Shirley (informed by Annie) discovers that Jeff is preparing to fight the bully before her Christmas party. And see, to Shirley, December 10th is so important because it represents Christmas, not because it IS Christmas. It embodies the time of year where she is supposed to be surrounded by people who love her and with whom she can celebrate. And instead, this year is a year that is very much upsetting to her. It's not the defamation of Christmas by political correctness, or religious differences (though that does upset her) - it's the defamation of what it represents.
But see, Jeff doesn't understand that. Jeff only sees the surface issues sometimes with the study group. He's focused on doing something because HE wants to do it and because somehow it will make HIM feel better. He never does ask Shirley why the day is so important to her - he just dismisses her insistence by noting that it's only the 10th of December, after all (while the rest of the study group has the good sense to actually look guilty during this). Remember what I said earlier, though? About the reasons Jeff gives for fighting Mike? Here are his two reasons: "Because he picked on Abed and because he corrected my Spanish." Recall, once more, that Jeff is a selfish character and that he wants to do things that benefit others, while somehow also benefiting himself. He agreed to recruit Troy to play football in order to avoid being blackmailed; he joined the debate team to get a parking spot; he confronted Chang to have a shot at passing Spanish, etc.
(In all fairness, Jeff DOES try to explain his point of view to Shirley regarding religion.)
Shirley and the group meet up in the study room for the party, and when Jeff doesn't show up because he has decided to fight Mike, Shirley banishes him and informs that anyone else who wants to go to Jeff's fight (if they do so) will be dead to her. Shirley loves her study group so much that she tries to glue them together into a vacant puzzle board in the sincere belief that when she is finished, they'll look exactly how she wants them to. But what she doesn't realize is what a lot of children don't realize when they attempt puzzles - you can't make a piece fit into a puzzle if it wasn't intended to. In fact, if you try to jam a piece of a puzzle into a board that doesn't belong, you end up both frustrated and damaging the piece. Instead of (initially, because by the end of the episode she learns this) accepting people for how they are (flaws and all), Shirley desires to "fix" them into the images she wants to see. And this is understandable because she wants to do the same with her real family. Britta identifies that Shirley wants to hard to recreate something she's afraid has been lost. But instead of walking through the hallways of McKinley High School belting "What I Did for Love," and probably learning very little, Shirley comes to accept that when the pieces of the puzzle don't fit, it's not that you've done something wrong - it's probably that the picture you're making is different than the one you anticipated.
As @RobZuber mentioned on Twitter (and practically read my mind!) the breakdown scene in the study room exemplifies that Britta still considers the group to be hers. With Jeff out of the picture (momentarily), she takes charge and provides insight into what should be done. She gives what we will come to know as the "Winger speech" and does a great job at pointing out what Jeff had failed to - the root cause for Shirley's actions. Jeff didn't take the time to understand WHY Shirley acted the way that she did but Britta (season 1's soft Britta) did. See, you can't fix a problem until you can identify the actual cause of the problem. Shirley's behavior wouldn't be altered until she realized what she was doing and why she was doing it. (This is also a perfect example of how Britta didn't "Britta" anything up and really would make a great therapist).
Jeff may not have learned the root cause behind why Shirley acted the way that she did, but that didn't stop him from learning something about himself and her in the process. He looks at the bracelet right before he is about to fight Mike and realizes that sometimes, not everything is about him - he takes special care to place his glasses, watch, phone, etc. out of harm's way and wants his face to remain un-touched by fists. But it's wonderful that he also recognizes that the season of Christmas - whether he agrees with it or not - means something to someone he cares about, and that warrants respect. And at that moment, Shirley realizes too that though her college-family may be different than her real one in the sense that they all have different morals and beliefs, Jeff truly does care and that warrants HER respect of HIM. 'tis a beautiful full circle, no?
The entire study group bands together to fight Mike and his cronies, and the whole sequence is just fantastic, especially when fake reindeer and giant candy canes are involved. By the end of the episode, everyone exhibits varying degrees of sustained injury. Chang interrupts the group right after Shirley has completed an unoffensive holiday song (and Yvette's voice is beautiful, so she should sing on the show every chance she gets!), to announce that the final grades have been implemented and that everyone will be moving on next semester... except Jeff.
There's this moment of terror on Jeff's face when Chang tells him that he wouldn't be moving on with the study group. And normally, I'd attribute it to something like Jeff being horrified that his four-year plan is de-railed, etc. But I honestly think that because of this episode and the progress he made as a character, he was frightened by the thought that he could be separated from a group that he had just begun to care about. His fear and dejection are palpable, but short-lived because Chang then announces that Jeff is moving on too (he just wanted to psych everyone out). The episode ends with a celebration of friends, a new "family" and another semester of Spanish!
Additional de-lovely aspects:
- Anyone notice that our favorite bully was in the background at the beginning of the episode?
- "I'm... gonna put that in the pocket closest to my heart."
- Yvette's guilt-voice is perfection.
- Annie and Troy not knowing who Billy Joel is depresses me. Perhaps because my dad introduced me to soft rock 'n' roll growing up.
- "That guy wasn't gay! He had a mustache."
- "Because doing more than the minimum work is my definition of... failing."
- I love that Annie throws a paper ball twice at Jeff during the study room scene.
- "Senor Chang, can you do something about this?" "...I'll allow it."
- "You've never been in a fight?" "Technically no. I guess I'm too charming and likeable. Call me a name." "... I can't."
- "You know, in boxing you fight for the purse and the belt." "I've gotta write a paper about that!" Honestly, I have said this about so many things before. Britta, I adore you.
- "We're trying to get Jeff ready for the fiiiiiiiiii...ght. I couldn't think of another word." "Idiot. He meant we were fi...ghting. It IS hard to think of another word."
- "Are you perpetually on your way to the gym?"
- "Come on, I'm being punk'd, right?"
- The tag will always be golden.
All right folks, next week I will be taking the week off. Since my birthday is on Thursday, I have a friend coming into town for the weekend and will be spending time with her (which I am excited about!). In celebration, however, you should all make time between Thursday and Friday to watch ANY episode of "Community" you choose!
Our re-watches will resume on Thursday, February 2nd (the blog-review will follow the day after, as usual) with "Investigative Journalism" which features some "MASH" references and this guy named Jack Black. See you all then! :)