Community: Halloween on Valentine's Day

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That wacky Community study group. Rather than giving each other handmade Valentines and Russell Stovers, they celebrate Halloween. Wrong holiday guys! Oh wait, last night's episode was supposed to air around Halloween but due to the inexplicable decision of NBC to postpone the show's start, we've got a spooky scary Community in February. We'll have to make due.

Community has done Halloween episodes before, and I had the same complaint about them as I do about last night's show. They aren't as funny as the standard Community fare and they are sort of corny. That being said, Community at its worst is still 8,000 times better than The Big Bang Theory at its best. Sorry Big Bangers.

The study group is meeting up to head over to Vickie's Halloween party together. Brita is dressed as a ham, Shirley as Princess Leia, Troy as Tigger and Abed as some sort of punk rocker. Eventually Jeff strolls in, half naked, as a boxer with a silk robe on and a pair of boxing gloves slung over his shoulder. He and Annie have coordinated costumes and she is to come as his "ring girl." But she misunderstands what that means and dresses up like the creepy girl from the movie The Ring. Har, har?

Before the group heads out, Troy makes a call to Pierce, who wasn't invited to the party. He has apparently locked himself in his own panic room and is unable to remember the secret code to get himself out.

The study group decides they should go help him before heading to the party to which Jeff insists this is just Pierce being his usually dick self, trying to make them miss an event because he wasn't invited. Jeff loses this argument, and they make their way over to Pierce's mansion.

If you have followed the show, you recall that last season Pierce's horrible father died, leaving Pierce with a heaping pile of daddy issues as well as a secret Dominican half brother named Gilbert (played by Giancarlo Esposito) whom he always thought was his father's assistant. Back to the episode at hand.

Pierce tells the crew via video surveillance that he locked himself in his panic room out of fear of ghosts, started drinking and forgot the code to get himself out. The code is in a red notebook that he needs them to find. The study group splits into pairs. Brita and Jeff, Troy and Shirley and Annie and Abed. If I was Troy and I was sort of dating Brita, I probably wouldn't want her wandering around with a half naked Jeff, whom she used to sleep with, but what do I know?

The pairing was an obvious expository device to move the larger arc of the season along. Troy and Shirley find themselves in Pierce's "S&M" room, which Troy completely doesn't understand. Pierce has a leather swing! Shirley tries to pull some information out Troy pertaining to his and Brita's potential sex life. Troy, again, has no idea what she's talking about. For a good-looking dude who is in his mid-twenties, you'd think sex would be something he wanted to do, but that is the beauty of his character. Troy is perpetually 12 years old. Shirley urges him to "take it slow."

As Jeff and Brita search for the red notebook, their conversation is steered from Pierce's daddy issues to Jeff's. Another follow through from last season, Jeff never knew his dad and had been on the hunt for him. Jeff admits that he got his dad's phone number but has not called because he doesn't care. Yeah right. Brita pushes him with her psych major speak, and Jeff ain't having any of it.

While all of this is going on, strange aberrations occur. Paintings of Pierce's dead father move on the wall, creepy noises, hands come out of the wall, Annie sees herself in a mirror and gets scared, those kind of things. Abed, as usual, finds himself in a better position than the rest of the group and after stumbling upon a secret bookcase door, he is in the surveillance room watching all of this on camera. He sees Pierce asleep in his bed, a shadowy figure standing over him.

As you might imagine, the whole thing is a prank by Pierce because he was pissed that he wasn't invited to Vickie's party, which has absolutely nothing to do with the study group. But wait, if it was Pierce playing all of the haunted pranks, who was the man watching over him? Creepy!

Turns out it was his half-brother Gilbert, who has been secretly living in the mansion, which I think he actually owns. He's also been doing Pierce's laundry. In the end all is good, Pierce remembers that he hates Vickie anyway and wouldn't go to her party if she invited him, and Gilbert will be his new roommate.

Troy and Brita opt to skip the party and go back to his place, but not to have sex; they go to watch Inspector Spacetime. She wants to take it slow and Troy is good with that since he apparently has no idea what you do with a girlfriend.

Then there's Jeff, who also skips the party. In the end, Jeff pulls out his dad's phone number and picks up his phone. The boxing gloves he's been wearing all night are inscribed with his father's name. Awww. No wait, sort of lame.

This week's Community, "Paranormal Parentage," was not at the top of its game. As always with this show, it is well constructed and the parallels between the fathers of Jeff and Pierce were nice. Jeff cannot see the obvious connection he has to Pierce and even sarcastically says that he will never end up like Pierce because he is nothing like him; oh but you are Winger, you just don't see it. But this isn't a drama, and I don't know if I care that much about Jeff's daddy issues unless they are funny.

Holiday special episodes are rarely good, and that goes for most television shows. As far as this particular holiday special, there were a few laugh out loud lines but not enough. The episode was written by Maggie Bandur who also wrote last season's very funny "Competitive Ecology," but the writing here didn't compare. This episode made me slightly worried. Community is one of the best ensemble comedies on television right now but there's only so much they can do without good writing. For now I will call this one a flub and hope that next week we return to form.

Great lines: The dean, because he lives next door to Jeff and knows what his Halloween costume will be, dresses up as his "ring girl" and walks in saying "Dean, dean dean." (get it, instead of ding, ding ding, like the bell... never mind.) I may be alone on this, but I can't get enough of Jim Rash's dean jokes. They are groan-worthy they are so cheese, but they crack me up.

Why is Brita dressed as a ham? That was random. And what the hell was Abed supposed to be? I think that missed that joke all together.

Pierce's mansion decor is wonderfully '80s complete with large portraits of him next to tigers and those black and white drawings of women with neon dresses on. Brilliant set design.

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