Review: Community, “Economics of Marine Biology”

If you don’t like the crispy-liscious taste of Let’s, feel free to eat that other greasy brand.

A second solid episode in a row after our exploration into Changnesia! May this trend continue.

Stepping away (slightly) from the overtly serious tone in earlier weeks, “Economics of Marine Biology” was all about the hijinks that can ensue when the group can all be set together in one goal. Dean Pelton is set on landing a Greendale “whale”: a low-achieving, high-income student named Archie Decoste (Zack Pearlman), who was recently arrested for selling marijuana to a police officer at a police station. To snag the whale, the Dean enlists the study group (and all of Greendale) to showcase its best worst behavior to entice the human dollar sign to enroll.

While I’ve had issue with competing subplots in earlier this season, this episode with no less than four plots actually delivered: the main “whale” plot, Abed’s Delta Cubes, Troy and Shirley in P.E.E., and barbershop bonding with Pierce and Jeff. While there is some inherent crowding with so many plots at once, none of them overstayed their individual welcome, and each was given time to continue without any part feeling too rushed.

The episode opens with the Dean debriefing the study group of Greendale’s newest target: the perfect mix of low intellect, high lack of ambition, and limitless parental support. After Britta’s initial indignation of chasing a “rich dumb-dumb” instead of a “science genius,” everyone readily admits that Greendale could use more money. Even “too cool for school” Winger is on board with the plan, if at least to get away from Pierce, since this plan is being set up specifically on his day off.

The Dean’s whaling storyline (“Operation: Deadliest Catch”) served up most of the funny this week, as Dean sacrificed more and more of his principles and his school to appease the potential student of the 1%. While at first he was ready to showcase Greendale as it truly is, the Dean soon whips up a “Mountain Dew Cool Zone” Tent, magically enlists Shaun White as faculty, enlists the aid of strippers, and throws a cafeteria rager unlike Greendale has seen. “Hookers! Blow! Hookers!” are all well and good, but then the Dean goes too far: in his quest to land the whale, Pelton strips Magnitude of “Pop-Pop,” leaving him to cycle in a tormet of despair and making the other Greendalians question how far is far enough.

The whole moment is dramatically facetious, yes, but there was actually a moment of genuine sadness when this overwhelmingly positive character can’t cope with losing his identity. The number of alternative catchphrases he scribbles on the board in his madness is amusingly shocking.

Meanwhile, Shirley and Troy attend P.E., with Shirley declaring that she can avoid it no longer. Troy takes the course with her, ready to put another trophy in his case. When they arrive, however, they discover that the course is P.E.E. – Physical Education Education. While Shirley is not great at P.E., her motherly instincts to keep a rowdy group of kids in line makes her a natural at P.E.E. Troy, on the other hand, discovers his weakness: while he’s used to running suicides, he is ineffective at ordering others to do the same. Troy finds himself picked last on the P.E.E. team exercises. As he’s ready to call it quits, they find that Chang, still suffering from Changnesia, is unable to remember how to use a water fountain.  Shirley takes it upon herself to teach Troy how to teach Chang to drink properly, complete with training montage. It’s completely silly, but it’s redemptive: if you work hard, you too could be a Physical Education Educator – an interesting juxtaposition to the Dean’s plummet down the slippery slope, sacrificing his principles to succeed.

Abed, however, overhears an off-hand comment by the Dean stating “no frats at Greendale” and sees as an opportunity to re-enact one of college movies’ oldest tropes. He creates the Delta Cube fraternity, upon whose creation is now under threat by the college dean. Abed’s storyline happens mostly off-screen, but we do get a few laughs as he and his Delta Cubes pop up throughout the episode, seemingly playing out an entire recruitment/hazing away from the cameras.

The last storyline is the most poignant, involving Jeff and (amazingly) Pierce. Jeff, despite his best attempts to avoid Pierce (“Operation: Walking Dead”), was roped into keeping Pierce away from the whale hunt. They visit Pierce’s barbershop, and, despite himself, Jeff has a good time. The two bond with each other in a classic man-to-man that only happens in a barbershop. While the story arc was predictable, it was still effective. Because Chevy Chase has pretty much checked out in every episode up to this point, it was almost shocking to see some emotional depth and growth in Pierce. There was some meta-poignancy in these comments being delivered by a guy who, in real life, will only be in one or two more episodes this season.

“Economics of Marine Biology” does what no other episode this season has been able to do: it successfully executes a story containing multiple subplots, with main focus on the central storyline. There was a small element of sadness and emotional growth with Jeff, Pierce, and (of all people) Magnitude, but it was mostly focused on the predictable but still heartwarming Dean standing up for Greendale. This did feel more like a classic Community episode, and I encourage the cast and crew to give us more of that feeling as we reach the end of the season.

Final thoughts:

  • “Magnitude, you usually have the perfect blend of brevity and wit that sums up situations like this…”
  • “Britta, where do we get drugs?”
  • Magnitude’s alternative catchphrases: Burn notice! Bag it, tag it! All-burns out! Phoney bologna! Haaaamburger! Tick tock! Magnitude, party of one! Schneep!
  • I thought the South Park “Montage” song was meta.
  • “Get your damn hands of my Let’s!”
  • Considering how off-the-wall the Operation: Deadliest Catch was to begin with, I found it somewhat fitting that the Dean came to his senses only after seeing what hell Magnitude has been through.
  • Good to see Greendale’s B-team in the festivities, like Leonard mixing a foam kiddie pool.

Grade: B+. Another solid episode, predicated on the strength of Jim Rash as an actor.

Written by: Dwight Tejano

Dwight is the founder of Open the Fridge, which he started in 2008 and rebooted in 2010. Due to the nature of early adopting, his bank account is normally empty. He likes to sing in world-renown choruses to forget such things.

No comments yet.

Leave Your Reply