Episode Title: "Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps"
Writer: Dan Harmon
Director: Tristram Shapeero
Two weeks ago, "Community" creatively revived its third season with one of the most clever bottle shows I've ever seen… and by putting the focus squarely back on the seven main characters. After hitting such heights, it would be easy to excuse "Community" for a few episodes before it hit its stride again. Fortunately, "Community" skipped the waiting period entirely and jumped right into another exceptionally strong outing.
Before we go into the details, I want to mention that the opening credits were changed to reflect the Halloween theme this week. I think that I knew the episode was going to be great as soon as I saw that.
A few episodes back,.Britta (Gillian Jacobs) had the entire study group fill out a Psych evaluation form (where she viewed all of their answers as penis drawings). And in advance of the big Greendale Halloween party, she confides to Jeff (Joel McHale) that one of the study group has tested as a grade A psycho with homicidal inclinations. And for once, Jeff seems concerned as their suspicion immediately falls upon Abed (Danny Pudi) the undiagnosable.
To find the threat within their midst, Britta suggests that the group listen to her scary story in order to gauge Abed's reactions. In her half-told and barely coherent tale, Britta and Jeff are on an old fashioned date in a car when a news alert tells them about an escaped killer with a hook for a hand. Except Britta can't be bothered to tell the story correctly and both Jeff and Britta's counterparts speak with her voice before getting murdered.
Abed is of course, most troubled by the stupidity of her characters. He then tells his version of the story, with himself and Britta as young lovers who think of everything, from fully charged cell phones to weapons to arm themselves with. Abed has thought the minutia through so completely that he even hums the song playing on the fictional radio; which only Troy (Donald Glover) seems to appreciate. But Abed's characters don't die right away, they simply stand back-to-back with knives in hand while waiting for the inevitable attack.
The sweet and innocent Annie (Alison Brie) has her own tale to share. But first, check out her costume:
A couple closeups of Annie in this sequence led me to paraphrase "Seinfeld" in my notes: "If those are real, they're spectacular." What?! I can't point out how hot Alison Brie is?
Back to the story, Annie casts herself as young woman who comes across Jeff's brooding, Twilighty vampire as he tries to fight his urge to feed on her. Luckily, he's got a bitten up Britta in his closet who hilariously says that she's okay with it as he drains her and puts her away again. Our sensitive vampire friend just wants to learn how to read, so Annie happily teaches him… until he finally states his intent to feed on her anyway.
Much to the group's obvious distress, the fictional Annie turns out to be a werewolf who gruesomely eats Jeff and makes sure that he lives through his ordeal long enough to literally see his eye traveling down her throat after she dismembered him. If we're looking for psychos, then Annie just jumped to the top of the list.
For sheer audaciousness, Troy tops that in a story that casts himself and Abed as awesome fighter pilots who are experimented upon by old man Pierce (Chevy Chase). I kept expecting this to be a direct "Human Centipede" parody… and thank God it wasn't! Instead, Troy and Abed are sewn together side-by-side and they gain psychic powers; which they use to get their revenge on Pierce and make a sandwich.
In response, Pierce tells a story with himself as the ultimate playboy, with Annie, Britta and Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) at his beck and call. And all wearing nighties too…
Pierce's Troy and Abed are a couple of street thugs; whom he destroys with his fantastic fighting skills… and his gigantic penis. Yes, that's right; Pierce knocks out Troy with his oversized penis. Even never actually seeing the penis in question, I'm surprised that "Community" got away with that one.
Shirley's story finds the gang sans-Pierce partying as the Rapture occurs, leaving them at the mercy of the Devil, aka Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) as perhaps the most feminine lord of hell ever. The Devil Dean actually gets one of the episode's best lines when he describes the torments of hell. "Pilates is the name of the demon that eats your genitals."
Angel Shirley briefly arrives to say "goodbye" before leaving her friends at the Devil Dean's mercy. Naturally, none of the study group takes this well and Pierce loudly wonders why Jeff wasn't in the story, having assumed that the Jeff character was a fictional version of himself.
At this point, the jig is up and Britta comes clean about the possible psycho in their midst… except this makes things even worse. Jeff tries to calm the situation by telling a story in which the killer is simply a misunderstood Chang (Ken Jeong). But his healing words fall on deaf ears and the group almost destroys itself until Annie realizes that Britta "Britta-ed" the psych test results and read the answers in the wrong way.
With the results correctly analyzed, the group learns that all of them tested as insane… except one. To save their mental perceptions of themselves, they agree to leave it at that so that they can all cling to the idea that they are the same members of the group. But as they leave, we see that Abed is the only one who is a picture of mental clarity. Everyone else is nuts!
This was an ingenuous episode that did what "Community" does best: which is using the high concept comedy ideas to further explore the characters. One of the more impressive touches was the way that each character retained the voice of their respective narrator while the story unfolded. Britta's Jeff sounded like Britta's impression of Jeff and so on.
And without being shoved down our throats as regular characters, the Dean and Chang actually felt fresh and funny again. I also loved Troy and Abed's costumes for the "Doctor Who" parody, "Inspector Spacetime." Not to mention another great closing line for the episode: "Troy and Abed sewn together!"
"Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps" was "Community" at the top of its game and it easily stands alongside the best episodes of seasons one and two. More like this, please.
Crave Online Rating: 9.5 out of 10.