Episode 9: Into to Felt Surrogacy
By: Carlos Uribe
Community is a show about the senior year of a group of friends attending Greendale Community College.
Community decides that it's about time to do a puppet episode. It justifies this when the episode begins with the group refusing to talk with each other. They're completely silent as they can't bear the idea to actually communicate with each other. It gets so bad that the Dean decides to actually intervene by using puppet therapy. He just happens to have puppets made out of the entire study group for them to use. While Jeff is skeptical this will work, the group decides to share the events that led up to why they refuse to talk. This basically allows the show to do a parody of The Muppet's Show and other kid shows. This could have turned out terrible but it managed to work because it used the gimmick in order to explore how the group needs each other. Now granted this meant that the viewer would have to accept that Community was doing a puppet episode. I went into this week's episode with as much an open mind as I could. I try my best not to levy any expectations on what I watch so that I can have a fair assessment of it. The idea of a Community puppet episode wasn't a completely strong one by itself and I was wary since the show-runners have yet to prove they were capable of pulling it off. I could see why some people would watch this and not want to accept it but I frankly this is silly. The Dan Harmon Community did a stop-motion Christmas special and people accepted that just fine. The concept behind the two (using imagination/puppets for therapeutically purposes) are similar and there isn't that much difference between the puppets and the stop-motion models. I might have been wary but I was willing to give it a chance.
A portion of the episode is spent on making fun of the adventures that puppets go on. It all begins when a bored study group decides that they should have an adventure to get out of a rut. They rent a hot air balloon but accidentally lift off without their balloon guide. They freak out because they have trouble controlling the balloon. It's a sequence that only works because of the puppets. Having the real actors perform the scene would have only made it look odd and there's no way that the series could have sold the plot. Using puppets on the other hand? It helps that them setting off on the hot air balloon without their guide happens while they're singing. The group tries their best to take control of the situation but they only crash land in the woods. There's a funny bit when Dean thinks he has found the problem. He thinks it's PTSD but he hasn't reached the end of their story. They meet a crazy man in the woods who gives them drug berries. These psychotropic berries make them see crazy visuals and affect their state of mind. It makes them very talkative. They share their deepest darkest secrets with each other. When they sober up and the balloon guide takes them back to Greendale, the study group is too ashamed with what they think the group now knows about each other. Only as Shirley quickly figures out, the berry might have made them talk a lot but they didn't listen to each other. She spills her secret that she accidentally left her kids at a store overnight to follow a guy who might have been Andre. She feels like a terrible mother and she feels this secret is making people judge her. That's why she was ashamed. As she quickly learns, the rest of the group had no idea.
They quickly all figure out that they had all revealed their secrets but that nobody heard them. The group is relieved until they notice that Shirley is disturbed that they all know her secret. It's pretty predictable when they all decide to share their own secrets. Jeff briefly dated a girl but ditched her when he was supposed to take her son to a ballgame. He feels like his own father because of that. Britta might be a political activist but the only thing she's ever voted for is The Voice. Troy set the Greendale Fire accidentally. Pierce never had sex with Eartha Kitt. Annie reveals that she gave Professor Cornwallis a footrub in exchange for answers to a test. The last one probably wasn't very smart to reveal in front of the Dean but he didn't seem to care much. Which is a bit odd and a little implausible but this is an episode filled with logic holes due to the puppets so it's not out of place. Their secrets allow them to become a group again. This is a nice sweet ending and it allows the series to show it's heart on it's sleeve rather than hiding it.
Into to Felt Surrogacy is actually a pretty good episode. It might not seem like it but once you get passed the puppets, you find a perfectly charming episode with a lot of heart. The adventure was a nice parody and the secrets was a nice way to show group solidarity. It helps that the episode was actually pretty funny-I think I laughed out loud more at this episode than I have at the rest of this season of Community. It still doesn't feel like the old Community but it does present a version with more heart and less subtlety. A version I could grow to like. If anything, the showrunners have proven to me that they are getting a firm handle on this show.
Abed had no secret but he didn't talk because he was mimicking the group's behavior.
Puppet Pierce had lines and revealed his secret even if live-action Pierce wasn't in the room. How did that work in the study room? Was his secret the only one they remembered?
Were they actually singing as they got on the hot air balloon in real-life?
Seriously don't try to apply logic to this week's plot.