Tuesday, February 5, 2013

#7DaysofCommunity - Day 6

Dan Harmon always said that his show was not a romantic show. That’s not to say, of course, that the show does not focus on romance in some aspect or another. But let’s be honest – Community is no Grey’s Anatomy. Romantic relationships, while always important, are not an integral part of the sitcom. What has intrigued me, however, is how they have played with and built up certain relationships over the course of three seasons, only to utilize them to develop individual characters more. What began as a show about Jeff pursuing Britta has become one about how six relationships can change a person’s heart and life.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that Community refuses to focus on romantic couples or moments. Arguably some of the most emotionally heightened moments in the show take place between couples with a romantic interest or history together. Today’s post was probably the most difficult one to answer (and trust me when I say that, even as you read this, I’m STILL second-guessing myself!), but I was asked to focus on one romantic pairing in particular.

Who will I be talking about? Check below the cut and find out!

Anonymous asked: Suppose I'll get the obvious one out of the way first – Favorite Jeff/Annie moment

Answer: The look (“Romantic Expressionism”) / You’re becoming dangerous (“Basic Genealogy”) 

Yes, yes, I know.

It’s a total cop-out to choose TWO favorite Jeff/Annie moments, but they were so neck-and-neck in my mind that I couldn’t possibly choose between them. Also, bear in mind that there are about half a dozen other moments – both Kim and Jaime can attest to this – that I struggled with choosing before settling on these two. So let’s explain WHY I chose these particularly interesting moments for my favorites between the pairing, shall I?

Jeff Winger, upon entering Greendale, was very… how can I put this? Well, he wasn’t very compassionate. He wasn’t a great guy, a decent human being, and he was pretty selfish. He walled himself off from emotion or becoming emotionally attached. Distancing himself from people made life easier for him, I would presume. It meant that he didn’t have to worry about whose feelings he hurt or what consequences his actions had.

But Jeff’s wall slowly began to crack in the first season as he found himself more and more emotionally invested in and attached to the study group. He began to CHOOSE to be with them and help them, even if it was not always consciously. And slowly, he began to open himself up to the people around him in his life. One of the people he started to do this with was Annie Edison. “Romantic Expressionism” falls after “Debate 109” which is arguably the be-all, end-all of Jeff/Annie episodes because it’s where the spark happened.

For those of you who have forgotten, you see, Jeff and Annie kissed at the end of the episode. The latter was attempting to prove a point to win the debate. The former kissed her back because… well, there had been a lot of romantic tension throughout the episode and he WANTED to kiss her. He didn’t know why, and he didn’t know what it meant, and maybe he had red sirens flashing in his head but he did it anyway. And Jeff’s face after Annie pulls away from their kiss, after she says: “Is that off-book enough for you?”… Well, even if ANNIE didn’t necessarily understand the ramifications or impact of the kiss, Jeff sure did.

So in “Romantic Expressionism,” Jeff and Britta are trying to break up the budding romance of Annie and Vaughn, but both for different reasons (and both masking under “parental concern” for Annie’s well-being). When Britta admits that she was jealous of Annie dating Vaughn, Jeff appears confused… and then the blonde turns the tables on him. She accuses Jeff of being jealous that Vaughn was now dating his “debate slash make-out partner.”

Affronted, Annie claims that she took the kiss for the team (yes, I have the entire exchange memorized. SHUT UP.), and Jeff, eyes wide and shocked, rounds on her with a: “WHAT?” Annie, meanwhile, gives him a look that very clearly means: “Play it off, Jeff.” The former lawyer then claims (very unbelievably, if you ask me) that the kiss wasn’t for pleasure and was “strategic and joyless.” (Sure it was, buddy.) Annie, rightfully so, gasps and Jeff mimics her look from earlier.

Britta isn’t buying it though. (And neither is Troy, who apparently was told some very specific things about Annie's body from Jeff.)

Soon, everything gets a bit of hand, as it oft does with the study group, and Jeff attempts to calm everyone down. He reminds everyone that the study group, while it feels like a family, is NOT an actual family and therefore everyone is free to look at anyone else within the group as a sexual prospect. Jeff trails off and then one of the greatest scenes ever in Community begins – everyone begins to look around the table and contemplate the others as a prospect. Some people wrinkle their noses or look away in abject horror (this happens when Annie looks at Pierce), some contemplate (Troy looking at Shirley, Britta looking at Jeff), and then… Annie breaks eye contact with Pierce to find Jeff staring at HER.

And when this happens, Jeff’s face becomes the utter definition of schmoopy. No one else in the study group even remotely looks at another the way Jeff looks at Annie. Once she realizes he’s staring at her with that heart-melting small smile, she visibly relaxes and he continues to smile at her… and she begins to do the same. It is the most utterly genuine expression I had ever seen from Jeff at that point, and a moment that still (even though it was in season one) resonates with me. The way that he looked at Annie wasn’t one of longing or desire, even (and he does that occasionally too). It was one of complete and utter… contentment. He was just content to look and smile at her. And it melted my heart.

After that, it gets awkward because… crap. Jeff realizes EXACTLY what he is doing and that they’re in a room with the entire study group and that if he looks at Annie for any longer, the rest of the group will notice. So he breaks away first and shifts his focus to Abed (who comedically waggles his eyebrows). The moment is over, but it’s definitely not forgotten by these two.

The second moment that ties for first place in my heart regarding Jeff and Annie is one that takes place in an oft-overlooked episode. “Basic Genealogy” is, at its core, not a Jeff/Annie episode. But between the lines… it is one of the MOST Jeff/Annie episodes ever. Here, Annie flits around in the background of the episode, seemingly with no family to visit her on Family Day (which always makes me really sad when I think about how she’s the only member of the study group who didn’t even MENTION bringing family… even JEFF talked to Slater about his mom. But I digress.), while Jeff attempts to avoid hooking up with Pierce’s ex-stepdaughter (a blonde, pre-Smash[bash] Katharine McPhee).

Annie proves throughout the episode that she is the better half of Jeff – she’s his conscious, and he (unconsciously) seeks her out for advice throughout the episode. Annie recognizes this as progress. Jeff wants to be a good friend and person. That’s why he feels guilty when he hooks up with Pierce’s ex-stepdaughter. That’s why the first person (and only person) he talks to about this is Annie. And really, I love Jeff and Annie’s romantic interactions (the kiss in “Pascal’s Triangle Revisited” is nearly untouchable – I say nearly because of last week’s New Girl), but what I will always love is their FRIENDSHIP. The fact of the matter is that Jeff trusts Annie in a way that is different from the others in the group. He knows that he can go to her for advice and she’ll be honest with him – he actually knows that she will say the exact thing he is telling himself but doesn’t want to hear. And that is the core of a good relationship, really.

Nevertheless, there’s a scene in this episode that ranks as my favorite Jeff/Annie interaction. Annie innocently looks up at Jeff after he’s finished explaining to her WHY he cannot help Pierce connect with his ex-stepdaughter and asks: “How much effort do I rate?” Jeff momentarily fumbles and contemplates this before he says: “For you? Uh, I’d… break a light sweat?”

Pleased with this response, Annie beams and says: “Good, I need a favor. Help Pierce with his stepdaughter?” Jeff, fully aware now about his inability to say no, concedes and then utters one of my favorite lines in the entire series:

“You’re becoming dangerous, Annie. It’s those doe eyes. Disappointing you is like choking The Little Mermaid with a bike chain.”

(After he leaves, Annie beams, evidently very self-satisfied.)

What I love the most about this scene and line in particular is that it acknowledges how much Annie really means to Jeff – both in her opinion of him (reaffirmed later on in “Intro to Political Science”) and her power OVER him. But it’s really more than just the fact that Annie’s doe eyes could get him to do anything. Annie’s doe eyes could get ANYONE to do ANYTHING. It’s the carefully chosen words: “disappointing you” that get me most of all.

Anyone can call Annie irresistible. Anyone can admit that her doe eyes weaken their resolve – Shirley, Abed, Troy, Britta, Pierce. But Jeff is the one who admits something different and very telling and extremely easy to overlook. He focuses, not on how she makes him do things he doesn’t want to do, but how NOT doing those things and seeing her disappointed is what weakens him. And I think that this is very telling for so early on in the friendship between Jeff and Annie that it carries over to other seasons. His biggest fear is letting her down and he always wants to do everything in his power NOT to make that come to fruition.

So he does what’s right and he makes amends. And they make each other better. And THAT is why I love Jeff/Annie so much.

We’re winding down our #7DaysofCommunity countdown! Only one day left in our special question and answer session before I post a long Q&A on premiere day. Thanks to all of you who submitted topics, especially those that I didn’t choose – it was a tough call on many of these and I had a lot of great suggestions.

Have a wonderful day, everyone. And go win a Community giveaway. ;)

1 comment:

  1. "You’re becoming dangerous, Annie. It’s those doe eyes. Disappointing you is like choking The Little Mermaid with a bike chain.”

    Something I realised about this line and why (for me) its such an important Jeff/Annie moment is actually the first part - You're becoming dangerous, Annie.

    I think about where Jeff is now in regards to his feeling for Annie and how that has kinda warped his old misconception of love and marriage and yeah he called it right at the time. She was becoming dangerous because she was worming her way into his heart and he did nothing at all to stop it from happening. And now shes there and he's in trouble.