As Shirley leaves, Jeff tells her that he's going to win the prize, but not for her and her boys (to which she replies: "That's less nice"). And oh what a difference two years can make, Jeff. You’ll give up everything you wanted post-graduation in order to help out Shirley in "Introduction to Finality." That little Jeff/Shirley parallel touched me last night when I re-watched because it is an example of how much Jeff has grown.
In Dean Pelton's office, the school administrator paces around with Chang watching. The game has gone on for far too long, he insists and it needs to be ended because there are classes in the morning. Chang then asks for the dean to put him in the game -- apparently the Spanish teacher plays paintball three times a week and brings in his own equipment. Again, one of my favorite things about Chang is that he is a villain when he is in power. And he is never more powerful than when he is in this episode. He does, after all, have his own theme music. So Dean Pelton agrees and enrolls Chang as a student so that he can legally participate in the game.
Meanwhile, in the study room, Britta is tending to Jeff's injury. I love that the first thing out of Britta’s mouth is about the group. It kind of goes back to what Jeff had said earlier about the group sorting things out and deciding whatever they wanted to in regards to him and Britta. Neither of them seem eager to figure out if there's anything between them, so they're content to not address it. And then, this conversation occurs:
Britta: You're right, you know. I am a phony. I try to act compassionate because I'm afraid I'm not.
Jeff: Oh, please. I invented phony. You care about people. I accuse you of faking to convince myself I'm not such a jerk.
Britta: Jeff, you help people more than I do and you don't even want to. You're not a jerk. You're fine.
This is perhaps the most real and honest conversation Jeff and Britta ever have had on the show and I really love it. It’s here that we get to the root of who Britta is as a character and why she does the things that she does (as well as Jeff). And we really get some nice insight into the Jeff/Britta relationship. On the very rare occasions when they can both put aside their egos and snark, they are capable of having decent conversations about important things. But I don’t know if that’s the kind of relationship they want, ever. They’ve never worked, past this episode, to establish one that resembles this. It’s something to think about. Still, in this moment the idea that Britta is scared of failing the group and of letting them down is one of significant importance because it was HER study group to begin with. She envies Jeff, I think, for his ability to lead people when he doesn't even want to. And yet, she tries so hard to be what people need that she feels like she's being fake (even though her heart is in the right place most of the time). This is such an interesting characterization of Britta in season one, because by season three she's seemed to have accepted her role within the study group and herself as a person. And Jeff? Well Jeff manages to realize that he has the potential to be a jerk and that these people -- his study group -- will be there for him even when he IS. But that doesn't mean that he has to treat others poorly or think about himself all the time.
Jeff and Britta then mock the group's accusation of tension between them and pretend to kiss, but make disgusted noises. They do end up kissing, however, and it's evident that they sleep together afterwards. Britta gets dressed quickly and draws her weapon, aiming it at Jeff. He in turn asks if them sleeping together meant nothing to her and here's something to note: in a few episodes, Britta’s evasive answer-a-question-with-a-question method (she never does tell him if it means anything to her, she just asks "What did it mean to you?") will come back in "Pascal's Triangle Revisited" (where when Jeff asks: "You love me?" she replies with "Do you love me?"). Jeff then purposefully irritates and angers Britta by saying: “You sure that’s a gun? Maybe it’s a metaphor for your fake, jaded persona." She pulls the trigger... and nothing happens. Jeff smirks, self-satisfied because he removed the clip from her gun (perhaps anticipating that this would happen) before they slept together.
Their bantering is interrupted by Chang, who enters the room with a powerful paintball gun. Jeff and Britta take cover behind the couches and the Spanish teacher informs them that they're the only three people left in the game. Britta then insists that Jeff give her his weapon so that she can take Chang out. He refuses, of course, but I love that Britta knows exactly how to distract Jeff in order to get his clip (by kissing him). She grins and says: “Be pretty crazy if I shot you right now, huh?” Instead of shooting Jeff though, she takes out Chang. Once the man is "dead," he begins laughing maniacally and reveals two important tidbits of information: 1) there is no such thing as priority registration and 2) there's a paintball grenade set to explode at any moment. Jeff runs out of the room with Chang's gun in hand just as the paintball grenade explodes behind him.
Jeff then confronts Dean Pelton and demands his prize. At the end of the conversation (or really, the argument in which Jeff covered the dean's office in paint), it seems clear that Jeff will get his priority registration. The next day, Jeff and Britta encounter one another in the hallway as the school is being cleaned and agree that the night before never happened. It wasn't a mistake, Britta insists, it just never happened. They enter into the study room just as Abed announces that something did feel different about the room. Jeff announces that he has emerged victorious from the paintball game and surprises everyone when he hands the registration forms to Shirley. The fact is that Jeff CAN be a decent human being when he chooses to be. He usually just chooses NOT to be. And he needs reminders from each and every group member of how he can be better – from Annie in “Basic Genealogy” to Abed in “Critical Film Studies,” and even the dean in “Documentary Filmmaking Redux.” And Britta points out his flaws in this episode, and they cause him to not even consciously examine why he acts the way that he does. In fact, his change is so unnoticeable by him, that he seems surprised when he hands the paper to Shirley. But he’s changed for the better whether consciously or subconsciously – that much is true. And there’s no turning back now.
Additional de-lovely aspects about the episode:
- The opening scene has a hallways called "Goldman Hall." I wonder if it's named after @GoldmanNeil
- "Well, if I'm the police, then you're director of Funland Security."
- “He makes me uncomfortable.” “…still in the room.”
- The gag of holding open the door so that the disco roller skater can run into it is still one of my favorite things ever on the show.
- “Easy, sugarbear.”
- “I mean, I’m all for winning, but let’s not resort to cheap ploys.” (The note in the script for this episode -- which I have thanks to @GoldmanNeil! -- says "Arms that make women watch the show." Hey, we won't deny it.)
- "SHUT. UP!"
- "Troy made God mad!"
- "Write some original songs!"
- “Buenos dias, children.”
- The end tag is one of my favorites of the entire series.
Thanks for all of you who had a chance to join last night's Twitter re-watch with me! The summer is just kicking off and we have a lot of episodes still to go through! Next week we are watching "English as a Second Language" at 8PM EST and using the hashtag #Disneyface. Until then, folks! :)