Review: COMMUNITY S4E10, Intro To Knots (Or, When Exposition On Betrayal Betrays The Funny)

U.S. Editor; Los Angeles, California (@benumstead)
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Review: COMMUNITY S4E10, Intro To Knots (Or, When Exposition On Betrayal Betrays The Funny)
For the four people that read these Community reviews on a regular basis: Apologies for being late. Perhaps we're past the point where doing a review this week feels relevant, or perhaps it's just that I was so underwhelmed by last night's episode I don't have a very compelling angle to take on this season's Christmas episode.

After the fanciful and zany claymation adventures of Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas in season 2 and the Glee-bashing of last season's Regional Holiday Music, Intro To Knots is one tame Christmas episode, which might be okay if it worked as an episode, but themed, seasonal or otherwise, it's something of a dud.

Jeff is hosting the study group's first holiday party outside of school. Since Pierce is in counseling with his brother Gilbert, they invite Chang to the party. Because of her fear that Professor Cornwallis is giving the group an F in their collective history report, Annie also invites him in the hope that showing him a good time will convince him that their grade should be changed. Things take a rather quick turn for the worse, Abed (who was hoping he would get some play on a Die Hard Christmas this year) gets cozy as our audience surrogate as the group plods through an exposition heavy evening vaguely reminiscent of say an Alfred Hitchcock flick from the mid-40s (par example: Rope and its faux-long takes/hidden cuts).

As much as it's fun to see Malcolm McDowell turn up the sinister, Intro To Knots gets so caught up in the thematics of betrayal, loyalty and blah blah blah that it becomes dangerously serious as to become just bland. There's a lot of posturing, much ado about archetypes and a Jeff Winger speech on how selfish, broken people like themselves will always forgive each other because they're unified in being selfish and broken. Okay, we get it. I'm not quite sure what this episode needed for it to really work, but I do know I didn't laugh but twice and that was in quick order: Abed, wearing a bloody and burnt tanktop ala John McClane, describes Professor Cornwallis as creepy, with Troy then stating " If there's a human version of Scrooge McDuck that guy is it."

Perhaps we haven't seen enough of McDowell in the role to really care about his presence, but I am not sure the utter boredom that I experienced with this episode stemmed from that. After all we've had plenty of characters waltz in, their sole purpose to sabotage the group's loyalty to itself.  And while the stakes for everyone failing History are a pretty big deal (Jeff not graduating early, Annie and Shirley not getting the grade they need for one of them to become valedictorian), I'm not so sure we as the audience ever really identify with, or root for these characters in these particular ways to truly care.

So, it's a sloppy, sub-par episode that expounds too much for it's own good. Okay, I can live with that. What I'd really like to talk about is the ending tag where Abed wonders about what is happening in the Darkest Timeline. We cut to the one-armed Winger defending a Hannibal Lecter-ish Annie in court. In true Winger fashion (darkest timeline or otherwise), Jeff wins over the court, gets Annie free, and as they embrace he declares, "Let's now join the others so we can destroy the Prime Time Line!" My concern here is that this is not just a simple visit to Abed's imagination and that the writers will, despite a more tame Season 1 attitude this year, somehow integrate another Darkest Timeline plot that I feel would be far more disruptive and unneeded over anything else. Now don't get me wrong, I think Remedial Chaos Theory as an episode is one of the greatest in the show's history, but I am of the mind that it should be left at just that... an episode. 

Meanwhile, Chang makes another sinister phone call, declaring that his attempt at getting the study group expelled has failed. So... is Chang really working with the Dean of City College or just acting on his own crazy whim? If he's working with the other Dean, what's the point in trying to get the study group expelled? Is it just to upset our Dean Pelton? Perhaps I am overreaching with questions at this point, but that's more or less because I haven't been amused by these plot elements this season, namely because they feel so tacked on. Though with three episodes left in the season now is the time to wonder what they plan to do with all this. I'm in the camp of "wait-and-see", but I can tell you after a string of some good to excellent episodes, I'm once again feeling on the fence about the nature and quality of the show.

Random Thoughts And Observations:

- So Chevy Chase quit the show with two episodes left to shoot, and we've just had two where he is absent, so by all accounts Pierce will be in the rest of the season.

- That's it. That's all I've got.  

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communnitymalcolm mcdowellnbcEvan SorlienScott AshSamuel AshdownJustin CowanNick FerrucciTito HermosilloShortComedy

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dx_xbApril 20, 2013 6:26 AM

Apology accepted

ColinJApril 20, 2013 6:57 AM

An episode like this can be forgiven when the show has 22 episodes a season.

But with this new truncated season it's just not forgivable.

Ben UmsteadApril 20, 2013 7:35 AM

Good point. As it stands though I don't think we have to be too concerned about there not being a 5th season, so I'm willing to let it slide for the moment. Now if the next three are on this level, well... then we have a problem.

Jedi4life2003April 21, 2013 4:33 PM

I am only stabbing in the dark here, but I got the impression that Chang was communicating with the Darkest Time Line's group, which is very far-fetched and ridiculous but would sort of make sense as they are the only ones that would care enough to want them expelled in my opinion

Ben UmsteadApril 21, 2013 8:25 PM

That idea unto itself is actually all kinds of awesome. Chang finally feels accepted into the inner fold and all. The question herein is how could such an idea be pulled off well? I guess that is always the question, but ya know...