RECAP: Community, Parks and Recreation, The Office

Community, “Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps”

It’s only been two weeks since our last seven-part narrative, but it’s Halloween, so anything goes! And in the case of Community, anything goes. This is what I love about Halloween television. It’s an excuse to dress characters up in funny costumes and have them do stuff that’s completely out of the norm. Even if the story is wildly experimental, we accept it because we know that things will probably return back to normal next week. I think that’s one of the reasons that I find Community so appealing-they treat every week like it’s a Halloween episode. So when Halloween does come around, I think there’s this additional pressure to step up their game. Last year’s “Epidemiology” hit the mark—how did this year’s match up?

Britta’s throwing a pre-party and her motives are anything but innocent.  From the anonymous psych test that she had everyone take, she got the results back that one of them was a potential killer. And like any good, responsible psych student, she personally takes it on to evaluate each member of the study group to use her inexperienced psychology training to diagnose them. (I was a psych major in college—I had to deal with my fair share of Brittas in class.) They gather around and begin to tell scary stories. Sidebar: Yay, we get the Halloween opening credits again!

Britta starts off the group with a twist on the classic hook-for-a-hand story. She’s making out with Jeff in the back of a car when they hear about the creeper on the radio. Naturally, the most sensible thing to do is to step outside of the car. Back in real life, Abed calls them out on her story errors. He then proceeds to tell the most logical scary story ever. It involves kissing, a cabin, a loose asylum, and him and Britta standing back-to-back in the middle of the room, knives at the draw. (Favorite part: “I’m feeling especially fertile tonight.” “Mmm. So am I.”)

Annie opines that her story would be the best one. It has shades of Twilight AND Beauty and the Beast. Jeff is a vampire that she teaches how to read. Britta is the blood sacrifice that Jeff keeps in the closet. That’s an interesting commentary on how Annie views Britta and Jeff’s relationship. When Jeff can’t deny his true nature, Annie can’t deny hers and turns into a full-blown werewolf, completely with crappy CGI. She then verbalizes the rest of her story, which would be perhaps a tad too graphic for network television. Her version is legitimately disturbing.

Troy’s story involves him and Abed as top gun fighter pilots that stumble upon the laboratory of a mad scientist. Pierce, I mean, the mad scientist sews them together. Not only will they never be apart, but they also have ESP now. They use their new powers to give the mad scientist his butt on his chest. “I have boobs I can touch all day,” he retaliates, but they already thought of that. Instead, he has to live with…feet-hands! (Insert evil laughter here.) For a scary story, I was sure giggling pretty hard.

The stories from Pierce and Shirley get even further removed from real life. Pierce’s is like “some episode of a TV show that we’re all too young to know” and Shirley’s is a cautionary tale of the rapture and the dangers of Pilates. (The dean gets two delightful appearances in this episode—first as a Sexy Witch and second as the Sexy Devil.) Just as everyone is about to leave, Britta confesses what she was really up to. Jeff steps in with his story about a maniac killer that happens to be Chang. Upon further examination of the results, they find out that Britta totally Britta’d the test. (In the beginning of this episode, they revealed the ending in a move of "You were the killer all along!" That’s what Jeff originally posited that she Britta'd the test.) She entered them in the wrong way up, which means that there are six crazies and one sane person in the group. They decide to leave it be, comforted with knowing that at least ONE of them is normal.  Happy Halloween, says the screen text, from Shirley, Pierce, Jeff, Troy, Annie, Britta and…Abed. He’s the only normal one in the group. Most people would classify Abed as the one with a real-life diagnosis of Asperger’s, but in the case of Britta’s test, his disorder helps him to cope with the element of fantasy in his real life. It’s only logical.

Parks and Recreation, “Meet N Greet”

Half Halloween episode and half campaign trail episode—I’m not sure which one is scarier. In the Halloween half of Pawnee, April and Andy are throwing an awesome house party. They have everything—blood capsules, vampire teeth, and blood orphans. It’s okay, Andy, we don’t know what that means either. Halloween is SO April’s kind of holiday. Ben (who still lives with April and Andy in case you've forgotten) didn’t know about the party in advance, but he’s so non-confrontational that he resolves to stay in his room. This tactic has helped his parents to stay divorced for the past 36 years.

Sherlock Traeger deducts the costumes at the party. Here’s the run-down. Donna is a police woman, April is a sumo wrestler that’s lost weight, Jerry is Mr. Potato Head, Andy is UFC champion Chuck Liddell, Ron is a pirate (it’s his Halloween costume), and Ann is an eggplant. Oh, and Ben is going as lame—this from a man with a realistic Batman costume in his closet. Ann and Ron team up to fix Andy and April’s house during the party. I know I just complained about their pairing a few weeks ago, but this was cute to watch Ann as his adorable assistant/vegetable. I loved her delivery of “It’s just a fuse, people! Just a fuse.”

Ben tries his best to keep Orin out of his room, but Andy and April unleash their combined sibling powers on him. After an evening of being locked in a headhold, Ben snaps and accidentally breaks Andy’s nose. It’s no secret that I’m in love with Ben and I thought that was kind of hot. And they decided to keep up the Chris and Milicent storyline, which continues to further irritate Jerry. It’s only a matter of time before Chris gets his nose broken…or any other appendages.

Meanwhile, back at the party for Entertainment 720 Leslie’s small business platform, she’s working the room the only way she knows how—by slamming salad. The effort to woo Mark Kernston of Kernston’s Rubber Nipples isn’t going as planned. Tom takes every effort to step in and take the stage and I mean that quite literally. Leslie summed it up best when she said that she didn’t believe in using the word “butthead” lightly so it didn’t lose its meaning. Therefore, she can say without hesitation that Tom was being a real dick.

In what must surely be the most moving hot tub scene in the history of television, Leslie first gets into the hot tub with Tom to push him under the water a few times, only to join him in commiserating the bankruptcy of Entertainment 720. I don’t think any of us didn’t see that coming, but I’m sure that none of us anticipated that the reveal would take place with Leslie Knope wearing a suit jacket in a Jacuzzi attached to the back of a truck. The whole thing was beautifully written, well-acted, and freaking hilarious all at once. Post-waffles, Tom shows Leslie the video that he made of her life. 1975 was a tumultuous year that brought us Watergate, Vietnam, and the departure of Peter Gabriel from Genesis. It also brought us Leslie Barbara Knope and for that I’m incredibly grateful.

Three other parts that I particularly enjoyed

1. The continuation of Mark Kernston’s terrible hair cut—the bit started as a side comment from Leslie, to an admission from Mark that he cuts his own hair and culminated in a bribe from Tom Haverford in the form of Mark's very own hair clipping set.

2. I loved everything about the ridiculous Entertainment 720 party, right down to the rugs with Tom’s face on them. I also enjoyed Tom’s throwaway line of “Jean-Ralphio, stop crying!”

3. April’s glee at tossing Chris’ keys in the trash is, like, fulfilling a dream of mine. Seriously, does anyone even like that guy anymore?

The Office, “Spooked”

Sometimes The Office will do an episode reminiscent of one of its early episodes and I’m tempted to just talk about how the early episodes were so great. Case in point—Halloween. You probably don’t want to hear me talk about how much I miss Three-hole Punch Jim, so I’ll try and keep that to a minimum.

At the very least, we get plenty of costume time this week. First, Andy decides to screen costumes ahead of time. Gorillas are not acceptable and neither is the idea of both Kelly and Meredith dressing up as Kate Middleton. We also get the flashback of Toby confiscating Dwight’s costume weapons over the years and that was pretty funny. At the actual party, we’ve got Darryl, Kevin, and Jim dressing up as James, Wade, and Bosh from the Miami Heat. I’m sure that’s a really funny sports reference and I don’t really get it.

The A-plot is a somewhat baffling story about how Andy keeps hurting Erin’s feelings. It’d be sad enough as is, but it stings even more because Erin is dressed as the Wendy’s girl. With every disparaging remark from Andy, Erin’s freckled face gets sadder and sadder. Gosh, it’s heartbreaking just thinking about it. And, uh, Andy’s apparently been dating somebody? I’m reluctantly curious to see where this goes.

Jim and Pam have a mock-fight about whether or not ghosts exist and it’s kind of boring. Robert California finds out everyone’s darkest fears and turns them into the weirdest ghost story ever, and you guys, I just watched Community, so that’s saying something. I think he needs to take Britta’s test.

The best part is Dwight’s interaction with Burt California, Robert’s son. He’s both a hurricane tracker and a fan of StarCraft, so he and Dwight really hit it off. By the end, Burt goes back to the Annex (where everyone is dressed like skeletons) and fires Toby. He’s the CEO’s son, which must count for something. The office ends up having a great party in spite of all the weirdness that’s gone on and I guess that’s what the true spirit of Halloween is all about.