There is no character on “Community” who detests Pierce Hawthorne as much as Jeff Winger does. It’s not like Jeff has any good reason to befriend the elderly man. We, the audience, and the study group alike have seen Pierce’s antics unfold over the course of four years – he’s selfish, prideful, and nearly destroyed the entire group on numerous occasions. He’s often portrayed as a villain but… what happens when he is not portrayed that way is quite a sight to behold. In “Economics of Marine Biology,” we get a deeper glimpse into the relationship between Pierce and Jeff, which causes the former lawyer to re-think the way he’s treated Pierce over the years. Additionally, in the episode, we explore a friendship not often given screentime: the relationship between Shirley and Troy. In the A-story for the week, Britta, Annie, and Dean Pelton attempt to recruit a “whale” (a term for a wealthy potential student) to enroll at Greendale and lose sight of their ethics in the process.
Even though this week’s episode was seemingly focused on the desire for Dean Pelton and Annie to recruit Archie (a lazy, slacker student with very rich parents) to enroll at Greendale Community College, each storyline really tied together the notion of what it means to rethink the way that you see others. At the beginning of the episode, Dean Pelton, Annie, and Britta are intent on swaying Archie to attend their school. When they discover that the rival college, City College, has bribed Archie with a scooter, Dean Pelton fumes. Instead of continuing with the tour of Greendale and its amenities as planned, the dean begins to cater to Archie, bribing him and bending over backwards to make sure he is as happy as possible. Archie, spoiled, lazy, and entitled, takes advantage of this. Meanwhile, under Dean Pelton’s suggestion and the influence of Annie’s doe eyes, Jeff is spending time off-campus with Pierce to distract him from Archie’s presence. Everyone knows, after all, how jealous Pierce gets when others are the center of attention.
At the barber shop, Pierce and Jeff actually… bond. Though Jeff’s initial reason for entertaining the elderly man’s whims was to simply distract him (and he texts Annie as soon as he arrives at the shop, desperate for escape), he finds himself softening. This is never more evident than when Pierce explains how genuinely proud he is of Jeff for confronting his father during Thanksgiving, even though he knows it was difficult. Jeff and Pierce share conversation about their childhood, relax, and even trade jokes.
Meanwhile, in a physical education EDUCATION class (where students are taught how to teach Phys Ed), Troy informs a slightly-nervous Shirley that he’s excited to excel. After all, he’s great at sports. He was the captain of the high school football team. Anxiously, Shirley asks that Troy pick her if they have to choose teams. She was always picked last in gym, and it hurt her. Before the students can converse further, the coach instructs them all that they will be learning about how to TEACH physical education. Troy scoffs at the idea, is quickly reprimanded and – thanks to her mothering and disciplinary skills – Shirley’s answer to the coach’s question sends her to the head of the class.
Later, as Jeff and Pierce are still laughing and getting along, Annie texts and Jeff admits to being charged with the duty of distracting the elderly man all day. Pierce is hurt and heartbroken over the fact that Jeff – and everyone else – doesn’t care to spend time with the man. Normally, Jeff would justify his actions and when he meets Dean Pelton and Annie in the study room the following day (both of whom had been justifying their actions in order to get Archie to attend their school), the audience assumes he will do just that. Annie and the dean note how glad they are that they didn’t have to spend their whole day with Pierce and… then Jeff does something surprising. He snaps at the pair, telling them to not insult Pierce.
In physical education class, Troy is struggling and Shirley is rising. Unfortunately, she loses sight of what is important – her friendship with Troy – and picks another student over him, leaving him last picked in class. After seeing Troy’s struggles, Shirley apologizes for her behavior and offers to help teach Troy how to become a better teacher.
Annie and Dean Pelton’s guilt over how they’ve disregarded their students and friends in favor of trying to bribe a slacker student to join Greendale. Dean Pelton approaches a passed-out Archie and informs him that they will not be catering to his wishes anymore. Greendale will not change, he explains, for anyone, no matter how rich that prospective student’s parents may be. Archie, surprisingly, finds Dean Pelton’s attitude refreshing, as he’s so used to others catering to him and sucking up just because his parents are rich. In that moment, he decides that anyone as honest as Dean Pelton must be worth listening to and he decides to enroll at Greendale.
At the end of the episode, Jeff returns to the barber shop to make amends with Pierce, settling into the chair beside him and saying that he might start coming to the barber shop more often. The former lawyer then looks at his elderly companion and, sincerely, admits that he “like[s] the vibe.” It’s perhaps the first time that Jeff has actually admitted to liking Pierce, but rather than become sentimental or sappy, Pierce accepts Jeff’s apology by pretending their argument never happened and striking up a new conversation with Jeff instead. And that’s how the pair sinks back into their new relationship – easily and calmly, with no drama or over-sentimentality. This, truly, is how Pierce and Jeff are as individuals and how they function best as a pairing. They’re dysfunctional. They’re dissimilar.
And yet, in spite of that all, they understand one another. That’s the beauty of the study group and the beauty of “Community”: characters learning to understand one another, accept one another, and grow in the process.
http://www.YouTube.com/PopWrapped (COMING SOON!)
http://www.PopWrapped.com (COMING SOON!)