It wouldn’t be a holiday at Greendale Community College if something wasn’t amiss. And since “Community” received a late start date from NBC, their holiday episodes have been placed at rather… well, inconvenient times. Though February 14th is traditionally heralded as Valentine’s Day, for fans of the sitcom, the day was known as “Valloween,” as the Halloween episode fell on this day instead of its initially slated October date. And thus, fans devoured their small stockpiles of chocolate candy while they enjoyed the Megan Ganz episode “Paranormal Parentage.”
And the study group rang in Halloween the way they do best – with plenty of costumes, a few spooky moments, and a lot of laughter. But there was also something wonderful about this particular episode that struck me as I watched – heart. The study group is invited to a costume party at Vicki’s house and right before leaving, receive a call from Pierce to inform them all that he’s trapped inside the panic room at his mansion. Reluctantly, Jeff and the rest of the group head over to the house where Pierce insists that he has forgotten the code to let himself out but has it written down in a red notebook… somewhere in the house. He’s not quite sure where.
The group (with a severely reluctant Jeff in tow) splits up to search the house as creepy shadows lurk in the hallways and doors begin to open and close of their own volition. Jeff and Britta discuss Pierce’s psychological issues – as an elderly man who sought the constant approval of his father, Britta is worried that Cornelius Hawthorne’s recent passing is taking a toll on Pierce’s psyche. It is then that Jeff inadvertently reveals his own father-related issues, all the while continuing to insist that he is nothing like Pierce. We’ve seen parallels to the two men drawn before, and have learned that Jeff and Pierce – at their cores – ARE similar, whether Jeff wants to admit it or not. They’re both prideful, they both desire the approvals of others, and both need other people more than they let on.
When it’s revealed at the end of the episode that Pierce has been pranking the study group the entire time and causing the spooky and creepy events around the mansion to occur, none of the friends seem to be surprised. That is, until Abed reveals that there is a shadowy figure present in security footage from Pierce’s mansion that the elderly man doesn’t know about. All of the group is properly scared until that shadowy figure reveals himself to the frightened friends to be Gilbert, Pierce’s half-brother. Though Pierce has been coping with Cornelius’ death, Gilbert admits that he hasn’t been faring as well and has been secretly staying at the mansion for the past six weeks to cope. This leads the eldest study group member – someone who is traditionally left out by the others – to embrace his half-brother. Gilbert, Pierce relays to the others, NEEDS him. And I’d venture to say that Pierce has never been truly needed before.
But the biggest surprise of the night was that the boxing costume Jeff wore throughout the entire episode was actually his father’s – a man, Jeff insists early on in the episode, he doesn’t need in his life and is fine without. Right before the credits, the audience sees Jeff pull out his phone and the handwritten number of his father. And then, with Jeff’s fingers still hovering over the screen, the episode ends.
What I really loved about “Paranormal Parentage” and I think a lot of “Community” fans appreciated was that it seemed to return to its truest and most basic form. Andy Bobrow was given the roughest task in the world when he wrote the season four premiere – an episode with already so much anticipation and nervousness. (And as I wrote last week, I thought he did a great job. But I was apparently in the minority.) “Community,” at its core, is about family and friends who become family. Megan Ganz’s Halloween episode contained everything fans love about the show – fan-favorite pairings, snappy and witty one-liners, callbacks to past episodes, and – most importantly – heart.
And really, a comedy without heart is like a costume-less Halloween or a Halloween-less Valentine’s Day: rather pointless.