Episode 107: Introduction to Statistics

Community Season One, Episode Seven Review by TheTuna

AvatarThe_Tuna

S01E07 – Introduction to Statistics

“Introduction to Statistics” is the first of Community’s “holiday” episodes, episodes which have since become known for often bringing with them a not-inconsiderable dose of silliness and rather unconventional “concept" stories. “Intro to Statistics” sets this tone for future Halloween episodes admirably by taking several rather off-the-wall premises, namely the idea of Abed as Batman and Pierce having a bad trip while dressed as the Beastmaster, and using these concepts as a means by which to delve into the psyches of members of the study group and examine how they see themselves and those around them.

Jeff is arguably the central character in “Intro to Statistics”. This is reflective of the general trend of early S1, where Jeff occupied the role of “main character” and the other group members orbited about him. Jeff plays a key part in all the main plots of the episode; Annie’s party, Slater’s effect on Shirley, and Pierce’s bad trip all either stem from Jeff, are resolved by him, or both.

As Jeff stumbles through a series of increasingly bizarre scenarios, we learn a good deal more about him as a character. First off, and perhaps most importantly, this episode marks the end of Jeff’s overt romantic pursuit of Britta for the majority of the season. There may be the odd meaningful glance here or there, but for the most part Jeff abandons his quest for Britta in favor of Professor Slater, thus defusing the traditional “will they/won’t they” which had been set up repeatedly in earlier episodes. This serves to show us that, as Jeff notes in “Advanced Criminal Law”, it really is possible for him to be just friends with a woman without actively trying to sleep with her; a major step for his character.

Jeff’s sense of self-image is a key theme of “Intro to Statistics”. He doesn’t want to go to Annie’s party because it’s “lame” and he falsely claims to be averse to costume wearing because he doesn’t want to seem like he’s buying into Annie’s “uncool” social event. When he grows frustrated with himself because despite his best, smoothest moves he can’t get Slater to agree to date him, we see him express his insecurities regarding his image to Chang, an unlikely confidant; the specific words he chooses are “It’s this campus, it feeds on my coolness”. Jeff’s constructed all kinds of emotional barriers as a result of his emotionally deficient early life, and his carefully crafted image of the aloof, sarcastic snarker who just doesn’t care is integral to the maintenance of these emotional barriers. If he allows himself to admit that spending time out of class with the group at Annie’s cheesy party might be fun, or let on to Slater that he actually does view the group as friends, his painstakingly constructed barriers which exist to ensure that he can never be emotionally wounded ever again will be worn down ever so slightly. That’s something which Jeff at this stage in his life just can’t comprehend; the possibility that he may no longer need his defensive mechanisms because he’s with a group of people who actually care for him is still utterly alien, and thus he puts down or disappoints the other group members to reassure himself that he’s still the cool, distant adult he needs to be to survive.

However, by the end of the episode, Jeff swallows his pride and puts his image aside, realizing that the group as a whole has become something which is important to him. I would argue that “Introduction to Statistics” represents the first episode where Jeff really embraces the group in its entirety. We’ve seen him extend a kind gesture or two to Pierce, gossip with Shirley, make some overtures of friendship to Annie and become genuinely closer with Britta, but always separately in a one-on-one context. When he returns to Annie’s party, he does so on behalf of the group, apologizing or making amends for his earlier actions towards Abed, Pierce, Annie, and the rest. Putting aside the prospect of sex, Jeff drops his barriers ever so slightly to help the rest of the group, and that’s a trend which has continued for the rest of the show.

It’s also interesting to note that, when he returns at the end of the episode, Jeff knows exactly what he needs to do to repair the damage he’s caused. Jeff may be rather callous and brutal in his treatment of others’ feelings from time to time, but he remains a very intelligent individual who is quite accomplished at reading people; it’s why he was such an accomplished lawyer, after all. This is a double-edged sword for Jeff, as it enables him to wound others just as easily as it enables him to build them up; given his natural proclivity for snark and fear of intimacy, this is a talent which Jeff has most often used to the detriment of others. Being drawn into the group orbit has caused him to hurt them with this tendency, but it’s also given him a chance to use his remarkably astute “people sense” in a positive context with the now-loved “Winger speech”, and that's given him great opportunity to grow as a character. We see that talent for good in action here, where he’s able to give Abed gratification by calling him “Batman” and make amends with Annie by dancing with her.

“Introduction to Statistics” is also very much so an Annie episode, and provides more valuable insight into the workings of her mind following on the heels of that provided by “Football, Feminism and You.” Annie was clearly envisioned as one of the “C-tier” group members in the first two or three episodes; she has a minor role and we learn little of her until “Football, Feminism and You”. Perhaps in light of this, “Introduction to Statistics” provides a wealth of information about the character and outlines the path which she will take in the future. In her overflowing enthusiasm for the rather silly and inconsequential party, Annie reveals a good deal about herself. Annie seems genuinely to dislike the girl she was in high school, or at the very least the way that girl’s personality affected others’ perception of her; to Annie, the party is a chance to reinvent herself socially and loose yet another reminder of her past failure which stubbornly refuses to shake itself free. However, her avid desire for an image facelift also reveals another inherent and deeply-entrenched aspect to Annie’s personality; namely, her naiveté. Annie seems convinced that one cheesy afterschool extra-credit Spanish party can completely change the way others perceive her and grant her status as “hip, cool, laid back!” despite the fact that, as her own actions indicate, she is eminently none of those things. Annie longs to be something she is not and likely can never be; this is a recurring theme for her character that is expressed most strongly in “Mixology Certification”. Although she is acutely aware of her own previous unpopularity, Annie does not possess a strong grasp over the finer workings of social interaction, something which can quite possibly be attributed to her ostracism in high school and her eventual breakdown. Annie spent most of her time in high school being ostracized and moved on directly into rehab, so she never got a chance to analyze the dynamics of human social circles.

Despite her relative innocence when it comes to human behavior, however, “Introduction to Statistics” indicates that Annie, ever the consummate learner, is adapting to her new circumstances. In their conversation early in the episode, Annie more or less bullies Jeff into coming to her party, yanking on all the right emotional strings in a fit of hysterics until he finally agrees to attend, at which point she instantly recovers her composure and flounces off. This Annie isn’t yet the skilled puppet master of later seasons, but “Introduction to Statistics” takes the seed of Annie’s manipulative skills planted in “Social Psychology” and develops them further by having her deploy them against the group’s most socially savvy member. Annie is now aware of the new charms and talents she possesses, and she’s beginning to use them.

As observed by our own @LloydBraun, the Annie-Jeff conversation following Spanish is also rather wonderful in that it perfectly encapsulates S1 Annie as a character. She’s prone to hysterics yet also able to use her own powerful emotions to manipulate others, she cares far too much about things which matter very little, she’s deeply insecure and harbors severe past traumas which she has yet to overcome fully, and she places Jeff on a pedestal high enough to push Vicki off to her death from. Some of these things will change over time, and some will stay the same, but “Introduction to Statistics” establishes Annie’s overall character flaws and arc right in that one conversation.

Pierce must contend with a rather persistent and crippling character flaw throughout “Introduction to Statistics”; namely, his fear of his own irrelevance. This fear of irrelevance stems directly from his age. For all its diversity in member ages, the study group might as well be a bunch of high schoolers as far as Pierce is concerned; he’s got 30+ years on the next oldest member, Shirley, while the rest of the group is all roughly within a decade and a half of each other. This results in Pierce being the odd man out a lot of the time, as his cultural and social background differs completely from those of the younger folk. Pierce knows this, and it scares him. Thus, we see him act out to the degree he does. He longs to fit in with the other, younger members of the study group, and yet his every effort to do so is prevented by the very obstacle he seeks to overcome; the impact his age has on his ability to relate to others. He tries to wear a “hip” costume to fit in, but ends up wearing something out of a hokey 80s action movie which most of the group doesn’t even recognize. Despite his moans of “I’m dying”, I’m of the opinion that Pierce doesn’t fear his age itself, but rather the social obstacles his age naturally creates. This episode is the first time we see Pierce properly express this fear, and it’s a theme which will likely remain with his character for the rest of the series; indeed, Pierce’s story in the most recent Halloween episode echoes this exact fear of irrelevance.

Pierce isn’t the only one who gets to wear a costume and act bizarrely, however. Abed plays a character for the first time in this episode as he slips into the raiment of the Dark Knight. Just as it establishes core character traits for Pierce and Annie, “Introduction to Statistics” sets up Abed’s roleplaying, something which has since become one of the most noted and humorous aspects of the character. Funny as it may be, however, Abed’s costume isn’t the only remarkable thing he does in this episode. When Annie is losing control of the party, Abed seeks out Jeff because he wants to help her; this is a nice moment which is reflective of their newfound friendship in “Social Psychology”. Most importantly, Abed actually refers to Jeff as a “jerk” after Jeff tells Abed “you’re not Batman” and refuses to return to the party. As a very emotionally distant character, Abed is not often bothered by the various insults which come his way; however, Jeff’s actions evidently hurt Abed enough that Abed felt the need to retaliate. Whether this is due to Jeff’s treatment of Abed himself or Abed’s disappointment that Jeff will not help Annie is difficult to say, yet both paths necessitate that Abed display a genuine emotional reaction, and that is quite atypical for him.

“Introduction to Statistics” also contains a nice reminder that Jeff is often the character who understands Abed the most. Throughout the entire episode, Jeff is the only character to ever refer to Abed as “Batman”. Even Troy indirectly calls Abed a “fake Batman”, but Abed is nothing of the sort; he’s playing the role of Batman and has thus become the character. Jeff recognizes this and validates Abed’s goal in creating the character; while Jeff is certainly motivated simply by a desire to retract his earlier insult, it’s nonetheless telling that he does so in a manner which acknowledges the fact that Abed has taken on a role and a personality, not just a costume.

Abed’s role as the “hero” who rescues Jeff and Pierce at the end is also rather fitting. Abed is often the character who recognizes the need for direct action and takes it while the rest of the group squabbles, caught up in their own emotions. Indeed, we see this in the very next episode, “Home Economics”; Abed’s the one who realizes what Jeff needs and takes action to ensure that Jeff snaps out of his stupor. As such, I find it very appropriate that “Introduction to Statistics” ends with Abed perched out in the night, watching, while the rest of the group parties inside; he can’t be a part of that display of emotion, not yet, but he can still watch over the group from his place on the exterior.

Shirley is a secondary character in “Introduction to Statistics”, yet still receives a valuable amount of character development. Most notably, this episode addresses Shirley’s previously mentioned rage issues in much greater detail. Andre asking for his ring back causes Shirley to snap, and when she does her highly polished sugar & spice veneer of Christianity collapses. Without this restraining influence, Shirley’s rage takes full control, and we see why she throws herself so fervently into religion to suppress it; she’s willing to vent her anger on whomever presents themselves as a convenient target with no consideration as to whether or not the individual in question merits her rage.

The idea that Shirley considers her past to be wasted to a degree, as presented in “Introduction to Film”, is subtly expounded upon here as well. We learn that Shirley wants to live the “college experience” because she was deprived of it before. Andre’s seemingly final rejection of Shirley has led her to try to fill the voids in her life; ultimately, however, her attempts to fulfill these desires loop back around to the deep problems in her family life. Unlike Pierce or Annie, Shirley is able to fully acknowledge her real fears and motivations in this episode and moves past them to a degree; the status of her marital life will not become a serious issue for the character again until her successful reunion with Andre in “Asian Population Studies”. Shirley ceases bottling up her true feelings and unleashes them into the open, thus enabling Britta to cut to the core of Shirley’s problems and provide moral support in exactly the right manner.

Britta plays an ancillary role in “Introduction to Statistics”, serving mostly as “Jeff police” and moral support to Shirley. Still, we glean some knowledge about her. In keeping with her professed beliefs in “Football, Feminism and You”, we learn that she takes a rather dim view of women sexing themselves up for the sake of Halloween. Britta also seems to harbor a genuine dislike for Professor Slater, something which could easily be attributed to potential jealousy. However, Slater also appears to anger Britta on a personal level; her introduction of “Michelle Slater, PhD” and her impressive array of trophies drive home the fact that she is a successful, intelligent woman, and Britta is not. Thus, we get a nice bit of hypocrisy from Britta which serves to continue her development from the no-fun Jeff Police of the pilot to a much more flawed and interesting character; she puts on airs of moral superiority and generosity for the benefit of other group members, yet acts somewhat violently and angrily when in private. She’s not fully ready to show the group that side of her yet, but it’s starting to express itself on a more regular basis. I won’t really talk about Britta’s role as Jeff Police in this episode because, well, it’s been a theme for a few of the earlier episodes and not much has changed here. She still views it as her responsibility to protect the rest of the group from Jeff.

Troy is another character who really does not have much to do in “Introduction to Statistics”, as he does not have an active role in any of the episode’s plots. However, there is still one significant bit for the character. When Troy, Britta and Abed leave the teacher party to return to the study room, Britta and Abed both leave Jeff with parting insults in disapproval of his behavior. All Troy offers, though, is “She’s pretty hot”; no criticism or disparagement whatsoever. This serves to reinforce the idea that Troy more or less idolizes Jeff throughout most of S1; despite the fact that Jeff insults Abed and blows off Annie, Troy still looks up to Jeff far too much to actually become angry with him at all. Instead, he only compliments Jeff’s taste in women and then scuttles off; like Annie, Troy at this stage in his life does not have the confidence to challenge Jeff. 

Overall, "Introduction to Statistics" serves as a great baseline for Community's often off-the-wall holiday episodes while also granting a great deal of insight into many of the characters, establishing long-term arcs and recurring character flaws which are still with us to this day. I'd consider this episode easily the strongest of the initial 7, both in terms of character work and sheer humor value.

Because, really, nothing beats Abed Batman.

Stray Observations/Favorite Moments

  • This is the first time Abed’s beloved chapstick makes an appearance! It’ll pop up again in “Contemporary American Poultry” as a written reference on Abed’s wipeboard, as well as being used in “Biology 101” to try to revive him. 
  • Pierce calls the falcon “Abed” while tripping.
  • Annie’s face when Pierce begins massaging her shoulders is nothing short of hilarious.
  • According to Harmon, Annie & Jeff dancing at the end of the episode was one of the primary early impetuses which convinced him they could work as a “ship”.
  • Abed’s Batman monologue may be one of the funniest things this show has ever done.
  • Brie just generally nails the hysterical side of Annie phenomenally well this episode. My favorite lines include “Hip…cool…LAID BACK!“, “I was so unpopular the high school crossing guard used to lure me into traffic!” and “News!” Her wounded indignation is really quite great.
  • Anyone know who or what Troy is dressed as? Because I sure don't. 
  • The idea that Pierce intimidated the entire party to the extent that they fled the library while he constructed a highly elaborate desk fort to crush himself with. 
  • Also, this is somewhat embarrassing, but I still can’t decipher what Shirley is saying here: “To teach that long-necked [incomprehensible] that she can’t steal another woman’s man, that’s why!” Help me out, guys!

 

BONUS

"RETURN OF THE COMPUBOTS"

This week’s Inspector Spacetime episode represents a return to form in many ways for the series, as the Inspector and Constable Reggie find themselves faced with an old foe; the relentless, inhuman Compubots. This race of humanoid robots have been a regular foe of the Inspector since the early days of the show, and some fans might argue that they have been rather overused in the most recent seasons of the show. However, I find that the Compubots are used so often because they remain effective, compelling villains. Unlike the Blorgons, there is nothing personal in the actions of the Compubots; they are not living organisms with emotions, with hate and anger, but rather cold, unfeeling machines. This makes their attack on the peaceful world of Centauri 7 all the more horrifying, for they cannot be reasoned with, bought off, or provoked into making a mistake; the Inspector cannot simply spout off a witty retort and drive his enemies into conceiving the means of their own destruction.

As the viewer soon learns, there is a greater motivation behind this attack. The Eleventh Inspector has encountered more and more of his old enemies over the past several seasons, and the return of the Compubots suggests that there may well be a greater force at work here; that of the Anti-Inspector. We haven’t seen him since his last “death” at the hands of the Tenth Inspector’s companion. There doesn’t seem to be any logical reason for the Compubots to attack Centauri 7, though, as the Centauri population, intelligent squid-like creatures, cannot be used to create more Compubots. In the past, the Compubots have always targeted humanoid populations, particularly that of Earth in various timelines, in order to increase their ranks; an attack on a non-humanoid world by Compubots is virtually unheard of within the Inspector Spacetime canon. This suggests a greater agenda that the Inspector has not yet discovered, and the only known individual with the power to outmaneuver the Inspector to such a degree is the Anti-Inspector himself. 

Unfortunately, the Inspector and Constable Reggie are not left free to ponder the greater implications of the attack, as they are swept up in the brutal storm of conflict on Centauri 7. The Inspector’s plan to wipe out the Compubots entirely is rather shocking, as he normally prefers less direct methods of intervention in a world’s affairs; detonating a gravionic pulse device in the upper atmosphere is a move more in line with the sensibilities of the Ninth Inspector, who placed greater priority on the defeat of the enemy for the greater good than the protection of as many individuals as possible at the potential expense of the bigger picture.

It’s a shame that the episode leaves off on such a cliffhanger, with the Inspector and the Compubot Centurion about to engage in a lethal game of space checkers while the Constable hacks the Compubot mainframe; however, if the conclusion is anywhere near the quality of this season’s episodes so far, it should be quite a satisfying one. Let’s hope that the Compubots haven’t evolved too much for the Inspector to handle!

 

Discussion:

  • Great analysis of each of the characters!

    Dancing:
    http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…

    General good cheer:
    http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…

    I liked the (possible) parallel between Shirley and Britta. Shirley, mad for her own reasons, takes it out on Slater, supposedly on Britta's behalf. Britta, perhaps jealous, presents her reactions as being on behalf of the group or, more specifically, Annie.

  • Wow, that is a stark contrast!

  • Some more Stray Observations:

    -Spanish is mostly hand gestures, it has been established, and Chang doesn't let Annie use her hands.

    -Chevy fakes a tunnel incredibly well.

    -The will-they-or-won't-they pretty much ends with the words "first right of refusal." And the faces that Britta makes at Slater are incredible. I'll try to get pics.

    -Jeff to Annie: "Are you trying to be formidable with me?" He has worked on developing his immunity to Annie's tears, but of course she still gets her way.

    -The affect that Chevy uses when he says "Heard something about it"–in response to Troy asking about old age–I don't recall ever seeing again. It's very honest.

    -Chang: "Are you saying my people are sneaky?!"

    -"There's a storm building in the horizon…." That whole speech right through to "Predictable but appetizing!" is hilarious.

    -Britta, impressed by Cowboy!Jeff: "Whoa. Yippeekayay."

    -"Britta Perry, GED."

    -"How are we unseemly?!"

    -Chang gets a (rare) win when he gives Jeff the line that will end up working on Slater.

    -Slater's line will later become literal, with Leonard: Jeff as court-appointed guardian.

  • Yup, I meant to put this in the review but I forgot on account of 330am so I'll note it here:

    This episode serves to further reinforce the idea which sprung up in "Football, Feminism & You" that Jeff pretty much cannot say no to Annie. His plan to build up an immunity to her tears clearly didn't work out too well, because it's now three seasons later and Annie still pretty much walks all over Jeff if she is so inclined.

    The fact that she honed her manipulation skills on the otherwise most manipulatively adept member of the group went a long way towards refining her into the skilled manipulator she is today, I think.

  • I think there's something to be said for the theory (as it pertains to Jeff) that manipulative people are actually very impressionable. 

    i.e. To be a good salesman, you have to believe in what you're selling, and are susceptible to believe it if it's well sold by someone else.

    (I guess the backup theory would be that men who are good with the ladies are also suckers for the ladies.)

  • -Chipmunk!Britta, admiring Cowboy!Jeff: http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…

    -I have to give the win to Britta here. That GED line was gold.http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…

    -Britta in a nutshell. http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…

    -She has apparently seen Ice Age. http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…
    http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…

    -Britta's face when she still has her defenses up, all cool and okay with Slater and Jeff. http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…
    http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…

  • i love that chipmunk britta is carrying around a giant nut, that is so adorable

  • Troy is Eddie Murphy from Delirious. It's kind of remarkable how obscure the reference is.

    While Jeff is obviously the main character and this episode shows him truly accepting the group for the first time, I find myself more interested in Annie's part. I'm not going to go too deep into this because it's 1:15 and I have to wake up for school in 5½ hours, but this episode really builds on a lot of what we first began to see in the previous one; Annie shows off her talents at manipulation and reveals quite a bit about herself in the process. Of course, at the end we've got the scene with her and Jeff that began that whole storyline.

  • It is pretty iconic though I can imagine a large cross section of the audience would have no idea. 

  • In terms of Annie and Jeff, there is very little milord/milady in this episode. We see her improve in her manipulation, and we see Jeff ask her to dance at the end. It's an interesting sequence: rather than follow up on Jeff and Britta or on Jeff and Annie, the show introduces a new possibility, Jeff and Slater.

    Annie has nice ribs:
    http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…

  • Automatic_Taglines

    Favorite Bits from the Episode:
    -Shirley's line is: "To teach that long-necked weave-havin' bank teller that she can't steal another woman's man, that's why!"
    -"You know what the crazy thing is, Britta?" "Everything you've done tonight"
    -Professor Robin Hood (this is for sure my new superhero name)
    -"You have a full-on erection" (I love the camera work in that scene.)  –http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…
    -Britta clutching her acorn during the chair fort collapse.
    http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…
    http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…
    -La danza de los muertos: http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…
    -Starburns is showing his age as he only on the know Pierce is the Beastmaster right off the bat.
    -"Why is Eurkel ripping the antenna off Professor Slater's Car?" 
    http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…

    Favorite Outtake from the Episode:
    -"Since you're a big bat can you turn into a tiny Vampire" "Anytime. Any Place." "Do it now…. Don't do it. Don't want to freak everybody out."
    – Honorable mentions; "Are we going to kiss?" "It's like Andy Rooney is telling me to shut up and dance." "It's like the dude from Diff'rent Strokes is doing something [head nod]" "You know it's a chastity belt, right?"

    Favorite Moments from the Commentary:
    -Joel Mchale's and Chevy Chase's dueling Pr. Slater (Laurence Dimille) impressions.
    -"I sound like Butters."
    -"It's profound but in a weird way he's [Chevy] saying women aren't funny."
    -Chevy is really enamored by Alison Brie. Gillian Jacobs not so much.
    -Beastmaster has snake abs.
    -Joel and Dan agree Spaced depicted taking ecstasy the best. "It was like the Matrix of ecstasy trips."
    -Chevy would not hump the women's studies department.
    -"Daddy didn't take her to the zoo."
    -It was Chevy's idea to call the owl Abed.
    -Yvette would not crap in Pr. Slater's desk drawer.
    -Moby Duke
    -Chevy knew the Beatles and he was at Woodstock.
    -Ken Jeong was making some seriously gratuitous hand movements.
    -Danny's voice-over was ad-libbed and it was supposed to be place holder (glad they kept it)
    -Chevy having a Pierce moment "What am I….Just the old guy?"
    -"You're the Gandalf.'   
      
    Personal Connection to the Episode that Really Made it for Me: 
    That scene in Professor Slater's office between Shirley and Britta always reminded me of my mother after my parents got divorced (like Shirley and Andre my parent's remarried each other after a year or so), my mom spent so much time trying to be the strong, dignified person that she eventually broke in a very similar fashion. I maybe the only one, but I always saw the relationship between Shirley and Britta to be most similar to that a mother and daughter (way more so than Shirley and Annie), in that they have very similar personalities but they followed different passions (Christianity and social activism, respectively). It probably for that reason they are my favorite grouping on the show.

    Edit: It is Stimille not Dimille

  • the outtakes from this episode are just donald glover adlibbing and they are amazing.  i mean how can you ever decide which of those to actually use?

  • Interesting point about Britta and Shirley.  That really gets played up when they're driving together in Modern Movement and it's one of my favorite interactions between the two of them–wish they would explore that more.

    Chevy was being kind of a creeper about Alison on the commentary!  It's probably a good thing for Gillian that he doesn't like her that much :)

    That "Are we going to kiss?" moment is hilarious.  So impressed with all the improv in this episode–donglover's, Abed's Batman speech, these people are talented.

  • Yeah, the fact that the whole Batman monologue was ad-libbed blew me away. It's probably the funniest part of the episode and he just came up with it on the spot.

  • Yeah, totally agreed…the spoof of The Dark Knight is what makes the ep great for me, I can't believe it wasn't part of the original plan. Props to Pudi for the most effective, uproarious movie spoof of the past decade, though.

    Also agreed that Glover's outtakes make the episode much funnier. Troy is one of those characters who's funny cause you can see the actor pulling the strings, IMO. Like Charlie from Always Sunny, I don't always love the character as written, I love watching the actor play him.

    "Intro to Statistics" is a landmark episode, but as with "Debate", I recognise the importance but I don't really love watching large chunks of the episode. Too many "classic sitcom scenarios" for me, at least till the last act blows them up.

  • Ah, so that's what she was saying! Makes sense.

    Also, really good point on Britta and Shirley's relationship. Although Annie is sometimes presented as the one that is the "daughter" to Shirley's "mother", it's really Britta who is the one that often ends up working through serious emotional problems with Shirley.

  • A lot of interesting stuff here! Thank you for the outtakes, the commentary info, and the last paragraph!

    I was surprised (in retrospect) that the Dean didn't have a more out-there costume. (It's good, though, that he changes it up every once in a while.) I have to see these dueling impressions! Robin Hood, to the Bale mobile!

  • SpongyandBruised

    I like to believe that the Dalmation video really opened his floodgates, so to speak.

  • Wow!  As others have said, excellent character analysis!   Especially articulating the point that Jeff's ability to read people allows him to both do good things for them and wound them–it's one of those things that's so obvious once you point it out, but I've never totally thought that through before.  Also, nice thoughts on Abed, his attempts at friendship towards Annie and the standing outside the group while everyone dances at the end (quite the contrast to the dancing at the end of RCT!)

    The only thing cuter than Cowboy Jeff in this episode is Squirrel Britta.  And the only thing cuter than Squirrel Britta is Joel McHale on the commentary gushing about how cute Squirrel Britta was.  (Also neat was hearing Harmon talk about how he learned a lot about Britta from letting Gillian choose the squirrel costume). Squirrel Britta’s takedown of Jeff’s costume is just so, so good, but, wow, I didn’t
    remember the scene in Slater’s office being so sweet, especially in light of Britta’s girl-talk-challengedness in the previous episode.  It makes sense, though, because breakups and cheating and jerk guys (and, man, I forgot what a jerk Andre was with that ring thing.  Why were we supposed forgive him last season?) would be Britta’s forte as far as girl talk goes. 

    Overall, this one just really feels really familiar.  That makes sense since Harmon, in the commentary, talks about how it was a springboard for Modern Warfare and the more out-there episodes, but even in the smaller things of the group dynamic, the intersecting storylines, and getting so much character-development mileage out of a zany situation, it just feels like the first episode in which Community was really Community.

  • "it's one of those things that's so obvious once you point it out, but I've never totally thought that through before."

    It's the same with me–I hadn't worked it out until I read Tuna's analysis, and then it seemed obviously true.

  • Tiny Observations:
    “You’re all being unseemly” is absolutely made by Abatman’s: “Oh no…”
    The relationship between the guys revealed by the trio of looks after Chang mentions the sexual position “Mexican Halloween”—Abed, confused, looks to Troy, who pretends to know what it’s all about but looks to Jeff for confirmation who (I think doesn’t really know either but) plays it cool.

    Quotes I need to use more in everyday conversation:
    “….which in the Gaza strip is considered a real party-foul”
    “I’m not your pantsless grandpa!”

    Quote I do use constantly:
    “I wouldn’t even question it…” (Batman voice only when thinking it to myself)

  • That chain reaction of looks over "Mexican Halloween" was awesome!

  • So i've said it once and i'll say it again, i am the biggest professor Slater fan, but i think i'll explain why for a moment because this episode is a great introduction to her character.  For one she is obviously intelligent, she is playful and funny (court appointed guardian line) and frankly she is just someone who has her life together.  Which is of course why she and jeff could never have lasted.  The group is a bunch of dysfunctional people who struggle with fatal flaws and slater is presented as someone who doesnt really have that type of flaw.  Now this type of togetherness can usually create a boring character but even here the show shows off and presents an interesting person who it together but not a perfect person.  First she is willing to cross her uncrossable line of not dating students.  (though one wonders whether she is just exploiting the loophole in the word "dating" and hooking up with Jeff at the time).  Second the show gives her and jeff a nice easy back and forth. Third they use her to remark upon how odd the group dynamic is but she never really disapproves of it.  She just doesnt want to deal with it and walks away at the end. 

    I guess my point is that there is a very distinct character created by Slater and because she presents an image of being both easy-going and having it together she comes off as more threatening to shippers because Jeff having a relationship with her actually makes sense. 

  • One thing that hasn't changed on rewatch for me is Slater.  I was expecting to like her better, but I'm still just not that on-board.  I totally intellectually get your defense and think it's very good, but I'm just not that into her.  I think maybe she plays Slater just a shade too confident (for my liking–totally subjective)–sort of like that horrible surgeon girl on the later seasons of Scrubs.  

    Excellent point about her observations of the group, though. They played that much better than HIMYM played Kevin analyzing the gang's flaws, where he comes in and diagnoses all their pathologies and you feel like "Who are you?  I don't know you!  You don't get to call these people I like the worst!!"  It's really important that she comments, but doesn't so clearly disapprove.

  • see i think her confidence is an important aspect of her character.  in a way, slater is holding a mirror up to britta the entire time she is on the show and more importantly reflecting what jeff saw in britta onto someone else.  At first appearances they are both extremely confident people.  But Slater is easy going where Britta can be very defensive and strident at first glance, which of course attracts  Jeff as he spent all this pursuing Britta and now wants something different even if his attraction arises from that same visible confidence.  But i also think it is interesting how Slater and Britta flip their innermost characters.  Beneath her veneer of political hoo-hah britta is someone who we have seen come out of show and display herself as a pretty easy-going person, but Slater we will see flips her easy-going nature and starts getting hung up on various relationship drama.

  • Very good point. Thinking about it further (and fearing my all-girls high school would revoke my diploma–making me Walking NPR, GED–if they ever knew I said I had a problem with a confident woman!), I guess my problem with her confidence is maybe just that she's a bit of a cypher.  We've already come to know and love Annie and Britta, in large part because of the flaws they're starting to reveal about them.  With Slater, I wonder what the heck she's so confident about, and I didn't ever remember them showing her hiding too much under that front.  Maybe there's hope yet that as I rewatch the later S1 episodes and see her veneer crack a little, I'll like her better.

  • OccamsBlazer

    I have similar feelings about Slater being hard to like.

    One thing I noticed about Slater on rewatch was that she is one of the few people who doesn't seem to mind being stuck at Greendale. Being pretty intelligent, this means she is either very confident with who and where she is in life, or is very good at hiding her insecurities and misgivings about her life. Either way she seemed a bit smug for being a  statistics professor at a community college.

  • Oh god, excellent point! Kevin horribleness averted here.

  • I can buy both sides of the Slater argument. She jumps right into the ensemble and she's witty when bouncing off Jeff (especially in "Interpretive Dance"). But she's also snobby-cool, attracts Jeff by not giving a shit about him, and basically waves off the others in the group as being losers (Hell, it's hard to say if she even respects community college students in general).

    But it's definitely easier to see her value now on DVD, because in the first go round, she's such a transparent foil for Britta and obstacle in the Jeff/Britta "will they won't they." Every show ever has "the other woman", and every show tries to convince you she's a serious match for our hero right before she drops out so the one true pair can be together. It was impossible not to project that onto her when watching for the first time, IMO. (And true to form, she dropped off the face of the Earth to go hang out with Karen Filippelli and all the bad girls from Will Gardner's past.)

    FWIW, I'd like to see her come back, just not as a romantic interest for Jeff (he's likely fallen too far for her now, anyways). My ideal would be for some situation where Britta gets herself into a humiliating situation on campus, like sneaking in at night and getting trapped behind a shelf or some such, and she has to yell out for help till finally someone comes and it's Slater, and she sees Britta and just starts laughing hysterically for, like, five minutes while Britta just looks horrified.

  • Your middle paragraph is exactly why I thought I'd like her better this time around.  Like I said, maybe in the later episodes. All I know is I want to see your plan for her return happen :)

  • Hah, the Female Baxters' Club.

    Of course, it will turn out Slater is there at night for illicit reasons–she must have gotten kicked out of whatever university she previously worked at for some reason. Paper mill to support her addiction to rent boys and public sex?

  • This does remind me of something I've always wondered; why the heck is Slater at Greendale if she's got a PhD and is clearly an intelligent, driven woman?

    I've never understood that.

  • See that would have been an interesting back-story! (not that we needed a plot about it…just a mention could have been very funny.)

  • yeah that really doesnt fit with the rest of her m.o. especially she seems fairly happy with where her life is but if she has a phd i wouldnt be happy teaching at a community college

  •  Season 1 greendale was not quite as ridiculous.

  • Hermann Boring It's not as ridiculous, but it's still a) a community college and b) the kind of community college which employs Senor Chang, Professor Whitman and Professor Duncan.

    I'm sure there's some kind of interesting backstory quirk to explain it, like that she just enjoys teaching, but it's always something I've wondered about.

    I do know people with PhDs who taught at high school, so it's not exactly an unprecedented thing, I guess.

  • I'm with you. I actually liked Slater a lot and thought her introduction in this episode was great. She had a great easy banter with Jeff and good chemistry, which really mixed up the slightly tedious (at the time) Jeff/Britta dynamic. It always annoyed me how they changed her character in Basic Genealogy when she dumped Jeff out of nowhere, not to mention the way they ruined her in Pascal's Triangle Revisited (although Britta got the short end of the stick there too, if that's any compensation).

  • when she dumps jeff do we even see her?  its just like suddenly Jeff is dumped and the episode proceeds

  • Disqus isn't letting me reply to your other comment so I'm replying here. Yes, we see Slater & Jeff walking through the hallway; she's all busy trying to find more chairs for family day and he's saying he wanted to bring his mother to meet her but he hadn't told her he was no longer a lawyer. Knowing Jeff as we do, (womaniser, commitment-phobe) it makes what follows all the more awkward and uncomfortable. 

    Slater tells him that they need to talk and Jeff jokes around saying: 'What, are you dumping me?' and then she says 'Oh so we don't need to talk'. And actually smiles. It's pretty damn harsh if you ask me.

  • I always assumed there was more to her dumping of him than just the joke.  Yeah the joke was harsh but i saw it as a manifestation of the general awkwardness of break-ups.  i say this as someone who tries to use humor in uncomfortable situations all the time

  • Proctologist: "There might be a slight discomfort as I begin. Here we go."
    mratfink : (experiencing a more-than-slight discomfort) "Smooth move, Metamucil!"

  • The episode commentary says that the break-up was handled that quickly and without a particular reason because Katherine McPhee was supposed to play Jeff's love interest in that episode (Basic Genealogy), and they couldn't get her for another episode because of scheduling conflicts. Dan Harmon stated that they would have wanted the relationship to last a while longer. This may be an explanation why this felt out-of-character.

  • You perfectly articulated everything I love about Slater. Interpretive Dance has great adult scenes (not those kind) with her, as well. On one hand you have an obviously intelligent and put-together college professor, but she's also girl who knows she's hot and likes the attention of attractive men. I love that the show doesn't annoy us by having her play hard to get. And I love that she flat out admits that Jeff's come-ons are working on her. There's a lot of subtle stuff going on with her that elevate what could be a boring character, as you said, into a very interesting bench character.

  • I like the first six episodes fine, but I've always said that "Introduction to Statistics" is where the quality abruptly spikes, the show finds its voice, and Community truly becomes the Community we know and love, which "Debate 109," "Environmental Science," and "Comparative Religion" confirm as we round out the superlative remainder of the semester.

    To put it in the nerdiest possible terms, "Statistics" is where Community evolves from Charmander into Charmeleon. (Then "Modern Warfare" is where it evolves into Charizard, but that's a debate/discussion for several weeks down the line.)

  • I would agree entirely. All the previous episodes are good, but none of them have the humor value and great character depth & foreshadowing that we see in this episode. It's the precursor to the "concept" episode and does a great job setting up a series of character traits for long-term development.

  • i like a lot of the first six, especially the first 4, but i do think this may be the first "great" episode.  for one it breaks the bounds of their reintroducing pilot structure.  It is much more of a full on ensemble episode with everyone interacting, rather than splitting up into pairs and having Jeff and Britta carry a plot.  However, i think the first truly experimental episode of Community is actually the Jack Black episode.  Even though that episode isnt well thought of i think it lays a lot of the roots that really come to sprout in chicken fingers and modern warfare and then even more often in the second season

  • mratfink People don't like Investigative Journalism? Surprising.

  • I've heard a lot of people express a strong dislike of Jack Black and that it ruins that episode for them

  • I'm very curious how the discussion of the Jack Black episode goes in this thread. A couple of the other forums I used to read full-on HATED that episode because of the annoying and intrusive guest star and regarded it at the end of season two as being the worst episode of the series, but I've always really liked it and regarded it as a sharp and knowing parody of annoying and intrusive guest stars in sitcoms.

  • I don't get why so many people hate this epi. Jack Black was Jack Black, and sure its sort of annoying but I found his interactions with the study group and the story interesting. He was SUPPOSED to alter the normal balance.

    plus I love the Hawkeye and Radar story. and Annie and her crosswords.

    I would skip Basic Genealogy over that ep. But overall I think season 1 is very consistent and there are no real duds.

    the only two episodes I ever finished and felt were terrible were Celeb Pharmacology and 302. That hasn't changed. 

  • Celebrity Pharmacology is the "Ready, Aim, Marry Me" of Community imo

  • I agree with Los Pollos Hermanos . The whole point of the Jack Black episode was that sitcoms usually have guest stars, and they usually play themselves (Any Samberg, Parks and Rec.)

  • There are parts of it that are good and I love the bizzaro study group at the end but the episode really is not enjoyable to me. Jack is just so grating and annoying. I get that is the point, but it still makes it hard to watch.

  • Jack Black is annoying and intrusive, but I love that because it's the entire point of the episode; they're using him to execute a meta commentary on sitcom trends.

    In that sense, I can understand that people might not enjoy the episode on a humor level, but I think it deserves to be respected for the point it's making nonetheless.

  • I loved Jack Black in what's apparently called 'the Jack Black episode', so there. Every group needs a chubby agile guy after all. Buddy was basically what Dan Harmon sees himself as in a social setting–the socially awkward guy who, in his eagerness to please and impress people, ends up wearing out his welcome with all his weird rhythms and non-stop talking.

  • Loki100

    Great review!

    One of the things that I love about this episode is that each character's costume so encapsulates their character.

    Britta, Squirrel: It is shapeless but adorable. Britta was designed and written to be cool and sexy, but she really isn't. Instead she's goofy and adorable. This costume choice is, I think, what really sets Britta on the path that made her the beloved character she is.

    Annie, Skeleton: This costume shows all of Annie's internal contradictions. It is sexy, but not overtly sexy.

    Pierce, Beastmaster: TheTuna covered this one well already.

    Shirley, Harry Potter (Steve Urkle): Shirley is convinced she has found the perfect costume and throws herself into it wholeheartedly. But, sadly, no one understands what it is. One of the fundamental problems that keeps recurring is that Shirley likes the group and the group likes Shirley, but no one actually understands Shirley. Here it manifests by no one getting her costume (and actually is something of a race thing), in Remedial Chaos Theory it would be no one understanding why Shirley spends so much time baking for them.

    Abed, Batman: Ahh, BatAbed. This is a character that is distinct and very different. It is a character that Abed can completely inhabit. Abed has some very weird self-esteem issues. He knows who he is and he's happy with who he is, but he also knows that as a person he is weird and alienating, and he is not happy with that. His role playing allows him to not only have fun but also try out new personas which, as we saw with the My Dinner With Andre episode, he tries to utilize to get closer to people.

    Jeff, Cowboy: Jeff, as always, picks a costume based on how sexy it will look on him. But, he actually owned a cowboy costume, indicating either he likes cowboy themed sex or he just likes dressing up as a cowboy. I prefer the latter. It's actually quite a childish costume, reflecting back to games of cowboys and Indians. It's a metaphor for who Jeff is. He is trying to be cool and sexy, but inside is a little kid who wants to play.

  •  i actually like to believe that Jeff spent an inordinate amount of time in previous halloweens trying on lots of costumes before deciding that the cowboy costume was the best looking on him

  • I would not be surprised. After all, he does wear it again in "A Fistful of Paintballs", and as Loki observes Jeff really does seem to enjoy wearing it. He acts so aloof to protect himself, but he does like being a big goof with his friends at the same time. He just can't bring himself to let down his barriers for fear that he's going to be hurt again.

    Also, excellent analysis of Shirley's costume! The fact that nobody can recognize her costume is played for laughs, but it's also definitely indicative of the fact that she orbits on the edge of the group.

  • Maybe it's a reaction to the little Indian girl costume that he wore as a child.

  • Funny! And probably right!

  • Automatic_Taglines

    In the end I was just happy they thought I was pretty.

  • Good stuff, The Tuna.

    1) The "Bernoulli Distribution" that Slater is teaching Jeff's Statistics class early in the ep sets the theme for the episode. Jeff is searching for a Yes in a sequence of Nos from Slater, and Annie is searching for the same acceptance at her party when she is accustomed to rejection.

    2) As you and others have said, this is a big episode as far as putting the ensemble and their various funny and relatable personalities ahead of the original "Jeff : Cad or Dad?" premise. This sets the pace for the rest of the series, and the higher level of character interaction and multi-character comedy that ensues. It helps that Jeff makes such a clear choice in this one of being there for the people who want his help over getting validation from someone who doesn't care. Maybe some of it comes from already feeling humbled by losing his license and being at Greendale, and being aware of who will actually be his friend even without his lawyer mojo. In that context, the ep seems like an important one as far as Jeff making a decision about who he is, even if it isn't played as a life altering moment. (Similarly, his decision in "Accounting for Lawyers" seems to reinforce this new idea of himself, even as he plays down it's relevance.) So, for the rest of S1, Jeff is now part of the group, and since he's our initial identification character, we can now feel a part of the group as a a whole and not have to remove ourselves from the others, or judge them as weirdos. We're them now, too.

    3) Slight advances for Britta and Abed, too. For Britta, we can at least guess that her protecting the group from Jeff (as you put it so well) is connected to her attraction to him. I got the impression by the end that making him do the right thing by their "kids" is a flirtation for her. She's setting the terms of their potential relationship now. Abed, meanwhile, shows himself to be a protector of the group. I don't know where the show's riffing on The Dark Knight separates from his actual character exactly, but Abed continues to be the strongest moral compass in the group from here on out (it often bugs me that Abed is always so sympathetic, but that's got nothing to do with my point here). Honestly, his calling Jeff a jerk is probably not something his character from  late-S1-forward would do, but it shows that he has the most clear-eyed perspective on the group as a whole, and he can influence Jeff because he doesn't have a selfish agenda.

    (The tag is also a big step towards making Troy cool and defining him by his friendship with Abed rather than as an aloof jock, but it's much easier to read that in hindsight.)

  • "I got the impression by the end that making him do the right thing by
    their 'kids' is a flirtation for her. She's setting the terms of their
    potential relationship now."

    This is very good!

  • That is indeed an excellent point; I like it!

  • Great review! This was the episode that sold Community for me. I was a bit ambivalent to the first six; I enjoyed them, mostly, but felt it really became something special here. It gave us a taste of the ensemble where every character had a chance to shine, rather than the focus on Jeff/Britta as the 'leads'. 

    Pierce was brilliant. I really laughed when he arrived at the faculty party doing this jaunty little walk and Slater asks 'Is he meowing?' and Batman Abed says 'Yeah' with this fleeting look of either disgust or confusion. So funny. 

    Troy also had some great moments. His whole exchange with Abed as to whether he was handsome, as well as the scene where he admits that he would eat himself if he ever woke up as a doughnut. Loved. I think perhaps this was the beginning of my soft spot for Troy before he evolved into one of my full on favourites.

    I loved this episode for what it revealed about Annie's character, whilst still being very funny. I think some comedies have difficulty revealing information that usually is quite sombre and touchy, like going to rehab or being bullied or in Annie's case here; being led into traffic by the crossing guard. It shouldn't be funny but it so was. 

    Also, this made me fall in love with Britta and still makes me smile. Look at her face! Awwww.http://fishsticktheatre.com/TV/Commun…

  • sll03

    This review was TUNARIFFIC!
    Yeah, humour isn't really my strong point, but you get the gist.