Episode 102: Spanish 101

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Spanish 101:

General thoughts:

So what makes this episode interesting, to me, is seeing how it's expands the character information laid out in the pilot and really starts laying out the arcs that we're going to see throughout the season, and the series as a whole.

There are two character arcs that I see being developed here, and one continuing from the pilot. They are:

  1. Although this was hinted at in the pilot with her comment about valuing honesty above all–which as Lloyd Braun so astutely pointed out last week was probably bullshit, even if she didn't admit it to herself–this episode has the first overt explanation of the central contradiction underpinning Britta's character: The disconnect between her vision of herself and her actual self in practice.
  2. The relationship between Pierce and Jeff, where Pierce–somewhat accurately–sees Jeff as a younger version of himself, and by utilizing Jeff's natural charisma and leadership ability, he hopes to gain a potential second-chance at gaining a family in the study group. Jeff is irritated by Pierce, but does not yet see the other character as a potential glimpse at his own dark future if he doesn't change his ways.
  3. Once again we see Jeff take an action that is selfishly motivated, purely intended to get in Britta's pants, and have it backfire on him due to group dynamics. His schemes both bottom out, leaving him on his own and likely to get a bad grade. But then a kernel of sympathy for Pierce emerges and by acting on it he impresses Britta for the first time.

Regarding the first point: 

This is a through-line that will continue for Britta throughout the series run so far. Although there are many examples, the three that come most directly to mind are "Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking," where she struggles with herself over using Pierce's check to cover her bills, or donating it to a charity, as she had pledged, finally admitting that she would have done the former if not for Abed's camera; "Applied Anthropology and Culinary Arts," where she goes on at length to Jeff about women being more in touch with their bodies, because of childbirth, but is terrified of actually helping deliver the baby when the time comes–the difference here being her friendship with Jeff pushing in the right direction, rather than a feeling of external judgement; lastly "Geography of Global Conflict," where she regresses to her season 1 desire to act out for the sake of doing so, and is primarily motivated by jealousy of her arrested friend, rather than an actual desire to effect change, much of which is probably caused by an internal freak out over her actually picking a major and more officially settling into her new life.  I think there is also a link between this behavior and her insistence in "Romantic Expressionism" that she's the kind of cool girl who doesn't care if her friend dates her ex, only to break down about this very issue at the end.

I also think it's interesting to note that Shirley and Annie react with interest to Britta's initial pronouncement about the Guatemalan journalist, rather than with the irritated disdain that her political causes are met with these days. However, Annie also does praise Britta for valuing keeping it real over being likable, so it wasn't too far to fall. This becomes apparent when Britta criticizes their protest (those bubble-lettered, flower-decorated signs are hilarious, by the way) and then realizes that she actually does nothing to support the causes she favors. Shirley tells her, "sounds like somebody has a case of I-want-to-use-fringe-politics-to-make-myself-feel-special-but-I-don't-want-to-actually-do-anything."

Regarding the second point:

Pierce initially attempts to bond with Jeff after Britta has once again rejected him, although called him cute, after he tried to make up for his horrible first impression with a Transformer Bar Mitzvah card. Jeff isn't interested. The next day in class, Pierce switches partner-matching cards with Britta (the toilet for the house), which makes him Jeff's partner. I think Jeff initially suspects that the switch was motivated by Britta, because she knew he'd given Abed his shirt in order to get the card that would match Britta's (house). But while most of the rest of the group is criticizing Pierce for being crazy, Britta later reveals that Pierce actually offered her $100 to make the switch. In typical Britta fashion, she manages to assess the situation fairly astutely, even if she doesn't have the therapy-speak terminology yet. She says, "I think he spent his whole life looking out for himself and he would trade it all for some kind of family," which pretty much sums up huge swaths of Pierce's entire character (including how perceived rejection from this surrogate family, along with the death of his closest actual family member and a debilitating injury, send him on a very dark path for the majority of season 2).

As an aside, it's also very Pierce-ish that when his attempt to befriend Jeff through their Spanish conversation fails, rather than do as Jeff asks and meet briefly before class to throw memorized phrases together, he tattles to Chang, because he want things to happen his own way, or not at all.

Regarding the third point:

After Jeff once again attempts to bond with Britta over schoolwork, he ends up stuck with Pierce as a partner. He's growing increasingly annoyed with the older classmate's insane vision for their Spanish conversation, but it's not until Abed and Troy interrupt their brainstorming session to inform Jeff and Pierce of the protest occurring outside that Jeff abandons him, seeing another opportunity for impressing Britta by participating in the demonstration. He says, "the woman I kind of like is out there in the moonlight, caring about something stupid and I care about her enough to act like I care about it, too." (The more evolved Jeff of today wouldn't have to pretend. He might not actually care about a specific cause, but if one of his friends asked him to help or participate, he would probably support them, or at least make up an elaborate lie about being at the hospital to get out of it. He wouldn't just fake interest.) But I think Britta's explanation of Pierce's loneliness seems to reach Jeff in some capacity and he agrees to participate in the ridiculous conversation/performance. Although I guess it could be argued either way, I believe that he does this out of some small seed of compassion for Pierce, even if he doesn't yet see his own possible future in the older man. As it happens, his first act of slightly selfless behavior is the thing that finally impresses Britta for the first time.

Obsessive Community nerd observation:

When Pierce is planning the story for his conversation/performance with Jeff, the chalkboard features two large circles, one with notes delineating "begin," "middle," "more" and "end," and "thesis" written in the middle. Immediately, I thought of Harmon's famous clock-like story circles. On the commentary Harmon says that in this bit, as well as in the episode where Pierce writes the school song, he is deliberately mocking himself. He says: "Pierce is–in all things creative, his reach exceeds his grasp and he sort of tries to cover it with a lot of pomposity and venom and stuff." Naturally, I couldn't help thinking of all the venom Harmon directs at his own show when discussing it here and other places.

Random observations:

  • The dean's announcement that security has been given binoculars to raise awareness of homelessness reminded me of the recent noting of the college's high number of homeless people and how they're afraid to ask them to leave.
  • Abed continues his metaness, saying that he like the dean's announcements, because it feels like he's on a TV show, although no one on an actual TV show would note a similarity between their lives and television. Later, at the protest, he predicts "conflicts like these will ultimately bring us together as an unlikely family."
  • Chang introduces the El Tigre name during one of his rants to the class.
  • Britta says that the Spanish conversation performance is so terrible that no woman who saw it could ever think of Jeff sexually again. Obviously this is not the case.

Funny stuff:

  • When instructing the class to make big circle gestures while they speak, Chang says, "hands are 90 percent of Spanish."
  • Words surrounding the second circle on the chalkboard where Pierce is planning their conversation include: Israel, Muslims, Palestine, Foreigners and flag or fag–>NO
  • This ties in with Jeff's hilarious description of their scene, which I remember really laughing at when I saw it the first time: "well we have something incredibly long, very confusing and a little homophobic and really, really specifically, surprisingly and gratuitously critical of Israel."
  • Pierce is delusional enough to believe that his infertility is actually his sperm being super-powered enough to "shoot through the egg like bullets."

From the commentary:

  • Joel notes that this is the first time the audience sees his character not in sweatpants
  • Chevy is hilariously clueless about the commentary process. Whether he's pretending or not, it's very funny. One example: "Wait a minute, are we supposed to be talking during this?"
  • He also claims not to remember much about even filming the show, asks if they are as popular as Glee and later says, very sarcastically, "oh I can't wait to get back to this."
  • It's noted that Chevy's page of the fortune teller in the credits still has the topless woman on it, which was later removed. I didn't actually notice when watching on my own.
  • Dino fell into the Starburns role because they initially felt they couldn't ask an actor to sit for as long as it was necessary to design the burns. (I'm assuming for pay reasons, but perhaps contractual ones, they didn't specify.)
  • Joel had hair sticking out of his pants when he was wearing the too-tiny Abed shirt and the makeup lady made him go into the bathroom and shave it off.
  • The guy who serves as the picture for the deceased journalist was on Heat Vision and Jack, although Harmon didn't actually recognize him until he came in for the audition.
  • Dan and Pierce argue over how much Clark Griswold and Fletch are present in Pierce's character.
  • Dan stayed up all night writing Troy and Abed's Biblioteca rap. As I'm sure most of you know, it sprang from them being asked to beatbox while on the red carpet for an event. The commentators also say that this episode was the one where they realized the tremendous chemistry that Danny Pudi and Donald Glover have with each other.
     

22 LIKES
On the A. V. Club:
http://www.avclub.com/articles/regional-holiday-music,66270/#comment-392347573 (page 38)

Discussion:

 

  • So i'm not a big shipper type person, and i never really saw britta-jeff as a desirable couple but… the moment when they are talking to each other out of the sides of their mouths by lifting the tape at the candlelight vigil has some really strong chemistry between them. 

  • Absolutely! One of the things that I've always liked about Jeff and Britta is that, unlike some others here, I do think that they have excellent chemistry. It's just a chemistry that works best as a snarky, but ultimately supportive, friendship most of the time. But it is absolutely and utterly believable to me that these two would have spent the better part of a year having no-additional-strings-attached occasional sex with each other. Since I'm not a shipper, this is actually the type of chemistry that is most appealing to me personally–the kind that results in hilarious exchanges and believable interactions, but no romance.

  • yes precisely.  they have horrible girlfriend-boyfriend chemistry but really strong friend/sex-buddy chemistry.  its mainly because they are so comfortable giving each other shit and oddly enough that is also when you can tell they feel closest to each other. 

    which actually also works really well with their hookup in modern warfare.  They start giving each other shit about hooking up and then actually do it. 

  • 100 percent agreed! Their mutual snarking and teasing is when they seem the closest and most  indispensable to each other, even in little things like Britta calling Jeff out with the Seal song after #anniesmove.

  • I couldn't agree more. Chemistry doesn't necessarily have to be the romantic kind. Jeff & Britta's relationship felt so much more natural when they stopped forcing the romance angle so apparent in the early season 1 episodes. That just didn't work for me. But now they work perfectly as snarky banter-filled friends. I love their scenes like this. I think my favourite is from Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking when they are talking about Jeff's dad. They bounce off each other perfectly there.

  • That scene is on of my top-five favorites ever from then entire series run so far. I haven't actually sat down and ranked them, but I'm certain that it would make the list. It's so perfect characterwise, and also really, really funny.

  • The_Tuna

    I agree; I think Jeff & Britta have fantastic "bickering friend' chemistry, which is why I much prefer them in a relationship with no real romantic connotations.

  • i'll admit i like all types of jeff-britta chemistry. best friends, verbal sparring partners, romance, sex buddies, mom and dad…it all works for me. i think i have a crush on both of them. 

  • I have a crush on more than 50 percent of this cast.

  • I think 201 was basically the culmination of both great snarky chemistry and terrible romantic chemistry.

  • I love that episode. I don't care what anyone says.

  • so who are these mythical people who dont like 201?  because it appears all us superfans are united in loving it.  this is wrinkling my brain

  • I feel like I'm always defending it, but it must not be to you guys and gals. Maybe the mid-level commentariat? 

    It is genius. I'm so glad you feel the same way. (Surprise, fucking surprise, mind twin.)

  • At this point only the really hard-core commentariat is left.

  • another instance where the jeff/britta chemistry hit me was in this year's halloween episode. it felt so natural for britta to turn to jeff when she thought someone was homicidal, and i think that she and jeff haven't had enough time together in the third season til that point, which is why it stood out.

  • Yes! I love that she went to him for help and that, in spite of mocking her fears, he moved on her behalf to prevent the rest of the study group from leaving the room when they get sick of her unexplained "party."

  • i noticed that, too. those two make a good team, especially now they're not enjoying benefits. 

  • glazomaniac — I think it was spicoli323 who compared them to Jerry and Elaine and I think the suggestion is pretty apt. 

  • Oh and another thing.  I have noticed an interesting trend in the early episodes which is that the first episodes of the show center around Jeff, Britta and one other person.  While the other members of the group have roles to play and do things on the periphery, the emotional weight of the episode is on Jeff and Britta's shoulders first and then one revolving castmember second. i point this out because obviously in season 1 jeff was more of a main character than he is today but it is interesting to me that Britta was so prominent early on as well since it can be argued that her character has changed the most

  • Good point. It was definitely interesting to see how little Troy and Abed were involved in this episode, except as foils/motivators for Jeff's plot with Britta.

  • Similar to Troy and Abed, Shirley and Annie were only present as foils for Britta.  What the pattern seems to be is that the Pilot introduces Jeff and Britta, episode two deepens our understanding of that central duo and we get to know Pierce as well.  Episode 3 (as i will discuss at length) is the same except instead of Pierce we get to know Abed.  And if i remember rightly episode 4 has a big Annie plot and 6 a troy one. 

    So the show is reintroducing the pilot by keeping Jeff and Britta front and center while using its early episodes to one by one flesh out the remaining cast members  Its just a really good way to do a character comedy with a strong ensemble cast.  it is actually similar to what Cheers does in season 1 where sam and diane are always somewhat of a focus but they use early episodes to let us know coach and norm and carla.  Which of course makes sense that Harmon would borrow this from cheers because he has mentioned many times how beholden to it he is

  • Excellent insights. I am now extra excited to read your analysis.

    Your point about rehashing the pilot, while fleshing out a new character each week is an excellent one. It is a much better strategy than the one employed by so many sitcoms of just having between four and six pilots in a row.

  • Do you guys and gals remember, on first watching, what your reaction to the (apparent) will-they-or-won't-they was? Now I only remember my dawning relief when I realized the show was course-correcting; I don't actually have a concrete thought-nugget along the lines of "Ugh, another one of these on TV."

  • I don't know why, but for whatever reason, I never really took the will-they-or-won't-they that seriously. I mean I always assumed Jeff and Britta would hook up at some point. But I never for one second thought it would turn into an actual relationship and get either all angsty or all schmoopy.

    And then from the point in "Romantic Expressionism" when they realize that they're all potential hookups with each other, I stopped trying to worry too much about shipping, at least through the end of Season 1.

    I did spend more time than necessary, in retrospect, freaking out about the potential of re-visiting that road with Jeff and Annie. By this point, I've learned to mostly trust the showrunner's instincts.

  • I'm not even sure what I want to happen with Jeff and Annie (if anything), but I, too, trust the show a lot by this point. Options include dropping it entirely, transcending it (or leapfrogging the tedious bits) somehow, playing it mostly straight up though with one twist (unguessable by me), couching it in a genre exercise but with real consequences, keeping it as a tease forever, and, I'm sure, a half-dozen other options I can't even conceive.

  • My first choice would be nothing.

    My second choice would be your option of "couching it in a genre exercise" but with no real-world consequences, which is what they've mostly done this season (except for that horribly awkward and just poorly done scene in Global Conflict–see there I go with my anti-shipping fears again…).

    My third choice would be to use it as a growing-up experience for Annie. I've long said that my biggest objection to the ship, even more than the icky age difference, is that I don't think Jeff is anywhere close to ready for the level of romantic entanglement that Annie so clearly craves. I don't think she'd be able to keep things as casual as Jeff would need, even in a committed relationship. But as olivececile 
     once pointed out to me, I think there is potential for Annie to delude herself into thinking she can have a semi-casual relationship with Jeff, only to freak out in the middle and realize that she can't handle it at all. This could work, and even be funny, although it would be quite difficult to pull off without permanently damaging the group dynamic. 

  • I think Cylons would solve most of our shared objections/fears. A Boomer Annie (in truth a robot, but does not know herself to be one) might do the trick, and serve as a way to have Jeff grow up but not at (real) Annie's expense.

  • I must confess that I was momentarily derailed from reading your post by the use of the word Boomer, which I will now forever associate with Baby Boomer Santa.

    But, hey, our hivemind brainstorm over vampire Jeff and Annie worked so well, I'm willing to get behind this one, too.

  • I really don't think that this show would be able to have two characters in a real relationship with each other. They can hook up and make out and all that, but in the end the group dynamic isn't fundamentally upended in the way that it would be if we had two characters making googly eyes at each other all the time.

  • The_Tuna

    tabernacle Yeah, I really can't get a read on where Jeff/Annie is going to end up either. We got the potential foreshadowing/mislead in "Biology 101" and there hasn't been much movement in either direction on that front since. Community's taught me to expect the unexpected when it comes to character relationships, so I too am content to mostly sit back and see where the showrunners take us on this one.

  • I don't know what will happen with Jeff and Annie, but i think someone is going to grow up and someone is going to get hurt.  (may or may not be the same person). 

    As to my early thoughts on season 1 shipping… well i have a confession to make.  I actually didnt start watching the show live until after season 1.  A friend had been recommending it but i had a lot of tv on my plate and put it off.  Finally he convinced me to watch modern warfare which was a really easy gateway and i caught up with the rest of season on dvd before season 2 began. 

    So basically my first episode is the episode when Jeff and Britta hook up finally, which colors my perspective.  But when rewatching season 1 i was struck by two things. 1) the scene in Debate 109 where Jeff realizes how beautiful Annie is was ironically the exact scene where i realized how good-looking Allison Brie is. and 2) i really liked Slater as a foil for Jeff.  Which probably makes me the only Jeff-Slater fan in existence.  

  • I liked Jeff/Slater, too. (I'm starting to get the feeling lately that we might be mind twins @mratfink.) I mean I didn't want them to stay together forever and have babies, but I think she was, as you said, a great foil for him and a good way to add some maturity to Jeff's character without pairing him with anyone from the group.

    Regarding Annie's looks, I was struck in watching this episode by how she looks slightly different from the Annie we know and love today. I mean her haircut is more layered, but there also seemed to be something around the eyes. Perhaps her brows are styled differently? I wondered if they'd done something different with her makeup or if perhaps I was seeing some sort of lingering Mad Men styling choices that haven't really been a contributing factor lately, since that show's been off the air for-fucking-ever.

  • I actually noticed she was hot in the very first episode, and, superficially, found it strange that Jeff was going after Britta and not Annie (not knowing her age at the time). But in 104, 107, and 109, I was just like "wow". And that was the start of a somewhat creepy infatuation.

  • There's a scene in The Politics of Human Sexuality that sticks out; Jeff ignores the STD fair when Annie is promoting it, but then turns around and feigns interest when he sees Sabrina. That didn't make much sense to me.

  • I think VDW's reaction to that scene in Debate 109 speaks for all of us:

    "Or maybe I was such a happy camper because, holy God wow is Alison Brie an attractive young lady. I mean, I should really be grading this stuff on a less puerile scale than "TV just let me gaze at someone more attractive than I am for a few moments," and I get that that whole scene where she let down her hair and took off her scarf and she was suddenly the hottest woman in existence was a parody of similar scenes where the dorky girl takes off her glasses or what have you, but sweet Lord, I didn't care."

  • Being your mind-twin Scrawler is a high compliment. 

    As to the Annie's looks thing, it is amusing that their joke line about not sexualizing Annie later in the season is totally true in terms of how they designed the character in season 1.  They actually were trying to not sexualize the character at all and had her dress down.  I'm convinced that Harmon had the 109 moment when she lets down her hair in his mind the entire time

  • The_Tuna

    mratfink
    I actually really enjoyed the chemistry between Jeff & Slater as 
    well; while I wouldn't call myself a fan of the ship, they were very fun
    to watch.

    Scrawler 
    Excellent points on the Jeff/Annie relationship as it stands at this 
    point. It is most definitely Jeff who represents the more "immature" of 
    the two in a relationship sense. However, it's that very flaw of his 
    which causes me to think that we might see Jeff/Annie borne out, as that
    would provide an ideal way for Jeff to correct one of his most glaring 
    remaining  character flaws.

    Also, while Jeff is definitely still very immature in a romantic sense I
    think Annie and Slater (maybe a little) have already compelled him to 
    grow a fair amount in that regard. In "Asian Population Studies" he's 
    not able to give Annie a straight answer at all, while in both 
    "Geography of Global Conflict" and "Remedial Chaos Theory" he's actually
    able to articulate his view of their relationship in a meaningful and 
    semi-complete manner. He's still got a long way to go, but he's getting 
    there, and that makes me think Annie may be the means used to propel him
    the rest of the way.

  • avclub-fcef722c15ec0cd77565749edf6d1240  I do agree about Jeff/Annie. I just hope the show is able to do this in a more entertaining manner. Those scenes in "Geography of Global Conflict" and "Remedial Chaos Theory" serve a purpose, as you noted, but as entertaining television, they're kinda weak. They may be significant moments for Jeff, but as I noted in an earlier thread, they're too much a case of telling and not showing.

    However, scenes like the one in "Regional Holiday Music" – which we may or may not know the full repercussions of – give me hope that the show can take the relationship in a new, more entertaining direction.

  • The_Tuna

    Stephen77 Agreed; while they're very important scenes for Jeff, they're not nearly as entertaining as scenes such as Annie's story in "Horror Fiction" or "Teach Me To Understand Christmas" that explore the characters' relationship in a funny and unique manner, just as scenes like Annie hauling off and punching Jeff in "Anthropology 101" or her angered speech with the gun in "Conspiracy Theories" did.

    As I think we have discussed before, if they can keep doing Jeff/Annie the way they've been doing it in "Horror Fiction" and "Regional Holiday Music" I think it can stand to be very entertaining while simultaneously delving deep into the underpinning factors of the relationship.

  • Precisely. Frankly, under no circumstances do I desire to see Jeff & Annie share another one of those scenes where they openly discuss their relationship. It's something I just don't want to see ever again. It's been played out too often and the show, as we've seen, is capable of depicting the relationship in a stronger manner than that. I think the character dynamic between Jeff & Annie has always been quite interesting (this is most evident throughout much of Season 1 and it has been proven again in recent episodes), but the show often presented the two in a way that just made them somewhat of a drag to watch.

  •  Scrawler : Agreed with your shipping preferences.  As much as I love watching Jeff and Annie bounce off one another with their insane levels of chemistry, I'd rather just keep it there.  So far playing with that chemistry has been way more fun than acting on it.

    But I do agree avclub-fcef722c15ec0cd77565749edf6d1240 about the likelihood of some sort of relationship with Annie because of Jeff's current arc and I'm not sure I'm on board….one of these days I'll learn to just sit back and trust the writers to be awesome.

  • "You should be proud of how much I've changed you!" – Annie to Jeff in her horror story. It goes back to the Beast-Belle undertones to their relationship. She sees him as a brute to be fixed and refined; he sees her as a Madonna not to be tainted. Jeff doesn't trust himself around her with all his emotional issues and detachment. He may or may not realize that Annie is probably much better equipped to handle those issues than he is for himself, but he still doesn't want to go there. He's, of course, attracted to Annie (after all, men are monsters who crave young flesh, the end) and likes the idea of a relationship but he can't work up the courage to act on it. So, like he said in Geography, he works around that be infantilizing her as he does with the 'kiddos' and pats on the head. As Johnny Canuck (sp?) put it so well, Jeff in Asian Population Studies feels threatened by Rich's ability to unequivocally say no to Annie–not just that he's 'perfect' and Annie likes him–while he's perpetually trapped in "it's complicated" mode with her.

  • The point you make about the ending of Asian Population Studies is always something I thought was clearly on the surface. And yet, structurally, that scene irks me. I have the same problem with it that Todd did. It's just far too obvious that the show is going to subvert the typical rom-com running in the rain trope.

    Also, one of the things I love about the scene in Regional Holiday Music is how it so hilariously plays off of Jeff's infantilizing of Annie.

  • Rich is in a lot of ways simply a better version of Jeff. It's visible in their career choices; law and medicine both are high-paying professions that involve prolonged study for an advanced degree, but doctors are universally respected and lawyers are not. Abed mentions that when he remarks to Jeff that Rich doesn't need to take pottery classes to impress people; he can just say that he's a doctor. Rich is also much more emotionally mature than Jeff; he knows what's proper and what isn't, and he knows where to draw the line. Jeff's problem is that he wants Annie but he also wants her to stay the way she is; those two ends are mutually exclusive, and so he languishes in this zone of awkward sexual tension. That can be really interesting, but it can also be overplayed quickly. I'm glad we're getting some time away from it.

  • Janine, that's a great counterpoint to people who complained that Rich disappeared without any resolution to what happened in 212. He's just there as a yardstick by which we measure Jeff's progress, not so much as a significant player. It now makes sense that the next time he shows should be for the logical conclusion to their little arc.

  • I'll confess to being one of those people. I still see merit in that episode, but it bugged me that he disappeared so quickly after seeming so important. I'm totally willing to forgive everything if Janine's very smart theory proves true.

  • The idea of Rich as a yardstick is a great turn of phrase.  I'll be interested to see if that is how they use him

  • Me too!

  • The_Tuna

    LloydBraun Spot-on analysis of Jeff's actions and perceptions.

    Also, I really like your take on why Rich exists. Rich kind of bothered me in "Asian Population Studies" because we didn't see any hint of inner trouble like in "Beginner Pottery" and "Epidemiology", but if he does show up again for the resolution of the Jeff/Annie "will they/won't they" it would be quite fitting (and highly entertaining) to see him finally have his psychotic breakdown while Jeff actually acts mature for a change.

  • Excellent points, all @LloydBraun!

  • At this point in the show, the ensemble really hadn't developed. It was Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, et al. (including Chevy Chase!). The change starts in the third episode, and I'd say it's complete by Debate 109.

  • I love your explanation of Britta. I couldn't agree more. I've seen a lot of comments on the internet asking for the 'real' season 1 Britta back but I think we are only just seeing the real Britta in the present season. She is finally letting her guard down and feeling more comfortable with who she is. Characterisation doesn't usually happen like that – so drawn out –  which is what makes her so unique and original. 

  • Thanks! She's my favorite character on the show, obviously, and one of my two favorite characters on current television shows as a whole, so I spent a lot of time thinking about her and chose this episode specifically because I thought it was so important to her development.

    And I absolutely agree with the awesomeness of how drawn out her growth has been. I was just saying to someone yesterday (or was in Monday?) in the Best TV threads that I think–counter to this individual–that the growth on Community is very real and very impressive because it A) happens so slowly and B) often happens in the background of plots, rather than being the point of the plots (although Jeff and Annie and Troy's growth is sometimes brought more to the forefront than others). I love this because it actually mimics real life in a way. We all grow and change as people, but barring major life-altering events, it usually happens so slowly that we don't even realize how significantly we've changed until we look back at a fixed point in time and realize how differently we might have dealt with a situation now than we did then. In real life, most personal growth is glacial while it's happening and striking in retrospect, just like on the show.

    Also, I think I said this regarding her wonderful pizza dance in Chaos Theory, but I've loved seeing Britta finally let a bit of her "cool girl" guard down this season when she's more comfortable and stable, at least socially, if not entirely with her academic choices and decision to leave the protesting life mostly behind. Looking back to the chick in Season 1 who was so afraid of and intimidated by the opinions of high school students, it's awesome to see her let go and just be her crazy self, at least in the company of her best friends. Same with her being the best at shrugging off the divisive partner rankings in Competitive Ecology. She's finally gained theconfidence–and immunity to the group's near-constant put downs–to not let the other's opinions of her bring her down and very quickly realizes that the papers must be destroyed before the group is irreparably damaged.

  • "glacial while it's happening and striking in retrospect"

    This is it exactly!

  • Guest

    I've had it in my head that Britta's sub-plot in Global Conflict was the writers going back to "season one" Britta. It didn't work out.

  • Yeah I think that's totally a fair interpretation.

  • avclub-c2ef3728d9ce090652f36c2e3d4783d0  I actually thought it was Britta going back to her season 1 persona which felt very real to me.  There are times when we've kinda aged out of a phase of our lives but don't realize it for a while.  Then we confront a situation that we know we used to react to differently and seek to recapture a feeling and action that isnt exactly true to ourselves anymore.  I feel Britta kinda missed her "activist" days and didnt realize how much she missed them until that moment. I think trying to recapture your past is a very real thing

  • As I said in my review, I think her fear of having committed to a major and to being a more serious student (highlighters!) was the real underlying reason for the freakout, which was prompted by her friend's arrest, but could have easily been brought about by something else from her past rearing its head. But I also think the writers were perhaps experimenting with the S1 version of the character. They just happen to be brilliant enough that they can have their cake (Britta freaking out and backsliding) and eat it too (experimenting with the character to make the show potentially more accessible), in this instance.

  • Beautiful description of the character growth.  Wish I could direct everyone who dismisses the characterization on this show for whatever reason to this.

    Also, mratfink below, totally agree with that characterization of Geography of Global Conflict Britta and why I think it was so cool that they did take her that direction.

  • Walking NPR  i am constantly bewildered by people who say that Community's characters don't grow.  Like i just have no rational response to that other than nuh-uh. It just seems so patently obvious to me that Community is a show based upon strong characterization that when i see people who watch it and think otherwise i'm completely thrown for a loop

  • Walking NPR — First of all, there are no words to express the depth of my love for your name.

    Secondly, thank you. Believe me, I will be shouting these thoughts from the "rooftops" of this site and anywhere else I'm discussing Community from here until the end of time.

  • In my mind, I had rationalized Britta's behavior in 'Geography' as a conduit by which the writers could contrast proto-Britta with her new course toward her major, similar to how Abed was very season 1 in 'Biology 101' before charting the course for all his emotional growth the rest of the season. But you guys have convinced me that it actually makes sense that Britta herself would act that way. It's so simple and logical.

  • I wonder if 201 also opened the floodgates to "unguarded" Britta.  She spent the whole summer worried about how she made a fool of herself in front of the whole school, but ended up getting encouraged by her fellow vagina-folk.  Then with that little push, she went to the other end of the spectrum and became too unguarded and overconfident, so that the consensus is now "she's the worst."

  • That's a  good call and makes a lot of sense to me. You are a smart one.

    Aside: Many seem to criticize 201, but I love it so much. The one-upsmanship is brilliant and that Clooney impersonator is gold. 

  • The_Tuna

    Early S1 Britta was really bland, I can't imagine why anyone would want her back. Cranky, sobbing buzzkill "who's there? CANCER! Oh, come on in, we thought it was Britta!" Britta is so much more interesting, and more fun.

  • I really loved late Season 1 "You need to bang that kid's mom!" Britta.

  • "Death, is that you?"

  • The_Tuna

    Great review!

    I have a slightly different take on why Jeff jumps in to help Pierce at the end of the episode, though. Personally, I'm convinced that it's still motivated nearly entirely by simple desire to get with Britta. Jeff's only been at Greendale for a couple weeks and doesn't see the study group as actual friends yet, which is evidenced by moments like Jeff having Abed pull his car around. He's going to hang Pierce out to dry until Britta indicates that she finds that action distasteful, and this makes Jeff decide to endure the insanity of Pierce's production for another shot at Britta; note how he's discomfited after she points out "no woman in that class could view you as a sexual prospect ever again".

    While I think it's certainly possible that Jeff could have had a burst of genuine empathy, I find it more likely that the Jeff of "Spanish 101" who is still a selfish, manipulative, womanizing ass would be motivated by a desire to impress Britta than a desire to reach out to a racist old man whom he more or less hates (and will continue to hate for the rest of the show).

  • Thanks!

    I think there are elements of both in the mix, for sure. And I definitely don't think that his jumping to Pierce's aid is motivated out of friendship or affection. I think there's just some tiny decent part of Jeff buried deep inside that just took pity on an old man whom he doesn't like, but does sort of feel sorry for, and decides to help out. It certainly doesn't hurt matters that his only other option is to get an automatic C on the project.

    But I'm totally also open to being wrong on this issue. There's every potential that I'm projecting the Jeff that decides to help Pierce rather than hook up with Slater on Halloween onto the Jeff that still cares for nothing beyond getting in Britta's pants, especially considering that when I watched this episode for the first time, it was after I'd seen him admit to Britta his helping her not get kicked out for cheating was not done entirely to sleep with her down the road, even though he's not willing to take that off the table either. ("Advanced Criminal Law" was the first episode I saw, and then I watched the first four afterward on my DVR as I'd been traveling when they initially aired.)

  • that automatic C would have been a better grade than his eventual F though (or did Chang say S?).

    I think Jeff's reaction was an empathetic one personally.  I think Britta's story about the 100 dollars touched Jeff in a weird way and he decided to help him because of that.  I think his dismay as to Britta's line afterward was because he didn't think through the ramifications of his act of generosity.  

  • Yes I agree, especially on the last point. He for once he didn't think through his actions in terms of how they would impact his thing with Britta. First it seems like he made headway, because she respects him now. But then she went and took the wind right out of his sails.

    And there was definite symmetry between Pierce offering Britta $100 and Jeff offering Abed the same earlier in the episode.

  • wow, scrawler! amazing review! thank you!

  • Aww! Thank you!

  • Good analysis. Whereas Intro to Stats was the episode that officially reeled me and the Pilot was the episode that had me circling the bate; this episode was the one that caught me on the hook.

    Throughout the entire episode, Pierce's naive racism is just a great source of hilarity (and now a reminder as to why Pierce was my favourite character in the very early episodes) and, at the time, that final scene was the hardest I had laughed at a television comedy since the prime days of The Office. It's delightfully absurd and I love the reactions of Abed and Chang, but my favourite moment is when Pierce and Jeff has captured and tied up Annie for a scene they're playing out. I've mentioned this before, but her horrified reaction is just priceless:
    http://alisonbriefan.net/galle…

    P.S. and to continue the analogy, the reeling occurred in the episodes between Spanish 101 and Intro to Stats. It didn't stall at all during those episodes either. FFU and Social Psychology are particularly fine episodes.

  • Yeah I feel bad, in retrospect, that I didn't really discuss at all how hilarious their performance of their "conversation" was. It really demonstrated early on that the show was willing to go a bit weird (of course we had no idea yet, just how far outside of the mainstream it would be willing to go).

    For whatever reason, the flag waving is the bit that always cracks me up the most.

  • god the flag waving is my favorite part of that epic performance as well.  I think an argument could be made that the Spanish 101 conversation was the first sign of the show that Community would become 

  • In the commentary Joel says he's particularly proud of his flag-waving technique. And he should be. Who knew such a thing could be so hilarious?

    Also, the perfect use of the Aimee Mann song Wise Up, best known for it's use in Magnolia.

  • The_Tuna

    The flag-waving is just too fantastic, agreed. That whole sequence was amazing, and a sign of things to come in both Community's spectacular use of music to enhance already excellent visual sequences as well as the sheer insanity to which the show was willing to commit.

  • Brilliant, Scrawler, and more concise than I could ever be. I love the commentary recap, as well. They're so fun and informative that each episode deserves one. I planned to do that with the pilot but I forgot in the rush to get it up.

    OK, I think this is a great, great episode; arguably the first true knockout episode in the series. There's an indescribable mood–somber? tender? placid?–to this episode that I just love. This is one of the quietest sitcom episodes I've ever seen, which is not to say it's not laugh out loud funny, just that it has a very specific tone that befits a Freaks and Geeks type of show more than a sitcom (which is something I wish more sitcoms would do. I really hope Dan Harmon's next project is a dramedy). It's all the more impressive considering it's the second episode. I'm referring specifically to Jeff and Pierce's interaction and Britta's cognitive dissonance about never actually doing anything, all leading to the silent protest with the eerily somber music and the Aimee Mann needle drop. The only uproarious jokes the episode aggressively pursues are Chang's debut scene and Annie and Shirley's giddiness about protesting. There's a sweetness to Pierce's eagerness in befriending Jeff. Likewise, Annie and Shirley's girl scout glee about doing 'college-y' things is also very sweet. Anyway, Freak and Geeks; I love it.

    Other things I love.
    http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…
    http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…
    http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…
    http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…
    -When Chang says 'surely' right beside Shirley
    -Everyone's reactions shots as Chang introduces himself. It sets up the basic joke that lasts for a season: that as crazy as the group and Greendale are, they are all united in their absolute astonishment at Chang's behavior.
    -Pierce's awful story circle
    http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…
    -Abed putting miles on his Jeff shirt: http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…
    http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…
    -Pierce muttering as he walks into class for his presentation. Something something 'slippery slope'.
    http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…
    -There's a funny bit in the commentary about how annoyed Chevy got with Joel for putting his butt so close to Alison's face here: http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…. Pierce's affection for Annie seems to be partly grounded in real life.

  • LloydBraun Thank you! Your additions, as always, are the icing on the cake.

    And, you're so right. While I laughed quite a bit, it was actually much less than a lot of recent episode (which are ostensibly much more "plot-y"), not because jokes were falling flat, but because the episode was fairly serious, with funny moments, rather than the other way around.

    And especially thank you for the screen shots. I didn't know where or how to find such things, so I left it alone. But they're fantastic, especially the Jeff and Abed one.

  • Abed in the Jeff shirt is cracking me up anew. And Britta's various faces always do.

  • You are not allowed to mention "Harmon's next project" while Community's fate hangs in the balance.

  • Fantastic review. At this point I'm both really excited and terribly scared to do 106.

  • Thanks so much! Don't be scared. I felt the same way, but once I started writing, I had to actually limit myself from saying too much. It's fun. I kind of wish I'd signed up for a second one now.

  • How would Britta respond to the Wall Street occupiers? She'll bring it up, and everyone else will shout her down? I'm actually kind of sick of Britta and her causes used as jokes, because most of her issues are very important.

  • I have wondered what Britta would think about OWS.

    I don't really think Britta's causes are the jokes so much as the fact that she has an opinion about everything but doesn't actually do much. It's the whole "likes-to-use-fringe-politics-to-make-themselves-feel-special-but-doesn’t-actually-ever-want-to-do-anything….itis” thing (which is one of my favorite Shirley lines ever–also what made initially made me fall in love with Britta, because I might have a teensytendency to be the same way). They groan because they say some innocent thing and she derails the conversation with some big sociopolitical statement about it, but she doesn't actually act on it.

  • Exactly. You can see it in the way that she talks about Beirut being full of important cultural things without actually knowing what they are; her problem is that she's essentially an intellectual poseur.

  • The_Tuna

    Britta would love the idea of OWS but wouldn't actually go. There would no doubt be much ranting about the subject, however.

  • But I don't think the show is in any way saying that Britta's causes are not serious or should be treated as laughable. The joke is Britta's only relatively recently growing self awareness about the gulf between her intent and her actions and also her being more devoted to the idea of protest than to the actuality of it. She's like the Tobias of this show. He wasn't funny because he was gay. He was funny because he was in total denial. Lastly, for someone who can be fairly astute about human behavior a lot of the time, she's pretty much crap at pitching her causes to anyone else without resorting to preachiness and guilt.

  • wait… Tobias was gay? that explains all those jokes…

  • "Nobody is on the other side of this issue!"

  • The_Tuna

    The issues aren't treated as unimportant, it's Britta's use of them to gain social capital for herself without actually taking an active role in protesting those issues that is mocked.

  • Excellent review Scrawler!
    One random thing I noticed about this episode, Chang says at one point during his introductory speech, "YA BIT?" Which he says again in a way more literal context in "Epidemiology"

  • Thanks!
    Good call on "ya bit!" I knew it seemed familiar, but couldn't figure out if it was from this episode or somewhere else. I figure I was just remembering this interaction, but clearly I was wrong. Excellent recall!

  • Hi sexy!  Just stopping by to support ya'll's project, and to say Merry Christmas!  I'm on the road for a few days, and internet access may well be lacking, but hope you have a great time with the family!

  • Thanks dahlink! I'm leaving town tomorrow, too, so I don't know how much I'll be around these parts. But have a great holiday and safe travels! I'll "see" you in the new year. (I have to dream up a new AVC-related resolution, I think.)

  • Not sure what you can do to top the success of last year's, other than getting hired as a reviewer!

    Travel safe!  I'll only be gone a few days then back here again, I'm sure.  Maybe I'll come up with a resolution, too.

  • Nice review, very comprehensive.

    Like the Pilot, most of the scenes in this one work much better for me now than the first time I watched it. Lots of witty throwaway lines (the binoculars thing, "Your breath smells really bad right now"), but the self-serving protests and the "Wise Up" montage are a little too arch for me.

    I respect Harmon for mocking his own habits and politics, but the show found much juicier targets in the next few weeks. I suppose the small payoffs in this one laid the foundation for a special kind of shorthand between writers and viewers ("We know you've seen all this before, let's kind of make fun of that while still giving you bits of it")

    But it's very early in the larvae stage. Even on DVD, when I already love hanging out with these characters on Greendale's campus, this still feels like some small (if promising) steps to a more enjoyable overall experience to come, starting next week.

    Actually, this episode, in how it lays out Jeff's grudging obligation to the others, and Britta's erratic attraction to Jeff, makes it more of a proper pilot (or a clearer picture of what 101 started).

    Abed's probably the character that seems to have been conceived most differently from how he ended up being used. The "meta" comments are there in the first few episodes, but he's more quirky and alien. and generally seems to have been devised as a sidekick/twisted conscience for Jeff, rather than as an identification character in his own right. But I guess that's more of seeing how the premise morphed from being about one guy's experience into an ensemble show.

  • Thanks!

    While I can certainly see why you feel the way you do, and while there are early episodes that don't entirely work for me either, this one totally does, for whatever reason. 

    I agree with you on Abed. It's hard to put a finger on exactly why, but his meta jokes seem much more like straight-up punchlines compared with the ones he makes now that actually manage to reflect who he is as a person and to show character development, however small. He was definitely much more sitcom-y back at the beginning. 

  • sll03

    I know am ridiculously late, but I just wanted to say that this an awesome review and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it! 

  • Well I am even more late in replying but thank you!