Performer of the Week: Yvette Nicole Brown

Community - Season 5A weekly feature in which we spotlight shining stars

THE PERFORMER | Yvette Nicole Brown

THE SHOW | Community

THE EPISODE | “VCR Maintenance and Educational Publishing”

THE AIRDATE | March 13, 2014

THE PERFORMANCE | To earn this distinction over Jim Rash in the same week as Dean Pelton unleashed a hilarious, furious rap while dressed as a peanut bar (then broke down and tearfully admitted, “I don’t know what that was!”), Brown couldn’t just be good, she had to be great.

And was she ever!

As the episode began, the funny lady was the chirpy, God-fearing Shirley that we all know and love. But the second Jeff and Hickey convinced her to doff her halo and help them sell a stash of stolen chemistry textbooks, everything about her changed. Gone were her sweet smile and sing-song voice; in their place, a dangerous glint in her eyes and the rat-a-tat speech pattern of a mobster from an old Dick Tracy movie.

As one would hope, Brown appeared to be having a blast unleashing her inner tough broad. She was only getting started, though. Joan Crawford couldn’t have been any more badass than Shirley was while negotiating Britta’s finder’s fee for securing them a fence. And she was downright scary when Chang stumbled upon the scene.

“He can’t leave,” she said simply, her arched eyebrow conveying as much menace as a loaded gun.

Before all was said and done, Shirley had tied up not some but all of her accomplices and learned from guest star Paul Williams that the textbooks that were supposed to make them rich… were misprints. But it didn’t really matter, because by then, Brown had shown us a side of Shirley that was so unexpected and funny, it should’ve been criminal.

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lauren-weedman-looking-dorisHONORABLE MENTION | HBO’s Looking has inspired plenty of buzz — and lots of debate — about its portrayal of modern gay men, but it’s been Lauren Weedman as Doris, the pediatric-nurse roommate of Murray Bartlett’s Dom, who’s quiety stolen every scene in which she’s appeared. Last weekend’s Season 1 finale was no exception, as Doris took on hosting duties at Dom’s pop-up restaurant, exhibiting with minimal dialogue such natural concern and affection for her BFF that you could feel their years of friendship inform her every move. Best of all, though, was the scene in which Doris approached Dom’s financial backer and possible love interest Lynn (Scott Bakula) and tried to smooth over Dom’s earlier cantankerous behavior. Weedman infused Doris’ breezy opening words about Lynn’s flower arrangements and her “spreading pollen all over the place” with an urgency that indicated she had so much more to say — and a hesitancy that hinted she wasn’t sure if she should say them. Finally, though, as Lynn continued to half-ignore her words and make his march to the restroom, Doris stammered to the chase — “Dom’s worth it. He’s just…he’s worth it.” — then turned and walked away. Just like Bakula’s character, we were left surprised, intrigued and definitely wanting to know more. Good thing, then, that Weedman’s been upped to series-regular status for the show’s recently greenlit second season.

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Law & Order: Special Victims Unit - Season 15HONORABLE MENTION | Too often, TV cops are held up as paragons of virtue. Sure, they may “bend rules” or get in the face of the occasional perp, but it’s rare that we see deep flaws, the kind that result in deviant behavior. But Law & Order: SVU‘s Kelli Giddish this week revealed to us a Detective Rollins spiraling toward rock bottom, a blowsy cigarette smoker compromised, to the tune of $15K, by a gambling habit. To make good on her debt (and prove she wasn’t an informant), Rowlins ran some sketchy errands for some sketchy people, agonizing each step of the way — never more so than when Benson called her on the carpet. In the end, yes, Rowlins had the opportunity to shrug off some of her bad deeds, committed as they were as an asset to the vice squad. But Giddish made sure we knew that Rowlins’ moral debt might never be paid off.

Which performances rocked your TV set this week? Sound off below and let us know!