Episode 109: Debate 109

Episode 109 – Debate 109

Oh, the Annie of it all… This is the episode that launched a thousand ships, isn’t it? However, the Jeff/Annie thing isn’t going to be my main focus in this (very, unconscionably, shamelessly late) review, so I want to get it out of the way quickly.

I’m no shipper (in fact I hate shipping! I don’t understand the appeal at all…), but by and large I like the relationship, and I like the way the show’s been using it for both comic and sentimental effect. I don’t really find the age difference creepy, partly because Alison Brie is clearly not 18, but mostly because the show uses it to showcase (for the first time in S1, if I’m not mistaken) that Jeff really does have scruples and some sort of moral compass, even if they’re buried under layers and layers of bullshit. If you think about it, the sudden revelation of Annie’s sexiness leaves Jeff vulnerable. He realizes he can’t act on his desires, but at the same time he can’t quite mock her the way he does Britta. So the only thing left for him is to continue with acting chivalrous and protective, which in turn only feeds Annie’s attraction to him, which, naturally, he can’t quite reciprocate. This feedback loop is a major source of comedy in the episode, amplified of course by the fact that, unlike Jeff, Annie has absolutely no scruples about winning the debate even if it involves some pretty shameless manipulation.

But seriously, I don’t have much more to add about Jeff and Annie. The pairing has been explored to death on these here boards and on every corner of the internet. The “sexy librarian” reveal is very funny, and I will never cease to be amazed at how Brie’s expression can turn from stern to flirty in the blink of an eye. I also find the pat on the head almost unbearably cute. Feel free to go at it in the comments, I’m done!

Debate 109 is a very special episode for me, in that, even if the show has since done some truly brilliant stuff, it’s still the one that’s dearest to me. More than any other episode before (even Intro to Statistics or Spanish 101), this one finally convinced me that Community was a real keeper and not just any other sitcom. And here’s why:

I find the episode flawlessly constructed. Alongside the likes of Physical Education, Conspiracy Theories and Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism, Debate 109 is part of a select group of episodes which employ what I like to call the Tex Avery technique: they start from an apparently trite, almost cheesy/sitcomy premise, which then accelerates into a cartoony development, topped off with a climax so silly it becomes almost surreal. In Physical Education, it’s the naked pool game; in Conspiracy Theories it’s both the pillow fort chase and the serial fake shootings; in Foosball it’s the anime kitty; and in Debate 109 it’s Simmons’ hilariously improbable swan leap from his wheelchair, followed by the way his glasses jump off his face when Jeff drops him.

And the great thing is that we can see all this coming. Kinda. Reading Todd’s review of the abysmal Chelsea yesterday, I was struck by this observation: “The single greatest problem with this show is one that affects a lot of multi-camera comedies in this day and age: It seems incapable of telling a story. Instead, it’s more like a loose collection of sketches, tied to a central theme.” Abed’s prescient recreation of the group’s adventures feels very much like a bad three-camera sitcom to me: the cheesy setups, the mugging for the camera, the setup/punchline structure… Really, all that’s missing is a laugh track (though I have the feeling Abed would find it annoying). His films appear disconnected and improbable, highlighting the artificiality of the situations (Jeff lives in his car! Shirley is being chased by a werewolf!), and offering virtually no payoff other than some rather lame jokes. Back in the “real” Greendale however, we get what’s missing from Abed’s movies – the story that connects those jokes and and makes them inevitable rather than random. It’s a marvelous way for the show to both acknowledge its classical three-camera roots (Harmon has actually compared it to Gilligan’s Island), and provide a subtle (and pretty withering imo) criticism of the current state of the genre.* “Look at me,” the show seems to say: “I can take a bunch of not very funny, entirely unrelated punchlines, and craft a narrative around them that will make them appear logical and earned, and absolutely hilarious, and I’ll also throw in some nice, understated sentiment and great character development too, just because I can**.” In Abed’s films, the disparate stories of the group members were funny largely because of just how random and undercooked they appeared; at Greendale they are funny because of just how much crazy sense they seem to make.

Finally, this is a great episode for physical comedy, which is very much in keeping with its cartoony vibe. The highlights include Jeff’s duking out on Annie, Dean Pelton and Professor Higgins (and I really love the way the show used to show the group ganging up on Jeff occasionally, like so many hungry kittens), Pierce’s awesome pratfalls (the second, slow one, into the instruments, is a thing of pure beauty), Jeff and Annie’s awkwardness, and Annie’s cleavage revealing, gravity defying posture as she’s showing Jeff the Hobbes quote, and, of course, Simmons’ leap, and subsequent drop (that MUST have hurt!) But the best and funniest physical bits as far as I’m concerned, are to be found in the final round of debates. The entire scene is beautifully shot and edited by Joe Russo, in a very Loony Tunes kind of way, rapidly alternating between increasingly tight close-ups of Jeff and Annie, and wide shots of the Greendale and City College audience. The symmetry of the shot is undercut by the contrast between the packed, peppy City College bleachers and the pathetically empty Greendale side of the room: http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…. I chuckle uncontrollably when the other shoe (and Simmons) finally drops, and the Greendale side explodes with cheers, while the City College fans sink back dejectedly:http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…. And presiding over all this of course, it’s the Greendale Human Being – being simultaneously pathetically inefficient and unspeakably creepy.

There is still a lot to cover in this episode – including the not negligible philosophical and moral implications of the “man is good/man is evil” debate, and their impact on Jeff’s character, so please feel free to do so in the comments. Close to 1400 words are enough for now.

Random bits:

  • It’s sweet how Jeff only goes back to the debate after Simmons insults Annie.
  • “Who am I, iCarly?”
  • “Mine was just from a simple, desert handyman. Named JESUS."
  • “By the way, Jeff, I think your shirt’s trying to get out of your pants.”
  • “By zooks, what kind of jackassery is this? We’re in the middle of a championship debate!”
  • “Great try, Bruce! Great try!” This one is a favorite of mine, as it so subtly drives home just how lame the basketball team is, if Bruce is praised for a try rather than a score.
  • Professor Mogadishu.
  • Ropati Eneki: http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…
  • Annie’s delicious look of withering contempt at Simmons, after Jeff drops the Jesus bomb: http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…

*and here I pause for the obligatory “BBT sucks” moment.
** I’ll be topical once more, and say that if Michael Patrick King weren’t so busy rolling in his giant piles of money, he’d do well to watch this episode (or ANY Community episode, really) to see how you can do three-dimensional characters in 21 minutes and in the middle of a plot that involves a gay basketball team and a potential werewolf attack.


On the A.V. Club: http://www.avclub.com/articles/regional-holiday-music,66270/#comment-408909486 (page 58)



    • Mad props for that Tex Avery comparison.

      Now to read the rest…..

      Edit: Also, I don't think any human being can look more gorgeous than Alison Brie does when she lets her hair down in this episode. I mean DEAR LORD…what a beautiful woman.

    • I'm a contrarian, and gay, and even I find Alison beautiful in that episode. I would shoot Steven Spielberg himself in the face with a revolver just for a taste of that sweet, sweet pussy.

    • NewlyRegisteredRandom

      If you'd use your mouth on Alison Brie then you ain't gay, dude!

    • What about that one guy she did in College?

    • DavetheDouchebag

      No need to be crude…

    • NewlyRegisteredRandom

      I saw every episode of Mad Men before I had seen even one episode of Community *dodges paper balls* so I knew that she was super hot, but that scene made me think 'Goddamn! Baby got it goin' on!'

      I also think that that very scene in the study room with Jeff is probably the likely origin point of the internet supercrush on her.

      Some bits I like.

      Annie's face when the Dean says 'A night of companionship, if you know what I mean…' ('I sort of know what you mean, but I don't need to know anymore…')
      – The Dean clapping and smiling 'I hate this guy.'
      – 'No you're right, my feet are long and stupid, you can't unring that bell!'
      – 'You remind me of a young me with slightly-worse hair.'
      Jeff's awesome face after Annie says 'That off-book enough for you?' ('I have the most inappropriate boner…')
      – 'I'm goin' die by wurrwolf!'

      Nice review SBT, truly streets ahead.

    • The little Hollywood-ish namaste bow the Dean does as he's saying "I hate this guy" just sells that line.

      And the werewolf line…There’s so much going on in this episode that it’s easy to overlook Shirley, but from convincing Britta to go back to smoking to “Imma die by werewolf!” to “Abed?!?!…tap tap tap…Abed?!?” after Jeff and Annie kiss to her now-patented pursed-lipped horrified head-shake, Shirley really kills!



      God, yes! Brie is super sexy in that scene – comically-hitting-yourself-over-the-head-with-an-oversized-mallet sexy.

      The episode is full of awesome lines – too many to list. I'm also fond of the Dean's apologetic "Sorry, I got heated…" and Jeff's super-smooth "I'm barely listening now…"

    • Given your Avery reference, this is apt:

    • I'm fairly certain that moment is the face that launched a thousand .gifs.

    • NewlyRegisteredRandom

      Stupid fucking Disqus!  I just tried to edit a few images in.

      Annie's face when the Dean offers Jeff a night of companionship:


      'Is that off book enough for you?'



    • DavetheDouchebag

      I had thought Alison was hot before that, but I was honestly more of a GIllian person when I first started watching. I had never seen Alison in anything else, and they were kind of playing her hotness down at that point, so the moment totally took me by surprise. It was like the scene in the Wizard of Oz when the  black and white switches to color. I thought then that Alison was the most beautiful person I had ever seen, and to some extent I still think that.

    • Yeah i can't believe how thoroughly i was fooled by a show pulling the attractive woman dressed down is actually really attractive when she lets her hair down.  But yeah i saw that moment and was like holy shit she is amazing

    • I'm still more of a Gillian person myself, but the difference is infinitesimal.  I guess I'm into the awkward hot girl thing (not Britta, but Gillian herself).

    • Loki100

      I love Abed's plotline in this episode, but it wrote a check the series has been unable to cash. We've seen time and time again Abed is not only not able to even accurately gauge the basic emotions and motivations in a room with his best friends, let alone be able to prescient enough to predict their behaviors weeks in advance.

      I rectify this in my mind by considering at this point the characters were all still new and semi guarded. Each one was still clinging to the image that they were hoping to project in the pilot, even if only slightly or unconsciously. Clinging to this image would dramatically reduce their capability of multi-dimensional behavior, as they would need to maintain some consistency with their image. As each character grew, they discarded these initial images and became willing to simply be themselves. So Abed goes from being able to predict their behavior based on their conforming to a simple stereotype to not being able to understand them at all.


      You answered your own question in that second paragraph! Abed can infer a few sitcomy situations, based on the fact that, as you put it so well, most of these characters act according to a specific self-image. But he can't predict how they get into those situations: he can see Jeff living in his car, but can't see Jeff coming to live with him, for example.

    • Well that was fantastic.  

      Amazing point about the difference between Abed's film and the episode as a whole.  Truly. That just added a whole other level to my enjoyment of what was already a favorite episode and the first one that really sold me on Community, too.

      I'm curious to hear more about what you and others think about the "not negligible philosophical and moral implications of the 'man is good/man is evil' debate."  Probably the funniest line of the commentary to me was “The church is a big fan of Alison.”   Apparently people were showing this episode at church because of the good-vs-evil debate (which reminds me of Louis CK talking about churches showing his “everything’s amazing and nobody’s happy” bit and then being appalled when they found the rest of his stuff online.  They’re going to have a rude awakening–or, rather, something will be awakened in them–if they look up Alison Brie!).  If some youth group leaders want an excuse to show Community, I am all on board with that. But as much as I felt I ought to, I really didn't see much of an actual good-versus-evil theme in this episode outside the debate, which isn’t even treated all that seriously.  I’d be interested to hear if anyone else did.

      Also, beautiful exposition about the Jeff-Annie relationship showing he has some sort of moral compass and leaving him vulnerable–which is the perfect description for the look on his face after the kiss.  (Okay, maybe this is the good-v-evil theme, but I seriously doubt it's the one churches were looking at). I did love that Jeff really gets into the debate after they insult Annie, which, of course, we'll see repeatedly throughout the seasons.  

      The scene where Annie takes down her hair seems like such an obvious incidence of the whole “girl takes off her glasses and it turns out she’s hot” trope that it stands out to me for not being played ironically.  Am I missing that they’re actually making fun of that trope or were they all too mesmerized by The Boobs to remember to turn it on its head? (To which I’ll just go ahead and see your shouts of “Boobs!”  and raise you “Eyes!”  because Joel McHale has never looked hotter than when he’s looking at Annie in that scene. Objectification for all!)

      Also, was Jeff and Annie kissing supposed to be what cured Britta’s smoking?  (other fun fact from the commentary: the hypnotherapist-falling-during-therapy/pretending-to-stay-asleep story apparently actually happened to Rob Schrab)


      Man is good/man is evil:

      First you have the very simple reversal, where the "good" character (Annie, the naive, sincere, innocent young girl), is revealed to be both all that, and unscrupulous and manipulative; while the "bad" character (Jeff, the crafty jackrabbit) turns out to be a pretty decent guy, whose decency (namely being nice to Annie, and keeping his desires in check) leads directly to his being manipulated by both Annie and Simmons.

      Second, the debate is unsettled. Greendale nominally wins, but winning doesn't prove that Jeff is evil, any more than Simmons' leap proved that Jeff was good. Dealing in absolutes is usually counterproductive, which is why I really do think this would make good material for a church debate (a really, really hip, cool, laid back church).

      Third, Annie scores a Phyrric victory: she's a good guy because Greendale finally wins because of her, but the win turns her into a bad guy because of how it's achieved. I really like Shirley's disappointed, but resigned nod: as a religious person, this situation must be especially resonant to her. Man wants to be good, but deep down he's still a crafty jackrabbit.

      Britta smoking: Jeff and Annie's kiss probably reminded her of the threeway in Pierce's bathtub ("Who's the third?" – that's such an awesome and understated line from Chevy…)

      Of course the hot Annie reveal is played unironically.

    • Well don't I feel a little like Troy's feet…  

      Still, that was fascinating.  Thanks!

    • I thought religions were all about being absolutist and counterproductive, but that might just be my American cynicism pushing through.

    • I believe that in Todd's review he read the "spinster librarian" scene as a riff on the idea of a character suddenly increasing in perceived attractiveness in the eyes of other characters tenfold simply by letting down their hair, but honestly there's no real concrete evidence one way or another. Seems to be up to personal interpretation whether you think they riffed on it or played it straight.

      Jeff & Annie kissing didn't cure Britta's smoking, the resolution of Britta's smoking problem just coincided with the kiss as it was the dramatic climax episode.

      Also, SBT, allow me to echo the above post in regards to your thoughts on the nature of Abed's film as a commentary on the relationship between single-cam and multi-cam shows; I'd never even considered it, but now that I examine the scenes in that light it's absolutely there. Excellent insight.


      To which I’ll just go ahead and see your shouts of “Boobs!”  and raise
      you “Eyes!”  because Joel McHale has never looked hotter than when he’s
      looking at Annie in that scene. Objectification for all!

      Fishsticks for all!


    • My, oh my…..

      That is visible chemistry.  There's a way Joel McHale softens his eyes when he looks at her that I don't really see him do in other contexts.

      One other example, from the "dysfunctional and incestuous as the cast of The Brady Bunch" scene in Romantic Expressionism



    • Britta didn't see Jeff and Annie kissing because she had stepped outside. She pictured a three way involving Pierce because when she tells him, he says something like 'great, who was the other one?'

    • Ah–good point.  I guess the way it's cut confused me about that.

    • It's kind of an interesting point that she didn't see it, because someone told her about it before 115, and we don't get to see her initial reaction to it.

    • The thing about the "girl takes off her glasses and it turns out she's hot" trope is that it worked in real time without it feeling like I was being pandered to or mislead. They were a step ahead of me and it actually did dawn on me at the exact moment she let her hair down that "whoa, Annie is HOT hot". I don't like the word trope because it's almost become a negative word. They are the nuts and bolts of storytelling and there should be no shame in using them as long as they are applied in the right context without taking advantage of the pieces.


    • That's why I asked!  It's interesting to hear your perspective on that scene because it totally didn't work for me on that level, but their approach makes more sense to me if it did work that way for others.

    • TV Tropes has a lot to answer for.

    • yeah i want to echo Lloydbraun.  i don't why i never noticed before how incredibly beautiful alison brie is but somehow, hilariously, this was that exact moment.  i realize that somehow i acted exactly like a jock in a bad romcom which was weird and hilarious but there it was

    • For me, it was the scene where she jumps out of the bushes in "Football, Feminism and You" where I first realized that Annie was actually kinda "HOT hot", but this was definitely the clincher.

      Also agreed on tropes; they're tropes because they're important and they work, no shame in utilizing them as long as they're utilized correctly.

    • Oh duh doi, it just came to me that Britta being conveniently out of the room when Jeff and Annie kiss was probably done so they wouldn't have to deal with any Britta-Jeff fallout, at least for this episode.

    • Random aside, but I think he actually says "By Zeus, what sort of jackassery is this?" due to his later "bacchanalia" reference; for whatever reason, Professor Whitman appears to be a fan of the Hellenic pantheon.

      Anyways, I very much so agree with the points you made! In particular, I think your analysis of the Jeff/Annie relationship as a self-feeding cycle was spot-on, and very insightful. This is something that we even see after a fashion in "Regional Holiday Music"; Annie pursues Jeff, which only makes him push back harder against the idea, and so she has to work even harder to try and win him over, thus compelling him to resist even more, et al. It's a constant, underlying theme in the relationship, and it makes for some great humor.

      Another important character point for Jeff is that he is only motivated to involve himself in the debate once Simmons starts to bully Annie. While this can be regarded simply as Jeff's instinct to protect Annie kicking in, I think it extends past that. As set up in "Comparative Religion", Jeff really seems to dislike bullies; despite the fact that he'd never been in a fight before, he immediately went to the mat for Abed when Mike picked on him.

      This is something that seems somewhat unexplained at the time, but "Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism" makes his motivations perfectly clear. As a serious victim of bullying himself, it's quite logical that he'd jump in to defend his friends when they were unable to protect themselves. I find this to be a very nice instance of long-form character development.

      I also really like that Jeff is actually damn good at debating once he starts working within its parameters; after all, he should be, given how charismatic and skilled at lawyering he is.

      In another significant bit of development, as you noted, Annie hones her manipulative talents just a little bit more; small steps like this lead to the creation of the ruthless puppetmaster she sometimes transforms into nowadays.
      Also, I believe this episode is the foundation for Annie's semi-robotic hand gestures while speaking in a public forum; I may be wrong, but I'm fairly certain she uses them (albeit to a lesser degree) in "Intro to Political Science". It's really nice to see the cast pay attention to such subtle character mannerisms over lengthy periods of time.

      The whole debate scene is indeed wonderfully done; I absolutely love the opening musical riff after Jeff offers his first quote, and its variation which plays upon Simmon's charge. The use of the whimsical, slightly sad, triumphant song after Greendale wins the debate also gets me every time; Debate 109 is definitely a earlier stand-out example of Community's fantastic integration of music into the show on a regular basis.

      Some of my favorite moments/quotes:
      -"Nuclear BOMBS!"
      -"Oh, I can get another one!"
      -"Imma die by werewolfffff!"
      -Building on that, the sheer perfect timing of the end of the werewolf joke. Weknow there's no such thing as werewolves, but at the same time we can't help but wonder; after all, it is a full moon out there… Masterfully done joke, and a great example of Community's sense of timing and delivery.
      -"Great try, Bruce, great try!"
      -"That way we can be more reproductivePRODUCTIVE!"
      -"You're a fool". This is a stellar episode for YNB in general, but her delivery here is phenomenal.
      -The look on Simmons' partner's face after his snow speech.
      -Annie's nod after Professor Whitman tells Jeff "You remind me of a younger me with slightly worse hair". She sees it!


      You're spot on with Jeff's instinctive dislike of bullies – I'd add Pierce's father to the list: another instance where Jeff leaps to the defense of someone bullied without hesitation (without even thinking really). It's indeed a fantastic example of just how careful this show is with characterization.

      Man, that werewolf joke… Only the troll joke in Chaos comes close to it, as something you can clearly see coming a mile away and somehow becomes even funnier in the process.

      KETCHUP IS A VEGETABLE! McHale's outraged delivery makes that line.

    • Pierce's father is definitely an example as well! It's quite interesting to note the stark contrast between early S1 Jeff's normal personality and his response to bullying; while he normally tries to stay a step removed from the group's affairs, he really throws himself into things unreservedly and, indeed, without thinking, if his protective instinct is provoked.

      It's kind of sweet, really, and perhaps the strongest early indicator that there's more than just a shinier turd under all those stains.

      KETCHUP IS A VEGETABLE! is probably my favorite part of the debate after Nuclear BOMBS!; in an episode filled with absolutely fantastic delivery, it's a standout.

    • Good call about Jeff vs. bullies.

      I think Prof. Whitman just gravitates to whatever's most clearly pompous. 

    • And remember, there's a werewolf appearance in 117. I'm just waiting for the payoff there.

      You've really broken new ground regarding Jeff vs. bullies. Obviously, there's also Shirley's bullying in his childhood, possibly his father, standing up for GCC against City College, saving Britta's bacon against Chang's threats, etc.

    • Yup; it's something that I never really considered until "Foosball", but now that I've seen that some of his past behavior takes on an entirely different light. His defense of Britta against Chang and fighting back against City College's ruthless tactics definitely fall under that category as well.

      I'm really interested to see how his father ties in to all of this; that could very well be one of the biggest payoffs of the show to date if they handle it correctly.

      And yeah, I forgot about the "werewolf" in 117! Always cracks me up, it's a great throwaway gag.

    • I really like this idea.  As dismissive as Jeff can be of the group at times, he is also incredibly defensive of them.  They are HIS group and he'll be damned if any outsider is going to do anything to them.  We even see this dark side of this attitude when he turns the group on Todd.  To the group it seems like usual Jeff protecting them from outsiders, but Jeff knows he is scapegoating an innocent.  I think Jeff is getting too dependent on the insularity of the group, and that to him the greatest threat to the group comes from outsiders.  Also see Vaughn who he was dead set against Annie dating.

    • Pierce wake up, Jeff is going to heal us!

    • Excellent review/analysis. 

      I agree wholeheartedly that this episode was flawlessly constructed. All stories bounced off one another and there was not one moment where anything went off track. It came together seamlessly. The music was excellent too and, like it does in every episode, really helped give it that extra something special.

      Your analysis of the Jeff/Annie dynamic was perfect, in fact, I don't think I've ever read it so well de-constructed and explained. It definitely was the start of this back-and-forth dance between the two, but done so perfectly and to such great comedic effect. I loved seeing the look on Jeff's face when Annie was swiftly placed on his 'hot woman' radar and him being unable to do anything about it because *shocker* he really does have morals. It was such a great way to open up another dynamic with future potential, as well as explore Jeff's character. 

      -I always notice when Jeff & Annie are standing in the hallway they fold their arms in sync as they wait for Simmons. It's weird but it's something they've done a few times since and reiterates Jeff's 'I know, we're so in sync, like a perfect duet or great seeee….hey Professor Whitman.' 

      -I love it when Shirley snatches Abed's paper and he, very straight faced, states the obvious: 'That's my paper.' Never fails to make me giggle.

      -I'm still impressed by the guy that played Simmons. He fell so hard on that stage and didn't reach out to prevent himself from falling on his face, which human instinct dictates he naturally would. That really did have to hurt. For realsies.

    • Great stuff, especially about Abed's video

      Back in the “real” Greendale however, we get what’s missing from Abed’s
      movies – the story that connects those jokes and and makes them
      inevitable rather than random.

      and "The Tex Avery Technique." That really puts a fine point on a certain style of Community episode, that I guess is at least as tight in terms of it's story or structure, but feels personally alienating to me (although I don't feel that way about "Conspiracy Theories" or "Regional Holiday Music," maybe because they're grounded before they get cartoon-ish but more likely because I enjoy the incisiveness of the parodies).

      The Jeff/Annie tension is all I really like, personally, about this episode. It's very well developed in the ep, and just the idea the show hooked into of finding something the audience wants that they didn't think they'd get in this format (the pairing and it's kind of covert wrongness/lightness at this stage) and the way they kept smuggling it in, in fairly organic ways. It's one of the examples of subverting expectations that made the most impact in S1 (especially by the finale). It's got very little to do with any personal connection I feel towards the couple or Annie. In fact, I think it's very universal. An unexpected flirtation with an attractive person is obviously as exciting to most people as a more drawn out courtship ala Jeff/Britta.

      I'll only point out 2 negatives about this episode: Professor Whitman isn't as funny or central as he was in "Intro to Film", and the scene where Jeff scoffs at being drawn into the Debate (the "Who am I, iCarly?" thing), then 15 seconds later gets drawn into the debate is probably the most glaring example of howCommunity could be hard to read until I got totally accustomed to it. Are we above it, or aren't we? I guess the answer is both, and the distinction, so fine as to be virtually invisible to the untrained eye, ultimately kinda makes your point about the contrast between Abed's video and the "real life" of the show.

    • Re Whitman's diminished role–I'd've liked to see a little more of him too, but "By Zeus, what kind of jackassery is this?" lives on in the pantheon of great lines and is conveniently all-purpose too (for the fan who insists on quoting everything). It justifies his whole appearance in 109.

    • Yeah, I actually think he's quite hilarious in this episode. Basically every line he has following his initial recruitment of Jeff is fantastic.

      "To get in the proper competitive mindset, I imagine my opponent having aggressive sex with my mother."

      "Jeffrey, your preparation was impeccable! You remind me of a younger me, with slightly less hair."

      "Let's take this bacchanalia outside!"

    • Jeff's immediate entry into the debate following Simmons' jabs at Annie is indeed a bit hard to rationalize at the time.

      However, I really love that the show actually goes back and clarifies moments like that later on, by exploring the idea of Jeff's protective instinct towards Annie as well as his instinctive dislike of bullying. It's really well done long-term "rolling disclosure" character development.

    • We're pretty awesome this year.

      -Now calling: Sourface. http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…
      -Just a delightful reaction here: http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…
      -Bitter, shallow hipster. Sweater-matching socks…
      -"Pack yourselves with peanuts and really be satisified."http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…
      -This has become an iconic image: http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…
      -"That dude gets it." http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…
      -Do you hate this? Do you hate doing this? Do you?http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…

    • That second last image has reminded me that I have girl hands. They look way too much like Alison's….

    • NewlyRegisteredRandom

      Sit on one of them and close your eyes next time.

    • You horrify me sometimes NRR….

      and that's why I love you.

    • Simmons' partner is pretty awesome and really understated/rated throughout this episode.  I hope we see the pairing again at some point. 

    • sll03

      This is a really awesome review: I give it 10 gay basketball teams out of 10.

      Firstly, I have to say that Debate 109 is especially dear to me because it is not only ridiculously well crafted (as Semi-bored torontonian has expertly pointed out) but also the first episode of Community I ever watched.  Actually, by a complete fluke, I had only just heard about the show the very same day Debate 109 was set to air.  I think that makes me love it even more.

      Four things really resounded with me in that initial viewing: the Shirley and Abed scenes, Britta's moral compass, the Jeff/Annie dynamic and every single line of dialogue Troy had. 

      I didn't realize it at the time, but this is a great episode for Shirley.  She moved seamlessly between her story with Abed and the debate plot while delivering multiple zingers, which Yvette Nicole Brown pulled off flawlessly.  There was even some foreboding about her thinly veiled rage issues via Abed's speech. 

      On the subject of Abed, I found him really useful because of the little recaps he provided about the characters through his films.  I know the few clips we saw weren't especially insightful, but something about seeing the fake versions of the study group made me understand the real versions a bit better.

      Meeting Britta for the first time in this episode might be one of the reasons I love her character so much.  I saw her as the embodiment of a complete goofball who always wants to do the right thing but manages it in the kookiest way possible.  Who else would agree to have a crazy old man hypnotize you in an attempt to make up for snapping on him?  I also liked that my introduction to Jeff/Britta involved a quip about his smug pointy face – they're so hilarious when they're bickering.  

      All of the Jeff and Annie parts were golden for me, from the hallway recruitment to NUCLEAR BOMBS to going off-book.  For one terrifying second when Annie let her hair down, I thought it was all going to be ruined.  I prepared myself for the corniness to ensue, but was instead pleasantly surprised by a scene that came off as comical, earned and genuine and not cliche in the slightest.  I had only just met these characters and they had elicited this reaction.  It was awesome. 

      Now what can I say about Troy?  The fact that he wasn't really a prominent player in any of the main plots but still managed to have me dying of laughter was incredible.  I started randomly saying "that's wrinkling my brain" like crazy.  Plus, we got a great preview of Donald Glover's epic crying abilities.    

      Lastly, something I especially enjoyed was the way everything tied together in the end.  The quick conversations which take place as the characters exit the gym and walk down the hallway achieve this remarkably well.  After reassuring Shirley, Abed overhearing Britta dub Pierce a genius and Whitman allude to the full moon is such a simple – yet effective – way of making the story come full-circle.  It made the episode feel nicely resolved but with the promise of more shenanigans to come.  That's pretty much how I've felt after watching every episode since and I hope I get to feel that way again really soon.  

      Favourite Quotes:

      "NO!  I've got one for you: a doddering old fool walks into a bar, tells a stupid joke and I crush his windpipe with my 3-ring binder!" – Britta

      "What do you need a paper for?  You knew what was going to happen yesterday, you Middle Eastern Magic 8-ball!" – Shirley

      "That's wrinkling my brain!" – Troy

      "It's called a 'stress headache'.  I got my first one when I was four." – Annie

      "Little trick for achieving the proper competitive mindset: I always envision my opponent having aggressive sex with my mother." –  Professor Whitman

      "Britta, I'm saying this because I care about you and you're my friend: you need to start smoking again." – Jeff

      "Zero for Winger! Ba na na na na na na na – kick that – Was a big-shot lawyer! Ba na na na na na na na! Now he's a looohoohoohoooser!" – Simmons

      "EAT THAT SIMMONS!" – Dean Pelton

    • OccamsBlazer

      "Debate 109" was my first episode of Community I saw as well and one of my favorites from Season 1. It is one of the early instances in which the writers and actors began realizing their full potential. It set the foundation for the show to go off into in increasingly wider and stranger directions like in "Contemporary Poultry" and "Modern Warfare." 

      The reason some find this episode to be a bit lacking on subsequent viewings is that while this episode had several great character moments, it lacked more ambitious homage or storytelling seen in later episodes and seasons. While seemingly modest when compared to an episode like "Remedial Chaos Theory,"  "Debate 109" was a great way in establishing a foundation of characterization and humor upon which Community could build even more extravagant stories.

      In conclusion, "He was horny, so he dropped him. Man is evil!"

    • sll03

      In a way, I think I value Debate 109 even more because it didn't emphasize pop culture homages or spoofs.  Don't get me wrong: I love the 'high concept' episodes.  I love them for their humour, creativity, intelligence, ambition and (most of all) their uncanny ability to keep everyone grounded in their characterizations when facing the most ludicrous scenarios.  Still, sometimes it's just nice to see the study group get caught up in good old fashioned Greendale hijinks, whether it be about debate, the STD fair, naked pool matches, quettle corn, student elections, the Gay Bash or foosball.  I feel like those kinds of episodes keep the show grounded and as a bonus, showcase Community's awesome range.

    • Great recap. Now I am on the clock for 110 and sort of stressing about following your act.

    • Great review.  I especially like your breakdown of the difference between Abed's films and the show itself. 

      When i first watched the first season over a few days i think i perceived Debate 109 as being the first great episode.  I no longer think that is the case because rewatching the earlier episodes has really made me appreciate them more, but man is it still great.  Still, i think this is the first episode on rewatch that did not live up to my memories which felt really weird since i used to think of it as a top 5 episode all time.  It is still really well constructed and it has some amazing moments but i oddly didn't find it as funny as i remembered. Nevertheless great episode. 

      Note i had nothing substantive to add, you guys already nailed all that stuff.  But i am finding this rewatch an interesting reflection of my first impressions of many of these episodes

    • Loki100

      In case someone has not seen them, here are the full length Community College Chronicles videos:

      Episode 1: My Hobo Days
      Episode 2: Pop Quiz

    • I transcribed the simul-talk in the cold open of 109 and it goes a little something like this:

      Jeff: Britta, I'm saying this because I care about you and you're my friend. You need to start smoking again.

      Annie, Shirley, and Pierce (simultaneously)
      Annie: Good idea, all the cool people do it.
      Shirley: I really think you should, they say it makes you lose weight and your skin looks really good when you do.
      Pierce:  Absolutely. I've seen no literature on it, why not?

      Awesome. The dialogue that you will probably never fully discern is packed with little jokes and character touches. Annie the high school outcast zeroes in on the social pressures to smoke; Shirley, the female pleasure unit obsessed with makeovers, alludes to beauty; while Pierce takes the slightly more pretentious road by referring to what was no doubt his thorough review of the literature.

    • NewlyRegisteredRandom

      Someone (Annie?) also says 'And you can keep your leather jacket.'

    • Great review, and I'll echo everyone here by saying your comment on Abed's movies as a comparison for the disjointedness of multi-camera sitcoms was really insightful.

      Some of my favorite things on rewatch:

      -"Ohh. Did I hurt your feelings, Pointy Face?"

      -From the annals of "Hey, Shirley's got a violent streak!": Love how she automatically laughs at Britta's veiled threat to strangle Pierce, even though she's confused by the joke form in which it's delivered. No matter, snapping an old man's windpipe is a-ok in her book.

      -"…instead of romancing your nether regions in front of the E! Channel…" While the Soup is on, catapulting Jeff's vanity to reality-bending new highs?

      -"What, that dude gets it!" will never not be funny. Except when lifted into real life by me, which happens often.

      -What's Simmons doing? Cue Abed: "A gambit." Then notice how Abed gives thistiny little smile. We are most definitely in his wheelhouse.

    • Yes!  It made so much sense that Abed was the one who was immediately onto Simmons' gambit.

      Also, between the line you quoted and "Simmons got robbed" as they're leaving the debate, it was a tiny but funny character bit how into Simmons Troy was.

    • I remember hearing that line on previous viewing but somehow, it wasn't until last night that I placed who said it. Et tu, Troy?!

    • "hungry kittens"

      That's good color for the review.


      Thanks! I was inspired by this line: "If you guys would only let me get to the can opener, I can feed you."

      That, and my love of cats. Also, this: http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…

    • I've been reading these recaps for the last couple of days, and I've been searching for this one today.

      I had started watching the show since the beginning and knew by 107 that I liked this show, but by the end of this episode I knew that I liked liked this show.

      Similar to the responses in this thread about this episode and churches showing this episode, and that is if aliens landed on earth tomorrow and were benevolent and could communicate with us–I'd show them this episode, because tied up with our human conflicts and our capacity for doing good but tendency to slide the other way, we can't be something absolute either diabolical or angelic. Rather, we are only human, which means life would be unbearably tragic if we couldn't laugh at ourselves.

      It's over-thinking it, but so many shows over the past decade, good and bad, have been incredibly serious, and it was nice to take something that seems so serious and skews it, turning it around so you can actually see something more profound in it.

      Great recap, and I love it that Todd's recap has become something of an underground.