Community S05E09: "VCR Maintenance and Educational Publishing"


Let's all pause, rewind, and record our thoughts on this sitcommy episode of Community. "VCR Maintenance and Educational Publishing" stood out for its jokes rather than cohesion or character moments, with a few gags in particular that should be quoted as often as possible at all future CommuniCons. Most notably, "VCR Maintenance and Educational Publishing" shall heretofore be known as the episode in which Dean Pelton spit hot fire with a freestyle rap that shook hip-hop to its core. 

I mean come on, how was the rest of the episode supposed to compare to that? Let's quickly summarize why this was one of the funniest moments of the season: 

  • Dean was dressed as a PayDay bar. A PayDay bar. The RC Cola of candy bars. 
  • The beatmaster. That guy is all business. 
  • Dean's flow was impeccable. He began in Mr. Rogers' neighborhood, took a detour to Chuck D, and then the ghost of DMX possessed him with the type of raw anger that can only grow from a life on the mean streets.
  • He dropped the mic not out of braggadocio, but from the shock of being overtaken by the spirit of troubled black youth. 
  • Any rap that starts off with, "Well I'm [something] and I'm here to say..." is amazing. 
  • Dean was dressed as a PayDay bar. 

Jim Rash should get so many high-fives for his work on Community that his hands swell to the size of catcher's mitts. He's up for any challenge, and he's one of those rare actors who elevates the material he's given rather than the other way around. Jim Rash, if you're reading this, I love you.


The other standout moment "VCR Maintenance and Educational Publishing" was the VCR game "Pile of Bullets," a ludicrous throwback to how antiquated technology was once used as a vehicle for interactive games. Even as an impressionable little squirt growing up, I remember thinking those things were stupid when companies tried to push them on us, and Community apparently did too. Fast-forward to the red screen? PUH-LEASE. Nothing completely destroys the flow of a game like picking up a remote and searching for a red screen for five minutes. And the rules of "Pile of Bullets" made New Girl's absurd "True American" or It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's insane "CharDee MacDennis" look like Tic-Tac-Toe. Yet Abed and Annie played it with such gusto that it only added to the episode's nonsense, and Vince Gilligan's performance as the VCR cowboy was impressive for a man making his acting debut as a low-resolution image on a TV screen.  

Aside from those two elements, Abed's rain apology, and Britta's "EVERYBODY," the rest of the episode was fairly standard stuff. I don't particularly like it when Community divides its cast into small groups that set out on separate sitcom adventures, and both of this week's storylines suffered because "VCR Maintenance and Educational Publishing" did exactly that. Most of the textbook plot fell flat for me as it echoed complicated criminal heists gone wrong but didn't have the energy to fully parody them, leaving the story in that big in-between area that's neither subtle nor over-the-top. 


Annie and Abed using "Pile of Bullets" to choose their new roommate—Annie's oafy brother or Abed's girlfriend Rachel—worked better, despite the hacky premise, because it acknowledged a major problem that Community is currently dealing with: the absence of Troy Barnes. I don't know if any of you will agree, but to me, Abed's effectiveness has been greatly reduced without his partner in space and time; in fact, his strongest moments in the wake of Bon Troyage have all been rooted in missing Troy. Abed and the show might be trying to fill that hole with Rachel (Brie Larson), which, like all rebound relationships, is just duct tape on a bigger problem. I don't notice Troy's absence as much when the gang is all together or involved in the same story (like they were in last week's MeowMeowBeenz adventure), but when the group is split into smaller factions, it sticks out a bit more.

"VCR Maintenance and Educational Publishing" was a perfect embodiment of Season 5 so far. Great start, then hot and cold the rest of the way. Despite a few hilarious moments, this one was middle-of-the-pack for me.



STUDY NOTES

– Controversial opinion alert! I'm not that into Rachel. Maybe it's because I don't have the same attachment to Brie Larson that many other people do, but I think it's because she doesn't seem like an individual character to me. She's just the girlfriend character. Anyway, send your hatemail and pro-Brie propaganda to timsucks@aol.com.

– In contrast, I did like Annie's brother Anthony and hope he shows up again. 

– But in both cases, NEITHER should even be considered for a roommate! C'mon Annie and Abed, don't you know what kind of trouble that will cause? No family, no significant others in a roommate situation EVER. 

– Dungeons and Dragons next week! WHO IS EXCITED?!?!!


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I laughed SO hard at the Dean's bit. I watched it three times.
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Dean was dope on the mic!!!
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I'm going to have to borrow abed's rain apology! Well hopefully I don't need to but just incase!
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I personally hate it when a "comedy" rap starts with, "Well, my name is/I am [something] and I'm here to say...".
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1.Vince Gilligan,creator of Breaking Bad acted as Annies brother.
2.Shirley went all Heisenberg on the rest of the gang which may/may not have anything to do with 1.
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No, he acted as the vcr game narrator, the guy who acted as the brother was Spencer
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What a disappointing season this is... the 2 stories in this episode were useless, uninteresting and not funny. Annie's brother is too far and doesn't fit, Abed is completely uninteresting without Troy. The book story, it was so lame and boring.
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This comment has been removed.
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That's not meta
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The Dean's rap, Abed's speech at the end both made this a great episode.
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Could someone tell me if they're shooting this entire season intentionally in a darker tone? I mean literally darker, not story-wise... it just has this gloomy feel to it that the previous seasons didn't have, and I wonder what's up with that. Is it just my computer, or is it like that to everyone else?
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I mentioned this exact same thing in the series opener. It feels like there's less lighting or something.

You're definitely not alone on this.
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I personally think its just the nature of the season. Troy's gone. Pierce is gone, Harmon is back but probably pretty disenfranchised with NBC, and too much of the group dynamic has changed.

And it's also possible Harmon is experimenting with darker tones because he's so seasoned with filming. Look at Rick and Morty. That series got pretty dark. Despite that though, I think it gives the show a different kind of maturity. Everyone of the characters have seen themselves become their own villain.
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Pavel!
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Everyone's talking about Vince and, to a lesser extent, Gina Gershon. Am I the only one who recognized songwriter/actor Paul Williams as the guy they tried to sell the books to? The guy co-wrote Rainbow Connection, wrote the theme to the Love Boat, was in the Smoky and the Bandit movies, and voiced the Penguin on Batman the Animated Series. He deserves some credit.
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I knew I recognized him from something.
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"...his strongest moments since Bon Troyage have been when he forlornly misses Troy. He and the show might be trying to fill that hole..."
I came here to point out exactly the same thing! Glover left a Troy sized hole behind when he left. Now the dynamics of the show is broken.

P.S. I noticed Gina Gershon was not credited at all at the end. For some weird reason I was extremely disappointed by that.
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I think Donald Glover took the show with him when he left, actually. I haven't really enjoyed any of the episodes since he departed--this week was the weakest to date I think--I just kind of hoped the book selling parts would end quickly and sort of smiled weakly at the Annie/Abed story. It's true that the only really excellent part of the episode was Jim Rash's rap. That sh*t was golden. But anyway, I'm wondering if it's time to take the same hiatus (that is to say permanent hiatus, or so I thought at the time) I took during season four. Also, I think the other thing they are trying to use to divert our attention from the loss of Troy (as if that were possible) is the endless succession of cameos by various famous people.
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Oh and I LOVED Hickey's line - "when God talks to you what language does he use? 'Cos in my experience when he wants you to have something he drops it on you like a ton of bricks" Best. Justification. EVER! :-)

Poor Shirley - the group know her well enough to know that she has a real evil mean streak and that her religion is the only thing that keeps it in check. why oh why, do they act so surprised whenever they persuade her to along with something and then she takes it too far? It's like persuading a recovering alcoholic to go out for one drink and then getting upset they go do some real damage.

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You were never one of my favourite characters, but Troy "I see your value now."
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Having played my fair of VCR accompanied board games in the 1980s, this episode has a special place in my heart.
That was one bizarre epilogue though.
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The Dean rap was awesome, I thought Abed's apology was nice, other than that I thought it was just a bad episode. I don't know VCR games maybe that would have helped,, but I don't think the fake game was absurd enough to be really funny. I looked a VCR game up after this on youtube, and those things were more absurd than this one. The found chemistry book never developed in to something I cared or laughed about. Chang was the most sane one in the room, I don't know why that was the case. I don't know how Shirley tied Britta and Hickey up. It ended with the books being fake, and no-one learned a lesson, and that's that.
I didn't like the tag. A very unoriginal joke, and I thought Vince, a great tv maker, wasn't a good actor. So I'm sad to say, it kind of sucked imo.
But the Dean rap was amazing.
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The Dean's rap was awesome. I love Jim Rash so much. There were some really funny moments in this episode, and I enjoyed the Pile of Bullets stuff a lot. The text book heist could have been funnier, but I didn't hate it or anything.
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I actually felt Pile of Bullets was cheap and overboard.

I totally disagree that Abed's best moments now are longing for Troy, but there are fewer and fewer Abed moments lately because he is getting less to do in general. Abed and Rachel seem to have nothing really to do or talk about, that's why it's easy to not like her (or even be into Abed much). She's no longer feeling like she exists offscreen, she is indeed just "the girlfriend" and it doesn't do much for anybody.

Anthony wasn't much different, but he didn't have an easy relationship to fall into.

Um, so this episode was on the lower side of the scale for me, it just didn't really excite or amuse much, there were a few chuckles and smirks but all in all, it was flat. You have odd taste in Community episodes lately, Mr Surette.
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I didn't get it. Pretty much any of it. Just all sort of fell flat for me, including the Dean's rap, which everyone else in the world seems to love. Just seemed like a pretty straightforward, one-note joke, and none of it really hit for me, as there weren't any lines in the rap itself that were all that funny. I know I must have been missing something, but this all seemed like just your usual standard sitcom fare, and it felt weird for Community to tread these heavily trodden roads.

The thing I actually liked the most (besides the awesome closer) was Annie's brother. So oafish and unassuming. I really hope he comes back because he just didn't get nearly enough screentime for how unique of a character he seemed to be.
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yeah I liked Anthony - he was very 'Abed-ish' which I found kinda amusing. I also liked how he came to life at the end when he pointed out that they were missing Troy and that Annie should 'get over it' as he was 13 when she was committed.
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EVERYBODYYY
why does that remind me of something? is it something they borrowed from another tv show, movie, etc? because it's poor gold and i'd be surprised if no one else did it. THAT'S HOW MUCH I LIKED IT #brittaforthewin

anyways, amazing episode as always
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Alison Brie:
Gary Oldman:



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I need to go watch this movie now! :) Love Gary Oldman
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It's from the movie Leon: The Professional. One of my faves, so I love that DoDaDeeDo mentioned it, heh.
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yes, I've owned this movie for a long while, just haven't pulled it out lately, nice reminder of how great this film is.
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Alison Brie and Gary Oldman are very different of course. One is a beautiful brunette with dreamy eyes who can make many men succumb to their will...

... and the other is Alison Brie.

Bleh.
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You bite your tongue. Alison Brie is a national treasure.
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Well the beautiful brunette looks very hot here LOL! ;-P
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EVERYBODYYY
why does that remind me of something? is it something they borrowed from another tv show, movie, etc? because it's pure gold and i'd be surprised if no one else did it. THAT'S HOW MUCH I LIKED IT #brittaforthewin

anyways, amazing episode as always

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Britta's face at the end of the cold open looked like genuine surprise or she tried really hard not to laugh.
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Definitely trying not to laugh
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Adorable. And for a split second she even broke the first (or second, or third, or something) rule of acting by looking straight into the camera.
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Yep that look to the camera isn't the best thing ever. But that's so quick it's not a problem in the end
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I bet the used this take only because of Britta's face. Must have been a natural reaction and not played.
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I'm sure there is a story behind this scene. There are a few things that are "of" the Dean is looking at something off screen as well during his rap.
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Oh my. I've seen this picture before in some comment below :-)
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great minds think alike.
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I have to wonder if this part was improvised. That would make this scene even better.
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IT pretty much contained all of the things that make Community a great show.
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Well, because I fell behind last week, I watched last week and this week almost back to back. I liked this one, but loved last week's episode.
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  • The Dean's rap... Whaaat?! Laughed so hard!
  • Hot sauce in the bathroom?
  • Pile of Bullets would break some friendships if it was released!
  • The 'apologizing in the rain' - scene made me laugh my ass off!
...And I stand corrected. I had a very strong feeling that Brie Larson wouldn't appear again during this season but she did, and I loved it.
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Okay, the opening rap with the Dean is hands down my favourite they've ever done. The rest of the episode could've sucked (it didn't) and I would've been okay just because of that rap.
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Easily the best episode since Troy left. I thought the Jeff/Shirley/Hickey story was the better of the two stories. Great reference to Breaking Bad, with some great interactions between all the characters. I also really like how Shirley ended up being the worst out of all of them, tying up Britta and Hickey. Not only is it a nice parallel to Walt's character from Breaking Bad (the seemingly nicest person having such an evil side underneath it all, and hurting those they're closest to), it also worked well with her character. Hell, earlier this season she said that her obsession with the sub shop, and the money she was making from it, pushed Andre away again.

I liked the Annie/Abed story a lot as well. I mean, the part where they were actually playing the game did drag a bit more than it could have, but overall it was still every entertaining. I love how they're still dealing with Troy's absence, and the part at the end when Abed apologizes was really good IMO.
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Buzz made me crack up so hard 3 times. First, he had a switchblade in his pocket. Second, how quick he was to say he had rope. And third, after reading the Jim the Duck comics, I lose it every time he says "What the Hell". I actually like him better than Pierce.
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You're not alone, I also noticed how the failed heist and shirley breaking bad was a reference to Gilligan's "other" work, his primary work will always be remembered as cowboy from 1993 VCR interactive game Pile of Bullets, of Course.
Nice job on picking up they're chemistry books and blue (thanks ZeroCals).
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I was wondering if anyone else noticed the BB references as well. I mean, the books were chemistry texts that were blue colored. lol
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I forgot to mention that Dean's rap at the beginning was one of the best things ever.
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This was an amazing episode! I was really confused about Gilligan appearing because he's never seemed like an actor to me but I stand corrected because he BROUGHT IT. I've never come across a VHS board game but after this I think I want to.
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I have no idea what's going on, but the feel of season 4 is with this and the last episode, through and through. This "divide and try to make individual stories drama-funny" is not working for me - it's WAY too forced and far less funny then it wants to be. Is this really Dan Harmon, Mr. Smooth?!?
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I liked this one far better then the last one. The guest role by Vice was hilarious. All these great television characters who want to be in Community. They know quality
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Didn't like the last few, but I really enjoyed this one.

The Dean's rap at the beginning was awesome. Truly.

The Annie and Abed plot didn't do too much for me, but I did love seeing Vince Gilligan in his really odd role, haha. Him and Mitch Hurwitz last week were pretty great.
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Brilliant episode.
The Dean's Peanut Bar Apology Rap turned Public Enemy rant was epic.
"Pile of Bullets" makes even less sense than "True American"... and I love it!
I like Shirley as the sorta new heel of the show - we all knew she had a very dark side hidden behind her constant smile, so showing her turning bad at the slightest opportunity isn't surprising, plus it's fun.
Every showrunners on TV seems to want to appear on Community, and it's easy to understand why - they come out as freaking hilarious. Vince Gilligan was phenomenal. And what's up with Gina Gershon showing up at the end as his wife? Came out from completely nowhere, this one!
Hopefully, Rachel will become a series regular before long. Annie's brother? Not too sure about him, but he's definitely intriguing. Harmon gotta bring him back.
Hickey is officially a better old man character than Pierce. He's also played by a better actor. There - I said it.

The best sitcom on television does it again - loving this!
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Glad someone else noticed Gina Gershon as Vince's wife.
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The game was hilarious. I loved the use of Vince Gilligan.
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Most of the time, I giggle in my head when I watch comedies...even with this one...but many times, this show (& this episode in particular) makes me actually giggle out loud multiple times.

...especially the end tag when I was wracking my brain trying to figure out who the actor was that looked so much like Vince Gilligan.
DOH! Turns out, I'm an overthinking idiot. : /
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The game was so funny.
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Watching this was a total nostalgia trip. I had a Star Trek The Next Generation VCR board game as a kid which to my adolescent brain was the height of technology.
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Could anybody be so kind, to inform me, ¿How to display a .gif file here? I already have the URL at hand. Thanks :)
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Thanks so much for the info guys! Preciate it .. Here' the badboy in question!!
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That smile on Britta's face in the end, I could fall in love with that.


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Killed me when he runs away in shame!
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Not shame, fear and confusion from what overtook him.
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Save the image and then use the picture icon to upload it, for some reason the url application doesn't work for comments
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Easiest way is to save the image (be it gif, jpg, png, etc.) to your computer, and use the uploading feature on this site (in the comment box you type in, there's a button that looks like a landscape portrait in the middle of the tool bar (8th from the left). You might be able to use coding, but I haven't tried and I'm not sure if they accept coding.
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"I guess that was just air."

I'm glad I'm not the only one who has this problem sometimes.
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You ever notice how they always overexaggerate the distortions and glitches in VHS video these days? Very few tapes in my collection looked that bad.
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That wasn't particularly exaggerated, the beginning had auto-tracking engaging which is why it fuzzed in, so the tape is aligning with the diagonal recorded stripes of data better. Also, VHS tapes deteriorate both with use and with age, so the older and more used they're supposed to be, the more beat up they'll look. And the nature of VHS games required a lot of fast-forwarding and rewinding which leads to both wear and tape stretch.
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Condiering Rachel said she found the game at Goodwill, Id say it was in amazingly good shape.
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Agreed

sure our old VHS tapes were stores well and everything

Some old tape found in Good Will or somewhere random might have spent a dozen summers in a hot 90degree summer attic
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That end tag with Vince was so good.
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I watch now, only because I like the characters. If these last couple of episodes had been my first exposure to Community, I doubt I would keep watching.

I did like...

Dean's rap -- esp his reaction at the end: "I don't know what that was!" Hah!

The way they nailed the complexity of VCR games.

The concept (but execution) of the shady book deal.

Abed's apology.
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(but *not execution)
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I liked it although I didn't find the Annie/Abed story as strong as the "B" story with the rest of the group. tho I did like how they were the only ones who got into playing the vhs game, also totally did not expect Annie's bro to be like that
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It was solid, but not spectacular
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Loved it. Vince was terrifically terrible. I use to own a VCR game, and man was it bad.
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Shirley's this season's constant antagonist, then? Didn't see that coming.
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I guess they wanted her to finally be useful, because so far, she was here but that's about it. Then agin, I don't think that evolution is what I wanted :/
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Jim Rash's rap at the beginning of the episode was epic. Looks like Childish Gambino has some competition.

Also, that guy slipping after Abed's apology had me in a ridiculous fit of laughter.
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Jim Rash's rap was the best thing all season.
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If it doesn't make the top 10 of the next top 100 list, here at TV.com, I say we riot in the streets. Who's with me?
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ya me 2. i giggled like homer simpson
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