If you're anything like me, you never really, truly, undeniably get to know someone—and by that I mean get a sense of someone's true self—until you've caught a buzz with them over a few brews, several shots of Irish whiskey, and some weird frozen slush with an umbrella in it that's named after a sex position. Alcohol does funny things to people, and last night we saw the cast of Community get hammered and let their social guard down in "Mixology Certification."
Community's brilliance comes not only from its "stunt" episodes—which often parody classic movies and/or take a specific concept to the outer limits of comedy—but also from the simple ideas that explore the characters themselves. If that sounds like a mouthful, try this: We love this gang, and they don't need no wacky ideas to be funny and easy to relate to.
In "Mixology Certification," Troy turned 21 and Jeff rightfully changed the gang's plans from eating non-birthday cake in the study room to going out and getting plastered. It was a rare opportunity to observe the group hanging out off-campus and relating to the outside world. Annie, still 19, assumed the identity of her fake ID because she's still trying to figure out who she is. Jeff's jerky side was out in full force, because he felt the need to show off his coolness and show Troy the ropes. Britta's contrarian holier-than-thouness was at an all-time high as she played hipster elite with knowledge of the coolest nightspots in town and the correct way to order a drink. Abed, well, he's Abed, so his total disconnect with the world was magnified. Shirley's religious facade was chipped when the group discovered she used to get her drink on. And on and on and on. Pierce, usually hyper-sensitive to his age and still wheelchair-bound from the trampoline accident, showed his vulnerable side after getting stuck in the doorway. And Troy, held back his entire life by Jehovah's Witness rules, his mom's sheltering, and truly blissful ignorance, grew up before our eyes and became the true hero of the episode. The wisdom/criticism he dispensed to every character (except Pierce) was something they all needed to hear.
There was no goal in this episode of Community. There was no finding out who stole a pen, no chicken finger market to dominate, no debate to win. It was just the gang hanging out with the gang, and we got to be the fly on the wall. I could go on and on about the funny moments (and there were many)—but in the end, we not only got to know each and every character better, they got to know each other better, too. This was an episode that was just as important for the series as it was for us.
... Have Jeff and Britta ever been more hilarious together? Arguing over which of their preferred bars is cooler, finding out they're fighting over the same bar, and then sloppily making out?
... Troy's post-bar convo with Annie when he dropped her off at her apartment: Wow. Sitcoms aren't supposed to do this kind of thing. Heartwarming and brilliant.
... Excellent drop-in by Paul F. Tompkins as the gay nerd who hit on Abed. "Stargate is better!" might be the best see-ya line ever.
... This might not be everyone's favorite episode, but as far as I'm concerned, it was mine. Zombies are great fun, but I'll take character development any day.
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom