Welcome to Looking Streets Behind, a Community retrospective column! Join me as I dive into a Community episode that has reached its 10th-anniversary milestone! This go-round, we’re delving into the Season Three premiere, “Biology 101.” Class is back in session, Greendalians, and we’re gonna have more fun and be less weird than the first two years combined!
This episode is a solid season opener, one chock full of Community‘s signature humor, the introduction of “Cougarton Abbey” and “Inspector Spacetime,” Chang’s rise to prominence and the evolution of the Greendale Seven. And that’s whassup.
So, without further ado, let’s dive into “Biology 101” before the monkey gas kicks in.
We open with a delightful musical number featuring our core crew. Everything’s gonna finally be fine! This year will smack of normalcy and a lack of overall weirdness.
I wouldn’t expect anything less from this show.
Then, we see everyone save Pierce in the study room, preparing for Biology together. Pierce (Chevy Chase) makes his grand entrance, and Jeff (Joel McHale) refuses to allow Pierce back into the fold, much to the gang’s dismay. Even Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown), who has suffered more from Pierce’s torment than anyone, is willing to accept him again.
After the study group leaves for Biology, Chang (Ken Jeong) emerges from the vents, and he lives there with Annie’s Boobs now.
Meanwhile, Annie (Alison Brie) wonders if they’re too harsh on Pierce. People can change! Suddenly, Abed’s (Danny Pudi) world falls into disarray. Cougar Town‘s network relegates it to the mid-season slot! Troy (Donald Glover) reassures him that Cougar Town isn’t going anywhere.
Next, we meet the Biology professor, Marshall Kane (RIP the incomparable Michael K. Williams). He regales the class with his history, which leads into the subject of life. However, Jeff causes too many disruptions with his phone, and thus, Professor Kane gives him the boot.
Then, Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) chastises his security team regarding Annie’s Boobs. The dean is serious as a heart attack now — he’s sporting the goatee and drab suit to prove it. He urges his crew to bust out the monkey gas.
Vice Dean Laybourne (John Goodman) visits the dean, and the latter berates him for purchasing an expensive espresso machine for the Air Conditioning Repair School Annex. Greendale is hemorrhaging money — they can’t even afford extravagant paintball competitions or any school dances. Laybourne asks the dean to stop by the annex so he can see “whassup.”
Meanwhile, Britta (Gillian Jacobs) introduces Abed to a new obsession: “Cougarton Abbey.” The show restores Abed’s mainframe!
Jeff leaves the study group since everyone’s content with taking Biology without him. While he’s departing, we see Pierce rejoin the crew, and Jeff’s expulsion from the class leaves an opening for Pierce to fill (phrasing and title of your sex tape).
Later, the gang joins Jeff for lunch. Abed falls catatonic when “Cougarton Abbey” ends abruptly. Troy blames Britta for being the worst.
At the Air Conditioning Repair School Annex, the dean learns Laybourne has more power and influence than he realized. Oh, and the dean’s goatee has got to go!
Next, Jeff apologizes to Professor Kane and attempts to weasel his way back into class. However, Kane doesn’t accept bribes. Jeff spots a photo featuring younger Pierce and who he believes to be Kane, and he flees with it.
Then, Jeff encounters Chang with ham (the obvious precursor to “Ham, Girl!”). Jeff tells him about the photo and how he’ll utilize it to return to the study group. But Chang needs that “in,” so he steals the image and makes a break for the vents.
Jeff gives chase, but, unfortunately, the monkey gas gets him while he’s in the vents. Suddenly, Jeff hallucinates from the said monkey gas. Firstly, he’s eating his phone, and, at one point, he turns into Pierce. Finally, Jeff’s in a hospital bed, reaching out to the study room table. It’s the magic of that damn table!
Meanwhile, Abed is still unresponsive. Britta shows him “Inspector Spacetime,” Community‘s version of Doctor Who. He’s revived, and all is well.
Now, Jeff bursts into the room, looking utterly disheveled. He shows the group the photo of Pierce and a man who he perceives is Professor Kane. However, that’s not Kane — that’s Sugar Cube, an incarcerated rapper who was a spokesperson for Hawthorne Wipes.
Jeff inadvertently spews a few racist remarks in a bid to defend himself, and he proceeds to destroy the study room table with an ax. Dean Pelton forlornly informs the group that nothing will change this year, and we’ll still get shenanigans but on a tighter budget. Jeff apologizes for his behavior and departs.
Then, the dean tells the security team he can’t afford to pay their salary. After leaving, a section of the air vent falls on Pelton’s desk with Chang inside it, and Chang reveals he’ll work for free as long as he gets room and board.
Later, the group reunites, and Pierce reveals he paid Professor Kane to kick out Jeff. But we learn he merely fibbed to endear the crew to Jeff, and Jeff doesn’t make a good villain.
Back in the study room, we discover that Troy and Abed are moving in together, and Britta has decided on her major: psychology.
The one-liners, gags, observations and facts!
Troy always comes in hot with the verbal gems: “You are human tennis elbow — you are a pizza burn on the roof of the world’s mouth. You are the opposite of Batman!” “Why don’t you go start a ruiners’ club? Oh, wait, you’d probably ruin it.”
Of course, John Goodman delivers the goods with one of my favorite Laybourne lines: “You could have lived the rest of your life in blissful ignorance and died a happy, pansexual imp. But you wanted to feel power this year. Well, now you’re going to feel my power as it surges downward from me, straight through you from nostril to rectum, now until the end of time. And that’s ‘whassup.’”
Pelton’s got it going on: “If I wanted to run a monkey hotel, I’d install a banana buffet. I’d use vines as elevators, and I’d put tail holes in the bathrobes. And I’d lower all the show knobs.” “And now it’s your turn. Brainstorm, idea shower, spray your solutions all over me.” “I forgot everything you said before ‘rectum’!”
Annie and Shirley’s collective “Aw!” is always a welcome gag. Abed and Troy say, “Six seasons and a movie” about Cougar Town. The musical number at the beginning, much like Chang with ham, feels like a precursor of sorts to “Regional Holiday Music.”
Not a gag, but Cougar Town‘s mid-season move feels like foreshadowing, considering Community‘s fourth season slides into the mid-season bracket and stays there for the remainder of the series.
As per usual, the study room table and its allure come into play. The physical object anchors the group’s friendship, and it goes through the wringer (Winger?) throughout the show.
Interestingly, Laybourne adopts the goatee/suit look by “Digital Exploration of Interior Design” after shaving off Dean Pelton’s goatee in “Biology 101” to show he can pull it off better.
I love the store titles on this show. There’s “Pencils & Such” in the cafeteria, and Troy mentions he’s registered at “Linens ‘n Things” with Abed.
There are a few “firsts” here. “Biology 101” is the first episode that lists Jim Rash in the opening credits as a series regular. This outing is the first mention of “Inspector Spacetime,” which becomes a Community parody mainstay for the rest of the series. In addition, Britta first announces psychology as her school major.
The dean’s quote about the “National Lampoonery that’s coming to an end this year” alludes to Chevy Chase’s involvement in the National Lampoon movies.
Jeff’s monkey gas hallucination is inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey, notably seeing himself age, the eye in radial color reverse and the study room table as the Monolith from the film.
The ax of it all!
“Biology 101” is one of my favorite season premiere episodes. It sets the stage for several fun Community storylines, introduces new running gags (even long-running ones) and toys with the “darker” edge of Season Three. I’d say this outing foreshadows the famous (and ominous) Darkest Timeline.
Overall, it’s a hilarious installment bolstered by terrific guest performances from Michael K. Williams and John Goodman. Williams, you’re sorely missed.
What do you love most about Community‘s “Biology 101”? Sound off in the comments below! Join me next week as I dive deep into “Geography of Global Conflict,” and brace yourselves for a CRISIS ALERT!
Until then, stay streets ahead.
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