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Recap / Community S1 E05: Advanced Criminal Law

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Following a Spanish test, Senor Chang discovers a discarded crib sheet and threatens to fail the entire class if the cheater doesn't come forward. When Britta steps forward to take the blame, she faces a tribunal (at the campus' 'state of the art' judges table in the swimming pool facilities) which threatens her with expulsion; however, Jeff steps forward to act as her counsel, and the possibility of an intriguing defense arises.


Meanwhile, Troy has taken to messing with Abed, which backfires when Abed decides to respond in kind — however, while Abed's own understanding of sarcasm-based humor is comparatively weak, another more disturbing, alien picture of him begins to be painted.

The Dean, in yet another attempt to convince everyone that Greendale is a proper university, has commissioned a statue of alumnus Luis Guzmán to be erected on campus, and has asked Annie to arrange for the writing of a school song. Pierce convinces Annie that he is a talented songwriter, but soon finds that he might not be cut out for the role.


The Community episode "Advanced Criminal Law" provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: Donald Glover's character convincing Abed that he's related to Danny Glover. Donald Glover gets this a lot in real life, apparently.
  • The B Grade: Annie has never gotten an 'F' before and reacts very poorly to the possibility of getting a zero on the test.
  • Bait-and-Switch: The episode plays Abed's attempts to convince Troy that he's an alien as if they're actually working... only for Troy, when finally confronting Abed, to point out that he actually was never fooled for a moment; his concern comes from the fact that Abed is putting far too much effort into his prank, to the point where that in and of itself is creepy.
  • Big "NO!": And this is how Annie reacts. Told you.
  • British Teeth:
    Chang: Oh, shut your pompous vortex of overlapping fangs!
    Duncan: Hey, British dentistry is not on trial!
  • Advertisement:
  • Chewbacca Defense: Jeff's attempt to invoke 9/11 in his defense of Britta. It draws audible groans from everyone present.
  • Courtroom Episode: Except the trial is held in the pool.
  • Cultural Posturing:
    Jeff: [to Duncan] You know, you have the savoir faire of a hyena. How is it that you and James Bond come from the same island?
    Duncan: Message received. I'll just wait for you to finish striking out first.
    Jeff: [sarcastically] Cheers.
    Abed: [passing by and misunderstanding] M*A*S*H.
    Duncan: Fawlty Towers. Game over; have a nice day.
  • Darker and Edgier: The alternate scenes included on the DVD have Annie and Pierce having much nastier disputes over his lack of composing talent.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: "Luis Guzman, noted Puerto Rican American."
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Inverted when Duncan is unable to concentrate during his argument with Chang because of a naked older man in the showers.
    Duncan: Can we move this to a room with less balls?
  • Don't Answer That: Jeff suggests this technique for Britta's trial, but we don't actually see it applied the next day.
  • Escalating War: Abed embarks on one of these after being messed with by Troy, acting as an alien. Subverted in that Troy isn't fooled by Abed's pranks, but is increasingly concerned by Abed's ridiculously elaborate attempts.
    Troy: Abed, stop! Stop doing this right now!
    Abed: Whoa, whoa, I'm not an alien! [Giggles happily]
    Troy: I never thought you were. But this is insane, okay. Those are credible alien hand movements. You invented a whole language. I'm pretty sure you rented green screen. It would be less creepy if you were actually an alien.
  • Feedback Rule: In the last scene there's a noticeable feedback when Pierce talks into the mic right before performing his song in public.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When the study group play the Blame Game, Britta is the only person who doesn't explicitly deny being the cheat, foreshadowing that she is the cheat.
    • When Britta wonders what's going to happen to her after she confesses to cheating, the Dean comes out of nowhere and to offer a reply. He then makes a note about what an entrance he just made, offering a slight preview of how he would go on to interact with the study group.
  • Funny Background Event: As the episode closes by zooming out from Pierce's musical performance, Dean Pelton can be seen lightly dancing to it.
  • Heel Realization: Troy, when Abed reveals that he went to such elaborate lengths to pretend to be an alien because Troy had said that pranking people was a sign of friendship (after Troy had played some rather mean pranks on Abed previously and flippantly used this as a justification).
    Troy: From now on, friends don't prank each other.
  • High Hopes, Zero Talent: Pierce smugly chides Annie when she tells him she's having a difficult time with the composer she hired to work on a Greendale school song, telling her that he has musical talent and would have done it for free. Later, he seems startled and surprised when she tells him that the Dean agreed to give him the job instead. He eventually admits to her that he wasn't up to the task and was a talentless hack all along. Veers into Giftedly Bad when he suddenly has a stroke of inspiration and thinks he's come up with something great after all (which turns out to be an obliviously whole-cloth ripoff of Bruce Hornsby and the Range's "The Way It Is").
  • How Much Did You Hear?: Abed, in an attempt to mess with Troy's head, is pretending to be an undercover alien. At one point he pretends to send transmissions while hiding behind a bush Troy is sure to walk past. When Troy comes by and overhears him, Abed asks "How long have you been standing there?" to further the illusion that he's hiding something.
  • Hypocrite: Remember how, in the pilot, Britta said that her big deal is 'honesty'? Kind of hard to take that seriously when she admits she really did attempt to cheat on the test.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Three examples:
    • After Senor Chang has ordered the class to 'turn on' Britta, resulting in her being pelted with paper.
      Britta: Ow! Real mature. [She leaves]
      Senor Chang: [Childishly] That's right, we are mature! Too mature to sit in a class with a cheating lying poop-face!
      [Britta has long since left the room]
    • During the hearing after Britta has admitted that she did cheat
      Britta: You know I have a problem with dishonesty!
      Jeff: You're on trial for cheating!
    • Leonard, swimming in the pool during Jeff's climactic speech, objects to Jeff's assertion about how everyone at Greendale is to some degree completely insane:
      Leonard: Not me!
      Jeff: Oh, come on Leonard. If you're gonna argue with me, put on a bathing suit.
      Leonard: Busted!
  • Insanity Defense: How Jeff saves Britta from expulsion for cheating.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Señor Chang calls out Starburns on his identity issues:
    Chang: Silencio, por favor. Starburns! That means you.
    Starburns: My name's Alex, dude.
    Chang: Well maybe you should spend 5 hours sculpting that into your face.
  • Lampshaded Double Entendre:
    Chang: And then she said "screw you!" or "screw education!" or something like that and stormed out of the room in her high-heeled boots like it was tampon time. If you know what I mean.
    Jeff: Objection. I don't know what he means.
    Duncan: Please don't encourage him, Winger.
  • Out of Focus: Shirley is not involved in any of the episode's three subplots.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Chang spewing racist comments in class.
  • Sarcasm-Blind: Abed's inability to understand being 'messed with' drives his and Troy's subplot. Lampshaded:
    Abed: Troy invented rap music, and he's related to Danny Glover, and President Obama.
    Troy: Hey man, that stuff I said this morning wasn't true, I was just messing with you.
    Abed: You were lying?
    Troy: Yeah, as a joke. You've never had somebody mess with you before?
    Abed: Yes, just kidding, no. Like that? ...This isn't a table. (Laughs) ...That's funny.
  • Self-Serving Memory: Although we don't hear all of Chang's testimony at the 'trial', it's pretty clear that he's inaccurately presenting himself in the best possible light.
  • Shout-Out: Chang makes a reference to Mr. Miyagi and his Wax On, Wax Off treatment.
  • Show Some Leg: Chang attempts this while giving his testimony.
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: Chang and Duncan spend most of the trial sniping at each other.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: When stating their names for the record, Chang claims to actually be a Professor. Duncan, an actual professor, swiftly argues the point. And then Jeff lampshades the fact that they're arguing over status at Greendale.
  • Stylistic Suck: Double subverted; for the most part Abed's efforts to persuade Troy he's an alien are quite convincing and credible, and he even goes to the trouble of renting green screen to produce some reasonably convincing 'alien communicator' effects. Troy in fact cites the obvious effort that Abed is putting into his production as a reason why it's utterly insane and creeping him out. Then this trope fully kicks in when Garrett appears in a less-than-convincing alien suit badly acting the same way Abed was, unaware that Troy already knows the score.
    Troy: You're gettin' a little sloppy.
    Abed: We went over-budget.
    Troy: Hmmm.
  • Suspiciously Similar Song: Invoked. The school song Pierce finally creates is a thinly-veiled (as in "veil, what veil?") knockoff of Bruce Hornsby and the Range's "The Way It Is". Jeff and Abed hang a lampshade all over this.
  • Take That!: Pierce states that he's no better at writing songs than Annie or Billy Joel.
  • What Were You Thinking?: Duncan has this reaction after it emerges that Chang had threatened to fail the entire class if someone didn't own up to cheating.