Community Episode Review: “Advanced Safety Features”

Community is a show about the struggle to connect with other people. Its premise from the beginning has involved taking a group of students who couldn’t be more different, placing them together, and seeing if they’ll be able to foster a community of friends.

In that way, Elroy’s storyline in this episode is both a great way to finally make him feel truly integrated into the group, as well as a logical extension of the show’s overall theme. In the episode, Abed and Annie really want to get to know Elroy better, as he doesn’t seem to be into the whole “friends” aspect of this group, leaving the meetings as soon as they’re done. Everyone also isn’t sure what his place in the group is. Black Pierce? Old Troy? Shirley without a purse?

As much as Jeff makes fun of them for it, Annie and Abed do get Elroy to like them by opening themselves up and playing a game with him. Only by opening up to other people and loving them can we be truly loved in return. Jeff’s strategy is to just pretend he doesn’t even really care about the person, and eventually they’ll realize they like him. As has been consistent with his character since the beginning, Jeff is a person who is kind of afraid of opening up to others.

We find out that Elroy is that way too, and so it makes sense that he appears to not really like Jeff. They’re both people who keep to themselves and stick to their own internal sense of coolness, afraid of being vulnerable. In Elroy’s case, that’s because of a past relationship with Julie, the first person he really opened up to but who broke his heart, and now he’s afraid to love again and to be that vulnerable. Jeff has always been the same way, probably at least in part because of his relationship with his dad. How do we get past that fear of being hurt in order to continue to love others? How can two equally guarded people foster a relationship?

Britta gives Elroy some great advice this episode, and the show this season is finally making use of Britta as a voice of reason again. Our lives are like a castle. You want it to be strong, being secure of yourself and with a moat to keep out bad people. But you can’t have a castle without a drawbridge, and we can’t live happy lives without letting people in. Elroy in this episode learns that he must build his own drawbridge, letting the group in and loving them. Jeff learns the same lesson, dropping his cool guy shtick and telling Elroy that he wants to be friends. It’s a great, cathartic moment of two guarded characters opening up that really speaks to the overall arc of Community, and now I finally feel that Elroy has been fully integrated into the show.

The main storyline in “Advanced Safety Features” isn’t really as interesting as the Elroy subplot, though. It all revolves around the return of Britta’s ex-boyfriend from Season 3, who literally changed his name to Subway. He’s still doing guerrilla marketing but this time working for Honda, and half of this episode is just a giant Honda ad. There’s a whole subplot with the Dean where he becomes obsessed with Honda and has to buy all their products, and Jim Rash does pull it off when he’s confronted about all the stuff in his office and he breaks down. But this still is all basically a commercial, and when the characters talked to each other about how great Honda is, even though it was part of the storyline and was ironically referencing product placement, it still is product placement, and this whole storyline feels like it onlyexists for the Honda cash.

Britta’s relationship with Subway, now going by his real name, Rick, is somewhat interesting in that once again, she’s drawn to a guy in a way that she overlooks his serious flaws. This time though, what’s interesting is that Britta really does want a long term relationship with him. This isn’t a fling like she’s had in the past with Vaughn. She wants the full deal, introducing Rick to her parents and everything. Rick represented a product Britta wanted to buy, and when Rick goes back to the guerrilla marketing lifestyle by the end, it’s pretty heartbreaking.

Other highlights
-”Do you believe in half your own politics?” Britta thinks about it, but yes, she thinks she does.
-Chang’s powerpoint presentation is one of his funniest moments yet this season.
-I couldn’t help but get excited by how much the group mentions Troy at the beginning of this episode, talking about how important he was to their dynamic. Maybe I’m being too hopeful, but could Dan Harmon be seeding in a possible Troy return?
-There’s a running joke where Jeff tells Frankie that Troy was great at playing the steel drums, which will pay off later. It does indeed, with Frankie playing the drums at the very end of the episode.
-Chag is cheating at a game of hide and seek right now.
-I love the running joke where the Honda guy apparently always does the thing where the person disappears when you turn around. “Where’d he go?” “That’s not for us to understand. Except he’s really bad at it, always just hiding under a table or behind a pillar or something.
-Frankie goes on a rant calling the Dean a dumb little man which is pretty amazing
-”I’ve never heard that level of floor mat enthusiasm.”
-At the alumni dance, there will apparently be a degree raffle.
-Abed doesn’t understand why we need DJs after the invention of the shuffle button
-The name of the band is Natalie is Freezing, why would anyone in the band be Natalie?
-”These days with all the apps…”

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