Friday, March 1, 2013

4x04 "Alternative History of the German Invasion" (The Victors and the Vanquished)

"Alternative History of the German Invasion"
Original Airdate: February 28, 2013

Have you ever listened to someone play the victim? (Or maybe, if you are willing to admit it freely, YOU have played the victim at some point.) Here’s the thing about people who do this: they’re usually pretty powerful. There are people who are legitimately victimized in various ways, shapes, and forms. And I’m not talking about that – not those deep, dark issues. I’m talking about people who have a “woe is me” attitude. The ones who believe that the world is out to get them because they have a bad hair day. The ones who are privileged, who are winners (who have iPhones and comfortable lives and drive nice cars), but who consistently think they’re losing and aren’t afraid to broadcast it to the world at large. Have you ever thought of the Greendale Seven this way? I hadn’t, really, until watching “Alternative History of the German Invasion.” This episode’s title is interesting and telling enough when you deconstruct it, prior to even watching the episode. When you think of alternatives, you are forced to reconcile the idea that what you know and what you believe isn’t all that is out there. Because what happens, when Professor Cornwallis appears is this: he forces the Greendale Seven to think about war. More importantly, he challenges them to think about war not just from the common perspective of the victor, but from the vanquished. How would the story look, say, if those who had lost told it rather than those who had conquered? And truly, the study group spends the entire episode believing that THEY are the victims – they’re consistently the vanquished. We, the audience, always think about the group this way, don’t we? We see Greendale through their lens. We watch them suffer unjustly and groan when they have to retake Biology over the summer. And when they get expelled from school, we lament that too. They’re our story. They’re OUR underdogs. They’re the consistently vanquished.

But… what if we are forced to think about the idea that the study group is not actually a victim but a victor? Moreover, what if the Greendale Seven are actually the villains? What if they are the ones we should be rooting AGAINST? What if the Vickis and Garretts and Todds and Leonards are the actual underdogs? How does that change the way we see their story – or, importantly, DOES it change the way we see the story of the Greendale Seven?

I’m going to start by rehashing something I know you all don’t want to hear but… well, whatever. It’s my blog and I’ll do what I want! Here’s my problem with this season: the critics (and a select few audience members who cannot seem to move past the fact that this is not Harmon era anymore). I respect television critics for what they do because Lord knows I probably would stress myself out trying to write coherent reviews of multiple television shows (it takes me hours to just write for THIS one). So I applaud them for their livelihood. But… I just don’t seem to understand what the critics of the series are waiting for, exactly. Another “Remedial Chaos Theory”? Because I would venture to bet MONEY that even if the show were to do another episode like that – as insane, intricate, and brilliant – the critics would not be happy. Oh, they SAY that’s what they want. They say that there’s something missing, that the show isn’t “funny” anymore (which, if you ask me, is a highly subjective argument because everyone approaches humor in a different way and what? Do they want Community’s humor to be broader or contain a laugh track?), or because it’s lacking something. I can tell you what it’s lacking: Harmon. Anyone can tell you that. But what if… what if Harmon actually was still secretly writing for the show? What if, behind-the-scenes footage revealed to us that Harmon was in the writers’ room and approving storylines? I can tell you this: critics would just probably implode because they would have no idea how to reconcile themselves with the idea that Community could be the same show (or very, very close to it) without Harmon.

The idea is this: Community is different because there is no Harmon. And as I have said before, it is GOING to be different because there is no Harmon, but maybe the fact of the matter is that we’re concentrating so much on what the show “used to be like” that we’re actually just IDOLIZING a show that was just as flawed even WITH Harmon at the helm. Community has never been, nor will it ever be, a perfect show and it makes me upset and frustrated that critics continually idolize Harmon while subsequently (and perhaps subconsciously) demeaning the writers who have worked ON THE SAME SHOW and written for it just as long. And yes, everyone is entitled to their own opinions but like I said a few weeks ago: these critics are never going to be satisfied. They’re waiting for a train (whoops, almost got Inception-y there for a second) that’s never going to come, while refusing to get aboard a perfectly acceptable and (I’d argue) nearly identical train. They’re missing out on enjoying the ride because they refuse to ever leave the station. And that’s where they’ll remain – disappointed, bitter, and upset that the Harmon Express hasn’t returned.

Anyway, enough with the depressing train metaphors – let’s discuss the episode! (But first off, a MASSIVE congratulations to Ben Wexler and lots of metaphorical gold stars from me because I loved this episode. So there's that!)

The study group is back at Greendale (this episode was definitely supposed to air as 4x02, as it is the first day of classes), lamenting the fact that they lost out on getting into History of Ice Cream where their final would have been a sundae bar. JEALOUS! They begrudgingly walk to their European History class together instead. Here is something important to note that Tumblr (of all places) pointed out: this week there are two storylines and only three characters: Dean Pelton, Chang, and The Greendale Seven. Throughout the entire episode, the group functions as a singular unit. A reviewer on Tumblr criticized the fact that this caused a lack of individuality – there was no Britta, Troy, Annie, Jeff, Shirley, Abed, or Pierce really in the episode. And to that end, I say: YES. That is EXACTLY the point.

Remember the first episode I told you where the study group actually turns on a hinge and begins to function not as seven individuals but a singular group? Hint: it’s briefly mentioned in this episode. (Answer: “Cooperative Calligraphy”) Because, see, when the group decided to stay locked in Study Room F, the reason they did so was because Jeff spoke truth – if any of them left, it meant that they couldn’t trust one another. And if they couldn’t trust one another… who COULD they trust? So the group stayed, self-contained, and from that moment forward functioned as the Greendale Seven. This episode returns to that notion of functioning as a group. While in “Competitive Ecology” and “Cooperative Calligraphy,” the results were destructive, this episode would have been no different, if the ending and its revelation had not occurred. But we’ll get to that momentarily. Just remember this: the Greendale Seven are not seven friends in this episode; they are one functioning unit because they are organized around one particular goal.

I love that Jeff was the one not only encouraging the rest of the group to look on the bright side in regards to their European History class but he was actually… excited about the prospect of learning something. Remember: in their four years of being at Greendale, the group hasn’t learned much in the way of ACTUAL schooling. The lessons they have learned about friendship and loyalty and love may carry throughout the rest of their lives but… let’s face it. Jeff probably STILL doesn’t know what mitosis is. Unfortunately, Jeff’s optimism about class is squelched by the presence of three German students – the same students (sans one) that Jeff and Shirley fought and defeated the year prior in foosball. Needless to say, Jeff isn’t too thrilled to see them present in a class he was actually looking forward to being in, as he thought they transferred at the end of the year before. He quips: “No, them leaving would mean that Greendale got slightly better. Which, as we know… does not happen.” Oh, Jeff. As Hermione Granger once said (in A Very Potter Musical): “Foreshadowing is a dramatic device in which an important plot point is mentioned earlier in the story to return later in a significant way.”

Before things actually get heated, the groups settle into their seats and meet Professor Cornwallis, a seemingly stringent British professor. He discusses the concept of war with them and then informs the class of an interesting quote: “History is written by the victors.” Ah, yes. Now here is where things actually get thought-provoking in our review because history is written by those who have succeeded and won. From the very beginning of this episode, there are parallels drawn between this quote and the Greendale Seven. Are the study group members really victims or is it just because the only story we know is the one told by them to us?

History, as Professor Cornwallis says, can be seen from various points of view… if we allow ourselves to. What happens if we step away from the study group and choose to focus on Vicki, Neil, Leonard, Magnitude, and Todd? Or, consequently, what happens if we focus on the Germans? Here’s something that is intriguing: our definition of “victor” and “vanquished” changes significantly. Because the meta commentary on this episode is that we only ever see Greendale THROUGH the perspective of the Greendale Seven. Therefore, we only see THEM as the underdogs in need of recognition, in need of a win. But what happens when we focus on other characters outside of our own stories? We often forget, as I’ve noted before, that other people attend Greendale Community College – life is not all about the study group. Other patrons frequented Central Perk. Other people eat and drink at MacLaren’s. It’s a meta commentary that was touched upon pretty wonderfully in “Competitive Ecology” and also “Applied Anthropology and the Culinary Arts”: Greendale doesn’t revolve around the study group. It only revolves around them, to us, because it’s a television show. Just as Friends only revolves around Monica, Chandler, Rachel, Joey, Phoebe, and Ross. Just like How I Met Your Mother only revolves around Ted, Robin, Barney, Lily, and Marshall.

So we’re left with a question that Professor Cornwallis (and the show itself) asks us to ponder: “How would the story read if it was written, not by the victors, but by the vanquished?”

Elsewhere at Greendale, Chang has returned… with “Changnesia.” A therapist informs Dean Pelton that the man thinks his name is Kevin and cannot remember anything of his former life. Dean Pelton isn’t buying ANY of it, though. I actually even liked the Dean Pelton/Chang storyline this week which, if I’m being honest, I was kind of dreading. I love that they made the dean a bit less dimwitted, if only because he has been duped before. I’d like to think that he’s learning to try and be a better dean and that includes protecting his school better. It was kind of refreshing to see him still be the same hilarious character but also with a bit more wisdom and experience. I’m still iffy about the Chang arc this season, though because it feels like they’re just trying to throw Chang into a storyline for the sake of having him in the show. But we’ll roll with it for now. (It also took me THIS long to realize that the dean and Chang both have the thread of inserting their names into sentences in common. I'm dense. Or... it's early. Either way, just go with it.)

I also love this whole idea (no matter how cooky) that spans the show and this week’s A and B stories that Greendale is the place where broken people go because it’s the ONLY place they can actually be fixed and learn and grow. If you take a look at any member of the study group, you’ll realize exactly how much they were in dire need of support and people to accept them and help them and love them where they were at when they first entered. Because I think you need to remember where you came from to appreciate who you’ve become.

Back in the study room, the group enters and discovers that the Germans have occupied a small table in the corner of the room and are studying. While everyone seems startled, and Jeff begins harassing the students, Annie attempts to restrain him by noting that they should welcome the group. Remember this moment because Annie’s point-of-view is going to Chang really soon.

The thing that I love most about Annie is how much I relate to her as a person. She desires to see the good in everyone (she’s the only red card, the hold out, the Ace of Hearts) and give everyone an equal chance… as long as it doesn’t infringe upon her comfort permanently. Jeff, always the opposite, insists that to give the table in the corner of the room to the Germans would be appeasement – they’d start off wanting the corner and take over the room. Annie chooses to give people the benefit of the doubt, which is necessary. After all, there couldn’t very well be an entire group of Jeff Wingers, could there? Each person in the study group provides a balance for the others. Jeff and Britta are opposites of Annie and Shirley. People like Pierce and Abed are only trusting when they can relate to the person they need to trust, and Troy? Well, Troy’s a bit of a wild card. Annie knows what it’s like to be excluded, which is why I think she feels the overwhelming need to include people in activities. She’s trying to be the person in the group that she never had.

In the hallway, Abed approaches one of the Germans, Karl – he recognizes the catchphrase he uttered in the study room. Karl, as it turns out, saved Abed’s life in a video game once. And the German student seems happy to meet Abed in person and make a new friend. I love seeing character growth in Abed, to be honest. I love that we’re getting to see bits of him branching out and relating to other people apart from Troy. I think that it’s an important arc for the film student to have, especially because we are so conditioned to believe that he is the abnormal one. Placing him in relationships outside of the study group doesn’t feel jarring as a viewer – it feels, in fact, like a natural progression. I liked this storyline too, more than last week’s, featuring Abed’s relationship (only because everyone hates Toby. He’s such a Minerva) with Karl.

Dean Pelton has learned that the school board approved Chang returning to Greendale under the dean’s care, so he confronts the yard marg at Skeeper’s-loving men. He quips that Chang nearly blew up the school and held him hostage for months. The school board notes that they’re being paid, regardless of whether Chang is in school or in jail, so if Dean Pelton wanted to prove the man’s guilt, he was more than welcome to. Dean Pelton is intent on proving that he is right.

When Jeff and Annie walk into the study room together the next day, the latter seems proud that the table in the corner of their room is unoccupied by the Germans. She believes the best in people and is consistently proud at herself for doing this, even though – ironically – she has been proven wrong a LOT in the past. She trusted Annie Kim. She trusted Pierce. She trusted Buddy. She just TRUSTS. And Jeff? Well, Jeff is inherently distrusting of everyone and everything. His distrust teeters into cynicism and sarcasm the majority of the time. And just when Annie believes she is right… Jeff reminds her that sometimes, she shouldn’t trust people. It’s very amusing how quickly Annie goes from being understanding and accepting to irate when it comes to comfort and familiarity, as the Germans inform her that they’re taking the study room. As I said earlier, Annie (and the rest of the group) can be inviting, but only when her invitees don’t infringe on her own personal comfort. It’s not bad, per se, but… well, it’s an example of how our study group isn’t always an “innocent.” They definitely have their hang-ups and flaws too.

The study group has never had to sign out a room before – they just automatically assume that the room is theirs because they’ve claimed it as their own territory. But the German students HAVE signed out the room, fairly, and present the proper papers to the irate Greendale Seven.

What happens next is pretty interesting: the group goes to war. They weren’t ready to fight earlier – well, most of the group was, actually. Annie was the one who prevented the war for the study room from occurring. In fact, when she walked in with Jeff mere moments earlier, she wrinkled her nose at the thought of demeaning herself to participating in a “macho” war for turf. It takes mere moments for ANNIE to be the one to declare war. And I really love this: I love that she is the one who basically is the decider (“I AM THE DECIDER. LET THE DECIDER DECIDE. I AM NOT THE SUGGESTER.”) And Jeff allows her to be the one to declare war (not, interestingly enough, him). Because when the one holdout suddenly joins a cause… everyone joins the cause. Reinholdt moves to interrupt Annie, when Jeff insists: “Let the lady finish her sentence!” Also, adorably, Pierce nods at Jeff in the background when he defends Annie. YES, HE’S DEFENDING HER. He’s looking at Reinholdt the same way that he looked at Annie Kim when he threatened his Annie.

To go to war, the group decides that they need to wake up early and sign out their room, fair and square. Unfortunately for them, the Germans keep beating them to the sign-in sheet every day. I love that you can see the progression of the study group looking less and less put together as the week wears on. They’re also, of course, learning that other areas of the campus aren’t so ideal for studying in. But they’re still, at this point, merely thinking about themselves. They sit in the same seats they would in the room. They hit lows, however, when they… LITERALLY hit a low and each of their seats buckle and give way during a study session. And that is when the study group decides to play a little dirty and enact revenge.

In Dean Pelton’s office, Chang (er, Kevin?) is marveling at how friendly the dean is being toward him, noting that they must have been good friends prior to his memory loss. Dean Pelton then admonishes Chang and explains that Chang basically ruined EVERYTHING. The former teacher then explains that he should be jailed for all the things he’s done. Dean Pelton, rather coolly, agrees and Chang runs out of the office, upset.

Back in European History, Professor Cornwallis is explaining how the essay portion of the test will require the students to select a war and observe it from the viewpoints of both the victors and the vanquished. The Germans taunt the group on their way out the door and Jeff totally wasn’t going to go and beat up Reinholdt because he harassed Annie. Not at all. And the only reason he didn’t was certainly NOT because she told him it wasn’t worth it. (Sorry. Inflecting.) But Annie insists that they should just surrender. There’s nothing more they can do, no hour earlier they can get up. It’s over. Their war is done and they’ve lost.

I love the little look that Abed and Britta share, knowing a speech is coming, before they sit down. This is actually the first of two Winger speeches, and I truly love it because it exemplifies “New Jeff” – this is the person who has spent three years fighting his love for the group on and off. It’s the guy who has tried to avoid feelings and who couldn’t tell his friends that he loved them for a long time. And here is this guy, standing up in front of them now, explaining that their home has been stolen from them. Here’s something else that war does besides destroy: it unites. It reminds people of what they’re fighting FOR. And I don’t think that Jeff is out of character when he professes his love for the group and desire to win their home back because I think that’s what wars DO to people – they energize them, they motivate them, and they cause them to become emotionally heightened. It’s natural. War is scary, because there is always a huge risk of loss.

Instead of fighting fairly, the group performed a “ruse” – really, what they did was blackmail the German students into forfeiting something that the study group had no real claim on to begin with. I think that this was the interesting pivot in the episode where viewers were forced to contemplate the story from the side of the winners AND the losers. But deciding which group fell into what category… well, it’s a lot more complex than anticipated. The blackmail is pretty simple: the group hosts Oktoberfest in the cafeteria and lures the Germans to attend, even noting that they should take a giant chocolate cake back to the study room. Reinholdt quickly discovers that the group was hiding Troy within the cake and assume the Germans have won. That is… until the study group members whip out their phones and take photos of the trio at Oktoberfest.

For once, the study group should be able to thank Greendale and its absurdity for actually saving them all. Because, as it turns out, students cannot participate in activities that involve their OWN heritage (in order to promote diversity, of course). Therefore, the Germans are banned from various water activities and, oh! The study room. After the Germans depart, the dean receives a phone call from the local jail, informing them that Chang has voluntarily placed himself behind bars.

The Study Group Victorious waltzes back into their room only to find… a mob of protestors (Britta is adorably excited and asks: “Ooh, what are we protesting?”). As it turns out, everyone is protesting THEM. I cannot articulate how much I love that the rest of the school hates the Greendale Seven. I think nothing really reminds us that we’re watching a show about seven characters but they’re not the ONLY characters like something like this. It also gives us a glimpse into the idea of victorious vs. victims – the study group had people BANNED because they wanted a table back. And sure, Jeff attached sentimental value to a table and a room, which is why the group decided to keep fighting for it. But they have hogged the room and kept it to themselves because they’ve felt entitled the space, while the rest of the school studied in rooms that the Greendale Seven were subjected to earlier in the week. I sad in my “Competitive Ecology” review that we don’t like to think about the heroes and heroines of our favorite shows as being villains. Similarly, we don’t like to think about the study group being demanding and selfish and (sometimes) downright cruel to other people in their school. But sometimes… they are. And Annie affirms this epiphany when she says: “Oh my God. This whole time we thought the Germans were the Germans, but it turns out… we’re the Germans.”

Todd makes a valid point – the Germans signed out the room, and then the study group took everything too far. I love the inclusion of the flashbacks to moments we’ve seen previously (and one we haven’t!) exemplifying the group’s sentimental attachment and possessiveness over the room while also providing some meta commentary on television shows as a whole.

I like that there’s a nice parallel of guilt/remorse running through the Chang storyline right before it hits the main storyline, too, after he explains how guilty he felt about doing all the things Dean Pelton said he had done. The dean softens, then, and notes that Chang would have NEVER voluntarily checked himself into jail or felt remorse for his actions. He extends an offer to help Kevin get back on his feet at Greendale.

It’s not often that the group actually has to contemplate their actions. Normally, they are quite content to justify them (i.e. when Jeff asked the students if they were siding with the Germans, when they all used Todd as their scapegoat at the end of “Competitive Ecology,” when they had a LITERAL “escape goat,” etc.), but it takes a lot for the group to truly dwell upon how their actions have negatively impacted someone (or, in this case, multiple people).

But the funny thing is that Britta (and the rest of the group) blames JEFF for all the guilt that they are feeling and for the rest of the school hating them. They accuse him of being the leader and getting them into this mess, after all. And yes, Jeff is the leader of the group and did spur the rest of his friends to action and organize a ruse. But if we backtrack a bit further… we remember that Britta was standing nearly right beside Annie as SHE declared war. I like this and I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s just because I like Britta and Annie being friendly and not blaming one another for everything. Actually, I like the GROUP not blaming each other for everything. Remember “Anthropology 101”? The study group spent the entire episode blaming each other for their problems and issues. In this episode, the group points one collective finger at Jeff who actually takes the blame for a moment.

And that, truly, is the price of leadership in times of war. Everyone looked to him for guidance, regardless of the fact that it was Annie who declared war. Jeff is their leader and he let them down. For better or for worse, Jeff deals with the repercussions of the group placing their trust in him. The group begins to question their goodness – Shirley seems to believe they’re all innocent, but Abed knows better. Though he may not always be apt to pick up social cues, he understands basic human decency – Karl saved his life in a video game and he betrayed him in return. Abed recognizes characteristics of villainy and virtues of victors. And he knows which category the group falls into. Professor Cornwallis approaches the table and the blame that the group placed, seconds ago, on themselves evaporates. Of course, they reason… they’re not bad after all! Their feelings of guilt only stemmed from a staged attempt to get them to learn a lesson (a la “Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design”). Professor Cornwallis is confused, but the group is relentless.

Once again, the group exhibits their tendency to believe that everything revolves around and is focused on them by claiming Professor Cornwallis set up the entire stunt to teach them a lesson. The professor is baffled and we are disappointed, briefly, in our group. Rather than accept that they were in the wrong, they continue to blame everyone around them for the way they behave and, therefore, don’t end up really changing or learning lessons (see: “Competitive Ecology” again). But the history professor denies any involvement in orchestrating a charade to teach seven students a lesson. Instead, he informs them all that (because of their selfishness) they missed their exam. They’re all receiving F’s.

When the group recognizes the fact that they have failed (both literally and figuratively as students and friends to the people around them), they have a choice: continue to live the way they had been living or make amends for the wrongs they’ve caused in a small way. They, thankfully, choose the latter. Jeff recognizes his own faults and then gives a very heartfelt Winger speech:

“We have to start giving back because Greendale has given us so much. It gave us the study room and that study room is our home. But our home is more than those four walls, and our family is more than the seven of us. It’s ALL of Greendale. And everyone deserves to have what we have.”

And then, brilliantly, Jeff calls back the beginning of the episode after he examines how they managed to clean up the broken study rooms by saying: “What do you know? Greendale just got slightly better.”

And then I teared up.

Additional de-lovely aspects about the episode include:
- “It’s as informative as it is delicious!”
- “Quick impression: WAH. Who am I? You guys.” “HA. Dead on!”
- I loved and grew up on The Nanny so I love any reference to that show.
- “Oh! Someone must have changed the channel to USA because I just watched a burn notice.”
- “Tomorrow it will reopen and we shall be out of your product-laden hair.” I will never tire of hearing jokes about Jeff's hair.
- “Did it ever occur to you that this man is a psychopath who may be faking his own Changnesia? Oh, now he has ME saying it.”
- “Hey, apropos of nothing, what’s that sound you make when you see something shocking?” *Annie gasps* “Oh yeah, that’s it.”
- “NICE. … I don’t know any of these puns. I think I need to learn history.”
- “You’re asking for our papers? I thought this was America, not Arizona.” IT'S A PALOMINO. Sorry.
- “Gutten-bye bye!”
- I love how upset the group is that they DON’T have to do a diorama.
- “When I was growing up, it was just me and my mom. I didn’t have much of a family. That is, until I met you guys. So excuse me if I’m not willing to give up the place where we became a family.”
- “All we need is a ruse.” “You had me at ruse.” “That was the last thing I said.” “Good thing you said it.”
- “I feel guilty eating this cake. And not for the usual reasons.”
- “Please keep that in mind the next twenty seconds. Remember that people can Chang.” “… people can what?”

All right, folks. Thanks for joining the blog-review today! Next week it's Thanksgiving... in March. Eh, roll with it. We'll be confronting Jeff's dad and having dinner at Shirley's in "Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations." Until then, folks! :)


  1. I was thinking a lot about this episode last night, and I wrote this short review, which seems to be very much in sync with Jennifer's thoughts: I wonder if some of us are missing an important point. Professor Cornwallis poses the question, "What would history look like from the perspective of the vanquished?" And that is what we get in this episode. How does the tale change when the losing side get to control the narrative? The German foosball players find themselves needing to use the group study room. And when they feel it is beneficial for them to continue using it, they file the proper papers. However, none of this sits well with the Greendale 7. They feel they have been invaded by the Germans. Slowly the group turns from mild irritated to using any means necessary to destroy their foes. Jeff even tries to justify why they must take back the study room. He considers it their home.Even thought it is clearly a space that should be open to all. It is not a classic Winger speech, partially because it is a justification that rings hollow. Ultimately the gang reclaimed what they feel is rightfully theirs. But they are viewed, not as conquering heroes, but as villains. And not only for their current actions, but for a long history of taking whatever they wanted without regard for others. This is where I think the story stumbled a bit, as the gang is too much identified as the Germans. No, they are the Allies, or at least the Americans. It is only when Jeff and the gang realize that everyone has a place at Greendale, that their family is not just themselves, that things begin to around. This is not actual history. It's alternate history of the German invasion, that leads into a larger,universal truth.

  2. Jennifer! Wonderful as always! I actually have to go rewatch it again (again) now that you've pointed out some things I clearly missed :D

  3. If you listen to the commentaries, Harmon constantly details how he had to fight the network executives to get specific jokes/references/plotlines into episodes. The show was very much his brainchild. We are upset over his departure because those ideas that he fought so hard for are why WE liked the show. Some people like the show for character interaction; some like it for Annie's Boobs; some like it as an amusing departure from dull reality. But *WE* personally liked a show that had its head shoved up its own ass while commenting on the very nature of shoving one's head up one's own ass.

    Harmon was fired unceremoniously by NBC for going over budget and for fighting against their idea of how prime time comedy should work. An episode like "Digital Estate Planning" goes against the typical executive mindset for TV sitcoms which is why it is A) so enjoyable to some and B) virtually non-existent on any other major network show.

    It's clear that the only way NBC would allow Community to continue is with people they could control behind the wheel. This is understandable, as the ratings suffered a lot under Harmon. The major TV networks are focused on selling ad space, for which they need large amounts of viewership. They're not interested in compelling storytelling or experimentation (that's for networks like HBO and Showtime that are subscriber based and don't depend on ad revenue); I think we can all agree on that. To us, NBC ousted Harmon and deliberately dumbed the show down in order to gain more mainstream viewers. I still laugh when I watch Community, but not the way I did when Harmon was around. Sorry. If you believe this to be "close-minded" I can't help that. To me, it has lost its cult status. Maybe I'm wrong, but for fans who enjoyed the show specifically because of Harmon's influence to be told to just ACCEPT that he's gone is kind of a kick in the balls. (I saw eagles.)

  4. Trevor, you bring up an interesting question. And I mean this as an honest question, which may be hard to believe when I ask it: If you think that Community without Harmon (whom I think we ALL love) is just average, why are you still watching and why are you reading reviews about the episodes?

    Understand that I honestly ask this because, after watching a few seasons of, say "Star Trek: The Next Generation" or "Babylon 5," when I felt the show had stagnated, or when there was a major leadership change on a show like "seaQuest DSV," I simply stopped watching and moved on. They were going to do what they were going to do. And either I bought in, or found something else to do.

    With regards to dumbing it down, I think that episode 401 clearly indicated that the writers (and the producers) wanted to keep "Community" weird and somewhat inaccessible to just anyone. And they are trying to find their way in this new atmosphere.

    Lastly, you are correct, NBC will not keep running "Community" out of love if it bleeds money. It was never a highly-rated series and I am sure they are operating under a more severe budget this year. I know that Dan used to kick in his own money to make certain things happen (another reason we ALL love Dan), but that's not always going to happen.

    I think the cast and crew are pulling together quite nicely given all that has gone on. So now it is time to either roll with it or not.

    1. I continue to watch because I hope the show will find its footing before the season is over. Like I said: I still laugh when I watch Community; it's just not the same. I don't watch the show every week just so I can complain about Harmon's absence. I don't appreciate the suggestion that if Harmon was still involved, no matter what the quality of the episodes, I would blindly love the show. I think it's dismissive and insensitive to lump every single dissenting opinion about the show into this nebulous category of "haters." I don't think anyone who currently loves the show SHOULDN'T, but it seems plenty of people think that if I'm not currently enjoying the show I need to just shut up and take it or stop participating in the fandom. It reminds me of the rednecks on South Park "If you don't like it you can GIT OUT!" I usually find it best to give something a chance if its initially disappointing but you've loved it over the years. Maybe I'm naive, but I'm not going to watch a few episodes that don't please me 100% and then just write off the show and never watch again. If this season doesn't pick up for me by the end and they do get another season, I probably won't watch it when it airs.

      This "war" between the fans is similar to Pillows and Blankets. There are those who want the intricate and complex design of the pillow fort and those that want blankets for rapid expansion. There is no "right" Community and each season has its own unique flavor, but there is such a thing as personal preference and I prefer the show with Harmon. But I don't just want everything I loved from the Harmon years repackaged in a new season (which, ironically, is what I think is happening with the show right now).

      I mean, if you guys can deal with disappointment in life COMPLETELY in a healthy way and just let the chips fall where they may without letting any emotions get involved then I'm happy for you. Perhaps I'm the strange one for not being able to instantaneously sever my emotional connection to the show now that it's different.

    2. Trevor, again, first off thank you for replying. It was great to get the feedback! I can't speak for the article author, but I don't think anyone WANTS a Community fan to leave. I was simply suggesting that there are times when a shift in a show (either from creative or feedback from "the suits") can cause a show to lose that "thing" that made you enjoy it. It could be a simple as one of the actors leaving, or the dreaded "adding a baby" scenario. When that time comes, you can feel it. And THAT is the time to move on. If you're not there, enjoy!

      As far as a healthy attitude goes, we're all a bit broken. Which is probably one of the reasons we love "Community." But, loving the show can also mean that one can feel threatened by any perception of an attack on it. No matter where that comes from.

      I think we all need to remember that the fictional college we're enrolled in accepted us without checking our background. It's trusting us to get along. And if we can all be free to choose blankets or pillows without the need to sabotage the other side, we might just make our campus a little less horrible. Ugh. This enDEAN is the worst.

    3. Trevor -- Thank you so much for your honest responses regarding this topic! I really do enjoy that you fall into the category of individuals who loved and adored Harmon and have qualms with the show but are not willing to dismiss it in light of that. I apologize if I offended you or felt like I was calling your particular beliefs out. I don't mean to assume that everyone who loved Harmon takes issue with the series as it is now, nor that they should blindly love and follow it in spite of his absence. My main quip is with critics who cannot seem to find anything endearing about the series period anymore, seemingly BECAUSE of Harmon's absence (for instance, reading those reviews where people cannot articulate any valid reason for disliking the show besides Harmon not being present anymore). I think a lot of people, critics included, decided long before season 4 aired how they felt about it and in almost a self-fulfilling prophecy way, now dislike it because they've convinced themselves at how "different" it would be.

      There are, of course, people who legitimately have given this season a chance but it feels like (reading Tumblr reviews and critics' alike) people will never be satisfied this season. And the nitpicks they have are, in my opinion, partially those that existed when Harmon was at the helm and are only now more amplified in his absence. Perhaps Harmon's absence is a legitimate reason to dislike the series now, but I don't feel like it's an apt reason to DISMISS it (which is what a lot of people seem to be doing each week).

      Again, thank you for articulating your viewpoint in a coherent and non-aggressive manner. I don't expect anyone else to enjoy the series or watch it the same way that I do now, but I'm just disappointed in the critics' seeming lack of being able to be pleased. It feels like nothing the show does will ever be good enough for them, and - to me - that's indicative of someone who decided their viewpoint long ago.

    4. Jennifer - I wasn't so much offended on a personal level as I wanted to express how someone can be disappointed with the current direction but out of a place of love and not hateful negativity. While I'm sure plenty of people made up their minds about the show as soon as Harmon left, I wanted to speak up for those of us who loved the show and want to continue loving the show, but feel like we've lost the spark.

      Clinton - It's true: we're all kind of broken outsiders in this fandom and we've been kicked around a lot by NBC. After waiting so many (additional) months for October 19th to finally come, it only made the disappointment worse. The beauty of the show is that it very often feels like it's written just for YOU and we can all get a little too emotionally involved. I think when we start sniping at each other, we all lose.

      I think a major issue is that season three was wrapped up in such a perfect way that, to continue the story, certain character growth had to be reversed or carefully ignored. It's perfectly understandable on an intellectual level, but on an emotional level it bothers me. I won't go into lengthy breakdeans, but to me, for example, Annie pretending to be Mrs. Winger after what happened in 'Virtual Systems Analysis' was kind of a step backward. Whether or not it's true is beside the point; it's just how I FEEL. I have no problem with characters changing (Troy, Abed, and Britta benefited A LOT from the changes since season one), but when I feel like they're ignoring lessons they've already learned in the past it feels less like growth and more like pandering - as if the new showrunners are just cramming everything we already like about the characters into an episode rather than trying to have them grow. Again, this is just my personal perception - the characters do not belong to me and alternate interpretations might see all these actions as logical next steps. Ultimately, we're all just discussing our own opinions and, especially on the internet, it's easy to forget that our opinions don't equal the truth.

      Thanks for letting me clog up your comments section with all this stuff. I really enjoy discussing this stuff with you guys.

    5. Hey, if nothing else I want this to be a blog where people can feel free to post their opinions respectfully and not feel like they have to agree with me about everything. I like the discussion. It means the show is doing something right. :)

  5. Your mentioning Friends reminds me of a similar joke from that series: Hugh Laurie's appalled reaction to Rachel's plan to break up Ross and Emily's wedding. There's nothing like an outsider's perspective to shed light on your characters.

  6. I loved this episode, and this review is great! (I can't wait for your review of the next one, which should be very interesting)

    Also, I totally agree with your analysis about critics: Aside from the premiere, which had a few bumps, this season has been great so far, and pretty much exactly the same as the previous years (Yeah, people nitpick little editing things and stuff with the lighting, but come on). I can ignore all the regular people who claim that it's awful just because Harmon was fired (You just know that if Harmon was still there, they'd be praising this season to high heaven), but it's disheartening when the critics seem to be reacting the same way. I've actually lost my faith in the credibility of several critics after seeing the INSPECTOR SPACETIME episode: I know that people have opinions, but the lambasting that episode got compared with its awesomeness is bewildering to me.

  7. I would love to know your views on the recent Alison Brie interview please. :(

    1. I will not be discussing the Alison Brie interview or anything related to J/A on the blog at this point in time. Perhaps after the season ends, I'll do a reflection piece. But for now, it's just reviews. :)