A quick review of tonight’s “Community” coming up just as soon as I copy and paste the lyrics to “War”…
Late in “Intro to Knots,” Troy alludes to the resolution of season 2’s “Cooperative Calligraphy” when he suggests they blame this whole mess on a ghost. And this episode felt very much modeled on that one: the study group(*) trapped in the same room for the entire episode, every member turning on every other member, all wondering if their precious group harmony is about to fall apart forever.
(*) Minus Pierce, of course. This was the other episode produced after Chevy Chase quit. They got him to record his voice role for the puppet episode, and when I talked to Port and Guarascio earlier this year, they alluded to another episode where they took Pierce out and put Chang in. Clearly, this was it.
Now, “Cooperative Calligraphy” is one of the very best episodes “Community” has ever done(**), where “Intro to Knots” was… pretty much on par with most of season 4. We had a couple of stray jokes that worked (and I’ll admit to being perpetually biased towards any and all “Die Hard” references), and the characters and their relationships were explored in a way that wasn’t entirely superficial but also didn’t feel as deep as the show has gone in the past. Malcolm McDowell livened things up a bit in the second act as Cornwallis started trying to turn the study group against itself, but overall it just felt like a reasonable facsimile of something the show’s done before, and much better.
(**) And the tag featured an homage to another one of the best, with a brief glimpse of the Darkest Timeline, which was a gag that had pretty much been exhausted by the end of the season 3 finale.
I was mildly intrigued when the episode started with an extended tracking shot of the various study groupers arriving at Jeff’s apartment. The setting, the visual device and the story all screamed “Rope,” the Alfred Hitchcock movie filmed as a series of continuous takes that were spliced together. I wondered if, like the “My Dinner with Andre” episode (which began seeming like it was going to be a “Pulp Fiction” episode), we were being faked out and the show was going to do an unexpected homage. But a few minutes into each act, the long takes ended and the scenes were edited as usual, making it more distracting than anything else. In fairness, those kinds of shots are a pain to pull off, especially on a TV schedule, which is why I don’t believe anyone’s done an all tracking-shot episode since “The X-Files” did “Triangle,” (UPDATE: Check the comments for a reminder of at least one other show that’s done it), but the abbreviated use of them here was just odd.
What did everybody else think?