Friday, May 3, 2013

4x12 "Heroic Origins" (You Can't Escape Destiny; She Comes For Us All)

"Heroic Origins"
Original Airdate: May 2, 2013

There’s a line, first famously sung in A Very Potter Musical that I absolutely love. It’s in the song that opens the musical, where all the main characters are returning to Hogwarts to begin another school year. They sang that they were going “back to the place where our story begins.” I think the reason that I’ve always loved that particular part of the song is because it really exemplifies what Hogwarts is to these students: it’s home. It’s the place where all of their stories started – where Ron and Hermione became friends and then fell in love; where Harry realized who he was as a person and who his family was; where Neville’s story of heroism began. It’s there that everything starts, both in the StarKid musical and in the Harry Potter franchise. And it’s there that it ends. I’ve, personally, always held fast to the idea that everything happens for a reason. There are no coincidences in life. Call it fate or destiny or a divine intervention, but I’m convinced that our lives are definitely woven with the lives of other people for some sort of reason or purpose. And we can play around with this notion a lot by contemplating how our lives could have been, for better or for worse. What if I had been at that intersection a moment earlier? What if I had chosen to sit in the front of the class instead of the back? What if I had joined that club or been at that meeting or gone to that movie? Moreover, what if I HADN’T done certain things, gone certain places? I think about this sometimes when I reflect on spending the first thirteen years of my life living in Pennsylvania. My parents wanted to move to Florida and I was vehemently against it. I had friends up north, I reasoned. GOOD friends. But what if I hadn’t moved to Florida? What if my parents had never desired to live somewhere else? I would have never gone to school here, never met my best friends, never been a part of so many things that made my life what it is today. It’s the what-ifs in life that sometimes paralyze us. It’s also the what-ifs that define who we have become. The study group contemplates their own individual journeys this week and reflects on how those journeys converged with the journeys of others in order to form – what Abed deems – “a crazy quilt of destiny.” Every choice in life we make has a consequence, he essentially states. We choose to turn left instead of right, and our entire lives are reconstructed around that decision. We change the game with just one simple decision. And we change our lives, as well.

This episode, thematically, segues nicely into the theme of the finale (the resurfacing of other timelines). “Heroic Origins” is hinged on the idea that who we have become stems from who we were and the particularly inadvertent decisions we made in certain aspects of our lives. Because the truth is that if we HAD decided to turn right instead of left, we would have created an entirely new timeline for ourselves (stay with me for a moment) – one simple, seemingly insignificant, and barely conscious decision could, in fact, be the very decision that changes the course of our entire lives. Turn right and you never meet the person you were destined to meet, had you turned left. (Yes, I am indeed riffing on “Turn Left” right now.) Abed understands this notion, this concept of the significant impact that our decisions and non-decisions have, and he’s rather engrossed with putting together the last missing pieces of the origins of the study group. He’s intensely committed to figuring out how each of their stories managed to intertwine pre-Greendale. Unfortunately, the revelations from these connections aren’t all sunshine and rainbows.

Before I start the review of the episode, I figured that I’d be completely honest in saying that I didn’t love this episode. I didn’t detest it (as the only episode I really loathe is “The Art of Discourse”) but navigating flashbacks with multiple characters and mapping their origins both separately and together is a bit of a challenge for any television series, let alone Community. So I watched with a very critical eye this week. In my opinion, any flashback that sets up characters we have known on a show meeting pre-canon and then not remembering those meetings requires some sort of large suspension of disbelief. Community’s flashback episode falls on the heels of New Girl’s latest episode – also told nearly entirely in flashbacks this week. I’ll admit that I inwardly cringed when I heard about the New Girl episode premise. They would, perhaps, attempt to have us believe that Schmidt, Cece, Jess, Nick, and Winston all met pre-canon, had some significant interaction, and then forgot about the event. I was relieved, however, when the only scene that included the five friends was brief: younger versions of Jess and Cece sat at Nick’s bar, scoping guys. Cece pointed at the trio and asked her friend if any of those would do. Jess scoffed in disgust before turning her attention to another guy who had walked into the bar. And that was the end of the pre-canon moment (minus flashback!Schmidt asking flashback!Cece if she liked DVDs). It seemed realistically plausible that Jess and Cece would see the guys but not remember them. The show didn’t attempt to convince us that these characters had made any sort of memorable impact on each other. My suspension of disbelief wasn’t threatened by this idea, nor was it threatened when similar events occurred in Friends (flashback!Chandler making quite the impression on flashback!Rachel before she planned to marry Barry). These moments were flickers – things that could happen to any one of us. But I think, too, the point is that they happened to fewer characters with less stakes than our study group members throughout this episode. 

Truthfully, when I heard the plot of “Heroic Origins,” I presumed we would be examining each of the study group characters, pre-Greendale (right along the lines of what New Girl’s flashback accomplished). We would learn, I reasoned, why these characters had been at Greendale in the right place and at the right time to meet the rest of the group members. We would have seen how their failures had made them who they were in the present. It would be a story about individual growth and struggles and how finding each other at the exact right time and in the exact right place changed the course of their stories forever. Unfortunately (I say that because I don’t feel this episode quite worked for me), that’s not the route that this story took. While I understand what “Heroic Origins” was attempting to accomplish, the execution was faulty and required the audience to suspend their belief a bit too far. The study group members appear to all have multiple near-misses with other members of the group in 2008, culminating in one event which (sentimental if taking a step back from the story) changed the course of their lives forever. Again: I don’t believe in coincidences. Do I believe that it’s possible that the stories of complete strangers can cross paths with your own and change your life forever in the future? Yes. However, do I believe that every member of that study group had a near-miss encounter or could be inadvertently connected with nearly every other group member? No, I believe that’s a BIT too much for me, personally, to absorb without doubt. Had we stuck to merely examining each character individually, I would have been appeased. But, personally, I find it hard to accept that Jeff and Britta met twice before, that Abed had seen Shirley at the mall and never commented on it, that the study group had been together and never remembered any of it. If these paragraphs didn’t make much sense (as they may not, considering it was very late when I wrote them), never fear: I’ll do my best to explain more as I review!

In case you were too busy being distracted by the idea of getting frozen yogurt and missed the plot of the episode, here’s what happened: it’s rapidly approaching the end of the semester and that means one thing – Jeff wants to buckle down. It is kind of hilarious that he never wants to do work at any other point in time during the semester, but gets more high-strung than Annie when any finals or tests approach. This time, Jeff is concerned with studying for their History final, as Annie asserts that it is going to be very difficult given Cornwallis’ recent attitude. (But… didn’t he just give their entire class an assignment last week that expressed his disinterest in teaching them anything?) Meanwhile, Abed isn’t concerned with studying for a final. He is, however, concerned with studying the study group’s origin story. He’s nearly completed a complex puzzle – a crazy quilt of destiny, in fact – that proves that they were always meant to find each other.

Abed claims that on the surface, the group appears to be a “group of people from diverse backgrounds who have become unlikely friends,” which causes Shirley (and us, if we’re being honest) to coo at the sentiment. I’ll take a moment to discuss Abed’s behavior throughout this episode, as well as his development as a character this season. We’ve always come to view Abed as the constant – the study group member who does not, who cannot, change. He’s a creature of habit, but also an astute observer (he notices the psychiatrist’s missing prescription pad on the desk later in the episode, for example) and has always been that way. Recently, we’ve seen some growth in Abed. He no longer feels the need to filter everything through television and movies. He still does, of course, and so there’s rockiness evident in his growth. While “Herstory of Dance” exemplified some real, genuine development in terms of how Abed relates to other human beings, “Heroic Origins” returned us to the idea that Abed doesn’t quite understand that life and superhero stories while seemingly similar, are not actually identical. Abed and Annie are alike in some areas (we get a deeper understanding of the similarities in “Virtual Systems Analysis”) and one of those areas is in regards to control. Annie likes order – she likes everything to be organized and to have its place. Similarly, Abed’s motivation throughout the episode is to connect every bit of the study group’s past together to prove – to himself and the group – that their current relationship is not an accident. This episode was written by Maggie Bandur, who also wrote “Conventions of Space and Time.” That episode is perhaps one of my favorite Abed Nadir episodes because it exemplified such character growth in him as a person. It subverted my preconceived notions: I believed Abed would become swept away by Toby’s lies, but I was wrong. Abed realized that rationality did not equate to superiority in terms of his friendship. He expressed that he was logical and intelligent, but that meant he needed a counterbalance – he needed Troy, who was emotional and sympathetic. That episode demonstrated growth in Abed’s character to me, as did “Herstory of Dance” where we saw genuine empathy and compassion and emotion from the film student. This episode, while sentimental, didn’t necessarily further any growth for Abed. There were some nice moments, especially toward the end and I’ll get to those momentarily, but overall I felt that this was an episode capitalizing on Abed’s continued insistence on filtering life through popular culture. And that’s not a BAD thing, by any means: this aspect of Abed’s characterization will always be present. I, however, briefly lamented the lack of self-proclaimed progress he had made.

Jeff, of course, is frustrated by the film student’s insistence that their paths were meant to cross for reasons no one could fathom. All Jeff wants to do is study and pass his final exam so that he can have a life. “This is the real world, not some comic book adventure,” he quips to Abed. Meanwhile, just outside the study room, Chang (er, Kevin? Eh, whatever. We know it’s Chang!) is creeping on the study group while talking on the phone to someone. He and the person on the other end of the phone are conspiring to take down Greendale from within. And the co-conspirator is… Dean Spreck! (A reveal that really everyone saw coming anyway.)

Chang says that on the “eve of the anniversary of his empire’s destruction,” he plans to sabotage Greendale and enact vengeance for Dean Spreck and City College. So, presumably (since “The First Chang Dynasty” aired May 17, 2012) this episode takes place on May 16, 2013. That means that graduation is the following week – May 23, 2013: the very day that Jeff, in “English as a Second Language” said he had his unmovable appointment at a steakhouse where he would celebrate graduating and becoming a lawyer again. Either that was the most unintentional move the writers have ever made OR that is the best thing this show has ever done. Either way, I’m weeping.

I think what’s so interesting about flashback episodes in general is that they’re always meant to exemplify how elements of a character’s past or encounters they had, however brief, altered their future selves and who they became. In New Girl, for example, the audience this week heard stories of how each of the loft characters lost their virginities. Those stories, it turns out, directly affected the romantic relationships that Jess, Nick, Schmidt, Winston, and Cece had in the future. In Friends, Chandler’s comment to Ross about Monica’s weight ended up impacting her future decisions. The random encounters of the past made a lasting impact on their futures. Abed searches for meaning in a lot of things, and he does so in the backstories of our study group members as well. He needs to find some logical explanation as to WHY they all met. If he can do that, he can prove that destiny had ordained their relationship in the first place (and really, then he can prove that the study group is like a group of superheroes).

Jeff, of course, is skeptical – he doesn’t want to believe in any outside force that would control anything he says or does. But, endearingly, Britta and Abed look at the quilt together in the foreground as he snarks. Seriously, watch them look at it together. They’re adorable!

(Also, this episode doesn’t seem to make any awkwardness out of the Troy/Britta breakup although I suppose that’s apt considering their relationship was basically disregarded while it was occurring! #bittertrain)

Abed takes something that Jeff says and relates it to Star Wars, which doesn’t surprise Jeff. What does surprise him and the rest of the group, however, is the fact that Abed displays a ticket stub that he found in Jeff’s wallet and understands the significance of it – Jeff went to see Star Wars with his father and it was the best time he ever spent with him.

What’s really interesting is that even JEFF has a trigger – his issues with his father. While I am not quite sure what Jeff’s movie date with his father has to do with the crazy quilt at large, it is endearing to see some emotion from Jeff. There are still bits of him that are broken, but there are also pieces that he clings to – the GOOD pieces in his life – in order to keep him stable. He remembers something positive about his father, which is actually really remarkable. And he hangs onto that shred (literally – it’s a ticket stub) because it reminds him that perhaps there was something, however small, that was decent about William Winger. It’s also, quite likely, the only physical notion that his father loved him.

The other slight departure from belief that I have throughout the episode is this idea of Abed not being an entirely stoic, observational figure. We’ve all come to associate him with keenness and perception. He remembered every detail about Britta that she told him mere moments after they met. He could identify Jeff’s Lexus simply because he heard the car alarm sound from that brand of car in 2002. And yet, Abed could not recall seeing Jeff and the rest of the study group in the frozen yogurt shop? It’s a stretch to believe that Abed would know everything about everyone’s stories, given the fact that he wasn’t present with them while they occurred. (Though Abed did admit, earlier in the episode, to not having all the gaps filled in.) I cannot decide, then, if we are supposed to view Abed as an omniscient narrator throughout the episode in regards to the study group’s destinies or whether we are supposed to view him through a human, fallible lens. Personally, I feel that in this episode, at least, we are supposed to view Abed more as the possessor of infinite knowledge regarding the intricacies of human connection. Thoughts?

Abed then explains how their stories all began to converge in 2008 while Troy and Annie were in high school (again… not quite entirely certain HOW he knows all of this, but we’ll just try and suspend our disbelief for this moment) together. (Sidenote: One of the best things about this episode was the graphic novel-like transitions that included flashbacks from episodes like “Spanish 101,” “A Fistful of Paintballs,” “Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples,” etc.)

In our flashback, we see Annie as a high school student (though continuity-wise, not how she described herself in “Accounting for Lawyers,” but I think the concept of an unreliable narrator is something we were meant to lean on throughout the episode), popping Adderall while practicing a speech in front of her locker. Troy approaches (Troy, Troy, the wonder boy!) with a group of his friends and Annie talks to him about potentially needing a tutor. He brushes her off, insisting that he’ll be getting recruited to play football for colleges soon and won’t need to learn anything about math.

I really wish we had gotten to see more backstory regarding Annie. I feel like this episode would have been a great chance to see what drove Annie to use Adderall in high school and how her relationships in high school molded and broke her, turning her into the person she was upon entering Greendale. I will always lament the fact that we never saw more of Annie’s backstory in general, and this episode – while skimming the surface of her past – didn’t quite explain the “why” of Annie Edison. We didn’t learn much more than we had already known about her – she’s a perfectionist, driven, desires to succeed, etc. It did, impressively (and despite a glaring oversight by the writers) explain more of the “why” of Troy Barnes. We learn more about the reasoning behind his intentional keg flip and his fears about going to college.

Britta’s curiosity is piqued during the stories and she asks about Pierce’s contribution to the group puzzle (since he is absent after having surgery to avoid taking a History final). Abed notes that Pierce has always been an unavoidable fixture at Greendale. Much like an unmovable object, they were all destined to meet the elderly man simply because they had no choice otherwise.

Abed then informs the group that he found another interesting piece of the Greendale Seven’s puzzle when he rifled through Shirley’s sock drawer over Thanksgiving (his feet were cold). There, he found a receipt for something Shirley purchased in 2008 from a lingerie store. As it turns out, Abed was AT the very mall that Shirley was, standing stoically and observing the shoppers, and overheard her giggling on the phone with Andre as she passed him. (Do people really keep receipts from 2008? I barely keep receipts from last week!) It, again, intrigues me that Abed and Shirley were at the mall on the same day and Abed noticed her enough to mention it five years later, but he did not recognize her when they met for the first time at Greendale.

There’s one more meeting that Abed notes of significance as he reveals a newspaper clipping: Jeff and Britta were in the same photograph together in 2008. The pair are shocked as they examine the article, and we flash back to Jeff winning a case for a woman Britta apparently supported.

I believe Jeff and Britta’s encounter, surprisingly, but perhaps that’s because Britta looks absolutely nothing like she does in the present. And Jeff, as the audience knows, was so consumed with himself and HIS life that it’s doubtful he’d remember anyone. He didn’t even remember Kim at Greendale! (… sorry, Kim.) Similarly, Britta was so focused on her anarchist ways that she wouldn’t have remembered, let alone caught the name of, the lawyer on the case, as she was caught up in the moment of victory.

I really did enjoy seeing Britta’s enthusiasm in her anarchist days. We haven’t had the chance to see what she was like but… well, it’s pretty much present!Britta, only with purple hair. And a bit more gung-ho. But it’s also sad because she pleads with her anarchist friends – she wants them to join an animal rights cause. But her friends have had enough. They’re essentially retiring from their shenanigans, leaving an enthusiastic Britta simply deflated. Also, I knew the picture on the wall looked familiar, and thanks to Steve Basilone, I know why.

Back in the present, there is a plot twist that literally made me gasp: the stripper that Jeffrey got off during that case was the same woman who cheated with Andre and wrecked Shirley’s marriage. The former lawyer appears apologetic for something he didn’t know he did, but Shirley remains infuriated: if he hadn’t acted the way he did (selfishly) Andre would never have met Misty and Shirley’s marriage would have been preserved. Life would have been entirely different for the Bennett family and it’s all Jeff’s fault.

Or… is it? What I think is interesting, and that I noted earlier, is this question of “what-if”? Because too easily we become paralyzed by these questions: you fail a test and you wonder what might have happened if you had just gone with your instinct and chosen one answer instead of another. We second-guess ourselves and our decisions all the time. We wonder how life might have looked if we had only done ONE thing differently. The problem, of course, with this realm of thinking is that it causes us to spiral into discontent and frustration quickly. Shirley is no exception. Instead of accepting the difficulties that she has endured and realizing the growth and strength she earned because of it, she laments the fact (rather angrily, blaming Jeff for her misfortunes) that life COULD have possibly been different. And in that moment, she would rather have not suffered than to have suffered and grown. I’m not blaming Shirley for wondering what-could-have-been, as we all do this frequently, but obviously her anger is misplaced in Jeff (because he’s the easiest and closest thing to blame). She says that if it wasn’t for him, her marriage would have been stronger – she wouldn’t have had to endure Misty. And this is the point in which JEFF becomes upset. He quips that it is not his fault that Andre cheated in the first place (and he does have a point).

Abed, of course, doesn’t understand why everyone else is upset with HIM for being excited about discovering the link between Jeff and Shirley. 

But while Jeff is right in stating that his interference years ago was not the reason that Andre cheated, Jeff’s old habits DO resurface – he plays the selfish card. Shirley thinks SHE had it rough? He should have advanced in his career. Instead, the case that he won for Misty painted a target on his back and caused the firm to look into his credentials. When they were found to be falsified, Jeff was sent on his way and ended up at Greendale. I’ll never tire of the fact that Jeff STILL wars with himself, possibly daily, over whether he hates or loves Greendale Community College. He then defends his actions to Shirley, saying: “It’s not like made Andre cheat.” That moment, you can tell that Jeff recalls something else that happened that he doesn’t share yet, but does later on.

Troy notes that even though bad things happened to them in the past and their lives may have been rocky, it doesn’t change the fact that they all grew from the experiences. It is a beautiful sentiment… until he undercuts it by blaming Annie for the way HIS life turned out. The young woman is baffled and upset – SHE was the one, Annie argues, who suffered in high school. But Troy has a different view on the story.

[Important note: continuity-wise, Annie said in the pilot that Troy dislocated both shoulders during the key flip. In this episode, he has a cast on his leg.]

We did all know that Troy faked his injury (though I’m not sure exactly how you can fake dislocating both shoulders), but what I really thought was intriguing was that ANNIE was the reason why. And this, of course, makes Troy an unreliable narrator: he claimed he didn’t remember Annie Edison in the pilot episode. Not, at least, until she revealed that she went to high school and sat behind him for four years. Only then did it dawn on him: she was Annie Adderall. But the truth, in this episode at least, that Troy clings to is that he DID know Annie. He pretended that he didn’t in order to mask his pain, perhaps.

Troy says that the reason for his insecurities – the reason he did that keg flip and feigned an injury – was because of something Annie said to him at a party. She yelled at him for being a robot and for only doing what other people told him to do: running when they said run, jumping when they said jump. Essentially, she criticized him for being someone else’s puppet and even though Troy claims in the flashback to not know who Annie was, those words resonated with him and caused him to perform the keg flip later on.

Annie isn’t buying any of Troy’s sob-story. She was the one who had to endure six different reconstructive surgeries after she went crazy and ran through the plate glass door. I thought that this was an inconsistency with how Troy told the story earlier in this series (“… ran through a plate glass door screaming ‘Everyone’s a robot!’”), but technically this could fall under the category of exaggeration. Annie DID call Troy a robot in the flashback, so perhaps Troy overemphasized that part of the story for dramatic effect. … Either that or the writers just didn’t care about continuity.

Notice the parallels between the Jeff/Shirley flashbacks and Troy/Annie – both blame one another for their woes. If only one of the parties had acted differently, perhaps their lives would be better. Remember that last week I explained that we only covet the lives of others when we are unhappy with our own? Well, the same truth applies to this episode – we only dwell on the past and the “what ifs” when we are unsatisfied with the struggles we had to endure to arrive at the present. Shirley refers to this as “dredging up the past” which is quite an accurate statement. She notes that their happiness is fragile and that this is the only thing Abed’s web proved.

But then, in another twist of events, it turns out that Abed blames HIMSELF for being the cause of everyone’s misfortunes once he realizes that Shirley had let Jordan and Elijah see a movie by themselves in 2008 and that ABED picked on them outside of the theatre. I think that, as strange as it sounds, he rather enjoyed the discovery that he could have been the one to cause everyone’s demises. Instead of being a mere observer of destiny, Abed turned out to be a pawn in the plan. HE was the missing “smoking gun” he had been seeking the entire time. And that filled him with excitement. He’s their super villain.

Jeff, however, blames himself for being the villain. In spite of the fact that they have all made bad decisions throughout their lives, Jeff claims that his is the worst of all. He encouraged Misty, in the restaurant, to go after a married man – the man who turned out to be Andre. That was the secret revelation he had encountered mere moments earlier. And what began as fun introspection turned dark quickly – perhaps the study group was better off not knowing the details of the “what ifs.”

Jeff then details the difference between himself and Abed: while Abed’s interferences were merely coincidental, Jeff’s own pain and ego caused him to encourage someone ELSE to inflict pain. He encouraged Misty to go after what she wanted, even though he knew it was wrong. But he didn’t care, of course. He was far too consumed with himself to think about consequences. And perhaps that’s the lesson in the first half of this episode for the study group members – “what ifs” are dangerous, but more dangerous is the act of becoming consumed with something, whether it happened or not. Jeff then claims that he is the bad guy and that he hopes Shirley knows he is not that person anymore. But then, as only Jeff has the tendency to do, he makes the issue about HIMSELF again, citing a transgression that Shirley committed when they were children. The study group leaves the room, each rather upset with the others and pained by the revelations that took place about their past encounters. Abed is left alone at the table.

Meanwhile, since I didn’t mention this earlier, Chang has been tasked by the dean to mail out Greendale’s lease renewal information, as it is important that the school not be turned into a casino. Chang, of course, stuffs the envelope into his pocket once Dean Pelton leaves and hides the information, intent on following through with Dean Spreck’s plot to destroy the school.

Abed, still alone, ends up at a place called Yogurts Burgh, staring at his cup of frozen yogurt rather sadly when Jeff approaches. He insists that he was in the wrong, not Abed. The film student was only trying to help explain their destiny and Jeff was the true villain of the story. Shirley, yogurt in hand, then approaches the table much to the bewilderment of Jeff. She apologizes for overreacting by insisting that she knows Jeff isn’t the person he used to be. Jeff is skeptical of this, KNOWING how terribly he treated everyone in his life back then.

Britta and Annie then approach (together, AWWW!) and are befuddled, too, at the presence of the others. Troy shows up and explains that Yogurts Burgh was actually where he made the decision to attend Greendale. The others affirm this notion and Abed’s face flashes us back into the past.

Senor Chang and Dean Pelton, arms full of flyers for Greendale Community College, peruse the mall, scouting for any potential students to hand the flyers to. Chang throws them out haphazardly onto tables and without regard to who actually receives them. As it turns out, he manages to give one to every study group member. … who all happen to be at the same yogurt place at the exact same time.

Let’s talk, briefly, about the suspension of disbelief required for all seven of the study group members to be present at the same yogurt place at the same time on the same day, all making the exact same decision. I mean, I’m all for fate and destiny and the hand of God but that may be stretching my boundaries just a bit for me, personally. And that’s the thing about flashback episodes: it’s sweet and sentimental to try and prove to the audience that your characters were destined to meet – that somehow their decisions wove their stories together. Again, I would have been ALL for an episode where we saw snippets of flashbacks – maybe Annie sitting on her bed, researching Greendale on her computer, Shirley reading a flyer, Troy encountering someone who told him about the school, Britta driving past the college, Jeff reading about Ian Duncan in a newspaper, etc. and then overlaying those shots with “Greendale Is Where I Belong.” THAT I can get behind because it proves that the study group members may have been destined to be at the same college at the same point in their lives, but wouldn’t have suspended my belief as far as “Heroic Origins” asked. In the end, I felt that this was too much for me: they tried too hard to convince me that these people belonged together, were destined to be together. The funny thing is this: I already KNEW that. I think everyone who watches this show and feels an intimate connection with the study group recognizes that they were always meant to find one another. But trying to prove that by making them all be in the same yogurt shop on the same day, making the exact same decision… well, that undercuts the significance of their individual journeys. At least to me.

In this scene, you see each character getting ready to move onto a new journey in their life (Troy with his friend – AGAIN he is in the SAME SHOP as Annie and IT’S NOT A BIG YOGURT SHOP, YOU GUYS; Annie is with her rehab group; Britta is by herself; etc.). And you can see this subtle character growth in Troy from what we have known of him in flashbacks, when he initially is disinterested in throwing a paper ball at Abed and only ends up doing so because his friends encourage him. He’s not that person though – a bully. And he feels remorse afterward for what he’s done. Annie decides to start fresh at a new school, Jeff shares a moment with Chang and learns that Ian Duncan teaches at Greendale, and Britta learns about it because she initially wanted to apply for a job there.

But you know what’s ironic? Pierce and Chang are the ones who ultimately bring the study group together – two of the most disliked characters, perhaps, on the show. I thought, all this time, that it had been Britta who changed the course of the study group’s history. But no, it was the elderly member of the group feigning a heart attack that taught those six people to laugh again. It was a Spanish teacher who hated his job that passed out the flyers that changed their lives. That proved that maybe, just maybe, life would pick up and get better for them. Maybe a new adventure was around the corner – a chance for all of them to reinvent themselves. Maybe that chance was a lot closer than any of them anticipated.

Jeff then launches into a Winger speech where his thoughts regarding destiny and its impact have changed, slightly. It’s a sweet sentiment (my only qualm is that it sounds a bit too much like summary) delivered in only the way Jeff Winger could. It pained me, re-watching the episode, to realize that this may be the second-to-last Winger speech we ever hear though.

“Maybe we really were all meant to be together. I’m not sure I understand it but… maybe we don’t have to. What I do know is that the ways our paths crossed, even when they were bad, all led us to this point. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Abed realizes that he needs to thank Chang for his role in bringing the group together and he returns to Greendale in order to do so. I liked Abed’s conversation with Chang, as he notes that the former Spanish teacher had really been a part of their group all along. HE was the one who brought them to Greendale, who gave them a fresh start, and who “linked all their stories.” Everyone has an equal chance at Greendale to reinvent themselves. And, as Abed hints to the man, it’s never too late for ANYONE to chang(e). And change, he does – Chang decides to mail out the lease letter and forgo his attempt to sabotage Greendale because perhaps he realizes, in that moment, that this is a place HE was given a second chance too. So he calls Dean Spreck as the episode ends, and refuses to be a part of his scheme anymore. But Dean Spreck has a plan B to take down the school… and he’s just about ready to enact it. 


Additional de-lovely aspects about the episode include:
- “Nobody bite. We agreed no biting.”
- Always read the white boards! This one is a bit cut off at the top, but the bottom bit that I can read says: “… next year and buy a shark online instead! S. Clark (a human being).”
- “The only things that matter to me are statistics.” “Uh… that’s… also math.”
- “… and president of Campus Crusade for Christ. AND I’M JEWISH!”
- “I had to smile when I didn’t feel like smiling. It hurts my face.”
- “I tried sawing off Jeff’s arm.” “Why do you keep saying that?”
- “This better not awaken anything in me.” BEST CALLBACK EVER.
- They’re playing “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” over the scene in the yogurt shop which, of course, was not just played in The Breakfast Club but at the end of the pilot episode of this show.
- “And we’re all Spider-Man.” 

All right, friends. We've hit the end of the road: next week is the season (and perhaps series) finale of our beloved sitcom. Whether you've enjoyed this season, wish the show had ended last year, or are still fighting for six seasons and a movie, prepare yourselves because we're about to re-enter the darkest timeline as we barrel toward graduation! Join me next week for "Advanced Introduction to Finality." And thanks, as always, for reading. :)


  1. Did you notice that:
    - Britta freed a monkey whose bite can make you a little bit psychotic
    - She sold it
    - Abed bought a monkey for Troy in the Goodfellas/Chicken Fingers episode
    - Abed freed the monkey and it moved into the air vents
    - Chang went into the air vent to get his spoon back from the monkey
    - Chang needed band aids and iodine later
    - Chang went psycho in the third season?

    I like it. I like it very much. I realized this
    when Abed mentioned to Chang when they were leaving
    the study room that he might have "monkey sickness"


    1. I know! I noticed that too. It really helps Chang's case with all his craziness during the third season. I think Chang can actually go back to the Chang he was during season 1 and 2, which is my favorite Chang. It never gets old to say "Community Continuity". It's great that they keep doing that.

  2. One friend to another, you might want to look up the definition of the word quip.