COMMUNITY Season Six Episode Seven – “Advanced Safety Features”

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This week’s episode fires on all (Honda) cylinders.

It has everything Community fans love and some things we didn’t even know we needed: Britta enters another doomed relationship with a personified corporation, Jeff exhibits human vulnerability, Chang learns Powerpoint, and Frankie plays the steel drums.

Whatever happens from here on out is just gravy.

“Advanced Safety Features” opens with the return of “Subway” (Travis Schuldt) who we met back in season three the first time a real-world sponsorship, Subway Sandwiches, was incorporated into the show’s storyline. This time around he’s “Rick” and instead of subs he’s pushing Hondas as an undercover guerrilla marketer. Though we’ve seen this kind of story before, nobody plays the handsome tool better than Schuldt (Scrubs, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) so I’m more than okay with him returning. In fact, he should pop up every season with a different corporate persona:

Hi, guys! It’s me, Haliburton!

His return breeds instant conflict for Britta who loved Subway, er, Rick, but ultimately got him fired for certain “amorous activities” in Troy and Abed’s pillow fort.

Meanwhile, Jeff is concerned Elroy doesn’t like him and, to win him over, books his favorite band ‘Natalie is Freezing’ to play Greendale. The 90s rock outfit provided the soundtrack of Britta’s wonderfully off-putting musical number from “Basic Crisis-Room Decorum” which makes their appearance the second prominent callback of the episode.

The recurring characters and motifs (Britta’s abysmal dating record, Jeff learning to care) help Community instill some consistency after two seasons that have been anything but. Half the original cast is gone, the new faces are still settling in, so it makes sense to dig into the show’s past and find something familiar for audiences to enjoy. This speaks to one of the show’s newest strengths that only long-running sitcoms ever develop: a history.

Successful showrunners will tell you it takes years to build the in-jokes and roster of supporting characters necessary for a good comedy to become great. But it pays off because soon a mythology forms that staff writers can draw from for fresh, yet familiar story ideas season after season. That’s how The Simpsons keeps going – its twenty-plus years of history and hundreds of characters can be broken down and reassembled into near-infinite combinations. Watch this:

Nelson, Homer, Bowl-O-Rama, New Years.

I can see it.

Only veteran TV shows who put the work in earn this luxury, and slowly but surely, Community has emerged as one of them. It’s not a sign of staleness or lack of new ideas, it’s celebrating what works and rewards audiences who’ve been paying attention.

Justin Rawana is recapping Community season 6 in a week-by-week format. He has also recently reviewed Harmontown.
Read all recaps of Community Season 6 episodes: 6 here, 5 here, 4 here, 3 here, 2 here and episode 1 here.
Community airs every Tuesday on Yahoo Screen.