Community Recap: “Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts”

Things are not going to end well for Pierce, are they? Oh yeah: welcome back. It’s been just under 100 days since “Regional Holiday Music,” the final episode of Community before its three-month-long hiatus that finally (FINALLY) ended last night, aired, though you wouldn’t know it. The show has been everywhere — on the Internet, mostly. There have been board games mock-ups and Troy and Abed as Calvin and Hobbes posters and Jim Rash’s Oscar-winning leg and Venn diagrams and flash mobs and Inspector Spacetime paintings and GIFs. So. Many. GIFs. (And yet, not enough.) Just last week, you guys (or at least 72.7% of you guys) voted “Remedial Chaos Theory” the greatest sitcom episode of all-time. So even though Community hasn’t been on the air, it’s not like it’s been off our radar screens, either.

But with all the hype comes an increase in expectations (though, to be fair, it’s unlikely many new viewers gave the show a shot yesterday, and fans of Community already have high expectations, maybe to a fault), which is why the show did the smart thing and began Season 3.5 with a so-called “normal” episode. If a new viewer DID give the show a try (The Big Bang Theory wasn’t on last night), “Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts” wasn’t a bad place to start. The personalities behind every character were established and reestablished throughout the course of the episode, and at least by Community standards, it wasn’t “too weird.”

With the wise exception of the polarizing and absent Chang, every main character had a story that tied in nicely to the show’s A-plot: Shirley and Andre are getting married…again. Considering he’s been in love with her since there was “only one Damon Wayans,” it’s about damn time. Britta, who shockingly comes from a long line of wives and mothers, realizes she has a sick, cruel talent for floral decorations and interior design, while Annie, as chipper and bunny-like as ever, is chock full of wedding ideas, thanks to her Torah-sized marriage scrapbook. Even Troy and Abed are willing to help out: by acting normal. It’s impossible not to read that as a response to TV viewers who think Community too bizarre to have an emotional connection. Thing is, once Troy and Abed stop being weird and start doing the Lindbergh Lean (which at least 1,000 fans have already learned), that’s when they cease to be interesting, and become stock humans. There are a lot of criticisms I understand about Community — that it’s too inconsistent, too reliant on gimmicks, too pop culture heavy — even if I disagree with them, but I REALLY disagree with the argument that the characters are too hard to embrace on a level beyond laughter. The show has taken real strides to flesh out every character, to the point where we know why they’re doing what they’re doing, and how come. For instance, the reason Troy and Abed “de-whimsify” themselves is because they don’t want to weird people out at their friend’s community college library wedding (rehearsal). The attention should be on Shirley, not on them. That’s a genuine, well earned plot decision. It’s only when they realize that their sincerity is being mistaken for sarcasm, like when Abed offers Andre a shrimp after he and Shirley fight over his failing stereo business, do they switch back.

Likewise, Jeff, who doesn’t give a crap about anything, DOES give a crap about giving a speech at Shirley’s wedding, even though he’s unable to come up with anything because he’s still pissed at his dad leaving his mom. He has to look deep into his heart to see what matters to him (mostly, his phone, Annie’s boobs, and scotch), and still only comes up with the Jim Belushi of speech openings, “Webster’s Dictionary defines…” (Which is totally a Simpsons reference: “Now what is a wedding? Well, Webster’s Dictionary describes a wedding as: the process of removing weeds from one’s garden.”) It’s only when Jeff gets drunk that he’s able to…nope, he still believes that marriage is a lie and a sham. Britta, too, gets increasingly hammered and steps up to the altar, except she’s resigned herself to a life of, shock, being someone’s wife. It’s at this moment that I groaned, believing that the next step was going to be the two of them getting mistakenly married, but the show does a nice pivot, and the scene ends with Shirley and Andre exchanging their vows. Shirley has always been the maternal figure of the study group, so it’s a nice touch having two of her children, no matter how drunk and foolish they are, up there with her and her husband. (Also, re: Shirley’s Miss Piggy voice — OHHHHHHHHHHH.)

As for Pierce: for most of the episode, he’s busy putting together a business proposal for the Dean with Shirley to open a sandwich shop in the community college; he even went so far as to mock up a poster featuring Halle Berry circa 1999 lounging on a croissant. Everything seems to be going swimmingly, until the Dean, who really enjoyed that image of himself holding large bags of money, tells Shirley that “the Board” sold the space to Subway, for presumably larger bags of money. Pierce isn’t present for the bad news, though; instead, he’s at his father’s grave with a bottle of liquor, yelling and cursing with a crazed look in his eyes about how he owns a sandwich shop, something his dead dad never did. Uh oh.

“Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts” works so well as the first episode back because it’s a pleasant, funny, easy-to-relate-to story about a couple giving marriage another go, which appeals to those who love the broadness of sitcoms, that also includes enough well-placed darkness and “oddness,” like the return of Annie’s Boobs and the “Literally Two Full Minutes Later” scene, to keep Community cosplayers satisfied.

It’s good to have you back.

Josh Kurp looks like a poor murderer.

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