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“Chubby Cheeks Basted in Tears of Gravy”- Community Review Season 4 Episode 5- ‘Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations’

Community Jeff Dean Thanksgiving

Chekhov’s Gunman is a film and TV blog moderated by Kevin Lanigan, a future writer of television and movies and the first monkey shot into space. Spoilers for Community follow, so, like… watch out…

Before I start in on tonight’s episode, let’s talk about all the awesome things to come. Recently, Community’s cast and crew went to PaleyFest and treated us to some tasty tidbits of what’s to come. We’re getting a puppet episode! With Jason Alexander as a “friendly mountain man!” I’m in! I am so in! I’m in like Professor Binns! Also, something big for Shirley, more paintball but not a full episode, and a Freaky Friday-esque episode written by Academy Award winner Jim Rash where Troy and Abed switch bodies. That’s all very promising. Speaking of promising…

I really, really liked this episode you guys. It was kind of lacking in the big laughs department but it was so damn pleasant and emotional that big comedy set-pieces would have almost ruined what was at work. As a viewer, I feel that often times comic relief can spoil something good, like making Argo’s tone a bit jarring or whatever the hell the “fat people fall down” section in Lincoln was. The Jeff’s dad storyline was so delicate, with so much real emotion to it, that too much schtick from Troy or Pierce would have ruined it. There was a lot to laugh at here (Gillian Jacobs was funnier tonight than anyone else has been all season), but—Oooooooh. Jeff’s Dad!

As you can tell by my articulation, I rather liked tonight’s big A Story. Joel McHale left the funny to everyone else tonight, really honing in on what makes Jeff tick and the state his father’s absence left him in.

James Brolin Community Jeff's Dad

James Brolin (who most people probably know from something important, but I know from The Goods) was also very solid in the Winger role. My biggest fear going in was that he was going to be overly nice and apologetic and redemptive, but his William Winger was the exact perfect amount of proud butthole, the smug face that Jeff wanted to smash in the parking lot during “Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking” back in season 2. It’s the face of the man who abused and insulted him all the way back in “Home Economics” in season 1. As far as I know, that’s his first mention. In only the eighth episode of the series. There’s been a lot of build-up to this point.

I’ve been maybe harder than I ought to have been on the season thus far, but it really, honestly surprised me tonight. I’ve noted that the season is building to something big, forsaking comedy for character movement, and I think this is one of maybe four of five big character points this season that are being laid out as we speak (I anticipate one for Abed around Christmas, a big one for Troy, and probably a stilted one around the time Pierce leaves).

Jeff’s heart episodes have always been dramatically the strongest. The only one that comes even close is Abed. Troy’s “Mixology Certification” is my favorite the show has ever done, and if there were more for him he’d be taking the This Episode Made Me Cry, Yo cake. Joel McHale continues to impress me with his dramatic depth, something he didn’t get the chance to showcase in the tour-de-force Spy Kids 4.

The appendix scar story was gut-wrenching and, giving maybe his most tender Winger speech to date, the confession about Jeff’s eye contact and texting and public persona was everything we’ve always suspected about Jeff (but were too afraid to ask). It was truly powerful. It wasn’t sitcom funny, but it was some of the finest heart the show has shown, ranking with the Dean’s commercial breakdown and the resolution to last year’s big “Pillows and Blankets” war.

Jeff Britta CommunityCommunity Jeff's Brother

You’ve also got Gillian Jacobs in the sidelines being funnier than anyone has been all season. Her line about the desires Jeff and William share to have sex with each other being perfectly normal is classic and perfectly delivered by Jacobs, who really is the show’s MVP for stuff like that.

Adam DeVine was also nice as Jeff’s half-brother, but Pierce’s half-brother is better so take THAT unfaithful dads!

The Shawshank stuff over at Shirley’s house was solid, counterpointing the drama of the episode without being overbearing. It was very similar to the Pulp Fiction plot from the “Critical Film Studies.” (SHAMEFUL EDITOR’S NOTE: I had to look up the title of that episode and have made it my spring break mission to dive back into Greendale racism first). Shirley’s revelation was sweet and touching, and the Annie-Trobed grouping is always good for laughs, but, sweet lord, I could just talk about that William Winger stuff forever.

And I will.

By myself.

In my dorm room.

In my underpants.

As I Hulu this episode over and over.

There were flaws, to be found, yes, but Jeff and Britta in the house of William Winger made this easily the best episode of the season, and slightly eased my concern about next week’s episode, a documentary about Changnesia. Let’s all see how well that goes, shall we?

THE FUNNY BITS (Tonight’s Best Jokes I Haven’t Mentioned):

1)      Britta’s accidental “roll play.” If I proposed to Gillian Jacobs on the Internet, do you think she’d say yes?

2)      Pierce actually had my favorite runner tonight with “Abed gets it.” I would like it to be about Star Wars, dick.

3)      The best part about Abed’s voiceover was Annie “having to do a Jewish thing in the other room.”

4)      Never let Troy go third, especially when he’s getting Jeff ready for the fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiighhhhhhhhtttttt…..

5)      And, Abed, I, too, hope you do Die Hard for Christmas. With the Dean as Holly and Abed as Al Powell. I really like Die Hard you guys!

That’s All Folks! Be sure to follow Kevin on Twitter and subscribe to this blog for every update. We’re starting a segment soon called “Mexican Standoffs.” Curious? Keep checking back. Dean you later!


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7 thoughts on ““Chubby Cheeks Basted in Tears of Gravy”- Community Review Season 4 Episode 5- ‘Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations’

  1. Gabe the dopeness on said:

    Good review, And I concur whole heartedly, with the notable exception of the rest of the season not being up to par (I could go on forever about the redeeming qualities of this season sans Donovan/Goldman/Harmon, though the premiere was a bit convoluted).
    Anyways, the point I’m here to make is that episodes of sitcoms that forgo comedy for the sake of heart are, in my opinion, the most important of the series.
    Two episodes that immediately jump to mind are from the playful and often lighthearted series “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” – When Will’s father leaves ( and when Carlton gets pulled over ( yes, these episodes had laughs. But the character development was paramount, and it led to some of the best acting. It allowed the watcher to empathize and grow closer to the characters that we’re so used to laughing at. In effect, we become a member of the cast, learning to understand the characters personally, rather than remaining an observer from the sidelines. After all, a sitcom that’s a happy-go-lucky gong show all the time just doesn’t sit well.

    • I agree wholeheartedly with this. It’s truly the thing that television has over film in that we can become so integrated into this world, so invested in these characters, so relentlessly affectionate towards the show that we will never leave it. The sheer amount of time you get to spent with these people increases your bond with them, and their dreams, and their goals. It’s beautiful. And when you spend enough time with someone, you truly, truly get to understand them in their moments of weakness, of vulnerability. They are crucial so that we can laugh with them. It’s why in comedy films I find it difficult to laugh with someone until I am well-acquainted with the character.
      About Community this season, I find the more I sit back and rewatch the episodes, the more I am inclined to agree with you. I rather like this season and really don’t think it would be taking as much fire as it is if Harmon were still involved. People are being too harsh. There are plenty of jokes people would have loved if he were still around.

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