Film and TV

Community: "Course Listing Unavailable"

Alex "StarBurns" Osborne is dead. Long live Alex "StarBurns" Osborne.

Questioning one's own mortality is a common reaction when someone you know dies. So is glomming onto the attendant atmosphere of grief to exploit it for your own benefit (which happened pretty much every time a fellow student died when I was in high school and college). And so is ignoring the incident in an attempt to move on as quickly as possible.

All these reactions were in evidence last night as the students of Greendale dealt with that most searching of questions: Who really cares that StarBurns is dead?

The short answer: Annie, Britta and maybe Shirley. Abed is concerned only insofar as StarBurns tasked him with making a video retrospective of his life (he helpfully provides some green screen stock footage). In my opinion, however, Jeff has the right of it, who gives a shit? As a TV character, he was mildly entertaining, if usually irritating, but as a fellow student, he always came across like a scumbag.

Britta's donning of faux sideburns to communicate with the study group as SB and let them deal with their feelings seems like a helpful if not exactly "good" idea, until the questions devolve into what we'd expect ("Is it true you made out with Britta?"). The decision is finally made to hold a memorial, because if there's one thing the study group seems to want to avoid at all costs, it's studying.

Meanwhile, Cheng has an extreme list of requests for increased campus security in the wake of StarBurns's meth-related explosion. Dean Pelton balks and is told he'll regret the decision (I was hoping for "rue the day," myself. Tighten up, Harmon). Unfortunately, Pelton has other things on his mind, namely informing the study group Professor Kane has resigned, leaving them with an incomplete grade in Biology and...*summer school*. This finally manages to trigger Jeff's grief reflex.

So I guess Michael Williams, absent most of this season until last week, won't be back. What was the point of all that again?

Jeff's epiphany comes at the memorial, when he realizes StarBurns is the only one who escaped Greendale, and he was punished for this trangression with death. The memorial turns into an increasingly agitated referendum on Pelton's leadership, forcing him to sign Cheng's petition out of fear. When Pierce (!) incites the assembled students to riot, Cheng and his diminutive security interns disperse the crowd with pepper spray and "tiny riot gear."

The board is furious for some reason (there's a reason Jeff refers to it as a "Fallujah of higher learning," after all), and the study group and Pelton agree to hang Cheng out to dry for it, until Cheng replaces the Dean with an impostor and attempts to sabotage the hearing. Cheng's efforts work, and every member of the study group (a.k.a. the "Greendale Seven") is expelled.

Whoa, that was abrupt. Cue up the sappy ending where Abed asserts "at least we're all together." That makes it the right timeline, see.

"Course Listing Unavailable" was...uneven, moving from attempts at genuine emotion early on to anarchy and back around to the Very Special Ending (but can we please stop the Britta/Troy thing? Does anybody believe this is going anywhere?). I can't decide if Dan Harmon has an endgame mapped out for this season or is anticipating cancellation and simply trying to leave things chaotically unresolved. It won't be hard to engineer their return to school, but it remains to be seen if that's even on the table.

Random Out-of-Context Quotes:

"To my ex-wife Magda, I leave herpes. But she knows that, it's dealt with."

"Is it always about the Holocaust with you people?"

"Hold my calls, I have to pick an outfit."

"Oh! Because his sideburns were shaped like stars! I just now got that."

"It's so peppery!"

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar