Episode 7: Economics of Marine Biology
By: Carlos Uribe
Community is a show about the senior year of a group of friends attending Greendale Community College.
I like the title “Economics of Marine Biology” because it fits what the episode is about so perfectly. The plot has to do with Greendale trying to land a “whale”. What is a whale? It's a rich student with zero ambition that will spend a lot of money taking classes without graduating. The perfect example is Pierce. The dean notes that Pierce has taken most of the classes offered at Greendale at least twice. The whale analogy makes up the “marine biology” part of the title. The “economics” comes from the financial boost this rich kid gives to the school. It allows the biology classes to be able to afford more than one pig to disect and Annie to get a body farm for her club. Landing this whale is a pretty big deal so the dean enlists the help of the study group to accomplish this. The only person who isn't involved is Pierce because he has a tendency to get jealous when he's not the center of attention. This makes sense on two layers. The first is that we know Pierce. He'll go to terrible lengths to be included and he doesn't handle people who don't pay attention to him very well. It also makes sense because he himself is a whale. That basically means he's the big man on campus. Big men on campus generally don't like it when there's competition. The original idea is that the tour will be scheduled on a day when Pierce doesn't have any classes. He won't show up to Greendale so he'll never know the school is courting another whale.
It should come as no surprise to any viewer that Pierce shows up. Of course he does. If he didn't then it would be too easy on the characters. It would be bad storytelling. It would also leave Jeff with nothing to do for the whole episode. Jeff had actually volunteered to help with landing the whale. When Pierce shows up, Jeff has to spend the whole day with him in order to keep him distracted. At first, he's utterly bored but they start to really bond. He actually starts to like the barbershop that Pierce frequents. Pierce does eventually find out that Jeff was only trying to distract him but all is forgiven the next day when Jeff visits on his own accord. It's a sweet moment when Pierce admits how proud he is of Jeff and Jeff's response is to make a Pierce joke. The two have truly been able to connect in a way that they haven't been able to before this episode. Anyone who follows Community news knows that Chevy Chase is going to be leaving the show this season. It might not matter since the series is currently on the bubble but if there's another season then that means there is no Pierce. This episode basically helps to humanize him a bit while actually building a real human relationship with a member from the group. It's actually one of the strongest points of the episode when Jeff makes that gay joke. It might for the first time be a time when Jeff actually accepts Pierce not because he's in study group but for who Pierce really is.
While Jeff is becoming Pierce's friend, Annie and Britta try their best to help the Dean sell Greendale to the whale. This rich kid is spoiled. When it's revealed that City College gave him a vespa, the Dean realizes they have to step up their game. He starts to turn Greendale into something that it isn't, gives away the outdated library computers, and even hires strippers. He takes it a bit too far when he allows the rich kid to take Magnitude's catchphrase. Annie realizes that they're selling their soul to get this kid and she feels guilty for doing so. The Dean doesn't fully realize what they've done until he catches Magnitude going crazy trying to find a new catchphrase. The Dean might be a joke most of the time but he really does believe in Greendale. This belief leads him to standing up to the rich kid by telling him that he won't sacrifice what makes Greendale Community College unique. It really is a rally for the community college. The rich kid decides to go to Greendale anyways because he likes that someone stood up for him. He can now respect the Dean. It's a great and funny plot that really works-it's also the first one to ever center around the Dean. He's always been a supporting player but he takes center stage this week. I must say that I approve.
The final plot has to do with Troy and Shirley. The two are taking PEE. That's not a typo as Troy soon learns. This isn't a normal physical education class but one aimed to teach people how to be a physical educator. Troy goes in all cocky and confident that he's going to be an alpha dog while Shirley is worried she's going to be picked last. The different dynamic of the class basically reverses their role. Troy is a terrible coach as he doesn't have any authority while Shirley uses her mom skills to rise to the top of the class. The ultimate moment comes when Shirley has to pick between Troy and another character to be the coach. She's basically picking her team like how a PE student would pick their team. She picks the other student because she realizes that Troy is the weaker coach. The plot does get a happy ending after Troy decides to drop out. Shirley decides to help him become a better coach by teaching Chang how to be more athletic. The two succeed and the class instructor is impressed by this. It's a nice parody of the “kid gets picked last rises to the top” underdog story.
Community delivers a funny episode. It gives us a Dean-centric episode as he almost sells Greendale's soul to land a rich kid. It does more than that as it starts to really build Jeff and Pierce's relationship in a new direction. Troy and Shirley also bond as they face PEE together. It's an episode that is as funny as previous season Community episodes and almost has their heart. Overall, I'd say that while this has been the weakest season of Community so far it's definably on the right track in going back to the Dan Harmon quality level.
There's also a recurring plot where Abed starts his own fraternity because he believes the Dean was “shutting” it down. It was okay but...didn't really contribute anything to the episode in any manner.