Community: “Economics Of Marine Biology”, Review

Are we used to being disappointed yet? Is resistance futile?

If you’ve adapted to new Community, by which I mean Community that seems content to have its characters relearn to like each other from week to week like a conventional sitcom and goes for cutesy and familiar over laugh-out-loud funny, this is a solid episode. It’s arguably almost as zany as the season premiere (which still tops my most-hated list) as both episodes cover four different plots, but this one carries it off better as it has the good sense to devote less time to some of them.

The main plot here is that there’s a rich kid coming to tour the Greendale campus and the Dean really wants him to enroll. The kid, Archie, is the slacker type who’d likely have to repeat classes again and again and, with his parents’ disposable income backing him, that makes him a hugely valuable asset. The Dean therefore needs to make Greendale seem particularly enticing for the lad, something Annie is on board with because some of the money will go toward a new “body farm” for the forensics majors. Britta joins in too for no real reason. Troy and Shirley can’t help because they’ve just started a new P.E. class together. But, wait, why should that matter? I mean, isn’t the whole group in classes? Sorry, I’m just now unpacking the setup here and recognizing, once again, how much Season 4 feels like a corny sitcom I wouldn’t watch if I wasn’t a fan of the show from before.

But, anyway, the other plot that makes (slightly) more sense is that the Dean doesn’t want Pierce around because he gets jealous when someone else is getting attention and the Dean thinks Pierce will ruin the whole Archie gambit. Pierce has been bugging Jeff to go get a shave with him at an old-timey barber shop lately so Jeff bites the bullet and takes him up on it. Jeff ends up having a better time with Pierce than expected. This storyline was very simple and not particularly funny, but made for some nice moments between these two characters. In addition, Jeff comes to realize that it’s worth being kind to Pierce occasionally as treating him like he’s a jerk makes him act like more of a jerk, resulting in a self-perpetuating jerk-cycle. This is a small yet welcome development in these characters’ relationship and was a welcome surprise in a season that has thus far been mostly content rehashing.

Speaking of rehashing, Shirley and Troy’s class ends up not being P.E., but P.E.E., Physical Education Education, the study of how to teach Physical Education. The basic idea is clever but the plot is a really lame and basic one about how Shirley takes to it naturally and Troy is terrible at it. Shirley ends up leaving Troy behind and selling him out, they make up later, blah blah blah. The same basic thing happened in Season 1’s “Beginner Pottery,” though Pierce was in the place Troy is in now. This made it feel like I had seen this story before and I also didn’t really see any reason Shirley and Troy’s relationship needed reinforcing anyway. This was just the introduction of a small conflict in order to resolve it quickly and neatly in 21 minutes. Incidentally, even guest star Ian Roberts, who played the coach/teacher, felt like he was rehashing characters. He’s done the shouty coach thing a few times now, going back to Bring it On and even further back to some of his work on Upright Citizens Brigade.

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Apparently the main plot with the Dean, Annie, Britta, and potential student Archie was pretty forgettable because I didn’t talk about it much and I don’t intend to change that now. Abed also gets a tiny joke plot (though I didn’t laugh at any of it) in which he starts a fraternity just because the Dean’s against it making it therefore like a crazy college movie situation. This happens because we must remember that Season 4 Abed = Season 1 Abed, in this case specifically the exact same Abed from the episode “The Art of Discourse,” the one where he makes a list of college movie things he wants to do in real life.

Jokes that actually made me laugh were few and far between and there were certain elements that made this feel a bit like Community fan fiction. For example, writing more dialogue about the show’s fake potato chip brand, Let’s? We already had Leonard do a review of Let’s in the tag of the Season 3 finale. This is pushing it and didn’t really make for any funny moments. Also, at one point Magnitude is banned from using his catchphrase, so he stays up all night trying to come up with a better one. Again, not that funny and shedding some light on a deliberate gimmick character kind of just reveals how shallow he is. (Also, the main plot kind of resolved itself based on this dumb Magnitude thing, which just seems… dumb.)

But, anyway, there were some very clever lines (some decent wordplay came out of the P.E.E. plotline) and a few were outright fantastic. Troy, as usual, gets some of the better lines (or maybe Donald Glover just delivers them awesomely). And Britta had the funniest line of the episode: “If I wanted to wait on a rich man hand and foot, I would’ve gone to Dubai with that sheik I met at Trader Joe’s.”

So, like I said, solid episode if you’ve adapted to new Community. But, if you’re like me and you’ve only adapted to it in the sense that you no longer really anticipate it and expect to be underwhelmed every week, then, well… there are a couple of good jokes and the Pierce and Jeff story was kind of nice.

Oh, hey! The tag reminded us Troy and Britta are, in fact, still going out. How wonderful!(?)