For what was the penultimate Thursday of the television season (I think), last night’s television highlights were fairly unspectacular. This does not bode well for sending us off into the summer television doldrums.
It wasn’t that last night’s episode of “Community” was bad (unpossible!), it was just something of a letdown after last week’s brilliant, best sitcom episode of the season. But, with the season ending, they had to wind down the school year, which meant fewer movie references and more storyline development. It was bizarre, too, that no mention was made of Jeff and Brita’s hook-up. The episode, instead, focused on the Spanish final. Turns out, Señor Chang — like Jeff — is also a fraud; he had no teaching degree, and everything he learned about Spanish came from phrases he picked up on Sesame Street (“Word of advice: If an Asian man says he’s a Spanish teacher, it’s not racist to ask for proof.”)
Annie, in turn, ratted out Chang, hoping that if the entire study group failed the Spanish final with their new instructor that they’d be forced to repeat it and the study group would stick together another semester. That ploy backfired and nearly got Annie kicked from the group, but in the end, they naturally pulled together and passed the Spanish final, which was considerably easier than they expected, thanks to the fact that Pierce slept with the new Spanish teacher. Chang, meanwhile, was booted as the Spanish instructor, but he will be returning next semester as a student, which suggests that Ken Jeong may be an even bigger part of the show (although, I’m not sure his character will be as funny as an equal).
There was also a Good Will Hunting subplot between Troy and Abed, but it didn’t actually work that well, save for the amusing choice of music in their scenes together.
Parks and Recreation
Greg Daniels is doing the opposite on “Parks and Recreation” of what he’s doing on “The Office.” Instead of broadening the characters, he’s progressively humanizing them on “Parks and Rec,” making them warmer and more relatable. Andy’s not such a buffoon anymore, so you felt for him when April ditched him for the Ralph Machio douche, when she thought that Andy was backsliding toward Anne, who dumped Mark, who is now kind of in no-man’s land as far as his character is concerned. Without Anne, he’s superfluous to the cast.
I don’t know if that plays into the welcome appearance of both Rob Lowe and, especially, Adam Scott, a former 18-year-old mayor turned budget slasher who’s developing a thing for Leslie (he’s also a series regular on the phenomenally funny “Party Down”). Anne, meanwhile, got ridiculously drunk and, besides confessing her subconscious love for Andy to Andy, ended up making out with Rob Lowe. Both Scott and Lowe, it is my understanding, will become series’ regulars, which may or may not spell the end of Mark, at least once his inevitable jealousy arc ends (that’s just speculation; I’ve heard nothing in the trades suggesting that Paul Schneider is leaving the show, though given the economics of a low-rated sitcom bringing in a high-priced Rob Lowe and another regular in Adam Scott, it’d make sense that one or more characters may get excised, and the series arc — wherein drastic cuts are going to have to be made to Pawnee’s budget — gives Greg Daniels an easy way to drop Schneider).
Putting that aside, the nicest moment of the night, actually, came when Ron — a reluctant father figure to April — attempted to show a little sympathy for her. It was a really sweet gesture, something that “The Office” has apparently forgotten how to do this season, save for Jim and Pam’s wedding and Andy’s rushed courtship with Erin (which has seemingly stalled).
Anyway, “Parks and Rec” wound its way toward a cliffhanger — a government shut down that looks likely to extend into the season finale and beyond.
“The Office” has flat-lined. Last night’s episode focused on Michael’s infidelity. The entire office discovered that Michael was “the other man,” and tried to scold, hector, and judge him out of his relationship with Donna. Andy went so far as to take Michael to a high-school baseball game, where the husband was a coach, and forced Michael to confront him (which gave rise to one of the only decent lines of the night, when the husband mistook Andy and Michael for husbands. “No,” Andy said. “”But we’re gay for baseball.” Michael briefly went to the dark side, and at one point inspired Ryan to go after what he wanted, regardless of what people thought of him, leading toward his small exchange with Erin.
Ryan: “I think you’re attractive. And I wanna sleep with you.”
Erin: “What about Kelly?”
Ryan: “You read my mind.”
Erin: “Is this a joke?”
That was, sadly, the highlight of the episode. Meanwhile, Pam and Jim were exhausted after their baby kept them up all night, which culminated in them sleeping in a hidden away spot of the warehouse, where they unfortunately we’re privy to the sex sounds of Dwight and Angela, who brokered an agreement through a mediator to have sex five times as part of their surrogacy contract (Dwight, however, abused his testicles in the hopes of killing his swimmers).
A spectacularly lackluster episode, though in the end, they did set up the season finale: It looks like the defective printers are going to sink Dunder Mifflin (and the new owners) into a public relations nightmare, which will probably culminate in another new owner. Wishful thinking, perhaps, but it’d be nice if Jan and David Wallace could swoop in and take over the company: Michael needs some sort of check. There’s no longer any constraints on his character.
“30 Rock” was probably the highlight of Thursday night’s television. Liz Lemon, after realizing that she’ll never find her astronaut Mike Dexter, revisited some old boyfriends, including Jon Hamm (who now has hooks, God bless his stupidity). In the end, however, she had to settle for Wesley Snipes (the return of Michael Sheen!), who happens to need a green-card marriage. And after Liz tried to proposition a Plushy (a man who likes to dress up as team mascot and yiff with other mascots), Liz agreed to marry Wesley.
Meanwhile, Jack was still debating between Elizabeth Bank’s Avery and Julianne Moore’s terrible Boston accent. While Avery was laid up “in a fenced-in area in the Adirondacks” experiencing her yearly menstrual cycle, Jack had sex with Nancy, but then revealed that he was two-timing her during mass at Floyd’s wedding. Tune in next week for the not-so-exciting conclusion, wherein he gets neither Nancy or Avery because both Banks and Moore are too expensive to do another extended arc next season.
The best subplot of the night belonged to Tracy, who was set to take the lead in Garfield 3: Feline Groovy before revisiting his childhood neighborhood, where all of his repressed memories resurfaced:
As is wont to happen in “Survivor,” the last two (sometimes three) episodes fall into a certain predictability once alliances solidify and the numbers game takes priority. Once Parvati won immunity last night, and knowing that Sandra also had an immunity idol (and it was the last time she could play it), it became rather apparent that Rupert was going home, although the editors did a decent job of trying to throw off our scent. It looked, briefly, like Russell was going to form an alliance with the two remaining heroes, but Rupert sealed his own fate by ratting out Sandra, which was seriously dumb, considering that Sandra — again — offered up Russell’s head and again the heroes managed to botch the situation. Meanwhile, the editors also did a nice job of highlighting how annoying Rupert could be so that, in the end, when he was booted it didn’t feel so devastating (Jeff’s “Survivor” blog last week, where he ranted about Rupert’s hypocrisy, also helped matters).
At this point, the winner of Villains vs. Heroes almost feels foregone. Russell is definitely on the outs with Parvati and Sandra, and Parvati has the numbers to boot Russell. If Russell doesn’t win immunity in the next two challenges, I suspect he’s gone, and the final three will likely be Sandra, Parvati and Jerri. At this point, it doesn’t really matter: If Parvati makes it to the final three (and this looks like a season where there will be three contestants in the final tribal council) then Parvati wins, whether Russell is there is not. Parvati has played as good a strategy game as Russell, a better physical one, and she’s more likable. You could put Russell up against Jerri at this point, and the jury would probably pick Jerri, just to spite Russell. Sandra, meanwhile, has been something of an under-the-radar player this season, and I don’t think an under-the-radar, coattails player can win an All-Star Challenge (which also rules out Colby and Jerri). Unless Sandra can engineer a three-way alliance to get rid of both Parvati and Russell, this looks like Parvati’s game to lose.