Television DeSalvoGrifting101

Published on May 7th, 2015 | by Vyctoria Hart

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Community Season 6 Episode 9 “Grifting 101” Review

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The latest course catalogue has been released at Greendale Community College and there’s an exciting new class – Basic Grifting – being taught by the charismatic Professor Roger DeSalvo (Matt Berry – IT Crowd, Mighty Boosh, Toast of London). Ignoring Jeff’s warnings that a class claiming to teach grifting will naturally be a grift, the committee sign up to learn together, with Abed being especially keen thanks to his love of the 1973 movie The Sting (no Britta, Sting isn’t actually in that movie). It becomes immediately clear that Jeff is right when the course requirements include such items as a $150 ‘regulation grifting briefcase’ and fake money made from newspaper for $5 a bundle (they’ll be needing ten of those, each). Despite this the group seem excited for their first lesson, which consists of two minutes of DeSalvo throwing a hat and forty minutes of passing briefcases back and forth. Finally realising they’ve been had they appeal to Jeff who refuses to help on the basis that as a fellow grifter they’d probably get along, and besides the man hasn’t done anything to him personally.

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That lasts for a whole minute when Jeff returns to his office find that DeSalvo has installed himself in Jeff’s chair and is happily drinking his stashed booze. Jeff tries to appeal to him, grifter to grifter, but it seems they have a difference of opinion on their respective roles. DeSalvo sees Jeff as nothing more than a liar, a craftless artless thug incapable of the finesse required for a true grifter, whilst he sees himself as “god’s paintbrush… No, I am god, which pretty much makes me better than you.” Mortally offended Jeff returns to the group and agrees to help them get revenge. As the class progresses onto passing multiple briefcases (obviously requiring that each student fork out another $150 for a second breifcase) Elroy receives a telegram from Africa informing him of the death of his aunt and the government’s threat to seize his inheritance. DeSalvo is incensed that they would try the classic 419 Scam (“the Jim Belushi of grifts!”) on him and when he confronts Jeff in the faculty lounge he is further offended by a poor attempt at the Lottery Ticket Scam, foolishly using the same guy who delivered the fake telegram only minutes earlier. Frankie kicks the boozed up staff out of the faculty lounge, so DeSalvo finds himself in Britta’s bar and is confronted over the rivalry, with Britta questioning exactly what it will cost to make the Professor of Grifting go away? Meanwhile Jeff returns to the group’s secret meeting place, pleased that DeSalvo has taken his invisible bait by not taking his fake bait. Unfortunately it seems that Jeff has no further plans beyond this point and has been making it up as he goes (or has he? Probably, it is Jeff after all). Vulnerable, hurt and bullied Jeff finally gives in and asks Abed to show him The Sting so he can get some ideas. I personally haven’t seen this film and since Elroy describes it as ‘making my whole brain long and quiet’ I’m not sure I’ll bother, however it seems to involve a lot of far fetched concepts, like making fake buildings and getting a thousand people to cooperate in secret, definitely the sort of thing that could never EVER happen at Greendale. Nope. Never.

But what’s this? DeSalvo has found them holed up in the closet. Jeff surrenders and says that DeSalvo was right, he’s no grifter, at which DeSalvo corrects him, he’d actually called him thug, and thugs fight, therefore he was wrong. At which point Britta punches him and a chase scene ensues, ending with the Professor of Grifting in a bloody heap at the bottom of a staircase. Now watch closely. A severely injured DeSalvo immediately wrings $50,000 dollars out of Frankie and the Dean under threat of legal action. The Dean expels Britta for her part in the accident. She then meets an uninjured DeSalvo in the closet where they split the cash and share a passionate kiss whilst Abed swaps out the case for one filled with the Professor’s own fake money. They plan to meet in a motel later and Britta leaves. DeSalvo discovers the fake bills and follows her, only to be stopped by Leonard with a baggage trolley filled with decoy briefcases, and then by Garrett leading a briefcase parade through the halls. Giving up on faking his injuries he runs up the stairs to find Abed and Britta apparently in the custody of Officer Cackowski. He demands that those two be arrested for stealing his $50,000 at which point Jeff arrives and points out that there are only two ways the situation can be interpreted. Either it’s crass, artless thuggery and there really is a lot of money floating around for clearly fake injuries and therefor DeSalvo owes that money back to the school. Or he vastly underestimated the group and the money was given and taken as a grift, no one owes anything but DeSalvo probably shouldn’t be teaching the subject, since the class already knows everything there is to know. But I guess we already knew that.

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Matt Berry is one of the rising stars of British comedy so it was good to see him getting more exposure in the US beyond IT Crowd, especially since they made use of his fantastic singing voice and it’s a shame that the character won’t be added to the new roster. This was a great ensemble episode with good performances from the whole case, thankfully no jarring running jokes (Chang, I’m looking at you), and very well paced for a single story episode given how some of the earlier double story episodes dragged earlier in the season. Another good example of using the surreal spirit of Greendale in the new more realistic Community framework. Clearly this episode was inspired by the movie The Sting, but I don’t think it loses much from not having seen it or any of the other grifting-genre films that Abed mentions. Once again the teaser trailer for the fake TV show at the end, this time entitled “The Guy From Jeff’s Gym”, was a highlight that I have happily watched for real. Maybe in the DVD extras? My only real complaint is that I do absolutely agree with Elroy- the next person who says grift is gonna grift. My god, now it’s replacing other words!

Vyctoria Hart

Vyctoria Hart

Steampunk illustrator, disabled cosplayer, cat wrangler, maker of terrible puns. I draw under the name of Phantoms Siren.
Vyctoria Hart

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