Community S4E07 – Economics of Marine Biology

With a show like Community, it’s not unheard of for the show to aim high with a big concept and miss the mark. The occasional swing-and-miss is understandable, and even expected, when you have a show willing to do things like stop-motion animation Christmas specials, an entire episode in a 64-bit video game, or an episode structured like a Civil War documentary. As a Community fan I’ve come to expect that sometimes the show will aim just a little too high.

Which is why I find episodes like “Economics of Marine Biology” — episodes dull and forgettable to their very core — infinitely more disappointing.

Community S4E7 Sign

With news of a potential “whale” — a rich, unsuccessful student who will spend years in the system, funneling money into Greendale — Dean Pelton recruits the study group, minus Pierce, to help sell Greendale. Annie helps the Dean escort the “whale” around the school. Worried Pierce will get jealous and ruin everything, Jeff reluctantly agrees to keep him busy by spending an entire day at Pierce’s favourite barbershop. Meanwhile, Shirley and Troy have their “Physical Education Education” class — a class which teaches students how to be gym teachers. Abed and Britta are essentially nonentities in this story, with Abed inexplicably deciding to start a frat called the Delta Cubes and Britta disappearing in the first act, only to reappear in the last seconds of the tag scene.

These plots resolve in largely predictable ways. The Dean and Annie are willing to increasingly compromise their own morals in order to win over “the whale,” but the final line in the sand comes when they are asked to rob Magnitude of his catchphrase “pop pop!” Realizing they’ve gone too far, the Dean says he will not change Greendale for anyone, and winds up winning over “the whale” through his integrity. Meanwhile, much to his own surprise, Jeff finds he enjoys spending timCommunity S4E7 Gyme with Pierce, and even joins Pierce in making unfunny gay marriage jokes. Shirley excels as a pseudo gym teacher after years of raising children, while Troy flounders, until eventually Shirley trains Troy to train Chang in a success montage.

I will say that this is the first episode that I can recall giving Troy and Shirley a storyline together, and it was a nice change of pace. Their scenes were the most enjoyable of the episode, at least until Chang-as-Kevin was brought back in as a forcible reminder that the Changnesia plot is still happening. It was the most unique of the three plot lines, and a nice change from the typical “gym class” scene you’re led to expect.

“Economics of Marine Biology” is not a case of failed potential. It took no risks, and it accomplished very little. It stretched itself unevenly across three unrelated storylines, provided almost no laughs, and taught us essentially nothing about any of the characters involved. The conclusions this episode drew are old news: Shirley’s a good mom, Jeff has daddy issues, the Dean loves his school. Abed loves teen movie homages, even when they’re so vague as to be utterly useless. Britta’s the worst because she eats the wrong kind of potato chip. Pierce, apparently, isn’t as bad as he seems. Sometimes. If you can forget that most of his humour relies on bigotry, and that he spent an entire episode as an extended blackface joke. We’ve seen all of these before, and nothing in “Economics of Marine Biology” presented these in a new light. Put plainly, it was boring.

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