Community returned from break last night and immediately handed us some comedy gold with a joke about jokes. This came courtesy of Annie describing her elective class about joke-tellinga class which she dropped right after learning how to set up a joke. "The professor is sooooo old...," she said, as the rest of the group hung on in anticipation before the episode moved on.
That was the highlight of a mediocre episode for Community; the show went on to dribble out a trio of storylines that had their own things going individually yet lacked the sparkle and cohesiveness that Community usually provides. "Introduction to Wine Tasting" had its funny moments, but all in all, this one sits somewhere near the bottom of my list.
In the primary storyline, Pierce caught the eye of a saucy Chinese woman, and the pair decided to tie the knot. Jeff, upset that she chose Pierce after spurning Jeff's sleazy advances—Jeff was seriously testing my gag reflex this week with his scumbaggery—did a little investigating and realized that her family runs the second-most successful moist-towelette company in Asia, right after Pierce's number-one moist-towelette company in Asia, Hawthorne Wipes. The sitcommy storyline concluded with Jeff spoiling their engagement party, then working to get them back together after Pierce told him that everyone uses each other, and it doesn't matter that she wanted to subvert his company—Pierce just wanted to get laid.
Next up was Britta and Troy taking an acting class together, taught by Professor Professorson (played by the awesome Kevin Corrigan, who also moonlights as bowling-alley guy on Fringe). There were a lot of funny moments here, especially those that dealt with the absurdity and pompousness of acting classes ("For homework, drink a glass of cognac in the bathtub"). One of those absurd activities involved the students admitting painful experiences from their lives, and Troy, lacking anything really horrible to share, made up a story about his uncle molesting him. This immediately made Troy more attractive to Britta, due to her need to heal damaged men.
I'm very protective of Britta as a character; she's a personal favorite of mine. But I really don't like it when she's used so shallowly, because there's much more to her than the one-line description of "eco-conscious girl who sluts herself out to men with a cause, passion, or sensitive faults." Community did the same thing with Britta in the episode with Abed and Troy's Eastern European friend, and it's not a good thing. I still believe that Britta's surface beliefs (Save the planet! Stop government injustice!) are just that, surface. She's much funnier as a holier-than-thou hypocrite. She did/does have a thing for Jeff, one of the most undamaged people in the world, after all. Give me more of Britta saying one thing and doing another.
In the final plot, Abed enrolled in a critical thinking class about Who's the Boss?, and it was wrung for about as much as it could be. But it did give us a heartfelt essay from Stephen Tobolowsky, the character actor who played the professor. I encourage you all to read it, because it offers a great idea of what the crew of Community is like and how much getting this part meant to him.
One of the biggest problems with "Competitive Wine Tasting" was that it fell flat emotionally and no lessons were learned. In two different storylines, somebody intentionally lied to serve ulterior motives, and in the end, neither was punished. That Chinese bitch didn't deserve a date with Pierce, and Troy got off way too easy for making up cornhole stories. I know Community's world is a silly one, but the show works best when we're suckerpunched by a wave of emotion.
If I had a big red pen, I'd write a "You can do better!" at the top of this episode and hand it back to Community's writers... but only because the show is still tops in its class, and I expect more. The episode wasn't horrible, but it certainly wasn't in the upper half of Season 2.
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom