Community: Season 2, Episode 12
Asian Population Studies
It was kind of inevitable after "Mixology Certification" and "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas" that Community would take a step down. There is no way the quality of those two episodes could be kept up indefinitely. Yet even with the inevitable downgrade in quality this week, "Asian Population Studies" still managed to be hilarious and insightful. Yeah, this is a good show.

The episode opens with the gang returning from Christmas break to a new semester. Annie has met someone, Dr. Rich, and wants him to be able to join the study group. Shirley is trying to make things work with her ex-husband (Malcolm Jamal Warner, in a Cosby sweater no less), even though Troy (and very quickly after the episode opens, Pierce) knows about her dalliance with Chang. Chang just wants to join the study group. And Jeff is experiencing something akin to jealousy at the idea of Annie being with the much older Rich. All of this results in the group deciding to add a member and having a mixer with all of their candidates to decide who to let in. Jeff, desperate to keep Rich out, is forced to make an impassioned plea for Chang's inclusion because while Chang is awful, he's a known quality and Rich seems to good to be true.

This is all well and good, but what kept this episode in "solid" territory were the emotions underlying everyone's actions. I loved that Shirley's ex-husband decided to stay with her, even if the baby does turn out to be Chang's (though I'm not sure getting back with her husband is a positive forward step for the character, but I guess only time will tell if they stay together and if this ends up being positive). Perhaps the best part of this is how seriously the show is taking a plot point from perhaps its zaniest, most madcap episode ever. Shirley had sex with Chang during A ZOMBIE ATTACK, and yet the show is going to take the consequences of this as seriously as possible. This was also a great episode for the Jeff and Annie relationship, even though I did roll my eyes as soon as Jeff started running into the rain. This is Community, so it was obvious he wasn't going to see Annie (though God how I wish he had been), and the fact that he was running to see Rich was just kind of a dumb revelation. The whole speech was obviously vague and we knew it wasn't going to be Annie, but that Jeff wants to learn how to act perfect from Rich seems more like the writers getting out of the obvious joke they just wrote themselves into.

I also thought Chang was used well in this episode, as his arc for the season so far pretty much came to fruition. I enjoyed his desperation to get into the group earlier this year, and his stupid attempt to use his name as a pun (as Jeff points out, "It's not even clever! You always use it to replace change!"). I think Ken Jeong always gets the most out of his lines, and I like that the show knows not to overuse the character that would likely be the breakout star on another show (the outspoken teacher who is mean to everyone and boisterous has already been a break out on a certain terrible Fox show set in a high school...That show is Glee. Glee is terrible). Rich, on the other hand is a character that still kind of bores me. He's a potentially interesting foil for Jeff, who is often unrepentingly awful, but mostly he just plays as one of those "he's too nice" characters that pop up all over the place, and the show hasn't found an interesting way to use him yet. At the end of the day, this was far from a perfect episode of the show, but the emotions worked (especially when things turned deadly serious after the revelation about Shirley and Chang and Jeff was slightly slow on the uptake) which saved the episode from being much more than a slight misstep. Yet even then, there were some interesting developments, and it reminded me how much I love these characters and the world they inhabit.

Grade: B+


-"Somebody's finding river fingers with a cute boy!"

-"Is it Jean Claude van Overbite?" "We should really start learning people's names." "I agree with brown Jamie Lee Curtis."

-"One time, it was a gym bag full of nickels."

-"His mind is like a fortress!"

-"Kettle Corn? That's a funtime snack!"

-"I wish I could give you an answer that makes sense, but relationships are complicated, and we're in the men's room." A funny moment that also continued my desperate desire for a Jeff and Annie romance. So huzzah on that front.

-"I want to say some names to you. Ted Bundy. Jeffrey Dahmer. Rich."
Tags: Community
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