COMMUNITY 5.11 ‘G.I. Jeff’
Episode: "G.I. Jeff"
Writer: Dino Stamatopoulos
Director: Rob Schrab
Previously on "Community":
During the PaleyFest last month, one of the funniest moments came after “Community” creator Dan Harmon played the opening credit sequence of “G.I. Jeff” for the crowd and facetiously declared it to be “ratings gold!”
Of course, it was not. Harmon and company knew that. Still, I don’t think that anyone could have predicted that this would be the least watched episode of “Community,” with just 2.58 million viewers. Here’s a horrifying thought: what if this was the episode that gets “Community” canceled? What if NBC looks at these ratings and finally throws in the towel on this series?
Personally, I think that “Community” will get a sixth season even if NBC passes on a renewal. Someone will pick it up. But it’s disheartening to see this kind of passion fall so flat with the viewers. If nothing else, “G.I. Jeff” is hilarious for anyone who has ever played with G.I. Joe toys or watched the original cartoon series. It’s a loving homage that is also a tribute to “Community” itself. What other TV show could be this deliberately weird on a weekly basis?
“G.I. Jeff” doesn’t quite have the poignant emotional beats of “Community’s” other classic animated episode, “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas.” But it does give Jeff (Joel McHale) one of his more meaningful stories of the season. After an ill-advised mix of scotch and pills, Jeff awakens in the cartoon world of G.I. Joe where he has been reborn as Wingman. Jeff’s friends are also there, including Britta (Gillian Jacobs) as Buzz Kill, Abed (Danny Pudi) as Fourth Wall, Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) as Three Kids and Annie (Alison Brie) as Tight Ship.
Even this season’s recurring characters get into the mix as Cobra agents, with Buzz (Jonathan Banks) as Major Dick, Professor Duncan (John Oliver) as XimXam and his brother, with Ken Jeong’s Chang as Overkill. But my favorite bit was Jim Rash’s Dean reimagined as the Vice Cobra Assistant Commander. It’s telling that even in the mindscape of Jeff’s G.I. Joe fantasy, the Vice Cobra Assistant Commander still has a huge crush on Jeff.
The problem is that Jeff is living in a child’s fantasy with an adult’s perspective. So Wingman doesn’t see the point in letting Destro easily escape for the 500th time and he inadvertently kills a Cobra agent for the first time ever, apparently. This lands Wingman and his team a quick court marshal and a trip to the brig.
It was really cool of Hasbro to allow the actual G.I. Joe characters to appear (some of whom even have their original voice actors!), especially in light of how mercilessly the franchise is mocked in this episode. From the bloodless conflict, Cobra Commander’s eulogy and declaration of love for Destro to the amusing live action toy commercials throughout, this was a masterful parody of all things G.I. Joe.
The G.I. Joe rejects were a particularly great gag and I loved the nod to The Shawshank Redemption as Deep Dish’s long planned escape was rendered pointless immediately after he revealed what he went through to tunnel out of the brig.
All of Jeff’s friends stay true to their counterparts in the real world. Although Buzz Kill (aka fictional Britta) seems to have a greater command of therapy than the actual Britta. Abed is the same in every world. Fourth Wall comes up with the solution to Jeff’s problem so quickly that even he is impressed with himself.
When faced with the truth, Jeff initially retreats further into his fantasy. But he can’t have it all. In the world of G.I. Joe, there is no booze and there is no sex. And it was hilarious to see Cobra Commander and Duke grilling Jeff about what it was like to see a woman naked. Those are definitely the thoughts of a child.
Jeff’s ultimate escape and his live action reunion with his friends was a little too easy, but I really loved this episode. Even the PSA tag scene between Buzz Kill and Fourth Wall was perfect. If this was (by some dark twist) the episode that killed “Community” on NBC, I still admire the show’s creative team for taking a chance on this animated episode. It’s not for everyone, but it was for me.