After a single, a triple and a balk, Community hit its first home-run of the show's fifth season thanks to the dearly departed (and entirely off-screen) Pierce Hawthorne, who bid farewell to his old study group the only way he knew how: by screwing with their minds.
As you may recall, Pierce's passing was mentioned towards the end of last week's technically-perfect, but laugh-challenged David Fincher send-up. "Cooperative Polygraphy" picks up in the aftermath of his funeral -- officiated by the crazy cult he joined -- with the rest of the gang returning to a post-Pierce existence in their library study room. Turns out that their "buddy" not through with them yet, though; a stone-faced, suit-clad Mr. Stone (played, in a masterstroke of stunt casting, by Walton Goggins) turns up with orders to put them all to a polygraph test to determine whether one (or more) had a hand in Pierce's demise. They didn't, of course, but that was never the point. Instead, the not-so-secret purpose of Pierce's exercise was to get them to stop being polite and start being real, which they accomplished through a series of blisteringly honest (and blisteringly funny) conversations.
More than the previous three episodes, "Polygraphy" allowed Dan Harmon the chance to reassert full authorial control over the remaining characters, reminding us that as loveably eccentric as they are, they're also deeply messed-up people -- an aspect of the show that was largely overlooked during the Harmon-less fourth season. Thus, Jeff's narcissism and creepy misogynistic streak was on full display, as was Abed's pathological need to assert control over his friends, lest they suddenly up and vanish one day. Additionally, some old wounds were scratched (including Jeff's tempestuous fling with Britta, and Britta's fundamental disagreement with Shirley's fundamentalist worldview) and fresh betrayals revealed (including Abed catfishing Annie, and Annie drugging the study group to power through an Anthropology final). But all this emotional tsuris turned out to be for a good cause, as once he'd broken them down, Pierce then posthumously offered a series of kind words (and presents) to build them all back up. He also helpfully provided Troy with his exit from the series -- aboard the good ship the Childish Tycoon -- as Donald Glover heads off to greener, more Gambino-ish pastures. That sets the stage for another emotional farewell next week, but after this tour-de-force good-bye, Troy's gonna have a lot to live up to. Here's our picks for the characters' most unexpected confessions and funniest lines. (And picking just one was tough, because they were on fire last night.)
Most Unexpected Confession: That he's a Liam Neeson fan. Is that how Unknown made all that money?
Funniest Line: "Is that my review of The Grey is constantly changing?"
Most Unexpected Confession: That she's apparently attended a bris or two. One would think she'd be picketing those ceremonies on the grounds of mutilation.
Funniest Line: "You told me a hawk stole them! You exploited me. And made me believe in a slightly more magical world."
Most Unexpected Confession: That he's invented an entire language. I would have thought he'd invited five or six by now. Slacker.
Funniest Line: "It wasn't about hurting you. I did what I did in the name of breakfast."
Most Unexpected Confession: That she'd fall for a guy named Brent Underjaw. On second thought, that's not such a surprise.
Funniest Line: "You'll be thanking me in six years when you find out you have $86. That's jacket money!"
Most Unexpected Confession: That he stole his and Abed's super-awesome friendship handshake from a website. Our world is shattered almost as much as Abed's.
Funniest Line: "You were singing "mourning" with a "u"? Oh no."
Most Unexpected Confession: That she'd actually offer a vegetarian option on her menu.
Funniest Line: "Well, let's not judge: everyone has the right to whatever fake religion they delusionally choose."
Most Unexpected Confession: That he knew how to make an iPod playlist, let alone know what an iPod is.
Funniest (Posthumous) Line: "To you, I leave this bottle of fine scotch, so that you're less tempted to drink this cylinder of even finer sperm."
MOST RECENT POSTS