Tuesday, May 26, 2015

6x12 "Wedding Videography" (One Wedding and This Show's Funeral)


"Wedding Videography"
Original Airdate: May 26, 2015

Do you know why the third season of New Girl was problematic? 

It wasn’t, as many people surmised, because the romantic pairing of Nick and Jess sunk the show – that their will-they-won’t-they was more entertaining and engaging than the they-did. No, as I re-watched a majority of the third season recently, I realized that there were two main problems in that particular season of the FOX series. First, the story for Schmidt fell completely apart and turned him from an endearingly unlikable character to a borderline villain. He became abrasive and unbearable at points. The second problem was that in pairing Nick and Jess together so often in stories, the writers isolated them from the rest of the group, making episodes seem scattered and disjointed.

So in the fourth season, New Girl readjusted its trajectory and fixed the problems that originated the year prior. As a result, the series was one of the most consistently hilarious, heartwarming, and character-driven shows on the air last primetime television season. I admire Liz, Brett, Dave, and their team of writers not just for acknowledging that their show had missteps and problems that needed to be fixed, but also being willing to remedy those issues and knowing HOW they needed to be remedied. The producers and writers realized that the show needed to return to its origin: a group of messed up individuals who surround themselves with one another so that they can become better. The writers recognized the redemption in Schmidt’s arc and extracted every little bit of humanity and pathos that they could. This allowed Schmidt to become a fully-realized character who grew throughout the fourth season. His growth was real. It was earned, as was the rest of the growth exhibited in the characters (especially Coach and Winston) this year.


But what would have happened if New Girl hadn’t been willing to correct the issues that their characters had in the fourth season? Those characters, quite simply, would have regressed even further than they already had. This diatribe, as you might be able to surmise, brings us to Community’s penultimate episode of season six titled: “Wedding Videography.” I’m not going to be shy in this review (as if you all doubted I would be) and state that there was very little I enjoyed about the episode. In fact, I enjoyed the Glee re-run I watched this weekend more than this episode.

Yeah.

It was that bad.

It’s one thing to tell you that I thought an episode was bad. But it’s another to be able to articulate WHY it was bad. Let me take the rest of this post to explain what went horribly awry this season on Community and how – it’s very likely – nothing that the show does from here forward will be able to redeem it.



I mentioned a few episode reviews ago that Glee and Community have similar problems – they both want to make the episodes they want with the limited characters they have, no matter whether or not that makes any sense for the show. It’s a fact that as a result of that pattern of behavior from the writers (and a seeming lack of overarching theme of the season) that the study group has become worse and worse collectively over the course of this year. Remember when Community was a show about a group of people who supported one another? Remember when they each had lives outside of the group? Remember when they actually cared about each other? In season four, “Alternative History of the German Invasion” did a great job of portraying the study group as a villain. But at the end of that episode, they realized that it was wrong that they hurt the rest of their Greendale classmates. They corrected their errors by cleaning up the other study rooms around campus that those individuals frequented. They made Greendale better.

By season six, the study group is making Greendale worse. They’re making themselves worse, too. They show up in the middle of Garrett’s wedding because they spent hours beforehand making fun of him and his bride-to-be. Let me reiterate that: they were extremely late to the ceremony because they spent time laughing at and making fun of Garrett. Making fun of other people isn’t anything really new for the study group. They forget that other people attend the school and they don’t care nearly enough about them to learn all of their names (“Asian Population Studies”) or that they have lives outside of Greendale (“Biology 101”). The study group as a unit has become more and more destructive, codependent, and selfish as they’ve progressed throughout Greendale and it’s… well, it’s really sad.

Because that means that the characters that make up the group have regressed as well. “Wedding Videography” made that last part abundantly clear. So here’s the deal: Garrett is getting married and the group is invited. Abed – for reasons that make no sense whatsoever (and are vocalized by Frankie, the only decent part of this episode) – is filming the entire thing so it’s shot much like all of our other mockumentary episodes were shot. The episode was awkward in parts and downright cringeworthy in so many others, mainly due to the fact that the study group treats Garrett’s wedding like one giant joke. They show up late and cause a ruckus. They laugh when Garrett and Stacy are pronounced husband and wife. They make a mockery of the wedding and union which is not only extremely calloused and cruel but also disrespectful. Where were the people who gleefully threw a study room wedding for Shirley? Where were THOSE people? The ones who, even if they didn’t agree with what she was doing, supported her because they were a human being and they treated her with some shreds of respect.

I don’t like the people we’ve been spending time with in season six. At all. I think they’re horrible human beings who are selfish and only care about making themselves feel better about being stuck at Greendale. So they make mockeries of other students and their accomplishments. They hurt other people because they can – because it’s easy. It’s convenient. Even people like Annie, who used to be caring, turned cold this episode. She is among those laughing at Garrett’s wedding. It hurts me.


Speaking of things hurting me, let’s talk about the abundant character regression. We’ll start with Jeff Winger. As Deborah so accurately pointed out to me on Twitter, it’s rare to find a scene this season in which Jeff isn’t holding a glass of scotch. He has a drinking problem. It’s a problem that has only been addressed in-show by Frankie, though, in an offhanded remark at the beginning of the season. Since then, no one has confronted Jeff about this. In fact, in “Wedding Videography,” others are enabling him. Only Frankie seems to recognize the pattern of behavior as codependency and – therefore – ultimately destructive. But back to the enabling part: Annie is the person who brings Jeff his drink. He then calls her his “helper” and the entire exchange made me glad I wasn’t strong enough to flip my Ikea dresser or else I would have.

Dear readers, does anyone remember what Annie Edison used to be? That’s right – an addict. Does anyone remember how she behaved in “Accounting For Lawyers”? That’s right – she was afraid that Jeff would get sucked back into Alan’s world and become addicted to it again. How does she know what addiction feels like? Right. Because she was an addict. Does anyone remember what “Origins of Vampire Mythology” was about? That’s right – Annie keeping Britta away from Blade because she recognized that Britta’s pattern of behavior followed that of an addict’s. She even wrote: “You are a lying junkie” on a banana and gave it to the blonde. 

So there are three reasons that the moment Annie gives Jeff a drink so willingly and gleefully offend me:

  1. The writers don’t think Jeff has a problem and therefore are choosing not to have the characters acknowledge this. If this is the reason Annie willingly hands him a drink, I’m… well, offended. After six years of knowing an individual, is this group so blinded that they literally refuse to acknowledge Jeff’s problems or else so self-centered that they cannot see his problems?
  2. The writers chose to regress Annie’s character for no reason, erasing all of those aforementioned moments of addict-pinpointing behavior for the sake of this episode/scene/season. If that’s the case, then I’m extremely offended. Shouldn’t Annie be the person who REFUSES to hand Jeff a drink because she recognizes a pattern of behavior? She’s been spending enough time with him this year to pick up on the fact that Jeff’s drinking a lot and he used to only do so on occasion. 
  3. The third option is the one that infuriates me the most because I think it’s closest to the truth: the writers see Annie as a giggly (see: how she was in this scene) girl when it comes to pleasing Jeff and making him happy, so they regressed her because she’s infatuated with him and therefore willfully ignorant of his problems.
Please take a moment to pause because I’ll be throwing some things around the room.


Okay, I’m back.

Out of all of the people on this show, Annie should be the most observant and watchful when it comes to troubling behavior. She’s done it with Abed before. She’s done it with Britta before. She’s called out wrong or destructive patterns in other people and yet… I’m expected to believe that she just doesn’t with Jeff? That doesn’t just anger me – it OFFENDS me. Because it dumbs down Annie’s character and renders all the stuff she went through over the past six years pretty moot. Any way you interpret that scene is offensive, really, and if someone would like to venture into the comments and try to defend it or the writers, I would gladly debate you. It’ll probably end with me throwing (very soft) items at you though, so be forewarned.

There’s another moment in terms of Annie’s characterization that’s diametrically opposed to something that happened in the third season (“Virtual Systems Analysis”), fourth season (to a lesser extent – “Conventions of Space and Time”), and the fifth season (“Basic Sandwich”) and occurs in this episode: Annie becomes fixated on the idea of fixing and controlling other people. We’ve drawn from this same well of characterization multiple times in the episodes I noted above, but at the wedding with Frankie, the women are discussing Jeff. And they both laugh about how messed up Jeff is. And then… Annie pauses. And this is what happens:


There are few facets of Annie’s personality that are fixated on more than her age and her desire to control people and circumstances. Yes, Annie is a controlling person. She plans. She likes order and spreadsheets and that’s how she makes sense of the world. She also used to see people as projects – as things to be fixed, made more like her, more like her ideals. So imagine how jarring I found it when in season six, Annie returned to that intense and neurotic desire to control someone else as a project. Frankie thankfully stops Annie before she follows through with her desire to “fix” Jeff. (Because Annie is, of course, a reminder to Frankie of how she used to be.)

And before you say: “But Jenn, if Annie had followed through, wouldn’t that mean she’s addressing exactly what you had problems with above? That she would fix Jeff’s drinking problem?” No, I don’t think that’s accurate for two reasons: 1) it’s clear Annie doesn’t think Jeff has a problem or is na├»ve in admitting it to herself or others, 2) Annie’s desires to control often have little to do with fixing actual problems and more to do with fixing perceived flaws to turn a person or people into whoever Annie believes they should be. Which is why I’m baffled as to this regression in Annie’s characterization. We haven’t really seen her vocalize a desire to control Jeff since “Virtual Systems Analysis.” And, correct me if I’m wrong, but I presumed the episode ended with Annie accepting that she cannot control Jeff or their relationship and explaining this concept to Abed. In “Conventions of Space and Time,” we saw shades of Annie’s controlling behavior but we learned where, exactly, her made-up Mrs. Winger persona stemmed from: her frustration with and sadness over the fact that Jeff didn’t care about their friendship enough to spend time with her and – at the first opportunity he had – ditched her for another woman.

But most recently, we saw very clearly how much Annie let go of control when it comes to Jeff. Does anyone remember her spiel in the bunker? “We have to let each other want what we want,” she says, looking directly at Jeff and addressing him. Annie began to loosen control in that moment. It was a step for her. And yet, for whatever reason, we've returned to the "Annie controls other people" well and it's dry, but the writers insist on digging up any sort of remnants of conflict that they can find there.


I think the thing that bugs me most of all is that the writers have somehow turned a show that used to be about hope and friendship and optimism among broken, weird, messy people and turned it into a cynical, dark, biting parody of itself. It's unattractive. In fact, it's pretty sad. It's sad that the writers have managed to make these characters such dark, jaded, terrible versions of themselves to the point where the Jeff Winger who entered Greendale isn't much better than the Jeff Winger in "Wedding Videography." In fact, he's kind of worse when you think about it because the Jeff who entered Greendale didn't have the six years of friendship and growth that this Jeff Winger should have.

So what was the point of "Wedding Videography," then, apart from the incest? And general terribleness of the study group? Was the point that Frankie is the only one with a normal perspective? Was the point that when Chang gives the Winger speech, you know you've hit a new low? Was the point that Community will do whatever it takes to not address any sort of moral or point anymore? Because I'll be honest, here: I've been wracking my brain trying to think of what the purpose or theme of this entire season is. I've been contemplating WHY Jeff is acting the way he is (manic one moment, in the apartment; depressed the next, in a classroom). Seriously, does anyone know what the point of anything in this show is anymore? Does anyone know why these characters are regressing? Why they seem to be floating aimlessly around the school? Why there's very little humanity left in the group? Why the show seems to be bitter and jaded and cynical and not remotely about hope?

In "Wedding Videography," Garrett got married in this episode and no one learned a thing. No one became any better. The tag was horrible. The episode was unbearable. The moral was nonexistent. The characters learned nothing and regressed. As we head toward the season and potential series finale, I'm just sitting here thinking about "Remedial Chaos Theory" and "Modern Warfare" and "Pascal's Triangle Revisited" and "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas." They were all episodes with meta humor, character growth and development, hilarious jokes, and – most important of all – heart. Soul. A message. A lesson. 

Now? Well, now I'm just left with one question as I gaze upon my once-beloved sitcom:


Additional de-lovely aspects about this episode include:
  • Since next week is the season finale of Community and both Deborah and I are now dreading it, we've decided to tag-team the review as some of us occasionally do at this site. So you'll get the chance to hear both of our thoughts at once! Also, there will be wine involved, so be sure to join our party.
  • "Aren't you still smelling hair to tell Frankie from Annie?" Yeah, I don't even want to touch this conversation with a ten-foot pole but the fact that Abed apparently still cannot tell who Annie is after six years and three of them living with her? It's fine. I'm fine. Everything is fine. This is definitely acceptable in terms of character growth and development.
  • Also things I don't want to touch with a ten-foot pole: the fact that Britta and Annie spent the entire episode at each others' throats. Again. Enough already, geez. We get it: Annie likes traditional girly things and Britta likes to be sour and darker. We don't need to see them making faces at each other, bickering, or needling one another every. single. week.
  • One positive from the episode: Joel McHale looked mighty fine in that suit and tie combination. Migh-ty fiiiiiiiine.
  • "Annie, the world will still need you after you finish that cake."
  • Elroy singing was pretty great.
  • "Britta, we're ALL the worst right now. Take a day off." I lament that we did not get more Dean Pelton/Britta.
I... don't even know what else to say, you guys. How many of you liked that episode? Hated it? Felt indifferent? Did you make any sense of my review? I'm not sure that I even managed to do that. Hit up the comments below and let us know your thoughts. Until then!

36 comments:

  1. "Why the show seems to be bitter and jaded and cynical and not remotely about hope?"

    Because now that it's on the internet, Harmon is writing the show purely for the bitter jaded cynics who populate reviews sites like AV club(a site Harmon visits a lot to read reviews of the show). He doesn't care about a making a show for the masses anymore. I think this is what he always hoped Community would be- a parody of itself. It's just that NBC never allowed him to make the like that. With NBC gone, he's fallen down the rabbit hole.

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    1. The AV Club interest has always perplexed me. Hate their reviews.

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    2. Eh. The AV Club reviewer for seasons 1-5 of Community was Todd VanDerWerff who was always sharply pointing out the heart of the episode in his reviews. There was a guy who genuinely loved the show and was unafraid of letting it show. Joshua Alston who has been doing Season 6 has been more out of tune with it: he only went on about the skillful homage of the paintball episode and failed to address the heart of it (something where Alan Sepinwall did a much better job).

      Their comment sections can contain huge amounts of snark (though the Community one has been relatively clean this season), but usually when a reviewer likes an episode of a show, you'll hardly find cynicism or irritating asides in their writing.

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    3. I can't believe that Harmon always wanted the show to be a parody of itself. You don't put so much effort and feeling into a show you don't care about, and you don't write essays about the goodness of the people who watch the show and how you want the show to be perceived by those people if it's all meant to be some masked meta commentary on how everything is stupid.

      Something drastically changed between Dan saying that the thesis of the show is "People are Good" and this season, where no one is good - especially not our main characters. This could be a result of his bitterness over being fired (it has been argued that the problems started in season five) or over being moved to Yahoo, but I can't accept that the presentation of the characters this season as selfish, petty, and careless has been his plan all along and he's just now getting the freedom to do it.

      I think the answer is much simpler than that: Dan has moved on. He doesn't really want to do the show anymore, but he doesn't want to be the person who ends it so he keeps writing it and accepting jokes and plots from his writing staff, even when those jokes and plots don't live up to his former standards.

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    4. I think part of this episode is about how hard the group is on themselves. Yes, they were bad at the ceremony, but when they realized their mistake, they pulled back. When Garrett's wedding went to hell, they each took the blame and assumed it was their fault. Narcissistic all the way through, but their influence on Chang saved a marriage. As Winger talked about earlier, a perfect group doesn't require perfect people.

      I agree that Dan has created a monster with #sixseasonsandamovie. If the show was not constantly on the edge of extinction, it might have played out differently, but I can't imagine that is a healthy existence. I don't know if the answer is Dan has moved on. He might want to, but I think he feels a responsibility to keep making Community as long as he can, and that responsibility outways his love of doing it at this point.

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    5. Agreeing WHOLEHEARTEDLY with Deb here. There is such a bitterness edged into this season and I don't think that was how this show was ever meant to be consumed. Watch the first three seasons. Even the fourth season had SOME semblence of hope etched into it. Unfortunately though, I think Deb is right and that Dan Harmon never meant this show to be so jaded and so cynical, but as he grew more and more that way, he started caring less and less.

      I can't recall where, but I'm fairly certain Dan was interviewed about the series and he basically said that he doesn't ever want to be the one to say he thinks Community should end -- and it's understandable because the fanbase fought hard and Joel and Jim did too to hire him back and get the show back. I think Deb's right: I think Harmon is just giving up and letting the show die.

      I honestly don't think there's any real depth to the show anymore. The hollow bitterness and darkness is pretty evident and we can try to wax poetic about how this all must mean something but I'm, frankly, tired of trying to extract meaning from something clearly devoid of meaning anymore.

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  2. I agree, the show loaded all the previous character development into a cannon and shot it right back from where it came.

    I think the writers forgot that while a large part of the show is comedy, Community used to be great due to things like its character development, touching moments, friendship and just the characters becoming better people.

    Despite the hate for season 4 (I've never actually hated it that much), I genuinely think that season 4 did a much better job with character development than this season because there has been no development.

    Plain and simple example from season 1 with Annie in "Social Psychology", she feels bad for yelling at Abed and makes it up for him, this is when she also barely even knew him. Now, as you pointed out, she had no problem insulting Garret and causing problems at the wedding, what happened to her? This entire season has had Annie regress so far it's not even close to being funny.

    Jeff is just a mess, whatever happened to the show having an emphasis on Jeff growing as a person? If for whatever insane reason something happens between Jeff and Annie, I wouldn't even want to see it. I just don't care for them anymore, to be fair, I don't even care for the characters anymore.

    I might not even watch the final episode at this point, it's not like it's going to add anything good to the show as the spoiler just seems like some ridiculous meta mess. I'll stand by the idea that had season 4 gone as planned with Harmon, they should have wrapped everything up that season with everyone graduating and ended it.

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    1. I think the writers forgot that while a large part of the show is comedy, Community used to be great due to things like its character development, touching moments, friendship and just the characters becoming better people.

      HALLELUJAH, AMEN.

      Despite the hate for season 4 (I've never actually hated it that much), I genuinely think that season 4 did a much better job with character development than this season because there has been no development.

      HALLELUJAH, AMEN AGAIN. People can say what they want about season four and goodness knows it had its problems. But it genuinely had some really good moments. Season five did too... until it didn't. Season six didn't even try.

      Jeff is just a mess, whatever happened to the show having an emphasis on Jeff growing as a person? If for whatever insane reason something happens between Jeff and Annie, I wouldn't even want to see it. I just don't care for them anymore, to be fair, I don't even care for the characters anymore.

      Glory be. Amen. When I don't even like the main character anymore, it's bad. Especially when that character is played by Joel McHale, whom I love and adore dearly.

      I'll stand by the idea that had season 4 gone as planned with Harmon, they should have wrapped everything up that season with everyone graduating and ended it.

      I feel like regardless, the show should have ended after season four. It really should have. Now it just feels like we're spiraling toward something that vaguely resembles a black hole with no way of actually recovering.

      *heavy sigh*

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  3. I really struggled the first time through with this episode. The humor was the kind I normally cringe over (the style, and it’s the same style of humor that kept me from enjoying New Girl for so long), and yeah, parts of it were incredibly bitter. Yes Jeff is drinking too much, and Annie is clearly enabling him. Frankie wants to separate them to protect Annie, Annie and Britta are in constant competition and snippy, and it is fair to complain of an episode with Abed completely out of frame (who then magically is on time for the wedding).

    But…. It was really funny.

    Keith David was hilarious, and he was hilarious with every beat. Garrett as the weirdly awkward was even more weirdly awkward even in matrimony. Paget Brewster has consistently delivered as Frankie the individual trying to be in the group while being incredibly guarded. Yes, the group was horrible up until the reception (their impressions of him were abusive), but they tried to pull back and to help the wedding that they didn’t know was doomed. They didn’t laugh at the ceremony. They laughed at Chang breaking a chair. When they were called on their bad behavior, they owned it. They even took the blame of the incestuous wedding. Yes, Annie wanted to fix Jeff, but it was her trying to help him and not some school girl plan to marry him into a better person. Are they good guests as a group of as individuals? Well, Elroy and Britta aren’t, but the rest tried. Even Chang, who is at his best with them, found a way to help Garrett when he really needed it.

    Has this season continued to underutilized (and undermine the character development of) Annie, continued their flirtations with Jeff and Annie shippers like drunken sailors just off the boat, and basically abandoned any story arc other than Jeff’s misery? Yes. Has it been disappointing? Oh yeah. I wish for something better, but I have tried to avoid letting what I want get in the way of what I am getting, which is still funny with characters I enjoy. I agree that Harmon and company have abandoned a lot of what made Community the show it was, his unwillingness to allow these characters beyond the bubble of the group has been infuriating, and the result is miles from what the first three seasons were, but I don’t know what it could have been. I don’t. A lot of what I thought I wanted for the characters was done in season 4, and it wasn’t compelling. Once it was done, I don’t know if they felt they could redo those issues, and I think that Harmon’s reaction to season 4 is the reason season 5 and 6 have felt so unmoored. Season 5 was an attempt to wipe away season 4 and to prove that Harmon was better at taking chances with Community than anyone else. Season 6 felt like it was an improved season 5 with less guests gobbling up screen time and fewer thematic episodes.

    I want to blame Harmon for regressing Annie, but it was season 4 where she traded a foot rub for an A. He gets the blame for everything now because we believe he had the time to stop it from slipping into just comedy or just an homage of something for no other reason than they can do it. He probably did. He didn’t. What I can say about this episode is that parts of it really disappointed me, particularly in how Jeff is enabled to not be better at friendship or as a teacher and how Annie and Britta cannot really get along, but the rest, well, it was really funny.

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  4. My thoughts of this episode are partially the same as Alan Sepinwall's, in that since it's essentially an untreated, unpolished wedding video which Abed is filming with his keen observational skills, and since those usually can show some guests in very unfavourable light, then this is an alternate, unflinching look at the group outside of normal conditions again.

    Everything that happens after they notice they're late from the wedding are the consequences from them getting high on each others' company, their collective egoism, and them also drinking at Annie's and Abed's apartment. Plus the fact that wedding videos with their untreated quality can show the raw truth about people's lower impulses.

    Everyone pretty much lapses back to old habits especially after they take what Garrett's mother says to them personally. Britta tries to pick up their collective dignity but only ends up drawing attention to herself unnecessarily, Jeff wants to show he's the best speaker in the room and Elroy returns to a 2006-2009 version of himself. You go very much into detail about Annie here. I read Annie's and Frankie's conversation as confirmation for the show's stance: both women understand, just like the show, about Jeff needing to face his problem completely on his own terms. Annie's old impulses about helping him awake for a moment, but this is also something that the show (or Frankie) thinks is the wrong way. With Elroy returning to an old version of himself in this episode (something the show says explicitly), I don't think it's implausible that Annie would contemplate this for a moment as well.

    (The show hasn't portrayed Jeff's alcoholism as a full-on problem yet since we haven't seen any of its possible consequences on his work or private life. So far it's just a symptom about him still struggling to accept his permanent place at Greendale - the lesson of the previous week's episode about Jeff having to be the leader occasionally, taking responsibility for the bigger Community of Greendale instead of just the group still doesn't extend to the rest of his work at Greendale).

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    1. (continued...)

      Where is the hope, you will ask? In the most unlikely place, Chang. The group realizes (again) that their collective egoism can make them all pretty unbearable, especially if they do not monitor themselves. But as Chang says, he's the one person that has genuinely been improved by the group. The few episodes where Chang has been taken seriously this season have done great work in reconstructing the character: he found himself as an actor by channelling into his core sadness, went to Hollywood and failed which echoes the rise-and-fall story of other members of the group. Now that he's on equal footing with the others, it actually feels pretty resonant when he gets the Winger speech and is the only one in the room to believe that two people's love should rule over what others think.

      (I do think that the lack of Winger speeches this season, or giving them to others instead of the main character who is struggling with problems, may be another way for the show to criticise the heroic narrative. That may not be the way for Jeff to cope in the world any longer.)

      I am also not bothered by the group's treatment of Garrett, since that's the way the entire school has treated him and his family also treats him, as this episode shows. Todd hijacks their wedding vows for a moment, one of Garrett's family laughs at his vow even before the group shows up and when Chang asks them if they're still going to keep on making fun of him in the same way, they answer yes. Garrett is the Jer... Garry Gergich of this show to some extent.

      I don't think this is a perfect episode: if not for Chang's arc it could have appeared earlier in the season, and it seems like it's hardly doing any groundwork for the finale. I can understand Jenn's and Deb's suspicions about this season's direction better now. But I think the way its been shot and the wedding scenario also give strong grounds for an alternate viewing: this is how the characters are when they allow themselves be less disciplined (the way Abed makes this documentary then extends to the group) and when the smoother way Community is usually shot is absent.

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    2. The show hasn't portrayed Jeff's alcoholism as a full-on problem yet since we haven't seen any of its possible consequences on his work or private life.

      I'm going to tackle this one first and say that Jeff snapping and slapping Abed/nearly choking him were both results (the former more so than the latter) of Jeff NOT having a drink that day. You can see him on the bus frantically looking for something to drink, so... yeah. I'm thinking Jeff's behavior has a lot to do recently with his drinking. Plus, dude drinks AT WORK. ALL THE TIME.

      My thoughts of this episode are partially the same as Alan Sepinwall's, in that since it's essentially an untreated, unpolished wedding video which Abed is filming with his keen observational skills, and since those usually can show some guests in very unfavourable light, then this is an alternate, unflinching look at the group outside of normal conditions again.

      I think that's probably the most accurate way to describe this episode. And it's probably why I had so many problems with it -- not that I want it to be perfect or entirely polished, but still.

      Where is the hope, you will ask? In the most unlikely place, Chang. The group realizes (again) that their collective egoism can make them all pretty unbearable, especially if they do not monitor themselves.

      Okay... but the problem, right, is that we keep cycling around the SAME loose "moral" every episode recently. How many times can the group keep being terrible until they learn their lesson for real? Shouldn't they have learned it in "Basic Email Security"? Or even before then? Why are they consistently terrible these days? What, exactly, will it take for them to finally change?

      I don't think this is a perfect episode: if not for Chang's arc it could have appeared earlier in the season, and it seems like it's hardly doing any groundwork for the finale.

      Yeah, it's really weird that all of these episodes seem like they're not leading toward anything. *sigh*

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  5. This episode was horrible. They basically threw every character under the boss. They don't really care about characters or stories anymore. (e.g. at the start of the episode Abed tells Jeff that "he had a funny look on his face but it has no follow up.) I would like to think that Jeff is in love with Annie (5.13 Basic Sandwich + Dan Harmon confirming it) and this whole drinking problem is because he doesn't want to/can't let go. (e.g. Jeff actually talked to Abed about this! Right after trying to choke him! HE TRIED TO CHOKE ABED DURING SOME POINT OF THE SAME SEASON.) But if the writers keep ignoring what these characters want or would want, who am I to talk? Why did Jeff have a funny look on his face? I mean, will anything ever be addressed this season? There is only one episode left of this season and it's highly unlikely they will be able to address anything in one episode.

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    1. Anon, thank you for your comments and I agree with you wholeheartedly.

      (e.g. Jeff actually talked to Abed about this! Right after trying to choke him! HE TRIED TO CHOKE ABED DURING SOME POINT OF THE SAME SEASON.)

      Yeah. Lest we all forget, THAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED THIS SEASON. Everything on this show is so messed up and nothing makes any sort of sense. None of the characters are good or endearing anymore. How depressing is THAT as we head toward the end of the season and potentially series?

      I mean, will anything ever be addressed this season?

      N O P E. At least that's my best guess.

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    2. Is it weird that I kind of think that Jeff trying to choke Abed as a high point of the season?

      Not that I like that Jeff was trying to choke Abed, but I did like that Jeff trying to choke Abed was a result of him having a crisis. He was feeling something, it meant something, it felt like the show was going to take off into an interesting and more substantial direction because they reveal that Jeff is unhappy at Greendale not because he thinks it's beneath him, but because he thinks he's "less than" all the people around him. Suddenly he's realizing that he's not meant for the great things he's always been able to talk his way into - he's just a middle-aged college teacher (not professor, technically) without a love life to speak of, with a bunch of friends who keep leaving him behind and a bunch of others who, he thinks, inevitably must leave him behind, since he's now trapped at Greendale professionally.

      So, yeah - Jeff going crazy and turning on Abed was probably where my interest peaked this season, but they haven't done much to follow through with what they set up there. There have been bits and pieces, but they've been these fragile little maybe-that's-a-hint things. Like you say, Anon: what was Jeff's "funny look" about? I'm not asking the show to connect the dots for me, but… I don't know, maybe give me a few more dots to connect myself? Make the dots a bit bolder so I can tell if they're dots or just flecks of dirt that got on my metaphorical piece of paper, here?

      This is a show that pulled off a three-season "Beetlejuice" joke and a callback to a small, insignificant freeze-frame joke about Britta getting a used iPod in 2014, but it can't put a little more effort into the "big picture" stuff throughout season six?

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    3. It does feel like they've been skimming the surface all season, with hardly any depth or emotions anywhere--unless it's the group angrily turning on each other again. All the group hugs are nice, but they feel like bandages slapped on festering wounds. My favorite thing about this show used to be the "if you have friends, you have family" theme, and how these people were flawed and imperfect but they loved and supported each other anyway. This season I've found myself wondering why on earth they're all still friends, because they don't even seem to like each other half the time. :-\

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    4. This is a show that pulled off a three-season "Beetlejuice" joke and a callback to a small, insignificant freeze-frame joke about Britta getting a used iPod in 2014, but it can't put a little more effort into the "big picture" stuff throughout season six?

      *slow claps*

      It really does just seem like the show stopped caring about its characters somewhere between season five and season six. Like, for Dan, maybe if he just stopped trying, the show would fall apart once and for all and the fans would give up trying to save it and release him from his shackles or something? IDK, man. All I know is I just don't want this to become a HIMYM thing -- where the later seasons taint my enjoyment of the earlier ones -- but it's looking like we're chugging away in that direction.

      It does feel like they've been skimming the surface all season, with hardly any depth or emotions anywhere--unless it's the group angrily turning on each other again. All the group hugs are nice, but they feel like bandages slapped on festering wounds. My favorite thing about this show used to be the "if you have friends, you have family" theme, and how these people were flawed and imperfect but they loved and supported each other anyway. This season I've found myself wondering why on earth they're all still friends, because they don't even seem to like each other half the time. :-\

      Bethany, I literally could not have said it better myself. Once upon a time, this show focused on friendship and family. But now? Now... it doesn't even feel like these people really like each other. It feels like everything is forced and I don't like that.

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  6. Hmm, Jen, I haven't seen the episode yet because I am feeling no urgency to see the rest of this season but I just wanted to say, I can immediately tell that you are upset when there are New Girls gifs every paragraph. I love that while also wishing you enjoyed the ep/season more these days.

    Maybe I'll get around to watching it but either way I'll be here to read your review of the finale cause it's always worth it. Good luck!

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    1. That's how you KNOW it's a bad episode, Becca. My dislike is directly proportional to the number of angry/frustrated New Girl GIFs used. ;)

      I wouldn't even bother with this season, seriously. There's not even remotely enough good in it to outweigh the bad and the horrible and the awful characterization. But come back next week for fun times with me and Deb. ;)

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  7. I just stumbled across this review so this is my first time reading the site but this:

    "Yes, Annie is a controlling person. She plans. She likes order and spreadsheets and that’s how she makes sense of the world. She also used to see people as projects – as things to be fixed, made more like her, more like her ideals."

    ...appears to kind of sum up the author's attitudes in relation to the show as far as I can tell (that is, they are the same as Annie's - former - attitudes about other people). And, while the author appears to insist that Annie should have been beyond this by now, the author isn't in relation to the show. It's a bit baffling in that regard but helps explain the fixation upon Annie and where she's headed.

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    1. So you're saying the author of this review should not care about the characters being regressed and bringing out the worst in each other? She should just smile and put out a thumbs up regardless of what crap Harmon gives her? Kind of like a zombie who just nods and approves of everything?

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    2. No. I am expressing confusion at the seeming lack of self-awareness on the part of the author.

      If one party thinks that a second party obsessing over their own views to the point of wishing to impose them on others as a form of "fixing" others is a problem and insists that, since the second party had previously seemed to move beyond that, they must (or plainly should) be beyond it now...it seems odd that the original party would simultaneously obsess over their own views or frame of reference when attempting to impose that onto others in order to "fix" things or point out the issues that need fixing (in the apparent hope that they be fixed or, if not that, a self-involved explanation that still falls in line with that sort of, "It's broken so it must be fixed by adhering to MY frame of reference or else it's bad."-mentality). It begins to come across as "do as I say, not as I do" reasoning.

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  8. Well, that was weird. I’ve watched it, read the review and comments and am still thinking about it – and honestly still have no idea if I liked it or not. It was certainly difficult to watch in places and unsparing in how it showed the group in an unflattering light, but I think overall I agree with Matt. Yes, it was bitter, yes it was cringeworthy in places, but overall – it was frequently very funny, with excellent performances from Keith David and Paget Brewster and even Garrett getting some heartwarming scenes for once (his vows were genuinely sweet) and even getting to be the hero of his own story, albeit with an assist from Chang of all people.

    So, let’s talk about some of the other points raised instead...

    Jeff’s drinking. I know I’ve raised concerns about this in the past, but I don’t think what we see in this episode justifies the furore. Granted, this may be a cultural thing – it seems that half the British people I know who have visited the USA come back with an anecdote about drinking in a bar and the staff staging a concerned intervention after a level of alcohol consumption that would pass entirely without notice over here (and if you think the British are bad you should try drinking with Germans. And if you think the Germans are bad you should try drinking with Russians. And if you think the Russians are bad, you should try drinking with Serbians – actually, never try drinking with Serbians; I did once and was lucky to get out alive and without needing a liver transplant. But I digress...). So it may just be you guys have a more stringent definition of what counts as problematic. That said –

    So there are three reasons that the moment Annie gives Jeff a drink so willingly and gleefully offend me:...

    Any way you interpret that scene is offensive, really, and if someone would like to venture into the comments and try to defend it or the writers, I would gladly debate you. It’ll probably end with me throwing (very soft) items at you though, so be forewarned.


    Warning duly received and armour donned. And whereas I wouldn’t dream of defending the writers, I do feel duty bound to point out you may have missed the most obvious explanation of all –

    4. It was a pre-wedding party at which drinks were flowing freely (the girls had already started knocking back cocktails before the boys even arrived) and Annie was a host who noticed one of her guests was lacking a drink and gave him one and the giggling was because it was on camera. As Sigmund Freud didn’t say, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

    If you really want evidence for Jeff’s incipient alcoholism you should rather focus on his drinking in class. But even then, there was a *lot* of ice in his glass – serious Scotch drinkers do not have ice in their drink, at most they have a few drops of water in it to activate the flavour. And how do we know this? It’s a direct quote from Jeff in “Mixology Certification” – he knows you don’t drink Scotch with ice. That he is doing so nevertheless is arguably a mark of somebody cutting down his intake, not increasing it.

    (To be continued)

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  9. (Continued)

    And Annie. Cards on the table time – I defer to no-one in my affection for the character of Annie Edison. I said last week she was easily the show’s most interesting and multilayered character and I stand by that (I would even go so far as to say she is probably the most interesting and multilayered character in any show I’m currently watching. Only Oliver and Felicity (Arrow) come close, but my theory that their relationship is basically Jeff and Annie done right is an essay for another day). But when we acknowledge that we need to also acknowledge that some of the layers are not going to be very nice or comforting, such as her need to control, to fix, to make the world safe. This is something that has been a recurring theme this season by the way – 6x04 saw her trying to “fix” Chang (and her sadness when he grew beyond her) and 6x05 saw her trying to “control” Britta (all hail Annie) and Abed (or at least contain him). Jeff is actually the only one of the core group she hasn’t tried to control or fix this season. In fact, the scene Jenn screencaps is pretty much the only one since milady/milord (assuming “I love you” in “Intro to recycled cinema” doesn’t count, anyway) to make it clear that Annie still has any feelings at all for Jeff.

    One other thing about that scene (and this is where I go off the deep end in wild theorising...) but it’s made clear that Frankie doesn’t like the idea of Annie having feelings for Jeff at all. The default assumption (and quite likely the correct one, to be fair) is that she is looking out for Annie here. However there is another way of looking at it. Last week, there was a lot of discussion about how out of the blue Jeff’s sudden respect for Frankie was. What was completely overlooked though was the also out of the blue signs that Frankie was attracted to Jeff – she basically crowns him as the leader of Greendale; goes out of her way to complement how good he looks in a tux (granted, he does...) – and more intriguingly she looks visibly nervous saying it; and finally she changes the rule about firing staff taking part in paintball when it’s clear that if she sticks to it she will have to fire Jeff. Hostility to the Jeff/Annie relationship could be about eliminating a rival, not just protecting a protege.

    Oh, and then this episode ends with that strange group hug/slow dance where Annie and Frankie are jammed together side by side and Jeff has his arm around the both of them. Nothing weird there, no siree. But I’m probably biased – my second ever comment on this blog did advance the theory that Frankie had been introduced as basically a more age-appropriate Annie for Jeff’s affections, after all. Take that how you will.

    And one final weird thing – Abed and Annie are making sexy videos now? What the heck? No, nothing strange or inappropriate going on there either...

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    1. Richard, I am not fully on board with the idea that Frankie is meant to be a romantic interests for Jeff, but the rest of this is really compelling. I think Frankie’s comments have to be tempered because of her general assessment of Jeff, and I agree the classroom drinking is the worst part. I do want to speak to this season’s subtle moments for Jeff and Annie, but I can't speak for all of the nations you mentioned and their drinking prowess. I can attest to the Germans I have experienced. Americans are clearly in a lightweight category and scotch with lots of ice is just a watered down disappointment waiting to happen.

      What we really know about Frankie is her hyper-rational approach to problems. Annie isn't competition. She is a younger, kindred spirit, and what she sees in Annie's relationship to Jeff is relationship that to her appears to be bad for both Jeff and Annie. That is really one of the new insights of this episode. We have known all along that the group, including Jeff, thought a relationship with Annie was bad for her, but here we have Frankie suggesting that the relationship is bad for Jeff. Frankie is hyper-rational, and she sees Jeff's narcissistic and self-destructive nature as unfixable and unwittingly enabled by Annie. However, she isn’t really good at human relationships. She was stoned (ninja rocks were thrown) because of her inability to interact in the past. That isn’t the voice of a relationship guru. I think that lots of relationships spend time waffling between co-dependence and synergy, and the longer the relationship goes the more likely there will be times when the relationship needs to change for both parties. I hope they are there, and they get there, reasonably, in the finale.

      100% agree with Jeff drinking in class. In fact, the entire Jeff-as-a-teacher has been a sore spot for me. I teach. Now, yes, I would get fired for drinking on the job, but I would just as quickly get fired for not teaching something. This is my dead horse, but it needs another whack, but one of Harmon’s bad habits is insulting various professions. Arguably the professions treated the best are Officer Cackowski and whatever they are calling Frankie’s job, but the rest are either evil (lawyers, air conditioning repairmen) or hopelessly pathetic (Duncan teaching anthropology, the Dean, and Jeff teaching law). Maybe Jeff wouldn’t be so afraid if he could find value in his work like he did when he was good at being a lawyer. Being good at being a teacher has made many very, very content.

      I do want to point out that there has been a lot of subtle nods to Jeff and Annie’s dynamic this season. Jeff doesn’t want Frankie back until Annie gets hurt. He’s the one that helps her after Chang’s performance. When Britta points the paintball gun at Jeff, Annie is the first to take aim at her in his defense, and there seemed to be a dozen moments of eye contact that they have first before the rest of the group (he even falls with her when the RV stops). There seems to have been a plan in place. I just hope they don’t blow it with the fans.

      And in general, I agree with Richard (and I wish I would write as well).

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    2. Spot on regarding the contempt for professions. This season has also taken its swipes at directors and actors (again), which always strikes me as mean-spirited on the part of writers.

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    3. I don't know that Frankie is consciously pursuing Jeff, but they do have chemistry. She's age-appropriate and height-appropriate for him, and she looks quite a bit like Slater. And it certainly wasn't Annie's chair that he had his arm draped over during the bridesmaid's speech. Oh, I see it too.

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    4. To steal Jeff's line from Paradigms of Human Memory, "It's called chemistry. I have it with EVERYBODY!"


      She does look like Slater and Annie, but her character is socially so awkward I don't think she knows what is happening.

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  10. Why did Jeff start drinking so heavily this season? Because the group he's known for so long has been fractured so heavily over the last year or so. At the drop of a hat, Pierce died, Troy left to sail around the world, Shirley left to take care of her father (just like Yvette Nicole Brown), and Hickey either died, or more likely (based on the wording of the lunch lady's email, and the fact that he helped Abed with his movie (for some reason referred to as a friend who's an ex-cop)) started a funeral business. Because this stuff forces him to realize that any one of his friends could be the next to go, while he's still stuck at Greendale, in a job he obviously doesn't care for. This point is stressed when the unstable/crazy Chang, and the loser Garrett both managed to do something big with their lives, with Chang's (admittedly temporary) acting career, and Garrett's marriage.

    I think that the group as a whole has gone through something similar. The group that everybody has come to rely on so much to help them fill holes in their lives, and help them (at least try to) improve, has basically been smashed to pieces, and glued back together in a very different way. Like a glass, vase, or something that goes through something similar, it's still beautiful in its own way, but the fragility is much more plain to see than before (and in a way, it's even *more* fragile than before). And it has affected all the pieces of the group in a negative way: Jeff drinking, Abed losing his grip on reality and forcing the meta stuff more heavily than he has in recent seasons ("Three weeks later"), and Annie resorting to enabling Jeff.

    All this is not to say that you're wrong about how you feel about all this. The group *is* much more messed up this season. These characters *are* in a darker place than before. And those are things that not everyone will like in a comedy, especially one that has established itself as something different for 5 seasons. But for me, it's a very interesting direction to take the show, which actually embraces the changes to the show, rather than ignore them.

    All that being said, my appreciation for the way they've addressed the changes within the group strongly hinge on the way they address it in the finale. It's not enough to have these issues in response to the changes. They need to get these characters to a point where they're willing to admit their issues to themselves, and actually be willing to try and fix themselves, rather than continue this downward spiral.

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  11. Two things I just noticed. Annie enjoyed Britta's misery cleaning the catbox. As the person who cleans the kid's cat's catbox, I can relate. Someone else cleaning their pet's catbox in my house is its own level of bliss. Also, the group really seemed to be together in this episode. I know that Jen has made the point of how some of the hugs seemed forced. I liked this one, and I thought Elroy and Frankie had a place in it they earned.

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    1. I enjoyed the catbox scene a lot too. Britta whimpered, but she got the job done.

      I'm glad the writers finally remembered the cats. For me, the disabled cats were the key to Britta's character: her life had turned out the way it had because she was always investing herself in lost causes. Remember in Season 1, when we knew she was almost broke, and she unhesitatingly wrote a cheque for Abed's film class tuition? Remember Blade? Remember when Levar Burton told her she was a good person, but stupid with money? I really liked that Britta, the one who was torn between her innate generosity and her need to protect herself from being taken advantage of over and over again. I never really forgave Jeff for taking advantage of her.

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    2. I never blamed Jeff for his relationship with Britta. They were with each other because they had an attraction to each other and keeping it from the group was exciting. They are done by season 2, and they always framed it as a convenience for both of them.

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    3. This. There was nothing exploitative about Jeff’s relationship with Britta – they were two grown ups who liked each other were physically compatible but in no sense in love, a classic friends-with-benefits scenario, and they made a mutual decision to stop when it stopped being clandestine and therefore exciting. Arguably the only person hurt by that relationship was Annie, and that was because of her unrealistic expectations of the sort of person Jeff was at that time.

      (From further upthread)
      Now, yes, I would get fired for drinking on the job, but I would just as quickly get fired for not teaching something.

      Fully agree with you on this point, it’s especially annoying as, we’ve discussed previously, Jeff was actually shaping up well when he first started back in season 5. And what’s even more annoying was that Jeff explicitly mentions this episode passing a standards inspection from the city’s education department – presumably they have a special “good enough for Greendale” rating.

      Arguably the professions treated the best are Officer Cackowski and whatever they are calling Frankie’s job

      I know the type, we get enough of them where I work. It’s a subspecies of management consultant that tends to go by various martial labels – troubleshooter, hired gun, tiger team, that sort of thing. Basically someone brought in on a short term contract to turn around a failing organisation and then leave again. I’ve no idea what Frankie’s specific job description is though.

      (Oh, and for the sake of completion on the drinking thing, according to people who know more about this than I do, the absolute worst people to get drunk with are the Finns. I’ve never got drunk with Finns though, so can’t speak from experience – though it can fairly be said that if the Russians are scared of you, then you’re pretty hard core.)

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  12. Just a heads up but this review is being discussed on the community subreddit. You might already be aware due to analytics but I thought I would let you know anyway. Public domain or not I think you deserve to know people are talking about you.

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    1. Anon, thanks for the heads up. I did notice a spike in my analytics coming from Reddit. And actually, I perused the subreddit (or thread? idk what it is called because I have NO idea how Reddit works) and was actually surprised to see pretty positive comments about the review.

      btw: the use of the New Girl GIFs is an inside joke -- if you read the "Basic Email Security" review, you'll know that I use New Girl reaction GIFs in these reviews when I get really upset. ;)

      But thanks to all the Redditers (is that the right term?) for reading. Even if you disagree. Also thanks for thinking that I'm a professional TV critic. While our site has gained the attention of a lot of people over the years, I still don't get paid to do this or pay any of my writers. 100% of these pieces are things we write in addition to our normal 9-5 jobs, school, etc. :)

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  13. Of course the Jeff/Britta thing was exploitative. Just because she claimed to be exploiting him right back doesn't change anything. In the real world, we know that's never true -- it's just one of the pair saving face.("Really, I'm okay with this," says the vampire victim in the closet.)

    But from an artistic point of view, the two years of lingering glances that led up to the revelation/cancellation of their relationship mean that this stupid and facile dismissal was not artistically justified. Honestly, sometimes I think ol' Harmon makes his story decisions like a Dungeon Master, with the roll of a dice.

    You can't help but feel for Gillian Jacobs, who signed up to play the leading lady at the outset, and then was reduced to playing a one-joke minor character whose name became a synonym for "mistake". All because Britta slept with Jeff. If that's what sex with Jeff does to a girl, Annie would be well-advised to keep her distance!

    For a comedy that claimed to be subverting tropes, Community sure seemed to be stuck on The Three Things Women Can Be: Mother, Virgin, Whore (Shirley/Frankie, Annie, Britta). And because of that, Jeff is conflicted about Annie. He has sexual feelings for her, but also feelings of regard and tenderness -- and in his mind, and in the mind of this show, those feelings are mutually exclusive. Sex (and marriage) can't express tenderness, love and respect in this show -- sex only expresses contempt. It's a dirty thing that you do with people you don't care for, Jeff tells us, and marriage is for stupid people, Jeff tells us, so how can he ever do those things to Annie the Angel?

    It's Jeff's failure to integrate these things -- or anything -- that has this show bogged down. It means he can't integrate love and marriage, or work and employment, or morality with politics. It's like he's thirsty for water, but won't drink because cups are sometimes cracked and rivers are sometimes polluted. I would rather that he made smart-ass jokes as he fixed the cup and cleaned the river than that he simply die of thirst.

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