Community: Laws of Robotics and Party Rights
April 7, 2015 8:14 AM - Season 6, Episode 5 - Subscribe

Convicts start attending the school via those robot iPads you saw on "The Good Wife." Jeff of course gets into a war with one, who pulls similar shit to him and also tries to push him down the stairs. In other news, Britta wants to partay.

At the usual Save Greendale meeting, Frankie shows up via telepresence robot to announce that the Greendale Department of Corrections will pay the school $300,000 to let prisoners attend the school via iPad. Jeff is all for it and claims that not everyone in prison is a bad guy.. Chang is worried about rape, but their genitals will be hundreds of miles away. And if a race war breaks out, the Dean will simply adjust the contrasts of everyone's screens so they all look the same!

The robot prisoners arrive. "Roll forth and rehabilitate!" Leonard sticks a "Parole Me" sign on the back of one of them, of course. One of the convicts (Willy, played by Brian Van Holt) is in Jeff's "Fundamentals of Law" class, where you might literally learn "a thing or two" before Jeff gets bored of teaching and puts "Planet Earth" on, and everyone gets an automatic A. Jeff snarks that nobody at Greendale should pick on anyone because it's like watching magicians bully jugglers. However, Willy brags about being a murderer and asks Jeff if he's carrying any murders. Nah, Jeff doesn't feel that strongly about anyone but himself enough to kill. "That's enough law. Who wants to watch Planet Earth?"

After school is out, Willy is waiting for Jeff in the parking lot, where he tries to robotically push Jeff down the stairs. It is just as amazingly lame as it sounds. "Did you just try to murder me?"
After this, Jeff goes to the Dean to announce their ultimately low stakes but creepy problem, only to find that Willy has gotten there first and complained about the lack of law being taught in Fundamentals of Law. Jeff, could you actually teach something, please? Especially while Willy is watching?
Jeff talks a great game of redneck in the next class that I wished I could have transcribed faster, but it freaks Garrett out, as he wonders when Mr. Winger stopped being funny. Jeff also defines law as "an agreement we make to stay out of each other's way," which really isn't a bad definition.

"Shouldn't have worn that petard if you didn't want to be hoisted by it," Britta says to Jeff. He asks her what she thinks a petard is--let's just say it's a very complicated leotard to her-- and then he tells her to never look it up, her version is better.

In other news, Britta wants to throw a party-- a rager, to be specific-- but Annie says no more than eight guests. Britta is of course not down with that, and convinces Abed to film a party like it's every 80's teen movie party ever. The Dean and Frankie arrive to announce that the Department of Corrections is thrilled and Greendale is going to be rich. The Dean breaks into his bag and starts passing iPads around. "Did someone order a prison break? Plenty of convicts to go around! Pass me Willy! Pass me Willy!" Jeff leaves in disgust.

Later he pushes Willy down the stairs at school, asking if he's cool now that HE's a murderer. It also gives the Dean a very dramatic death scene to play, pleading at Willy. Jeff is given a paid sabbatical for two weeks and banned from campus for that one. "You destroyed my device and my heart." Later Britta apologizes to Annie and says she was right, and Annie will slowly enact revenge later.

The next meeting of the Save Greendale committee is held at a bar so that Jeff can attend. The study room is being used for a ceremony involving the prisoners anyway--Willy's now going to be a professor! Jeff is annoyed because Willy is doing what Jeff does except with more nefarious intentions. "I lied to the Dean for personal gain. I wouldn't use him emotionally." Jeff doesn't lead the Dean on like Willy's doing, and it bothers him.

Elroy builds his own robot out of a broom and a toy car or something, and attends the ceremony via iPad, then slips Jeff in so he can break it up. As the Dean and Willy get sorta-kinda-married by the Department of Corrections--in which we learn slavery was abolished for everyone but prisoners who get paid thirteen cents an hour-- Jeff confesses that he actually likes working here, likes his job, tries to steal as little as possible, but he won't lead the Dean on and never will. (Never mind that phone number in the previous episode.) "Because I'm not just a pretty face that murders people and tells you what you want to hear." He even *gasp* considers the Dean a friend!

After this, we find out from the DoC guy that Willy is innocent! He's a good felon! He was wrongly convicted and they're working on the appeal! Oh, how the mighty have fallen!

FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT! All of the robots...well, they attempt to fight. Jeff takes his shirt off, but his robot falls anyway. Who wins the fight? The Dean, by turning off Willy's iPad. He picks up Jeff on his broom and swings him around in a circle as everyone cheers them on and Jeff says he's having no part of this.

Things To Know About Elroy:
* He has a brain the size of Jupiter
* He is nobody's fourth Ghostbuster
* "Is this a cult? Are you going to eat me?"

Things To Know About Chang:
* He's pooping in someone's house... guess who's.

Britta's Definition of Parties: they're a place where people can feel more, see less, and not have to listen to anyone but themselves.

In the final scene, everyone meets in the study room via robot. The program has been canceled, but since now we don't have to build 67 new ramps, we should break even. Frankie wants to know if anyone wants to buy the robots. Abed certainly does. During the meeting, Britta gets arrested at the coffee shop, Elroy's vehicle is being vandalized, the Dean abandons his iPad to sit in Jeff's lap and a janitor fills in, and Chang is roboting in from the which I mean Abed and Annie's. Abed overrides the other iPads and plots to commence world domination. Eradicate! Eradicate! Eradicate!
posted by jenfullmoon (26 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I enjoyed it more so than the last episode. The question is whether Abed's character has regressed at all with his obsession on filming a party that accurately captures, "partying like no tomorrow."

I kind of miss the skeptical and more cynical Britta of the earlier seasons.

The attempted murder of Jeff was great, if only for the repeated attempts by Willy to push him down the stairs after Jeff starts calling him on it.

I would have loved it if the Dean had started decorating Willy's iPad without Wily being aware of it, perhaps to make it like a dalmatian or something.

Troy cameo! And by Troy cameo, a random arm from a random person!
posted by Atreides at 11:49 AM on April 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

Excellent recap, jenfullmoon!

I think the prison plot was one of my favorite Community storylines ever. Willie trying and failing to push Jeff down the stairs was simply sublime, and the fight scene was wonderful.
posted by mochapickle at 12:40 PM on April 7, 2015 [3 favorites]

i thought this episode was pretty week, very simplistic, and tired. But, the closing gag made it all worth it!
posted by rebent at 4:35 PM on April 7, 2015

This episode annoyed me, mostly, and at some points intensely. I did enjoy Britta's definition of petard and, especially, the security guard: "You destroyed his device and his heart, sir."
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:08 PM on April 7, 2015 [3 favorites]

Let's not forget the bit where (after a security guard asked a white iPad-prisoner for his name and number before letting him in the room) Elroy rolls up on a remote-controlled toy truck with a broomstick taped to it and gets waved in right away. That was pretty good.
posted by uosuaq at 5:17 PM on April 7, 2015 [4 favorites]

This episode is strange and makes me feel very uncomfortable.
posted by Going To Maine at 5:37 PM on April 7, 2015

This felt like a season 4 episode, and that is pretty much the harshest thing that you will ever hear me say about an episode of Community.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 7:21 PM on April 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

I can't decide if I liked this because 1/it was so uneven and 2/it felt like a commercial for those stupid bastardized Segways*.

The attempted murder of Jeff was very funny but if the convict was innocent all along, it seems odd that he'd become a murderer now. Abed seems to have lost a lot of nuance and the balance Troy brought to the show is missing. Is Chang's story line about using the bathroom in someone else's house a repeat? It feels very familiar.

*Segways are stupid and iPads on Segways are incredibly stupid.
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 8:21 PM on April 7, 2015

It just felt so disjointed. Somebody thought that Segways on sticks were funny (they were right), and that Britta and Annie and Abed needed some time together. (Sure, why not?) Then at some point in the writers' room everything went to hell.

I guess I'm just feeling extra-sensitive to prisoners these days, but the way in which the convicts were portrayed left a bad taste in my mouth. Willy was basically undefined - I still have no idea what his motivation was. And the twist that hey, he's actually wrongfully imprisoned just came off as gross. The only joke about the prisoners that felt like it was "punching up" was the quite well-placed crack about how the 13th amendment hadn't banned slavery for prisoners. Everything else just felt unsympathetic, and sympathy has generally been one of Community's stronger suits.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:38 PM on April 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

As others have observed, this one was just tonally weird. Having Garrett call out the sudden uptick in dramatic intensity smoothed over the weirdness a little bit, but it still seemed kind of random.

Speaking of which, did somebody hit shuffle on Abed at the beginning of the episode? Between his Seinfeld riff and his exposition-enabling black guy impression, Abed felt like a directionless caricature of himself until the party-hijack subplot kicked in.

Random easter egg spotted in the epilogue: The janitor who takes over the Dean's robot is played by Harmon cohort Abed Gheith, the inspiration for show-Abed. Which is presumably why he wasn't taken over by the other Abeds, being one himself.
posted by Strange Interlude at 9:06 PM on April 7, 2015 [8 favorites]

There were definitely parts I liked, but yeah, this felt disjointed. I did really like the way the Jeff/Dean relationship was handled, because I thought that was another great example of Community being fundamentally kind to its characters even in the midst of nonsense. There are a lot of ways to go to gross and mean places with the Dean's one-sided crush on Jeff, but that we so often see Jeff willing to be genuinely friends with the Dean (remember the "Kiss from a Rose" karaoke?) keeps things from getting too cruel. Jeff's right, he doesn't lead the Dean on or use him emotionally, and that's just a really nice note in their friendship.

I was kind of confused by the direction of the party at Annie and Abed's thing, because I thought Abed insisting on continuing to film until he truly captured "partying like there's no tomorrow" was in itself his revenge on Britta. Like, I thought that neither Annie nor Abed wanted to have a "rager," but that Annie decided to be hands off about it because she knew Abed would shoot it down one way or another, and then with Britta trying the "let's make a movie" angle, Abed understood that he was being manipulated and took revenge accordingly in a "be careful what you wish for" kind of way. The episode doesn't really support that reading, but it's the reading that makes more sense to me.
posted by yasaman at 9:41 AM on April 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

It makes more sense than Abed changing his mind after being handed a script written by Britta. Abed should have a highly defined sense of what's good, what's not, in script writing, and he probably should have handed it back to Britta for extensive rewrite or something.
posted by Atreides at 11:22 AM on April 8, 2015

This felt a bit like Community's spin on a Black Mirror type-of-thing idea.
posted by bigendian at 1:22 PM on April 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't understand Britta this seasons. She really feels one dimensional in a way that at the very least I haven't noticed before. I'm not sure what her motivation is.

There were some good moments, but I too felt this was a weak episode. The attempted murder was great though. Real comedy gold, especially with the extra time they allowed it to go on for (thank you Internet?).
posted by [insert clever name here] at 6:30 PM on April 8, 2015

I guess I'm in the minority, but I thought this was hilarious. Willie trying to "murder" Jeff was perfect. "Did you just try to murder me?"

Then the Dean freaking out after Jeff throws "Willie" down the stairs.

Abed's Seinfeld impressions were also great.
posted by radioamy at 7:16 PM on April 8, 2015

My impression was that Abed knows a lot about movies but does not produce good movies himself.
posted by squinty at 7:33 PM on April 9, 2015

Wiktionary entry on "hoist by one's own petard," which means
To be hurt or destroyed by one's own plot or device intended for another; to be "blown up by one's own bomb".
Then here's the Wikipedia entry for Petard, "a small bomb used to blow up gates and walls when breaching fortifications; of French origin and dates back to the sixteenth century."

And now I know.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:28 AM on April 10, 2015 [4 favorites]

I always thought a petard was a kind of snare trap, similar to the ones set up (and invariably blundered into) by Elmer Fudd/Wile E. Coyote/etc. in cartoons, which seems like a pretty good illustration of the expression.
posted by Strange Interlude at 9:18 AM on April 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

I thought a petard was the sail rigging of a boat, and if you tied it incorrectly, you'd be hoisted up the mast. Instead of you being the one sailing the boat, the boat is sailing you!

I have no idea where the boat idea came from.
posted by mochapickle at 9:46 AM on April 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

That's funny because that's what I thought for a long time -- I think I learned what it actually was sometime in my late twenties or thirties. But until then, I totally thought it was something involving sailing. That's weird that we'd have the same idea.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:09 PM on April 10, 2015

It must have come from somewhere, because that's what I thought it meant too. Jeff's right though, Britta's explanation is better.
posted by yasaman at 2:16 PM on April 10, 2015

Ha! And they say there's no cabal...
posted by mochapickle at 3:10 PM on April 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

I thought a petard was a cravat.

I dunno about the episode as a whole, but the petard line and the attempted murder made me laugh more than anything else this season.
posted by Monochrome at 8:51 PM on April 10, 2015

My impression was that Abed knows a lot about movies but does not produce good movies himself.

I think his ability went downhill when he switched from loving Kickpuncher movies ironically to loving them earnestly.
posted by Dr-Baa at 10:03 AM on April 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Perhaps it's a shift, where before he made the films to explain his world and how he saw it to everyone else, while now, the camera's view finder is becoming his access to everyone else's world.
posted by Atreides at 12:06 PM on April 13, 2015

I always assumed a petard was a weapon akin to a halberd, and then the rest of the metaphor kind of made it's own level of sense.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:09 AM on April 17, 2015

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