8. Cooperative Calligraphy
Having kicked off its first season with a Breakfast Club homage of epic proportions, Community went back to its roots this week with some more locked library shenanigans. Cooperative Calligraphy, while a nod to its origins, is also a fabulous excuse for Kids in the Hall-inspired comedy, a little more Winger nudity and torturing Pierce while he’s still unable to get away.
The little bundle of neuroses that is Annie throws a hissy fit when yet another of her pens goes missing, and somehow the entire group, rather than telling her to take the stick out of her ass, actually humours her tantrum and spends the episode tearing each other apart.
From invading the privacy of everyone’s bags, to the privacy of everyone’s underwear, the group turns a simple pen mishap into Greendale’s version of Guantanamo Bay. Yup, it’s time for Community to pay tribute to the bottle episode – that dramatic staple of episodic TV – or as Abed puts it, an episode full of ‘wall to wall facial expression and emotional nuance.’
Not good at reading people at the best of times, a bottle episode is Abed’s worst nightmare, and it’s easy to see why. With emotions running ridiculously high, and each group member desperate to prove they’re as trustworthy as they can possibly be, the group puts itself through a number of humiliating and degrading experiences, allowing each member to revert spectacularly to their stereotypes.
Britta’s teenage protests at the gross invasion of her civil liberties, Jeff’s well-hidden petulance and clear need to be naked as often as possible, and Shirley’s not so silent judgement of pretty much everybody come to the fore almost immediately. But it’s the rest of the group’s foibles that are most interesting. Abed’s secret charting of the girl’s menstrual cycles is finally revealed, as a way of staying on their good side. Pierce’s depriving three hospitals of his high tech wheelchair is proof, if any were needed of his vileness, and Troy’s empty, save for a cushion, backpack is… left unexplained. Apparently, he has a desperate need to be comforted at all times.
The bottle episode is also a great way of dealing with loose story strands, and Cooperative Calligraphy brings together two of the most disparate of the show so far. Those of you who remember the horror-fest that was Halloween will know that the devout Shirley is not as devout as she likes to think. Not only did she hook up with ex-Senor Chang during the Zombie-fest, it seems she’s also taking a stroll down infidelity avenue with her married ex-husband.
Through the magic of Abed, we discover that the pregnancy scare she’s currently dealing with can only have come from one man – and it’s not her ex. Yup, there could well be the pitter patter of tiny(er) Chang feet by the start of next season.
But those tiny feet won’t be alone – if you’ve been wondering what happened to Annie’s Boob’s (the monkey, not her actual rack) after Abed let him loose, wonder no more. He’s alive and well, and working on his evil plan to destroy the group by stealing as much of their stuff as possible. Question is, how did they not notice the monkey? Admittedly, the group is about as self-absorbed as it’s possible to be, but surely even they would notice a rogue primate helping itself to their property. On the other hand…
As with all great bottle episodes, order is restored by the time the credits roll, and despite the fact that Annie’s pen is never found, the group is as strong as ever.
Perhaps unusually for Community though, we do have something of a cliffhanger – Troy knows that Shirley and Chang hooked up, so the question is, how long will he be able to keep it a secret? Probably not very.
Still, it’s a lovely, if slightly unnerving way to have the hook up rear its head, and goes some way to keeping Chang in our collective consciousness, even if he’s not physically in the episode. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, please Community, give us more Ken Jeong! Naked Jeff is great, but it’s starting to get a little predictable…
So, that’s the bottle episode and Kids in the Hall taken care of; what will they think of next?
Read our review of episode 7, Aerodynamics of Gender, here
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