I was pleased to see that the study group of Greendale Community College was back this week where they belong, walking the halls of their dysfunctional scholastic home. And while this week's episode was on its way back to form, there was something lacking. The jokes were there but not as clever as they could have been; the situation the group was thrown into was funny, but it could have been funnier. There was so much room for comedy in the plot, and they delivered lots, just not enough.
The study group is moaning about the fact that they didn't get into the History of Ice Cream (recall from the premiere episode) and are instead forced to take a (gasp) real history class that they may learn something from. Before you can say Mein Kampf, the study group runs into their old adversaries the German guys, who Jeff and Shirley challenged to a foosball competition last season. They are back, and they've brought a new "freund" with them.
The Germans are not only in their history class, taught wonderfully by Malcolm McDowell, but they have stolen the study group's study room. Day after day, the study group tries to get up early enough to beat the Germans before they sign out the room, but they are unsuccessful.
In a very Jeff Winger speech, which came much earlier in this episode than is the norm, Jeff persuades the group that they should attempt a ruse to trick the Germans just like in an episode of Hogan's Heroes. There are quite a few Nazi jokes going on in this episode, and it is funny that they keep comparing the bad guys in Hogan's Heroes to Nazis because describing Nazis as bumbling morons doesn't always come to mind, but it's hilarious.
The group comes up with an idea to trick the Germans by hosting an Oktoberfest at Greendale. Just when the Germans think they have figured it all out, they get a slap on the wrist from the Dean. Apparently, at Greendale there is a ridiculous rule that ethnic or religious groups are not allowed to celebrate their own holidays. A Jewish group can celebrate Ramadan, but Hanukkah, no way. So catching the Germans with a beer on Oktoberfest is a big no-no. (This idea is so absurd and amazingly funny, by the way.)
In a turn of events -- of course this is Community -- the Germans show the world and Greendale how the study group are the ones who have been acting like Nazis, not them. The study group has been hogging the study room for four years. This is not hyperbole; they are an inclusive clique who don't allow anyone to use this one specific study room. Chang had been trying to break into the group forever, and their exclusion may be one of the reasons he went bonkers.
It was nice to see some of the community college students in this episode and the hatred in their eyes. The study group is like a bunch of Nazis, with Jeff as their well-manicured dictator. So to make amends, the group cleans up another study room that they had been banished to. They clean it, paint it, etc., etc., and in the end, the four years they spent segregating themselves and giving off airs of superiority, being the center of the entire college campus and having the love and affection of the dean, are all forgotten because they painted a wall. No matter; if that's all it takes, then get me a roller.
In a side plot, Chang has returned to Greendale after showing up in episode one with "changnesia," which means amnesia for those of us that don't speak Chang. The dean isn't buying his memory loss and assumes he is full of it. But after Chang puts himself in jail for his crimes against "dean"manity, Dean relents. The old Chang would never do such a thing, so he must really have some form of amnesia. The dean vows to help him get back to normal.
"Alternative History of the German Invasion," the apt title of this week's episode, nicely flipped our preconceived notions of "good and evil" on its head. One would assume that the study group is the good guys and all of the outlandish escapades that have gone on against other students were an effort to keep the world at peace. Good guys win; bad guys lose. But perhaps we have been looking at it all wrong. The characters of Community at times can be compared to those of Seinfeld. They are not bad people, but they do bad things that ostracize and alienate others. They mock and humiliate those around them, but they do it in the name of "trying to help," although it is usually trying to help themselves. This is not to say that the characters on Community aren't redeeming, and they traditionally find a way to amend their self-centered ways, but the concept is thought worthy.
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Of all episodes this season, I would say this one is the closest to a real Community episode. The setup, the follow-through and the good, happy feeling in the end mirrored some of the best Community plots, but it still lacked something, a sharpness perhaps. The snark wasn't snarky enough, the wit not witty enough, and that is a writing issue. But I feel like I have to say the same thing each week that I am slightly disappointed with this show: No matter how poor of an episode it is, it's still better than almost everything else on network television.
Noteworthy: Pierce is pissed off that the group immediately determines that Jeff is Hitler as he wants to be the leader/Hitler of the group.
Malcolm McDowell approaches the group after they are told that everyone hates them and they assume he is there to tell them that he planned the entire ordeal to teach them a lesson, which you might think since this show has been known to do that, and he says that that idea is ridiculous, because it is. But I sort of thought it for a second myself.
There is no way that Chang really has changnesia. He's faking.