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'Community' recap: Fights, flashbacks and a flying Chang

April 22, 2011 |  8:11 am

It’s near the end of the season and the writers need a break. Time for a flashback episode! This being “Community,” of course, they do it the “Community” way, with flashbacks we’ve never seen before of adventures old and new.

Blame it on the gang’s 20th diorama -- a diorama of the group making its 19th diorama. As work progresses, Troy’s missing monkey reappears, only to steal Shirley’s paintbrush and disappear into a vent. Chang (Ken Jeong) strips down to a Speedo (eek!), greases himself up likes he’s about to swim the English Channel and dives in like Alice down the rabbit hole. Look! There’s a “sentimental treasure pile” in here.  He brings it back to the surface, and then it’s a flying leap back into the vent -- “Like a reverse cow birth” -- after the spoon the monkey took from  him.

But back to that pile for a minute. As the gang starts picking through it, the memories start flooding back. Annie’s purple pens. A deputy sheriff’s badge from the ghost town  where they almost got shot by a prospector in red long underwear. Abed’s (Danny Pudi) mental breakdown at Christmas. The trophy won after the group filled in for the glee club, which had been killed in a bus accident. The bright side of that? Well, they won 70 trophies, and that new bus driver’s really cute. By the way, Donald Glover (Troy), Alison Brie (Annie) and Yvette Nicole Brown (Shirley) have great singing voices. 

Jeff (Joel McHale) is enjoying himself so much that he tells Abed: “You’re a computer. Scan your mainframe for some juicy memories.” And oh, does he. Seems that Jeff and Britta (Gillian Jacobs) have been secretly hooking up. The one thing Abed remembers from Halloween is the lust birds sneaking off together. Then there’s the overheard comment during the stop-action Christmas episode, and the curious circumstances following the exciting conclusion of their St. Patrick’s Day adventure (and no, a leprechaun didn’t steal their clothes, Pierce [Chevy Chase]).

This sets off the gang, which accuses Britta and Jeff of putting themselves ahead of everybody else. Oh no they don’t. Oh yes they do. Let us count the ways. Everything from Jeff switching his wig with Troy’s in barbershop class, to Britta flipping the channel to the Tunisia uprising as Troy and Abed are watching the premiere of “The Cape,” to Jeff and Britta letting the rest of the group take the fall for a Habitat for Humanity disaster. “You can’t ignore the facts! You two are ruining the group.”

The ever-glib Jeff defends the two of them, “Look, just because we’re good-looking doesn’t …” “… make us villains,” Britta chimes in. Seems the rest of the group is just as bad: A hopped-up Pierce gives himself a fourth flu shot from atop a bookcase in the library. “I’ll be a living god!”; Troy and Abed mockingly imitate Jeff, who catches them red-handed; Pierce eats off Abed’s plate, caw, caw, cawing away as everybody else sits in stunned silence. And then helps himself to Troy’s plate too. And then there’s the fantastic image of the gang, dressed for St. Paddy’s Day, with the addition of orange life vests, and Troy yelling, “You can yell at me all you want, but I’ve seen enough movies to know that popping the back of a raft makes it go faster!” Or Abed, sneaking up on Jeff in the cafeteria, whipping his long black cape over Jeff’s tray and everything hitting the floor. Why? Who knows? Jeff: “The show’s gonna last three weeks!” Abed: “Six seasons and a movie!”

Hey, those are just stories about the gang being cute. No, they’re not! Yes, they are! And we’re off again. Jeff sees the bigger picture where he and Britta are concerned: “We compartmentalize our libidos for the good of the group.” Oh yeah? What about Jeff and Annie? (Shippers, pay attention!) You know, “the Annie of it all.” Time for slo-mo montage No. 1, with music: The glances, the gallant behavior, the cute looks. Aww, you could do the same thing with Pierce and Abed, which they do, much to Troy’s horror. “It’s called chemistry. I have it with everybody!” Everybody except Shirley, that is, who’s not feeling any of that Winger chemistry.

It wouldn’t be a group meet without an appearance by Greendale’s own Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) in yet another over-the-top costume. Think Rio de Janeiro’s Carnivale. This sets Jeff off, and we’re on to a montage of the Dean’s wacky getups: Catwoman (with whip) for Feline AIDS Awareness Day; Tina Turner, a musician because the music department’s baroque (get it?); Caesar (Veni, vidi, vici, it’s Caesar Salad Bar Day!); and the pièce de résistance -– Scarlett O’Hara, complete with a hankie coyly dropped Jeff’s way –- and ignored. More snarling, and the dean leaves, practically in tears. Good thing he was wearing tear-proof mascara. It’s all too much for Shirley, “Can’t we stop fighting? We’re starting to hurt innocent perverts.” It’s all too much for Troy too, who yells so loud he gets a nosebleed.

Fight, fight, fight -– over s’mores, painting Shirley’s nursery, the Caesar salad bar. Finally, the realization sets in. “It’s all of us. This group’s toxic! We fight about fighting about fighting.” What to do? Well, they could break up, or they could go back to working on the diorama. Jeff, of course, saves the day with yet another speech. You see, they’re being molded into a super group -– the Traveling Wilburys of Pain -– prepared for any insane adventure life throws their way. Group hug, and all is well again. Oh, and Jeff and Britta? So over.

But there’s still the matter of Chang, who bursts into the library ready to share his own memories. Too bad nobody’s left, except the monkey. What a year, indeed!

Extra credit: It’s “Community” reimagined as a cartoon. Jeff’s being his usual lippy self until a convenient toxic accident transforms Dean Pelton into Mega-Dean, who destroys  most of the gang with his rainbow-fueled power. He’s got different plans for Jeff, however. It’s a Dean Pelton production, after all.

-- Alison Dingeldein

Photo: The gang's all here: Clockwise from upper left, Pierce (Chevy Chase), Britta (Gillian Jacobs), Troy (Donald Glover), Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown), Abed (Danny Pudi), Jeff (Joel McHale) and Annie (Alison Brie). Credit: Lewis Jacobs / NBC