Goodbye, Pierce Hawthorne, we knew ye far too well. “Cooperative Polygraphy” is Pierce at his finest, funniest and most disruptive. Only Community can execute that from beyond the grave.
- Director: Tristram Shapeero
- Writer: Alex Rubens
- Cast: Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi, Yvette Nicole Brown, Alison Bree, Ken Jeong, Jim Rash, Donald Glover
Episode Title: “Cooperative Polygraphy”
The gang returns from Pierce’s funeral only to find Mr. Hawthorne isn’t quite finished with them. He’s requested a private inquest into the study group to see if any of them murdered him. Everyone, plus Chang, has to submit to a polygraph test. The first two rounds reveal all the secrets they’ve kept from each other. It’s everything from Troy and Abed using Jeff’s Netflix account to Annie dosing the group with drugs to get them through an exam. One last time, Pierce manipulates the group just enough to where they’ll start tearing at each other like a bucket of hungry ferrets. But he also reminds them that at their best, they’re worth their failures and lies. Pierce’s gifts to the group aren’t perfect, but the messages he leaves are surprisingly touching. Most notably, he gifts Troy with his millions in stock options if, and only if, he sails a boat around the world. Troy agrees to do so. The group heads to a bar afterwards, where Pierce’s lawyer (Walton Goggins) finally lets loose and drunkenly pitches the plot of his handsome polygrapher movie.
- The Grey: The episode is a Netflix account of jokes, but the ones about Jeff were particularly strong. Abed once took a shower and was able to see the secret ‘you’re special’ message on his mirror; his drawer full of stuff he’s stolen from women? “They have to be won in battle.” All of the humor here comes from how well developed these characters are.
- The Polygraph Peanut Gallery: The lawyer and the polygraph technician were perfectly timed inside the rhythm of the group’s banter, and the episode got mileage out of different ways to catch lies. Annie walks right into one and then asks, “Why did I even try?” Later on, Troy’s response to getting called out is to yell “Silence, wench!” And all hail Walton Goggins as Pierce’s inquest lawyer. His character had an appropriate amount of oddity and menace, but calibrated for comedy.
- The Heart of a Hero: Besides being a surprisingly sincere sendoff for Pierce, “Cooperative Polygraphy” also introduces the boat Troy will sail off on. What’s even better is that Community makes the move feel logical for the character. Troy may be the messiah of air-conditioning repair (thus explaining the polar vortex?), but he’s been pretty directionless for a season and a half. Having that opportunity for growth and adventure come from Pierce, even though it splinters the study group, rings true.
- Self-Gratification in Totality: Ken Jeong is back to basics this season, and it’s fantastic. What little he had to do – storm in and storm out of the study room – he executes well. Chang’s return and ‘confession,’ was hilarious, but the little platitude he gives afterwards wasn’t quite. He should of just done his business and gotten out – like he has everywhere else on campus.
- Dehydration: The tag at a bar gave our lawyer a chance to shed his Mr. Stone exterior and come closer to Goggins. It was fun, although his last “Shots!” was weirdly protracted and the drunk humor stands out as easier than the rest of the episode. But Pierce died masturbating, as we all knew he would. Bless.
- Fun For Friends: The beat about Troy and Abed’s secret handshake actually coming off a video blog isn’t bad. We’re just upset about it.
“Cooperative Polygraphy” is that special episode of Community that manages to do ALL THE THINGS! It’s deeply and consistently funny. It takes a concept and runs it far past the finish line to somewhere new and surprising. It understands these characters well enough to take them to messy, sharp-edged emotional places and it shows Harmon’s (through Pierce’s), compassion for his surrogate family. iPod Nanos and frozen sperm for everyone!
Community airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.
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