I'll come right out with it: This episode was just alright.
"Early 21st Century Romanticism" had the usual maximum velocity wit we've come to expect, but there weren't really any guffaw-worthy moments for me this go round.
The funniest bit was, of course, Britta thinking how cool and progressive she was for hanging out with a lesbian, but then finding out Paige was actually straight - and using Britta for the same. I actually feel a bit sorry for Britta, because it seems like she's constantly seeking some sort of validation in her desperate attempts to champion a cause. Although, if it continues to give us moments like that dance floor bit, then I say "Britta, carry on!"
Someone is either really a huge fan or a big hater of the Barenaked Ladies, regardless, though, what a random catalyst for a fight between Jeff and the group. I'm starting to wonder how many times Jeff is going to learn, forget and relearn the lesson of just how much he cares for and needs the group. This isn't the first time he's gone out of his way to avoid them only to recognize how empty and directionless his life is without them flocking to him like "huddled masses" to the Statue of Liberty. Remember when his lawyer friend came around and he ditched them and the Pop-N-Lock-A-Thon?
Still, it was actually kind of sweet to hear that final voice-over message to his five pals that he actually loves them. As difficult as I still find it to believe these folks would have anything to do with Pierce after his antics of late, here's hoping he answers Jeff's wake-up call and opens his heart. Seeing little helicopter pilots in the water fountain just isn't healthy. Especially when he looks like Andy Dick.
Troy and Abed competing over the same girl had a few moments of sheer joy, but it was actually rather endearing to see the disappointment on Troy's face when he realized she chose him over Abed. Kudos to him for dumping her for calling his buddy "weird." No ho's coming in between these bros, especially when there are candy heart games waiting to be played.
I know I've run this into the ground with previous reviews, but the lack of Shirley becomes more obvious and unbelievable as the weeks go by. She had no story tonight; no contribution except a few eyebrow raises and one menace-tinged expression of concern for Pierce's welfare. That was it. She wasn't even on screen but for a few seconds at the beginning and end of the episode.
I ask the writers, is it really that difficult to come up with a relevant storyline for Shirley that puts her front and center AND provides a showcase for Ms. Brown's incredibly strong comedic talent? The "I might be pregnant with Chang's baby" thread does not count, because, even when it's on the front burner, most of the focus goes to Chang or her ex-husband. Despite being labeled "Shirley the Cloying" in the Dungeons and Dragons ep, she's actually anything but. How can she possibly be cloying when she's given two or three marginally funny lines per week?
Is it really too much to ask to bring a little better balance to this comedy troupe?
Jeffrey Kirkpatrick is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.