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Community S05E07: "Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality"

Community is no stranger to pulling on our heartstrings until they bleed, and with its absurd sense of humor anchored by a solid emotional core, the show actually benefits from the breakneck speed at which it can shift from silly to sensitive. Take "Geothermal Escapism" (a.k.a. "Buh-bye Troy"), for example. That episode started out as a game of school-wide, Mad-Maxian Hot Lava, but before we knew it, we were being hit with the devastating reality of Troy moving away. It was an extreme example of Community's heart because it focused on Troy and Abed, the show's bestest of buds, but the reason it was so successful was that the emotion was earned after years of build-up. 

This is just a warning for you diehard Community fans: Steel yourself, because I did not like this episode. "Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality," which might be my least favorite Community episode title EVER, tried to land an emotional punch and took a swing at our sensitive spots, but missed badly and gouged out our eyes instead. And yes, I am being a little melodramatic. But dammit, we've seen Community do touchy-feely so much better than this. The main problem was that "Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality" assembled some odd character pairings—Britta and Duncan, Abed and Hickey—in an attempt to create weird bonds between regular favorites and recurring characters, instead of keeping the action within the group. It says something that, in an episode that was meant to be so heartwarming, Abed staring at an empty chair for half a second was the most emotional moment BY FAR.


But that's not to say the episode didn't try. In fact, it tried too damn hard, and that's probably why it faltered. Britta and Duncan were on a crash course after Duncan asked Jeff for directions to get into her pants. The group ended up at a charitable event for some Save-the-Whatever cause that Britta would be interested in, and Britta ran into the anarchist group she used to run with. But her old "friends" were horrible, horrible people who one minute were toasting Britta as the best darned activist they knew, and the next minute they were laughing her off because she wanted to reignite some of their crazy anarchist past and they claimed they had too much to lose after achieving some degree of success. Crushed by rejection, Britta got sad and took Duncan up on his offer to give her a ride home, but Duncan felt too bad for her to dip his crumpets into her tea, so he offered her advice on how to handle an existential crisis instead. To put some sort of cherry on top of the whole situation, Duncan and Jeff then enjoyed a good night out after Britta made the point that they didn't seem like friends at all. 

Elsewhere, in a somewhat more understandable storyline, Abed crashed Hickey's late-night cartooning session while clad in a full cosplay getup on his way to see the Kickpuncher reboot. Abed became a clumsy character cliché and shot a bunch of foam onto Hickey's drawings, leading Hickey to handcuff Abed to a filing cabinet so that Abed would miss his movie and Hickey would teach him a lesson because Abed never faces repercussions for anything he does. They argued, then they came to an understanding, and then they bonded, but the whole thing felt like such a standard sitcom plot that it never felt like the non-sitcom stylings of Community at its best, or even its decentest. 


Also contributing to that feeling were the way Britta and Abed were acting. Were we supposed to believe that self-righteous Britta would pout after someone put her down for not being successful? Were we supposed to accept that Abed would be downright mean and attack Hickey? Were we supposed to not have a problem with Jeff sitting at the bar of a charitable function, drinking by himself, even after everyone left? Like "Analysis of Corkboard Networking," this episode had all the appearances of a Community episode without actually feeling like a Community episode. I motioned to strike "Analysis of Corkboard Networking" from canon, and I think I might do the same with "Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality." 

Speaking of ghosts (nice segue, Tim!), thankfully Chang had his own adventure this week. And though it was positively insane and involved a haunted theater and the specter of a janitor, it at least felt more in-line with the early episodes that got Season 5 off to a strong start. It didn't make sense, but it also didn't make a phony attempt to emotionally manipulate viewers like the other two stories did.

So yeah, I'm a cranky curmudgeon and I really didn't like this episode. In fact, it was one of my least favorite of the usually outstanding series to date; not only did it fail in its attempts to manufacture emotion, it wasn't even funny. "Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality" felt like a Season 4 episode trying to sneak into Season 5. 


STUDY NOTES

– Hey, at least we got a pretty good jab at the Robocop remake when Abed complained about the new Kickpuncher.

– Annie and Shirley got totally hosed in this episode. They showed up at the beginning, then they went to McDonald's! Then they showed up at the end. 

– The capper on the Chang storyline was great, with the Old Timey Photo Club picture. Why couldn't the rest of the episode have been like that? 


Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 4/17/2014

Season 5 : Episode 13

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