“Community” review: “VCR Maintenance and Educational Publishing”


It’s been several episodes since Troy left to travel around the world on Pierce’s boat to become a man and collect his millions in inheritance. The show has done an okay job at filling the gap and giving more attention to characters like Duncan, Hickey, and on a lesser level Chang, but the missing presence of Mr. Barnes and its effect is understandably the hardest on Abed and Annie. Troy was Annie’s crush in high school (and in season one). He was Abed’s best friend, the titular “Troy” in “Troy and Abed in the Morning” and the second hand in their signature handshake (that Annie might need work at replacing). Plus, enough can’t be said about some of the great ad-libbing Donald Glover provided on his own.

Another glaring hole left by Troy was his half of the rent for the apartment he shared with Abed and Annie. The two get to work on that in this episode (which began with Dean as a rapping peanut with rusty rhyming issues). The two candidates are Annie’s bearded, pony-tailed creep of a brother Anthony, who apparently knows what happens when you die, and Abed’s girlfriend Rachel (Brie Larson). Weird Anthony can fix things and he’s got cash. Abed likes Rachel because they share sleep cycles and know Abed…uh…Jeff’s Netflix password. Neither Annie nor Abed like the other’s choice to replace Troy, because Anthony is a creep who has to ask to take a dump and Annie questions the unconventional time structure of Abed and Rachel’s relationship.

Since Annie and Abed are the show’s most mentally unstable characters (aside from Britta), it’s decided the choice to be the new roomie will be decided by the winner of a horribly dated, interactive VCR game from 1993 that Rachel gave to Abed as a gift called “Pile of Bullets,” featuring a wild west cowboy giving the instructions to play (Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan). Soon, Annie and Abed become ultra competitive as they navigate through the shoddy VHS image quality and its weird gameplay to ensure their pick gets to move in. This proves costly to Abed as his behavior makes Rachel uncomfortable, causing her to leave. Weird Anthony was monotonously indifferent.

Troy was the closest to a mentally stable person among the three tenants before his departure. This episode explored a little how him not being around to keep the, at times, unpredictably odd personalities of Annie and Abed slightly contained can create self-destructive havoc. It’s an intensity from Abed that Rachel has certainly never seen, and it takes an observation from the pictures in the apartment by Weird Anthony to point out that Annie and Abed may have some unresolved issues with Troy gone. The unease the two caused in their guests leaves them to take pause at how they behaved, in what was sort of a quick resolution that didn’t feel earned.

Abed adorably wins Rachel back with a cute, orchestrated gesture at her locker (Pablo cameo!) and by realizing maybe he’s been speeding their relationship up too quickly. The prospect of asking the even crazier Britta to move in makes Craigslist a more attractive option. Nobody likes Britta.

That includes Shirley, Jeff and Hickey in the episode’s other story that didn’t work as well. After getting assigned some organizing duties from the group committee, they discover some textbooks in a storage room’s air ducts that Hickey says they can sell for lots of cash. The situation parallels a drug deal and turns into a parody of some crime/drug movie I’m sure (the music was from Sneakers, I think), with Hickey pressuring Shirley not to tell the Dean and her turning into the power-hungry ringleader and everyone not trusting each other. I certainly don’t mind the genre riffs and appreciate the detail, but I think I’ve had more than enough in these nine or so episodes that have aired. Especially since it was fairly inconsequential and didn’t move things along in the bigger picture of the show’s season. I did, however, love the Paul Williams cameo at the end, as the would-be “buyer” of the books that turned out to be worthless anyway.