Ha ha! Jeff went pee-pee in his pants! Last night's Community, "Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism," didn't parody, trickerize, or Easter Egg its way to laughs. It just let the show's characters be themselves, put them in some odd situations, and still squeezed a little weird out of the tube.
In a pairing that was long overdue, Jeff and Shirley bonded over foosball. The former was the student and the latter was a ninja-like master at the parlor game dominated by a smorgasbord of German students at Greendale (led by the awesome Nick Kroll in a guest role). Anytime Shirley is able to step out of her role as the gang's seventh wheel, it's a treat, because Yvette Nicole Brown is a champ, and she brought it this week as a woman trying to overcome the horrors foosball clouded her childhood with. Shirley Mr. Miyagi'd Jeff until she'd boosted his skills and confidence, but both the lesson-teacher and lesson-taker harbored a deep foosball secret.
Flashback to Shirley and Jeff's childhood: Young Shirley is schooling a young white kid on the foos, dismantling her opponent with simultaneous game- and wordplay. After Shirley lands a few pokes of the sticks in the groin of the unnamed boy, every young person's worst nightmare sets in: The levee breaks, and the kid pees himself. Cut back to the present, where there's steam coming out of a seething Jeff's ears as he tells us he was that pee-pee boy, and the event changed his life forever. Shirley and Jeff take out their anger on the mini-field, the show inexplicably becomes a foosball anime, and a lesson is learned. And I think that lesson is, "foosball ain't no thang to get angry over." After showing up the Germans by knocking the ball into that dead spot in the middle of the table where no plastic soccer player can reach it, the two set out to go see a movie together... only what we saw were two kids, a menacing foosball monster and a kid who peed his Levi's, walking away arm in arm. And the world let out a collective "awww."
At Casa de Trobed, Annie accidentally broke Abed's Dark Knight super-special-edition-autographed-by-Christian-Bale-DVD and went through great lengths to cover it up, as Annie is wont to do. One lie begat another lie, and eventually there was nothing left for Abed to do except turn into Batman again (finally!) and solve the mystery himself. Annie eventually came clean, and all was forgiven. As is the case with our Greendale study group, friendship always prevails.
What made "Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism" so great was its emphasis on the bonds between the gang and outstanding individual performances by everyone involved. It had the great, big, beating heart of "Mixology Certification" and the zaniness we've seen more of in Season 3. But mostly, it was just flat-out funny. Alison Brie was fantastic as always, with three laugh-out-loud Annie moments: her Christian Bale impression, her extended "uhhhhhhhhhh," and her melting at the touch of Abed's hand on her cheek. Donald Glover and Danny Pudi were vintage Troy and Abed, and words don't begin to describe how great it was to see Joel McHale and Yvette Nicole Brown isolated together. Add in a hilarious guest spot by Nick Kroll (seeing him transformed into a human foosball kicker was one of the season's single best gags) and the deadpan policeman (guest-star name, please?), and not a single person was wasted. Overall a fantastic episode of Community and another reminder that Greendale can also do simple effectively.
– Hardly any Britta or Pierce, and no Chang or Dean. And where's John Goodman? And Michael K. Williams? Nevertheless, this episode didn't need any of them.
– That said, Britta's small amount of screentime was money.
– German Kroll: "I wish there was a word to describe the pleasure I feel at your misfortune." Policeman, after Annie's giant lie: "That's good color for the report..." and "I'm getting tired of saying this to people, but these things wouldn't happen if you'd invest in a simple shoe safe." These are the lines that crack me up.
– The anime bit: necessary or unnecessary?
– Seriously, Annie's Christian Bale impression.
– Ratings update: Community hit a two-month high last night, with 3.92 million viewers and a 1.7 adult demo rating. Community beat Parks and Recreation in total viewers and was just a tenth of a point below it in ratings. Whitney somehow managed 4.02 million viewers and a 1.9 rating. Damn you, Whitney!
– And in case you missed Leonard's vanity card at the end of his frozen food review (which is actually on YouTube), check it out in an extended cut here:
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom