I’ll admit it, I liked season 4 of Community. Sure, it lacked the witty banter, ruined the Troy/Britta dynamic, & reused story lines. But it was like a college graduate with no direction in their life because their only parent got arrested for hazing to the other old white guy living down the road. I applaud the efforts of Community season 4’s staff, and you know, they kept the ship sailing. We got a season & now our dad is now on parole, so it’s like home again! Welcome back, Dan Harmon. We’re back to where we started.
Repiloting means Jeff Winger is back to being a broke, unemployed lawyer. But this time it’s not because of scams, but because he tried to do good and that doesn’t win you brownie points in the real world.
In an effort to revive his career (again), Jeff heads off to Greendale to make a case against the school for his new client, Marvin Humphries. Humphries is an engineer who once was a student at Greendale. He poorly designed a bridge which collapsed, so now he wants to sue Greendale for giving him a degree.
But when Jeff returns to his alma mater, Dean Pelton, in a sobbing, excited mess, thinks Jeff wants to help the school in all this Humphries mess. The Dean calls up Abed, who then calls the rest of the Study Group, so they can form the “Save Greendale” committee.
How fitting, and right back to the basics do we go, that Abed Nadir is the first person from the Study Group that Jeff sees again. But with the birth of the Study Group came a family, so Abed calls the rest of the gang to help save the community college that, to be honest, didn’t do much for them academically. Annie sells
drugs pens, Britta bartends, Abed gave up on making films, and Andre left Shirley because her business jeopardized the family. It’s unsettling that everything the group worked hard for individually didn’t turn out the way they planned. The first four seasons of Community sees them aspiring to be better Human Beings, realizing their potential, working together and creating a family. But, like I said, real life sucks and things aren’t looking promising. There’s this unspoken sadness in that study room that is afraid the “slump” they’re all in isn’t really a slump. Maybe this is what the rest of their lives will look like.
So, sue the facility that brought them to this point. Or, that’s what Jeff tries to convince the Study Group after he finds out the Dean shredded all of Humphries’ records at the school. He gets so caught up in proving he still has that lawyer magic that he continues the case against Greendale by using his friends’ sad lives.
His plan backfires when, instead of suing the school, the Group decides to re-enroll and focus on what they need to improve. Annie goes back to forensics, and Shirley wants to learn more about business. Just then, Chang springs from out of a box (his new home) and announces he was rehired as a Math teacher. He paid his dues, went to jail & all that, so now he’s on work release.
And just like that, the case against Greendale is brought back to life. Alan bursts into the study room & reveals Jeff’s true intentions of looking out for himself, and using the Group for his personal gain. Revelation after revelation (there really were so many little “gasp!” moments, it was hard to keep track), and in the midst of the confusion, the Group decides, “Well, if Jeff hasn’t changed after four years, might as well sign the papers to sue the school.”
Just when you thought they got rid of them, a Chevy Chase hologram appears. Pierce Hawthrone spent over a decade taking classes at Greendale Community College. He had the time and the money, he was lonely, there was a purpose for coming to campus every day. He represented everything the group never wanted to be, but also sometimes the voice of guidance Jeff needs. Time and time again, Pierce has called out Jeff’s shit the way no one else could, because Jeff knows if he doesn’t play his cards right, he might become this old man. And Jeff also knew that Pierce was driven, despite his limitations but that still never stopped him from trying. You don’t turn your back on something good, a place that accepts you for everything you’ve got.
The old New Jeff returns & cancels his vendetta against the school. Except, now he needs a job.
Cue the next episode: “Introduction to Teaching.”
Yup, the guy who specifically sought out a “blow-off class” every semester is now the newest faculty member at Greendale Community College. It’s nice to know that Greendale takes care of its people, but also makes it more believable as to why Chang was hired as a Spanish professor & now Math teacher, despite being absolutely insane and arrested and tried to blow up the school, etc. etc. Greendale is just really, terribly accepting.
Jeff Winger intends to treat his course, Fundamentals of Law, the same way he would treat a class he would take a Greendale: he doesn’t care at all. Except, now he’s responsible for all these students who actually want to learn and he has no idea what he’s doing. He failed at being a lawyer twice in his professional career, he’s living on Greendale’s free meals, and now he can’t even make fun of Leonard because he’s a teacher.
The rest of the Study Group is taking a Nicholas Cage: Good or Bad? class, taught by the ever charismatic Professor Sean Garrity. Abed is warned not to take the class too seriously, and to limit himself to only a few Cage films at a time. But Abed has to answer the question: is Nicholas Cage a good actor, or a bad one? In the end, it doesn’t matter. Shirley somehow likens Cage’s effect on others to Jesus, which makes sense somehow. The appeal is there, but also not there, so no one can ever be wrong about their opinion on Nicholas Cage. It’s nice that Shirley’s the one who’s able to calm Abed down, and hopefully that’s a nod to when Abed made his out of control Jesus film. They humble each other, Shirley and Abed.
Meanwhile, Jeff becomes friends with his officemate, Professor Hickey, who shows him the glamorous side of being a Greendale teacher. This involves morning booze, blowing off class, and stealing Leonard’s meatballs. (“Please, they’re all I have.”)
Of course, it’s Annie who takes the initiative to set Jeff Winger straight. It makes sense, since she’s the most academically driven one of the group & she takes following the rules very seriously. She doesn’t like that Jeff is hanging out with Hickey, her old professor who gave her an A- when she knows she earned an A. She also doesn’t like that Jeff doesn’t take teaching seriously, so she enrolls in his class to call him out. Jeff respects Annie and hates disappointing her, until it gets the point where he’s had enough. In the middle of embarrassing Jeff for not teaching, he turns her argument against her and wins. Jeff Winger knows how to be a lawyer, and he likes it. There, his first real teaching lesson.
In the first two episodes, Jeff nearly went back to his old Jeff Winger ways–showing people the truth (for his own advantage) and blowing off as much responsibility as he can. But the people who call him out, the people who’ve grounded him for the past five years bring him back. Annie’s insubordination in class leads Jeff into actually giving a lesson in law, and seeing Greendale students freak out about minuses in grades inspires him to give inspirational speeches to bring people together. There’s no selfishness in his agenda for now because Greendale always takes him when he’s done. It gave him a degree in law (didn’t do much to be honest) and a teaching job with meals included. That’s a love for crappy people at a crappy place.
Other observations & highlights:
- Ah, the gas leak year—which affectionately refers to season 4 (I was actually wondering how that would be handled, and I’m glad the dig both allows the season to exist but also notes that that was not how the characters would have acted if Dan Harmon still was at the helm. It didn’t erase season 4 but it does mean we must move on from the events that took place. There are many reasons why I love season 4 of community—one, it allowed the show to still exist—but repiloting was a necessary step after the show lost its focus somewhere in season 3.)
- Have you ever anarchied so hard? Greendale students passionately protesting their school has ranged from setting their school apaint to knocking over trash cans with little to zero damage (I’m looking at you, Neil.)
- I still wonder how Troy will be leaving the study group, especially his friendship with Abed. As the anti-Winger, Troy is pure of heart and can lead a group without needing to belittle, condescend, or mask his insecurities. I loved his story arc with the Repairmen Annex, but that’s still too close to Greendale to have Troy move on there and never return.
- “I see your value now.”
- Abed’s Nicholas Cage scene. “That was brilliant.”
- Every dig at Donald Glover’s departure was like a sledgehammer to my heart. “I am much sadder than the rest of of you. I will figure out why later.”