Community: “Cooperative Polygraphy” Season 5 Episode 4

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“Cooperative Polygraphy” officially says goodbye to Pierce, but not without one last issue.

After attending the “Buddhist” funeral for Pierce, the six remaining members of the Greendale Seven are met in the study room by an emotionless polygrapher named Mr. Stone (played brilliantly by Walton Goggins). Part of Pierce’s will stipulates that everyone, including Chang, has to undergo a polygraph test to prove that they didn’t kill Pierce. Almost instantly, the questions Pierce has left behind get uncomfortable and start fights amidst the group.

The episode acts as almost a sequel to season 2’s “Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking,” where Pierce fakes an impending death to give each member of the group his real feelings about them. Only this time, it’s a real bequeathing, and it shakes things up even more than before. The questions are simple at first – Is Jeff gay? (“Gaymurderersayswhat?” “What?” “He’s not lying”), Did Chang masturbate in the study room (Not just in the room, but everywhere). But they quickly escalate into things directly hurting others – Troy didn’t invent his and Abed’s handshake, Shirley stopped using tofu in her sandwiches and replaced it with “meat food,” Annie secretly gave everyone a little amphetamine bump during finals, Abed has secret trackers implanted in everyone, etc.

The episode is filled to the brim with great one-liners. My favorite is Britta defending being high at Shirley’s baby’s Christening: “At least with a bris there’s a moment of suspense.” But the humor is really not the focus of the episode. The focus is Pierce’s coda, as he once again proved that he knew far more about everyone else in the group then they knew about him, each other and themselves. The number of secrets he intentionally throws on the table by way of a polygraph test is both meaningful and uncomfortable. Once Jeff convinces everyone that Pierce is actually doing them well instead of playing one last nasty trick, the polygrapher begins to hand out the items from the will. Britta gets an iPod Nano, Shirley gets Pierce’s timeshare, Annie gets the tiara he tried to give her in season 2, and the reassurance that she was his favorite, Jeff gets a bottle of scotch, Abed gets the reassurance that he didn’t understand a single thing about him, and Troy gets shares in Hawthorne Wipes. Oh, and sperm. Everyone got a large container of his sperm. But Troy got more than shares – he got Pierce’s remaining $13.3 million in shares, which he will get after he travels the world on Pierce’s boat. It’s a heartbreaking gift, as Pierce sees a great potential in Troy. It provides a fitting out for Donald Glover, who is leaving the show in the next episode.

This episode is Community at it’s best – it sheds away any theatrics and concepts and focuses on the group as a whole. Every relationship is analyzed, and everyone is at fault for something. It has nothing to do with Greendale in the slightest; it’s centered on human emotions and the reactions to the loss of a loved one. And it’s funny, it’s the funniest since the middle of season 3. The whole episode is worth it just to see Goggins’ character open up at a bar at the end and actually be an egomaniacal partyer. Oh, and he finally shares how Pierce died: dehydration, from producing all the sperm in the containers. It’s tough to call this one of the best Community episodes, simply becuase the show’s three-season run of perfection, but it is one of the most fine-tuned, heartwarming and hilarious episodes they’ve done.

Grade: A

-By Andrew McNally

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