Community: Intro to Felt Surrogacy Season 4 Episode 9 Review

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In what could have been a great return to form, Community dives into the world of The Muppets this week.  Unfortunately, the result is an episode that is entirely underwhelming.

It all starts with one of the strangest cold-opens I’ve ever seen.  The gang just sits around the study room table as an awkward silence hangs in the air.  That’s it.  No jokes.  No pop culture references.  Nothing.  Luckily, this is quickly explained by the Dean who comes in to tell everyone he’s sick of no one talking and has come to fix their problems.  Of course, this being Community, this won’t be a normal therapy session.

Since, at first, no one is willing to admit what happened, the Dean hands out look-alike hand puppets to everyone and instructs them to let them do the talking.  So, a muppet-themed episode begins! In the past, genre-heavy Community episodes have either been completely amazing, or have completely gone off the rails.  Unfortunately, this one fell into the latter category.

The main premise revolves around a hot air balloon ride that the gang takes as a way of shaking things up.  After getting lost and eating some psychotropic berries, they end up sitting around a campfire and revealing their deepest secrets to each other.  Of course, no one remembers that they did this until Shirley accidentally blurts hers out.  So, to make her feel better, everyone else decides to reveal theirs as well.

The sad thing is, this episode could have been really terrific.  I mean, who doesn’t love the Muppets?  Sure, it was fun to see little felt versions of all the characters and the musical numbers were upbeat, but what could have been a fantastic concept for an episode ended up just feeling gimmicky.  All the jokes fell flat.  Guest stars Sara Bareilles and Jason Alexander were greatly underused.  And do we really need another episode that explores each of the characters’ inner trauma?  This is season 4.  We already know Jeff doesn’t want to end up like his dad, that Shirley constantly worries about being a good mother, that Britta isn’t really the activist she claims to be, and so on, and so forth.  There are so many different avenues to go down when you bring in puppets, and yet it seems none of them were really used to their full potential.

I guess the episode wasn’t a total loss.  I will admit to laughing at a few Troy’s one-liners.  Still, it’s a sad day when the best thing about this episode was the behind-the-scenes tag at the end.  In a way, the muppets serve as a perfect metaphor for what’s happened to Community since Dan Harmon’s departure.  The concept and the characters are still the same, but it just doesn’t feel like the real thing.  Grade: C

By Mike Papirmeister

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