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Friday, April 27, 2012

3x17 "Basic Lupine Urology" (Or: Things You Learn At Greendale)

"Basic Lupine Urology"
Original Airdate: April 26, 2012

Greendale Community College is kind of an absurd place. But the beauty is that, within the absurdity, there's something tangible -- there are lessons that are integral to life outside the four walls of the school. There are people there who will forever change the lives of one another, for better or for worse. And in a place that's so full of wacky shenanigans, paintball wars, space buses, and legal trials over a Biology project, there's still this question lingering: what IS crazy? Is craziness defined by how many dances your school holds? Or how often the dean bursts into your study room wearing a ridiculous outfit? Because, if so, Greendale is the most insane place on Earth. But what if... what if that's not what it means to be crazy? What if Greendale is actually sane? (This might be a stretch for some of you to agree to, so let's backpedal and ask this question instead: what if there were a place where students needed to go to in order to learn about themselves and others, while under the guise of NOT learning?) Sometimes it's easy to forget that, for all of these characters, Greendale has changed them. Not because it's anything special, necessarily. It doesn't have magical powers. It's simply WHAT they need. It's where they need to be. It's where they belong.

This episode opens with the narration: "Greendale Community College is represented by two separate but equally important types of people: the goofballs that run around stirring up trouble and the eggheads that make a big deal out of it." I love this opening for reasons that are two-fold. First, it is - of course - an homage to the opening of Law & Order (which I will discuss momentarily). But also, this is a clear representation of Greendale as a whole and the people within it. Even within a study group, we get the distinction between the two types of people mentioned. And I think that for a lot of students who attend the school, Greendale is a place they need to be because the world outside is scary. And somehow, going through blanket fort wars and stolen pens makes life bearable because it gives them a break from thinking about things that weigh on their minds all day, every day. It's a place that does, however, teach lessons. We're about to learn how Greendale has changed Jeff as a character, and how Professor Kane has changed Greendale.

Now, I'll be completely honest with you -- I was never a Law & Order girl. I think that I have watched every other crime show on television except for the one that truly started it all (it's a shameful fact that I need to remedy, especially after watching this episode). However, the fact that I have not really watched the show doesn't mean that I appreciated or enjoyed this episode any less. Sometimes parodies or homages seem heavier than they are. And what I mean is that they can very easily weigh down the plot of an episode -- if you focus too hard on creating an homage, you may lose the importance of the plot. And thus, the homage itself could be completely flawless, but at the sacrifice of good writing or cohesiveness. I am very proud to say that this is, hands down, my favorite homage episode to date on the show (or any other show). Megan Ganz - the fabulous writer of the episode - worked the homage around the plot, not vice versa. (Or at least, that's how it felt.) If you loved the episode and are on Twitter, go and write her some nice things: @meganganz. As such, this blog-review is basically a love letter to her for writing a hilarious and flawless episode.

So, you're probably waiting for me to recap the plot of the episode. And since I always aim to please, here goes: this episode centers around Biology class (remember that the study group actually does go to class... at some point) and their final project -- growing a yam. It opens with two janitors (hello, janitor-who-tried-to-recruit-Troy-and-whose-name-I-don't-know!) discovering a smashed project on the floor. As it turns out, it's the study group's yam. Around midnight, Jeff and Professor Kane are alerted by Annie to come to the study room, and the rest of the group shortly follows. The entire episode becomes a Law & Order-style homage to try and discover who ruined their science project.

I quite enjoyed the return of Professor Kane, and his presence throughout the episode. Here's why -- when we first meet the professor in "Biology 101," he's from the 'outside' world. He's the first character who means something to the group and has an impact on them but has not been within the walls of Greendale for years on end. He brings a new perspective on life and makes the study group think about (and suffer for) their actions. Jeff, never one to be taught a lesson willingly, instantly believes that Professor Kane has it out for him. And I've said this numerous times, but the study group -  our study group - thinks of themselves as the wheel and spokes that Greendale turns on. This isn't true, and Professor Kane is meant to bring them back to reality in his first appearance of the season. And he manages to do so quite well. This episode is intriguing though because we get to examine him more as a character -- as someone who genuinely cares about the study group now, but who is also just and fair. A lot of the characters we have seen throughout the seasons seemingly care about the study group, but often not enough to help them grow and become better people. I don't think a professor has actually TAUGHT them anything substantial about life... until now.

Shirley gets a chance to shine in this episode, as she immediately takes on the role of the "chief" in the crime-show homage. She explains that she's watched a lot of television and knows how to handle herself in this situation, so she appoints Troy and Abed as her detectives. And I love that Shirley gets this role (it's a nice reversal from "The Science of Illusion" where she was basically a rookie cop with Annie). For Annie and Shirley, however, the characters that they channel throughout the episode are very telling in regards to each woman's personality. Shirley has always been a character that others fail to take seriously. And it's not for the same reason that people fail to take Troy seriously. She's not as young as Annie or Britta, but people often forget that she can command and demand just as much respect and attention as anyone else in the group. So there's this part of her that she channels for the role (as well as the cop she played in "The Science of Illusion"), where she places herself in a position of authority and exudes confidence in giving orders. And Troy and Abed (whether because they are "in character" too or just being themselves) respect her and follow her instructions. Shirley is a strong, independent female character and I think that sometimes she loses that about herself and needs to be reminded.

Annie is different because (as Abed notes in "Remedial Chaos Theory") Annie will always be driven. She's a person who, ironically, is just as manipulative and selfish sometimes as Jeff is, except that she is able to mask it behind Disney eyes and cardigans. But when Jeff notices, later in the episode, that she cares more about winning than she does about respecting the people around her, he steps in. Because sometimes Annie lets her ambitions drive her to do things that are against her character. And she needs Jeff -- remember "Investigative Journalism"? Or "Intro to Political Science"? -- to remind her when she's stepped into dangerous territories.

Troy and Abed, as detectives, scour the campus to question potential suspects. They begin with Pierce, who  quickly points them to Todd. And this episode marks the return of our favorite scapegoat. It's easy for the study group to blame all of their problems on an outsider - someone with whom they have no connection. And I have a theory, so bear with me, that up until "Cooperative Calligraphy" (oh look! Another Megan Ganz episode!), the group might have been apt to pinpoint each other as culprits (not just in this yam scenario, mind you). But when Jeff makes the comment to Abed about not being able to trust anyone within the group again if they step outside of the study room without finding Annie's pen, it seems to be a hinge -- from that moment forth, they begin to function as a "group" rather than a set of individuals who study together. In "Early 21st Century Romanticism," it's the entire study group that he texts to declare his love... together. Just something to ponder or mull over.

(As a sidenote, @TweetingKerry mentioned this during the episode, but I truly admire, appreciate, and applaud Megan Ganz for delivering an episode that was an homage but was also chock full of the one-liners and zingers that make Community what it is, at its comedic heart.)

It seems that Troy and Abed aren't making headway with their investigation. The biology lab was locked, Todd points out, and he had to take a picture from outside of the door of his project. This leads the group to discover that Magnitude had a key to the lab the night that the study group's yam was destroyed. Magnitude assures them that his backpack was stolen, with the key inside of it. This leads Troy and Abed to the discovery that Starburns stole the backpack with the key to the classroom in it. And I love that this week, like last, we are returning to a solid Troy and Abed friendship. However... it could be me, but I still sense some disturbances in the force. Two caught my attention. At the beginning of the episode, Abed notes that only one of them can do the zinger, and Troy concedes this to his friend. When the pair do the "Why do they always run?" gag, Troy concedes to Abed again. Again: just throwing out things to ponder and mull over!

Starburns is interrogated by Troy and Abed, but won't admit to squishing their science project. So the pair approach Jeff and Annie (who act as lawyers throughout the episode). And there's this theme throughout the remainder of the episode with Jeff and Annie and ethics. Or, what Jeff likes to call, "softness." Remember that Jeff once actually WAS a lawyer. And from what we gather, he wasn't ethical and he wasn't the type of person who cared if he was or not. But Annie isn't like Jeff and he's shown before that he doesn't want her to become that way. Here's the thing, though: we, the audience, are about to learn that Jeff actually IS a good guy and not the same person he was when he arrived at Greendale. By caring more about Annie forgoing her ethics to win, he proves that he's not the same hotshot ex-lawyer who stepped into Greendale, demanding that Duncan help him cheat his way through college. He's evolved. And the problem is that Jeff is so hard on himself for his mistakes. He spends time trying to make sure other people don't end up like him, but he needs to stop defining himself by who he WAS and who he actually has become, thanks to Greendale and six lovable misfits.

Jeff, slipping into old habits, instructs Troy and Abed to "get justice" by finding out some dirt on Starburns, rather than building up a case. Starburns explains to Troy and Abed why he was in the lab - he was stealing beakers - and makes them promise not to give up his alibi. Instead, he mentions, he noticed that someone else was in there. He heard a smashing sound and noticed that the culprit had cut his hand on glass -- Todd, he insists, is the one who likely did it.

Annie and Jeff are about to convict Todd in front of Professor Kane until Todd's military uncle steps in and takes a hold of the situation. He, as it turns out, is an actual attorney and accuses the group of harassing his nephew. The entire case gets brought to Dean Pelton. And, furthering my theory that Jeff really is harder on himself than he needs to be is the fact that he never gave up Starburns alibi to the dean. This is Starburns, a character who Jeff has never clearly liked nor cared about in the least bit. Jeff has learned integrity, though, and Greendale has taught him that loyalty and trust are more important than winning. He's going to have to remember that, because he'll teach it to Annie later on.

Professor Kane sticks up for the study group and for his students in front of Todd, his uncle, the dean, and Jeff. We see, now, a teacher who genuinely cares in this episode and is only hard on his students because he wants them to reach their full potential. Sure, he may have conversations at Greendale that don't make any sense. And yes, absurd things happen. But he has taken the knowledge he has learned outside of Greendale and hasn't let it embitter him or cause him to become jaded (like our group). He didn't run to Greendale to escape the outside world -- he came to prepare those within it FOR the world outside. He's a just and fair and fantastic teacher.

Jeff and Annie pore over their information in the study room. And, just as it seems like they have an open-and-shut case, Troy and Abed enter to inform them that Starburns was threatened by Todd's uncle and thus, his statement is useless. When Annie is threatened, however, her automatic instinct to win kicks in. Remember "Geography of Global Conflict"? Annie's desire to overpower and overshadow often cloud her judgement, so she needs someone to push her back from the edge. The next day, the case is brought to the Biology class that the study group is a part of. Professor Kane has decided to let his class make the ruling on what grade the study group gets. And Annie, for wanting to be a Health Care Administrator, makes an excellent carbon copy of lawyer!Jeff. She's sweet but crafty and I think that this is what genuinely begins to scare Jeff. Not because she's good (which she is), but because she's like him (or how he used to be, rather). And if there is one thing to note, it's that Jeff is very critical of himself. This is often played for laughs with his vanity and ego, but in an episode like this, it's evident that he doesn't think of himself too highly as a person. (Sidenote: this is part of the reason I believe Jeff/Annie hasn't happened yet.) 

As soon as Annie uses her Disney eyes and a line with "the American citizen," you can see Jeff's face begin to get contemplative and uncomfortable -- Annie is a fast learner and very good at what she does. But it's giving Jeff an outside glimpse into who he used to be, and he can't watch Annie win something at the cost of sacrificing her integrity and goodness. He's already tainted and tarnished, but he wants to do all he can to protect her from that (callback to "A Fistful of Paintballs"). So, when Annie intimidates Todd and gets a confession out of him on the "stand," she celebrates. But Jeff requests a sidebar.

Inside of Kane's office, Jeff explains to Annie that they should just all take a C+ for the project, rather than fail Todd just so they can feel better about themselves. He tells her: "A man's got to have a code." And I love that Kane perks up at this because he makes it very clear that Jeff is not his favorite person. But I think that this is the moment Kane starts to respect him -- clearly Jeff paid attention when the professor made that comment in the dean's office. But, more than that, the words had an actual impact on Jeff and his conscience. And it caused him to do something that he could have just as easily chosen not to do. That's why I love Jeff -- because he doesn't realize how good he actually is. He keeps thinking of himself as that guy we met in the pilot episode, but he's not. And Annie recognizes these words for what they are. It takes her a while, but usually when her actions impact Jeff, she comes to the realization that she was wrong and owns up to it. He reminds her of her morals and values.

Back in the "courtroom," Jeff stares at the yams, wheels in his head clearly turning, before he makes closing remarks. And I love the fact that "Jeff Winger never learns"... is not true. Because he's learned enough in Biology class to know that something is wrong with the yams. As it turns out, all of the projects, when dropped, smash easily. Except for one: Vicki's. It turns out that Neil wanted Vicki's project to do well, so he placed boiling water into the other projects, causing everyone's yams to be compromised.

And then, as Dean Pelton, Annie, Jeff, and Professor Kane are celebrating with scotch in the dean's office, the room is hit with dramatic news -- Starburns was rear-ended, and a meth lab in the trunk of his car exploded. He died.

We don't get very many serious moments, but this was one and I think it left many people in the state that Jeff and Annie were -- looking at one another, merely thinking "what happens now?"

Additional de-lovely aspects about the episode:
- "If it's any consolation, she got me here on a very misleading text message." "Jeff, technically you are about to be screwed in the Biology room because our final project has been destroyed."
- How did I miss Abed's Inspector Spacetime pin? I need that in my life now.
- "I fell asleep in a sunbeam." "Likely story." "Actually, it is. I used to live with him. It's kind of adorable."
- Britta Perry may have only been in one scene, but she STOLE it: "And as you can see, with a few adjustments, I can make the entire image... Old West color!"
- I love when Community foreshadows things. Last week, in the images of "things Abed doesn't know" (among tipping at restaurants and tying shoes), there was an image of a clock. This week, it was revealed that Abed can't tell time.
- "Hey! Knock much?"
- "Objection: that's not a real objection." "Objection: I hate the both of you."
- "We're all fully grown adults failing a Kindergarten project." "Can I object?" "I'll allow it." "Sustained."
- "Holy crap! We are definitely dissecting pine cones next year!"
- The tag had me in stitches.

Next week we are set to watch an episode titled "Course Listing Unavailable" in which Britta counsels her study group in the aftermath of Starburns' death. Until then, folks! :)

Friday, April 20, 2012

3x16 "Virtual Systems Analysis" (The Psychology of Control)

"Virtual Systems Analysis"
Original Airdate: April 19, 2012

Hi. My name is Jennifer, and I am a control freak. I'll be the first to admit that I like control. A lot. In middle and high school (and even, on the rare occasions during college), we used to get group projects assigned. And I usually enjoyed these to an extent. However, the one thing that always worried me about them was when someone - other than me - was assigned an integral task to do. If they, say, had to hand something in to the teacher or professor, I would squirm. Because the bottom line is that I loved to be the one who would do the important tasks. How else would they get done RIGHT if I didn't do them? Yes, that may sound insane to some of you (to those of you who were the type of person who benefited from my personality, this may be the case) but it's my life. I hate change. It's something that I am cognizant of, at least and that I am attempting to improve. But you weren't really looking for a case study about my life when you clicked whatever link that brought you here, were you? So let's talk about "Virtual Systems Analysis" then. This episode, much like Inception, was multi-layered. I read a lot of comments on Twitter, and some of them hailed this to be one of the more far-fetched episodes of the series. To me, it is the most real. If you want to know, at their cores, who Annie and Abed are, don't watch "For a Few More" or "Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design." While those episodes give us glimpses into each of them as characters, they're merely representing pieces of a whole messy puzzle (yes, these two are messy characters... but the beauty is that so are all of the others). Honestly, I could not have been more pleased with how this episode turned out. 

(Also, just a fair warning: this blog-review is VERY long. Kudos if you make it all the way to the end!)

The plot of the episode (in case you were too busy psychoanalyzing everything like I was) is fairly simple: the group is in their study room, attempting to cram for a biology exam that they have. The Dean, however, announces that Professor Kane is ill, which means their exam has been cancelled. The group and the audience celebrate -- I guess they'll have to learn to study some other time! Jeff decides that this is the perfect opportunity to take a three-hour lunch, and the callback to "Anthropology?"/"Intervention?" from seasons 1 and 2 is flawless. As we noticed in last week's episode, Troy may have a thing for Britta, and Britta has just realized this. And Annie has just realized that she can play matchmaker for the two. Instead of Troy's original plan (which Abed decided for them both) to take the lunch hour and play in the Dreamatorium, Annie decides to send Britta and Troy to lunch and volunteers to spend time with Abed instead. 

And here's where Annie's first decision begins to impact Abed. The whole point of the episode seemingly is to understand Abed better. The irony is that, in doing so, we understand Annie better. That's what's so brilliant about the show - it sets out to seemingly accomplish one thing and ends up accomplishing another. We learn that Annie and Abed's view of relationships is fundamentally different but practically similar. Abed, as we have witnessed this season, is intent on controlling circumstances. His main focus is himself, which causes dissension between him and Troy during the construction of the blanket forts. Annie is used to viewing relationships in a very... romantic light, I believe. She clings to the idea that friendship means thinking about other people over yourself. And essentially, neither of these views is inherently wrong, but it's harder to relate to Abed because it's harder to admit to the part of us that IS like him -- the part that would much rather see others catering to our whims than vice versa. (Think about it: in the last 24 hours, when have you refused to do something for someone because it was inconvenient or didn't fit into YOUR will?) It's much easier to accept Annie's view of the world as truth. It sounds wonderful. But the bottom line is that Annie has often romanticized her relationships to the point where she starts to see people only the way she wants to see them. This creates a disconnect when the people in her life are NOT who she wants them to be, and instead are flawed human beings. Annie's instinct then is "fix" -- to fix the people around her so they are more or less how she wants them to be. And this is never more evident than with Jeff. But more on that later on.

Abed's fear is that he is not needed in the group. And it's a legitimate fear - each group member, I assume, has often wondered whether or not the group could function successfully without them. We've seen that, even the person we are meant to consider the "leader" can be absent and the group carries on ("Remedial Chaos Theory"). Do Abed's fears justify his actions? By no means, of course, is controlling someone the right way to respond to your insecurities. And while it doesn't make Abed's actions right, it does make them a bit more understandable and perhaps even relatable.

Abed and Annie play in the Dreamatorium, except that - to Abed - Annie isn't playing "right" or up to par. The real reason he is upset with her, however, is because she set Britta and Troy up on a date. And I think it's interesting that Annie is called out by Abed for tampering with "the fabric of the group." It's interesting mainly in its irony. Annie is not the type of person who traditionally meddles in other peoples' lives, necessarily. But she IS the person who cares about the well-being and stability of others, and perhaps the only person in the group who plans life just as much as Abed does. Abed would never call himself out on tampering with the fabric of the group but... isn't that what keeping Troy to himself is? Isn't he, in doing so, preventing Troy from making deeper connections within the study group? Abed is, at his core, selfish because he CAN be (having a disability often causes people to overlook some of your slights, or - in the very least - downplay or excuse them). No one stops him in the group. But his manipulation is inconspicuous, unlike how he views Annie's.

And here's the thing -- selfish people usually always start out with good intentions. Abed doesn't want to prevent Troy from ever having fun or cause him to forgo every other relationship in his life. But Abed sees the world like a set of scales. After everything that the group has gone through, he presumes that they have finally reached an equilibrium -- a balance, if you will. He knows though that one extra weight on either side could tip the scales. And once a scale tips, he can no longer control it. And that's what scares Abed, deep down. Because if his calculations are wrong and he has invested all of his time and energy into preserving them and developing scenarios and running through scenes... what is there that he has left? What good is he to the group if he can't be "in control"? Because that's the thing with control -- it's an illusion. No one ever REALLY has control over anything. Think about this morning: did you have control over what you would wear? You seemed to, right? But you didn't really -- you could only choose from what you had in your closet or available closest to you. And even if you went out and bought clothes, you didn't have control over those. You could only buy what was in the store, at the price that the store said it would be, etc. Control is an illusion that we love so much and cling to. It's the feeling that somehow our lives are run by us and that gives us comfort in an unsettling world -- in a world we can't understand.

Abed mimics a simulation, explaining to Annie that Britta and Troy's date will not go well (which, at the end of the episode, we realize is not true -- they actually have a good date). I think that the idea that Abed views the group objectively is interesting as well. Clearly this isn't the case, unless Abed truly IS a robot (maybe that is how Dan Harmon will end the series! Gasp!). What he doesn't realize (and what Annie actually does, to a dangerous extent) is the impact of relationships on lives. Abed thinks that he can take a step away from a relationship and view it without any obstruction. This is impossible, however, because once you have an emotional or relational tie to something, no matter how insignificant, that tie exists (i.e. the pencil example that Jeff gave in the pilot episode, which Abed reacted to). The idea that we can be completely logical and lack emotion is one extreme. The other extreme - where Annie usually lies - is using emotions primarily as a guiding force in relationships. Again, neither is inherently wrong, but an excess of either is dangerous.

Troy calls Annie and asks how Abed is doing. Annie, frustrated by how Abed is treating her explains: "He's fine. He always will be. People bend over backwards to cater to him." Once Annie re-enters the Dreamatorium, she decides that she is going to teach Abed to not be robotic and logical, but empathetic. The catalyst then, for the rest of the events is the idea that (as I stated before) Annie believes emotions and relationships are primarily about thinking of other people more than you think about yourself. It's not bad, but it has the potential to be when implemented in someone who ONLY thinks logically. A complete shift in personality can be jarring and detrimental.

Annie, however, breaks Abed by causing him to only think of other people. Immediately, in this new "role," Abed assumes the character of Jeff. And I think that it's interesting that Abed imitates Jeff and decides that this is the best person to imitate when he awakes in Annie's emotional/empathetic world. But it's even more telling that he assumes (later on) that Annie only wants Jeff and nothing else out of the group. It's a brash and bold statement to make, and one that Annie dismisses. Abed-as-Jeff reveals that, in Annie's dream world (remember how she wanted to go to a world that she knew, early on? We are now in it.), Abed doesn't exist because nobody needs him.

And it's quite sad that Abed feels like nobody needs him... that the group would continue to exist, perhaps better, if he was absent. There's this notion, this almost-jealousy that asserts its prevalence in the Dreamatorium world, from which Abed narrates. And I feel like this is why he has the characters he is imitating act the way that they do. There's an idea there that everyone has needs and functions but that if his (logic and calculations) are taken away from him, he'll be left with nothing more to offer. The fact that he believes Annie does what she does in the group and acts the way that she does (because he thinks she loves Jeff) is also telling -- Abed nearly equates love with selfishness at this point. He thinks that love only works when people do things for you, or when you "get" as much as you can from a relationship. When Annie asks him to get the files, he does so only because she promises something to him-as-Jeff in return. And that intrigues me, because it means that Abed thinks Jeff and Annie's relationship (or any relationship with love) is just a constant game of "who owes whom" -- that it's not about wanting to do something for someone without asking for much in return. It's the idea that love can only be love (in Abed's mind) if one party is always doing something to gain the other's affection or obedience.

Annie insists that she finds Abed in this weird, hospital world. So she pleas: "Enough games. Just take me where I want to go." And here we begin the fun portion of my diatribe: Annie! One of the most wonderful, endearing things about Annie to me is that I can relate to her. She's like me. She was born and raised in a world that was less-than-perfect. This is a woman who battled addiction and a broken family. And so there is this hope that she clings onto in her relationships -- the the naive hope that if you care about people, they will love you back and not hurt you. And maybe that's why Annie believes she doesn't love Jeff - because (she has made it very clear in the past few episodes) Jeff hurt her. It's interesting that she goes back to "Pascal's Triangle Revisited" in this episode, after subtly mentioning her bitterness in "Digital Exploration of Interior Design." Why would she go back to a moment that Jeff has ignored? Perhaps because (like she later states), she keeps replaying the moment in her mind and expecting different results. That, by the way, is the definition of insanity. And it's not this idea that Jeff can never love or that Annie can never love anyone. But it's better to view the world, sometimes, the way you want to rather than the way it actually is. But that is dangerous, too, because the world doesn't operate according to your or my standards or practices. For Annie, she wants clarity - we've seen that in "Asian Population Studies" and again through simulated!Jeff. She wants answers that the real Jeff either doesn't have or has and is not willing or able to give. And that frustrates her. Because how can she plan and control if she doesn't know what to plan and control for?

And it's interesting that Abed believes that with him gone, there would be nothing to stop Britta/Troy and Jeff/Annie from happening -- and he believes that this is exactly what Annie WANTS. That her quest for empathy is really a desire to serve her OWN needs. Because that is how Abed operates, no? But Abed's beliefs are subverted by Annie's next statement: "You are NOT Jeff. Because Jeff CARES about Abed." Annie then refuses to stay in the "Pascal's Triangle Revisited" moment. I think this speaks more volumes about her than anything else -- she's learned that she can't stay in that moment forever. She can't live in a past moment because emotions, while beneficial, cannot be handled the way she handles them sometimes - she clings to the "magic" of the moment so much so that she doesn't remember to live in the reality of the next.

Annie admits to Abed-as-herself that she doesn't love Jeff. She says: "We're just in love with the idea of BEING loved. And if we can teach a guy like Jeff to do it, we'll never be unloved." To me, this means that Annie wants to feel safe... and in her own admission, she wants to control people in order to make them love her. It's not as outright and manipulative as a lot of other things can be. Nevertheless, she's beginning to become less romanticized with how she views Jeff. She knows that he's flawed and she's come to accept that about him... but only to an extent. Like her story in "Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps," we realize that Annie still desires to "fix" Jeff. And I think that she knows that you can try to fix someone all you want, but that doesn't mean they will love you or "work" the way you want them to. People aren't toys or robots. But Annie is hung-up on the notion that if she can teach or "train" Jeff to love her, then she can never feel unloved again. But is that real love? I think that Annie's admission is her coming to accept that people have to find love on their own. And while it seems like she's given up on Jeff coming to that realization on his own as it pertains to her, I think it's refreshing for her to acknowledge that she needs to stop trying to force emotions on people or get them to act a certain way.

And then, we come to the heartbreaking realization in the Dreamatorium that Abed believes if his friends put him anywhere in their lives, they'd put him in a locker, chained to the wall. And while part of me is apprehensive to fall too much into pitying him (only because of his selfishness and manipulation this season), it's hard to not feel bad. But Annie explains to him what I did earlier -- Abed's calculations are like science fiction, brilliant and wonderful but not accurate. Abed is a self-defeatist, determined to be bound to a locker, not because anyone puts him there, but because that is where he THINKS people will put him. At some point. He's just beating them to the punch. And honestly, it's hard to not love Annie who (in spite of her own insecurities, and actually because of them) comforts her friend with the notion that he will never be alone. (Cue A Very Potter Musical's "Not Alone.")

Because as long as you have friends, Jeff explained a while ago, you have family. Families are messy and weird and they hurt each other all of the time. They don't always understand one another, and sometimes they fight... but they're always bound by something bigger than their differences: their similarities.

Additional de-lovely aspects about the episode included:
- I transcribed the entire "truth serum" monologue Troy said. I regret absolutely nothing.
- "Guys, we don't have to cram last minute anymore! Last minute got moved to tomorrow!"
- I have said this in weeks past, but I absolutely LOVE reading the white boards behind the characters. This week's gems included: "Help. I'm being bound in a book factory" and the joke "If the opposite of pro is con, what is the opposite of progress?"
- "Damn our two foot height disparity!"
- "We both need to be more comfortable with winging it."
- "In the montage of things Abed doesn't know, tying his shoes is in there.
- Troy and Abed in the morning!

If you've made it to the bottom of the page... I applaud you. Sincerely. Thank you so much for reading! Next week we get a highly-anticipated episode written by the wonderful and talented Megan Ganz -- "Basic Lupine Urology." It's the Law & Order parody episode, so I am very much excited for this. Until then, folks! :)

Friday, April 13, 2012

3x15 "Origins of Vampire Mythology" (You're Toxic, I'm Slipping Under)

"Origins of Vampire Mythology"
Original Airdate: April 12, 2012

A very wise secondary character once said, of the Greendale study group: "Your love is weird and toxic. And it destroys everything it touches." For the most part, I feel like we - as audience members - brush aside comments like that. "Oh, he's such a Todd," we reason. But it's something to really contemplate when it comes to our relationships with individuals. When does a relationship grow from needing someone to needing someone in an unhealthy way? I think that, if boiled down, this episode is all about the potential for toxicity in relationships - relationships between friends, people we have feelings for, and even ourselves. (Hence the Britney Spears lyrics in today's title.) It's also about how the people who are the closest to you can ironically be the most dangerous people FOR you, if you allow them to be. The fact of the matter is that anything (as I discussed in my "Contemporary Impressionists" review) in excess, can be toxic. Even the best relationships can go awry if we allow them to, especially if you depend on someone to the point of toxicity. "Origins of Vampire Mythology" really allows you to think about these characters and their identities both inside and outside of relationships. We get to see a very vulnerable and desperate side of Britta - one that we are not used to seeing. Pierce, too, is highlighted as the outsider once more. And we get a very interesting glance into Jeff's relationship with himself (and how that unconsciously is affecting his relationship with people around him.)

So, since I usually like to give you all a brief summary of the plot, why not start there? After our two-part pillow and blanket fort war, we're back to a positively established Troy/Abed relationship. And since those episodes already established how their relationship can be toxic, it's refreshing to see the pair back on solid ground throughout the episode. Jeff, too, seems relieved by this. As he watches Troy and Abed do a handshake, he genuinely says: "I never thought I'd miss it." Because, truth be told, he's softening up quite a bit this season, as a character. In terms of emotional growth and development, he has definitely become more in tune with his feelings. However, this episode (as well as with all of the post-hiatus episodes, it seems) highlights Jeff's insecurities and his ego as well.

The Dean enters the room to announce that the carnival is coming to town, which causes Britta to pay attention. As it turns out, she used to date a carnie named Blade (yes, the entire group does make fun of her for that) and he turned out to be the worst thing that ever happened to her... which is why she wants to see him so badly. Honestly, Gillian Jacobs won this entire episode for me. First of all, on a shallow note, she looked absolutely gorgeous. Second, like I mentioned earlier, I enjoy seeing a different, very vulnerable side of Britta. We get some sense as to why she was the way that she was with Jeff - what a desperate character Blade turned her into. And it's interesting, because everyone has someone like that in their life: a person you just can't shake, even when they hurt you. It's an addiction, as Annie says. There are only two real ways to rid yourself of the habit. You can: a) cut that person out of your life for good, or b) confront that relationship and either mend, salvage, or grow from it.

And there are two interesting moments regarding Jeff in the opening scene of the episode, which I think are important later on. First of all, Pierce calls Britta out on having the "King Arthur of bad taste in men," to which Jeff makes a face. Jeff prides himself (literally) on how wonderful he is as a person. Therefore, when someone cuts him down or takes something away from him, or is better at something than he is, he can't deal. Jeff doesn't like being thought of as anything other than wonderful. And as my friend Jaime and I were discussing last night (follow her on Twitter if you don't: @elspunko), it's clear that Britta is only attracted to men who are damaged (we discover later that Blade is quite literally and figuratively so). Thus, it stands to reason that Jeff MUST be damaged in some way, shape, or form in order for Britta to have been attracted to him in the first place. And this is what kills me about Jeff - the sheer irony is the fact that the very thing he thinks makes him so appealing (his vanity), is actually what makes him damaged.

The second interesting moment is when Shirley and Britta inform Annie that some day she'll experience the same thing that they did with a man - that she'll have someone in her life who she constantly runs back to, even though they're toxic for her. But what they don't realize (and what I think Jeff must slightly realize when he says "What does that mean?") is that she already does: Jeff. Something always pulls one or both of them back to the other. The reason that their relationship is so complex and damaged at this point is because they haven't actually resolved whatever is between them. So in order to attempt to resolve this (rather than discussing it), they fight whatever feelings they have and place distance between each other. But they're drawn to each other anyway, so that doesn't work -- they end up right where they started and continue a cycle of this. And (pardon me for jumping ahead momentarily), I think that Jeff realizes that he is Annie's "Blade" toward the end of the episode (and perhaps in the beginning a little bit as well - he looks away when Shirley discusses not being able to shake someone from your system.)

After the study group, Jeff and Annie are hanging outside of his locker, and he performs his mid-afternoon wardrobe change in front of her (stripping off his shirt). And, unbeknownst to him, Jeff's wardrobe change is not helping Annie become the type of person who can shake him from her system (and my argument is that she doesn't want to shake Jeff). But this is the kind of stuff that Jeff does that doesn't help Annie. So really, Jeff has two options: if he wants to help Annie, he can let her go or force HER to let him go (which I don't think he wants to do), or develop their relationship and move it forward (which I don't think he is ready to do).

Britta approaches the pair and begs Annie to help her keep away from Blade. If he calls, she insists, she'll end up running to him. Britta also asks to stay with her, Troy, and Abed for the weekend in order to prevent herself from furthering her addiction to Blade. And, to be honest, it's been way too long since we have had a decent Annie/Britta storyline. I lament the fact that either of them hooked up with Jeff because it ruined their friendship. In season 1, they seemed to be the kind of women who were not super close but COULD be eventually. The opening of season 2, however, seemingly ruined all chances of that occurring. But I love t hat this season seems to redeveloping their friendship into one that resembles a sisterly bond more than anything else. They genuinely do care about one another, even though they pick on each other. My sister and I are seven years apart, which I presume is a little less than the age gap between Annie and Britta. Nevertheless, their bond does slightly remind me of the bond I have with my little sister - we both are polar opposites in nearly every way, and we pick on each other and spat and complain about the other. But at the end of the day, if I ever needed her or vice versa, she's STILL my sister.

And I love that this episode shifted the balance - we see how Annie is the one to help Britta out with her love life. It seems appropriate, given Annie's past (because we sometimes forget that even though she's young, she's gone through a lot more in life than we give her credit for), she knows exactly how Britta will respond to addiction.

While Annie is spending the episode keeping Britta away from Blade, Jeff is curious to get a glimpse of Britta's ex-boyfriend (one who caused her to become so jaded), so he takes Shirley to the carnival with him. The segments between the two of them are interesting because they're meant to give us light into Jeff's train of thought. The only way, he reasons, for Britta to be so affected by someone that isn't him (remember, Jeff's ego is the size of Canada) is if that person has something that Jeff doesn't. In Jeff's mind, it's the only logical explanation - not that Britta is attracted to damaged men, but that she is attracted to something that Jeff didn't have, and he has to know what that is. Because if there's one thing that we've learned Jeff can't stand, it's the idea that someone out there can do something that he cannot (hence why Jeff visits Rich at the end of "Asian Population Studies.")

At the carnival, there is also a Pierce/Chang storyline. I am admittedly not the biggest fan of either of them, to be honest. But this episode really shows how much Chang has evolved (he's no longer dependent on the study group this year) and how much Pierce hasn't (he's still just as insecure as he was last year). So Pierce decides to look outside of the study group for a best friend. And together, I have decided, Chang and Pierce could rule a very scary world.

Back at La casa de Trobed, Britta is beginning to crumble under her addiction. I think that, as much as it was for show in order to get her phone back, Britta does come to appreciate Annie a bit more toward the end of the episode. Annie's plan to get Britta un-addicted to Blade was to hide Britta's cell phone (which the blonde willingly gave to her at the beginning of the episode) and not give it to her. In the midst of this, though, Annie - being the crafty jackrabbit that she is - knows how Britta will react and that she'll crumble. So when the brunette hands the phone back over to her friend, she explains to Troy, Abed, and the dean (who is visiting in order to try and recruit Troy to the Air Conditioning School Repair Annex) that she switched Blade's number in Britta's phone with her own.

Jeff and Shirley are at the carnival and are attempting to discover what exactly it is about Blade that drew Britta in. And Jeff is so consumed with being the best at something, that he wants to be the best at being everything. He accentuates his flaws because (in light of Blade's), he looks better. And that causes him to feel better. I've heard it said that comparison is the enemy of contentment, and I think no one exemplifies this better than Jeff. He's the type of guy who cannot let anyone be more admired or fawned over than him. And even though it's terrible, he has to know what the flaws are in people who others admire more than him (like Rich) AND, in an interesting turn of events here, he wants to know what Blade's secret is in order to make a woman crazy. He can't stand the idea that someone out there has some secret knowledge of the universe that he doesn't possess - be it good or bad.

Shirley is fed up with Jeff's shenanigans, and leaves to go find Pierce. And I honestly felt bad for Pierce - no one, inside of the group or out, will remain his best friend. It's so bittersweet though because, just a moment before Chang and Pierce had their first "fight," Shirley announces that she's going to go find him.

Britta is texting "Blade" (who is really Annie), so Annie decides that she's just going to be mean to Britta (again, acting as "Blade"). Troy and Abed attempt to dissuade her, explaining that Britta is attracted to men who are mean to her. And it kills me that Troy, throughout the episode, cares so much about Britta. Perhaps he has always picked on her because he knows that she likes guys who are mean to her. But I think that - throughout this episode - he realizes he can't treat her like that anymore. Telling someone you care about them can be awful, because it can always backfire. But living a lie every day is so much worse than that because you're only facilitating a toxic relationship. And Troy would never want to be the Blade to Britta - he can't be that guy. And Troy actively decides NOT to be like that at the end of the episode. So when Britta's addiction to Blade finally spirals into levels where Annie cannot help, Troy takes Annie's phone from her and texts something nice to Britta.

(We don't know what he texts, and I don't think we're ever meant to know. But Annie discovers it later by yanking Britta's phone away.)

Back at the carnival, Jeff is driving himself crazy. And he's done that from the beginning of this season, whenever he attempts to "discover" something that is missing in his life. He needs to know how to be the best at everything. He needs to manipulate people so that they will love him. But, if the past two years have taught Jeff anything (and I think they have), it's that you need to be who you are. Because relationships are messy enough as is. When you drag in unrealistic expectations and lies and trying-to-be's, they become toxic.

Jeff actually discovers why Blade is the way that he is and shows up at the apartment after the carnival with the news. Right before this, however, Troy dejectedly walks into the blanket fort (after Britta proclaims that "Blade" was a loser) and Britta, upon learning that she wasn't really texting with Blade at all, decides to run to the carnival to seek him out. Jeff though, explains that the reason Blade is the type of person he is, is because ten years ago, a spare bolt from a Ferris wheel flew off and embedded in his skull. This damaged the part of his brain that felt shame.

Then, Jeff delivers an interesting speech, just as Britta decides to go to the carnival after Blade: "No, woman," he insists. "None of us have to go to anyone. And the idea that we do is a mental illness we contracted from breath mint commercials and Sandra Bullock. We can't keep going to each other until we learn to go to ourselves. Stop making our hatred of ourselves someone else's job and just stop hating ourselves."

And though this speech was intended for Britta, I think Jeff was speaking to himself as well -- I think that this is Jeff's realization that he is like Blade, at least in some way. It sums up the heart of the toxicity of relationships - the fact that people don't deal with what they have going on in their own lives, so they drag their baggage into relationships. There's this moment, after Annie smiles at Jeff, I think he realizes that there IS one woman he's affected in the way that Blade has affected Britta: Annie. And I don't think he wants Annie to ever become like Britta. But the one thing that you can notice, as Jeff adverts his gaze and looks away, is that Jeff and Blade will never be completely alike -- Jeff, in that moment, felt shame.

Additional de-lovely aspects about the episode include:
- Dan Harmon wrote this episode. So  I applaud you, sir. It was a fantastic episode.
- "She'll be comin' around the mount-dean when she comes!"
- "She invoked friendship to undercut the laugh and we're STILL laughing. That's how funny it is!"
- Why don't we have more Pierce/Shirley high-fives? Can someone explain that to me?
- "Uh, Andre much?"
- I need a Dean/Troy/Annie/Abed storyline every week, please.
- "And, left unattended, I WILL end up doing him like a crossword."
- "Annie, subdue your guest."
- "You're the opposites of Batman!" "You don't know what that MEANS!"
- That's a boss Zefron poster in Annie's room.
- "What's wrong, Annie? You came out of the bedroom smiling and then your smile faded as you leaned against the door."
- "She was born in the 80s. She still uses her phone as a PHONE."
- The tag was golden.

Next week, we get to spend a whole lot of time with Annie and Abed in the Dreamatorium in an episode called "Virtual Systems Analysis." Until then, folks!

(And, just as a shameless plug for me personally: my first book is available on Amazon.com for purchase!)

Friday, April 6, 2012

3x14 "Pillows and Blankets" (All's Fair in Love and Pillow War)

"Pillows and Blankets"
Original Airdate: April 5, 2012

We write our own histories, for better or for worse. We make decisions every day that determine what happens minutes, hours, and even years from now. One decision can alter our circumstances and the circumstances of those around us. Words and actions go hand-in-hand in determining this, of course. But the beauty of life is that people need each other. No matter how far apart we stray from companions in life, we physically need someone beside us in order to survive. People weren't meant to do life alone. We need (pardon the pun) community. Sometimes we forget that - sometimes we need reminders like an epic pillow fight to bring us back to the reality that life is too scary to be alone or to be at odds with the people we genuinely care about. And truthfully, this episode is great in that it's one of Community's finest hours writing-wise, as well as development-wise for Jeff, in particular. Something we forget, often times (and that I try to remind both you and myself of during certain episodes) is that the study group doesn't make up the entire population of Greendale Community College. And I think that - especially during this season - they're beginning to realize that the actions and events that occur within their study group actually impact the people around them outside of the study group as well. Because of Troy and Abed's fight, the entire school is forced to choose sides, being pulled into a war, of sorts. And really, the events that occurred during the previous episode play a key role in the plot of "Pillows and Blankets," not only in the Troy/Abed story, but also in our newest Jeff/Annie story. The lesson that Annie attempted to teach Jeff in "Digital Exploration of Interior Design" was that he uses his words selfishly, expecting that speeches will be spun and utilized to serve his own purposes. And we'll get to this momentarily, but it's refreshing to see Jeff's change of perspective regarding this.

Were you so enthralled with the war documentary style that this episode was in that you completely forgot what the plot was about? Let's take a brief refresher, then! As we know from last week's cliffhanger episode, Troy and Abed are at odds over building a pillow fort or a blanket fort. But really, we have to remember that this isn't actually what their fight is about -- it's centered, instead, on the idea that Abed wants control and Troy wants control, and also is becoming increasingly frustrated with having to always babysit Abed. (Don't forget that this is the heart of their rift, because I'll be coming back to it later on.) We saw, at the end of "Digital Exploration of Interior Design" that Starburns flung a pillow into the air, causing part of Troy's blanket fort to collapse. That began an all-out war between the two sides.

Now, admittedly, I'm not much of a History Channel/PBS buff. I'm the kind of girl who would use that channel as... say... a sleeping aid. History was never much of my passion in high school or college, but that doesn't mean I appreciated this episode any less (in fact, it's now ranked #2 of this season for me, falling behind the untouchable "Remedial Chaos Theory" in my book). The entire episode was modeled after Ken Burns' "Civil War" (and it doesn't take very long for you to catch the historical documentary references). While a lot of Community's homages or parodies may often seem over-the-top to some, I find them refreshing, so long as they have a purpose and aren't used for the sake of having them. This episode really exemplified, to me, how to do an homage/parody effectively. Take notes, other television shows! (And bravo, Andy Bobrow!)

I'm going to momentarily discuss Jeff, as he is confronted by the dean early in the episode to remedy the feud between Troy and Abed, and essentially set rights to everything once more. If Jeff has learned one thing throughout the course of his 2+ years being friends with these individuals, it's that making stuff up off the top of his head seems to appease everyone. Except, as we're beginning to recognize, Jeff's hastily-spun and nearly-only-half-true speeches aren't sitting as well as his friends as they used to. In the pilot, he had the entire group eating out of the palm of his hand (with the exception of Britta). Flash-forward to "Asian Population Studies," in which Jeff manages to only convince half of the group that Chang should join the study group over Rich. Flash-forward even further to "Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps," in which Jeff's blatantly sugar-coated "scary story" (meant to appease everyone so that they could all go to the Halloween party) convinced no one. So Annie is right -- Jeff's speeches, a lot of the time, are not heartfelt. Truthfully, he uses them to gloss over problems and get annoying people off his back. However, he will learn that his magical charm (or what he thought he once had) does not work in the Troy/Abed conflict.

Jeff confronts Troy and Abed in Dean Pelton's office, and doesn't manage to solve the rift. "You're children acting like grown-ups," he chastizes. "I mean, that's fine. Just don't pretend it's anything other than that." And see, here's where Jeff makes his first mistake -- he doesn't understand the root cause of Troy and Abed's strain, and perhaps no one apart from the two of them do (that's my argument, at least), and this is what is difficult. Everyone else perceives it as just a pillow fight that goes awry because two goofy guys had a disagreement over the placement of pillows and blankets. But, as we learned last week, the rift between Abed and Troy runs much deeper than that. It's about the fact that Troy constantly has to take care of Abed. And he enjoys doing that, to an extent, because he's his best friend. But Abed cannot understand the fact that he needs to trust Troy - that he NEEDS someone to look out for him. And thus, the heart of their rift.

So basically, Troy secedes from "New Fluffytown" (I love when this show references past episodes), and creates Blanketsburg. Abed then renames his pillow fort Pillowtown. At the end of the conversation with Jeff, nothing is resolved and - instead - Troy declares that Abed must surrender before midnight, which the film student does not agree to. And it appears that war is on everyone's hands. And you all should note closely the division of the study group on Troy/Abed -- Annie, Jeff, and Britta stay "impartial" for the most part. I think that it's hilariously in-character of Pierce to choose Troy over Abed. Though he has had moments with the latter, it seems like (given "Remedial Chaos Theory," at least) Pierce was upset at Abed, and jealous for taking Troy away from him. I think that Pierce genuinely enjoys being around Troy... well, until Shirley gets promoted, in which case, Pierce switches sides. But notice, via Shirley's text message, that it seems like Britta is mostly on Team Troy. And, given Annie's subtle text message to Jeff later on, it seems like she supports Troy. It's intriguing and a bit sad that no one in the study group willingly sided with Abed - Pierce only did so in order to spite Troy.

There are a few major battles that occur throughout the episode, much like during an actual war! There's a six-minute long fight in the library between Blanketsburg and Pillowtown. There is then a Battle of Big Bulletin Board, in which Pierce is physically (and emotionally) injured. Meanwhile, throughout the course of our war, Annie - who is acting as a nurse to the wounded students - and Jeff are texting back and forth. Jeff gives a motivational speech to rally the troops of Blanketsburg... and then gives the exact same speech to Pillowtown. Annie is initially proud of him for taking a stand, until she realizes what he's doing (because he really just wants to get out of class, so he's fine with the war lasting as long as possible). And there's some irony in the fact that, in "Football, Feminism, and You" Jeff uses the phrase "profound, but technically meaningless," which I think sums up the theme of his speeches, no? They rouse people up... so that they can do what? Serve Jeff's agenda? Feel better about themselves without actually changing?

Jeff then gets compared to Ferris Bueller, and I think there's something to be said about that -- in a way, I am surprised that I haven't thought about this before. In fact, in "Documentary Filmmaking Redux," Jeff claims that he will always go the extra mile to avoid doing something (kind of like how Ferris elaborately feigned illness in order to skip school for a day). And truthfully, Ferris and Jeff are both likable characters who charm their way into the lives of others. It's intriguing to me that I've never actually made this comparison before now.

The war begins to take a turn for the dangerous, as Troy recruits Chang and his child soldiers, who begin to demolish Pillowtown forces. Meanwhile, in the infirmary, Annie has ignored Jeff's text messages after he reveals that, yes, he really just used his speech to stir up both sides. And I love that Jeff genuinely takes an interest in Annie throughout the episode, not that he usually doesn't. But, since last week highlighted the dysfunction in Jeff and his ego, it's endearing to see him actually care about someone other than himself. And it's even more endearing to watch how hard he tries for that petite brunette's affection.

So he confronts her in the infirmary after she's failed to respond to his text messages (he knows she's ignoring him and wants to know why). But it's interesting that he picks up on this -- interesting because he didn't seem to pick up on the subtle hint that she dropped last week about still being upset over their kiss and his dismissal of it (and subsequent lack of apology). And yet, because she ignored his text, he notices and decides to confront her. I think that this kind of exemplifies the idea that maybe Jeff needs more clear-cut signs that someone is unhappy with him. Not responding to his text message causes him to take notice (which is an ironically small thing to take notice of, to be honest).

Annie then explains her reasoning -- "Your words don't mean anything," she claims. "They're just things you say to get what you want." And I think that Annie finally came to the realization during the last episode that Jeff's speeches don't hold very much water. He's the kind of person who can masterfully craft words, but it doesn't mean they fix things. And he can spin lies together, but it doesn't mean that life gets any better or that relationships are resolved. And I think HE realizes this during the episode too. When Jeff claims that all conversations are basically meaningless words, she quips: "Then maybe you should just shut up," which Jeff looks completely taken aback by. Annie is never usually upfront and honest and that direct. He's used to the Annie who will blindly believe the stuff that he's told her for two year. Not this Annie.

The young woman then asks if Jeff keeps a journal -- if he writes things down that aren't meant for anyone else (intriguing because the moment Jeff walks into the infirmary, Annie is writing in her own journal). She wants him to use his words for the sake of using them - not to get anything, not to be noticed, but just for himself.

Jeff then asks: "If I write stuff down in a Hello Kitty book, will you like me again?" (Anyone else find this adorable? Anyone? Bueller?). She rolls her eyes, and walks out of the room. The grin that he gives her and yells: "I'll take that as a yes!" is also adorable.

The war between Troy and Abed's forces is getting intense -- Team Pillowmen has created a secret weapon (Pierce covered in pillows from head-to-toe) to take down Troy's army. The battles are growing more and more intense, and Troy's forces discover an e-mail from Abed, sent to his troops, highlighting the weaknesses in Troy as a leader and a character. And I think that the most heartbreaking thing about the entire episode is how Troy and Abed both know each other so well that they can highlight the weaknesses of one another. Troy's biggest fear as we learn (and really have known for a while) is that he is afraid he isn't smart enough. Another callback to "Remedial Chaos Theory" is the fact that Troy is insecure about himself as a leader because he compares himself to Jeff. He fears that people won't take him seriously. And Abed perceives this (and Troy's emotions) as weakness.

But, for however heartbreaking that was, Troy's text to Abed is even more so. The young athlete goes straight for the jugular -- he calls Abed out on his mental issues, as well as the fact that the only reason Troy claims Abed will never have another friend is because no one else will have the same level of patience Troy had with the film student. And that's so heartbreaking to me, because the fact is that these two individuals love and care for one another and UNDERSTAND one another so much that... there's no one apart from them who could have been able to pinpoint all of that.

Jeff, taking Annie's advice to heart, notices that the war between the best friends is getting out of hand. Rather than just a pillow fight, it has escalated into a battle of hurting one another's feelings. And Jeff is genuinely attempting to resolve things, not for his sake, but for their sake. And he recognizes that it is, for once, not all about him. ... there is a problem with this, however. The issue that Jeff encounters is learning that, when you attempt to assist other people, sometimes your good intentions do not end the way you anticipated they would. When you're not controlling or manipulating the situation, people are free to choose whether they make up or not.

Troy and Abed choose to not make up. In fact, they decide that, come dawn, the two forces will battle. The leader of the losing force will have to move out of the apartment. Dawn comes and the Pillowmen and Blanketeers face off in an epic battle (though she is not used much in the episode, Shirley is perfect. Also, she continues to have her giant purse around her shoulder during the battle.), in which it appears that Troy's forces are winning. However, the battle is interrupted and called to an end by Dean Pelton who announces that the World Record representative will not be coming to Greendale, so there's no reason for the pillow war to continue.

Everyone disperses, apart from Troy and Abed who continue to hit one another with pillows for hours. "The war has no more reason to continue," the narrator announces. "And yet, it does." I will admit that the only thing I was a bit disheartened by in the episode was the resolution of the Troy/Abed conflict. But perhaps it's because Jeff and the rest of the study group doesn't actually know the root cause of their disagreement. No one among the study group members had any idea that Troy and Abed's wounds go much deeper than deciding to build a build a blanket or pillow fort. So I suppose, in a way, their resolution makes sense. Still, the fact that they don't want to stop fighting because they know it's the last thing they'll ever do together is heartbreaking. Abed doesn't actually ask Troy if he is interested in the friendship hats... he says "We might be interested." Which, again, the only quip I have against the episode is that it doesn't seem like Abed has really grown or learned anything -- he's still deciding things for Troy.

Nevertheless, Jeff makes one last attempt to selflessly resolve their conflict and actually goes to the dean's office to retrieve Troy and Abed's "friendship hats." And then, the episode ends with Jeff actually taking Annie's advice to heart. He writes in a journal about what he has learned, and how he realizes he would do anything for his friends. And it displays immense character growth in Jeff as someone who loves and cares about the people in his life, to the extent that he will do anything to help them.

(But there's irony in the fact that Jeff rips the "personal" page out of his notebook to show off to the camera... well, Rome wasn't built in a day. But it's progress!)

Additional de-lovely aspects of the episode include:
- "It was awesome. But also... it wasn't?"
- "If there's one thing I've learned at this place, it's that a film crew means disaster."
- "I'm giving you an all tomato. Meaning, you have to give me the whole tomato. Or else." It's like Joey Tribbiani and his "moo point"!
- "Do people GO to classes?"
- Somehow, like the dean, Britta manages to steal every scene she is in. But since part 1 was Britta-heavy, I didn't mind her absence as much during the second part of the episode.
- "Just because something is in black and white, doesn't mean it's good."
- "They were later nicknamed the Changlorious Bastards. ... like 'Inglorious Bastards' but with 'Chang' instead of 'in.' ... I don't get it either."
- Birthday cake, birthday cake, unicorn, woman's shoe.
- The tag killed me dead.

Next week we are onto an episode called "Origins of Vampire Mythology" which centers around the gang attempting to keep Britta away from her ex-boyfriend. Until then, folks! :)