Episode Title: "Contemporary Impressionists"
Writer: Alex Cooley
Director: Kyle Newacheck
Having "Community" back in our lives on Thursday nights is like filling in a gaping hole in our hearts. But is it my imagination, or is the show getting darker?
Fresh from winter break, the Greendale study group discovers that Abed (Danny Pudi) has developed an addiction to hiring celebrity impersonators to help him recreate scenes from various films. Our first glimpse of this comes when Abed is chased around by the poor man's Tommy Lee Jones, who only seems to know one line from "The Fugitive."
The price of this revelry is that Abed is now seriously in debut to French Stewart, or his demented celebrity impersonator portrayed by the man himself. Faux-French likes the looks of the Greendale 7 and he offers them a chance to pay off Abed's debt by joining his celebrity impersonators for a big Bar Mitzvah. Initially, the group doesn't want to do it and it takes Troy (Donald Glover) to remind them about the wonder and joy (and autographed copies of "Precious") that Abed has brought into their lives.
The group concedes, but Faux-French warns Troy that he'll have Abed's legs broken if the group screws up the event… a fact Abed is oblivious to even as he appears as Jamie Lee Curtis from "True Lies." So, while Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) is enjoying herself as Oprah and Annie (Alison Brie) embraces her inner Judy Garland, Troy appears to be on the edge of a nervous breakdown by trying to hold the event together and keep his friends in character.
Despite a massive disruption from Jeff (Joel McHale), the client is satisfied and Abed's legs remain unbroken. But when Troy gets home, he discovers that Abed has already hired a Patch Adams/Robin Williams impersonator and several other ringers to run up his debt again. Troy's initial reaction shows us how seriously he took the threat to Abed, when he assumed that his fake injuries were real.
Although Abed doesn't seem to comprehend what he's done wrong, Troy takes his actions as a betrayal of sorts and he struggles to keep his composure as he tells Abed that he has to stop being so irresponsible. Basically, Troy just became the adult in this relationship and it comes at a price. Abed doesn't give Troy their famous handshake and he goes off into The Dreamatorium to play without his best friend. And Troy is clearly heartbroken over the rejection.
Inside The Dreamatorium, things get a little strange. Abed imagines himself flying a spaceship and his co-pilot is none other than… Evil Abed, complete with his evil goatee! There are two schools on Evil Abed's appearance: He's either a manifestation of Abed's darker impulses trying to convince himself that he doesn't need Troy anymore. Or… — and this is the really out there theory — it's the Evil Abed from "The Darkest of all possible timelines" finally making good on his plan to reenter the prime timeline and take over the lives of the real study group.
Admittedly, "Community" would be heading into some weird sci-fi territory if it embraces that storyline. It's disturbing enough that Abed has a dark side to go along with his childlike innocence. This episode was aired out of sequence with last week's episode, but in retrospect, it sets up some of the coming conflict between Abed and Troy in the two part Blanket fort episode airing next Thursday. The cracks in "Community's" most iconic relationship are showing and not even Annie's Boobs can pull them out of this collision course.
Meanwhile, Britta (Gillian Jacobs) has her own problems with Jeff, who has returned from the winter break with a bigger ego than ever… thanks to his new anti-anxiety pills. For once in her life, Britta actually makes an accurate psychological diagnosis when she tells Jeff that he needs his anxiety to keep him human or else his ego will get out of control. As it is, the mere sight of Jeff's newfound overconfidence is enough to send Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) into orgasmic spasms.
At the Bar Mitzvah, Britta's friends don't take her warnings about Jeff's mental state very seriously… A: because she's Britta and she's known for Britta-ing even the smallest things. And B: because she's dressed like a later-in-life Michael Jackson to go along with Troy's '70s era Michael. As for Jeff, he soaks up compliments for being even more handsome than Ryan Seacrest, the man he is meant to be imitating. Jeff feels his ego getting out of hand (using the hilarious expanding apple metaphor that Britta came up with) and Jeff actually comes to Britta for help before it's too late.
If anyone could rival Jeff Winger in terms of narcissism, it was the kid at this Bar Mitzvah, who had all of the celebrity impersonators give him various awards in the vein of the Oscars. But Jeff wanted the "most handsome young man" award so badly that he freaks out when he doesn't get it. Actually, Jeff "Hulks out" would be a more accurate way of describing it. The show openly acknowledged this with a few camera angles from the '70s "Hulk" TV series and even the "Lonely Man" piano theme!
Jeff's rampage startles the guests, but the kid loves it and the event is salvaged. Later, Britta finds a half-naked Jeff on the highway doing his best post-Hulk Bruce Banner. And amazingly, Jeff realizes that Britta was right and he asks her to diagnose him for her student project. But wisely, Britta declines and says that she'd have better luck trying to figure out Abed.
Pierce (Chevy Chase) didn't get a lot to do in this episode except come to terms with the fact that no one will see him as a Burt Reynolds impersonator unless it's the old and fat Burt from "Boogie Nights." Chang (Ken Jeong) got a little Chang as well, when he realized that he can seize power at Greendale by recruiting high school kids as his army of minions (with a college course credit for payment) and a DJ who looks remarkably like Dean Pelton. Chang's plan doesn't entirely come to fruition in this episode, but it was formed in a hysterical comic book style thought bubble; which you can see above.
This wasn't the best or the funniest episode of the season, but it was a return to the signature "Community" insanity that we all know and love. But "Contemporary Impressionists" excelled at creating rift between Abed and Troy that could potentially tear them asunder. Now, that's disturbing.