Fans of Community expect a lot from the series, which is why so many of them reacted so poorly to the second time that the beloved hit sitcom faced cancellation. For some, if an episode isn’t an homage to another show or film and/or doesn’t arrive at some deep, emotional insight into one of the members of our favorite band rapscallions, it feels like a miss. I get that. Community fans have always lived on borrowed time; as such, they want to squeeze the last drop out of every scene they’re given and they expect those scenes to be exquisite. However, art ain’t like that, and the wheel doesn’t need to be reinvented every single time. While “Laws of Robotics and Party Rights” wasn’t an example of a great Community installment, it produced some guffaws, which puts it miles ahead of most of the fare on TV and streaming at the moment.
“Robotics” is all about power: who has it, who can wield, and what can happen when it’s misused. In the A-plot, Frankie has come to the Save Greendale committee with a plan to pump more much-needed cash into Greendale Community College’s coffers: The Colorado School Board has offered the college $300K to accept prisoners as students—who would attend classes by remote using iPads on Segways. (Community, everybody!) While Jeff is on board with the idea, using lawyer-wordsmithery to convince the rest of the crew, he eventually rethinks his position when one of the prisoners named Willy starts butting heads with Jeff and openly mocking his piss-poor teaching in front of Jeff’s students and the Dean. The conflict escalates quickly from Willy trying—to hilarious effect—to murder Jeff to Jeff throwing Willy’s Segway down a flight of stairs. The Dean, who has become smitten with Willy’s charm and fake concern and attention, suspends Jeff for two weeks, leading Mr. Winger to have a heart-to-heart with the Dean and expressing what the Dean means to him.
Over in the B-plot, Britta, living in Abed and Annie’s apartment, desperately attempts to wiggle around Annie’s “no parties” rule. She manipulates Abed using his love of film to trick him into making a movie about a party, which ultimately backfires when Abed keeps shooting long after the shindig has ended. Britta eventually has to come to Abed hat-in-hand and fess up to her deception, which, as Annie puts it, will last “for longer than [she] thinks is rational or possible.”
As I said, no real big revelations or status quo changes, and the reset button has been hit by the end of the episode. And that’s okay. Not everything has to be A Mindblowing Episode. However, the bit with Jeff confessing to the Dean that he respects him and that he considers him a friend is a pretty nice cap to the show, even if it feels a little clunky. It makes sense that the Dean would fall for a prisoner with traits similar to Jeff’s, even if he is being manipulated. Still, I had a hard time buying that the Dean would be so easily led around by the nose, smitten with Willy or not. And yes, I realize that this is the same man who let a paintball game ruin his school—twice—but I have to think that, no matter how broken Greendale is, the Dean is somewhat competent somewhere in there to justify keeping his job for so long. I’d like to see more of that as the season rolls on.
- “I’m nobody’s fourth Ghostbuster.” You’re damn right, Elroy.
- I would totally watch the Female Friends sitcom starring Britta and Annie.
- “She’s a coucher! She sleeps on a couch!” Nice Seinfeld nod, Community.
- A word about Jeff-as-teacher: I realize that Jeff as a checked-out teacher is integral to this week’s plot. However, when he joined the faculty of Greendale at the beginning of season 5, the one episode we saw him teach suggested that he was starting to enjoy educating his students about law and argument. When attention to Jeff’s teaching was dropped that season, I had hopes that the show would explore Mr. Winger’s class more in season 6. I’m a bit disappointed to see Jeff portrayed as a subpar instructor again, though I hope this was a one-off and we get to see him genuinely enjoy his time in the classroom once more. To keep him as a lackluster educator almost regresses him and takes me out of the story.
- Garrett talking sass to Jeff in class was hilarious. More of this, Community!
Check out the full episode here on Yahoo! Screen!