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COMMUNITY Celebrates the "Beta Male"

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Written by : published Saturday 1st March 2014

The latest installment of NBC's Community, the season's mid-point, is titled "Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality." Most of the study group attends a charity show where Professor Duncan (John Oliver) intends to take advantage of a vulnerable Britta (Gillian Jacobs), but both find themselves confronted with self-reflection instead. Meanwhile, Abed (Danny Pudi) bonds with Professor Hickey (Jonathan Banks).

Professor Duncan has always been a bit of a flat character, which makes sense, since he's only a recurring part, rather than one of the personalities at the center of the show. His presence has increased this season, however, and with that comes a bit of depth. Before, he's been a lecherous jerk, but now we see the compassionate, human side of him. I really thought Duncan would sleep with Britta, but that would have sabotaged his development, knocking him back to what he was before this season.

Community loves point out absurdities right in front of our faces. The friendship between Duncan and Jeff (Joel McHale) is one of those. We're told they're friends, but we never see it. They aren't that nice to one another, and they don't help each other out much. "Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality" corrects that. We still don't know what brought them together or why they've stayed close, but we see Jeff try to help Duncan with Britta, and then Duncan stays away from Britta at least partly for Jeff, instead choosing to spend time with a guy who's down.

Jeff's feelings for Britta have long lingered in the background. Last year, amid a weak overall season, the two shared some really great bits. Now, that attraction is brought out again when Britta is admired by her peers. This does make Jeff a little shallow, but it's nice to see him pull back, both out of affection for Duncan and because preying on Britta for the wrong reasons would be bad. They may still end up together, but probably not, and this was not the right time for it.

Britta herself also demonstrates growth. In the past, she'd rush to some guy's arms to make herself feel better when humiliated in front of former colleagues. Or, at minimum, she'd need a good friend to cheer her up. She and Duncan aren't really pals, so he just provides a ride home. There, she engages in introspection, and while this happens off-screen, it's advancement for her. Probably temporarily, somewhat false advancement in a way, knowing Britta, but still, baby steps are good.

Back at Greendale, Abed wanders into Hickey's study before heading to a movie. One has to assume he's lonely and that's why Abed seeks companionship, as he certainly doesn't have any real purpose for going to Hickey. With Troy gone, Abed does seem adrift, his nerdy antics more pathetic these days, and Abed has to sense that, despite his emotional handicaps. Hickey is the only one around, so Abed seeks that connection to another human being.

This has to prove Abed is not too far gone to save. As much as Community viewers enjoy odd Abed, he can never have a happy ending while remaining so detached from reality. This plot has long been building, at least the past couple of years, and with enabler Troy gone, Abed has no choice but to actually confront it.

Hickey, on the other hand, also lacks many bonds to others. He's suffered, to be sure, but he's also soulful, with a creative side that he caters to. He won't put up with Abed's crap, but he does seem willing to help. Through assisting Abed, Hickey might also find purpose in himself, as he doesn't really seem to like teaching at this point. This relationship could lead to real meaning for both.

Then there's the Chang (Ken Jeong) subplot in which he may or may not have gone to the theater and, while there, may or may not have interacted with ghosts. "Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality" doesn't tell us what happened with Chang, but one might think he's having a bit of a breakdown while going through a divorce; at least, that's one theory from the clues presented. At least Chang's delusions aren't mean-spirited this time, but while funny, this unexplained side story is also sad at its core.

I'd rate "Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality" as a middling Community episode. I enjoy it because of the good character stuff, much better than anything last season, but it is lacking any real excitement or outrageous humor (save for the hilarious Duncan / Dean (Jim Rash) tag). It's a more somber note, as much of this season has been, one heralding change for the better, but in incremental movements.

Community airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

About the author JeromeWetzelTV


Jerome Wetzel is a huge fan of stories, in both books and television. He writes TV reviews and fiction. He currently posts articles for TheTVKing, Seat42F, and BlogCritics, as well as his own personal blog, as well as writing fiction. His website is www.jeromewetzel.com Follow him on twitter @JeromeWetzelTV

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