"Cooperative Polygraphy" Was A Brilliant Choice For The Community Reunion Table

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Humans Beings, the cast of Community reunited for a table read to raise money for COVID-19 relief efforts!

You can watch it on the Community YouTube channel.

What episode was chosen to be read on this momentous occasion -- none other than Community Season 5 Episode 4.

Table Read - Community

Titled "Cooperative Polygraphy," the episode is about the Study Group (and Chang) taking a polygraph test to rule them out as murder suspects per the terms of the recently deceased Pierce Hawthorne's will.

It's a great episode, but it's probably not on anyone's top five list of classic Community episodes. Episodes more likely remembered as Community's greatest include:

Community Season 1 Episode 22 -- the first paintball episode. 

Community Season 2 Episode 8 -- the episode about Annie's missing pen and known as the show's definitive bottle episode.

Community Season 2 Episode 14 -- the first Dungeons and Dragons episode.

Abed - DM - Community Season 2 Episode 14

Community Season 2 Episode 21 -- the first clip show that wasn't a clip show episode.

Community Season 3 Episode 4 -- the episode where rolling a Yahtzee die creates multiple timelines.

Plenty of other episodes have a good case for being considered one of Community's greatest episodes, too. Community Season 5 Episode 4 has a lot going for it, but it's probably in the top 15 to 20 episode range at best.  

However, for a table read, "Cooperative Polygraphy" was a brilliant choice. Like how the Study Group came to the conclusion a ghost stole Annie's pen when you consider the alternatives, it was the logical choice.  

First of all, it's a bottle episode.

Bottle Episode - Community Season 2 Episode 8

Beloved episodes feature Community as an action movie or a claymation holiday special (Community Season 2 Episode 11), but much of the fun is lost when you can't see the visual gags or watch the actors perform the fight sequences.   

Since bottle episodes are already considered a more stripped-down version of a typical episode, they work more naturally with the limitations inherent in a table read as opposed to chafing against them.

While narrowing the selection to bottle episodes automatically weeds out many episodes, there are other choices besides Community Season 5 Episode 4. 

As mentioned, Community Season 2 Episode 8 is considered the definitive Community bottle episode. Some others are Community Season 2 Episode 14 (mostly taking place in the study room) and Community Season 2 Episode 22 (set entirely in the anthropology classroom except for the tag).

Out of all these, Community Season 5 Episode 4 remains the better choice.

Dressed for a Funeral - Community Season 5 Episode 4

On Community Season 2 Episode 8, the characters lock themselves in the study room, but they perform a lot of physical actions like tearing up the room and cutting off Pierce's casts. It's harder to depict those things in a table read setting.

Community Season 2 Episode 14 features jokes that would lose impact in a table read -- Chang cosplaying as a dark elf and Annie as Hector the Well-Endowed seducing Abed as the Elf Maiden.

A character giving birth, which happened on Community Season 2 Episode 22, would be harder to depict during a table read as well.

Community Season 5 Episode 4 mostly avoids those issues because the characters spend the episode sitting around a table, and nearly all the jokes are dialogue-driven. Guest star Pedro Pascal (reading the role of Mr. Stone, the person asking the polygraph questions) can confirm this. 

Another reason why this episode was the right episode, it's an ensemble episode.  With a notable exception, the episode focused on all the original core characters, both as individuals and as a group.

Community Stick Figures

Even though Dean Pelton didn't appear on the episode, Jim Rash was indispensable to the success of the project because he directed the table read and filled in as Mara, the polygraph technician confirming the truth and lies.

Besides, having Rash play Mara lets you imagine Mara was a disguise the Dean wore as part of his plan to get close to the handsome Mr. Stone.

As a result, the entire cast got to bask in the spotlight, and their chemistry and camaraderie were as great as ever.

Speaking of characters who were present in spirit, this brings up an additional reason why Community Season 5 Episode 4 was the right episode for the table read.

It’s no secret Chevy Chase had a contentious relationship with the show, and the onscreen relationship between his character, Pierce, and the rest of the Study Group reflected it.

Pierce the Hologram - Community Season 5 Episode 1

For good and ill, Pierce was part of the group. Recasting a guest role is one thing, but it’s hard to imagine someone besides Chase reading for Pierce, especially on episodes like Community Season 2 Episode 14, where he plays a crucial role.     

With the premise of the group taking a polygraph test to honor Pierce’s last wishes, Community Season 5 Episode 4 allowed for Pierce to be part of the table read experience even after the character passed away.     

Pierce’s death, the revelations the polygraph test reveals about each character, and Troy deciding to leave Greendale make it a bittersweet and poignant episode.

Community was never only about the laughs. Despite the criticism of being too conceptual, it had plenty of heart. 

It wanted its audience to feel and care.  It wasn’t afraid to explore tragedy or to reflect on the human condition. 

The Study Group's New Jackets - Community Season 2 Episode 21

Community Season 5 Episode 4 captures all the facets of Community.  It makes you laugh. It makes you sad. You’re aghast at how people can be the worst, and then your faith in humanity is restored.

No episode could have been better for the table read.    

Over to you, TV Fanatics!

Did you watch the table read of Cooperative Polygraphy?

Who else would be good with a Community movie where the characters do nothing but hang out around the study table or on a Zoom chat?

Hit the comments below.  

You can watch Community online at TV Fanatic. 

Becca Newton is a staff writer for TV Fanatic.

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Community Quotes

The Dean: I thought you had a degree from Columbia.
Jeff: Yes, and now I need to get one from America.

Looks like someone woke up on the regular side of bed.

Troy [to Britta]