Community Review: Ep 20, Paradigms of Human Memory
By Faith Ashleigh-Wong
Hallelujah, Community is back! Personally I've felt that the last few episodes have been pretty lukewarm and only a fraction of what the show has proven it is capable of. Thankfully this week's episode is possibly one of the funniest and most cleverly crafted episodes of the season.
The reappearance of Troy's old pet monkey, the very tastefully named, Annie's Boobs finally sees the mystery of the pen thief from the "bottle episode" earlier on this season solved. The chimp's thieving ways are far from over though and when caught in the act, he quickly retreats to the vents. In typical inappropriate Chang fashion, Chang strips down, oils up and crawls after Annie's Boobs which leads him to discover a treasure trove of the group's knick knacks.
As they sift through their newly recovered belongings, they begin to reminisce on the year that's been. The whole episode is built around flashbacks and also parodies the "clip show", an episode in a TV series that is made up mostly of scenes from previous episodes. We revisit previous episodes like the Halloween party that turned into a zombie outbreak and we are even taken back to the special Christmas episode where Abed sees the world in claymation.
We also get treated to a whole onslaught of new adventures, other things the group got up to which we never got to see. These were some of the best comedic moments in the episode as the scenarios all stretched the boundaries of reality to the point of ridiculousness, like the group somehow finding themselves in a saloon ghost town and getting shot at by an "1800's Disney style" racist.
It is also revealed that at some point they got institutionalized, complete with padded room and strait jackets, though the reason is never revealed. My personal favourite was their parody of Glee where they have to cover for a tragically dead glee club and all they do is literally "sing".
The flashbacks come to a brief halt with flashbacks of Troy screaming for the fighting to stop (a clever nod to Inception). They realize that the memories they are recounting are all bad and they begin to question the stability of their group. Playing on the fact that Abed is very robot-like, Jeff orders him to reach into his "central computer" memory to come up with some good memories the group has shared. This backfires on Jeff when Abed reveals to the group that Jeff and Britta have been secretly hooking up throughout the year. Consequently the rest of the group quickly bandy together and attribute their dysfunctional dynamic to the pair and their selfishness.
This is where the clip show comes into play. Annie, convinced that Jeff had toyed with her feelings (and we did see hints of this throughout the season), demanded to know about the "Annie of it all". When Jeff plays dumb, she attempts to prove Jeff's attraction to her by recounting many a stolen glance and meaningful moments the two shared through a series of brilliantly edited flashbacks complete with slow motion and sentimental music.
The scenarios that we see between Jeff and Annie get progressively more and more ridiculous; for example what was a rogue robot doing terrorizing the school? Although is it really that far-fetched in the crazy world of Greendale Community College? What's even funnier than Annie's music montage is Jeff's counter-defence: that the same can be said of Abed and Pierce. Cue the same exact flashback sequence but this time with Abed and Pierce sharing special, affectionate moments. Oh the hilarity.
If you somehow haven't managed to be laughing uncontrollably by this point, you will when the dean gets his turn under the flashback spotlight. The montage sees the dean in many a drag-alicious outfit to illustrate the amount of times he has walked into the study room in a ridiculous costume bearing irrelevant news. My personal favourite: dean in a cat suit for feline cancer awareness week.
Naturally the episode closes with one final series of flashbacks – this time bits and pieces of the trademark "Jeff Winger speech" which gets told at the end of every adventure which evidently ends in the group fighting. It is a very "full circle" moment but in typical Community fashion, rather than spark emotion and inspire (as these sorts of speeches should do) it is laced with irony and a touch of meta-humour.
Exceedingly clever, superbly edited and packed full of fantastic one liners, jokes and visual gags, this episode has great entertainment value – definitely one of the best this season. I will never look at flashbacks the same again.