All that glitters isn’t gold, kiddies. This is the first episode in the new season that I feel hasn’t lived up to the fantastic level each episode of Community Season Six has adhered to so far. The premise of the “A” plot this week revolves around Frankie presenting the school with a unique opportunity to make a cool $300k: by allowing prisoners to attend classes via “telepresence robots,” i.e. iPads on mechanized stands with wheels. The prisoners are allowed to interact with students via their video portals, talk with teachers, and in one case, attempt murder! Yes, it turns out that Jeffrey runs afoul of one of the convicts named Willy, and in one of the funniest scenes of the episode, is nearly tricked into being pushed down a flight of stairs. Willy would have been successful had the motorized iPad not been about as threatening as a feather, as he harmlessly bumps into Jeff above his otherwise certain doom.
Seeing a legion of prisoners roll their way through the school was a hilarious sight in its own right, but I felt that it didn’t deliver the punch that it could have. Perhaps the “A” plot should have overtaken more of the episode overall, allowing for more tomfoolery from the prisoners outside of just Willy. Culminating with a “brawl” between Jeff and Willy, with each behind their own motorized iPad, made for a humorous final confrontation (which would have really benefited from an epic soundtrack, akin to the traditional music that blares over Captain Kirk and Spock in Star Trek). This final fight put a nice bow on the present that was this particular plot. The cherry on top was the Dean lifting a downed Jeffrey-bot out of the room in triumph as Garrett applauded.
The best episodes of Community manage to blend together humor with heart in an almost symmetrical dance between the two, and I felt that this episode wasn’t able to find that middle ground. Ultimately, I think the message of the episode revolved around Jeff revealing how he felt about Greendale and the Dean, though it might have been better for Jeff to realize that he just constantly wanted to be the center of attention, rather than struggle to find kind words to say about the Dean. It did make for a nice introduction to Jeff’s teaching method however, as we were able to look into how he actually teaches his “Introduction to Law” class, i.e. throwing a VHS tape of Planet Earth into the VCR for his students. Capping this plot off with an extremely confused Ceremony Moderator inquiring, “What kind of school is this?” allowed for a great vantage point of an ordinary person looking into the insanity that is Greendale Community College.
The “B” plot follows Britta’s attempt to have a party at Abed and Annie’s apartment, only for her to be informed that she doesn’t have those rights as a “coucher” — someone living on the couch rather than a bed — and must adhere to the rules Annie set. In order to bypass these however, Britta comes up with a scheme in order to have her way: trick Abed into thinking he is creating a movie about a party. This blows up in her face, however, as Abed takes his job too seriously, filming a party scene 24/7, demanding that those who are partying really sell the idea that they are “partying like there’s no tomorrow.” This plot allowed for some funny bits, especially when Abed explains that he would do certain actions in the past in order to create “Pop Backs,” a method used primarily by shows like Family Guy to tear away to a different scene referenced by the character. The “Pop Back” in itself is understandably meta, with Abed making reference to it in both the present and the past, and has a chuckle-inducing moment wherein Abed says hello to a Troy stand-in.
On the “new kids” front, Elroy continues to shine like a diamond while Frankie continues to fill her role of “exposition dump” and not much else, to be honest. Several of the night’s best zingers were Elroy-related, as Keith David continues to receive some of the best material. Scenes such as Elroy being allowed instant entrance into the concluding ceremony, since the security guard immediately sees him as a convict, and taking the role of “black guy who is the verdict for what is and what isn’t racist for the gang” work extremely well with David selling each beat. Frankie, on the other hand, is still suffering from the same problems she has since her introduction; she feels separate from everyone else. Her role is to essentially deliver plots to the rest of the cast and then fade into the background to act sparingly as a straight man to everyone else’s insanity, which could work in theory, but it isn’t utilized in the best way it could be. Hopefully, down the road this season, she’ll be given more of a spotlight and funnier scenarios.
While “Law of Robotics and Party Rights” offered a few hilarious bits of dialogue and character beats, it felt like the first episode of the season that wasn’t in step with the other installments. Luckily, it’s still the Community we all know and love and it offers plenty to like, I just wish it was great and not “good”.
Episode Rating: ★★★ Good
– While I think Garrett always works well in small doses, I wouldn’t mind seeing an entire episode revolve around some problem involving him, or delving into his background, as he’s always good for a laugh.
– Leonard, on the other hand, is always used just the right amount. Him slapping a sign on the back of one of the “Convict iPads” was hysterical.
– The final stinger of the episode was great, per usual, with Abed taking control of the iPads and repeatedly droning “EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE!” joined in by a confused janitor.
– Elroy: “I’m nobody’s fourth Ghostbuster.”
– Dean: “Roll forth and rehabilitate!”
– Security Guard: “You destroyed his device and his heart, sir!”
– Jeff: “Did you just try to murder me??”