Community season 3 episode 9 review: Foosball And Nocturnal Vigilantism review

Donald Glover provides a stand-out performance in Community episode nine. Here’s Emma’s review of Foosball And Nocturnal Vigilantism…

3.9 Foosball And Nocturnal Vigilantism

After a week’s break, we are once again, gratefully, traversing the halls of California’s most questionable educational institution, as Community gives us yet another superb slice of comedy gold. Take that NBC.

Focusing mostly on two very disparate ends of the mental health spectrum – how Jeff lost his mojo and why real-life super heroes never quite work out, and taking a journey through several other mental health issues – fetishism, enabling and European superiority complexes – Foosball And Nocturnal Vigilantism proved once again why Community should stay exactly where it is: on air.

Starting innocently enough with Jeff’s favourite pastime – bemoaning that anyone other than him is allowed to have fun, particularly when those people happen to be German – before you can say Schadenfreude, all of Winger’s neuroses are explained. Completely explained – even the hair obsession. Beware ladies, if you ever made a boy cry when you were young, you may well have inadvertently created a mini-Winger. Under the guise of beating some uber-annoying Germans at the uber-annoying game of foosball, we discover that Jeff’s seminal childhood trauma was being emasculated by a girl. Yup, he’s that simple. Jeff holds no mystery for us now.

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Being beaten to within an inch of his life – at foosball – by a loudmouthed girl was apparently enough to send young Winger into a shame spiral of biblical proportions. As he rather loudly explains, he changed everything about himself after the foosball/pant wetting humiliation, starting the 10-year-old Jeff on his lifelong journey to becoming the superficial, womanising, hair obsessive we enjoy so much. It even accounts for his chosen profession – making other lawyers cry. Makes you wonder what the hell was done to Justin Bieber…

Of course, we don’t learn all of this for nothing. The loudmouthed bully responsible for scaring the boy Jeff so much he that he lost control of his bladder is none other than God-bothering pie pusher Shirley. While it’s not surprising that a young Shirley could quite easily make a scrawny white boy pee his pants, what is surprising is the pair having prior knowledge of each other. In other hands, it might have been a little twee, but in the hands of Community’s writers, it’s a fabulous piece of study group history, and felt completely right.

Having reconciled themselves with the annoying children they once were, the star-crossed foosball players take on the uppity Germans, and of course win. That whole sequence is essentially a hilarious excuse for Community’s makers to show off their knowledge of European humour and insults – which they do incredibly well.

Elsewhere, Abed spent the episode proving that dressing as a superhero doesn’t make you one – after Annie uncharacteristically comes up with a scheme to cover up her wanton destruction of a ridiculously expensive DVD. Despite what would normally be a ton of superhero hilarity, somehow, lots of it just didn’t quite work. Not just Annie’s insistence on not confessing, but Abed’s Batman just wasn’t funny.

Thankfully, Donald Glover was funny, and saved the entire storyline from dying a death. Having said that, it did produce one of Community’s greatest references do far – but you had to be paying attention. For those of you that caught it, three words: Quantum Leap porn. Frankly, if you didn’t join Winger in the pant wetting at that point, you’re dead inside. Or too young to have any idea what they’re talking about. It’s a throwaway line, but this time the throwing away is understandable – it’s a fabulous reward for those that caught it.

And that’s probably Community’s biggest problem as far as networks are concerned. Ignore the “too weird” criticisms; they’re meaningless. Yes, a pop culture obsessive running around dressed as Batman solving (a very specific) crime might seem weird and at odds with the real world, but that’s only when you take it out of context. How is Abed any weirder than someone like Phoenix Jones, who, let’s not forget, is a real dude who spent his spare time fighting crime dressed in a rubber suit. Real life can be very weird. TV is never as weird as what’s going on in the real world.

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What those “weird” criticisms amount to is, to paraphrase the oft misunderstood Peter Griffin, that the world has changed and they’re frightened and confused. They just don’t get it. And they really think they ought to. But that’s okay – chances are Community viewers are frightened and confused by the X Factor, or Jersey Shore – successful, well-made television only comes out of diversity. That’s the trade off. Cater to a range of tastes, or you lose everyone. Your choice, networks. In the meantime, you leave Community to us, and we’ll leave the X Factor and Jersey Shore to you. Deal?

Read our review of episode eight, Documentary Filmmaking Redux, here.