Community, Season 4, Episode 9: “Intro to Felt Surrogacy”
Written by Gene Hong
Directed by Tristram Shapeero
Airs Thursdays at 8pm ET on NBC
For those familiar with the brilliant Angel episode “Smile Time,” it’s impossible to view “Intro to Felt Surrogacy” without thinking back on Joss Whedon and Ben Edlund’s masterpiece. One of the many impressive things about “Felt Surrogacy” is how quickly it steps out from under that shadow. Given how frequently the fourth season of Community has employed high-concept episodes as a crutch, it’s somewhat ironic that the most ambitious episode to date would be the one in which it finally establishes a unified voice.
One of the things necessary for a truly successful parody is that—once you strip away the humor, the metafictive elements, the archness—it be able to stand on its own as a strong illustration of the very thing it’s parodying (see Shaun of the Dead) and that is where “Felt Surrogacy” really sets itself apart. From the hot-air balloon ride, to the Sara Bareilles and Jason Alexander cameos that would’ve felt at home on Sesame Street, to songs that sound like outtakes from 2011’s The Muppets, the episode exudes the spirit of Jim Henson. It even doubles back on itself in the study room scenes to poke fun at the corollaries between modern psychotherapy and children’s television shows.
It’s worth noting that this was the last episode produced in season four. Chevy Chase was required to record his lines as a precondition to get out of his contract and leave the show. While it would’ve been great to leave his character in the woods ruing the many times he lied about bedding Eartha Kitt, he will apparently still be around for the remaining four episodes. It also means that while it feels like the creative team has finally managed to reorganize Community into the show they want it to be, the next four episodes were produced before it, so there still may be some bumps in the road ahead. Nonetheless, “Felt Surrogacy” is the first episode of season four I would recommend without a “yeah, but,” and an episode that makes it possible to look towards a hypothetical fifth season with more promise than forboding.
Parks and Recreation, Season 5, Episode 18: “Animal Control”
Written by Megan Amram
Directed by Craig Zisk
Airs Thursdays at 8:30pm ET on NBC
It’s always a pleasure when writer Harris Wittels shows up on Parks portraying Harris from the Animal Control department. He usually is employed to act sleazy and deliver some witty rejoinders. In “Animal Control” his incompetence is brought to the forefront, and it doesn’t work nearly as well as his previous appearances. It’s better when the focus is on making birds into Flintstone work whistles than how much of a stoner he and his partner are. Perhaps it is the fault of Cheech and Chong, but pot humor can very quickly devolve into caricature, and that is definitely the case on more than one occasion in this episode.
Ben, Andy, and Tom’s attempts to court Dennis Feinstein are only marginally more successful from a comedic standpoint. The degree to which they succeed hinges on the incredibly rewarding moment that Andy abandons flattery and lets Feinstein know what a dick he is. As wonderful as the sight of Ron in a balaclava is, the C-plot concerning him might be the worst of the batch, mostly relying on overexploited character traits (the giggle is back this week and it definitely doesn’t work this time around).
The episode has its moments, Orin talks, Jerry is unsurprisingly unqualified for his current job, Tom stating “I think that guy wants to hunt me!” Donna at the Smoke House, but it is saved by the silent MVP of the Parks Department over the last season or two, April Dwyer. Her decision to incorporate Animal Control into the Parks Department is worthy of Leslie Knope. Even Jamm, though he may try to cover himself, can’t help but support the idea. In the wake of Ben and Leslie’s marriage, it sometimes feels as if Parks and Recreation exists in stasis. That the show has accomplished everything it set out to accomplish and is just subsisting, but the rewarding growth of April’s character provides evidence that that is not the case.
Archer, Season 4, Episode 13 “Sea Tunt: Part II”
Written by Adam Reed & Rick Cleveland
Airs Thursdays at 10pm ET on FX
Adam Reed claimed he intended to focus more on serialization in Archer’s fourth season, but in retrospect it would be difficult to argument to make. There is nothing in the two-part finale that couldn’t be appreciated by someone tuning in for the first time. Sure, there are references to ISIS’s growing incompetence, something that has been in the background for most of the season, but that could easily be picked up on via context. That said, capping a rather inconsistent season, the two-part “Sea Tunt” finale is right up there with last year’s “Space Race.”
While “Space Race” featured Bryan Cranston, “Sea Tunt” draws on a strong performance from AMC’s other stalwart, Jon Hamm. We can only assume season five’s two-part finale will feature Andrew Lincoln. It echoes what was likely season four’s best episode “Live and Let Dine” in that the ISIS crew is again called on to impersonate a film crew. Cyril even goes by the moniker Chet (presumably Manley) again. The big reveal of the episode, Lana’s pregnancy, is pretty heavily telegraphed. We’ll see how things go, but it seems discovering who the father is will dominate season five.