Welcome to Looking Streets Behind, a weekly Community retrospective column! Each week, we’ll dive into a Community episode that has reached the 10th-anniversary milestone. For this installment, we’re fondly reminiscing about Rich and those precious moments with the best kettle corn we’ve ever tasted. He would’ve made an excellent addition to the study group. Oh, golly gee! Anyway, “Asian Population Studies” pulled back the veil regarding some of the malarkey from Halloween night (the “Epidemiology” episode). We learned that Chang and Shirley really did do the horizontal tango. Shirley’s ex-husband-turned-boyfriend Andre returned to the picture. And Jeff gave one of the best rain-soaked rom-com parody speeches ever to exist.
But I digress. Let’s start a petition to spell “kettle corn” with a “q-u,” in honor of Quendra!
Now, our crew hath returned from winter break to a brand-spankin’ new semester at Greendale. Everyone is divulging their winter break escapades with the group. Annie (Alison Brie) rescued severed fingers from a riverbed with a cute boy. We know this because she used her “I love butterflies” voice (I’m paraphrasing here). Troy (Donald Glover) discovered that “laserdisc” is a sexy word. Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) reveals that she’s back with her ex-husband Andre, much to Britta’s (Gillian Jacobs) chagrin.
Suddenly, Chang (Ken Jeong) appears atop a bookcase. Well, he’d been there a long time, just casually eavesdropping on our Greendale Seven’s private conversation. As Chang is wont to do. He demands to be included in the study group. Jeff (Joel McHale) asks his friends if they have Chang’s “pile of nothing,” but … nothing. They have nothing.
Next, everyone tries to figure out the identity of Annie’s crush. There are loads of physical descriptions tied to celebrities that spew forth at lightning speed as per Community‘s usual. Abed (Danny Pudi) suggests they start learning people’s names. Jeff is in agreement with brown Jamie Lee Curtis.
Then, our crew is in anthropology class with Professor Duncan (John Oliver). Duncan was late getting to class because he had difficulties finding Greendale while sober. The professor has hopes that sobriety will help his downstairs blossom again. Just as he’s writing “penis” on the board for no discernible reason, Rich (Greg Cromer) waltzes in and plops down beside Annie. It’s clear that he’s her riverbed crush. Troy lets slip to Pierce (Chevy Chase) that Chang left him a voicemail on Halloween night detailing a tryst with Shirley. He urges Pierce to keep the salacious gossip under wraps even though the latter is preparing to tweet about it on Twitter.
Later, everyone is in the cafeteria for lunch. Andre (Malcolm Jamal-Warner) pays Shirley a visit. Everyone seems awkward around him, especially Troy and Pierce. Shirley reveals she’s pregnant, and we see Pierce and Troy tracing the weeks back to Halloween. So, Shirley’s baby could be Chang’s or Andre’s. Annie wants to invite Rich to join the study group since sober Duncan is actually a difficult teacher. She proposes they host a get-together involving every anthropology class member and determine from there who should gain entry.
Next, we see our core characters throwing a mixer for potential study group candidates that evening. Annie, of course, is submitting Rich as her choice. Jeff brings along a blonde girl named Kendra — sorry, “Quendra.” Troy attempts to elicit info from Andre regarding his sexual exploits with Shirley. But, in typical Troy fashion, he makes it astronomically weird. Rich seduces the masses with his homemade kettle corn. That’s right — a “fun time” snack. Jeff initially tried to play it cool regarding Annie’s burgeoning relationship with Rich, but he’s clearly jealous. Everyone loves Rich!
Chang suggests to Jeff that he’s backing the wrong horse (Quendra). Perhaps Jeff should persuade his friends to let Chang into the group. Everyone could use a little spare Chang, after all. Jeff delivers an impassioned case for Chang’s allowance into the fold. He drives home the fact that they know who Chang is. It’s all out there. All of his mental issues and his “crazy.” However, they know next to nothing about Rich. Jeff believes that nobody, not even Rich, is “that good.”
Then, just as the votes were swinging toward Chang, Pierce flips the script by revealing that Shirley and Chang hooked up during Halloween. You know, the night that nobody recalls. Andre is hurt and he storms out. Annie finds Jeff in the bathroom and confronts him about his obviously conflicting feelings. Jeff admits that they are indeed convoluted, but … what can you do? Britta urges Jeff to make things right for Shirley’s sake.
Jeff finds Andre standing outside the school while the rain pours. Andre reveals that he’ll love the baby all the same, regardless of who’s really the father. Abed informs Jeff that Annie asked Rich out. However, Rich rejected her, citing that she’s too young for him. We see Jeff sprint out into the rain. A montage unfurls wherein Andre returns to Shirley and all appears to be well. Jeff continues to run until he winds up on a mysterious someone’s doorstep. He’s completely drenched. Jeff proffers a stereotypical rom-com monologue for the ages. We think he’s confessing his love for Annie, but it’s Rich standing on the other side.
Now, Jeff wants Rich to teach him how to be a good person. Show him the goody-two-shoes ropes. Jeff is amazing already, but he has the potential to become spectacular. The end tag scene reveals an “episode” of Troy and Abed in the Morning. Troy and Abed have Rich on as a guest. He’s supposed to teach them how to make kettle corn, but instead, the boys are distracted by a wooden paddle Rich carved. Jeff pops in and informs Rich that Abed and Troy’s talk show isn’t real. There aren’t even any cameras. But Rich enjoys it all the same. “Troy and Abed in the Morning!”
The one-liners and gags!
As far as one-liners go, “Asian Population Studies” has plenty in its arsenal. Here’s a Jeff line that I loved: “Oh I’m serious, baby. I am Yahoo Serious. I’m Serious FM. Welcome to the world serious of seriousness sponsored by Honey Nut Seerioes.” This was prior to Jeff’s speech where he convinced the study group to accept Chang. Annie believed he was merely stalling, which he was. However, in typical Winger fashion, he found the words in no time flat.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t include Jeff’s rom-com confession speech. “Don’t say anything until you hear what I have to say. I’ve known you for almost two years now and I’ve never taken you as seriously as I should have. You are the strangest, coolest, most genuine person I’ve ever met. And the thing that scares me about you is how good you make me wish I was. Help me, Rich. Help me become like you. I mean, I am so amazing, but I’m not perfect. You are. Give me that power, so I can abuse it.”
Additionally, I loved Troy’s attempt at interrogating Andre with “subtle” references to Halloween. “So, bun in the oven. Guess it’s no surprise, after working on it. Oh, yeah, I do. Especially when the season’s right. Oh. Dead leaves. Pumpkins everywhere. Nature’s Viagra, right? And then when all the pumpkins just start to rot and all the children have removed their outfits because they’ve already gotten their candy.” That last line never fails to make me laugh. It’s definitely a combination of stellar writing and excellent delivery from Donald Glover.
I also dug the scene wherein Abed attempted to “malfunction” whenever Chang confronted him about not being invited to the mixer. It played into the show-long gag on Community that Abed exhibits no emotion. Fun fact: this is Neil’s (Charley Koontz) first episode, although the second time on Community that he’s referred to as “Fat Neil.”
Not to mention, Andre is sporting a sweater with a familiar pattern. It’s obviously a reference to The Cosby Show. In the episode, Jeff remarked that he liked Andre’s sweater and the latter revealed that his father gave it to him. Malcolm Jamal-Warner is best known for portraying Theo Huxtable on The Cosby Show.
Here’s another fun fact: according to Community‘s Wiki page, during the end tag scene there’s a fan that’s holding up a poster featuring a diorama of Troy and Abed. Duncan also referenced the diorama gag earlier in the episode when he revealed his plan to give the class an anthropology diorama assignment. Community: smashing learning barriers one diorama at a time.
In an interview for The A.V. Club, Dan Harmon believed “Asian Population Studies” was the most “normal” and “mainstream” Community could get. Thankfully, Harmon didn’t think this was a negative aspect of the episode. I can’t say I disagree with him. “Asian Population Studies” is one of the show’s somewhat normal outings. It adheres more to traditional sitcom tropes than most of the other episodes. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
The kettle corn of it all!
Jeff’s speech is the highlight of this episode for me besides Troy and Andre’s short scene. I loved the play on the classic “dude makes realization and runs through the rain to profess his love” scenario. Additionally, I dug that we weren’t sure right off the bat whether he was talking to Annie or not. Community loves to toy with our emotions.
Overall, it’s a solid episode in the Community canon. Plenty of laughs with some intermittent tender moments. This show deftly executes montage sequences like no other. And the montage music! It always tugs at the heartstrings. I’d like to think this outing is comparable to a bag of tasty kettle corn. Just leave the “q-u” out of it.
What do you love most about Community‘s “Asian Population Studies”? Sound off in the comments below! Be sure to join me next week for another installment of Looking Streets Behind, where we’ll be delving into “Celebrity Pharmacology 212.” All of the cool cats will be there.
Until then, stay streets ahead.