Community: The Valentine's Episode

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The thing that makes Community work is that it knows how to balance its sillier, more amped-up moments with the kind of relatability that makes the characters feel real. The show gets away with a variety of sight gags and punch lines that wouldn't make sense in the real world because it knows that, for all its high-concept humor, it needs to come back to Earth at the end of the day. Many of the show's great moments serve both masters at once: I'm thinking of the moment last night when Jeff rescues Chang from living in his apartment building's garbage and carries him back in his arms like a sleepy kid. It's a hilarious visual (Joel McHale cradling Ken Jeong) but one that also underscores the way Jeff is willing to grow up, just a little, and admit to himself that he cares about the people in his life in spite of (and because of) their craziness. The whole episode was like that: great jokes and hilarious set-ups that gave way to small-scale revelations and totally believable relationships. Vintage Community.

It's also worth noting that the episode was a cut above last year's Valentine's Day outing. Although the first season's episode did have this glorious montage, it was also a more regular story that dealt with the Jeff-Britta relationship, albeit in a fun way. This year, though, was all about the study group's same-sex couples and the way their friendships are now more meaningful than the romantic relationships they try to pursue with people outside the group. After Britta's gay-but-not-gay debacle, Annie was right there to comfort her, and it was hilarious and honest to see Troy get annoyed at the hot librarian for dissing Abed even if it meant losing his chance with her. When Troy tells Abed, "There's someone out there for us," it's not just a funny way to highlight their union; he really means it. Whoever winds up dating Troy needs to like hanging out with Abed, and vice versa.

We also got some nice advances on Pierce's growing problems with pain pills. (Though if I saw a tiny Andy Dick every time I took some painkillers, I'd quit them right away.) Even as Jeff tells the rest of the group that he loves them and acknowledges their role in his life, Pierce is alone, high, and drifting away from the people he's burned. That's the biggest threat to the group now: not the addition of someone new like Chang, but the loss of someone who's been there from the start, even if it's someone as obnoxious as Pierce. All in all, a very good episode.

Scattered thoughts:

• "I've been forcing myself to be into soccer since 2004." The perfect reluctant habit for a poser like Jeff.

• "In summation, good luck and bon appetit."

• Mariah the hot librarian looks like Hipster Ariel.

• Chang likes to party with Starburns, Leonard, Magnitude (pop pop!), Swizzle, Scandalous, C-Dub, Tim, Mighty D, and Glisten.

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