Community 609 recap/ review
"Community" spoilers below.
After finding second life on Yahoo! Screen, Dan Harmon’s “Community” may have found a perfect niche in its new home. Deep into its first season on Yahoo’s streaming service, “Community” continues with sharp humor, outstanding premises/ concepts, and terrific guest appearances. The series’ quality doesn’t end this week as another concept episode focuses on flimflamming in particular relation to the 1973 George Roy Hill picture The Sting and features a guest spot from British comedic actor Matt Berry (“The IT Crowd,” The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water). “Grifting 101” immediately lets the viewer know that the upcoming episode will parody The Sting as ragtime music based on Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer” plays over a sepia-toned illustration of the group. Everybody looks at the new course catalog, except Jeff, who claims its appeal has departed now that he no longer has student status. He compares his Greendale experience to diabetes, prompting Chang to list legitimate symptoms which lead Elroy to point out that Chang really might have an illness. Annie interjects after she discovers a class listing called “Basic Grifting” and asks if they should all learn how to be grifters together. They all agree to take the class except for Jeff, who says he’s an experienced grifter already. Abed announces the necessary class materials, one of which is a grifting suitcase. Jeff points out that this is part of the grift as well, but nobody listens to him. Even the opening credits played with a ragtime influence.
Elroy, Abed, Britta, Chang and Annie sit in class when their professor, Roger De Salvo (Matt Berry), walks in the door. He introduces the class and the material after missing the hat rack following two tosses of the same hat, leading to an exercise which solely involves passing a brief case back and forth. After class, the five of them meet Jeff in the cafeteria where he eats lunch. Annie admits the class itself is a grift on behalf of the group before they ask for Jeff’s help to grift a grifter. Jeff turns down their offer and leaves, thinking he’ll probably get along with their new professor. When he enters his office, Jeff finds Roger sitting behind his desk and drinking his liquor before Roger introduces himself. Jeff boots Roger out of his desk before divulging that he, too, is a grifter. Their viewpoints on grifting differ greatly as their debate turns nasty and Jeff excuses himself before Roger talks to himself in a pocket mirror.
In the cafeteria, Abed and Annie practice trading briefcases while the other three contemplate the class. Jeff appears to agree to their earlier proposal. Now that he’s spoken with Roger, Jeff doesn’t care for his opinions and wants to retaliate with a grift. They celebrate, collect their briefcases and exit the cafeteria. “The Set-Up” begins in grifting class the next day when a suspicious messenger delivers a note telling Elroy that his aunt died while vacationing in Africa and that the local government seized the million dollars she left him. Roger makes Elroy stay after class and correctly guesses that Jeff Winger is behind all the grifting. We follow Roger to the teacher’s lounge where he confronts Jeff about the grift that the gang is trying to pull on him. He insults them for amateurs as a man suspiciously announces his departure. Jeff notices a lottery ticket under the man’s mug and agrees to share it with Roger. However, the new teacher correctly identifies the man as Elroy’s mysterious messenger from class before Frankie enters to interrupt and collect all the alcohol in the lounge. The camera continues following Roger when he enters the bar that Britta tends. She announces him as a grifter to the patrons as he takes a stool at the bar to chat with her about Jeff. She asks him what it will cost to make him leave as we transition to Jeff secretly meeting the group in a storage room at Greendale.
Jeff announces Roger took the bait; however, the group quickly calls him out on his inability to grift. He admits as much and suggests they all watch The Sting on Abed’s laptop. When the film ends, they compare notes. Some complain, but they all agree that it’s impossible to imitate a movie grift in real life because it involves construction and a hundred co-conspirators. Roger interrupts from nowhere and belittles the group for grifting him. Britta punches Roger’s nose and chases him out into the hallway where he slips on wet floor and falls down a flight of stairs. “The Payoff” takes place in the Dean’s office where Dean Pelton accidentally counts stacks of money instead of the correct amount of money that the school owes Roger for injuries sustained in his accident. He’s forced to take the money out of the briefcase. Frankie instead counts the money as the injured grifter taunts Greendale. Britta takes the blame and the Dean expels her for it. The others speak on Britta’s behalf before Roger wheels out the door in his wheelchair. Britta meets Roger in a room to split the money from the accident scam they just staged. Britta kisses him deeply (and suspiciously) before sending him on his way. As he sings in a hysterically funny voice down the hallway, Roger realizes that his briefcase was swapped out during the kiss for one with stacks of cash-shaped newspaper.
The grifted grifter spots Abed and Britta down the hall and begins to wheel for them until Leonard, dressed like a bellhop, cuts him off with a trolley full of briefcases which forces Roger to seek another path. He turns to find Garrett leading a briefcase parade with Abed and Britta marching toward the back of the line. Leonard flips him off as Roger exits the wheelchair and jogs for the cafeteria where the group confronts him alongside Officer Cackowski. The grifter demands his money before they point out that he can walk perfectly fine now. Cackowski draws all the lines to indicate that Roger hasn’t the proverbial leg on which to stand. The group makes the grifting professor admit he was properly grifted or else he’ll owe the school fifty grand. Cackowski offers to let Roger press charges if he can even figure out which specific ones those would be. Frankie starts a “Hot Dogs!” chant as Chang realizes he was never in on the grift because he can’t be trusted.
The credits tag featured the seasonal “Spin-off” gag and starred writer Ryan Ridley as the man who played the suspicious messenger and coffee drinker. Jeff Winger saved him from a near-fatal lifting accident at the gym and now he serves Jeff, hoping to one day finally repay the debt as if he were a gungan. The references to The Sting were spot-on this week with the ragtime theme and title cards, but the show seriously missed an homage opportunity by not showing Abed and Jeff sharing the iconic finger-down-the-nose slide from the classic film. One can’t help but lament that the premise perhaps lent itself better to the old cast of Troy, Shirley, and Pierce as Frankie hardly factored in because it’s difficult to believe she’d allow such a course as “Basic Grifting” in the first place. Matt Berry’s zany voice, immaculate timing, and flamboyant characterization lent itself well to the part of a ridiculous professor of grifting.