Community: Changnesia and the MacGuffin
It's back! And all of you doubting Debbies out there didn't want to think it could happen, but it did. With this week's episode, Community has (pretty much) returned to form. The plot was right out of season three and the reactions of all the characters, including Jeff, were spot on. I won't lie; I have not laughed out loud much this season, but this episode had me LOL'ing all up in this piece (If I ever write LOL again, you can punch me).
Photo by: Michael Desmond/NBC "He's a good listener, mostly because all words are new to him."
The setup of the episode, as with all good Community episodes, follows a pattern of absurdity turned sanity turned absurdity, with a twist in the end...that you could see coming a mile away.
The entire college is working together to help "Kevin" Chang relearn how to act like a productive human being despite his bout with "Changnesia," which is amnesia but with the ability to "still use forced puns." With this disease, Chang has flipped from a maniacal, diabolical dictator to a blissfully stupid sweetie. The college has been helping Chang, but they can't afford it anymore, so they are applying for a MacGuffin Foundation grant to help fight Changnesia. To assist in the grant application, Abed is filming a documentary about the process.
The study group is all behind Chang and his sickness, all of the study group except for Jeff, who is convinced that Chang is faking it. For the record, I thought so too.
So, Jeff decides to sabotage the grant effort by proving that Chang is a liar. He pretends to be a Changnesia supporter to gain the trust of his fellow students while hatching a plan to catch Chang in the act; all of this is documented by Abed, of course.
Jeff asks Annie to play detective and sniff out clues about where Chang was before he was found. Troy follows along to be the bad cop to her good cop or vice versa; Troy basically does the opposite of everything that Annie does, including consistently swapping their "detective names," Partner and Houlihan. What they find out is that Chang spent several weeks working for a local trout salesman (yes, the fish) as a human slave. The trout guy has no idea where he came from as Chang was already a goner by that point -- so he exploited him for cheap labor. But human trafficking is of no concern to Greendale; they just want to figure out how Chang got sick.
So Chang really did lose his memory? Jeff is still not convinced, so he tells Brita and Shirley to follow Chang around. They accidentally leave the camera on for 12 hours and when Jeff goes through the footage, he finds Chang making a phone call.
During a presentation for the MacGuffin Foundation, the organization the school is trying to get the grant from, Jeff brings Chang's ex-wife, who he found Chang calling during the found footage. It turns into a mess, with the foundation awarding the school the money based on the negativity that Jeff brings against the struggle to end Changnesia. What? Yes.
So, the college gets the grant and Jeff turns into a pariah, albeit very briefly. Chang forgives him and they all hug it out as usual.
But wait...right before the closing credits, Chang makes a mysterious phone call to let the other party know that everyone has finally "bought it." Huzzah! We all knew Chang was full of bull. But who is the person controlling Chang's strings? I have a few thoughts: Star Burns, Vice Dean Laybourne, Leonard? My gut says that it's the Vice Dean, as I read that Star Burns, who was a writer on the show, quit in solidarity with Dan Harmon so it might be tough to get him to return.
But seemingly this entire plot, Changnesia, is a ruse for something completely different and Chang is playing the "MacGuffin" to throw the study group off course from the real arc of this season. A MacGuffin is traditionally an object -- but I think an illness would work just fine -- that the plot seems to revolve around. But what the protagonist(s) usually finds is that this object/illness has absolutely nothing to do with the real plot of the story. What are we not supposed to be paying attention to while we worry over Chang's fake illness? A Vice Dean takeover?
I am so glad that the writers moved all that Jeff family crap out of the way and got us back to this show as it should be. My faith is totally renewed.
Hilarious things to point out:
Dean says about the documentary they are making, "This needs to be the Hoop Dreams of things that people care about."
Chang has written clues on his arm so that he remembers stuff. One thing written is "Rent Memento." Ha, get it.
Instead of showing the footage of the messy argument between Jeff and everyone else over his disbelief, Abed has the audience just watch his reaction à la 2 Girls 1 Cup. Brilliant, but they could have taken the joke to a much bigger level.