Community: “Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality” Strips the Guys of Their Egos

Photo by: Jordin Althaus/NBC

Photo by: Jordin Althaus/NBC

Jeff teaches Professor Duncan the ways of seducing Britta Perry only to realize he might still like her, too. They attend a theater fundraiser for children with cleft palates because it’s some stupid cause Britta’s into.

If you only read the synopsis, you’d assume this episode was gonna be about two white guys competing to win the affection of a woman they both don’t usually take seriously.

And it is.

But “Community” never just leaves its characters in the shallow end of the pool. If Jeff and Duncan are gonna be dickheads about who “wins” at seducing Britta Perry, they’re gonna enter the game with one intention and exit it with a new understanding. On this show awful behavior rarely goes unpunished and unrealized.

That goes for Abed and Professor Hickey’s B-plot, too.

Abed gets ready to see the latest Kickpuncher movie, but he really misses Troy. Director Tristram Shapeero did awesome work with Abed, in cosplay gear, robocop-ing his way down Greendale’s shadowy halls. The long camera shots emphasize just how small and lonely he must feel without his best friend indulging his every fun fantasy.

Abed stops by Professor Hickey’s office and, in a moment to impress, sprays foam all over the latter’s duck drawings. Outrage is not a strong enough word. Hickey is practically foaming at the mouth, and decides it’s time Abed learned consequences from his selfish actions. The foam spray might have been an accident but it still ruined Hickey’s hard work. So, the professor handcuffs Abed to a filing cabinet and makes him miss his movie.

Hickey has absolutely no emotional investment in this kid. He doesn’t care if Abed is “special” or “different.” Out of everyone in Greendale, Hickey is the only person sees just how spoiled Abed can be.

This isn’t the first time someone tried to correct Abed. Season 3 seemed determined to illustrate that Abed’s imagination and attention to detail isn’t all fun and games. In “Contemporary Impressionists,” Troy tells Abed he cannot keep wasting money, especially since Abed’s friends were trying to pay off his huge debt. A few episodes later, Annie attempts to teach Abed about empathy.

Whenever a member of the Study Group puts their foot down, Abed apologizes but walks away without serious consequences that hurt him. He’s been lucky enough to have a support system and people who want to protect him. But he’s also growing up, and he has to realize not everything goes his way.

Meanwhile, Britta sees some of her old anarchist friends at the event. After bantering who’s the biggest sell-out, Britta realizes that she hasn’t made a difference. Her friends are now in real estate and own the building that hosted the show. They’re not into juvenile antics as “protest.”

They have a point. They’re making a bigger impact in helping the world by following the rules. But they also belittle Britta’s enthusiasm and raw passion. They make her feel worthless because she’s now worthless to them.

Britta defines herself by how others treat and react to her. It’s not until Duncan’s in the car with a crying Britta that he realizes just how skeevy he’s being, taking advantage of her emotions when she was clearly experiencing an existential crisis and needs to know she is someone even when she’s alone. He takes her home instead and holds off on the “hitting on her” plan.

But it’s not just because Britta’s too vulnerable to seduce. She brought up the fact that sometimes she forgets Duncan and Jeff are friends. They don’t really act like they are.

And just like that, “Community” shifts the episode from being about two white guys trying to own a girl’s affections to two white guys who miss their friendship.

Duncan was the first person Jeff turned to at Greendale (for a semester’s worth of test answers). They enjoy bantering and one-uping each other. But they lost touch as Jeff grew up in the Study Group and Duncan went to put in time for his dying mother. They were antagonists when Jeff was a student and Duncan was the British professor. Now they’re colleagues who hang out in the faculty room and talk about girls. Competing for Britta wasn’t about Britta. It was about how much got in between their friendship. They needed to reconnect.

Hickey lets Abed read some of his Jim the Duck cartoons. It’s incredible just how many scenarios you can end a panel with “What the hell?”

Abed pretends to like the illustrations to get on Hickey’s good side and tries to manipulate his way to still make his movie. Hickey doesn’t fall for it, and they end up having a screaming match. “What the hell?” indeed.

But, of course, it’s more than just missing a Kickpuncher reboot movie. Hickey felt like his creativity and effort was being attacked.

Abed needs an audience and collaborator. He lost that when Troy left. So, Abed shows Hickey a script he was writing about a cop of the edge. It may hit all the right movie tropes, but it lacks substance. Hickey can offer that.

Male bonding. It strips the guy characters of their facades and reveals that they all need some humility. They also need each other’s emotional support. “Community” stretched its wings a little more with “Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality” by exploring character dynamics we haven’t seen in a long time. It was refreshing.

 Highlights & Observations:

  • Chang’s sub-plot of possibly performing his one-man show in front of an audience of ghosts was…awesome. Ken Jeong hasn’t had much to do this season, but thank goodness he can twist any line reading and make it both ridiculous and hilarious.
  • Chang, however, did fail to perform a very important test. Why didn’t he ask the ghosts to go through a door? They’re not fire!
  • Annie & Shirley meta moment. Shirley: “I almost feel left out.” Annie: “Well, we had our share of focus lately.” Shirley: “Speak for yourself.”
  • Bless the comic talents of Jim Rash & John Oliver in that end tag
Jennifer Babu

Jennifer Babu is the editor-in-chief of Videshi Magazine. She's a film & TV addict, and suffers from sleep deprivation (self-inflicted). Follow her on twitter @jenibabu.

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