When news of Pierce's (Chevy Chase) death jarringly interrupted the search for the A--crack Bandit, many fans felt his passing wasn't treated with the respect it deserved. This week, "Cooperative Polygraphy" proves Pierce's death wasn't simply a footnote in Community history when the arrival of his executor Mr. Stone (Walton Goggins) demonstrates the continuing influence Pierce has on the Study Group.
"Pierce's departure was kind of abrupt and it needed to be addressed," Joel McHale said of Pierce's graduation in the Season 4 finale. "And it would have been easy for [Dan Harmon] to say everything was a dream upon his return, but the way he handled it was masterful. And [Thursday's episode] really answered all the questions that I think fans would have - or have and will - and had after it's appeared."
Following Pierce's funeral, the group gathers in the study room where Mr. Stone reveals that to receive their inheritance they have to answer a series of questions to clear them of Pierce's murder. While the interrogation predictably begins in Pierce-like fashion ("Are you gay? Are you sure you're not gay? Gay murderer says what?") the situation soon spirals out of control as the Study Group is forced to face certain truths about themselves and each other.
"While we were shooting it, I felt, and I think everyone that was there felt, that it's a very important, very pivotal episode in the journey of that show," Goggins tells TVGuide.com. "It is a real opportunity for those characters to look at themselves and where they've come. For me, to help them facilitate that realization was a real honor. I'm very grateful that I got a chance to do it."
Pierce was always Community's most divisive character, both within the show and for viewers. And his presence — and power to manipulate — continues to haunt the study group throughout Thursday's episode. But in the end, Harmon pays tribute to who Pierce really was, which wasn't only an abrasive, bigoted, selfish old man, but also a good friend and father figure to those around him.
"I think that [episode] was a way to service both how he affected the Study Group - the character of Pierce - and how they would move forward from this moment,"Jim Rash told reporters. "I think it was approaching it from the growth of the characters and what it meant for them and the impact of a singular guy on the rest of them. Same thing that will be dealt with the Troy (Donald Glover) departure."
In addition to providing a proper goodbye to Pierce, Thursday's episode will also reveal the reason behind Troy's impending exit from Community. Although"Cooperative Polygraphy" the episode acts as a tribute to a deceased character and sets up another's departure, Community is still a sitcom before all else, and therefore stays light."It's such an incredibly great reveal of how [Pierce] died," McHale told reporters of the episode's final twist. "When I read that, I mean, I stood up and screamed 'Touchdown!'"
McHale shared particular praise for guest star Goggins, who's best known for his dramatic roles on Justified, The Shield and Sons of Anarchy. "I was extremely nervous and extremely insecure and uncomfortable the first day that I got there because these people are so smart and their sense of humor is so specific. But they welcomed me with open arms, and I just had such a good time," Goggins recalls.
And it sounds like it paid off. McHale referred to the episode's tag as one of the best scenes in Community's five-season history. So don't stop watching until the very end. We promise it's worth it.
Community airs Thursdays at 8/7c on NBC.