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'Community' recap: Dungeons & Dragons and Pierce, oh my!

February 4, 2011 |  8:00 am

Once upon a time, there was an NBC show called “Community.” Its writers loved to weave pop culture into the fabric of one eccentric community college called Greendale. Nothing was too high or too low for this crew. Zombies, space movies and even Dungeons & Dragons.So gather close that you might hearken the story of Fat Neil (Charley Koontz), who was “born stout of heart but large of bone,” and the best game of D&D ever. 

But first, a major confession -- this recapper knows zilch about Dungeons & Dragons, so whether what follows is true to form or off base is way beyond my ken. Either way, feel free to comment below. Now back to the story of Fat Neil. From an early age, Neil was picked on because of his weight. Only outlets of fantasy afforded him some escape from this darkness. Once the nightmare otherwise known as high school was over, he thought Greendale would be a new beginning. Faced with the same ol’, same ol’, only college style, he’s contemplating “an escape of which we dare not speak.” Jeff the Liar, son of William the Barely Known (Joel McHale), and Annie, the Day Planner, herself a “recovering head case” (Alison Brie), recognize the signs and try to do something about it.

A confab is called where it is decided to invite Neil to a game of D&D designed by Abed. Pierce the Insensitive (Chevy Chase) will not be invited. But since Chang (Ken Jeong) is conveniently in the room at the time, he’s included in the Most Important Game of D&D Ever, where they might “save a life and change the balance between good and Pierce.”

Cue the fantasy-themed opening credits, complete with a medieval-y spin on the “Community” theme. Huzzah!

And we’re back, where for some reason, Chang now has black skin, white hair and pointy ears. Oh, wait -– he’s a dark elf, or a drow. Whatever. It’s pretty startling, though not Chang’s best transformation (that would still be Peggy Fleming). Abed the Dungeon master informs our D&D’ers that they will be playing the game “The Caverns of Draconis.” So, let’s meet our players: Shirley, a dwarf named Zippity-Do (Yvette Nicole Brown); Jeff, Marrrrr (could he be from the Castle of Aaargh?); Troy, Bing Bong the Archer (Donald Glover); Annie, Hector the Well-Endowed; Britta, Lavernica (Gillian Jacobs); and Chang, a magician; and Neil is Duquesne, a character he’s been playing for years.

The game has barely started when Pierce bursts in, demanding to know if he’s being cast out of the group (Please, please, please!).  This is a mean and nasty Pierce, hurling insults at Neil and busting his way into the game (no wonder he’s got multiple ex-wives). “What the hell is wrong with you?” one of his cohorts asks. I might ask the same thing. He won’t go away, so they let him into the game, where he plays a 67-year-old naked man with no weapons, lying in the grass shivering. That soon changes, of course, he’s temporarily kicked out and the new goal becomes to kill Pierce. To do that, our fearless warriors must find a Pegasus. They stop off at an elf tavern, where Lavernica must converse with the gnome-speaking waiter Abed. An intimate encounter with an elf maiden ensues, complete with “Titanic”-like music.

Meanwhile, back in the supply closet, the devil-like Pierce has gotten his cloven hooves on a copy of the game and is looking for ways to cheat and win. He’s becoming more and more unlikable by the second, that man. Armed with an amulet, he’s now in control of Draconis, killing the elf waiter Kyle and freezing everybody else (Troy: “This is why I wanted to play Chutes and Ladders.” You and me both, Troy). A jealous, nasty Pierce spills why Jeff “led the charge on the Fat Neil feel-good committee” -- you see, it was the glib, disbarred lawyer Jeff who coined the nickname. Oops! Jeff talks his way out of it, sorta, Neil throws a 19 and Pierce is vanquished. End of game. “And so it was that Pierce saved the life of Fat Neil while learning very, very little.” Excelsior!

Extra credit: The great debate du jour, courtesy of Troy and Abed: Which would be better: giant ears or a tail?  To Abed’s thinking, if you had giant ears, you could hear stuff miles away and wear backpacks as earrings, which would free up your hands. Hands down, the best part of the episode.

Post-script: Still not a fan of Chevy Chase, and two Chase-centric episodes in a row has really tried the patience of this TV viewer. Here’s hoping the focus shifts to another cast member next week.

-- Alison Dingeldein

Photo: Chevy Chase on "Community." Credit: Lewis Jacobs / NBC.