Dear TV Writers: Your Fear of the Moonlighting Curse is Killing Your Show

What is the Moonlighting Curse, and why is it such a big deal to television writers? Read this in-depth look at the crippling phenomenon and find out!

Getting Rid of the Stigma: Mental Illness in Young Adult Fiction, by Megan Mann

In this piece, Megan brilliantly discusses the stigma of mental illness in literature and how some young adult novels are helping to change the landscape for this discussion.

In Appreciation of the Everyday Heroine

A mask does not a hero make. In this piece, I discuss why it's wrong to dismiss characters without costumes or masks as superheroes.

Friday, February 24, 2012

1x19 "Beginner Pottery" (Meet Doc Potterywood)


"Beginner Pottery"
Original Airdate: March 18, 2010

Everyone cares about how they are perceived, regardless of if they admit it or not. There's a social psychological concept that was developed by Charles Horton Cooley called "the looking-glass self." This theory essentially states that "people shape themselves around the perception of others, and then reinforce other peoples' perceptions of themselves." It's this notion that the way we see ourselves is shaped by how we think other people see us, which then confirms their perceptions of us in the first place. It's an intriguing concept in general, and one that is particularly applicable to this episode in which two characters who care a lot about perception are faced with the opinions of others: Shirley and Jeff. Now, Shirley does not delve into full-out crazy like Jeff does in the episode. However, it is definitely noticeable that both characters are affected by the opinions of those around them. And, beyond that, both are unsure of how to deal with situations which present them with a lack of control. Both learn that at the end though, it is better to accept yourself the way that you are - whether or not that is socially acceptable (in Shirley's case) or whether or not you even like yourself some days (in Jeff's case).

The plot for this episode is basic, in a sense. The study group diverges into Pierce/Shirley/Britta/Troy and Abed/Annie/Jeff when they decide to take different "blow-off" classes during their spring semester. The former opt for a sailing class, while Jeff's group decides to take Beginner Pottery. The episode opens though with Britta and Shirley, the latter explaining how she had to take the bus because her ex-husband needed their van. Britta snarks about his new girlfriend, and Shirley responds with: "Kind people are always kind, Britta. Not just when it's easy." See, for Britta, it's easier (and I think in Jeff's case too) to rebuff the anger and feelings with cynicism and sarcasm. But for Shirley, it's a struggle. It's difficult for her to keep face when her world is falling apart. She cares about how others see her, and she wants them to have the best picture possible.

But let's discuss Jeff, momentarily. Since he's the title character of the series, I've spent a great deal of time talking about his character throughout these reviews. As vain and as self-centered as Jeff Winger can be, he also cares immensely for the study group. It will be roughly another year until he realizes exactly what this means, however. But this doesn't stop him from caring about how the study group perceives him and his actions. Presumably, Jeff is used to attention - he is used to people admiring him and fawning over him (he was a lawyer, after all). What Jeff is not good at, however, is accepting his own limitations. Everyone is human, and therefore everyone is flawed. And Jeff knows that - he realizes that he is imperfect (okay, most of the time anyway). He just always wants to be less flawed than the people around him. Because when you're less flawed than those around you, people look up to you. People recognize your importance. People notice you. Jeff wants to be noticed. He CRAVES to be noticed. And, I've argued this before, despite his initial unwillingness to be the leader of the study group, Jeff actually NEEDS to be the leader. And he doesn't want that taken away from him.

Rich, therefore, provides a nice foil to Jeff. This new character presumably is perfect at everything. And we realize, through everything coming so naturally to Rich that things actually DON'T always come naturally to Jeff. Up until this point, the audience assumed that there wasn't a single thing Jeff couldn't lawyer or charm his way out of or into. And honestly, this is probably what Jeff believed too, going into the class. Rich is a character whose good-natured attitude demands nothing in return. He gives and gives freely. Jeff is a character who gives, but only when there is something to gain in return. And the most striking thing to Jeff (even when we re-meet with Rich again in "Asian Population Studies") is that no one could possibly be THAT generous. Especially because Jeff himself isn't that generous. There must be some sort of string attached. The only reason that he believes this is because he knows how true it would be of himself.

Abed, Annie, and Jeff begin their pottery class by meeting Rich, and Abed's voiceover narration of Jeff is particularly enlightening - he discusses how Jeff has shown his competitive side, and even his envious side. Jeff cuts him off before he can finish, but clearly Abed recognizes that Jeff's response to Rich is neither of those things. (We also lean pretty hard on Shirley's niceness this week, which is really served to undercut the duties that she is assigned in class which force her to be tougher).

I also think that there is a nice parallel between Rich's evidently crazy mother and Jeff's well-meaning one. We say things to kids all the time - you can do anything you set your mind to;  you're special, etc. And people can use those affirmations to either turn to one of two extremes - they may turn out to be like Jeff (full of too much confidence) or Rich (good, but have it never be enough). Of course, most of us end up normal and not at all like either of those two. And we learn in this episode that when Jeff feels threatened by someone, his automatic reflex is to dethrone them (and he consistently does this with Rich). This marks the beginning of Jeff's descent into insanity (which - again - we see evidence of in "Asian Population Studies," also with Rich). Remember that this takes effect when outsiders who are better at something than Jeff interfere with the people who already admire him. Abed and Annie marvel at Rich in this episode, and in "Asian Population Studies" later on, Annie begins to fawn over Rich (which doesn't fly with Jeff).

So now that we've discussed a bit about Jeff, let's cover Shirley's development in this episode. Shirley is not the most confident person in the world, and she exhibits this in "Beginner Pottery," as she becomes the captain of her sailing class' ship. She never wants to upset the balance or order of things, and so she leads in the same way she does everything else - with kindness and gentleness. She learns, however, that this doesn't always fly in the face of crisis.

Jeff continues his descent into crazy when confronting Rich outside of pottery class. The newcomer is an excellent potter, even though he is in a beginner's class, and Jeff doesn't believe that someone that good could be a beginner at something. We then learn that Rich takes a pottery class to unwind because he's a doctor (seemingly solidifying how perfect he is). But even when Jeff dissolves into complete insanity, he's still attempting to defend himself and insist that he doesn't care. This is a mechanism that he utilizes a lot in order to deflect. And it works, because he uses Winger speeches to convince people of all sorts of things. But he never truly can hide his insanity for too long.

Returning to our sailing storyline, the crew is working seamlessly together... well, until Pierce's shoelace comes untied and he nearly gets thrown overboard. This unfortunately lands the group with a "D" for the day. Later on, Pierce actually gets knocked overboard, and "drowns" in the parking lot because Captain Shirley chooses to steer her boat away from the storm rather than rescue Pierce. And I love this idea that Shirley differentiates between strong people and kind people. I feel that this large part of her wants to remain "nice" because that's the way she's always been. But I also think that there's a deep fear in her that if she stays nice, she will continue to get walked on and taken advantage of. She gave her ex-husband their van, and gave him the ring back. She's put up with a lot for the sake of kindness. But what she doesn't realize is that there doesn't have to be a choice - being strong and being kind are not mutually exclusive. She wants to be respected, above all else, regardless of if she is kind or strong. And I think that she believes that being tough will gain her respect. What she doesn't realize yet is that this comes at a price. Is she willing to sacrifice her beliefs and friendships in order to gain respect from those in her life?

Jeff's insanity drives him to his breaking point, in which he violates the one rule that Professor Holly has in his pottery class - no reenactments of the pottery scene from Ghost. Jeff then gets kicked out of class, and - though let go - his streak of insanity is not over. In fact, he approaches Pierce about hiring a private detective to research Rich and find his faults. Pierce, ironically, is the person who talks Jeff back from the ledge. And I really enjoyed the Pierce/Jeff scene. They're both completely upfront and honest with one another about their fears and limitations. And I think it just goes to show that no matter how old you  may be, you will always have insecurities. But Jeff learns in this scene that he can't let those insecurities define him as a person or as a leader. He can't let the fact that he is bad at one thing define who he is. And Pierce's explanation of failure is just perfect. I love that these two had a very father-son moment without it being explicitly so. It felt organic and natural for Pierce to be teaching Jeff a lesson about failure. Moreover, how refreshing is it that Pierce did not let his insecurities define him as a person, nor does he let them stop him from living (or being sane - well, mostly)? The person who has messed up the most explains life to the man who wants everyone to believe he is perfect. It's a nice parallelism. And it really hits home with Jeff.

Meanwhile, Pierce wants to get back into his sailing class, even though he technically "drowned" earlier that week. He does this by rowing a lifeboat with wheels across the parking lot toward the vessel where Starburns, Shirley, Troy, and Britta are. Before he is able to reach them, he hits a sprinkler which causes his boat to "flood." And I think that the lack of concern and kindness displayed by the rest of the crew in the wake of Pierce's attempt to get back on the boat is what hits home with Shirley. She realizes that she could spend the rest of her life being feared and respected, but lose her values. In the end, she acknowledges that she wants to be nice (but in actuality, she maintains her strength, proving that you don't necessarily have to choose one virtue over the other).

There's a nice wrap-up as Jeff is allowed back into pottery class. He admits to Rich that he is bad at something - an admission he's struggled with and will continue to struggle with. However, with Rich, Jeff seems to begrudgingly admit his faults ("Asian Population Studies" again) and imperfections. And I think that this is what makes a great foil. The image then of Jeff's mother being a realist and acknowledging (albeit in Jeff's imagination) that he's not very special and that he'll be great at some things, but not at everything is significant because it highlights, I think, how Jeff will begin to see himself from now on.

Additional de-lovely aspects about the episode:
- "Your last blow-off class ended up teaching me to live in the moment. Which I will always regret and never do again." ...until the finale, Annie.
- "Hello my precious blueberries!"
- I love that Jeff leans over and mouths "Don't worry" to Annie and Abed when Professor Holly talks about his "zero ghost policy."
- "If I were ever to make an effort in that class, you'd think I was the cat's pajamas too." "Cat's pajamas? Okay, Pierce."
- We get associations with Britta and Psychology even in the first season.
- "It landed on that Hundai... I mean... mermaid's car."
- "Guess where Rich is from?" "Couldn't have been Crazy Town. You'd have gone to high school together."
- "Um, I can swim, racist."
- "Good luck, Pierce." "Don't need it. Never had it."

As most of you are well-aware, Community finally has its return date set - March 15th! This means that we only have two more weeks of season 1 re-watches and blog-reviews before new episodes air. :) As all of you, I am absolutely thrilled that we'll have our beloved show back on the air shortly. In the mean time, next week we will be watching and reviewing one of my all-time favorite Britta episodes: "The Science of Illusion." Until then, have an excellent weekend everyone!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

HAPPINESS ALL AROUND!


In case you haven't heard the wonderful news yet today, it's been officially announced that Community will be returning to NBC on Thursday, March 15th at 8 P.M.!

Thank you to everyone who has stuck with this blog throughout the hiatus. You all have been such a blast to write for, and I can't wait to do our last few reviews before some all-new episodes!

I'll see you here though this coming Friday when I review "Beginner Pottery"!

Friday, February 17, 2012

1x18 "Basic Genealogy" (Right, Wrong, and Family)



"Basic Genealogy"
Original Airdate: March 11, 2010

The boundary between right and wrong is often a murky one to discern. A lot of things are pretty clear to most people. For instance, we all pretty much  know that it's not a good idea to steal things or commit armed robbery. But in smaller matters - boundaries between friends, family, and everyday judgments - sometimes that line isn't so clear. Jeff Winger is not used to feelings of guilt, for the most part. He's a character who used to lie for money, so his moral compass often finds itself askew. However, there are moments where he seems to realize that he actually unconsciously wants to do what's right. And that's the beauty of his character's progression - he's redeemable because of this. And one of the things I enjoy most about "Basic Genealogy" is the parallel it draws between Pierce and Jeff, highlighting their relationship. Overarching the episode though is the question of what it means to be a family. Each storyline has a different take on this, and I'll get to those in a little bit. I think that quite honestly, Jeff is thrown some mighty curve balls in this episode in regards to his character development - he has to deal with emotional pain (and actually come to terms, rather than mask it), morally deciding what is right and wrong, and the idea of what it means to be friends with someone.

So the plot for this episode involves Greendale Community College's Family Day and nearly everyone's respective families are visiting, including Pierce's ex-stepdaughter Amber (a pre-"Smash" Katharine McPhee!). However, the beginning of our episode involves the demise of Slater/Jeff. Jaime mentioned this when she conducted the first re-watch of our episode last night (thank you again for doing that for me!), but Jeff is actually a good boyfriend. We are initially met with the idea in the pilot that Jeff is some skeevy, womanizing guy (which... okay, that wasn't far off) who will never change or grow. For however unpleasant I find her, though, Jeff really takes his relationship with Slater seriously. He committed to acting like a grown-up, which is ironic because in this episode Slater acts childishly while dumping Jeff. Even though it is asserted early on that Jeff has a fear of commitment, he mentions to Slater that he would have brought his mother to Family Day to meet her (except that his mother still thinks he's a lawyer). This, to me, does not scream "fear of commitment" at the moment. I feel like just as Jeff began to feel comfortable and safe in the relationship, perhaps thinking that it could work, Slater took the rug out from under him (I don't like Slater, but I know we've been through this).

I like this episode mainly because it focuses on pairings that are not usually frequented: Troy/Britta, Abed/Shirley, and Pierce/Jeff. Rather than completely leave Annie out of the episode, however, the writers subtly kept her in the background and brought her to the forefront when necessary (and she truly played an integral part in the Pierce/Jeff story). What intrigues me so much about the idea of the family arc is that everyone has a different idea of what family should look like. For Britta, family means respect (and we saw this when she lectured Shirley in "Comparative Religion"). And maybe it's not even so much of the idea of respect as it is about the drive and desire to prove something to the world that causes Britta to become involved in Troy's family situation. The athlete informs everyone that his grandmother is visiting for Family Day, and he intends to hide out away from her for the day. Interesting to note as well is that Britta, Annie, and Jeff all do not have families involved in Family Day (though we do hear, as I mentioned earlier, mentions of Jeff's mother). Returning to Troy though, the young man believes that family means spending time together, but only when it's required. Everyone within the study group has rocky literal familial relationships, which manifest themselves somewhat during the Family Day. Shirley and Abed have visiting family as well. Abed seems sort of detached from the festivities, which is not a huge departure from his normal behavior. However, Shirley's focus for the day seems to be about proving herself - she wants everyone to believe that she is a good mother. And she is. It's the same kind of base idea though that Pierce and Jeff have when they occasionally act like villains - they try too hard to please others, so they end up becoming the people they feared they would be in the first place.

After Jeff returns to the study room, he announces that Slater dumped him, which earns surprise from Abed, and concern from Shirley and Annie (Britta, on the other hand, attempts to contain her laughter). And for a moment, Jeff demonstrates near-emotion. It is very short-lived, however. Shirley instructs Troy and Abed to put a dead bird in Slater's car (she really hates Slater), and I think it's endearing that Troy and Abed immediately get up to follow Shirley's instructions. Jeff attempts to convey that he is fine, but the group isn't buying into his spiel. And then, we get an introduction of a pre-"Smash" Katharine McPhee. I don't think that McPhee did a terrible job in this episode acting-wise, because Amber is supposed to be this sort of conniving, heartless and attractive woman. Jeff begins to hit on her, but Pierce soon appears, effectively shutting down that operation. And to his credit, when Jeff was denied Amber (via Pierce), he didn't go after her because he knew it would be wrong. He stayed his distance, which is more than we could say for Jeff Winger in the pilot episode. He also genuinely seemed to want to make conversation with Amber during Spanish and seemed to take an interest in what she was saying about photography school.

Pierce, however, is striking out big time with his ex-stepdaughter, so he naturally goes to Jeff to help. And I love that Annie is in the background, watching the Pierce/Jeff scene take place. In spite of the fact that Jeff tries to be that "guy who doesn't care," he does care. People and things affect him more than he lets on (re: "Debate 109") and Annie knows this. Throughout the episode, she serves as his moral conscience, consistently reinforcing what Jeff already knows. And the reason he does go to her is because of this - because he genuinely wants to be a better person, and the first step in that is recognizing when you aren't being one. Pierce, meanwhile, genuinely wants to feel accepted by people. And he told Jeff in the pilot that he had seven failed marriages, but couldn't understand why. At this point in the series, we take pity on Pierce - he acts like a jerk sometimes, but we understand that deep down he has a desire to be loved and have some sort of version of a family. He's alone a lot (because of his actions, he isolates others and because he isolates others, he feels alone, etc.), but is just as in need of a family as anyone else.

Jeff, being Jeff, refuses to help Pierce get into good graces with his ex-stepdaughter, and - since she was being observant - Annie steps in to help. This is one of my favorite Jeff/Annie scenes and not in a romantic context but because of how completely honest and  upfront they are with one another. She's also never afraid to call him out on his crap. Additionally, Jeff still doesn't believe that Pierce even qualifies as a friend at this point (that opinion will change at the end of the episode, however).

But the best part about what Annie did was that she didn't DO anything (nor does she at the end, really). See, I'd love to believe that somehow Annie is the catalyst that always sets Jeff to rights. And while I occasionally think that this is the case, I feel like throughout this episode it isn't. Jeff has the right answers the entire time - he knows exactly what do do. It just takes him running into Annie in order to actually follow through with his actions. Essentially, he's just being confronted with a physical manifestation of his own conscience. She doesn't tell him anything he doesn't already know - just what he wants to hear.

I absolutely love everything about the Troy/Britta interactions in this episode (additionally, I love the Shirley/Abed story too). I think that the fun dynamic with those two is the idea that Britta is so determined to always be right, and Troy isn't afraid to tell her when she is completely and utterly wrong. But the best part? He still sticks by her in spite of it. 

Back to the Pierce/Jeff storyline, what's adorable and endearing was that Jeff had no bad intentions up until the point in which he and Amber made out. He was genuinely making an effort for the sake of his conscience. He was trying to be a good friend and helped Pierce out when he needed it. And then, fully convinced he had fulfilled his obligation, he left (just as Pierce asked him to do). But then, Jeff's moral line gets a bit blurrier. But even when the waters get a bit murky, Jeff still knows what he has to do in order to be a good friend. He does, after all, still agree to Pierce's terms and attempt to leave after he's charmed Amber with stories of how great Pierce is. And in order to appease Pierce (and help him continue to be in good graces with Amber), he does end up staying. 

Poor Shirley deals with difficulties in being criticized by Abed's dad for how she disciplines and raises her children. Poor Shirley desperately tries to be everything for everyone - she tried to be a good wife, and attempts to be the best mother possible while still juggling school and her study group family. She likely feels this underlying pressure to do everything right all of the time. Thus, criticism is hard to deal with. But she's not a bad mother, as Abed assures later on. Nor are her children "bad." Shirley is someone who always goes out of her way to help others, and her boys picked up on those qualities, which is why they help out Abra without being prompted to do so.

In the Troy/Britta story, Britta offends Troy's grandmother early on in the episode, and the elderly woman insists that Britta find her a switch. Britta decides to follow through and I feel that the reason she stays is because of her pride. We've talked about this quite a bit in regards to other characters, but admitting defeat is not something that Britta Perry does willingly or often. And this is why she always gets herself into insane predicaments. As such, she ends up getting whooped with a switch by Troy's grandmother while Troy looks on, horrified.

Jeff is, like every other person, always torn between the right thing (which he knows... it's not that he's oblivious between right and wrong) and the things he wants to do. Jeff and Amber begin to hook up, and Jeff realizes that Amber is actually grifting Pierce. The woman counters with the fact that Pierce is old and stupid, and she'll use the money to possibly by herself a car. She then concludes with: "Did you want to be a good person right now? Or did you want to be with me?" And as soon as Jeff presumably exits from the supply closet, he walks through the hall and remarks: "Oh, there you are" to Annie, which implies to me that something about Amber's statement reminded him of what Annie had said, not much earlier. Jeff then proceeds to explain to her that Pierce is being taken advantage of, and when Annie asks why he hasn't told him, Jeff explains that it's a bit more complicated than that. After Annie realizes that the complication lies with the fact that Jeff slept with Amber, she begins to hit him. (And as a digression, I absolutely love the fact that it has become a thing between Jeff and Annie that she chastises and hits him while he just stands and grins at her. For reference, see "Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design").

And again, one of the best things about the conversation with Annie is that she does not TELL him what to do - she ASKS him. "You still have to tell him... don't you?" she asks. Thus, the decision is not coming from her, but rather she's causing Jeff to think for himself. It's a subtle sort of tactic that works because as Jeff is talking through his rationale (and attempting to justify it to both himself and her), Annie decides that his mind must already be made up. But we know that the reason Jeff  goes to Annie is not so he can be lectured at or preached to - he goes knowing that she is the type of person who sees how good he can be, but wants HIM to see it. The key though is that he has to see it for himself. She can't force that upon him.

Returning to the Shirley/Abed story, Elijah and Jordan don Abra's burka so that the young woman can spend time in the bouncy house. And Shirley assumes that Abed suggested the idea, but the young man assures her that it was all Jordan and Elijah's doing. It's really sweet, then, that Abed compliments Shirley on being a good mother. He's always the observant one, so it's awesome that she got a chance to hear that from him, of all people.

At the Gala Dance (was this part of the All Five Dances?), Jeff confronts Amber about her behavior. He suggests to her that she rip up the check for $25,000 that Pierce had given to her, and instead just spend time getting to know him. Amber maliciously insists that she could go over to Pierce and butter him up, pitting Jeff as the bad guy. It's intriguing to me that Jeff doesn't mind being the bad guy when it comes to Amber.  But in "Biology 101," the reason that Pierce takes the fall for Jeff's antics is because Jeff can't stand the idea of being the bad guy with the group. In the end, Amber decides to take the $25,000 and leave town. Jeff, meanwhile, promises that if she should come back, he'd be around  because Pierce is his friend. And I love the Pierce/Jeff dynamic of it all and how honest they are with one another, even to a fault. Jeff confronts Pierce about Amber leaving, and the elderly man explains that he had just hoped he would have a shot at being a dad and having a family, and encourages Jeff to take advantage of that before it's too late. But it is especially endearing that Jeff reminds Pierce that it's never too late to have a family and be surrounded by people who care about you because he insists that: "If you have friends, you have family."

Well said, Jeff Winger. Well said.

Additional de-lovely aspects about the episode:
- "Does she look like you but in a wig and lipstick?" "No, that's Halle Berry."
- "I want to believe you're right Britta, but you never quite are, are you?"
- "Small world." "Actually, it's a big world with 5 billion other women in it. Good luck."
- Yvette's hand flourish when she says "Greetings!" is still one of the best things ever
- I love that it literally rains paper balls on Jeff when he  gets booed in the classroom. Nice callback to "Comparative Religion."
- Does anyone else feel almost sad that Annie had no family (or seemingly anyone in the study group or outside of it) to spend time with during Family Day? I do.
- "How much effort do I rate?" "For you? Um... I'd... break a light sweat?"
- "You're becoming dangerous, Annie. It's those doe eyes. Disappointing you is like choking the Little Mermaid with a bike chain." STILL my favorite Jeff line to date.
- I love seeing our recurring cop friend!
- "I hate Glee. I hate it. I don't understand the appeal at all!"

Thank you all for sticking around during hiatus. I know it's been a rough time, not having our beloved show on the air. But I'm thoroughly enjoying doing these re-watches with you all! For next week, I'm torn between two episodes, so I will let your votes decide which we pursue! We can either watch "Beginner Pottery" or "The Science of Illusion." Tweet me (@notajenny) with your response. I'll see you all next week! :)

Friday, February 10, 2012

1x15 "Romantic Expressionism" (The One With All the Relationships)


"Romantic Expressionism"
Original Airdate: February 4, 2010

The best thing about ensemble shows that feature a cast of six (or more) is that there are more pairings to play around with, both platonically and romantically. Of course, the flip side of that coin is that not every pairing gets an equal amount of screentime. In Friends, for instance, can you name five Chandler/Rachel storylines that occurred throughout the seasons? Ones that were exclusively theirs? I can only tink of two (the cheesecake episode and the one where Chandler dates Rachel's boss). Now, if I asked you to think of Joey/Chandler or Rachel/Monica storylines, you would have a much easier time thinking of these. Since Community is an ensemble-centric show, the same principle holds true. We rarely see Pierce/Shirley stories or Troy/Shirley ones (have we even HAD one of those yet?), but see much more of Jeff/Annie, Jeff/Britta, or Troy/Abed ones. It's not that one pairing is less legitimate than the other though. It simply means that - with an ensemble that large - some pairings inevitably get left in the dust. One of my favorite things about "Romantic Expressionism" is the Jeff/Britta plot. Like I have mentioned numerous times before, I am nowhere near against Jeff and Britta as friends or cohorts. In fact, I think they deserve more of that. I do not, of course, prefer them together romantically. However, "Romantic Expressionism" is my all-time favorite Jeff/Britta episode because of simply how perfect they are when they plot together (and fail together).

The plot for this week's episode is centered around the fact that Annie has begun to hang out with Vaughn (who we all remember is Britta's ex-boyfriend). Initially, things start out casually between the two, but it becomes evident that Annie has begun to like him and asks for Britta's blessing (which the blonde gives, but we'll get to that in a bit). Britta then ropes Jeff into helping her break up Annie and Vaughn, and Jeff (whose motives are murky at first) agrees to this wholeheartedly. Meanwhile, in their own subplot, Troy, Abed, Shirley, Chang, and Pierce watch "Kickpuncher" in Abed's dorm and make fun of the movie for being so terrible. Pierce, however, can't seem to make a joke that will cause any laughter whatsoever. 

We open the episode with Britta making fun of Jeff, which she legitimately enjoys doing. (I blocked out the fact that Jeff is still technically dating Slater in this episode, because... well, we all know how I feel about her) Britta, interestingly, doesn't seem to be jealous of Slater, and it's a shame because I think she and Britta would have made fabulous friends, if Slater hadn't been so high-and-mighty during "Introduction to Statistics." Britta is genuinely bemused, as is Jeff because he begins laughing and joking. However, Jeff grows very serious very quickly when he sees Vaughn with Annie. Seriously, let's digress: I miss Vaughn. Unlike Slater, he was endearing and adorable when he was with Annie. And it's not like he wasn't cute with Britta, but I think that when his character came back and formed a relationship with Annie, he was given another layer and that made him sweeter. He was never a jerk to her during their relationship, which was nice to see. If I didn't like Jeff and Annie together so much, I'd be okay with her and Vaughn.

(It's also funny that every guy Annie has dated has had an effect on Jeff. And by funny, I mean not a coincidence. Sorry.)

What's great about "Romantic Expressionism" is that it reveals a lot about relationships. And I think that this show has a ton of great aspects to it (that's kind of why this blog has still been going, even during hiatus), and one of the strongest is that the relationships between the characters are very palpable and real. There's nothing inherently cheesy about the way they're portrayed. And that's why episodes like this one are so special - they take us back to those building block basics, so to speak. We're forced to ask ourselves: what connects one character to another? How are all of these seven characters intertwined with one another? There's the obvious answer: they're a study group. But what connects Annie to Britta and Britta to Abed and Abed to Troy, etc.?

That being said, I do love the idea of Pierce/Troy/Abed/Shirley/Chang in this episode. Sadly, not every character gets a chance to shine, so in the end this was mainly a Jeff/Britta/Annie story. Still, the idea of watching bad movies and making fun of them is awesome. I love that Troy and Abed want to hang out with Shirley. It's nice to know this because I feel like later on in the season, they often forget about her. Of course, no one still wants to hang out with Pierce.

This is a fundamentally interesting episode for Annie/Britta (friendship-wise) as well. Up until this point, we've seen the girls grow together, though they have never been extremely close. Britta and Shirley tend to stick together for certain episodes, while Annie and Shirley cling to each other in other episodes. But here, it's clear that Annie has this growing form of respect for Britta. She admires her in the way that a young woman admires her older sister - Annie knows that Britta is flawed and definitely not perfect, but she admires her steadfastness in spite of everything. She admires how nothing seems to ever phase Britta - not drastically, at least. She's the "cool" one in the group: she wears leather jackets and has been to New York. She's not afraid to be who she is. And the irony is that Britta displays at the end of the episode that she is just as insecure as Annie is... she's just better at masking it. Britta is not a stereotypical "girly" girl, but let's not forget that she IS a woman and has feelings. There is a theme of masking, because Jeff does a lot of that throughout the episode as well. And kind of a theme of transference, I think. Britta and Jeff both throw themselves into "helping" Annie under the guise that they are her Greendale parents because they're both actually jealous.

And Britta could have easily put an end to the entire episode by admitting that it bothered her that Annie liked or would consider dating Vaughn. But do you recall what one of Jeff's biggest vices is? Pride. Like Jeff, Britta does not want to admit weakness. And like Jeff, she wants the study group to see her in a certain light - she doesn't want to rock the status quo. It takes a while for her to open up to people because she is afraid of getting hurt. Emotions are fickle and tricky things, as she'll learn (and all of the characters, really). But the point is that she doesn't put an end to the episode by admitting her feelings. Another growing theme in this episode (and others in general) is that characters go to great lengths in order to try not to be the people they think they are capable of becoming in the first place. Britta's remark strikes me in this vein, because she tells Annie: "I would have to be a villain to tell you who to date... which I am not!" The shot after Annie walks away and Britta realizes what she's done is heartbreaking because her face just completely falls.

Britta is smart, so she realizes that when you want scheming done, you turn to Jeff. And she actually manages to manipulate Jeff. Recall what says Jeff later: manipulation is making people realize what they want without telling them that they want it. And Britta - smart, conniving Britta - does just this. And I think that initially the reason that Britta approaches Jeff is because she knows how much Vaughn, as a person, irks him. But I think that she must also know that he's a teensy bit jealous. Because - if we learned anything from last week - Jeff doesn't voluntarily do anything unless there is something in it for him. So Britta goes into the conversation very slyly, wanting him to intervene without TELLING him to. It's a great move on Britta's part. I think that there's a shift, though, when Britta finally realizes that it's not entirely about how irritating Jeff finds Vaughn. Britta begins to eye Jeff right after he says the line about being Annie's "Greendale parents" - it's a look that recognizes that there is something up, and the motives may be more jealousy than anything else from this point forward.

The next day, Jeff and Britta are walking through the courtyard, laughing and enjoying their conversation. As soon as Jeff sees Vaughn with Annie, however, he freaks out. Britta, in spite of her jealousy, manages to remain more level-headed (and also highly amused at how crazy Jeff is - he pulls her into a bush after all!) Note that even though Britta may have wanted Jeff to subconsciously step in and do something, SHE never brings this up. It's Jeff, instead, who insists that they intervene (Britta only concedes after Starburns makes a remark about how hot Annie is, and I genuinely believe she stepped in to try and help Annie out). So Jeff and Britta decide that they need to convince Troy to go after Annie so that she'll break up with Vaughn. They decide to do this by manipulating Troy. In order to convince Troy that Annie is hot (because the young athlete doesn't see her that way), Jeff whispers things to Troy. And he seems to know a lot about Annie's body, given the brief kiss they shared in "Debate 109," no? Unless... but that would mean... no... you don't think? At the end of the scene, Troy is convinced by them to pursue Annie. And thus, as cohorts, Jeff and Britta are undeniably hilarious. And perfect. And all other kinds of adjectives.

In the cafeteria, Annie is minding her own business when Troy attempts to hit on her (fresh from his conversation with Jeff and Britta). Vaughn re-enters with ice cream for himself and Annie, only to find Troy making a move. The truth then comes out about Annie liking Troy in high school, but the young woman insists that her feelings are over. Troy then lets it slip that Jeff and Britta gave him the idea, to which Vaughn is rightfully stunned. And I love that Vaughn is technically the second person to convey a hatred of the study group. Last week, we saw the first person: Buddy. Vaughn explains that the study group is evil. And then Todd reaffirms this in season 3. I love that the audience thinks the study group is awesome, when in reality, most people outside of the study group hate them.

There's a scene, then, with Jeff and Britta in the library celebrating their "victory" of getting Annie un-hooked from Vaughn and onto Troy. And I do think that the Jeff/Britta library scene is cute. Like I said, when they're scheming buddies, they're adorable together. And I think that the reason I love them so much then is because they're so similar - they think on the same wavelength, which is both good and bad. Their personalities clash the most, however, out of the group (well, maybe apart from Pierce/Jeff). It's funny too that Britta changes the subject randomly to children, and Jeff deflects her answer. Also: she WAS wearing something nice... it was a cute outfit!

Back in the Pierce/Abed/Troy/Shirley/Chang storyline, since Pierce's first movie night was a failure, he learns that the group is planning to watch "Kickpuncher 2" soon, and wants to prepare his jokes ahead of time. He consults with the community college sketch comedy troupe to assist him with writing jokes. And thus, at the night of the movie-watching extravaganza, Pierce is firing more one-liners than Jeff Winger. The rest of the group notices and calls him out on this. When confronted, Pierce Changs the subject (see what I did there?) and accuses the group of tearing down other peoples' work because they are jealous. Abed then brings up the theme for both stories: deflection. He accuses Pierce of deflecting the conversation because he couldn't get a real laugh from the group (which is true). Then, just as all hope seems lost, Pierce DOES manage to get a laugh... by tripping and falling, which he seems prone to in this season.

Presumably the next day, Jeff and Britta attempt to deflect their way out of a confrontation with Annie about their true intentions by calling themselves her "Greendale parents." However, Annie brings up the word "respect," which sets something off within Britta. Britta is obviously conscious of the fact that Annie looks up to her, and - as such - is going to finally explain to the brunette what she should have at the beginning of the episode. Instead of rationally explaining that she has feelings, though, Britta snaps. Annie, to her credit, genuinely didn't think anything of dating Vaughn. Britta DID after all give a blessing. And that's where Britta is on a slippery slope that she created for herself by not being upfront in the first place - Britta wants to be the "cool" one, but sometimes at the cost of masking her true feelings (which then resurface, and usually in the worst possible ways). Jeff, meanwhile, looks genuinely confused by the revelation that Britta was jealous of Annie - I think that he was under the assumption that Britta's motives were pure, especially because HE was the one who dragged HER into the manipulating in the first place.

And then, defensiveness kicks in for everyone. The best part about the accusation that Britta pulls with Jeff being jealous? He doesn't deny it. The only visible reaction he has is when someone (Annie) bruises his ego. So it's revealed by Britta to Annie that she was jealous that the young woman was dating her ex-boyfriend. And it was brought to everyone's attention via Britta that Jeff was jealous of Vaughn being with Annie. And Abed - the keen observer of everything - seems genuinely intrigued and/or a bit shocked to discover this Jeff/Annie revelation. The best part about when people get defensive is that they start to try and pin something (anything!) on those around them, as to deflect the conversation (there's that word again!). So when Jeff gets uncomfortable with the conversation about his jealousy, he passes the heat to Troy. That heat is taken away by Shirley. But when Annie hits on something that Shirley does, the woman deflects to Troy/Abed.

Now, we come to everyone's favorite part of the episode: the study table glances. Let's run down the ships that are presented here, shall we?
  • Pierce/Shirley
  • Shirley/Jeff
  • Jeff/Britta
  • Britta/Abed (I will always love Danny Pudi's eyebrow waggle)
  • Britta/Annie (Their reactions are hilarious)
  • Annie/Troy
  • Troy/Shirley (The outtake of this one is pretty funny)
  • Annie/Pierce (...ew)
  • Jeff/Annie
  • Jeff/Abed
And, okay, let me just take a moment to pause and say how much I absolutely love "the look" between Jeff and Annie. I think that the reason is two-fold. 1) Jeff was looking at Annie before she looked over at him. 2) It is the most sincere look I have ever seen Joel produce on the show. It was perfect because Annie is still a bit miffed with Jeff at this point, and when he looks at her with the little smile that is so genuine, she immediately begins to soften. And he smiles again at her before they both probably realize it's a bit awkward to be staring as long as they have.

I think that both Jeff and Britta realize, then, when Annie bursts out about how Vaughn likes her for who she is, that they were "helping" for their own selfish reasons, and neither were thinking about Annie's actual best interests, only their own. The study group then perks up and notices that there is music coming from outside of the library. (Sidenote: Abed has an uneaten banana on the study room table before they leave. When they get outside, however, he only has a banana peel in his hand)

Vaughn then performs a song for Annie. And "Annie's Song" is the most adorable thing ever and anyone who says differently is a robot incapable of love. Shirley, adorably, is bobbing along to the song in the background. As it turns out, Vaughn apologizes for being rude (which is really sweet) and asks Annie to see a cloud with him that's shaped like a pumpkin (when Annie mentions this, Abed looks into the sky and is STILL looking as the episode ends). One of the interesting quotes from the very end of the episode is a dialogue between Jeff and Pierce. The elderly man scoffs: "His songs are dumber than he is" to which Jeff replies: "Yeah, but they're honest." And I think that, deep down, both Britta and Jeff know that they weren't upfront and honest in this episode. The ironic thing is that Britta eventually admits the reason for her gung-ho attitude about breaking Vaughn and Annie up, but Jeff never technically does. And I think maybe there's some part of him that wishes he had been upfront with Annie. But the timing just wasn't right, and won't be for a while.

Additional de-lovely aspects:
- When the episode ends with Vaughn picking Annie up and spinning her around, he says: "You smell like boysenberries." HOW have I missed that?
- "You know what I don't get? He never wears a shirt, he never wears shoes... why has he not died from lack of service?"
- "I'm younger than the three of you put together!" I love that Troy, Abed, and Pierce have to sit and think about that for a moment.
- "Look, this isn't about you, you groovy hipster."
- The fact that Joel is too tall to fit into a booth... or a desk... or anything other than the study room table chair makes me giggle.
- "Hatching schemes isn't really my wheelhouse." "Let's not confine ourselves to your wheelhouse. This problem won't respond to tap-dancing or casual revelations that you spent time in New York."
- "Troy, I want you to clear your head." "Done."
- I remember in the commentary that they said the "ice cream" was really mashed potatoes. I can't watch without thinking this anymore. Thanks, Hermione!
- "I did eat all the macaroni. It's messed up that he knows."
- "I'm not that cool. I'm not Juno, okay homeslice?"
- "I took that kiss for the team." "...what?!" "Yeah, that kiss wasn't for pleasure. It was strategic and joyless." "What?! ...yeahhh." (Britta's not buying any of your crap, Jeff and Annie. She's onto you guys!)

Next week we're taking a journey into "Basic Genealogy" which features a pre-"Smash" Katharine McPhee, some fun Shirley/Abed bonding, and a hilarious and yet slightly awkward Troy/Britta storyline. Until then, folks! :)

Friday, February 3, 2012

1x13 "Investigative Journalism" (It's Better When You're Buddy-ing)


"Investigative Journalism"
Original Airdate: January 14, 2010

What words would you use to describe Jeff Winger from the pilot episode of Community up until "Comparative Religion"? Snarky? Egotistical? Smarmy? "Investigative Journalism" kicks off with a new semester at Greendale Community College - one in which Jeff apparently resolves to become more relaxed. But see, the most intriguing thing to me regarding this proclamation is the reason that he gives for doing so. He claims that during the previous semester, he was "a drag" and "uptight." This is interesting to me because I don't think that those words necessarily classify Jeff. In fact, I doubt that they classify him at all. Sure, he hadn't exactly made peace with being at Greendale (see: "Football, Feminism, and You") but he made leaps and bounds of progress by the Christmas episode. So why does he cite this as his excuse for wanting to be more relaxed? Perhaps - in some weird, subconscious way - that's how he feels the group sees him: that one day, they really will get tired of his shenanigans and just kick him out for good. He's seen that they are capable of doing it once (and this episode's ending kind of solidifies this theory of Jeff's reasoning for me), and I think that he genuinely takes the group for granted. Jeff always - and I do mean always - wants the study group to cast him in the best light possible. He's seen what happens to those who the group views negatively and doesn't want that to happen to him. Especially not when he's beginning to come to the realization that these six people mean more to him than he wants to admit.

If you are looking for an episode of Community with a simple plot, but a complex idea, then "Investigative Journalism" is the place to look! The plot of the episode is pretty simple, really - the group has returned from winter break to another semester at Greendale only to find that Chang is still as crazy as ever, and a guy from their Spanish class - Buddy - wants to join their study group. In a sub-plot between Annie, Jeff, and Abed, Jeff gets appointed the editor of the school newspaper. Now, "Investigative Journalism" is a precursor to "Competitive Ecology" (and slightly to "Asian Population Studies," you could argue) in the way that it forces outsiders into the study group and observes the internal chaos that occurs from doing that. I said the same thing during my review for 3x03, but I feel like we - as audience members - always attempt to cast the main characters of our favorite shows into the most positive light possible. And there's nothing inherently wrong with that, really - we're conditioned by television to narrow our focus in on the small group of main characters. Everyone else, though, we consider to be an "outsider." And each outside character that has been featured on the show (Todd and Buddy, in particular) highlight the group's flaws. It's not that the study group is mean, per se - they are exclusive, though. They don't like change. Because in theory, EVERYONE loves the idea of change. We want to change our hairstyles, our living arrangements, our jobs... and yet, there is something within us that just hates the thought of adjusting our comforts to fit something "different" that most of us never change (or if we do, we don't change drastically). This is pretty much the mantra of the study group throughout this episode, and truly whenever outsiders are introduced into the mix.

The episode opens with the study group greeting one another after winter break (hey, remember that time where Britta and Annie were friends and actually hugged? No? Don't worry - it's not going to last much longer. #stillbitter), and we can assume that this break is what finally flipped the Troy/Abed friendship switch on. They definitely appear to be much closer in this episode than they had been throughout the previous ones, and it makes sense because apparently they spent their entire break together playing video games. Pierce then enters, deciding that he wants to be "cool" by wearing ironic t-shirts (he gives them up by the end of the episode, no worries) and then Jeff enters, proclaiming that he wishes he was still a lawyer, doesn't want to be anyone's friend, and is really only there because he's hot for Britta... just kidding! The Jeff fake-out is a nice touch especially because of the huge, goofy grin he wears during the group hug.

We then proceed to throw Buddy into the mix, who is played by Jack Black. Now, Jack Black is a fantastic actor, and the reason that I didn't care for Buddy-as-an-outsider as much as I did Todd was that I felt like Todd provided a better foil to the internal insanity of the study group than Buddy did. Todd was a normal guy with a wife and kid, and the only reason he snapped was because the group drove him crazy. Buddy, on the other hand, appeared to be a bit more unstable to begin with, so we didn't get to see a descent into madness, really. Additionally, Jack Black didn't seem to be on top of his comedic game during this episode. Perhaps it was the writing, or just an off-week, but this is the same guy who was in "The Holiday" and "School of Rock" and shone. He just didn't shine like he could have. Nevertheless, his character teaches us a lot about the study group. So is it ironic to anyone else then, that Annie is the person who a) first hints to Buddy that he's not welcome, and b) moves to institute hazing? This is a young woman who is smart, driven, academic, and generally all-inclusive... unless it messes with her plans and systems. See, Annie is thankful to have the study group in her life. So thankful, in fact, that she'll go to very un-Annie-like lengths to keep it together (see: "English as a Second Language"). She's the person who will protect the things that she loves, no matter what the cost, which is both good and bad. And despite the fact that the group accepted her when others wouldn't, she's not willing to generally return the favor (until she is reminded of this fact by Jeff later on).

Jeff agrees to accept Buddy, but only because his new rule is to have no rules in the group. And see, I am convinced that Jeff's "new" demeanor stems from his insecurities about the way the group sees him. He attempts to be so laid back (and it's not like he was uptight in the first season, really) in order to appease everyone. But here's the truth about  that - it never works. People spend their entire lives trying to please others and make everyone happy and, in the end, while there may be happiness for some people, ultimately not everyone is happy. There's another theme that returns this episode - one that I have talked about throughout the course of many reviews: Jeff doesn't get involved with problems unless they directly concern him, nor does he become invested in issues unless he can garner something from them.

Jeff is appointed, by the Dean, the position of editor of the school newspaper, which means that he now has - at his disposal - Abed, two random students, and Annie. His first act as editor? Manipulating the two student reporters into getting him pizza and beer. So here's the question: is it being "laid-back" and "relaxed" when you are only subtly and not outright manipulating those around you for your own good? Because, quite frankly... that's no different from how Jeff was running the show earlier in the season. (Also, Jeff knows exactly how to side-step Annie, the only person who would ruin his manipulative streak - by manipulating her into keeping busy with an article). Take note of what Jeff says to her before she leaves though. The very best part about  the Jeff and Annie dynamic (or one of the best, at least) is that they're constantly teaching each other things, even if they don't want to. And very frequently (take "Biology 101," for example) one of them says things that will come back and bite the other. Jeff's "This is Greendale, we can do whatever we want" will come back around later on to bite him.

After Spanish class, the group hangs back to discuss Buddy. I think that the hesitation in everyone (even Abed caves later on) is so intriguing. Our study group is so isolated and self-righteous. Again, I absolutely love them, but when faced with "outsiders," the group simply does not know how to cope. Shirley's "Can he just decide that he's one of us?" kills me. Although, Pierce makes the best argument against Buddy - it's hard to find a right "balance" with a group of individuals, and to add people into the mix sometimes compromises that. What's interesting too in this conversation is in regards to Jeff. The former lawyer noted his own character flaws without prompting (cynical, elitist), but what's more interesting to me is that he didn't necessarily decide to change who he was, fundamentally. He assumed that by changing his surroundings, he'd be able to change his persona. That's - of course - not true. In order to change the things that you don't like about yourself, you have to face them head-on. Jeff just avoids them.

Meanwhile, out in the hallway, Annie corners Jeff and excitedly discusses a scoop that she discovered - when a Toni Braxton concert got moved, the only people who were alerted were the black students on campus (and one French kid named LeBron). Jeff encourages Annie to call the number that sent the text message alert, and as it turns out, it was the Dean himself.

Buddy then returns to the study group as Annie is explaining her journalistic discovery. And I think that what threw me off with Jack Black (besides him looking like a hobo the entire episode) in this episode is that he either: a) makes two flubs that they keep in with his lines, or b) the writers kept in two very lame jokes. Either way... that story doesn't end with laughter. Buddy is an interesting "outsider" to bring to the group. While Todd notes essentially what is wrong and weird (after he has a mental breakdown, though) with the study group internally, his main purpose was a) not to seek out the group (Buddy's was), and b) to merely work with the group in the classroom setting, nothing more. He didn't want to be a part of the study group. Buddy, on the other hand, notes that the group isn't perfect and that they could be improved. The study group does not like his ideas, but I think - at the core - they don't like the implication that they need to be "fixed." Buddy then attempts to convey why he is a perfect addition to the group, and demonstrates his high-kick... right into Jeff's face. Notice when Jeff finally decides to step in? When Buddy (literally) directly impacts HIM.

The study group then reconvenes the next day in their second-favorite location: the supply closet. They meet up to discuss kicking Buddy out of the study group. Pierce and Jeff, at this point, are the only ones who do not oppose Buddy in the group - Pierce, because perhaps he's just being contrary and likes Buddy's "in your face" attitude, and Jeff because he wants to remain as "laid-back" as possible still. But in spite of that, he is still subtly manipulative and is a master of puppetry. Therefore, by the end of the conversation he has managed to inadvertently convince everyone to kick Buddy out of the group. Again though, Jeff's idea on how to change himself is to change the people around him. Abed notes Jeff's manipulation when they are sitting in the editor's office, and commends him for it, noting that he did it so that he could "keep smiling." Jeff then responds: "And with Buddy gone, staying that way will be a lot easier."

There's a squabble outside of the editor's office, and when Jeff and Abed investigate, they discover that Annie is confronting the Dean about racially profiling by sending that text message. When Annie informs the Dean that she's going to run the story, Dean Pelton urges Jeff to do something because Annie listens to him (which intrigues me that the Dean would know that Annie listens to Jeff. Where has he seen examples of this?). Jeff's laid-back nature starts to crumble when he realizes that he can't just breeze through life without interfering in anything - being blase does not solve problems, and in fact, only creates more. When Jeff attempts to convince Annie not to run the story, she sends his earlier words shooting back at him: "But this is Greendale, Jeff. We can do whatever we want."

Jeff and Annie enter the study room and realize that Buddy is still in the group. Apparently, everyone assumed that if someone were to be kicked out, Jeff would do it. When Jeff informs Buddy of the group's decision, the "outsider" refuses to leave and insists that Jeff is not relaxed, and is infact "an uptight puppetmaster" and that the study group are his puppets. And in "Contemporary American Poultry," we discover more of this. Buddy is right, and for that only, I cannot fault him. And see, the reason that Jeff then dissolves into utter hysteria and rage is because when he transformed into his puppetmaster-self, he didn't REALIZE what he was doing. He didn't pause, acknowledge how uptight and controlling he could be, and admit this to Buddy. He continued to live in denial, and that was his downfall. So Jeff literally then drags Buddy out of the study room (I think Shirley's reaction is my favorite), and then comes back in, barking at Annie to not run the story.

Later on, in the editor's office, Jeff admits to Abed that he is not laid back at all, and instead is the "same uptight jerk [he] was last semester." And I absolutely adore Jeff and Abed storylines, because I feel like in this weird way, they truly understand one another. But the best part of this conversation between them is when Abed explains that Jeff is a leader, and that it's his job to do things like that. Jeff then responds with: "Yeah? What's in it for me?" (Enter: Annie) It's really nice to see Jeff soften though, and apologize for being in the wrong. Though technically Jeff was right in telling her that she shouldn't run the story, he didn't need to yell. And I enjoy the fact that Annie comes and apologizes to HIM for letting her desires be bigger than her conscience, essentially. And THAT is the upside, Jeff realizes. Not necessarily Annie herself, but resolution - knowing that you did something and that you matter to someone, and that their relationship matters to you.

The study group enters their room, only to find Buddy sitting at the table. As they back out and strategize the best way to kick him out (again), Jeff appears and informs the group that he invited Buddy. He says: "So how can I exclude someone from something that I'm so lucky to have?" And I think that this may be the little moment where Jeff realizes something about his relationship with the study group. He doesn't deliver a Winger speech to drive the episode home, but we end on the idea that the group is beginning to mean something to him, and he's accepting that.

Additional de-lovely aspects include:
- The "natural rapport and timing" gag STILL is one of my favorite things to air on the show, to date.
- "I received a text message about free Sephora samples."
- "And you get an English credit." "Well that ain't bad neither."
- Senor Chang's fake death is fantastic.
- "Yo, I need my genitals."
- "Oh, that's nice. Suppose I decide that's my job?" (And thus, we begin the 'Britta is a buzz kill' theme. Also, I love that Jeff is STILL laughing at Britta on his way out of the room)
- Seriously, how adorable are these two?
- "No, it's fine, it's just a little nosebleed. I get them when it's dry... or when my face gets kicked."
- I REALLY wanted to meet Gary. Too bad he transferred at the end of the season. :(
- I hadn't noticed before, but Abed asks Piece: "Why don't you like my tight jeans?" during the group conversation
- "No one will care about my time in rehab if they think I'm a writer." Sad, but likely true.
- I want to know HOW Buddy knows that Jeff/Annie are Milord/Milady
- "I am NO man's puppet, sir!"
- "Ooh, you made me so happy, I just peed a llittle."
- How hilarious is it that Britta and the rest of the group are appalled that they are not the cool group on campus? And how awesome is it that the "cool" group at Greendale has Owen Wilson in it?

Next week, we re-visit one of my favorite Jeff/Britta and Jeff/Annie episodes - "Romantic Expressionism." Until then, everyone! :)