Community: Queer Studies and Advanced Waxing
March 31, 2015 7:28 AM - Season 6, Episode 4 - Subscribe

Copying what Yahoo said about it: The school board invites the Dean to become a member as long as he promotes his “homosexuality.” Chang auditions for “The Karate Kid,” with Annie’s help, and endures abusive treatment from the director. Abed tries to save baby birds nesting on the Greendale internet router with the help of Elroy. (Trigger warning: not all birds survive.)

Plot one: Gay Dean. The Dean is asked to join the school board--they're having a little issue about people being pissed off they canceled the gay pride parade in favor of a school board parade. They pretty much say they'll let him in if he becomes openly gay. Is he? "I'm not openly ANYTHING and gay doesn't begin to cover it, no." The Dean calls Jeff and Frankie into a private meeting about this, and Frankie says something about not being openly anything, which leads to a facial conversation between Jeff and the dean behind her back.

The Dean hates to limit himself and focus on 2/7 of his sexuality (whatever that means), but "comes out of the closet," gets on the board, and runs around with a beard, "Fernando," who looks a lot like Jeff but is treated like crap by the Dean. The song "Jolene" is sung with the lyrics changed to "Gay Dean." There's headlines, including "Big Gay Dean." Various kids thank the Dean for coming out.

Eventually the Dean can't take it any more and calls a press conference to come out a politician. What? He got kicked off the board.

Plot two: Wax On, Wax Off. Chang is auditioning for a stage version of The Karate Kid. He wants to play Daniel. Annie helps him audition--which is to say, she's cast as Daniel and Chang is cast as Miyagi. Annie is having a very good time doing a Joisey accent, Chang can barely get words out of his mouth and the director is constantly screaming at him. Annie feels bad for Chang and debates threatening to quit (Britta, sober in this episode despite being behind a bar, says she should just quit) because she's the star, in order to get the director to stop it. It doesn't work--he thinks she sucks and he only cast her so they could use last year's costume and he thinks Chang is the real actor, so he's yelling at him. Annie is replaced by Annie Kim in the play.
Much to everyone's shock, Chang can actually act.

Plot Three: Baby Bird Murder. (Don't say I didn't warn you.) The Wi-Fi is down and everyone's cranky. Frankie has tried to e-mail the IT lady and gets her e-mails bounced back in Aramaic, which is only slightly more bad than the usual IT experience. Elroy becomes the new IT lady and he and Abed discover that there is a nest of baby birds in there. Abed says the mother won't come back if they move the nest. Elroy originally objects to waiting around for evolution to happen--he has quite a speech about it that I couldn't write down fast enough-- leaving Abed to finish with "You just did a baby bird murder monologue." After that, Elroy agrees to leave the birds be, and they guard the next.

The Dean complains at first until he finds out why and then agrees with Abed, BUT.... upon getting pressure from the school board guys that stuff like saving baby birds is TOO gay and the like, he orders the birds out. There's two white security guards, two unarmed brown guys and a camera phone and a gay dean, let's see how this goes.... but in the end, the birds are out. Despite their best efforts with a terrarium, two out of three baby birds die. The third survives long enough for a freeing ceremony in which Abed makes everyone wear cat masks (so the baby bird knows it can't stay) and flap wings to make it get the hint. Eventually the bird flies away and then goes into the nearest transformer.

"School board, you're surrounded!"
"Cutting women out of sex? It's genius!"
"One of us is so talented she got cast outside her gender."
"Anything other than straight is plenty gay for a school."
"Dean Pelton is coming out as 2/7 of what he is!"
"Stop making me want to quit theater and kill myself."
"I got distracted because the tools did a better job than you."
"I make gayness look like Mormonism."
"Confine yourself to your role, Domingo."
"You are the worst I've ever directed, and I've directed both Wahlbergs!"
"I was born to act. When I act, I can feel it pleasing the universe." "That's...dramatic."
"The ghost of his father just turned his back on you. Your ancestors are crawling back into the Earth to get away from you."
"Any of you guys smell a bird murderer?"
"It'll be interesting to see how his fake crying is different from his real crying."
"I forgot Chang was up there."
"It's such a relief to support him out of something other than fear."
"Hey, I know this great bar for people who don't hate themselves."

If you check real fast (Yahoo sucks at rewind), I believe "Jess Alden" was credited as "Somebody else."

On the good side: Elroy got a plot, Britta was sober, and Chang not only got a plot, but actually somehow acted! He didn't suck at the end! Amazing!

On the not so good side: baby bird murder, coming out as a politician. Dude, why don't you just use those new cute words we have these days for super sexual flexibility. like "queer," or "pansexual" or "omnisexual" or "anything besides 100% straight" or "slutty?"
posted by jenfullmoon (25 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I eyerolled at the Dean coming out as "political", too, but it's kind of a no-win comedy writing situation. On one hand, you'd think that the writers' room could have come up with something a bit more creative. But then again, if they'd actually tried coming up with a suitably funny and/or impossible-seeming sexual orientation for Pelton they'd run the risk of it contradicting what we've seen of him previously, or (even worse) unwittingly ridiculing somebody's real-life proclivities.
posted by Strange Interlude at 10:17 AM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

The sidebar conversation with Jeff and the dean while Frankie was talking was comedy gold.

I was a bit disappointed that we didn't get to see the seedy underbelly of IT a la the janitors was a shame. But following the wires to the wireless router was a nice touch, and I have to wonder if it's in reference to The Webmaster.

The Gay Dean song; goddammit. That's an unfortunate ear worm.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 11:17 AM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

Almost wish Keith David would have been there since the beginning.
posted by drezdn at 1:08 PM on March 31, 2015 [5 favorites]

It occurred to me later while reading the Sepinwall review that for all of this Dean being "so much more than gay" stuff, we literally don't see anything other than the crossdressing/costumes (though not recently, maybe the budget won't allow for it) and him lusting after Jeff. All we ever see is him acting gay, so wonder people reasonably assume?

When you think about it, most of the time bi/flexible/whatever dudes aren't really done well on TV. Oberyn Martell is the only one I can think of, at least there's someone. Then again, maybe I'm annoyed because the bi male character on Revenge who claimed to be a solid three on the Kinsey scale seems to be heading towards full on gay and I'm like, "darn it, I actually rather like his wife when she's not crazy."
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:36 PM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

we literally don't see anything other than the crossdressing/costumes

There was a lot of groundwork laid in the first couple of seasons that he has a Dalmatian fetish, and in this episode there are a couple of HUGE pictures in his office referencing that.

I honestly loved the Annie/Chang storyline more than I could have expected, partly because Zouk is such a great presence but also the writing leavened the absurdity with a couple of genuinely sweet moments. Win-win-win.
posted by psoas at 7:31 PM on March 31, 2015 [4 favorites]

Was Zouk in any way a reference to Whiplash? I've yet to see it or get around to reading the script, but it fit some of my assumptions about the movie.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:02 PM on March 31, 2015

we literally don't see anything other than the crossdressing/costumes (though not recently, maybe the budget won't allow for it) and him lusting after Jeff

In addition to the aforementioned Dalmation obsession, he designed the Greendale Human Being (which, dude, is fetishy as fuck in a sad DIY sort of way), and he has some sort of psychosexual power struggle happening with Dean Spreck.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 8:21 PM on March 31, 2015

I was a bit disappointed that we didn't get to see the seedy underbelly of IT a la the janitors was a shame.

We did see Debra the IT lady back in s5e6, Analysis of Cork-Based Networking (played by none other than Paget Brewster, hence Frankie being unable to contact her).
posted by Mr. Pokeylope at 10:37 PM on March 31, 2015 [16 favorites]

I really enjoyed this episode and thought the show was in fine form.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:09 AM on April 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

Was Zouk in any way a reference to Whiplash?

Nothing specific, but the theme of "I see seeds of greatness within you, and I am going to push until you are perfect!" is identical, but but that's not an uncommon trope.
posted by Etrigan at 4:50 AM on April 1, 2015

We did see Debra the IT lady back in s5e6, Analysis of Cork-Based Networking (played by none other than Paget Brewster, hence Frankie being unable to contact her).

Harmon & Co. will hopefully take the opportunity this season to riff on the old sitcom trope of evil-twin double-casting (e.g. Betwitched, I Dream of Jeannie).

The uncanny resemblance of the head janitor and Chang's celebrity crush Nathan Fillion also needs some explanation or elaboration.
posted by Doktor Zed at 5:00 AM on April 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

Maybe it's because I just watched Whiplash two days ago, but I thought it was deliberately referencing the film. I dunno if there's been enough time for this to be realistic on their production schedule.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:13 AM on April 1, 2015

I think it's conceivable that Harmon/writers were influenced by Whipflash as going off of Harmon's comments on Harmontown, he really didn't start writing the Community episodes until late 2014 at the earliest.

I definitely enjoyed this episode the most so far as the new characters are starting to meld into our primary characters and it's less awkward. I have had my ups and downs with Changs' character, but it was nice to see him really be given something nice for a change.
posted by Atreides at 7:07 AM on April 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also, where's Magnitude? When's he going to pop-pop in-in?
posted by Going To Maine at 4:35 PM on April 1, 2015 [4 favorites]

Who sang the gay dean song?
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 6:49 PM on April 1, 2015

I really liked this episode! I'm reminded yet again that one of the things Community gets consistently right is how much affection it has for its characters, even its resident weirdo and occasionally totally psychotic Chang. A lesser show would keep Chang around solely for mean-spirited laughs, which Community has definitely been guilty of in the past, but then Community pulls out something like this, where Chang gets a moment to shine and to have the unconditional support of the Save Greendale Committee.

I also loved that the power of Chang's Mr. Miyagi performance was genuine: everyone was moved by it, and they weren't really the butt of the joke for that. And I mean, it both is and isn't a joke. It's a joke because Chang's performance is unexpectedly amazing, but the power of that performance and its effect on the audience wasn't really a joke. Plus, we've gotten to know most of these characters really well by now, so their reactions speak for themselves, whereas in early Community, we might have had a whole Winger speech about it.

And talk about a continuity deep cut: the return of Annie Kim! I love so much how much depth the world of Greendale has that characters like that can return seasons later. Also, I agree that I'm starting to wish Keith David had been there from the beginning. I liked Johnathan Banks as a Pierce replacement just fine, but Keith David is slotting in just perfectly in that Pierce role.
posted by yasaman at 8:26 PM on April 1, 2015 [7 favorites]

Oh, and more much appreciated continuity: when Abed says "if we move the nest, the mother won't come back," and long-time Community watchers know the subtext is about Abed's own absent mother. So lovely that the show left that parallel understated. Emotional continuity is not exactly one of the sitcom genre's strengths, but it was beautifully done here, to the point where the end actually made me teary-eyed with its sweetness and the evolution of Abed dealing with his mother's absence via stop motion animated breakdown to caring for some baby birds and giving one a sweet send-off.
posted by yasaman at 8:36 PM on April 1, 2015 [6 favorites]

I enjoyed this episode except for the baby bird murder. Because no matter what kind of preface Elroy gave, it's still baby bird murder. I also thought the shot of the bird flying into the transformer at the end was just another way to try and get laughs from killing animals (and basically undermined any optimism of Abed's speech).
I just don't find humor at the expense of animal lives funny, just callous. I was willing to overlook Britta accidentally killing the frog early in the series because it worked as part of a rube goldberg of horrible events, not because stepping on a frog is funny.

Speaking of Britta, why the hell didn't Abed ask her to help protect the birds? This is the kind of thing she'd be all over, and would have ripped the Dean up before letting anyone get near the nest.

I do like how tv programs that have made the jump to online aren't beholden to the 22-minute limit. Wasn't this episode closer to thirty minutes?
posted by Dr-Baa at 7:01 AM on April 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

I also thought the shot of the bird flying into the transformer at the end was just another way to try and get laughs from killing animals (and basically undermined any optimism of Abed's speech).

I assumed that the bird was hopping into the transformer box because it wanted to make a nest there. Next spring, the school would be losing power completely because of another batch of chicks.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:11 AM on April 2, 2015 [9 favorites]

I also assumed the bird was going in to build a nest, because that's what he knew. We didn't hear a sudden zap or squawk or anything right? Perhaps it was intended to be left up to the viewer's interpretation.

Also loving Keith David here, because every time he opens his mouth i imagine his dialogue coming from Captain Anderson in Mass Effect and it makes me giggle.
posted by trunk muffins at 7:39 AM on April 2, 2015

I think it definitely was meant to imply the bird was going to build another nest rather than be a cheap fried bird joke.
posted by Atreides at 12:49 PM on April 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

"Who sang the gay dean song?"

As far as I'm concerned, it was Dolly Parton, and while wearing that dress. No one will convince me otherwise.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:12 PM on April 2, 2015 [4 favorites]

I loved Elroy's reference to Planet of the Apes
Elroy: I'm pretty handy with technology. I'm assuming it's still the same, smaller holes, more bytes. Now what are we up to now, mega?
Abed: Tera.
Elroy: Tera.They did it, those bastards. They finally did it.
I felt like this episode really had the cast and crew getting into their groove, instead of replaying old Community character-based tropes as seen in the prior episodes.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:27 AM on April 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also, where's Magnitude?

He was one of the main characters on "Galavant."
posted by drezdn at 11:20 AM on April 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yeah, the last bird didn't die. If they really wanted to go there there would have been ways to make it clearer (probably looking more like Sherri Bobbins' fate at the end of that Simpsons episode.)

There's a definite pall of sadness over this season which I don't dislike but which is a little off-putting. Britta (my favorite character on television and the one I probably relate to the most) is clearly going through a hellish personal breakdown that everyone seems pretty happy to largely ignore. Annie's storyline here led to her basically being told that she's so talentless there's no point in trying to direct her, and then Jeff just trying to make her not care. Which I don't mind - it feels real, but it's sad. I also mentioned the change in the lighting scheme in the last thread, but there's an interesting effect to it. The study room looks more comfortable now (at least to me, who will choose natural light over artificial room light ten times out of ten) but the bluer tones and the ever-present shadows cast by the vines give the scenes a very subtly more dramatic feel, like you could imagine The West Wing shooting in that location. It's just a fascinating change in the comic energy.

Finally, there's a cool parallel in this episode I havne't seen mentioned (maybe it's in the Sepinwall piece; I haven't read it yet) where both Chang and The Dean feel "cast" into roles based on their types (Asian and Gay, respectively) and neither one likes the feeling of that, though both go forward with "performing" those roles to get respect they are almost always denied. Obviously those stories go in different directions, but both eventually make the roles their own and do some good with them (and I liked that we got to see that The Dean's "coming out" meant something to the gay student, even if the Dean didn't feel like he was being honest about it.

Plus Zouk's speech about Mr. Miyagi and the greatness of Pat Morita was unexpected and kind of awesome. Until it turned into hating on Annie.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:32 PM on April 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

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