'Community' recap: Carpe diem!

If the premiere episode of Community flunked the exam, and last week’s episode scored top marks, then this week’s show merely passed. Things started out crisply, but the show’s second half couldn’t maintain the laugh count, and it managed to turn me off to Abed (Danny Pudi). More on that later. First, it should be noted that for the second week in a row, a supporting character managed to steal the spotlight. Last week it was Ken Jeong as the eccentric Korean Spanish teacher Señor Chang, and this week we were introduced to Professor Whitman (John Michael Higgins), who taught a class in… well, I think it was an accounting class, but we’re never quite sure what the heck he’s supposed to be teaching.

Now, I’ve been a fan of JMH ever since Christopher Guest’s Best in Show; these days, whenever Higgins pops up in a movie or show, I’m guaranteed to at least smile. So I was glad to see that Higgins completely ran with the character of Prof. Whitman, who was an exaggerated version of Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society. For instance, the man’s only class requirement is for his students to “seize the day!” Jeff (Joel McHale) therefore thought Whitman’s course would be a cakewalk, but the professor soon identified Jeff for the “cocky opportunist” that he is, and required him to genuinely seize the day by the end of the week.

Let’s hope that nobody here has ever had an instructor quite as bonkers as Whitman. However, I’m pretty sure we’ve all had someone who came close. There’s always that teacher (often an English teacher, it seems) who’s less concerned about grades and tests and more interested in his or her students’ personal growth. Such teachers can be life changing, but they can also, well, cause a student to injure herself while attempting to stand on her desk.

And, now, a roll call of Whitman’s best moments:

— While instructing his class to live in the moment, Whitman delivered this sage advice: “Only when we stop stopping our lives can we begin to start starting them.” Expect that to be inside fortune cookies by the year’s end.

— Whitman ordered everyone to stand on their desks. “All your lives you were told, ‘Don’t stand on your desk.’ Well, why not?” he asked. Immediately, one girl’s desk collapsed underneath her, and that’s not even the funniest part. The kicker was Whitman’s carefree reaction as the student cowered on the floor in pain: “She’s okay. Go to the nurse. Seize the day!”

— Whitman berated Jeff for ordering black coffee, describing it as “an ordinary coffee for an ordinary life.” Whitman then stepped up to the counter, gazed at the menu, and joyously ripped it in half, threw it in the air, and announced, “I shall have… a birthday cake!” The character’s unadulterated enthusiasm for even the simplest of tasks had me in stitches.

— Jeff tried to prove to Whitman that he was seizing the day by flying a rainbow kite and jump-roping with some inappropriately young girls. When Whitman disapproved, Jeff asked his professor to give him a break. Whitman’s reply: “Had I not already cried at the sunrise this morning, I would be weeping right now.” His comment made me recall that Bedazzled remake with Brendan Fraser, who wished he was more sensitive and wound up shedding tears whenever he caught a glimpse of the sunset.

— Finally, after giving Jeff an A+ for kissing Britta (Gillian Jacobs) in the middle of the day, Whitman briskly ran to the nearest tree and started climbing it. Well, why not? Trees are for climbing. Carpe diem!

The one downer about last night’s episode was Abed. I had enjoyed Abed and his insular island of pop culture during Community‘s first two episodes, but I’ve now grown weary of the character. This partly had to do with the fact that Abed was a jerk last night. After Britta volunteered to pay for his film class and other expenses, he took advantage of the opportunity by using Britta’s money for everything from ordering the coffee and pizza for the study group to renting an expensive high-end camera. We later found out that Abed was purposely trying to aggravate Britta so that she could more accurately play his mother in the documentary he was filming (Abed’s only memorable line: “Documentaries are like real movies, but with ugly people”).

Regardless, Abed has become so awkwardly antisocial that he’s no longer amusing. His film, for instance, was simply disturbing — are we supposed to laugh at the image of Abed’s floating head being surrounded by syringes and MRI brain scans? By comparison, The Office‘s Dwight, however severely abnormal he may be, is a wholly lovable character that we’re able to (at least partially) comprehend. That’s not the case with Abed at this point. Yet, undoubtedly, the guy will undergo some sort of transformational arc later on in the season, and I’m curious to see if and how he manages to find his niche in the world.

Class, what’s your take on last night’s Community? Yay or nay? And who else would you like to see guest star as a professor? Christopher Walken teaching poetry, anyone?

Comments (66 total) Add your comment
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  • Elizabeth

    I’m hoping – based on last week and this week’s episodes – that they always end with Abed and Troy doing something. Last week, the rapping and this week the crunking.
    I didn’t think Abed was a jerk – I think we’re going to realize there is something a little ‘off’ about him and the rest of the group will have to find ways to cope with his antics- just like any other classroom setting.

    • Sara

      Point of order, m’dear… it’s “krumping”. I only know this because I watch too much “Top Model.” :)

      • Elizabeth

        Thanks… curses being a white chick from Ohio! Need to polish up on my ABDC or something like that.

    • dawnomite

      I agree, I was hanging around for the tail end of the show just to see what they’d do. It was great! And then a couple of seconds of McHale doing it too. Loved it.

    • Katie

      In the premiere, we were told what was wrong with Abed. He has Asperger’s syndrome (provided Jeff was actually supposed to be correct there, and not just being jerky…in which case I would be really annoyed with the script writers). Asperger’s causes people to have trouble socially connecting with people. That doesn’t seem like what he was truly doing last night, but it may be the Hollywood-ization of Asperger’s.

    • Cami Macias

      Can we get a recapper who actually likes the show and who has a sense of humor? Abed’s final video was hilarious. This was a great episode.

  • maddi

    i throughly enjoyed this episode, i love community and joel mchale, i think it has lots of potential and hopefully it will be on air long enough for that to be filled :D

  • RA

    I agree that the show is great. And all the Joel getting mistaken for Ryan Seacrest jokes are awesome…”Go back to hosting American Idol” lol

    • tmv

      lol yes! I think this is Joel’s pennance for always cracking Seacrest jokes on The Soup :)

  • Diggity

    The show is definitly hitting it’s stride now. I love Joel McHale so much I am really hoping the show catches on.

  • Amanda

    I actually couldn’t disagree more! I loved this episode. :)

    • JM

      Me too. I thought it was the best episode yet.

    • Audrey

      I totally agree, I’m not sure what the reviewer is talking about, I laughed harder watching this one than the other two.

  • fluff

    I don’t think you’re giving this show a chance. The main problem I see is that the premise of the show is so open-ended that the writers can do almost anything, so you’re gonna have some episodes that are hits and some that are misses. I laughed out loud several times during this episode. That’s more than I can say for most television programs.

  • Sara

    Dwight is a good character. We’ve also had several seasons to get to know that character. It’s not fair to judge Abed against Dwight this soon.

  • John

    “Regardless, Abed has become so awkwardly antisocial that he’s no longer amusing.” I think the show is aiming higher than that with Abed. I dunno, maybe it’s because I’m an awkward guy myself, but I was shocked by how accurately they were letting people react to his behavior last night. This show isn’t contend to let him be the charming geeky side character; he’s acting like the real awkward guy in the social group, and people are responding as such. Now that’s ambitious for a comedy show.

    • Shasta

      I agree. And I kinda liked to see the dark side of Abed’s quirkiness. Just because the show is a comedy doesn’t mean it can’t have layers to it. Even The Office has made me tear up a few times.

  • Sara

    This was most definitely the best episode so far. I felt like they are hitting their stride.

    • madduxfann

      agree 100%

  • arahsae

    Mr. Recapper, I have to disagree! This was a great episode of the show. I actually laughed more this week than last week and felt like the show was finally hitting its stride. Love it!

  • Jim

    I liked this episode. John Michael Higgins was hilarious in his attempt to get Jeff to “seize the day”. I think Abed is funny and will hit his stride as a character in coming episodes.

  • Stephanie

    I just couldn’t stop laughing at Chevy Chase when he tried to eat the pizza. At one point he just lunged and missed. Brilliant.

    • Sara

      That was great. I wonder if he eats pizza like that off-screen too.

  • Sara

    I loved this episode! It was really funny, and I actually thought they did a decent job of making Abed a self-aware weirdo. Yes, he was a jerk to Britta, but I actually felt his character deepened a lot in this episode. I do agree that JMH was hilarious!

  • Verity

    To each his own…I absolutely loved last night’s episode. In fact, it was the first time I had multiple laugh-out-loud moments while watching. Community has now officially been granted a season pass on my Tivo. John Michael Higgins was fantastic (as always), Chevy Chase was finally funny and not annoying, Joel McHale had great timing with his jokes (and got another Seacrest reference thrown his way), and Abed was actually endearing. I’m sold.

  • Filmi Girl

    I disagree about Abed – I liked that there was a bit of pathos to his character. Maybe it’s because I see a bit of myself in Britta but I like seeing her realize that just having good intentions is not enough.

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