I read an interview with Community's creator Dan Harmon, who is no longer a part of the show, in which he described his plan to move the characters away from their central hub at Greendale Community College. Eventually, Harmon mused, they would have to graduate college and what do you do with a show about college students after the college part is removed. To do this, he began setting up the group in outside scenarios. Abed, Troy and Annie are roommates so there is a potential for episodes to take place in their apartment. Now, Brita and Troy are dating, and with last night's episode we now know they are sleeping together, which gives more room to play with these characters in some other setting.
If this move away from Greendale was a part of the show's arc, with or without Harmon, there is evidence of this in last night's episode. The gang takes a road trip to an Inspector Spacetime convention and hijnks ensue.
The episode opens with Brita and Troy in bed watching an episode of Inspector Spacetime. Despite the fact that Troy and Abed live in a rather small apartment, Troy is trying to keep his and Brita's sleepovers a secret from Abed. One that involves Brita having to get dressed every morning, run over the fire escape and knock on the boys' door as if she just happened to stop by with doughnuts. Abed is fully aware they have been sleeping together, as he should be.
In a rather lame method to get the entire study group to the convention, Jeff and Annie are going to ski rather than hanging with convention nerds. But as weak plot points would have it the slopes are closed. How convenient. Jeff urges Annie to have them leave, why stay, but Annie insists on having some fun, as "this is the first adult vacation," she has taken. I dunno if I would call InSpecTiCon "adult."
Abed is very obviously pushing Troy away and it is not going over well with Troy. Abed reveals that while Troy had been having sex with Brita, he had been emailing with another big Inspector fan, Toby, from Nigeria who he is meeting up with at the convention. Toby whisks Abed away to a sold out panel of which Inspector would win in a fight. Troy is none too pleased.
Meanwhile, it is revealed that Jeff has a striking resemblance to one of the adversaries in the IST show, a green monster with sick abs named Thoraxis. It's a bit odd that this information has never come out before. Why keep this a secret for four years? Despite Jeff insisting he is leaving, an adoring fan of the show, who thinks he's the British actor, stops his departure. She is really hot.
Troy gets more and more upset at Abed's new relationship. Brita, who may be the best girlfriend of all time, allows Troy to be upset about the fact that this Toby guy is stealing Abed from him. And he totally freaks out.
Annie is having her very adult vacation by ordering room service and pretending that she is Jeff's wife. She befriends a member of the hotel staff who brings her to the lobby to see Jeff, being the actor who plays Thoraxis to get into this girl's pants, flirting. Annie taking her fantasy a bit too far, calls Jeff out on his adultering ways. It makes as little sense as I write it as it was watching. Annie is just jealous, as she has always had a thing for Jeff this storyline reminds us.
Abed comes to a realization about his new friend Toby; he's crazy! Toby is basically trying to steal Abed away and make him his new best friend. It's a little sad that this loser has no friends, just his love of a British television show that has been on the air for 50 years. But Abed has a "Winger moment" and realizes that every Inspector needs a sidekick to keep him grounded in reality. Abed needs Troy. Troy needs Abed, and Brita is cool with all of this because she is a psych major.
Annie's fantasy marriage to Jeff ends with her confessing that she was just upset with him for ditching her. He relents and they share a nice moment.
In the end Jeff gives the crowd a real treat by screaming out the Thoraxis catch phrase.
Perhaps I am biased, but the best moment of the show for me was at the very end. A side plot throughout the episode was Pierce and Shirley sitting in on a focus group for the upcoming American version of Inspector Spacetime show. Pierce makes some ridiculous suggestions like the Inspector should be less confusing and his constable sidekick should be a leggy blond with a tennis racket. The last scene we see this come to fruition with Luke Perry playing the Inspector, giving very clear explanations of how he travels through space and time, and his sidekick is Jennie Garth with a light-up tennis racket! It was surprising and quite funny, for obvious reasons.
As stated, last night's Community, "Conventions of Space and Time," took us very far away from Greendale College perhaps in an attempt to show that these characters do not need their "community" to move forward. While there were some gags, the episode never hit the levels of absurdity that the show is famous for. Jeff's straight man needs a wackier plot for him to bring the rest of the gang down out of the clouds. That's so much of the joke of this show. The situations are so weird and the study group's reaction so accepting until we are brought back down to reality. This episode didn't push the envelope far enough; it just sort of nudged it.
I know that the characters need to get out of school, but I do not think this means that we need to see the rest of Greendale's inhabitants disappear. Part of what makes this show so wonderful is the secondary characters and their interaction with the study group. This episode and the last was missing that and I worry that taking the study group out of school, will eliminate the various dichotomies between our friends, the study group, and everyone else.
Some good lines: Everyone in the convention is staring at Jeff and he says that it is probably because "they've never seen anyone who's had sex before."
In the beginning of the episode Jeff and Troy swing by the library to get a pair of sunglasses and they find Pierce sitting in the dark at the study table. He tells them that he "always gets there early to save his seat." Why?