Community – Advanced Criminal Law [1.5]

When Chang threatens to fail the whole Spanish class because somebody cheated on a test, Britta owns up and ends up before a tribunal with her standing with the school on trial.  Meanwhile, Pierce convinces Annie to let him write a new school song, but he struggles with coming up with anything original.  Abed “messes” with Troy by nearly convincing him he’s an alien.  Jeff is able to defend Britta and allow her to remain a student.

Written by Andrew Guest • Directed by  Joe Russo
Previous Episode:  Social Psychology • Next Episode: Football, Feminism and You

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Cast Notes
This is the first of many appearances of Richard Erdman as Leonard.  He’s had a movie career that stretches back to the 1940’s.

This episode also marks the first credited appearance by Dino Stamatopoulos as Starburns.

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Comments
Advanced Criminal Law is quite a good episode of Community, and features the series’ trademark rapid-fire dialogue, pop-culture references, and mixture of serious and snarky approach to relationships and issues. I quite like the development in the friendship between Britta and Jeff, where we see how his constant sexual advances actually plays into her low self-esteem and self-loathing.  It’s the meaningful sort of observation that the show is good at making in the midst of its shenanigans.

That storyline also ends with the first genuine “Winger Speech,” as Jeff defends Britta with the inspired approach of saying she’s crazy, but really Greendale is the best place for crazy people.  You could say it’s actually the second Winger speech, but the one in Pilot is revealed to be manipulative and hypocritical, whereas here he seems to be sincere.

In the subplot department, the story of Abed “messing with” Troy to convince him he’s an alien is pretty funny, and full of some good moments.  I like it when Abed says his fake language is “probably Arabic,” and when Garrett suddenly comes running in as an alien, and Abed admits he went over-budget.  We see both Abed’s obsessive behavior and Troy’s gullibility.  We all know the Troy / Abed dynamic is one of the highlights of the series, and so it’s great to see it coming together here.

Less interesting is the bit with Pierce writing the school song, I guess simply because Pierce was never a very likeable or interesting character.  His storylines are often my least favorite part of the show.  It’s nice to get to know Annie a bit more, though, as we see her a bit more of her perfectionism and determination to maintain her image.

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Pop-Culture Connection
There are many!  The episode is littered with references to M*A*S*H, Cheers, James Bond, Harry Potter, Danny Glover, Cate Blanchett, Billy Joel, Frost / Nixon, Bruce Hornsby, Jackée, Karate Kid, possibly Gilligan’s Island, and of course, Luiz Guzman.

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Meta-Qualities
Nothing really to speak of this time around.

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Getting to know Greendale
The Borchart Hall has contains the pool, which has a $6000 judges table.

There is now a statue of Luiz Guzman (himself a Greendale Alumni) in the courtyard.

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Familiar Faces
The Dean appears again, as does Professor Ian Duncan.

Leonard appears for the first time, and both Starburns and Garrett reappear.

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Key Developments
The Dean meets Britta, and possibly Jeff, for the first time.  There is also the first reference (still slightly veiled at this point) to his sexuality.  Also, he inserts the word “Dean” into his speech for the first time (“Dean you later!”)

Ian’s attraction to Britta is brought up for the first time.

Troy and Abed’s signature handshake makes its debut.

Along with Leonard, the regular shtick of someone yelling “Shut up, Leonard!’ happens for the first time.

There are a few lines of Shirley’s which indicate for the first time directly that she is a Christian.

Is this the first reference to the “Winger Guarantee”?  In this episode, that is given to Britta if she follows Jeff’s lead, and denies everything, she’ll walk.

I believe this episode contains the first reference to a class focused on air-conditioners, which will play an important role in few years.

This may be the first “Troy-ism” (for lack of a better word), where he ends what looks like a familiar statement in a strange and funny way:  “The only difference between Señor Chang and Stalin is that I know who Señor Chang is!”

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Observations
• Some funny attempts by the Dean to up Greendale’s credibility:  “So boy, I don’t know about you, but this sure feels like a real college to me,” and “Greendale takes this kind of thing very seriously…much like a university!”

• Ironically anticipating the future, Jeff tells Duncan that life as a student is “Probably the same as teacher life, but less tragic, because I get to leave.”  But we know that Jeff doesn’t leave, and eventually becomes a teacher at Greendale.

• Also possibly anticipating the future, we learn that Britta gave a fake number to Jeff to avoid his romantic advances.  In Season 6, there is an episode where we learn that the Dean has the wrong number for Jeff, which ultimately serves the same purpose, though we assume that it was just the Dean’s mistake.  But maybe it wasn’t, maybe Jeff learned a lesson from Britta in this episode…

• Shirley doesn’t do much this episode.  But she does have a couple of funny lines in the study hall scene:  “If the good Lord hadn’t been watching, I’d have slapped him upside the head,” and “Abed, have you been racist this whole time while I’m telling everybody at church what a sweet little caramel angel you are?”

•”It’s not that easy to get human beings to turn on each other,” says Britta, but that’s apparently not true.   “Turn on her!” yells Chang, and they all do.  Then he says they are “Too mature to sit in class with a cheating, lying poop-face.”

• It’s funny when Britta references Jeff’s “lawyer powers.”  And later, in the trial, when Jeff says, “Objection, I don’t know what he means.”

• The least funny subplot is Pierce and his song-writing, but I like it when Annie says to him, “Your sheet music looks like a Chinese take-out menu?” and he replies, “A musician sees music in everything.”

• There’s also a lot of funny interplay between Duncan and Chang in the tribunal scene:  “Oh, shut your pompous vortex of overlapping fangs!”  “Hey, British dentistry is not on trial.”  Jeff responds with, “Dean Pelton, I move this case be thrown out of…the pool area!”

• Britta mentions her problem with dishonesty, a call back to Pilot.

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Closing Tag:
Abed puts pencils in Troy’s mouth – what looks like a prank but turns out to be their contest

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Most Inspired Moment
I think my favorite is actually the “Winger Speech”, where Jeff is able to defend Britta, who has admitted to cheating, in a way that really feels plausible for the setting.  Basically, he says she’s crazy for the way she sabotages her life, but…

Do we really want to make it a crime to be crazy at Greendale? I mean, look at us. I mean, you two are arguing about status at a college that correspondence schools make fun of. Dean, you want so bad for this place to be ivy league that you are putting us at risk of electrocution. Everyone on this campus is nuts….If you want to rehabilitate your fellow inmate, you need to sentence her to staying here with us. Because if crazy people can’t be at Greendale, where are we supposed to go?

Previous Episode:  Social Psychology • Next Episode: Football, Feminism and You

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