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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Review: Community, "Intro to Felt Surrogacy"

Season 4, Episode 9
Grade: C-
Verdict: While it looks like the crew had a fun time filming this episode, I didn't have as much fun watching it. The songs and puppets were cute, and I enjoyed seeing the characters trip on hallucinogenic berries, but I'm almost ready to give up on the concept of Community being a comedy. The show seems to have traded in funny, witty lines for overly-sentimental cuteness.

I don't really know what to say about this one. There were puppets. Songs. Drugs. Deep, dark secrets. Have you ever followed a recipe *to the letter* trying to emulate a favorite dish someone else has made successfully a thousand times, but when you try it there's something that's just off about it? I kept getting that feeling when I was watching this. Like the show was lifting a formula it'd seen in season 3 for a crazy themed episode and trying to reproduce it, but something about it was just off.

In 'Intro to Felt Surrogacy,' the study group uses puppets to have a group therapy session and deal with the after-effects of a strange night they had together. The episode turns pseudo-musical when the gang takes puppet form, and it starts off with a Wizard of Oz theme as they take a hot air balloon ride and get stranded in an unfamiliar area. While stranded in the woods they meet a character played by Jason Alexander, who boasts about how great life is away from society. Alexander gives the group some hallucinogenic berries and they start tripping.

The tripping scenes with the puppets moving their hands and seeing things in slow motion was probably the highlight of the episode for me, unless you count the scenes at the end showing the outtakes and how much fun the actors had working with the puppets. I'll also admit I was impressed by the singing. I kept looking for hints that one actor was a weak singer and had been omitted from having any solos, but literally everyone carried a tune.

While recalling their berry tripping, Shirley mentions a deep secret she revealed during their bonding session: She'd left her two children alone in a grocery store overnight while she tried to follow someone she believed was her husband. The study group is shocked because no one actually remembers her making this confession. Realizing they'd all been confessing but no one had been listening, Jeff decides everyone should reveal their secrets to level the playing field. We also learn that;

- Jeff once met a woman who was perfect for him, but he ran away from the situation because she had a kid. He's afraid this makes him like his own father, who abandoned him.

- Annie cheated to get answers to a test because she wasn't doing well in a class

- Troy started a large fire when he tried to burn down an anthill

- Britta has never voted in spite of her political activism

- Pierce never actually slept with Eartha Kitt

So basically, everyone in the group is a hypocrite. Each of them has something that has defined them in a fairly superficial way - e.g. Britta being obnoxiously political, Annie being a bookworm, and they've all done things to betray those characteristics. But who hasn't ever done something hypocritical? I think Jeff's was the only secret I found interesting. I don't know if this show will be around long enough for him to ever get there, but I keep wondering if this storyline that keeps focusing on his dad is trying to set us up for him eventually being a father.

I think I'm most disappointed with this episode because adult-style puppets can be really, really funny when done correctly. Specifically I'm thinking of Avenue Q. This episode threw in all of the right ingredients for that kind of humor, but never managed to actually make me laugh.

And on a final/unrelated note - I believe this was Pierce's last episode. So where does he go? Will he be left in the woods? I guess we'll find out next week.

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