and while it's fun to see over the top episodes like "Modern Warfare" or "Contemporary American Poultry", the show works better when the references are  not as overt. As soon as we saw the math equations on the chalkboard, Good Will Hunting jumped right into our heads (if we saw the movie), but we didn't need to be told that's what the show was referring to. Reference humor works best when you give the audience the benefit of the doubt rather than smacking them over the head with jokes (*cough*Family Guy*cough*).

While "English as a Second Language" wasn't as epic as "Warfare", it was still a funny installment of Community, and we were able to learn more and more about these characters. Also, having a more realistic episode like "ESL" makes the show more impactful as a whole.


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