'Community' recap: My 'Dinner With Andre' dinner with Abed, but where's 'Pulp Fiction'?
And we start with a suited-up Jeff (Joel McHale), walking down the street with gift in hand, doing a voice-over like a 21st century noir hero. It's Abed's birthday, and Jeff has a special treat for him. But first he has to pick up the birthday boy (Danny Pudi) at a swank restaurant with cloth napkins and name-brand soft drinks and no-no juice on the menu. Too bad Abed is acting weird. And by weird, I mean he's acting "normal." He's dressed like Mr. Rogers, talking like Frasier and making eye contact.
Abed brushes off Jeff's gift to him -- a "Pulp Fiction"-inspired wallet -- and talk of milk shakes and begins spinning a tale of "Cougar Town": how he made a spring break trip to L.A. to visit the set because of his Facebook page devoted to the ABC series; how the producers offered him a walk-on role in the sitcom, which left him with a conundrum ("If I'm the person who watches 'Cougar Town,' how can I be in 'Cougar Town'?"); and how he invented the character Chad, how he became Chad, how he freaked out when the scene -– and Chad's "life" -- were over. OK, Chad, I mean Abed, you're scaring Jeff. So much so that before you know it, the two are having a real conversation, sort of, spun through the usual Jeff cynicism: "Conversation was invented by humans to conceal reality. We use it to sweet-talk our way around natural selection." Still, Jeff then starts really opening up: lies to phone sex operators and how he went door to door in drag as a little Indian girl one Halloween.
Meanwhile, back at party central -- a nostalgic diner known as the Greasy Fork -- the rest of the gang is gathered in their best "Pulp Fiction" get-ups: Britta (Gillian Jacobs) as Mia; Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) in drag as Jules (facial hair and all); Pierce (Chevy Chase) as the Gimp; Troy (Donald Glover) and Annie (Alison Brie) as Pumpkin and Honey Bunny, respectively; and Chang (Ken Jeong) as Butch the boxer. And, of course, Jeff makes a very dapper-looking Vince Vega (sans all that hair).
Troy is staring at Jeff's special birthday gift -- a briefcase, "like in the movie," and getting jealous. And Chang, ever the little pixie troublemaker, is egging him on. Curiosity finally gets the better of Troy, and he opens the briefcase. Oops! Pierce, meanwhile, is wandering around being his usual obtuse self: "Has anybody seen this film we're referencing? Am I the hero or the love interest?" Oh, Pierce, you don't get out much. Even my mom, who's in her 70s, has seen "Pulp Fiction," and she loved it -- especially Bruce Willis' character, for some reason. Hell, even Shirley has seen it on an airplane flight: "It's a cute, 30-minute film about a group of friends who like cheeseburgers, dancing and the Bible." Oh, Shirley, Shirley, Shirley.
Back at the restaurant for grown-ups, Abed is trashing his pop-culture-obsessed self. "Who needs 'Cougar Town'? Who needs any pop culture whatsoever? TV, movies -- to hell with all of that. This is the first birthday of my new life." Who replaced Abed with this odd-talking 'bot? About this time, Pierce shows up in his full Gimp getup, and Abed finally figures it out: "The wallet. Milk shakes. Did you set up a surprise 'Pulp Fiction' birthday party?" Is the pope Catholic?
Well, the whole night is supposed to be about Quentin Tarantino's classic, but ... turns out this stretch is courtesy of "My Dinner With Andre." Seems Abed isn't as "normal" as he was pretending to be. The whole business of two guys talking at a restaurant is really an homage to Louis Malle's 1981 film. Oh, those clever, clever writers.
So, this conversation about a movie about a real conversation is broken up (saved?) by the appearance of the rest of the Greendale gang. Next thing you know, Jeff and Abed are at the Greasy Fork discussing the smoking "Pulp Fiction" briefcase, which came from Willie's 100% Authentic Treasures on EBay. Abed, who bought Indiana Jones' "authentic" whip from Willie, assures Jeff that it’s OK. "Willie exaggerates."
Abed also explains himself to Jeff -– he's no Chad or Frasier-like guy, but "more of a fast-blinking, stoic, removed, uncomfortably aware type. Like Data or Johnny 5, or Mork or HAL or KITT or K-9 or Woodstock and/or Snoopy. Of course, Spock goes without saying.” Oh, and can you pay the bill, please?
Jeff and Abed go back to the restaurant and -- SURPRISE! -- the gang's all there with presents and everything to salvage Jeff's party. Over another Deckard-like Jeff voice-over, we get a montage of "Pulp Fiction"-fueled fun, complete with gun play, dancing and Troy's gift. Awwww. Almost makes this recapper want to grab a Royale with Cheese and put on some Dick Dale. Or Flock of Seagulls. Or maybe not. By the way, 50 years from now, is anybody still going to get that joke?
"As parties go, it was quiet, dark and a little lame. We'd had better parties, we'd had worse parties, but I doubt I'll ever forget my 'Dinner With Andre' dinner with Abed."
Couldn't have said it better, Jeff. Oh, those clever, clever writers. Here I thought it was going to be ALL about "Pulp Fiction," and it was and it wasn't. Who else would even consider weaving two such different films together into one coherent whole? An homage indeed.
Extra credit: It's back to the fancy restaurant, where dinner's over and the check has arrived. Allow me, Troy says. Ooops! "They said market price. What market are you shopping at?" What'll it be, guys? Dishes or a quick getaway, guys?
-- Alison Dingeldein
Photo: From left, Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown), Britta (Gillian Jacobs), Chang (Ken Jeong) and Annie (Alison Brie) in full "Pulp Fiction" mode. Credit: Lewis Jacobs / NBC