“Debate 109” feels like a transitional episode for the most part. It’s difficult to tell whether a lot or nothing at all is happening, but it feels somewhat awkward until the last few minutes.
Annie’s (Alison Brie) partner inconsiderately dropped out of the debate finals and now the Human Beings are short one person in their – apparently – ongoing contest against that smug City College.
Jeff (Joel McHale), being a hotshot former lawyer, is convinced to fill in (for a parking space). Unfortunately, his performance at the initial bout of the contest (until the school’s extraordinarily flamboyant basketball team takes over the gym for their scheduled practice session) “sizzles” – and lacks all the elements of funny, to boot. However, after an altercation with the opposing team’s star over Annie’s honor, they prepare.
Meanwhile, Britta (Gillian Jacobs) is consistently snapping at everyone, in the throes of nicotine withdrawal. Pierce (Chevy Chase), however, offers his characteristic and mal-effective help in the form of hypnosis. Unfortunately, this arc simply doesn’t work, since Britta’s only appeal when paired with the aging comedic icon seems to be the ever-growing cuteness of her facial expressions.
On the successfully comedic front, it seems that Abed’s (Danny Pudi) projects for his film class have been prophetic. The “Middle-Eastern Magic 8-Ball,” as Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) has nervously dubbed him, has been using actors to portray scenarios expressed by the group – as much as a week in advance of their actual manifestation.
This is the storyline that finally allows the remaining remnants to come together. Denying that he has any actual psychic ability, Abed professes that he simply understands human behavior impeccably well and can accurately predict their reactions to foreseen events, leading up to an adorable joke at the episode’s conclusion.
Overall, “Debate 109” only works because of Abed’s steamlining storyline, though the events within lead to the raising of curious eyebrows. It seems that “Community’s” creators are dabbling with the notion of a romantic relationship between Jeff and Annie, as the sexual tension between the two is at its dramatic height thus far.
Whether this relationship will grow and encounter the predictable triangle with Troy (Donald Glover) or quadrangle with Britta is yet to be seen, but it is certainly curious.
On the other hand, elements of it are somewhat disturbing, since the 18-year-old Annie seems like such child compared to the seasoned and cynical Jeff. We’ve never been given the benefit of knowing Britta’s actual age, so the sparse flirtation between the two seemed more believable and organic, but with Annie it just seems a bit weird. She literally lets her hair down and suddenly Jeff can’t resist the animal magnetism.
Without McHale’s fantastic acting to save the scenes, it would have likely been awkward and uncomfortable; instead, it is charming and at times amusing.
Overall, “Debate 109” is aptly and almost prophetically titled, as it’s ultimately difficult to tell whether or not the episode is a success. Things are likely to pick up next week in “Environmental Science,” however, as Jeff strikes an unlikely friendship with Senor Chang (Ken Jeong) to characteristically avoid doing any work in Spanish class.