Episode 104: Social Psychology

Community Season One, Episode Four Review by Loki100

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Loki1001

Community Season 1, Episode 4: Social Psychology

Part of the fun of this project is that it allows us to look back on the first few episodes with all the knowledge of three seasons worth of characterization and see how much the characters have changed or how little. When I thought about this episode in the past, I always thought it was a brilliant episode, but that Shirley was behaving wildly out of character. To my surprise, upon reconsidering it, this episode really creates the Shirley that I love and is remarkably consistent with Shirley's personality throughout the rest of the series, much more so than the pilot. In fact, out of these first few episodes, this is quite possibly the most important at establishing the dynamics within the group as well as with the greater world of Greendale Community College.

At the start of this episode Jeff purposefully avoids Shirley because he thinks talking to her is just going to be a never ending parade of "That's nice!"es. It is easy to forget this moment once Shirley's sarcastic streak takes over latter in the episode, but this scene establishes how the study group views her. Despite the fact that she is, as oft stated, almost the same age as Jeff, they all view her as a motherly, nice, Christian housewife. This is somewhat an artifact of the pilot where Shirley was supposed to be considerably older than Jeff, but she had to be de-aged once they cast Yvette Nicole Brown who is the same age as Joel McHale. But the truth is that Shirley has one of the darkest pasts out of any member of the group, and she is one of the strongest characters. The Christian sweetness and niceness is, more than anything, her way of controlling her anger and hostility. Shirley calls herself a "pot stirrer," which is a very accurate summation of the character. But the group all too often only sees that surface layer and write her off as nothing more than an annoying, superficial friend.

Much to Jeff's surprise, Shirley can get mean. In fact she's better at being mean and sarcastic than he is, as he realizes when she gets Vaughn to strip in the cafeteria. But this is what actually creates a bond between the two of them. This is a turning point in the entire series, as this is the first time Jeff actually seeks out the company of a member of the study group simply because he enjoys their company, rather than because he wants something from them. Shirley is actually his very first friend. There is a beautiful, but subtle, symmetry at work in this episode. Shirley has an almost identical personality to Britta, his primary interest, but that personality manifests wildly differently in the two women. Both are strident, abrasive believers whose passionate, but rigid outlook alienates most people. Both are deeply insecure about people in general, and in particular their connections to the other members of the study group. Shirley is also the only person besides Britta in these early episodes not to be charmed by Jeff's onslaught of bullshit. This episode reveals she hasn't even been paying attention to his trademark Jeff Winger speeches, as she thinks he was a doctor, and then when he corrects her, she calls talking to him boring.

The other major element at play is the introduction of Vaughn. Prior to this episode, the study group has been remarkably insular. Their only real interactions have been with each other. The introduction of a new character allows us to see how they interact with outsiders. The thing about the study group is that they are lovable losers. They are sweet, innocent, kind, and adorable… just so long as they are at the very bottom rung of the social ladder. The moment they get any kind of power, the corruption and nastiness sets in immediately. Vaughn is so sweet and nice that he hands Britta his heart, and she throws it to the ground (by sharing a very personal poem meant only for her with Jeff), and then the entire rest of the study group starts jumping on top of it. Because they are so fun, and we love them so much, it's sometimes easy to forget that the members of this study group are deeply flawed people and often not very nice.

The other plot line is quite a bit thinner, but still just as important. It begins with Annie asking Troy and Abed to participate in a psychology experiment. Abed responds, in his Abed way, that he and Annie don't particularly have much in common or much reason to interact, but then agrees to help her because she says they are friends. This scene is sort of an aspirational goal for the series, one that it has not been as successful in pursuing as the show would probably like. One of the problems with ensemble comedy is that certain groups of characters (usually pairs) work really well together, and so they always wind up segmenting into the same groupings. The golden standard of comedy is show where any character can be matched up with any other character and it will be just as successful and logical as any other pairing. The most notable example is "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." With this scene, Dan Harmon and friends are specifically stating they want to be that kind of show, rather than one like "Friends" where the same groups of characters were always paired together. Over the course of three seasons, they've somewhat failed at that goal. "Competitive Ecology" is, more or less, a half-hour long admission that the show has become far, far too reliant on Jeff and Annie, and Troy and Abed.

As this plot progresses we see one of the first of what will become one of the defining features of "Community," which is just how deep the bonds of friendship are between these characters. Each one of them has specific limits, but the moment that a friend is in need they will cross any and all limits to help them. In this case it is Abed sitting perfectly still in a room for twenty-six hours straight.

The show ends with Pierce telling Jeff, "There was certain things man was not meant to hear. We were designed, by whatever entity you choose, to hear what's in this range and really this range alone because you know whose talking to us in this range? The people we love." It's really a comment on Jeff's inherent problem throughout the series. He spends so much time being concerned with being cool and what people think, that he fails to listen to the people closest to him, which are the ones, apparently the only ones, who love him.

EXTRA THOUGHTS! (Because this wasn't already long enough!)

  • "Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism" basically is this exact same episode done over. Jeff dismisses Shirley as nothing more than a nice, Christian housewife, only to discover she's a secret badass and better than him at something. It's a shame we haven't gotten more Jeff-Shirley plotlines since those two bring out the worst in each other.
  • I like to think we all got to see the Duncan Principal at work during season two when people started to freak out about Pierce.
  • This episode marks the first appearance of Garret!
  • I want a pair of ear-noculars
  • "I never knew that's what 'asexual' meant."
  • When Annie's sanity starts slipping she starts putting pens in her hair.
  • First time we learn Troy likes butt stuff.
  • Did Abed use the bathroom at any point during those twenty-six hours? Discuss! 
Shameless self-promotion!

If you liked this review, I am a reviewer at Tastes Like Comics. Here is a link to my archive where you can read my very, very snarky reviews of stuff as well as Superman fanfiction written in the style of Jane Austen.
 

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On the A.V. Club: http://www.avclub.com/articles/regional-holiday-music,66270/#comment-395060484 (page 42)

Discussion:

  • Great review!

    What I really like about this episode is that it's the first time we see Annie actually being manipulative.

    It's definitely in its nascent stages here, but she essentially drags Abed into the experiment by saying "we're friends, so you have to help me". This kicks off what will become a continuing series of manipulations of various members of the study group by Annie.

    It's also interesting to note that this episode really reinforces the disconnect Abed has with other people. He doesn't really understand what being a "friend" with somebody means; when Annie tells him they're friends he immediately accepts it as the gospel truth.

    Also, very well-made point on the way Community initially planned to use its ensemble and the way it ended up.

    Personally, I think that Community actually can place any two cast members together and end up with a convincing, interesting, and funny plot; they just don't do it on a regular basis. YNB has said we can expect some new pairings in the back half of the season, and I'm interested to see that.

  • I found Abed's reaction to Annie, that he wouldn't leave because she said they were friends, one of the more important parts of the episode.  I think Annie has a tendency to get really caught up in whatever she is doing. So when Abed said that it pulled her back a bit and made her remember her more fundamental kind-heartedness that she can lose at times. 

  • DavetheDouchebag

    It also established that he has strong emotional reactions to things, such as being forced to wait for such a long amount of time, but lacked the need to express his emotions in a typical human way. 

  • Loki100

    Oh, you absolutely can mix and match any character with any other character and wind up with magic. But just due to inertia throughout season two and sections of season three they relied almost entirely on Jeff and Annie and Abed and Troy. Season three seems to be acknowledging this and trying to fix it, as "Competitive Ecology" flat out stated that Troy and Abed spent too much time together, and "Studies in Modern Movement" repeatedly made the point that they were incredibly annoying together. "Advanced Gay" featured the first Jeff/Pierce storyline since season one I think, and "Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism" the first Jeff/Shirley.

  • Agreed! We have at least one more Jeff/Shirley story and an Annie/Britta story promised; something to look forward to.

    It's looking like Abed & Troy may not be as close in Season 4, either, judging by the way the plot threads are starting to tie together; that'll be interesting.

  • I forget who said it, but someone wrote that the problem with Troy and Abed is that the stuff that used to be confined to the tags is the focus of episodes now. Seeing Troy dressed up as a Christmas tree is funny; seeing how and why that happened is too much.

  • Loki100

    These aren't exactly common opinions, but I found Tory's story during "Horror Fiction" almost insufferable. Much like Annie discovered, Troy and Abed together for more than thirty seconds is grating. They become typical sitcom characters, almost exactly like the characters on TBBT, they have wacky personalities and go on wacky adventures and they always lack the brilliance and depth of the other characters and storylines. You can almost hear the spaces where a laugh track would go. And I never want to hear a sung in unison, "Troy and Abed…" again. It went from being a hilarious send up of morning shows, to a lame sitcom catchphrase.

    I really hope this season is about pushing them apart. Abed pushed Troy to be a more interesting character, but Troy dragged Abed down to be far less interesting.

  • This is a damn fine episode. Even though the A-plot here is really good, and should be quite memorable, it's been greatly overshadowed by the B-plot in my memory. Primarily because I think it is perhaps one of the funniest plots the show has ever done. The freakouts are hilarious – particularly Troy and Duncan's: Chang's less so. And the exchanges between Annie and Duncan are fantastic: "Let me answer that question with another question…[blows raspberries]". Troy, Duncan and Annie are all on their comedic A games here.

    And this might be the funniest line – plus Glover's delivery helps – in the entire show in my opinion:
    "I've wasted all day here for you! The soul train awards were tonight! You promised butt stuff!

    I can't even think about it without chuckling.

  • John Oliver's been great every time he's been on, and in this episode he gets to show it off. He's great at his day job, but it's a shame that it doesn't let him appear on Community more often.

  • I had originally signed up for this one because people never seem to talk about it, either positively or negatively. I think it's one of the most pizza of pizza episodes the show has done and deathly funny to boot, but you also raise excellent points about characterization that hadn't occurred to me. Specifically, that Shirley wasn't that enamored with Jeff early on; that the group can go all Lord of the Flies when they have power (chicken fingers, Todd); and that Harmon was making a conscious point about sitcom pairings with the Friends reference and then subverting it with Annie and Abed.

    I actually disagree that the show hasn't been successful in pairing any two people together. I did a full summary of all the pairings somewhere in the S2 finale megathread and I think only a couple were especially weak and lacking in potential. I'll simplify it:

    Really strong and developed already
    Jeff-Pierce
    Jeff-Annie
    Jeff-Britta
    Jeff-Abed
    Troy-Abed
    Britta-Abed
    Annie-Britta
    Annie-Shirley
    Annie-Pierce

    Explored already and plenty more to work with
    Jeff-Troy
    Annie-Abed
    Troy-Britta
    Annie-Troy
    Shirley-Britta
    Jeff-Shirley
    Pierce-Shirley
    Abed-Shirley
    Pierce-Britta

    Not much done with these
    Pierce-Troy
    Pierce-Abed
    Troy-Shirley

    They've been pretty comprehensive, I think. As you can see, Jeff is very close to living up to his claim that he has chemistry with everyone. I don't see much potential in the last three but you never know with the caliber of writers on this show.

  • DavetheDouchebag

    I think Remedial Chaos Theory actually developed the relationship between Pierce and Troy, and to some extent Pierce and Abed. We see in that episode that Pierce was jealous of Troy moving out and that Troy was seriously grateful for the opportunity Pierce presented him, but wants to be a man on his own. We see when Pierce tries to take the troll back that Pierce is capable of realizing the irrationality of his jealousy and bitterness. I also love the scene where Pierce tells Abed that he's jealous because he's "lonely and crazy" and then stops, almost as if he's discovered he's describing himself.

  • All good points, but potential was also a factor in my list and I don't see as much with those last three.

    To add to Pierce-Abed, they were the last two on the trek to the North Pole. They share a past of broken families and holidays spent alone.

    Troy-Shirley basically consists of Shirley attempting to mother Troy the way she does with Annie but Troy rejecting it outright ("you're not my mother"). In 115 when they're all googly-eyeing each other, Troy does give Shirley as "maybe?" look but I think that's just a joke, probably about butt stuff.

  • I can recall a little bit of somewhat significant interaction between Pierce-Troy and Pierce-Abed – some of it noted by DavetheDouchebag – but I absolutely cannot think of any significant plots, or moments in general, being shared between Troy and Shirley. I would say it's probably the absolute least mined pairing in the entire group.

  • something something pandas.

  • DavetheDouchebag

    I think that the writers have not developed Troy-Shirley is that they are trying to avoid touching on the subject of race in a way that would be controversial. There have been jokes about how Pierce thought Shirley and Troy are related, and I think they hold the key to why the relationship has not been prominent. If the relationship between Troy and Shirley were to be seriously explored by the writers, they would have to deal with the way in which Troy and Shirley's shared experience as Black Americans differed from the experiences of the white characters on the show. I can't imagine a (somewhat) mainstream television program dealing with racial issues in the way they would need to in order for this to work. 

  • Dave, there was that Can't Buy Me Love/Love Don't Cost a Thing joke in Physical Education meant to highlight their Black American experience, but that's it. I think that Harmon and co. would be capable of making Troy-Shirley about something entirely non-racial but they just haven't for whatever reason. As I alluded to above, they started off with Shirley trying to mother Troy and Troy rejecting her advances–"you're not my mother" in 103 when Troy sneezes and "You're not Shirley. And Shirley's not my mom." in 114)–but they killed that thread completely after that. It's become very noticeable how little they interact.

  • In S1, there were (very) small exchanges that made me think Troy was the only one who respected Shirley's maternity. I guess that's supposed to be a racial thing, like as a young black dude he takes a mother figure, or an older woman, more seriously. I dunno, that was just my loose read on it.

    There's that one thing in "Applied Anthropology" where he sees she's given Andre a cutesy nickname in her cell phone and he says "That hurts, Shirley." Like she usually uses those nicknames for him, I guess?

    Anyways, it doesn't change that they have so little real time together or stories between them. But I thought that they had an established dynamic early on, like I thought Shirley in S1 generally had a more solid place in the group. Then everyone else became semi-hangout-buddies and she and Pierce felt excluded.

  • DavetheDouchebag

    Lloyd, I agree with you that they could make the dynamic non-racial if they wanted to, but I would personally be more interested if the show started taking on serious social issues. I know it's just a comedy, but I think Community has the potential to be such a game changer in the world of television, even if only a few people watch it . It's already one of the greatest television series I've ever seen, but sometimes I want the show to be even more daring and experimental. It feels like Dan Harmon doubts his own ability to handle complex themes in an interesting way, even though he's shown again and again how much greatness he can achieve. I give him a lot of credit for having a middle aged black women with two kids as a major character, a true rarity in this type of show, but he seems afraid that if he gives her a truly major plot line he'll mess it up, because he can't relate to her. He needs to have faith in universal human experience to provide him with an understanding of people who aren't at first glance like him. The way Shirley has been characterized this season as a religious bigot makes it seem almost like he's given up on making her a character the viewer can identify with. Even while some of the jokes about her religion have been kind of clever, they seem almost like a capitulation to stereotypes about Christians and black women. It wouldn't strike me as offensive in a lesser show, but I have such high standards for Community that I find myself depressed by some of it's missteps. 

    I apologize if this post was really long winded and off topic

  • community definitely could take on serious social issues, but i don't really need it to. i'm happy if they stick to focusing on the community of the study group, how they relate to each other, their growth as individuals, etc. i guess they sort of touch on certain social issues, but always through the strict purview of a certain character. look how homophobic shirley can be sometimes and how the others react. and i'm sure the characterization of shirley will be explained throughout the rest of the season. i have faith. 

  • DavetheDouchebag

    Zombie, I absolutely believe that they have plans for Shirley, but based on the buildup I probably won't like them. She's just been a bit of a stereotype lately, and while that is to some extent true of all the characters, they've all broken type. Even in Foosball where she finally got a major story line she was relegated to the stereotypical mean fat black chick role. I liked the episode, but I'm just really sensitive to what I see as racial stereotyping especially in a show I love. Dan Harmon has said he intends to show all the characters darkness this season, but that doesn't really excuse it in my opinion. Of course there might be an unbelievable payoff later that will make me look foolish.

  • To be honest, I'd almost rather we didn't get another big Shirley-centric arc this season. She had hers last year with the pregnancy arc, and quite frankly that wasn't the strongest one the show has ever done.

    Shirley is at an interesting place in that, unlike many of the other characters, she doesn't need to overcome her primary character flaw. Shirley already has overcome her rage issues via strict devotion to her interpretation of Christianity. As she evidences in "Foosball & Nocturnal Vigilantism", she's fully aware of her dark side, acknowledges it completely, and has tried to move past it.

    This stands in stark contrast to characters who are still actively struggling with their primary flaws such as Jeff (father/attachment issues), Britta (commitment issues), Troy (maturity issues) and Annie (control issues).

    Shirley doesn't require an arc about her overcoming her primary character flaw like many of the other characters do; it's already happened. Another episode or two fully exploring the background that was hinted at in "Mixology" would not necessarily go amiss, but Shirley has by and large surmounted her rage issues to a point where they are no longer a serious impediment to her interactions with others.

  • Missed opportunity, with the benefit of hindsight: Pairing Pierce and Abed here. The ear-noculars are not that different from Abed's cameras.

  • Troy living with Pierce was also a missed opportunity. The only time we got much at all about it was in "Psychology of Letting Go."

  • It's kind of amusing that Pierce and Troy have done very little together onscreen seeing as how they were initially supposed to be a pair in the pilot.

  • They really don't end up bonding much through their mutual adolescence. I had hoped that Troy living with Pierce would allow us to get more of those stories, but unfortunately it was almost ignored.

  • Janine Restrepo That's quite true; I did enjoy the (albeit brief) exploration into their living situation conducted by "Remedial Chaos Theory".

  • Great review! Some more stray observations.

    -The first "the worst" is not Britta, it's Vaughn! "I know! He's the worst!"

    -Troy's iguana-like leg-dragging as he quits the experiment is so, so funny.

    -"Is it on pause?" Abed's superpower is stillness.

    -Vaughn gave Britta something. "Herpes?"

    -I have neglected to triple-greet people here. I intend on remedying that.

    -Jeff = Degrassi

    -Jeff = Dr. Doogie Seacrest

    -Troy's possum move: Just pretend like you're asleep.

  • "Pretend you're asleep!" is such a perfect response. I'm kind of envious that, as freaked out as Troy gets, you know 30 minutes later he and Abed will have completely forgotten about it. Like, they will probably think pretending to be asleep actually fooled everybody.

    Any reference to Degrassi is hilarious because that was the TV show from hell and just the fact that any rational adult has heard of it makes me laugh. Also, Drake.

  • Degrassi didn't start off with The Next Generation  (Drake) you know.  It was originally an '80s/'90s show, and was actually pretty kickass.

  • "Just pretend like you're asleep!" is definitely one of my favorite tags; not top 5, but it's up there. Glover just delivers the line so hilariously well.

    It also comes back in "Art of Discourse", which was both a great character continuity moment and just plain damn funny.

  • TheTuna  I'm pretty sure Troy and Abed also "pretend to be asleep" after yelling "Books!" at the hot Librarian in "21st Century Romanticism".

    1derer  I've heard that from a few people. But I've only seen Degrassi Classic for, like, 10 minutes. But I think D:TNG was shameless and obnoxious enough to spoil the name for all Degrassis born before or since.

  • Unregistered Guy Named Eric Aaah, you're right! I had totally forgotten about that. Just another example of the great continuity in terms of repeated behaviors and quirks that all of Community's characters have.

  • For me, Degrassi is a mystical and semi-mythical place where actors who are awesome can point and say, "See, I paid my dues." It pretty much exists, for me, only to give people IMDb histories, lest we might think they emerged from Zeus's butthole fully formed.

  • As someone who used to watch Degrassi (the largely shitty new one) I was surprised and amused to hear a grown-ass man reference it. I kind of felt like my secret shame was being called out, though.

    I will vouch for classic Degrassi, though. I'm no big fan, but a few years ago I caught a bunch of episodes on late, late night TV, and it was streets ahead of TNG crap.

  • I want to shower some praise on the final scene with Pierce and Jeff on the bench that Loki transcribed. It's easily one of my favorite Pierce moments. What I love about it is that it lets Pierce have the 'win' by utilizing the Senile Old Man Has A Lucid Moment trope (that's a trope, right?), but it does so without getting too sappy or condescending. It rings absolutely true that Pierce would come to that moment of clarity after spending the episode fiddling with his Ear-Noculars. Pierce is someone who's been trying to make connections for years (12 at Greendale alone, as we find out later) because he spent the majority of his life pushing people away, so someone as rich and desperate as him would certainly look to a fancy device to join conversations rather than actually participate. Pierce giving that advice to Jeff is also appropriate. I've alternately gotten chills and belly laughs watching the scene (accompanied by "How You Like Me Now", a rare use of outside music in season 1), and that's the best kind of comedy you can ask for. On the spectrum of comedic sensibility it's right in the sweet spot between that of AD and Parks.

  • Yeah, I really like when Pierce, for all his pettiness, shows he knows something the others don't.  After all, he's probably been through most of the crap the others are going through, he's just too curmudgeonly and self-absorbed to notice it most of the time. (Sometimes I try to put myself in the shoes of Pierce at his worst. It's disgusting to the others to think Pierce was ever as suave as Jeff, but being a rich dude he probably was at one point. He just has no way to get credit for it, so he has to stubbornly try to prove it when it just makes him look awful. It's gotta suck being old.)

    After the first handful of episodes, they seem to have gone away from using an upbeat song to tie everything together at the end (whether it was Vaughn's band, Pierce, Violent Femmes, or the 88s doing "Don't You Forget About Me"). That lends the early eps like this a kind of sweetness and innocence, that at the very end of each there's a moment to kind of appreciate that particular place in time in all of their lives, even if nothing Earth-shattering happened to end the episode.

  • This says it all: http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…. Pierce has spent 3 seasons trying to convince the others that he used to be the guy in the portrait above his own bed.

  • Haha i never noticed that, but that is fantastic that they had a picture of young chevy making that look

  • There's actually a lot of outside music in Season 1; it's there most often in the first few episodes, but it's also present at the end of Debate 109, The Politics of Human Sexuality, Interpretive Dance, and Basic Genealogy and at the climax of Comparative Religion and Physical Education.

    I really love the way it establishes the tone of the show; Season 1 in particular is full of wonderfully sweet episodes and the music is a major part of that.

    EDIT: Wow, Unregistered Guy Named Eric liked this post twice. I guess he just likes liking things.

  • Pierce has another Lucid moment in 217 when Vicki stuck a pencil in his face: "When we seek to destroy others, we often hurt ourselves, because it is the self that wants to be destroyed."

  • I was very impressed with the way the episode handles the stuff between Jeff and Britta. Both of them exhibit an impressive amount of self-awareness/savvy. He knows that he would appear jealous if he said anything to Britta about Vaughn. (This also happens to spare us from having things turn into a sitcom in a bad way.) Britta, in turn, describes the scene on the grass–putting Jeff in the awkward position of finding out that way, etc.–as tacky. So they are both as thoughtful and caring about the whole thing as can be expected, really (picture of poem aside for a moment). They acknowledge pretty quickly that they are not at the "We can discuss Britta's sex life" stage. Their negotiation about where they can place themselves on the friendship spectrum is frank and touching. They are both trying; they both genuinely want to give it a try.

  • They talk a little in the commentary about how it might seem out of character for Jeff to be so visibly bummed that Britta's with somebody else. Like, would he really be all lovesick?

    I don't know how else they could've played it, though. As you said, Jeff was very self-aware and smart enough not to linger on Britta too much in future eps, but he has to have some sincerity in his affections for the show to work.

    But they get into that more next ep, I guess.

  • There was definitely good sincerity (band name!) in this episode: Pierce's "This is your dancing space" to Jeff; all of Jeff's reactions to Britta; all of Britta's reactions to Jeff; and even the honesty between Shirley and Jeff (about the mutual baseline of not having that much in common).

  • That scene by the vending machine was all kinds of adorable. "I figured that you'd make fun of him…and me."…"You guys should hang out some time…I gotta go".

  • She knew even as she was saying it that that was one of those polite/impossible (no one is that evolved)/awkward things. Very, very well done.

  • Very nice review.

    They are sweet, innocent, kind, and adorable… just so long as they are
    at the very bottom rung of the social ladder. The moment they get any
    kind of power, the corruption and nastiness sets in immediately.

    Well said, and you found some very interesting stuff with how they've had to call themselves out on not pairing everybody up successfully.

    Vaughn ends up being a very important guest character in only a few appearances, because he constantly challenges the group's dynamics. It's one thing for him to (briefly) challenge Jeff's notion that Britta will be there until he hooks her, or her misguided idealism about what kind of guy she wants to be with. But he, as you said, winds up being a reflection on the corrupting effect all of them have on each other. (Duncan also serves this purpose, but his experiment is so twisted and inhumane from the start that it's really to be expected). In his next 2 eps, Vaughn really throws a wrench in the works, but we'll get to those later. Suffice to say, the energy and pacing is always high in Vaughn eps, and he takes potentially boring situations and makes the group examine themselves and reconfigure on the fly, adding conflict and moving the plot forward. It's those 3 episodes that separate Community from the more plain or obvious show it might've been in the early going, IMO.

    On the flip side, I think it's worth considering that Vaughn, while dorky and easy to hurt, isn't that low on the social ladder. He's full of himself and charming and not (as we'll see in "Home Economics") such a pushover. So, yeah, the group are dicks to him, but he clearly overreacts. He blames Britta for showing the poem to the group when she didn't. He wanted to think she adored him as much as she was pretending to when they flirted. That's at least partly on him.

    Britta does begin to expose her hypocrisy about guys here. She tells Jeff that Vaughn's fairly small attempts at intimacy are scaring her away. Obviously, if she just wanted a fuck buddy, Jeff would've been a better choice. But she seemed grossed out by his approach, while essentially doing the same thing to Vaughn that Jeff wanted to do with her. So, to a degree, she really wants the power in her relationships as much as Jeff does. In hindsight, I wonder why I was so surprised when Britta bottomed out in S2. It's all on display as early as the first 5 episodes, I just insisted on thinking of her as the moral compass she presented herself as in 101.

    All in  all, it's cool to see that they had an episode with so much going on, in terms of humor, interactions and character dynamics so early on. Like Loki said, the fact that it foreshadows so much of the show to come is a real credit to how dense an episode it is, even if it feels pretty breezy at times.The only thing it lacks, IMO, is the sort of totally uplifting ending some of the other best eps of S1 had. (I think this is the ep Harmon mentioned feeling good that he could trust another writer to come up with something so good on their own so early.)

  • Loki100

    While I will agree with you that in general at Greendale Vaughn is not lower on the social ladder than our lovable misfit study group, in this particular circumstance he is.

    He opened his heart to Britta and offered her a poem. He's laying it all out there, and she has complete power in their relationship. The rest of the study group is free to mock his sincerity, and the only thing checking them is fear of Britta.

    In this specific instance, and only this specific instance the social ladder looks like this:

    Britta
    |
    The Study Group
    |
    Vaughn

    As you said, by the next time that Vaughn shows up, he winds up at the top of the social ladder, and Britta at the bottom.

  • Britta is also vulnerable to mocking ("and me") [by virtue of being with someone as ridiculous and against-her-persona as Vaughn]: the group has power over her. So in that sense it's Group>Britta>Vaughn.

  • I'd love to see a graph tracking the social standing of Britta (or all the characters) throughout the show.  The apex of her journey would be when she became the People's Champion, of course.  And in season 3, she was pretty much the worst.

  • In later episodes, of course, it's established that Vaughn isn't exactly innocent; he deserves what he gets. He's not a bad person (almost nobody on this show is), but he's one of the less sympathetic characters that have appeared on Community.

  • Another Britta BSing moment is when she tells Jeff, "I find Shirley very easy to talk to". Yea, right. Just two episodes later Britta shows she learned nothing from stand up comedy in the 90s when she turned down Shirley's beckon call to the bathroom.

  • Loki100

    Of course Britta would make a point of saying how easy it was for her to talk to her African American friend.

  • Excellent analysis of Britta's hypocrisy here; it really does foreshadow the breakdown of her Ms. Moral High Ground facade quite well.

  • Hey, I definitely glimpsed the statue in this episode, but I saw no explicit indication that it's Luis Guzman. Do they really set all these things up this far in advance? I can't believe they could be sure of his availability, etc.

  • Wow. Indeed, he isn't mentioned until the next episode. Brain wrinkled.

  • The eps are shown out of order. I think they mentioned it on the commentary (the statue is visible before it's erected), or else I read about it someplace else.

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L…
    The wykapediah says this episode was produced and aired before 105 where Guzman was first mentioned.

  • i was just checking out fishsticktheatre.com (thanks, lloydbraun), and i just realized how much i missed from the bedroonm shots at the beginning of season 2. will this show ever cease to impress me? no, i don't think it will.

  • Yeah. I was unaware of that site as well. It's great. The only thing I didn't notice about those scenes, that I've found in these shots, is Annie's Eclipse poster (eww…she's too old for that!) and the trash cans outside her window. Clearly her living situation was planned ahead of time: well before what we heard of it in Mixology and what we learned in Pharmacology.

    The first time I noticed it, I was also excited to see Britta's Pixies poster, even though, strangely enough, I'm not a huge fan of that band.

  • Also note that she has bars outside her window. That's not a good neighborhood.

  • Yup, just another example of how good Community is at subtly introducing elements of the world before they actually become the focal point of an episode.

  • Can you imagine the Abed/Batman awesomeness?

  • I really wish they had gotten him, that would have been beyond amazing.

  • Hamill didn't want to do it because essentially they were making fun of him. But wasn't his appearance on the Simpsons basically the same premise?

    I listened to a Sound of Young America interview with Luis Guzman where he talked about Community, and apparently he either doesn't know or care about that.  He just talked about how it was an honor that a show wanted to use him as a reference.

  • after his guest role on redux, there's no way he would be able to think the joke wasn't on him a little bit if he saw the scene with the dean on the phone with him (that scene could totally have been performed without his knowing the whole of it, i suppose, but it seems unlikely). the imdb joke alone is kinda hard to misinterpret. 

  • I don't have as much to say about this episode as the last three.  I think by now there is a rhythm to early community episodes that this episode continues.  One thing i forgot was how great these first four episodes are.  I'm usually one of the first to defend the early episodes from detractors but i always defended them mostly on their being pretty good, but rewatching them now I think they are all pretty damn great. 

    Continuing a theme through the first 3 episodes, we again see one of the two major plots devoted to Jeff pursuing Britta.  And again in the other plotline we see the development of the rest of the study group.  104 spends more time with Annie than we had before and we see how driven she can be but also how manipulative.  But we also see her inherent kindness emerge when she realizes how much her profession of friendship meant to Abed. 

  • The way Annie backs herself into a friendship with Abed–starting off with deceit!–is a nice foil to Jeff and Britta's more honest but still bumpy manner.

  • So many great things that I'd just end up transcribing the whole thing, but I wont.

    -We get our first Annie info dump: She had a 4.0 at Riverside High. Had a brief addiction to pills that "I was told would help me focus but they actually made me lose my scholarship and virginity".
    -The Duncan-Annie exchange in the cafetaria really reminded me of Witherspoon and Broderick in Election. We already know Annie was based on Tracy Flick but her sucking up and Duncan conveniently reading it as a come-on made for a funny spoof. "…although, you're an 8, which is a British 10." Love how Annie says ooh and oh like 8 times in the scene.
    -"I asked politely and the panda took his pants down."/ "I never even knew that's what asexual meant". I still don't get it and I never want to either.
    -Vaughn recommends green tea for the antioxidants. In 108, Vaughn calls Britta "the exact opposite of an antioxidant".
    -Britta really enjoyed the high five: http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…
    -Annie was so cute as the eager to please lab student: Look at all her precious expressions: http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…
    -Attention shipper video people, Annie is looking on with concern as Troy breaks down: http://www.fishsticktheatre.co….
    -Pierce playing out the D plot in the background:http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…
    -Shirley: It's not gossip if it's fact.
    -Duncan was absolutely on fire: "Go kill John Lennon again, you loser".
    "Damn you, you outlying piece of datum". "Yea, subjects, not Rain Man".
    "Miss Annie Fanny Panties in a Bunch". Another subtle joke is that he
    has a breakdown himself, proving his own Principle: "The more control lost by the ego, the more gained by the id, resulting in the a surprisingly predictable emotional eruption or a breaking point."
    -Annie takes a jab at British dentistry. In the next episode, Duncan tells everyone "British dentistry is not on trial here".
    -Carrots.
    -"You see these guys out there and they're just throwin the B, and they're just loving life; it's just inspiring." [Is Britta the same B or a different B?]
    -"Yea I was livid". http://28.media.tumblr.com/tum…
    -He just said it!: http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…
    -Jacobs makes great pained faces: http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…
    http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…
    -"Why is the dinosaur rocking a picture of my poem?"
    -Vaughn: You guys are laughing at me, aren't you?/ Abed: Yea.
    -Shirley was formerly in a study group comprised of sassy black ladies before she was kicked out. They called her Tattle-ina.
    -"The fourth one blows."
    -So Jeff agreed to cat-sit sometimes? Um, I want to go to there.

  • apparently there was a cut scene (mentioned on the commentary) that involved Duncan telling Annie that his principle is still sound because he broke down himself

  • Thank you so much! The Annie faces, the Britta faces, the super-random dialogue–so much good stuff!

  • Since everything means vagina in England, not just fanny, "Miss Annie Fanny Panties in a Bunch" would translate to "Miss Vagina Vagina Vagina in a Vagina".

  • Interestingly enough, the "8, which is like a British 10" joke was cut on the DVD release. I still can't figure out why.

  • I'm trying to remember what other show has done that joke–I want to say Doctor Who, or maybe a show making fun of Doctor Who. Something about British butts?

  • That's the second instance of this that I know of. The other being one of Chang's staredowns with Annie, where his face is literally pressed against hers. (Edit: Just saw on YouTube that that is also from Social Psychology)

    Are there any others?

    For these I think I'm gonna start downloading the alternate versions. Those are moments from the show that I really enjoyed and – now that they've been mentioned – miss dearly. I need them.

  • Stephen77 Oh wow, I completely forgot that the scene where Chang stares Annie down was cut too!

    What the hell is up with that? I can sort of maybe understand why the "British 10" line might be cut by some overly PC editor worried about offending somebody, but why cut out that Chang bit? That makes no sense.

  • A few early episodes aired on E!, and they were cut down to fit there. I believe that some of the E! edits ended up on the DVDs. If you look on YouTube you can find the exact changes that were made.

  •  'Nac, it was SNL, with one of the royals telling Pippa Middleton (Katy Perry) that she had an ass like Doctor Who… not bad, for England.

  • wait really?  i just watched it on dvd a few days ago and i remember that joke being on there. 

  • WTF. I can't figure out if I should be angry that they've cut out/replaced some of the best jokes or thrilled that there is actually Community I haven't seen yet. I have the DVDs but I've never actually watched them because who the hell wants to go through FBI warnings and multiple discs? I just saw the start of 104 on the disc and it just has a rather tame Chang opening with no Princess Gringa bit and it has a big chunk of Annie-Duncan in the cafeteria missing, as well. LAME.

  • Very lame. I hope this is the only episode where this is the case. If anyone else knows of other episodes where this cutting occurs, I'd love to know so I could download the internet versions.

  • Ooh, FBI warning. I'm so scared.

    But have you really not seen the commentaries? That's unfortunate.

  • Of course I've heard the commentaries. Have you met me?? I just ripped them from the DVD as soon as I got them.

  • Uthted

    Re-watching this directly after "Critical Film Studies", I noticed something that's either a coincidence or a meticulously plotted easter egg that Dan Harmon obsessed over for years:

    – In 104, Abed mentions going to see the first three Indiana Jones movies, adding, "I bought a whip".

    – In 219, Abed tells Jeff that the Pulp Fiction briefcase was a fake, since he bought one of many 'original' Indiana Jones whips from the same seller.

    ZOMGWTFBBQ… Alright, this seems less impressive now that I wrote it down. Still, nice continuity if it was intentional.

    Edited to add: We even SEE the whip later on in 104. I shouldn't be as excited as I am over stuff like this, but it's Community.

  • sll03

    Well done, Loki!  I'm ridiculously late in responding, but I really enjoyed reading your review and I just wanted to let you know it is streets ahead. 

  • Scrawler

    Excellent review! Sorry for the lateness, I'm playing catchup after a mostly Internet-less vacation. I especially love your analysis of the Jeff/Shirley dynamic, which ties in so nicely with this season's Foosball episode, as you noted.

    Also, I love this comment: "They are sweet, innocent, kind, and adorable… just so long as they are
    at the very bottom rung of the social ladder. The moment they get any
    kind of power, the corruption and nastiness sets in immediately." So true. We've seen it again and again with this group, most hilariously–in my opinion–with Britta.