Easily the biggest strength of this week’s episode of Community was its portrayal of the relationship between the characters. It understood their closeness and how much they understand each other and leap to defend each other. But, while I enjoyed the sense of camaraderie that permeated the episode, it had a very weak plot that clearly longed to be more clever than it actually is.
The episode begins with a man teaching a Grifting 101 class at Greendale that turned out to be a grift, where he just sells them expensive grifting supplies. After Jeff gets his “I told you so” moment, he’s eventually convinced to help the group get their revenge against the obnoxious Professor DeSalvo, the Grifting 101 teacher. This is the kind of episode that hinges entirely on great twists and turns and this episode just doesn’t have the story work of something like “Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design.” At times they attempted to hang a lantern on the lack of cleverness in this plot, like in the scene where they get mad at Jeff for making things up as he goes along. But, these lines felt more annoyingly transparent than clever.
In general, there weren’t enough big laughs to save the weak plot. By far my favorite moment of the episode came when Abed kept bringing up The Sting and Jeff tells him, “Why don’t you marry The Sting?” Abed replies, “Okay but when I do and we have half-Sting children and they ask me how to grift, I’m going to tell them to watch their mother, not listen to you!” That’s the kind of weird exchange of dialogue I go to Community for, but this episode was generally very light on fun dialogue. It was mostly exposition for a plot that was thin in the first place.
If you want to watch a great sitcom episode with a similar premise, check out the King of the Hill episode “The Substitute Spanish Prisoner.”