Community Review: "Pascal's Triangle Revisited" (1.25)

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<em>Community</em> Review: "Pascal's Triangle Revisited" (1.25)

Last week’s episode of Community in many ways felt like the season finale, not just because it covered the college’s finals but also because it featured the sort of large-scale events that are usually only brought into play during finales. Señor Chang being knocked down to student Chang (his first name hasn’t been mentioned yet, has it?) was the type of unexpected move that isn’t normally deployed in just any random episode. As much as Community is a show that constantly questions our basic assumptions about sit-coms, for the most part it remains a party to the greater constant of television shows: things return to how they were at the end of the episode. We’re fine with major events at the end of a season because they show us what the new status quo will be next year, but other than that it’s rare for a story arc on any show to have an effect on more than just the next episode or two.

But while “English as a Second Language” shook things up, it failed to resolve an issue brought up by the prior episode: what’s going on between Jeff and Britta. It’s fine for us to be left on a romantic curveball on the last episode, but on the second to last? That’s just strange storytelling. So while classes have wound down and summer plans are being made, “Pascal’s Triangle Revisited” seeks to resolve the season’s romance plots in a big, glorious manner and give us a taste of what to expect next season. Also: more John Oliver, whose absence has gone largely unremarked by the show’s characters, which seemed rather odd given Community’s normal self-awareness.

The big news, and with it the big fake out, of Pascal’s Triangle Revisited” comes when Annie reveals to Jeff that she plans on leaving Greendale with her boyfriend, everyone’s favorite stereotype of obnoxious college pseudo-hippies. The assumption is that she’d be leaving the cast except for occasional guest appearances because that’s how TV shows work. This is clearly supposed to be the show’s other Big Change at the end of the season (the first being Chang’s scandal), and would be pretty unfortunate if it was in fact true. Annie’s character adds a lot to the cast and of everyone she probably has the most open future—seeing where college takes her should be part of the fun. But she returns at the last minute and—though it’s a little bit forced—throws herself right into Jeff’s waiting arms.

Speaking of Jeff, he’s spent the entire episode being tossed between Prof. Slater and Britta, both of whom want him back. The pair spends most of the episode undercutting one another with catty remarks until Britta, given the floor at Greendale’s final dance (the fifth in one season, apparently), confesses her love for Jeff. Then Slater follows suit, and Jeff runs out, which brings us back to Annie again.

So it turns out that the episode’s real Big Change is that Jeff and Annie are now together and it’s a match that, while perhaps less immediately obvious than the Jeff/Britta thing, is a lot more enjoyable for everyone watching the show. Ever since the pair spent more together on the debate team it’s been something we’ve been waiting to see more from, perhaps less because of the characters themselves than that Joel McHale and Alison Brie have real chemistry together. And while a Jeff/Britta love arc seems like it could lead to a tiresome second season for the show, Jeff/Annie promises to lead to much more unexpected places.

And aside from all of this business with romances, the episode still spent a fair amount of time with the other men in the cast and working out their issues. Troy wants to move in with Abed, who thinks it’s a terrible idea, and instead ends up rooming with Pierce due to cookie-inspired wisdom. Can’t say it was an amazing side-plot, but it’s a nice set-up for next season.

So here we are at the end of the show’s first season and, while it had some rocky episodes early on, Community has grown into my favorite comedy currently on television. Its inspired understanding of traditional television storytelling and anarchic rule-breaking has kept the show from ever growing stale; it’s clear from the season’s ending that if anything, it’s getting less conventional as it continues. Here’s to you, Community, may you keep your freak flag flying high and continue trying action homages, Goodfellas parodies and giving a character stars for facial hair for no particularly good reason. We’ll see you again in a few months.

Stray Observations:
“It’s called chillaxing, duh.” All duhs should be prefaced with nonsensical non-words.
“How many dances is this school going to have?” “Five. If you go to them all you get one of these.”
“Amazing. He’s like an evil genie.”
-Tranny dance. Who wouldn’t want to partake?
“Number one community college hackey sack team in the nation.”
“Finally, a last day at school plot twist.”
-Which one is big boobs and which one is medium boobs? Pretty sure Troy’s not black boobs, in any case.
“I mean sex, in case the lingo hasn’t made it to the states.”
“My friendship with Abed is a giant cookie!”
-The name of one of the Tranny competition’s nominees: Miss Danielle Harmon
“Bring Conan back!”