Episode Title: "A Fistful of Paintballs"
Writer: Andrew Guest
Director: Joe Russo
The tone of this episode was set immediately by the opening sequence in which Fat Neil (Charley Koontz) is saved from a trio of paintgun wielding jerks by a suddenly kickass, Annie (Alison Brie) decked out in a sexy western style outfit. And when Neil tries to get off a shot at Annie, she painfully reminds him that "this is paintball!"
From there on, the episode was an almost pitch perfect parody of the Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns, particularly "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly." "Community" has always been a farcical comedy. And it goes way over the top here as the campus quickly descends into a paintball war after an Ice Cream company's mascot announces a $100,000 prize for the last person standing.
Sure, it's crazy. But It's also one of the funnier episodes of the year. It even manages to move the study group's issues with Pierce (Chevy Chase) even more out into the open. As the episode plays out, we see that Pierce has used his influence to create a saloon-like sanctuary in the cafeteria modestly dubbed "Fort Hawthorne." And despite putting wanted posters out for Jeff (Joel McHale) that said "Wanted: Gay or Alive;" Pierce claims that he wants to make amends for his misdeeds and offers to split the prize money with his friends.
Of course this is Pierce, so he inevitably betrays Jeff by loading up his weapon with blanks. The others have come to expect this, but not Annie. She's always defended Pierce (and in a flashback, we learn that she was the lone holdout on a vote to kick him out of the group.). Pierce's latest betrayal finally breaks his quasi-father/daughter relationship with Annie as she challenges him to a duel after chasing him around with an automatic paintball gun. It's a great sequence that manages to advance the characters and still be really hilarious.
Which brings us to this week's special guest star, Josh Holloway from "Lost" as the mysterious "Black Rider," a paintball contestant whom Abed (Danny Pudi) describes as “network-TV good looking.” Holloway doesn't actually get a lot to do in the episode other than menace the characters with his dazzling paintball skills and make Jeff wildly insecure about his looks. But the Black Rider does have some fun chemistry with Annie, even as he tries to eliminate her. And the Black Rider's exit only comes about because he mistakenly believes that Pierce is having a heart attack despite Abed's warning that Pierce used the same trick last week to get out of giving him a piece of gum.
On a side note, it's also very amusing how overt the Dean's (Jim Rash) crush on Jeff has become. Not that the Dean ever hid it well, it just seems like he's more out in the open about it now. Another hilarious moment came from Vicki (Danielle Kaplowitz), whom Pierce turned into a salon dancer for twinkies. Even when the salon was gone, Vicki kept going because she said that she couldn't leave the life behind. That's classic.
There's also something special about a show that unapologetically introduces an Ice Cream Cone mascot as the primary villain. I suspect it's someone we already know in that costume (personally, I think it's Professor Michelle Slater from the first season). Whoever it is, she (or he) wants to destroy Greendale and even unleashes paintball stormtroopers to prevent any students form taking the prize money.
Ridiculous as hell? Yes.
But it's still really hilarious and that's all I need from a comedy.
Crave Online Rating: 9 out of 10.