TV Review: COMMUNITY 5.07 “Bondage And Beta Male Sexuality”

COMMUNITY - and Abed - move forward without Troy.

"You don't have a drinking problem, you have feelings for Britta you disgusting monster!"

Unless you had sharp eyes, you probably wondered why the previous episode of Community didn't mention Troy at all. More specifically, why ABED didn't mention Troy at all - his best friend just left and he didn't even seem to notice. However, I think this was smart - it proved the show could survive his absence just as easily as it had handled Pierce's departure, even though Troy was obviously a much bigger character. That said, they can't forget he exists, and thus "Bondage And Beta Male Sexuality" has Abed finding himself at a loss when he is forced to go about his newest silly adventure all by himself.

Likely inspired by the recent Robocop remake (Dan Harmon is a huge fan of the original - as any sane person would be - and has ranted about the remake's unnecessary existence on his Harmontown podcast more than once), Abed has designed a costume of original Kickpuncher as part of a protest of the film's remake, which is premiering (in Colorado?) that night. A lengthy shot of Troy's empty chair after Abed finishes assembling the costume tells us that he's quite upset about having to do this alone, but as he makes his way through the campus he stumbles upon Hickey, who has stayed late in his office to work on his comic strip about Jim the Duck. Unfortunately, a liquid/foam gun on Abed's costume doesn't work as well as it should, and he inadvertently ruins Hickey's pile of drawings, prompting the man to do what he assumes no one has ever done to Abed: punish him. Hickey handcuffs Abed to his filing cabinet for the evening, forcing him to miss the movie - something Abed is unable to comprehend.

It's remarkable how well Jonathan Banks has been integrated in the show - in just five episodes he's already more at home as part of the study group than Chang, who's been around for the entire run (save the pilot). It's not hard to see that they're using him the same way that Pierce was often used in the first season - five of the group on one adventure, while Pierce and _____ team up for a B-plot. So far we've seen him with Jeff (502), Britta (505), and Annie (506), so now it's Abed's turn - and it's the best aspect of the episode by far. Eventually they start to warm to each other a bit; Hickey even shares some of his cartoons and admits some of his shortcomings (it's apparently hard to draw a beak from a 3/4s perspective), and Abed seemingly truly feels sorry for what he did. But when he assumes that his apology will let him off the hook so he can make his movie, things get even more heated, and Abed unleashes a torrent of anger at him. I actually started feeling sorry for Hickey (a reprise of "Publishers are interested!" comes off much more pathetic this time), and it turned out to be a rather genius way of letting Abed vent some of his frustrations about the loss of his best friend. The subplot ends with the idea that Hickey's time on the police force might be of use to Abed, who has written a script about a supercop (one that Troy found hilarious, despite Abed's belief that it wasn't a comedy), and while I doubt we will see them hosting a fake TV show together, I like that they were able to bond - something Pierce and Abed never managed (outside of the clip episode, of course).

The main plot also involves one of the recurring guest stars: John Oliver's Professor Duncan, who has more than made up for his total absence from seasons 3 and 4 (he's in a few more after this as well, though not as many as Banks). As has been hinted in his other appearances, he wants to hook up with Britta, and has asked Jeff for tips. Jeff tells him to pick a stupid cause to support and she'll tag along, which is exactly what happens when he announces his plan to go to a benefit for hungry children with cleft palate. Unfortunately for Duncan, most of the others want to go as well, and so Jeff gets forced to join to be a wingman. However, Britta runs into some of her old activist pals, and when a few of them mock her lack of social activity ("When's the last time you fed anyone besides yourself?"), her esteem takes a hit - allowing Duncan to swoop in. But he does the right thing and merely drives her home, realizing that what he should be doing is spending time with his friend Jeff.

Their friendship has always been kind of backgrounded; granted Oliver's Daily Show duties have kept him away, but after the pilot and maybe one or two episodes after that, he never seemed any closer to Jeff than the rest of the study group. So this subplot doesn't QUITE land as well as it might, because we've had to use our imaginations for so much of their history together, but it's a good way to use "New Jeff" (not "Teacher Jeff", since that's been basically forgotten about) and allow him to be an active part of a plot without it being ABOUT him, something they often struggle with since Joel McHale is the top-billed star but is also part of a (very good) ensemble, and they can't make every episode about him learning a lesson or making a speech. On the other hand, with Duncan clearly wanting Britta but rarely actually interacting with her outside of the group, it's nice to see them paired off for a few moments, and make up for his creepy behavior in the Ass-Crack Bandit episode.

As for the others, they're just filling up time (Chang) or ensuring the actors' check for the week. Shirley and Annie take off for McDonald's after the play while everyone else sticks around, though Annie gets the week's second funniest line (she explains during the cold open that the Greendale teachers get a ten-minute head start at the Greendale Job Fair). Chang's plot is some nonsense involving potential ghosts at the theater where the play is, and it's almost entirely disposable save for its hilarious, Shining-inspired conclusion. It's interesting; now that Chevy is gone they don't have a "go-to" character to get rid of for the entire episode when necessary; I think this may be the first time that Alison Brie was the one getting the shaft. But it serves a greater purpose - allowing two of the supporting cast members some more face time and character development than they are often afforded. NBC is likely bringing the show back next year, but it's no guarantee that every actor will want to stick around, so it's smart of the writers to flesh out the supporting cast now before someone else jumps ship unexpectedly (it may seem like it was longer, but there were only six or seven episodes produced in between Chevy "quitting" and Donald's departure).

Overall, I think this is an episode that you might not single out as one of the season's best (though of all the ones I've seen, it's definitely the best showcase for Banks/Hickey), but strengthens it as a whole. At times it feels a bit like S2's "Mixology Certification", as it's kind of a bummer and the night's events has a couple characters feeling pretty miserable about where their life's decisions have led them, and in that regard (especially when you go back and watch them all on DVD), it's an important part of what makes this show so great. These characters don't have to be non-stop joke machines for you to want to hang out with them, and it's important that Harmon and the writers never lose sight of the fact that they are, by design, somewhat broken people. And by giving Hickey and Duncan something to do beyond merely commenting on what the others are doing, it further fleshes out this little universe that we love so much.

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