Community Recap: “Contemporary Impressionists”

“Cool. Cool, cool, cool.” “Hot. Hot, hot, hot.”

Anyone who was concerned that the post-hiatus episodes of Community were going to be “less weird,” in an attempt to bring in new viewers, doesn’t have anything to worry about anymore. “Contemporary Impressionists” was one of the show’s more bizarre episodes, more cartoon than live-action sitcom, with a story that took some time to ground itself, before setting in for an emotional, mostly successful third act.

The study group’s back from holiday break (let’s disregard the chronology of episode airdates), and Jeff’s big news is that he’s seeing a new shrink, who put him on anti-anxiety pills. Britta’s worried that the medication will only increase his ego, helpfully demonstrated to the viewer by an expanding computer-generated apple, turning Jeff into a narcissistic monster. More so, at least — now he’s wearing Aviators. It’s nice that Britta (who I still believe is this season’s MVP) is able to be right for once, as she’s the only one who takes an interest in/realizes the warning signs of Jeff’s pompousness — everyone else, like the Dean, is just happy to see the Taller, More Handsome Ryan Seacrest not wearing a shirt — even if the story as a whole didn’t work. It felt a little over-the-top; Community is better than fawning Jewish mother jokes, and Jeff turning into the Hulk after not winning the Most Handsome Young Man award was too broad, parody for parody’s sake. (Chang’s plot, as well, included some funny moments, but it’s too early to critique that story with any depth until it’s further developed.)

Meanwhile, Abed has been spending thousands of dollars hiring celebrity impersonators to be his playthings. If he wants to reenact a scene from The Fugitive with a guy who kind of, sort of looks like Tommy Lee Jones, then he’s going to reenact a scene from The Fugitive with a guy who kind of, sort of looks like Tommy Lee Jones. But he doesn’t have the money to itch his scratch, so to speak, and the company (headed by a fantastic French Stewart) is collecting. To help pay off his debt, Troy convinces everyone in the group to dress up as Oprah (Shirley), Fat Brando (Pierce), Judy Garland (Annie), etc. for a bar mitzvah, because their lives are better with Abed in it. He makes the ordinary seem extraordinary, and a lot more fun, too.

But sometimes, that’s a problem. Later in the episode, after Jeff turns into the Hulk, much to the delight of the Jewish boy-turned-man being mitzvahed, Troy returns to the apartment, where Abed’s still interacting with the impersonators — in this case, a grown man pretending to be Robin Williams in Patch Adams. This leads to the episode’s centerpiece, one that we’ll likely look back on later in the season, where Troy explains to Abed that he’s pissed off because after all everyone did for him that day, he’s still resorting back to old, consequence-less habits. The two eventually reconcile, but Abed doesn’t return Troy’s handshake, and while in the Dreamatorium alone, we see a conversation between Abed and Evil Abed, with the latter explaining to the former that “there are many advantages to traveling by yourself.”

I’m a big fan of Community exploring how Abed fits into the group, beyond the level of “he likes pop culture.” He’s a character who, sooner or later, is going to have to grow up, like the way his best friend Troy is trying to. Deep down, I think Abed realizes this, but he doesn’t want to acknowledge it. Doing what he does — making movies — isn’t that different from getting paid to play with toys for a living, and it’s something Abed’s wanted for years now. But considering he’s at Greendale, a shitty community college even by community college standards, something went wrong along the way. Abed’s spending more time in the Dreamatorium to escape his possible future (something the show has hinted at for some time now), and I think he’s scared Troy might not be there with him, no matter how much he hates to admit it.

What did you guys think? Who made for the better MJ: Britta or Troy?

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