Maybe it was simply because I adore a holiday where the meal is the main focus, but Thursday’s Thanksgiving-themed episode of Community had me ready to pull out a boom box and rap in celebration of how much I enjoyed the episode. “Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations” was definitely my favourite episode of Season 4 thus far, with jokes that had me howling, deep emotion from star Joel McHale, and a Shawkshank Redemption meets Prison Break homage, sufficiently stuffing me like a turkey with all the right fixings.
After three seasons of daddy issues, Jeff chose one of the most high-pressure, stress-inducing family holidays of the year to finally meet the man. We all knew it was doomed from the start. (Note: This is not an assessment based on past family experience. Hello, my family reading this). The casting directors deserve major praise for choosing James Brolin, real-life father of my imaginary boyfriend Josh, for the role of Papa Winger. Not only was he height appropriate, but Brolin played the long-lost patriarchal figure of Richard Castle on Castle a few weeks ago, so he had his dad cap on tight.
As soon as Jeff mentioned he had a half-brother, I was hoping and praying Nathan Fillion would be acting the part. Sadly, it was the hilarious and lovable Workaholic Adam DeVine, who had the type of psychological issues that Britta’s dreams are made of. He was slightly insane and over-the-top, but rightfully so, living with “Wingin’ It” Winger as a dad. We now know exactly where Jeff got his narcissism from. I could almost feel my oxygen source depleting as William’s ego took over and he told Jeff he should be thanking him for leaving him as a kid. Yuck.
Billy Jr. ultimately helped Jeff achieve an emotional epiphany that made him less dead inside and more “emotional and flabby,” like his half-bro. But what made this realization more special than any other time Jeff has come to an understanding was how deeply sad and touching the scene was. It was arguably the most emotional and open we’ve seen Jeff, as he described slicing his stomach open in order to fake an appendectomy in search for emotional love as a child. Ripping at my emotional heartstrings, the scene was a perfect example of the wide range of acting McHale can pull off. And that Thanksgiving meal he made for his fellow Greendale Seven? My roommate and I channeled a perfect Shirley and Annie “Awwwww!” to their little family feast.
While Jeff turned me into a weepy mess, Abed, Pierce, Troy and Annie brought the comic relief, spending Thanksgiving at Shirley’s place. Or, more specifically, Shirley’s garage, as they avoided Andre’s outspoken and opinionated family. They felt like prisoners confined to the garage, channeling The Shawshank Redemption and Prison Break while trying to essentially break out. It pains me to say this, but I have never seen Shawshank (which could make me the worst self-proclaimed film enthusiast ever). However, from what references I did get, the writers did a pretty great job portraying the classic. I have indeed seen Seasons 1-3 of Prison Break, and died when Abed revealed the blueprints of Shirley’s house on his chest. (Sorry, Danny Pudi, but I’m more of a Michael Scofield kinda gal myself!) If Community can do one thing right, it’s pay homage to pop culture, and “Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations” was right on the money.
After this pumpkin pie coma-inducing sweet episode, I cannot wait to see what Community will cook up for the Christmas episode. I think Abed spoke for all of us when hoping they do an homage to Die Hard (Dean Hard, anyone?). But whatever it is, I’ve got a strong feeling it will indeed be very cool. Very cool, cool, cool.
- “Then Pierce did white face over black face. No one was amused.” – Shirley on Pierce at Thanksgiving dinner
- “How-dean, pilgrims?” How has it taken four seasons for Community to pull this cowboy Dean pun out?!
- “I’d like to tell you Annie avoided Shirley’s doctor sister-in-law, but this ain’t no fairytale. This is Thanksgiving.” – Abed on Annie’s attempt at escaping by playing the “female problems” card
- “I feel like I’m in jail. And you know what happens to guys like me in jail? We get really into pushups, and I’m fine with the way my upper body is.” Troy’s naivity will never get old to me.
Community airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on City/NBC.