Tuesday, April 16, 2013

4x09 "Intro to Felt Surrogacy" (Secrets Don't Make Friends)

"Intro to Felt Surrogacy"
Original Airdate: April 11, 2013

I’ve heard the adage “secrets don’t make friends” numerous times throughout my life, but never really paused enough to dwell on the meaning until recently. I have to argue that secrets, in the girl-world, DO make friends. The person who holds the secrets within a group of girlfriends is the most coveted person. She’s the one who has all the knowledge and all the gossip, which makes her the person everyone listens to. Once she loses that power – once someone else divulges a secret or piece of gossip – she isn’t as valued, and the balance of power shifts to the person with the newest, juiciest tidbits of information. Secrets may make friends in girl-world, but only if they’re the secrets of the others – the outsiders, the people apart from the group. Once a secret within a group is unearthed, however, the adage becomes active again. Secrets destroy intra-group relationships fairly quickly. And “Intro to Felt Surrogacy” is an episode that exemplifies this quite clearly. In it, we hear a seemingly innocent story from the group about a hot air balloon ride and (an inadvertent) trip into the woods. It’s not until later on in the episode that we realize the reason why the study group has been so awkward around one another. They each divulged a deep, dark secret in those woods.

But no one remembers a thing.

In case you were distracted by all the puppets in the episode and forgot the general plot, here’s a refresher course: the episode opens with the study group each staring awkwardly and uncomfortably around the table at one another. No one says a word, and Britta merely taps her fingers along the table until the credits roll. The dean is really tired of the group’s silent brooding and proposes puppet therapy in order to assist them in talking about whatever tragic experience drove them into silence.

What I love about Community is something that I’ve said before: even characters with good intentions seem to have those intentions go awry. This is one of those episodes. The dean begins the episode with completely rational intentions – the study group has been brooding and silent for DAYS, and that’s cause for alarm. Since he is overly invested in their lives, he is also determined to help them. What began, however, as pure motives, turn into selfish ones once the dean begins to neglect his other duties in favor of being included by the study group. They open up to him. They don’t shoo him away. They make him feel like he’s a PART of their healing process. And that’s where his motives begin to overrun his judgement.

When the dean asks where Pierce is, Troy comments that no one has seen him since they got lost in the woods… but they presume he’s fine. The dean is pleased that the group has begun to open up and encourages them to continue their story. (As an aside: Donald’s scenes with his puppet in the study room were HILARIOUS. Go back and watch how he makes his hand puppet react to everything.)

Britta encourages everyone to open up, while Jeff snarks back at her. (Gee, wonder if he’s learned his lesson from last week…)  Abed decides to begin the story, then, explaining how all of their woes began. We then are transported into puppet-realm for the vast majority of the episode. In a flashback to the previous Friday, we encounter our study group in their familiar environment. The group is seated around the study room table, listening to Britta rattle off the causes she’s participating in, when Abed and Troy interject with “square”! As it turns out, the group has become so repetitive in their behaviors that they’ve become downright predictable as a study group. To entertain themselves, Abed and Troy have begun playing Study Group Bingo.

I think it’s interesting that the group finds themselves to be stuck in a rut with how they interact on a daily basis. Their lives truly are routine and predictable, which is something that has always given them comfort. They sit in the same seats at the same table in the same room. They have the same conversations, to the point where they can predict what another will say. What began as a comfort blanket is now an enemy. And the antidote to a rut is simple: change.

The dean enters the study room with a group of students that are presumably on a tour. He acknowledges his favorite study group and after departing (to go introduce the students to Magnitude), Jeff realizes what the problem is. The issue doesn’t lie with them, but with GREENDALE.

This is, of course, Jeff’s go-to answer for everything that is wrong in the lives of the group. He blames the school for their problems (it’s the school that’s zapping his cool vibe, his game, everything). So instead of admitting to the fact that there may be something that needs to be adjusted in their characters, Jeff decides that they need to just vacate Greendale for a bit. That, he argues, will solve everything. Running away from problems is Jeff’s forte, and the group seems to be in agreement this time. The group then sings about leaving Greendale and taking an adventure in a hot air balloon. So they head to the balloon site and meet (gasp!) Sara Bareilles, Hot Air Balloon Guide!

So the study group decides that they should take an adventure and the perfect one would be to go on a hot air balloon ride together. Unfortunately, in their singing, the group gets a bit too eager to start their adventure and fly away without Sara Bareilles. Uh-oh. The group continues to soar away in the balloon, and encounter rougher weather. But they find themselves beginning to sink fairly rapidly. Once Pierce realizes that they’re descending, he reaches for the balloon’s lever, insistent that it will help soften their descent. The group nearly tackles the elderly man to the ground to prevent this, and Jeff inadvertently begins pulling the lever… which DOES ease their descent. Nevertheless, they end up stranded in a hot air balloon in the woods alone.

As the group pauses in their story, the dean reacts to their traumatic experience quite well. He genuinely wants to help, now that he’s learned what their issue was. Comfortingly, he explains that post-traumatic stress disorder is a real thing – that the study group has nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about. However, Abed notes that this isn’t the end of their story. It’s only when Dean Pelton is shown any ounce of disrespect that he begins to act irrationally. He tries exceptionally hard to be accepted by the study group as is, but especially during this episode. And, in this episode, this drive and desire ends up causing him to neglect and overlook everything else. It’s important to note that – as I have stated in MANY Community reviews – this character did not start out the episode with BAD intentions. The dean’s initial intention was to help aide the study group through their awkwardness. He wanted them to be normal again (well, as normal as possible). However, what began as a pure motive became less so after he let it become tinged by his own selfish desires (to become close companions with the group). Thus, this overwhelming urge to be accepted overruled his better judgment (it’s a pattern with these characters, to be honest). And that’s why scenes like Annie’s secret sting so much to us – because we WANT Dean Pelton to react one way, and when his behavior contradicts what we’ve always believed to be true of him… well, then we have issues.

The group recounts the next part of their tale: they crash landed in the middle of the woods and were all worried about how they would find their way back to Greendale. The group begins to freak out when they hear rustling from the nearby bushes. (Sidenote: I love that, in spite of it all, Jeff and Annie are the most rational in the situation. Annie takes charge and assures everyone that they’ll be all right [even though Britta is freaking out and Troy’s having a meltdown, and Abed’s reverting to LOST references – hey, remember that the whole point of their trip was to do something new? – Annie is the one who remains collected.])

And they think that their lives have ended, until… a wild mountain man appears who looks a lot like Jason Alexander! He doesn’t actually introduce himself. Instead, he states the obvious to the group – they’re a long way from Greendale. The study group is confused and alarmed. How did the stranger know what school they attended? (As it turns out, it was embroidered on Pierce’s shirt, but also: Wild Mountain Man used to attend Greendale!)

Wild Mountain Man then launches into a song, explaining that he realized Greendale was okay, but that the woods allowed him the greatest freedoms in the world. He could be whoever he wanted to be there – no restraints, no worries, and no boundaries. It’s  important to note what each group member is looking forward to in their song because it somehow relates to their secrets:

  • Troy and Abed sing “we can be our own men”
  • Annie adds: “and I don’t need an A”
  • Shirley notes that: “[her] perfect mom pressure would all go away”
  • Britta continues: “Being socially conscious can be really tough”
  • Jeff finishes: “I don’t like the pressure to always be cool” (which Pierce notes was his line and now he cannot think of a rhyme)

The group then sings about how Greendale is crazy: how it is a place that actually CAUSES their crazy behavior. And really, this is one of the basic defense mechanisms that the group reverts to, as I noted earlier. When life is rough, when things don’t make sense, instead of examining their own lives and motives, the group places blame on their community college. They chastise it for not just facilitating craziness, but for actually CAUSING it. That way, the study group doesn’t have to deal with the adverse consequences of their subsequent behavior: all the blame can shift to Greendale. And that’s what Wild Mountain Man insists, too. 

Of course, the study group’s parents didn’t tell them not to take strange berries from Wild Mountain Men, so they do. And all seven of them end up on a very psychedelic trip (reminiscent of Katniss’ tripping in The Hunger Games).

There’s one more moment that viewers took issue with in regards to Annie’s secret (which I’ll discuss momentarily), and that’s the blatant lack of reaction from the group and – especially – Dean Pelton. This, to be honest, can be chalked up to really two things: 1) the dean’s priorities being out of order, 2) rushed writing. Dean Pelton’s priorities in this episode, really lie in “helping” the group so that he’ll be more welcomed by them (you can see his disappointment at the end after they depart without inviting him). These are selfish motives at this point in our story. As I stated above, what began as pure, turned into destructive quite quickly. 

His lack of reaction to Annie’s secret, in particular, is disheartening, certainly… but also note that it’s not out of character for this episode. He yells at Garret after the group tells him the story of the psychedelic berries. He literally snaps at the young man to leave the room… when Garret is attempting to tell him that there’s a fire in the cafeteria. A FIRE. The dean was so consumed with his obsession over the group that he neglected both a physical hazard and a moral hazard within his school. So, while it’s not excusable that he reacts this way, it isn’t an out of character behavior (for the episode, at least).

Shirley takes the reins and explains the rest of their story. The berries, she notes, freed their minds and loosened their tongues. At their campsite in the woods, Shirley opens up to the group and admits a secret: she left her kids by a magazine rack in the grocery store because she thought she saw Andre with another woman. She lost track of time and ended up trailing the pair out of town… only to discover that it wasn’t Andre after all. She tearfully admits to leaving her kids alone in the grocery store all night.

Honestly, Shirley’s secret was a soft blow to me, and not because it was a secret about her kids. It wasn’t, actually, a secret about her kids. It was a secret about her marriage. Shirley essentially admitted to the fact that she still doesn’t completely trust Andre. She presumed that he’d bring another woman to the grocery store. Instead of choosing to give him the benefit of the doubt (and perhaps going home to see if he was there, waiting for her), in her paranoia and mistrust, Shirley tails a pair of complete strangers out of town. Let’s think about that for a moment, shall we? This is Shirley – this is a woman who seems to have her life back together, back to the way it was before. But this isn’t the same woman as then. How could she be? She’s been jaded, hurt, and demeaned. But instead of working through that pain, Shirley continues to hold onto a bit of it, so much so that it controls her behavior. THAT is the saddest part of this secret to me, and it’s not about the children being left in the grocery store at all (which, sidenote, is a suspension of disbelief for me because I used to work at a grocery store and we never would have left any customers left in there before leaving).

In the present day, the study group is awkwardly silent and avoiding eye contact with Shirley. There’s a plot twist, though, once Shirley recounts her secret to the group – no one else remembers hearing her story in the woods. In fact, everyone in the group shared a secret but no one seems to remember anyone else’s. After a moment’s pause, the group is relieved: the awkwardness can end, since no one remembers anything!

But Shirley’s secret is out, and that means everyone is judging her just a little bit in their minds (you know they are; they’re human). Annie pauses in her celebration long enough to subtly point this fact out to everyone. But it is Jeff who makes the executive decision: in order to restore balance and a sense of normalcy and, most importantly, ease Shirley’s mind, the group needs to re-share their secrets. He notes that everyone, earlier, was feeling awkward and uncomfortable around one another… but they felt that way TOGETHER. Now that Shirley’s secret is out, he argues, she’s the one left feeling terrible and she shouldn’t have to bear that burden alone. It’s a sweet sentiment, and one that is cause for rejoice – I love Jeff/Shirley moments!

After a moment of hesitation, the group does just that… through song.

Jeff’s secret was the most emotional and surprising for me. He reveals that, pre-Greendale, he found the perfect girl for him. But he discovered that she had a child, and – while he insisted that it didn’t bother him – let her son down by not showing up to a baseball game or calling either of them ever again. It really hit me, honestly, to think about the fact that Jeff had been in a serious relationship before he attended Greendale. To know that he was so close to settling down, to being happy, to having a family and then… he got scared and ran away. Moreover, Jeff explains that this behavior makes him exactly like his father, which pains both the audience and him. I think that this was the most emotional secret for me (I found myself tearing up), even within the puppet constraint, because we had already been exposed to human!Jeff emotions regarding his father before this episode. Had we not had any mention of Jeff’s dad, had he not confronted William at Thanksgiving, or had this episode aired last year rather than this year… the emotional weight simply would not exist. But it DOES, and that is what makes his secret so powerful and difficult to hear.

Britta then reveals her secret: she doesn't vote and isn't much of an activist after all. Was anyone at all surprised about Britta’s secret? This one let me down. Though it did spawn a great lyric: “Truth is, I’ve never voted except when I watch The Voice.” (Insert “I see what you did there, Adam Levine” GIF here.)

I’ve heard a lot of discussion floating around social media in regards to Annie’s secret. Many people herald it to be completely out-of-character, others admonish the dean’s seeming neglect of the subject matter of the secret, and still others fixate on what they presume to be a slight of Jeff/Annie (saying that Professor Cornwallis’ treatment of Annie is played for laughs while a relationship between Jeff and Annie is declared “creepy”). But I’m here to play devil’s advocate, because I do NOT feel that Annie’s characterization was entirely out of left field. I do, of course, have criticisms with the way that this entire scene (the secrets of the others included) was written. But I’ll get to those momentarily.

“Jenn,” you reprimand, “the writers continually sacrifice Annie’s characterization. They demean her character and treat her like crap and this is just another instance in which they do that. How can you defend her secret?” Stand down, readers. I don’t mean to blindly accept the way that this scene was written. As some have discussed on Twitter, the use of puppets in this episode was entertaining. But (and this is a BIG but), there are obviously constraints that accompany such a format. There is a lack of emotional depth that exists when puppets are utilized instead of human actors. There is a shorter range of emotions – puppets can only convey so much with their faces – and nuances, which, in turn, makes an emotional scene a bit less impactful. What happened with the secrets scene in this episode is what happens in every “special episode” of Glee (and, consequently, why every one of those episodes falls flat for me). Glee strives so hard – too hard – to tackle touchy subject matter for the sake of covering controversial topics. What happens when the writers attempt to do a “special episode” is this: they start off on the right path, but always lack the emotional relevance to back the episode up.

What I mean is that these writers are so focused on the controversy itself (whether it be the subject of domestic violence, school shootings, bullying, etc.) that they fail to connect the controversy to the larger narrative. That disjoined nature is what makes every “special episode” feel contrived at best and downright exploitative at worst. I feel that’s similar to what happened with “Intro to Felt Surrogacy.” The writers wanted to do a puppet episode, but didn’t quite think through the constraints that this format would have on the emotional narrative, nor did they fully consider the weight of the episode on the characters’ arcs (both past and present) as a whole. Therefore, the entire scene was difficult for me to connect with emotionally because it felt weirdly out of place to have puppets deliver this darkness, rather than seeing the range of emotions on each of the actors’ faces.

(And if you want to place half-blame on someone for the group’s secrets, you can half-blame Adam Levine as he co-wrote “Most Terrible Secret” song.)

In spite of the flaws in the way that the secrets were conveyed, I don’t feel that Annie’s was entirely out-of-character. Now, before you go and grab your pitchforks and torches and chastise me for being an Annie Edison-hater (which you all know that I am not, as she is my favorite character on the series), let me first explain WHY I don’t feel that this behavior was out of the ordinary. Each character on this show has a vice that also serves as their greatest strength. That’s the inherent irony in Jeff’s selfishness, Britta’s pride, and Annie’s driven nature – all three of these virtues can be positive. Jeff’s selfishness motivates him, Britta’s pride causes her to be persistent, and Annie’s driven nature (something that is a constant in the group, as Abed notes in “Remedial Chaos Theory”) allows her to always strive to be the best. Unfortunately, these attributes often bring out the worst in our characters. Jeff’s ego and selfishness cause him to hurt those around him. Britta’s pride does the same. And Annie’s driven nature often causes her to act irrationally, uncontrollably and – unfortunately – impulsively. When Jeff calls her “pathological” in “Competitive Ecology” (because she slapped together a project by herself, intent on receiving some sort of credit for the class regardless of whether or not her other friends did), he’s asserting truth. Annie’s behavior, when it goes unchecked, IS pathological.

“But Jenn,” you argue, “that was first season Annie Edison. This Annie has grown and matured. She’s not that same person anymore and to portray her as such is a disservice to her growth.” To which I say: “Yes… but also no.” Let’s take a look at the progression of Annie’s behavior, when consumed with the desire for perfection, and perhaps you’ll notice the same pattern that I did.

During “English as a Second Language,” Annie was consumed with the desire to keep the study group together. That’s fine, right? It’s natural to want to keep friends together. But Annie’s problem is that she went a step further – she reported Chang to the dean, inadvertently nearly failing an ENTIRE class of students, most of whom she wasn’t friends with. The only reason that the study group passed Spanish that semester was because of Pierce and his relationship with Doctor Escodera. Annie’s desire to keep everyone together didn’t just affect HER – it affected innocent people around her. And sure, this isn’t necessarily an example of Annie’s desire to maintain a good grade, but it IS a commentary on her desire for control and perfection in her own life. Keep this in mind. Also keep in mind “Investigative Journalism” – an episode where Annie’s drive and desires end up nearly causing her to sacrifice her own ethics. Recall the reason that she doesn’t run the story about Dean Pelton: Jeff becomes upset with her and she acknowledges that HIS interference made her realize that what she was doing was wrong.

In “Intro to Political Science,” Annie sacrifices her values and morals in order to beat Jeff in the student government race. And she notes, later in the episode, that she only realized she was out of line when Jeff ran off stage crying. It hadn’t hit her, until then, that her behavior had spiraled into something pretty dark and uncharacteristic. 

And this brings us to last season, and to “Basic Lupine Urology” in particular. The episode opens with the study group’s Biology project being sabotaged. Professor Kane notes that this was not their fault and will allow them all to take a C. Annie is outraged. She “might as well get pregnant at a bus station” if she accepts that grade. No, she is determined to find out who destroyed their project. But she will do it in a just manner. Now, show of hands: who remembers what happened throughout the remainder of the episode? While Annie insisted upon the high road initially, she found herself more and more consumed with winning – with obtaining that A… at all costs. That cost, in this circumstance, was Todd’s reputation. Annie was willing to sacrifice the reputation of a classmate in order to get an A on her project. But she doesn’t. And this isn’t out of her own free will and volition. It is because JEFF points out her behavior to her. He says that a man needs to have a code, and she – as a woman – needs to act according to her own code. He knows Annie. He knows that she is driven and her desire to win, to be the best, often overrules her better judgment. So he stops her from acting on that and reminds her of exactly who she is.

Notice that in every situation I mentioned, there has always been someone there for Annie to talk her away from her ledge of control and perfection. She may not always listen initially, but those people serve to remind her of what is right and true. In every example I listed above, Annie was willing to sacrifice something of value (her standards, ethics, values, reputations of others) in order to win or to get a good grade. This IS a part of Annie’s character, and you can ignore it and pretend it doesn’t exist. You can pretend that she is perfect and always a victim, but that’s not the truth. If you want to disregard the canonical evidence I listed, then – by all means – be my guest. But the truth is that Annie does not always do the right thing. She lets her better judgment become overwhelmed by her desires and that means she is human. But notice that in EVERY circumstance, Annie feels remorse for her behavior. She doesn’t continue to defend it once she knows she is in the wrong. So why is her secret so shattering to people? Because of the truth that there was NO one there to stop Annie from acting on those drives and desires that usually allow her to do the right thing. The truth is, if Jeff hadn’t gotten mad at Annie in “Investigative Journalism,” she WOULD have run that story. If he hadn’t acted so strongly in “Intro to Political Science,” she WOULD have won the election and also strained her relationship with Jeff. And, if Jeff hadn’t confronted her in “Basic Lupine Urology,” Annie WOULD have accepted her A and not thought twice about Todd’s fate. Annie needed someone to talk her out of letting Cornwallis rub her feet in exchange for test answers. But no one did.

Some of you are also presuming that THIS is out of character for Annie (to let someone do that in order to get answers). But let’s take a look at where Annie is at in her life, and perhaps you’ll see my perspective. Annie and the study group failed their first history exam. In case you have forgotten, this was mentioned in “Alternative History of the German Invasion.” They all failed an EXAM. Let’s say, for all intents and purposes, that Annie has gotten an A on every assignment since then. And let’s just presume that Annie has had three assignments, each worth 20 points and a quiz worth 50 points since then. (Don’t you enjoy when I make up school scenarios?) Annie failed her first test, earning her a 0. Annie needs to score a 100 on the second test in order to earn a 67% in the class. She cannot get anything lower than that. Annie Edison is potentially on the verge of failing a class. At best, she MAY be earning a C. While this is passing (and as I was often reminded in college: “C’s get degrees!”), recall the last time Annie was on the verge of earning a C… for ONE project. This action, while disheartening, is therefore not entirely out of character for our petite brunette. She admits that she’s struggling and we, the audience, quip that this is entirely out of character! Annie Edison does not struggle in ANYTHING, we argue. She’s perfect! … I’ll pause and let you meditate on the fact that our perception of Annie is exactly WHY she let herself cheat in the first place. We’re part of the problem – we perceive her to be perfect, and when she isn’t, we gripe and shout “character regression!” or “out of character behavior!” And yet… isn’t this the pain of Annie Edison? Isn’t this what SHE is feeling and WHY she does what she does in the first place? But notice something of importance: she feels shame and remorse for her action, which IS in character (and I think people are glossing over).

I won’t really comment on the “Cornwallis’ treatment of Annie is played for laughs while Jeff/Annie is considered to be creepy”) because… how can I put this delicately? I feel that ever since Bobrowgate, as people have dubbed it, shippers of Jeff/Annie have dialed up the cynicism and bitterness and I’ll just feed into that with whatever comments I make. I’d heartily ague that the secrets scene was not played for laughs in the slightest. Well, either that or y’all have a much darker sense of humor than I do because I don’t find Britta living a lie, Troy committing arson, Jeff abandoning the love of his life, or Shirley mistrusting the man she is married to as “funny.” They weren’t meant to be jokes – they were meant to evoke darkness and empathy from the viewers (whether or not that was accomplished is up to you, but that was their purpose). So, I won’t comment on anything about a Jeff/Annie age difference because frankly that argument is nonsensical and also irrelevant to the episode in its entirety. Moving on! ;)

Nevertheless, Abed and Jeff (as puppets) visibly react to Annie’s secret.

Troy’s secret for me wasn’t quite surprising. It was just… odd. I mean, he committed arson. ARSON. Pierce’s secret was that he never did sleep with Eartha Kitt. Again… who was surprised?

I, admittedly, feel that the end of this episode (from the secret reveals onward) was quite rushed and that it suffered as a result of the third act’s issues. There simply wasn’t enough time to expand on everyone’s secrets, nor the fallout from each beyond a few words. I only wish the adventure had been trimmed back to allow for more time to spend on the emotional consequences and weight of those secrets. Perhaps then I would have connected to them more. As it stands, the only ones that emotionally struck a chord with me were Jeff and Shirley’s.

Thankfully, the group finishes their story on a happy note: they were rescued once balloon girl found them in the woods, and they returned to Greendale to be awkward around one another for days. It’s then revealed that Abed shared no secret during their stay in the woods. He noticed how odd everyone was acting and decided to mimic their actions, presumably to make them feel more at ease. (cue Annie and Shirley’s “aww!”)

Jeff assures Shirley that she is not a bad mother, while she insists that he is nothing like his father. The group denounces Annie’s declaration that she’s a “slutty cheater” (that’s a discussion for another day, kiddos. Preferably one where I’m not writing these notes at midnight…) and no one thinks of Troy as a criminal. They all head to Skeeper's at the end of the episode, leaving Dean Pelton alone in the study room (well, alone with puppet Jeff isn't quite alone now, is it?).

So what do we learn at the end of the episode? What is our one takeaway? Secrets don’t make friends, really. Everyone has something in their lives that they are ashamed of and – let’s be honest – we’d rather not reveal these broken, dark aspects of ourselves to others. But when secrets are revealed, it’s better to suffer that momentary embarassment and grow closer in our relationships than to try and pretend that our lives our perfect. Perfect people don’t exist. Broken people do. 

And that’s actually kind of beautiful.

Additional de-lovely aspects about the episode:
- “Yes, but to be fair, there’s not many things you can be stuck in.” “… elevators…” “… bad marriages…” “… time loops…” “… the bottom of a well…” “… your own emotions…” “… quicksand…” “… traffic…” 
- “If we fly to Heaven, please don’t tell my grandpa about me and Britta!”
- “You see? Prayer works.” “So does gravity, Shirley.” “And you know who invented gravity, right?” … SARA BAREILLES?!
- “Has anyone else noticed Professor Duncan hasn’t been around for a long time?”
- “I DID see Blue Man Group! I just didn’t get it! Why can’t they talk? They have so much in common!”
- “So this is how Greendale graduates end up: as transient mountain men. … Huh. Not as bad as I thought.”
- “There you all go, giving me that look. Treating me like Judas; judging me like Judy.”
- “No one respects me any less as a political activist, right?” “…” “The level to which we respect you as a political activist has definitely not changed.”

Thanks for sticking around for as long as you have, folks, and for patiently waiting for this review! :) This week, it's another Christmas at Greendale in "Intro to Knots." What better way to celebrate the end of April than with a little holiday cheer, eh?

See you soon!


  1. I disagree. Annie's secret is ooc and I don't see her as perfect, never have. We're allowed to be 'bitter and cynical' about Bobrow. It doesn't mean that affects my viewing of every episode. I'm insulted by that simplification. I can separate the two. Just because I don't agree with something about Annie's character does not make me a bitter J/A shipper. It has no relation to this at all and no, I'm not watching it wrong. It's called an opinion, a different one. Maybe you should learn the definition of that before you put us all in one category.

    1. I apologize that you took offense with my analysis of Annie's character progression and the examples that I presented. I, throughout this post, only singled out J/A shippers as I read comments about Cornwallis/Jeff which were completely irrelevant to the episode as a whole. Do I believe that people are allowed to be bitter and cynical? Sure. Do I believe that JA shippers have allowed this to color their perception of every piece of news regarding Jeff and Annie, of Troy and Brita, of every new episode as a whole? Yes, I do.

      And the fact that you've become so defensive and have made no real comment about content contained within this post as a whole (and I suspect have, instead, perused my tweets and based your comment on those) exemplifies my point. Yes, bitterness and cynicism -- whether we admit it or not -- when let run rampant CAN and DOES color our perception of the a) show and b) people who write for the show. That is quite clear in the sheer number of JA shippers who now longer throw barbs and jabs at Bobrow whenever possible. Yes, I am unhappy with the state of JA. Yes, I wish things were different. But I know that the show is more than Jeff, more than Annie, and certainly much more than JA as a pairing.

      While there are likely numerous JA shippers out there who feel the same way as I noted above... those aren't the ones who are vocalizing their point of view. So I apologize if I appear to be generalizing, but I cannot help it when the vast majority of shippers are ones vocalizing how much they hate the show (and Annie's characterization) now that JA is -- in their minds -- "sunk."

      You can cry "character regression" all you'd like. That's your prerogative. I hope, however, that I've made it clear above as to WHY I do not believe that this is accurate (based on canon evidence). You're more than welcome to debate with me beyond that and present evidence to the contrary. I welcome debates. :) However, to merely state that MY opinion of fandom and character is narrow-minded without any defense contradicts your own statements as I, too, am allowed to form opinions on characters and shippers alike based on canonical evidence.

      Hopefully what you've taken away from reading this review is that I pointed out character traits and examples from past seasons that explain why Annie's behavior wasn't entirely out of character -- why she, like everyone else, often allows her vices to overcome her. She's progressed a long way since she entered Greendale, but that doesn't mean she doesn't mess up or have a ways to go in terms of growth. Additionally, my statements made above regarding JA were within the context of responding to those who quipped about how Cornwallis' behavior was both played for laughs and also not deemed to be creepy, while a JA relationship is considered "creepy." Hopefully you're able to understand that I have no malice toward shippers, being one myself, nor do I have malice toward Annie Edison as a character.

      I simply wanted to point out what others may have overlooked upon their initial viewing of the episode. :)

    2. It's not a simplification. It's pretty accurate.

    3. So, you're allowed to have an opinion, but she isn't? How does that work?

  2. Jenn's point wasn't that every J/A shipper is upset over Annie's secret - she was responding to a specific complaint about her secret that the same writers who can think J/A is weird and creepy could write a "joke" about an older professor with a foot fetish. And I do see the connection, and why people can conflate the two, but I think what Jenn was saying is that the two aren't supposed to be related. We've both been seeing this sort of attitude in the J/A community that everything Jeff and Annie do needs to relate to the other somehow - I mean, someone actually tweeted Bobrow and asked why Annie wasn't the one helping him meet his father. A lot of the reaction I saw to Annie's secret was along the same lines, that if Annie wasn't creeped out by Cornwallis, then she shouldn't be creeped out by Jeff. And of course not everyone feels that way; there were people who didn't like Annie's secret without its relation to J/A, and that's totally valid. But they weren't really the people that section of this post was directed to :)