Community season 2 episode 18 review: Custody Law And Eastern European Diplomacy

War criminals and baby wrangling? Community does grown up stuff, with mixed results…

2.18 Custody Law And Eastern European Diplomacy

Now that the madness of sweeps is essentially over for the season, TV is slowly returning to something approaching normal, (unless you’re a Supernatural fan. What’s that about?) and Community once again graces our screens. It ought to be a joyous event, but Custody Law And Eastern European Diplomacy is a curiously downbeat return.

The Chang/Shirley baby drama continued apace, with said mother-to-be determined to keep the diminutive possible baby daddy at bay, at all costs, or rather, the cost of having a waiver drawn up, and ropes Jeff ‘nipple play’ Winger in to persuade Chang to give up his potential parental rights. Big mistake.

A strangely friendless Jeff, still rooming with the saw-wielding ex-Senor, sees an opportunity to get his apartment back (he is a lawyer, after all) and convinces Chang that Shirley would take his parental aspirations more seriously if he got his life together.

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Cue nightmare visions of pipe and cardigan sporting 1950s archetypal fathers, child abduction, wrongful arrest, and a half-hatched plot to put Chang away for life. Which, apart from being harsh, leaves Shirley’s ex/current man as the only person in a 10 mile radius not out to get him. You know something’s up when Theo Huxtable is the voice of reason.

What was most interesting about this particular arc, and sadly, interesting is all it’s got, is that Chang has fully crossed into hated territory as far as the group is concerned. Where his bizarre behaviour usually engenders sympathy and more than a few laughs, in this episode the group is just cold. Whether because of his saw obsession, or his penchant for accidentally stealing children, when Jeff and Shirley plan to have him sent to prison for life, it’s not funny. It’s just plain cold. Admittedly, Jeff used to be a lawyer, so no surprise there, but for the first time, this show came dangerously close to unpleasant.

Sadly, the almost unpleasantness continued with the b-story, which involves Britta way more than is ever necessary. Essentially revolving around Britta’s dating habits (read, treating Troy and Abed’s ever diminishing circle of male friends as her own personal escort service) and the duo’s efforts to stop her going anywhere near their latest game buddy, Lukka.

It seems that in addition to ‘dating’ everyone they know, Britta is also something of a gossip, and can’t resist revealing juicy, and not so juicy titbits about her conquests, forcing the boys to never see them again. Hence Jeff’s current friendlessness. So far, so predictable.

And then we find out that Lukka is a war criminal, and his talent for war games stems from his being involved in an actual war. Downbeat, much? The war game scenes that come after the ‘I enjoy killing people’ reveal are uncomfortable, at best, clunky at worst and in no way funny. Unfortunately, the same can be said for Britta’s entire involvement in the episode. She’s the least developed of the characters, and while this episode makes an attempt to fill her out a little more, it does nothing to make her any more likeable.

Thank God, then, for Troy and Abed, who prove the highlight of the episode. Their in sync Britta interactions are fabulous, and Donald Glover played the neckerchief gag to perfection. The duo have been getting better each episode, and this week they all but save the show. Even Chang’s usually hilarious madness doesn’t sit well this week, but Troy and Abed are pitch perfect.

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Custody Law And Eastern European Diplomacy is an uncharacteristic blip in an otherwise spotless run, so we’ll let them get away with one less than stellar episode. On the positive side, it’s great to see Malcolm-Jamal Warner back, and the crack about It’s Complicated is comedy gold and totally worth the wait.

Fingers crossed, next week’s Pulp Fiction celebration (so it is rumoured) sees the show back where it belongs, at the top of its game.

Read our review of episode 17, Intro To Political Science, here.

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