Tuesday, May 12, 2015

6x10 "Basic RV Repair and Palmistry" (And The Record Keeps On Playing The Same Old Song)


"Basic RV Repair and Palmistry"
Original Airdate: May 12, 2015

I still hold fast to the idea that the first season of Glee was really, truly good. I mean, sure, it wasn't flawless. It certainly wasn't the best thing I've ever seen on television, but it was moving. It had trajectory. It focused on characters. It seemed to care about what happened to them and cared about them becoming better or different versions of themselves. It cared about creating moments -- emotional ones -- that felt earned, not shoehorned into a scene for the sake of plot. That was the first season of Glee. And then... everything went downhill from there. Fast. People may disagree over where the problems began, but you'd be hard-pressed to find someone, whether fan or critic, who would disagree with the notion that the series declined in quality over the years. What happened to Glee was tragic and simple: it stopped caring about its characters and forgot who they were. All it cared about were songs and guest stars and plot and as a result, the writing suffered. There were "very special episodes" not because they made sense but simply because the show wanted to do them. The writers abused their characters, crudely forming them into whatever they wanted regardless of whether or not it made any sense whatsoever.

When a show begins to care more about plot and more about homages and more about scenes than it does the actual characters in them, it becomes extremely easy for the series' writers to dismiss the notion of character growth altogether. In fact, it's common for series to neglect their characters or to progress them in one episode only to regress them in the very next simply for the sake of story. Stories should be built around characters, not the other way around. Because what happens when you build a story or an episode and then try to mold your characters to fit exactly what you need for that particular story, you get Glee.

You also get "Basic RV Repair and Palmistry."

It's no secret to anyone (and if it is... where have you been all year?) that I've had numerous problems with the way the characters on Community have been -- or, in this case have NOT been -- written since the fourth season. I think season five was in complete and total disarray -- a season that began with promise and trajectory (remember the fact that Jeff was supposed to be a teacher? HAAAAAAAAA.) and quickly dissolved into one-off episodes that furthered character growth and development very little and actually regressed numerous other characters. Season six has been a lot of the same: there are some good moments, some heartwarming scenes, and some funny lines but nothing is connecting, nothing is resonating, because nothing is -- quite honestly -- important anymore. There are no stakes because the show has taken its nuanced characters and warped them into whatever stereotypes or caricatures they need for the week.

That's exactly what "Basic RV Repair and Palmistry" did to Abed and Jeff, specifically. It's an episode where there is very little plot (Dean Pelton buys a giant hand, it's a stupid purchase and the group makes him sell it to someone, they use Elroy's RV to transport, the RV runs out of gas/the battery stops working) but also negative growth and rehashing of elements that have been a part of this show since the first season.

What I realized today about Community's sixth season is this: it's an amalgamation of poorer versions of episodes that were done earlier in the series' run. The "moral" of this episode, if you want to call it that, is that we need to loosen control because "the time we spend in control of our world is the time we spend letting go of others." The moral was good, albeit something we have already been through before ("Anthropology 101" features Jeff's speech about how we need to stop controlling others and making fun of others and manipulating others, etc.). But it wasn't earned. At all. It was shoehorned into the episode so that there would be some semblance of a point to an otherwise pointless episode.

#sorrynotsorry

Since the plot this episode was paper thin (like, tissue paper thin), let's talk about what this episode means since we have three more episodes remaining in the season. Community's season six has been aimless, if we're all being honest. Characters have -- at the very best -- remained exactly who they were (Annie hasn't regressed, neither has Britta, really; Frankie is the exact same person she was and so is Elroy; Dean Pelton hasn't changed a whole lot either) and some characters have become worse versions of themselves as the season moved on. Chief among those? Jeff Winger. And, in this episode, Abed Nadir.

The last episode that I reviewed was an outstanding one because it focused on the humanity of Abed and the humanity of Jeff. It concentrated on their honest relationship and "Basic RV Repair and Palmistry" retreaded the same territory we've been in fifteen hundred times before, in fifteen hundred alternate universes, in fifteen hundred better-penned episodes (like "Virtual Systems Analysis"): Abed needs pop culture to relate to people or else he short-circuits. And Jeff loathes Abed's constant references to pop culture (ahem, "Anthropology 101") and snaps because of them/him.

I'm going to take a moment to compose myself and note that if you weren't aware already, this season has been verbally reminding us of season two (in two separate episodes already, Abed has mentioned it, including this one; Jeff and Britta have dredged up their "relationship" on at least three occasions since the beginning of the season), a season which was uneven and where the character development wasn't focused on maturity. Season two was a season of discord and dissension: Jeff and Britta were secretly sleeping together even though Jeff had more than a few moments with Annie; Shirley got pregnant, Chang was let into the group; Annie and Britta's friendship was ruined; Pierce became the villain of the story; Greendale was nearly destroyed by City College, etc. etc.

Season two had some great moments but it wouldn't be a season that I would readily return to in terms of character growth and development. And yet here we are, four seasons later, and... have our characters really changed for the better? Have they become worse? Are they really actually MOVING forward or are they wading through quicksand, getting slower and slower in their development until they just give up and succumb to their metaphorical deaths?

Jeff and Abed had an amazing moment of honesty and introspection two episodes ago where Jeff confessed that he was afraid everyone would leave him and move on and that he would be stuck: the last one at Greendale, forced to watch the people he loves go away. ABED was the one to comfort Jeff and the two shared a -- very much earned -- emotional moment and hug. In "Basic RV Repair and Palmistry," there isn't even a trace of that relationship. In fact, there are huge traces of the relationship Abed and Jeff had in -- surprise! -- season two's "Anthropology 101." I recently re-watched the episode, so it's fresh in my mind. In season two, Jeff snaps at Abed for not being able to tell the difference between television and reality; in season six, Jeff does the same. In season two, Jeff verbally wounds Abed with his words; in season six, Jeff actually hits Abed to get him to snap out of his delusions. Jeff is spiraling and the show doesn't seem to care about that fact enough to do anything about it.

Jeff has a drinking problem, clearly. And with his drinking problem, he also has an anger/depression problem. Deborah and I have noted this before on Twitter, but it's becoming more and more evident that Jeff is spiraling and he's in desperate need of help. But Community treats Jeff's illnesses (because that's what alcoholism and mental illness are) like they treat everything: with a wink and a nod and then dismissal. And it's really painful, to me, to watch the leader -- the main character -- of this show so angry and desperate toward a character, a FRIEND who, two episodes earlier, he had an amazing heart-to-heart with.

Remember what I said earlier about Glee? Yeah, it's happening with Community.

"Basic RV Repair and Palmistry" could have been about... well, anything. Literally ANYTHING. A road trip episode has never happened on this series before and since the episode itself was not inherently tied to anything that had preceded it, it could have been about the study group driving and getting lost while en route to pick up something absurd for the school. It could have been about the group decided to bond more with Frankie and Elroy and then realizing their horrible mistake. It could have involved something to do with Annie's parents or Jeff's mom or simply just ditching Chang and going on a road trip together and Dean Pelton unknowingly stowing away because he wanted to be with them.

Did this episode have to return to its tired old card of "Abed does something meta and the group doesn't understand"? Did it have to provide us with an angry, zero-patience, season two Jeff Winger? Shouldn't these characters have evolved by now, especially Abed? OH WAIT. HE DID. TWO EPISODES EARLIER. I GUESS THE SHOW FORGOT ABOUT THAT.

Oh look. I'm ranting again.


Abed insists on creating a "three weeks earlier" flashback in order to frame the narrative of this episode, which is what causes Jeff to grow irate with him and how meta he is. Eventually, the group turns on Dean Pelton who doesn't really apologize for buying that giant hand and getting them into this whole predicament in the first place. His apology is half-hearted, much like... well, pretty much everything in this episode. And so, upset, the dean climbs onto the roof of the RV where Abed joins him. There's some not-really-meaningful conversation between them and Abed eventually constructs a fake flashback in his head and basically all you really need to know at this point about his character you can glean from seasons one and two.

When the giant hand falls off the roof, everyone exits the RV (which Dean Pelton then stealthily re-enters and locks them all out of) and Jeff finally snaps at Abed, actually slapping him. Frankie -- who is one of the best things about this episode -- decides to handle Abed and their situation by appealing to his meta behavior (again: NONE OF THIS MAKES ANY SENSE CHARACTER PROGRESSION-WISE) and it works because, you know, Frankie is normal and relatively sane. It's then that Abed manages to deliver a Winger-esque speech about control. Essentially the idea is that the tighter you hold onto something, the more you're actually pushing other people away because of your desire to control. Abed says: "the time we spend in control of our world is the time we spend letting go of others."

At that seemingly important line, Annie looks at Jeff and Jeff doesn't look at her, only at the ground in -- seeming -- thought. Here's where I'll talk about Jeff/Annie and my frustrations because I have the opportunity to do so. We're ten episodes past the episode where Dan Harmon said Jeff's love for Annie opened the door. We're ten episodes past the episode where Jeff realized something really and truly scary but also important. We're ten episodes past the episode that should have changed everything -- or at least SOMETHING -- for him. And we've moved exactly nowhere on the Jeff/Annie front. Did I expect this? Absolutely, which is why I wish Dan Harmon would have kept his mouth shut and just let us speculate, rather than confirm, what had opened the door. If he had done that, we wouldn't be expectant: waiting on a resolution to a story that has been dragged through the mud and mire for six whole years.

Here's what closure looks like in terms of a romantic story: a conversation. An acknowledgment. Heck, even just a scene where Jeff tells Annie what happened and they decide what it means or what to do or where to go from there. At this point in Community, it's far too late to do really anything else. The series is most likely ending after this year and the show wasted ten episodes on half-hearted homages and occasional growth and development. It spent six years dancing around romance and relationships, pretending that if it didn't discuss them that the shippers would just go away or we would forget about romance altogether. Like... we would forget that romance actually exists in the realm of Greendale or something. What I noticed in "Basic RV Repair and Palmistry" is two-fold: 1) Annie's look toward Jeff is sad, solemn, and almost resolved. 2) Jeff doesn't look back.

Nearly every time Jeff and Annie share looks with one another, Jeff looks at her or Annie looks at him and they both look at one another. Examples:


MORE EXAMPLES: 


So it seems important to me that Annie is looking at Jeff and Jeff is not already looking at Annie in this circumstance like he's done so often before. I think it's one of the only times that's happened, really: where one of them is looking at the other person and they're looking away. Again: given the fact that this is Community and this moment will probably never be spoken of again, it might be insignificant. But I think it's important. I think it's important that Annie's glance toward Jeff is solemn. I think it could mean that after all that happened last year, especially toward the end with Jeff and Britta, Annie thinks it's time to finally give up Jeff and give up hope that anything will ever change in their relationship. I think she, in that quiet moment, mourns what could have been between them and realizes that they'll never have what she wants or needs. I think she might be willing to let go. Conversely, I also think that maybe she's not even thinking about her romantic relationship with Jeff but the glance she gives is almost... pitying, in a way. She could be thinking about her relationship with Jeff, but she could also be thinking about everything he did and said to Abed and everything he might be going through because of how he snapped. That, too, is certainly a possibility.

I don't know what Jeff is thinking. I'd like to believe he's thinking about Annie and about how he can't let her go (calling back to how afraid he was two episodes earlier at the thought of her leaving him). I'd like to believe that he's thinking, for the millionth time, about what he needs to do -- how he needs to talk to her, how he needs to actually vocalize the fact that she's what opened the door. But I don't think he can. I don't think he believes he'll ever be able to. I wonder if he's thinking of letting Annie go because he knows that's what she needs. I wonder if he's feeling guilty for how he's treated her or regretful that he hasn't spent more time telling her how he feels. I wonder if he's even been able to vocalize how he feels to himself. I wonder if they're both thinking about letting each other go or if they're both thinking about how they need to keep holding on, if just for a little bit longer. I wonder if Jeff is even thinking about Annie or if he's thinking about the group as a whole and what he did to Abed. His glance seems to imply guilt, so that's also a possible reaction.

Honestly, I don't know what either of them are thinking or if they're thinking about each other in a romantic context or otherwise. I would like to believe that Community is capable of giving closure to the Jeff/Annie relationship but... well, the track record thus far is not good. At all.

Maybe Community's final few episodes will turn the show back around. Perhaps we will get the chance to see Jeff Winger grow, admit that he has problems, and work to solve them. Maybe he'll tell the group what he told Abed. Maybe he'll be emotionally vulnerable. Perhaps next week's paintball game will be a character display in growth and development. Or maybe it'll just be fun. (Aside: this year's paintball episode mirrors season one in the order it falls in the season -- two episodes away from the finale, and we know "Modern Warfare" set the precedence, really, for season one's final two episodes). As a season, though, I've been hugely disappointed with how disjointed and lacking the year has been in terms of consistency. I'm hopeful the show can turn itself around in its final episodes but honestly, hoping and waiting for that is like... well, it's like what was said in A Cinderella Story:

"Waiting for [that] is like waiting for rain in [a] drought: useless and disappointing."

Additional de-lovely aspects about the episode include:
  • Kudos to wardrobe this season because everyone's has been super on point. Special shout-out to whoever decided that Joel McHale needed to be wearing more blue and more sweaters as Jeff Winger. I thank you. Humanity thanks you. Speaking of Joel, I'm a huge fan of the beard. Please keep it.
  • Also speaking of Joel -- because why not, right? -- I love that he's so tall that he BARELY fit in the RV standing up this week.
  • "Stop, stop. I'm yelling even louder so you have to stop."
  • Jeff fell right onto Annie as the RV stopped so... that was a moment?
  • "You got Britta'd. Yes, I use it too."
  • "So now it's a show about this?" "Oh. You're right. That's way worse. Abed, come back here." #married
  • "It's the worst thing I've done on this trip. I've been NAILING it." I also love that there was some Frankie/Annie love and support this week. The gag with them both on the phone was nice and funny.
  • "I'M AN ADULT AND YOU CAN'T MAKE ME NOT CRY." Jim Rash, everyone.
  • "I'm not even sure I have an idea until I say it."
  • That group hug did not feel earned. It felt like the thing that the show has reverted to doing at the end of an episode to imply that everything is resolved when it's clearly not.
  • I didn't like the end tag at all. COME AT ME.
Well... in the words of Felicity Smoak: "THAT happened." Hit up the comments below with your thoughts on the road trip episode and be sure to come back next week as Deb takes us full-speed ahead into paintball with "Modern Espionage" (oh hey, it's even titled almost like "Modern Warfare," too). Until then. :)

16 comments:

  1. My largest problem with Jeff and Annie is just that I don't think it will ever be resolved, if the writers don't want them together they could at-least have Jeff and Annie talk then decide to stay friends and at-least we would get a resolution.

    It's just going to be weird when re-watching previous seasons knowing all the moments between them never went anywhere.

    In the event of a miracle, and something big happens between them in the last 3 episodes, it would just feel completely out of the blue as if it was thrown in to appease shippers. For most of the season it seems like the writers have kept them apart and so having them together in some miracle would feel odd because they practically don't even interact with each other. I'm pretty sure this is the first season where Jeff and Annie did not have a one-one-one talk onscreen and it feels like it was on purpose.

    I also completely agree with the season 5 finale ending, if the writers don't want to do something about Jeff and Annie, they should have never confirmed it was Jeff's feelings for Annie.

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    1. In the event of a miracle, and something big happens between them in the last 3 episodes, it would just feel completely out of the blue as if it was thrown in to appease shippers. For most of the season it seems like the writers have kept them apart and so having them together in some miracle would feel odd because they practically don't even interact with each other. I'm pretty sure this is the first season where Jeff and Annie did not have a one-one-one talk onscreen and it feels like it was on purpose.

      This is EXACTLY how I feel too, anon. It feels like if they give us a ~moment~ between them that it won't be even remotely earned. They've had like, less interaction in this season than ANY season before. I just don't think that any sort of confession on Jeff's part or decision to resolve the relationship on the part of the show/writers is correct. They've literally spent ten episodes pretending nothing happened between them of significance. So yeah. I agree wholeheartedly with this sentiment.

      I also completely agree with the season 5 finale ending, if the writers don't want to do something about Jeff and Annie, they should have never confirmed it was Jeff's feelings for Annie.

      Harmon should have played coy. He should have kept quiet. He should have said that it was because of everyone that the door opened. He should not have said it was because of Annie if he DID NOT WANT TO PURSUE IT. Ugh. Seriously. SERIOUSLY.

      Anyway, thank you for your comment, anon! I'm so upset because this relationship could have been so compelling (Joel and Alison have amazing chemistry) and in the hands of another show, they could have been written better and done justice. But alas... this is what we were given. *sigh*

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    2. What I find odd too is i'm a guy (not that it matters too much but guys normally aren't into this kind of stuff, I mean I got sucked into reading Jeff and Annie fanfic...) and this is literally the only relationship I've ever "shipped" between characters.

      It's true, Joel and Alison just work really well together, romance aside, any episode with them teaming up as friends has always been great. It really just feels like a lot of potential is being wasted by not having them do stuff together.

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  2. It’s not been the big budget season of Community most fans were waiting for. There’s been some location work, but this is also the third bottle episode of the season. And then there’s the challenge of making those three episodes different from each other. Watching RV Repair felt like the writer’s room may have anticipated some of the criticism that Jenn and some others had for Basic Email Security: the mean exchange of words in between the characters. Here the second act seems like it’s headed that way, but then Elroy apologises and almost everyone else follows suit. The situation doesn’t escalate like we would have thought.

    It’s another meta riff because sitcoms need conflict, and writers are aware that they have less and less options of believable conflict available. There’s very little conflict here in the first place, which probably gives off the impression of the thinness of plot. It’s the quick idea of ”no story” they had in Basic Story that they’re reusing, but given a neater polish and more nuance by the writer.

    I would also argue that in bottle episode terms being stuck in an RV is actually somewhat different to earlier episodes. Here there’s no escape or no private corner available, whereas previously you could have stormed off to the bathroom to let off some steam. And when the episode starts, they’ve been on the road for hours, which can make the situation even more unbearable. This is probably why Jeff has less tolerance for Abed’s games than usual, especially when it seems like they might be stuck there for a long while. And this is why Abed is escaping into his imagination, trying to see conflict and adventure where there isn’t any. If the only entertainment you have is the Dean’s consciously weak stand-up act, it’s understandable.

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    1. (continued)

      This really is a story about two addicts in the end: Abed with his addiction to popular culture and the Dean with his susceptibility into buying things (Is this what’s behind ”three weeks earlier”? Also, Jenn probably won’t like that it wasn’t Jeff the alcoholic’s story then). The Dean was absolutely humiliated by the end of Advanced Safety Features, and hasn’t been able to let go of his buying habits. But this time he refuses to hear mockery of his purchase and desperately wants someone to see some value and significance in it.

      Abed is incapable of providing this instantly, very likely because he is distracted by the current social situation: the lack of conflict. Because he is used to these people having bigger arguments and only later come the apologies. Here they apologise almost instantly. An irritated Jeff is incapable of helping him, instead the help comes from Frankie, something that to my mind makes sense in the season continuity.

      This episode made me think of Ladders again, how the season opener compared popular culture homages like the speakeasy to alcohol addiction and binge-drinking. Frankie was there trying to get the group to sober up, and to stop Abed from escaping the reality. I like the fact that RV Repair comes to a different conclusion. Frankie actually has to admit the lure of Abed’s stories and imagination herself when she offers him the seeds to that futuristic flash forward. Only then does the story make sense to Abed.

      And the speech Abed delivers is very much about admitting the addiction and how he knows his grip to pop culture must be looser, after all, this episode had it tightening up again under unusual circumstances. But he also knows that you can also embrace it in moderation, much like buying things can be very satisfying. The hand finally gains some symbolic meaning and it no longer represents yet another failure for the Dean.

      Of course, it makes better sense on the meta level: this is the show gently telling us that we’ll have to let go eventually, there will always be other popular culture we attach meaning to. And since Jenn pointed out that the end of S6 mimics the structure of S1, that moment of letting go might be soon and a certain story circle is about to close.

      Well, that’s just me rambling, but I definitely think there’s more to this episode than meets the eye. At least we’ll always have paintball. Until next week, at least… :)

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    2. I would also argue that in bottle episode terms being stuck in an RV is actually somewhat different to earlier episodes. Here there’s no escape or no private corner available, whereas previously you could have stormed off to the bathroom to let off some steam. And when the episode starts, they’ve been on the road for hours, which can make the situation even more unbearable. This is probably why Jeff has less tolerance for Abed’s games than usual, especially when it seems like they might be stuck there for a long while.

      Isn't it weird though that he's the ONLY person who has a short temper? Everyone else is annoyed, too, but not to the extent that Jeff is. And they all seem horrified (including Frankie) that Jeff ended up slapping Abed. I think my problem is that it just doesn't make sense to have a character this progressively angry in the episode (not to mention the escalating drinking problem) with no real explanation as to why because, two episodes prior, these two had a really sweet, touching, earned moment. It doesn't make sense to me to regress Abed to "the meta one" whenever the show feels the need to create a plot with conflict.

      As I said earlier above, this show could have done numerous other things with a road trip plot and they dove, instead, into their old bag of stale tricks making the characters very one-note in the process.

      And the speech Abed delivers is very much about admitting the addiction and how he knows his grip to pop culture must be looser, after all, this episode had it tightening up again under unusual circumstances. But he also knows that you can also embrace it in moderation, much like buying things can be very satisfying. The hand finally gains some symbolic meaning and it no longer represents yet another failure for the Dean.

      Ehhhhhh, see for me, the speech fell flat because I don't feel like Abed REALLY learned anything, you know? To tie something shoddily up with a Winger speech and a group hug doesn't feel like where we should be at during season six. To me, at least. It was a way to shoehorn in a "message" so that there was an actual point to the story apart from it being insanely meta.

      But, as you can tell, that's just my opinion as someone who's really disappointed that this season seems to have less and less meaning for its characters/plot as it progresses.

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  3. Difficult to know what to add to the review and comments, which pretty much say everything. But a handful of random thoughts at least –

    Good:
    A refreshing lack of Britta/Annie bickering this episode (it even started with them playing a friendly card game).
    The apology circle was really rather sweet (until the Dean ruined it, anyway) – hopefully Log Lad is right and this is a sign that something was learned from “Basic Email Security” after all.
    The three-way between Jeff/Annie/Abed ("So now it's a show about this?" "Oh. You're right. That's way worse. Abed, come back here.") was a delight – those three are easily the most closely intertwined of the regular cast and it was genuinely nice to have a moment that demonstrated that. Poor Britta – she’s been there as long as any of them, and is definitely looking semi-detached at best.
    Annie’s cute dismay at the suggestion she should be eaten first (I’d go for Jeff myself – he’s easily the biggest and would provide many more meals. But then it was the Dean making the suggestion...).

    Bad:
    Confirmation that Britta is continuing to heavily use pot.
    The Dean – granted, he’s usually mad as a hatter but in a nice way. He was horribly self-centred here and put the others in genuine danger (locking them outside in a high mountain pass as temperatures plunge to and past zero? Seriously?). Not nice. Not nice at all.
    What on earth was that tag about?

    Ugly:
    Abed? Seriously? Nothing to add to Jenn’s dismay at the laziness and sheer unbelievability of this in the light of recent character development, but it can’t be said enough. Most of the other stuff that happened was reasonable enough in response to this (I do tend to give Jeff a pass on his behaviour – if I’d been locked in an RV for hours with somebody behaving like Abed was I’d be much angrier than Jeff was) but Abed’s behaviour was the keystone without which there wouldn’t have been an episode, and it was completely unbelievable for six years in.

    Jeff and Annie – oh dear. Is there anybody left now who doubts that when Harmon said he was going to give us a resolution that the “resolution” is going to be there is no Jeff and Annie? The fact that Annie looked at Jeff in that slightly sad way when Abed said the “letting go of others” line seems far to deliberate to be a coincidence. And Jenn’s right – that Jeff looked at the ground instead of Annie seems to show he’s also aware of it.

    And Jeff. What is going on here? When I started watching this show, I was under the distinct impression that the key theme of the show was going to be the redemption of Jeff Winger – Greendale and the Study Group teach him how to be a better human being and the importance of friendship, family and, yes, love. The result being that when he graduated he would go back into the world a healed man who would use his considerable talents to make the world a better place. Up until the end of Season 4 it was still possible to believe in this vision and that it had been achieved.

    And then Dan Harmon came back. (Sorry, I’m grateful to him for giving us the show in the first place, but S5 and S6 have done nothing to refute the theory that NBC were right to fire him after S3.) Season 5 saw Jeff sucked back into the purgatory of Greendale and Season 6 has seen him spiralling down into a hell of his own creation so that it’s very easy to argue that Jeff is in a worse place now than he was back in S1 – at least back then he had his confidence, charisma and self belief and was still the guy everybody wanted to be friends with and who made parties cool just by turning up to them. Now? He’s basically Ian Duncan with better abs and less dry wit. So, if the show isn’t about the redemption of Jeff Winger after all, then what have the last 6 seasons been for?

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    1. Hi, Richard! First off: thank you as always for your comments. :D

      A refreshing lack of Britta/Annie bickering this episode (it even started with them playing a friendly card game).

      It's a MIRACLE. TWO WOMEN ON SCREEN WHO AREN'T BICKERING!

      The Dean – granted, he’s usually mad as a hatter but in a nice way. He was horribly self-centred here and put the others in genuine danger (locking them outside in a high mountain pass as temperatures plunge to and past zero? Seriously?). Not nice. Not nice at all.
      What on earth was that tag about?


      Yeahhhhhhh usually the dean is pretty endearing but there have been a few episodes where he's just been downright terrible as a human being. I feel like I wrote about one either last season or this season but I can't recall which episode it was where he truly irked me. Also that tag was horrible.

      Most of the other stuff that happened was reasonable enough in response to this (I do tend to give Jeff a pass on his behaviour – if I’d been locked in an RV for hours with somebody behaving like Abed was I’d be much angrier than Jeff was) but Abed’s behaviour was the keystone without which there wouldn’t have been an episode, and it was completely unbelievable for six years in.

      YUP. This was season two Abed. This is what he would have done (and DID) at the beginning of that year. But we haven't seen THIS ABED in so long that it was jarring and out of place for a man who has grown a lot over the course of six years. And for what? So we would have some plot? AGAIN: YOU COULD DO SO MUCH MORE ON A ROAD TRIP EPISODE THAN THIS. YOU DID NOT NEED TO MAKE ABED BE META TO MAKE A ROAD TRIP EPISODE HILARIOUS OR HEARTWARMING.

      Jeff and Annie – oh dear. Is there anybody left now who doubts that when Harmon said he was going to give us a resolution that the “resolution” is going to be there is no Jeff and Annie? The fact that Annie looked at Jeff in that slightly sad way when Abed said the “letting go of others” line seems far to deliberate to be a coincidence.

      Per Harmon's recent Tumblr Q&A, Jeff and Annie are going to get together. (I will believe it when I see it, and also it will NOT feel earned at all if -- in some parallel universe -- he's actually telling the truth.) I think that if they do anything with Jeff/Annie at this point, it's not going to be right. We needed to have conversations between the two of them in season two. AT THE VERY LEAST in season three. Ugh. Ughhhhhhh. All of this just makes me upset for what could have been.

      Season 5 saw Jeff sucked back into the purgatory of Greendale and Season 6 has seen him spiralling down into a hell of his own creation so that it’s very easy to argue that Jeff is in a worse place now than he was back in S1

      It worries me that Harmon has turned Jeff into his own "Mary Sue" this year. Jeff suddenly has a drinking problem (like Harmon) and HEY. EVEN A BEARD. (Like Harmon.) (Though I saw Joel recently do stand-up and he still had the beard so that might be his own personal choice so who knows.) Jeff has regressed into this angry drunk and I have NO idea where that came from or how we even got here.

      So, if the show isn’t about the redemption of Jeff Winger after all, then what have the last 6 seasons been for?

      I wish I had an answer to that, but alas. I am as lost as you are.

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  4. "I wonder if he feels guilty about how he's treated her."

    What does Jeff have to feel guilty about? Although he ribs on everyone, including her, for the most part he's given her nothing but friendly affection and respect. I could see him feeling guilty about his treatment of Abed, but not Annie. My pet theory about that moment is that Jeff is thinking about how tightly he has been holding on to Greendale, and that maybe it's time for him to let go. This has been one of the recurring themes of season 6, as Jeff has been going back and forth on his relationship with the school.

    "I wonder if he's thinking of letting her go because he knows that's what she needs."
    In what way is he holding on to her? If you mean romantically, he hasn't shown her any outward sign of romantic interest since season 3, in fact he's even verbally denied it. In terms of their platonic relationship, he seems to be distancing himself from her this season. Annie's life is revolving more and more around her friendship Abed, and Jeff's life revolves more and more around his bottle of Scotch. I do agree with you that there is no way to get Jeff and Annie together at this point that will feel organic and authentic.

    About Abed's regression, Dan Harmon explained in a recent interview that Abed has been slowly but steadily regressing ever since Troy left. He's retreating into his own meta world because he's realized that it isn't worth the effort to try to fit in with everyone else. Personally, I've also noticed that we've had more "Abed makes a video" episodes than in any of the previous seasons.

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    1. What does Jeff have to feel guilty about? Although he ribs on everyone, including her, for the most part he's given her nothing but friendly affection and respect.

      This year? Yes. Last year and the years before? Not so much. I still don't think there's ever been any indication that Jeff feels remorse -- or expresses remorse -- for leading Annie on and then revealing that he was sleeping with Britta the entire second season. Plus, last year, Jeff was prepared to -- again -- go back to Britta. With them, it's more like... I wonder if he's realized he keeps her on a hook (remember "Origins of Vampire Mythology"?) in case he ever wants her, but feels guilty in that moment because he realizes by not letting her go, he's being selfish. I feel like that's something that Jeff hasn't yet come to terms with: the fact that he's holding onto Annie in case he ever wants her, but can never make a decision.

      In what way is he holding on to her? If you mean romantically, he hasn't shown her any outward sign of romantic interest since season 3, in fact he's even verbally denied it.

      Again I go back to Dan Harmon revealing that Jeff is in love with Annie after the last season's finale. IF we are to believe that what Harmon said is truth, then it changes how we view this relationship. It changes the conversation Abed and Jeff had two episodes ago where Jeff becomes really and truly scared at the thought of losing the people closest to him. And when he name-drops Annie, I feel like it's significant because he doesn't want HER to leave. So maybe Abed's speech reminds Jeff of the fact that he needs to stop holding on too tightly to her or to the idea of her or to her friendship, whatever romantic thing they have, etc. because that's the only way she's going to become the amazing person he knows she can be. IDK.

      About Abed's regression, Dan Harmon explained in a recent interview that Abed has been slowly but steadily regressing ever since Troy left. He's retreating into his own meta world because he's realized that it isn't worth the effort to try to fit in with everyone else.

      I don't even really buy that this is true, though? I mean, we had -- again -- two episodes prior, Abed giving Jeff a motivational, actual emotional speech. Abed had (or has? who knows) a girlfriend. And sure, he relies on the meta stuff as a crutch sometimes but it irks me because... go back and watch the first few episodes of the season and then compare it to the most recent episode. Abed regressed from the premiere to 6.10. He just did.

      Also, what Harmon is doing is using Abed and Jeff as his "Mary Sues" this year: Jeff is regressing and becoming an alcoholic (much like Harmon) and Abed, in this episode, was also a clear manifestation of the version of Harmon and his writing we haven't seen in a long time. It's just disheartening, really, to see how much progress Abed has made and then watch it unravel in this episode for the sake of some really shoddy "plot."

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    2. "leading Annie on and then revealing he was sleeping with Britta the whole time"

      How was leading her on in Seasons 1 and 2? In season 1, he was in an emotionally confused place (and Annie knew it) when SHE kissed HIM. In the moment, he couldn't resist the temptation to kiss her back, but he quickly regretted it, and he told her in no uncertain terms that the kiss was a mistake and he didn't want a relationship with her. This off-page conversation is referenced in both Anthropology 101 and Asian Population Studies. Although several of their interactions in Season 2 were laced with unresolved sexual tension, his overt actions were always platonic in nature. He gave her no reason to hope that he would change his mind, unless you count being attracted to someone as "leading them on" even when you don't act on that attraction, which is an unreasonably stringent standard, IMO.

      "I wonder if he's realized he keeps her on a hook . . ."
      How is he keeping her on a hook? In Season 4, he showed no sign, overt or implied, of still carrying a torch for her. My interpretation at the time was that he was over her. In Season 5, they spent a lot of time together, but all of their interactions were, again, platonic. When she asked him if he might have a non-platonic ulterior motive in spending so much time with her (N.B.: this didn't even occur to her until the dean suggested it), he adamantly denied it.

      "Again I go back to Dan Harmon revealing that Jeff is in love with Annie . . ." It's very telling that the only examples you can think of are events that Annie wouldn't even know about. She didn't know that he looked at her before opening the door. She wasn't privy to his conversation with Abed, which I don't even acknowledge as a significant Jeff/Annie ship moment. Yes, he name-dropped her, but he also name-dropped Pierce in the same sentence.

      Now my interpretation of Annie's continuing on at Greendale was that she was attached to Greendale itself, and that she's afraid to leave its wacky cocoon. Your interpretation that she's sticking around for Jeff is equally valid, but if that is the case, it's a hook of her own making. If she's wasting her life on Jeff, she has no one to blame but herself.

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    3. First off: I think you must have misunderstood me. I don't believe for a moment that the reason Annie is still at Greendale is because of Jeff. At all. I think exactly what you do: that the reason she's there -- the reason they are ALL there -- is because they're too scared to be in the real world and to fail out there. So they choose to stay in the confines of Greendale. I think what Jeff's speech revealed was this: he's terrified of losing the group. He's scared he will be the last person left and that everyone -- including Annie -- will move on without him. I think it's pretty solid to believe that. So my interpretation of the scene in this episode is essentially that: whatever Jeff is holding onto and thinking about in that moment (whether Annie, specifically, or the group as a whole or Greendale, etc.) he's realizing that the tighter he tries to hold on, the less fair it is to everyone/everything he's holding onto. Does that make sense?

      Now, as to the matters of Jeff/Annie: I agree with you to an extent. You're right -- in season five, those two had very little interaction apart from their team-up episode (qualm with your comment: while Jeff insisted that the shoulder holding was platonic, it's clear -- by the scene that follows with Leonard and he leans in, puckering up -- that it's NOT. It's Jeff using the word "platonic" as an excuse. And when the dean brings up their relationship in his office, Jeff and Annie are equally offended at it being deemed "creepy." The point of that episode was that Jeff keeps trying to pretend there isn't anything there, and there really is. He just can't man up and admit it.)

      So back to season five: if you read my review of the finale, I did not remotely interpret that door-opening scene as romantic. I thought it was the combination of all of the thoughts of each person that opened the door. Only when Dan Harmon mentioned in the commentaries that it was ANNIE specifically who opened the door, did I realize that. You're right: season five didn't have much J/A at all. Nor does season six.

      BUT -- and this is a BIG one -- the only reason I'm even thinking about anything romantic IS BECAUSE OF DAN HARMON. And this is a flaw with him as a writer, not with you astutely pointing out that J/A have lacked development for years. He claims that Annie opened the door, and yet there's no solid evidence in seasons 4, 5, and 6 that support his claim. He simply dropped a line in a commentary and... forgot about it? Refused to acknowledge it? Whatever his reasoning, Dan dismissed, entirely, what he claimed to be true.

      Now, had he not said anything in the commentary, that would have been fine. Shippers could have interpreted interactions however they liked. But it's because he said it that now we have to look at things in the context of "Jeff is in love with Annie." Does that make sense? And if we are looking at things in that context, it changes how we view scenes. But -- again -- only because Harmon claimed it to be truth and then avoided pursuing that truth (which... let's be real, he's been doing since the transfer dance in season one). Now, you made another good point: Annie doesn't know about the door. Right. True. And important.

      Because that means Jeff is fully aware he loves her but she is not. I think she stopped believing anything could happen between them years ago (never more so than in the finale when she gave that speech about letting others want what they want, no matter how stupid). SO this seems like an important thing to address/acknowledge/pursue, right? The idea that Jeff loves Annie but she has no idea? Except that... well, it's Harmon and as I said earlier, the relationship will apparently just NEVER be addressed.

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    4. I hope Jenn doesn’t mind if I chip in with a few thoughts...

      his overt actions were always platonic in nature

      Not always. Yes, Jeff was attracted to Annie, and yes he resisted acting on that attraction for reasons good and bad (I do have some sympathy for his anguish over the age difference, I do not have sympathy for his obsession over the way people would look at him), but there was nothing platonic about his jealousy, if nothing else. On at least two occasions that we’re aware of (with Vaughn and Rich) Jeff acted very badly indeed when Annie was interested in someone else – he wasn’t willing to have her himself, but the thought of her being with anyone else drove him crazy. There’s nothing platonic about that – you don’t fly into a jealous rage over your friends’ love lives.

      In Season 4, he showed no sign, overt or implied, of still carrying a torch for her.

      I refer you to the discussion Jenn and I had a couple of weeks ago about “Conventions in Space and Time”. There are several things about this episode that can be read as implying that Jeff was finally ready to take seriously the idea of a relationship with Annie (I phrase that carefully bearing in mind what Jenn said about the writers denying anything was happening, but...).

      Firstly, while the boys play, Jeff has invited Annie to spend a day with him, just the two of them, doing something grown up (skiing – an activity which furthermore involves spending a considerable amount of time in tight fitting clothes - I have no opinion whether this was a factor in Jeff’s decision). I believe this is literally the first time we ever see something like this.

      Secondly, he booked hotel rooms in the name of Mr and Mrs Winger! Seriously, there was no need for this – modern hotels wouldn’t bat an eyelid if he’d done it as Mr Winger and Ms. Edison. This was an entirely unnecessary “couple signal” on Jeff’s part.

      Thirdly, there’s Jeff’s reaction to the reveal of Annie’s marriage fantasy. Did he mock it? No. Did he flee the scene in disgust? No. In fact, he treated it with respect, and made it very clear that the only part of Annie’s fantasy that offended him was the thought he might cheat on her. Season 1 or 2 Jeff would have gone berserk. Season 4 Jeff? He was cool with it. I repeat – Jeff (at least the Jeff we saw on the screen – go away, Bobrow) was not offended that Annie was fantasising about a future with him. This was, or at least should have been, huge character development on Jeff’s part.

      It's very telling that the only examples you can think of are events that Annie wouldn't even know about.

      Annie knows about Jeff’s jealousy. She knows he knows she fantasises about them being married and that he isn’t creeped out about it. She was there for his confession in 3x02 (“it’s a way for me to tell you how important you are from a distance”), even this season we got the first genuine “milady/milord” moment since S1 which was always a sign of tenderness between these two – if she doesn’t know that he loves her then she’s a lot blinder than I give her credit for. What she intends to do with this knowledge is a wholly different question, of course.

      Yes, he name-dropped her, but he also name-dropped Pierce in the same sentence.

      When Jenn reviewed that episode, she spotted something I confess I missed – the significance isn’t that Jeff mentioned Annie, but that Annie was the only one of the current cast Jeff mentioned - if he’d said to Abed something like “you’ll move to Hollywood and become the next Spielberg, Annie will become president one day, and Britta will move back to New York and become the next Dr Phil” then I’d agree with you – but he didn’t. He only mentioned Annie. This really should mean something (I don’t have confidence that it does, but it should).

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    5. Despite the order these have appeared in, that was a reply to Anon, not Jenn - I didn't write that lot in under 3 minutes! (Hi, BTW)

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    6. Jeff/Annie interactions of significance have occurred since after the transfer dance: the blanket fort collapsed and they were about to kiss in "Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design." Clearly not a platonic moment and one filled with tension. Same with "Asian Population Studies": Jeff not giving Annie an answer as to how he feels for her. "Origins of Vampire Mythology": Jeff and Annie sharing that schmoopy look (it's significant because it was clearly written into the script). Jeff is constantly telling Annie he cares about her ("Geography of Global Conflict," "Intro to Political Science," etc.) and that's totally fine, but... well, come on. You can honestly see that there are unresolved issues between them, issues that Jeff doesn't want to bring up or talk about.

      So while he was sleeping with Britta, he was also teaming up with/almost kissing/talking about how he cares about what Annie thinks of him, etc. etc. And Annie's continued to be "his girl" -- he was going to go skiing with her in "Conventions of Space and Time" and her alone. He told her that if they were married, he would be faithful to her. There's a deleted scene in that episode where a bartender mistakes HER for his wife and he doesn't correct him. Annie was in Jeff's heart, multiple times, in "Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts." Jeff daydreamed about sleeping with Annie in "Biology 101." In "Advanced Introduction to Finality," Jeff's subconscious manifests itself as having a relationship with Annie.

      So all of that? All of that was on Jeff, not on Annie.

      So my problem is that the writers pepper these moments in there without giving the characters any resolution. It's what jarred me so much when Dan Harmon said that Annie opened the door. He's never been forthcoming with Jeff/Annie and THAT was the first time he outright said something of significance. And yet there was no follow-through with it. At all. Which is why I have problems with this show and romance -- there is never any real follow-through. Which leads us back here.

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  5. Just to clarify, there are two points I was trying to make in my last post:
    1. Jeff's affair with Britta in Season 2 was not a betrayal or breach of faith with Annie (In response to your using that as an example in how Jeff has mistreated Annie).
    2. In Season 6, Jeff is not doing anything to prevent Annie from achieving her potential (In response to your statement that he needs to "let her go" for her own good).

    Anything related to Jeff's thoughts, feelings or fantasies isn't relevant to these questions, unless he acts on them. I'm not saying that she doesn't have an effect on him, I agree that she does. I'm talking about his treatment of her.

    Anything related to Season 3, isn't relevant to these questions either. I would be the first to argue that Season 3 was a huge J/A year, with teasing, flirting, and half-overtures on both sides. But his affair with Britta was over by then, and the current season was still very far in the future.

    About Point 2: I still don't see how Jeff is thwarting Annie from achieving her goals. I ask you for examples, and you list things that are going on in his head, or behind Annie's back. How does that directly effect Annie? How is she being prevented from pursuing her goals by anyone other than herself? And how would Jeff release her, if he is in fact holding her? Last year, he told her straight out that he doesn't want to be with her. This year, he's going one step farther by limiting the amount of time that he spends with her, even as a friend. The only additional thing that he could possibly do is to reject her friendship altogether, and refuse to spend any time with her at all. That would be a colossal sacrifice for him, because he would have to turn his back on his entire social circle.

    Related to Point 1: As Season 1 and 2 examples of Jeff "leading her on" you and Richard listed the blanket scene, telling her that he cares about her in the politics ep, not giving her a straight answer in the bathroom, and being jealous of Rich and Vaughn.
    In the blanket scene, if you look closely at their facial expressions, Annie is clearly thinking about kissing him, but Jeff's look is more one of uneasiness, like he's afraid she's going to try to kiss him again. The conversation in the politics ep, may have had UST, but the basic sentiment was one of friendship. As for his so-called jealousy of Vaughn, if he doesn't want Annie to be with anyone else, why was he trying to set her up with Troy in that same episode? Also, his intense hatred of Chiquita M.D. goes all the way back to season 1, before there was any hint of an Annie/Rich pairing. Annie inviting Rich to join the group would be like Jeff asking the head cheerleader to join the group. His not giving her a straight answer was possibly because he's uncomfortable with the idea of her going out with a much older man, including himself, although I have other theories too. Either way, he didn't make a move, and she responded by asking someone else out.

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