COMMUNITY 5.04 ‘Cooperative Polygraphy’
Episode: “Cooperative Polygraphy”
Writer: Alex Rubens
Director: Tristram Shapeero
I’ve been waiting a long time to say this, but “Community” is back. And I mean it’s really back. “Cooperative Polygraphy” had the magic comedic touch that’s been missing since the end of Dan Harmon’s original three seasons. And even the first three episodes of season five didn’t quite recapture that feeling.
“Cooperative Polygraphy” is one of the best episodes of the entire series and it’s hilarious throughout. It’s almost a fool’s errand to repeat the jokes from this episode. They were all funny, and occasionally they were poignant. More than that, the heart of this show was back… right before it was ripped from the collective chests of the former study group.
From beyond the grave, Pierce (Chevy Chase) has one more round of mind games to play with his friends. The duality of Pierce is that he loved and hated the people who were closest to him. On some level, Pierce wanted what was best for them. And on another level, Pierce wanted to destroy them.
In that regard, Pierce is successful. One of the closest bonds within the group is shattered by Pierce’s grandest gesture of love.
There are some spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t seen last night’s episode of “Community” then you should probably skip this review. But I won’t reveal how Pierce died. You’re gonna have to hear that for yourself.
Immediately after Pierce’s bizarre funeral, Jeff (Joel McHale), Britta (Gillian Jacobs). Abed (Danny Pudi), Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown), Annie (Alison Brie) and Troy (Donald Glover) decompress in the study room as they talk about the weird rituals of Pierce’s futuristic cult.
Enter Mr. Stone (Walton Goggins), the executor of Pierce’s will. At the direction of Pierce himself, Stone coerces the surviving members of the study group and Ben Chang (Ken Jeong) to submit to a polygon test to prove their innocence in his death before receiving gifts that were bequeathed to them from Pierce’s estate.
However, it’s just a ruse to force the group’s darkest secrets out into the open. Britta was high at a religious ceremony for Shirley’s son, Shirley tricked Britta into eating meat, Abed catfished Annie into thinking she had an online admirer while she horded money from Abed and Troy. Jeff stole Britta’s panties as a trophy while Troy and Abed stole his Netflix account. And as for Chang… he masturbated “EVERYWHERE!”
To the credit of the episode’s writer, Alex Rubens, these revelations are both surprising and perfectly in character for each of them. Of course Jeff is a narcissist who would rather look at himself in the mirror than be with a woman. And of course Abed would plant tracking devices in each member of the group. In one of the best gags of the episode, Abed asks (in all seriousness) whether the group is angry with him or hungry because he honestly can’t tell.
These are the kind of revelations that can ruin friendships and send people screaming out of a room. But the group preservers in an attempt to beat Pierce at his own game and get whatever is coming to them.
After all of that, every member of the group gets a cylinder of Pierce’s frozen sperm, a personalized gift and few moving words of encouragement. Except for Abed. He gets only sperm because Pierce thought he was crazy. Oddly enough, Abed smiles when he gets the sperm as he seems to appreciate Pierce’s assessment for what it is.
But for Troy, Pierce’s gift is everything that he has ever dreamed about: millions and millions of dollars. But only if he embarks upon a solo sailing voyage around the world in Pierce’s boat, The Childish Tycoon. I loved that reference to Donald Glover’s rapping alter ego, Childish Gambino.
The entire group is stunned by Troy’s decision to accept Pierce’s challenge. But who could argue against the chance of a lifetime? Even Abed mutters a half-hearted “cool, cool, cool” in an attempt to voice his approval, only for the polygraph tech to dismiss it as a lie.
Thus, Pierce wins. After next week’s episode, Troy and Abed’s partnership will be no more and we may not see Glover back on the show again. Although I hope Glover comes back at some point. This series simply won’t be the same without him. Tying Troy’s departure to Pierce’s death is actually a masterstroke. Not everyone will miss Pierce, but everyone will miss Troy.
With Chevy Chase off the show (seemingly for good), Goggins was Pierce’s voice in this episode and he captured even the small details like mispronouncing Abed’s name (in the same way that Pierce did) and by constantly hammering the group with Pierce’s words. It was a great guest performance that was made even greater in the tag scene as Mr. Stone shared his real persona with the group.
The real Mr. Stone strikes me as someone who shares Pierce’s lack of awareness. While the group remains stunned by Troy’s decision, Stone goes on and on about what he was feeling during the polygraph test before sharing his idea for a movie about a fictionalized version of himself who is so handsome that people can’t focus on telling the truth.
But the truth about Mr. Stone is that he can’t pick up on the fact that no one in the group seems to like him. He wants to hang out with them every week but they look like they want to get away from him as soon as they can. Once Stone reveals how Pierce really died, he closes out the episode with a shout for “shots!” That was a perfect way to end this story.
Even if the group decides to ignore the revelations of this episode, the fallout will be felt for some time to come. Glover’s departure means that “Community” is losing one of its best performers. But this was such a satisfying episode that it’s hard to worry about that now. For this moment, “Community” has rediscovered its comedic voice and it’s a beautiful thing to see and hear again.
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