After last week’s epic, but ultimately small-in-scale episode, Community starts to build back upward with an episode that is heavy on the pop culture references, but doesn’t explicitly reference certain texts or spend an entire episode focusing on that one genre/text/whatever. “Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design” probably isn’t the technically “best” episode of the season, but good lord is hilariously funny and flat-out fun. It’s an episode that doesn’t spend too much time worrying about emotional beats or stories about how these people relate to one another through popular culture — which I’m writing an essay on, what up! — but instead focuses on letting a small number of the characters run wild through the halls, and perhaps bowels, of Greendale Community College.
Really, “Conspiracy Theories” is well, heavy on the conspiracy side of the story, existing more or less as an A story with just a bit of B story that comes into play ingeniously as part of a glorious comic setpiece, but the A story is so fantastically awesome that it doesn’t even matter. In short, Jeff gets caught by the Dean for forging an independent study course, but when a random and sketchy professor apparently covers for him anyway, Annie and Jeff find themselves in the middle of a conspiracy thriller with multiple levels of deception, intrigue, confusion, and, well, you get the point.
They hilariously stumble into the creepy arena known as Greendale night school, get sent a “message” (which is someone “blowing up” Annie’s diorama toy car) and end up stuck in the study room confronting Professor Professorson and the Dean with prop guns. Everyone gets shot, Annie more or less says that she’s in love with Jeff and annoyed with how he left her hanging all summer and the Dean is left crying on the floor in confusion as he agreed to team up and conspire against both Annie and Jeff because he just wants to have some fun and be apart of something.
The faux-shootout and constant double crosses don’t have any sort of Community-like message about friendship, honestly or whatever else, but instead exist almost to smack those kind of lessons in the face. Annie and the Dean want to teach Jeff that he can’t cheat his way through college, Jeff and the Dean want to teach Annie not to stab friends in the back and Jeff and Annie want to teach the Dean not to try to teach two people a lesson at the same time. It’s all absolutely ridiculous, but grounded in enough reality that it’s just flat-out, laugh-out-loud hilarious. The plot also serves to jump-start the Jeff/Annie/Britta stuff again, something I absolutely welcome back into the fold since the series has done it so well thus far.* I can’t really say much aside from that, it’s just so good.
*You all caught Britta’s look right? RIGHT?
Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned the chase sequence through the blanket fort! My lord is that one of the most glorious things I have seen on broadcast television, ever. EVER. The blanket fort is wonderful in its own right, as it playfully toys with how college students try to pass time, even if it does so through the eyes of the goofiest characters, Abed and Troy. The fort doesn’t have much of an arc, and basically serves as a set-up and awesome location for the chase sequences, but it features enough small gags — Britta’s insanely creepy “Eyes Wide Shut” room, Leonard looting after it’s been destroyed, its permits and zoning laws! — that works as a tremendous supporting story for an even better lead story.
It’s not something I usually talk about in reference to the series, but I find it important to mention the performances this week, as Joel McHale, Alison Brie and especially Jim Rash and guest star Kevin Corrigan take this entirely goofy premise to another level. McHale is really good and turning into “having fun” mode Jeff and the chemistry between he and Brie is off the charts. Rash and Corrigan make the study room sequence as absurd as McHale and Brie make it realistic.
I feel like I’m just throwing out a stupid amount of adjectives in response to this episode, but that’s frankly the best I can come with because “Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design” is simply an amazingly fun episode of the best comedy on television at the height of its powers. Well, until the series tops itself again next week.