A quick review of this week's “Community” (which you can find, as usual, on Yahoo Screen) coming up just as soon as I teach the reverse Jim Gaffigan…
In terms of the emotional story at the heart of it, “Grifting 101” wasn't appreciably deeper than last week's “Intro to Recycled Cinema.” Yes, Jeff gets jealous of anyone who may seem cooler than he is, as everyone called him out on when he was mocking the class, but that was still a fairly thin excuse to pay homage to various visual and plot motifs of con artist films like “The Sting” and “The Grifters”(*).
(*) It's been at least 15 years since I watched “The Grifters,” but my memory of it doesn't track with Abed's assessment that it's surprisingly light on actual grifts. Anyone with a more recent viewing care to weigh in?
Fortunately, the parody elements, the guest performance by Matt Berry as the new professor, and the fact that the episode had to follow the same arc of a traditional con artist story was enough to carry this one. There's a reason this formula has been recycled so many times: it works, even in the context of a self-aware parody of it.
So no, not complex, but fun enough to work.
Some other thoughts:
* With Troy long gone – and I laughed a lot at Elroy's attempt to explain the study group's origin story – the new go-to move for the end of episode tags seems to be parody trailers. This time, we get “The Guy From Jeff's Gym,” in the tradition of cheesey '80s action shows like “Street Hawk,” and featuring “Community” and “Rick & Morty” writer Ryan Ridley as himself.
* It seemed odd that they suggested Frankie was as gung-ho as everyone else to take the class, only for her to vanish from the next chunk of the episode. Paget Brewster was funny with what she got to do later, but it still feels like the show doesn't entirely know what to do with two different administrator characters. (The Dean didn't appear at all until we were more than halfway through.)
* On the other hand, the show seems to have turned a corner on Chang, finding a way to simultaneously make him feel like part of the group and like someone nobody trusts. It works because he understands why they don't, and his hostility is no longer aimed at them.
* This was another great Britta episode, particularly her indignant “I LIVED IN NEW YORK!” response to Roger calling her a “Midwestern floozy.” Gillian Jacobs has definitely been the cast MVP for this season.
What did everybody else think?