I only watch about 60 or so minutes of NBC every week; that's the run times of Community, Parks and Recreation, and 30 Rock minus the commercials, or it's at least in the ballpark. One of the many benefits of this is that I get to miss all the ads that the network runs to promote those and other shows, meaning I don't have to deal with inadvertent spoilers or find myself expecting an episode to take a certain shape. (For instance, the surprise nuptials at the center of last week's Parks were apparently spoiled weeks earlier by the network, which is idiotic of them to do.) I had some friends chatting me up via Twitter about the prospect of a Community clip show, specifically to express concern about suck a hackneyed device, but I have to chalk their concern up to the fact that they'd been fed a line by ads and gossip blogs. I went into the episode blind, and I was able to come to it fresh. What's more, while for any other series the prospect of a clip show would be dull and disappointing, Community has proven time and again that it's smarter than that. This isn't The Simpsons, where the clip show narrative is done with a knowing wink to the audience. This is Dan Harmon's world, where the "clips" are either brand-new inventions, self-mocking retcons, or insertions of new material into scenes from old episodes. Sure, the episode revisited some high points from the season, but it did so with a freshness and humor that underscored just how smart, funny, and great Community can be.
"Paradigms of Human Memory," as with most episodes this season, was about raising the stakes from last year. So if an earlier incarnation of the study group would have been aware of how much they break up and get back together, now they've got to be aware of that awareness. Jeff isn't going to just pull them back together with a nice speech; he's going to talk about all his other speeches, and we're going to see them cut together into a Mad Libs-style uber-speech that's mostly nonsensical but still, by the end, heartfelt. Community is careful to walk right up to the line of being a dry experiment in form and then pull back; at the end of the night, these characters are people, not props. Shirley tried to wave him off saying his piece, but he replied, "I know I don't have to, but I want to." Hence, after Jeff's speech, everybody had a nice little moment together, and he and Britta shared a hilarious realization that they'd rather not hook up anymore now that their secret's in the open.
But hands-down, the episode was made by all the little clips we got to see of the gang's activities from the past year. They soared, every one of them. The bonus content from adventures we'd seen was fun, like Abed seeing Jeff and Britta scoot off during the Halloween party, but the absolute best were the wonderful little clips of things like the trip to the ghost town, the St. Patrick's Day rafting misadventure, and everyone's hilarious obsession with the awfulness that was The Cape. (In most of the flashbacks, Abed wore a T-shirt that read "Save The Cape.") It was like getting an entire episode's worth of closing-credit tags, starring the whole cast. Those wacky vignettes were tonally perfect and totally priceless. If that's a Community clip show, count me in any time.
• Loved the montages of all the "stolen glances" between Jeff and Annie, but especially between Pierce and Abed. Community is the spiritual successor to Clone High.
• "Is that the new stereotype?"
• God bless Jim Rash. Every one of the dean's costumed entrances was great, and his cartoon in the tag was amazing.
• Troy only referred to his monkey as "my monkey," not "Annie's Boobs." Maybe the writers got tired of the joke?
• "It's like a reverse cow birth."
• "Feast your ear-tongues on these memory pops!"
• Pierce making bird noises to steal Abed's fries? Perfect.
• "It's called chemistry, and I have it with everybody!"