Greendale acquires the power to quantify and judge human interaction in “App Development And Condiments,” which quickly spirals out of control. Community knows how to build great concept episodes, and this one’s no exception. For goodness sakes, there are outlands you can be banished to.
- Director: Rob Schrab
- Writer: Jordan Blum & Parker Deay
- Cast: Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi, Yvette Nicole Brown, Alison Bree, Ken Jeong, Jim Rash, Jonathan Banks
Episode Title: “App Development And Condiments”
The Dean allows Greendale to be the beta testers for an app that rates people based on fictional quantifiers called meowmeowbeanz. Day One, and immediately behaviors change. Hickey is wearing a birthday hat. Abed is able to make small talk. Shirley already has the top rating of five, allowing her to wield power over others, rather than the passive aggressive suggestiveness she’s used to. Britta doesn’t like what she sees, but her advice only gets through to people when she has mustard on her face. Day Two, and a strict class hierarchy is coalescing. Jeff joins in order to thwart Shirley, and begins to work his way up to five meowmeowbeanz. He plateaus at four. By the point, there’s an enforced, Brave New World-style dress code, and a futuristic, Grecian utopia in which Shirley, Hickey, Chang, Kruger, and Abed luxuriate. But Shirley’s school-wide talent show allows Jeff to do some stand-up and make it to a five. Meanwhile, Britta’s been stuck at two meowmeowbeanz trying to take down the system from the outside. She finally relents, smears mustard on her face, and immediately becomes a proletarian demagogue. They take down the Fives even as Jeff and Shirley fight for control and respect within the group. Although Britta “Mother of Ones” Perry decides the best way forward is for everyone to become a One, Jeff gets the school to delete the phone app, ending the madness. Except for Starburns, who’s going to continue wearing his wrestling suit because he has two days left on the rental.
- MeowMeowBeanz: While not the strongest concept episode, there’s a pleasing acceleration to the madness of meowmeowbeanz. Even the name meowmeowbeanz is perfect: inherently meaningless, a calculated, cloying absurdity. We loved the insane sociological heights to which the app flung Greendale, and that Annie was immediately a Four. Because of course she was.
- La Resistance Moutarde: This has been a great season for Britta, and Gillian Jacobs wearing a beret with mustard on her face is all we could ask for in a glorious leader of the revolution. What works is her sincerity. Britta genuinely believes herself when she sputters ‘Words are my weapon!’ at a security guard manning the entrance to the Fives’ compound. He has the perfect response to her fly-by-pants bravado, too: ‘Weapons are my weapon.’ That’s gonna end up in somebody’s thesis on Community.
- Small Talk: Abed did not have a lot to do in the convulsions of meowmeow tyranny, but what he did have was strong. Some of the funniest moments were Abed’s throwaways and nods to character in light of Greendale’s campus-altering trend. He’s most comfortable with the threes – “We talk about how glad we are we aren’t Twos.” And when Britta comes to power, the way Danny Pudi delivers, “I’m just like everyone else,” with childlike rapture and a note of sinister groupthink, is perfect.
- Koogler!: Hey, we haven’t seen Mitch Hurwitz in a while as gone-to-seed babe magnet Koogler. Hooray! His tag for a campus romp movie was particularly on-the-nose, complete with kiss title card. But his presence within the rule of the Fives was a little jarring, especially when Chang, Abed, or especially Hickey could’ve taken on that role more organically.
- Surely Shirley: The point of the episode was to give Shirley some focus (yay), exposing her passive-aggressive, manipulative streak in the service of getting, as she puts it, jerks to remember she exists. The story is more concerned with the worldbuilding of a meowmeowbeanz society than it is of exploring Shirley’s reign of pointed niceness. It has good reason. The dystopian set design is inspired. But the makeup between Shirley and Jeff feels particularly forced, because not enough time was spent on Shirley’s dilemma to begin with. Her emotional desires didn’t come out of the absurdity quite as much as they needed to.
“App Development” is great fun. It’s a dive into the color-coded, college campus dystopian society we’ve seen before but never quite like this. Although the episode was supposed to highlight Shirley’s issues, it mostly focused on Britta, Jeff and Hickey wearing a birthday hat. What more do you want?
Community airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on NBC.
How many meowmeowbeanz would you give the show? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.