Thursday, January 16, 2014

REVIEW: 'Community' Sits Around the Study Group Table as Many Secrets Come Out in 'Cooperative Polygraphy'

NBC's Community - Episode 5.04 Cooperative Polygraphy

After Pierce's unexpected passing, a team of investigators headed by Mr. Stone (Walton Goggins) arrives at Greendale to submit the study group to lie detector tests before they can be considered for distributions under the will.

"Cooperative Polygraphy" was the last episode NBC sent out to critics before the season premiered. It was by far the strongest episode of those three - as well as last week's parody episode which we didn't get in advanced. "Cooperative Polygraphy" is essentially a bottle-episode - a very important one but a bottle-episode nevertheless. It succeeds entirely because of its simplicity. It puts the entire cast together - sans Dean Pelton but with Walton Goggin's lead investigator - around the Study Room table and doesn't leave that room until the tag sequence.

This episode was carefully crafted to emotional manipulate the characters - and to some extant the audience. And yet, it is so damn funny in doing so. I could be wondering how in the world Pierce know all this information about everyone else in the study group. But I'm not because it is just great at showing how everyone of these characters reacts to these shocking truths. It's a great piece of ensemble work by one of the strongest ensembles currently employed on a comedy series.

The show also gets a ton of mileage out of the group confronting the bad decisions that every person in the study group has made. These aren't unlikable characters but they are self-interesting characters. They each have different world views and experiences and yet they somehow were able to come together five years ago. Now, they are the best friends but still don't tell the group everything that is going on for them. Their secrets may rub the others the wrong way - but everyone has a secret and none are worse than anyone else's.

The episode also sets up how the show is planning on writing out Donald Glover's character Troy. In his will, Pierce has left him his shares to Hawthrone Wipes as long as Troy can sail around the world in a year. It's a very interesting way to send Troy off. It all stems from character-based arcing from the start of the season - but's it's also a plot contrivance. But I'm buying into it because of how his departure is going to effect Abed who already is having issues dealing with it. It's a bit of a downer to end the episode on but also something that is - and was always - going to have a huge impact on the show.

"Cool. Cool Cool Cool." "That's a lie."

Some more thoughts:
  • I loved everyone's reactions to the lady investigator saying whether what they were saying was a truth or a lie - particularly Shirley's "We all know that, you judgmental bitch" and Troy's "Silence Wench!"
  • Did Mr. Stone just skip over all the questions for Chang since he left the room? Or was his masturbation inquiry the only thing Pierce had for him?
  • Which secret surprised you the most? Mine is a tie between learning that neither Troy nor Abed came up with their signature handshake and that Abed implanted tracking chips in everyone of the group.
  • Who else wants to go see the movie where the guy administering lie detector tests distracts the people taking them because of how good looking he is?
  • Loved the callback of the tiara that Pierce gives to Annie.