Jeff Winger Has Become His Own Hero – COMMUNITY Season 6 Episode 5 Review, “Laws of Robotics and Party Rights”
When Jeff Winger first enrolled at Greendale Community College, he was little more than an opportunist looking for the nearest blow-off class. Those he now holds as his dear friends were originally a means to an end, an accidental, life-changing result of trying to have sex with Britta Perry. He was the man to go to if you wanted a blow-off class. In his quest to regain his law degree as quickly as possible, he found the legendary Beginner Pottery class (where people passing by get a contact credit) and an accounting class so lax the teacher had the students throw away their textbook, stand on their desks, and declare their love for life. So even after five years, many life-changing revelations about caring for others, and a new life’s purpose (to save Greendale) it makes absolute sense that Jeff would become the Automatic-A Professor he always wanted to see in others. As much as we may want “Jeff the Liar” to be someone who enriches the lives of his students, that was never what he was going to be. Much like Britta in the cold open, who became intrigued by the Jeff talking about the unjust nature of our justice system only to be let down when she discovers he’s only using that logic path to get Greendale more money, Jeff Winger is only going to build us up so that he might knock us down again.
“Laws of Robotics” is basically a character story for Jeff (and a showcase for Joel McHale, who really, really never gets the praise he quite deserves). Ignore the convicts roving the halls of Greendale via iPads on tiny segways and the episode is about a fragile man meeting his match. Jeff’s ego has always been both his bane and his triumph. It allows him to be the cocky lawyer that can convince anyone of anything (“So either I’m God, or truth is relative. Either way, booyah.”) but also renders him the Seacrest Hulk who trudges shirtless down a Colorado highway after he doesn’t win the Most Handsome Young Man Award at Howie Schwartz’s bar mitzvah. He can resolve school-wide blanket fort battles using the power of friendship, but every so often he meets his match and it destroys him. City College’s golden debater Simmons forced Jeff to care for the first time in his life. The kind and perfect Rich drove Jeff to an all-night pottery bender as the ghosts of his mother’s constant praise haunt his every moment of failure. He even went tete a tete with his own father, the source of his anguish and linguistic edge, in one of the best episodes to escape the Gas Leak Year.
Jeff’s rival in “Robotics” is a smooth-talking southern murderer (played by Brian Van Holt, the third Cougar Town alum to pay visit to Greendale) who messes with Jeff’s world when he forces Jeff to try. While the storyline offers perhaps nothing new to either Jeff or Community, it is still very, very funny and remarkably grounded for an episode with a roving gang of Skyping convicts. For a show in its sixth season, Community is still remarkably good at telling very funny stories based in character. There is no violation of the bounds of what a character will and won’t do, which you will find to be a remarkably rare feat in late season sitcoms. Sometimes we even get further insight into these characters (including instances this season with both the Dean and Britta, who have both been around since the pilot—and there are still two new characters on whom we have barely scratched the surface). That is more than impressive, and may just be the greatest feat Dan Harmon and Co. have achieved over the run of the series. And if these storylines include the Dean carrying off a broomstick with Jeff’s face on it a la The Bodyguard, then that is all the better.
Episode Grade: B+
Best Line: “And if I see any race gangs forming I will have no choice but to adjust the contrast on your screens until you’re all the same color.”
Moment of Brilliance: I have never before seen a sentient iPad attempt to push a man down the stairs, and that has to amount for something. Made me laugh myself silly.
–The B-Story where Britta tries to throw a party is full of funny enough moments to keep one satisfied. Britta was truly hoisted by her own petard.
–Apparently the iPads-on-a-stick concept has actually been adopted in the actual, real life private sector, and that is dumbfounding to me
–I cannot wait until we get a real chance to dig in to Frankie and Elroy. Both Paget Brewster and Keith David have been performing more than admirably so far, so it’s about time we got a “Frankie episode.” Everything with Elroy tonight was just stellar.