Episode 115: Romantic Expressionism

Community Season One, Episode Fifteen Review by mratfink


115 Romantic Expressionism

Pierce looks to Shirley, Shirley looks away to Jeff, who looks to Britta, who looks to Abed, who gives her the creepy eyebrows sending Britta to Annie, (smiles and gasps), Annie to Troy, Troy to Shirley (Troy seems ok with this, Annie is not) Annie looks to Pierce gets freaked out and looks to Jeff (hold for an extra beat) who looks to Abed and we end with the creepy eyebrows.

That right there is one of the most memorable scenes community has ever done; the moment when everybody in the group considers each other as a romantic partner.    I could do entire review just analyzing this one scene (i actually tried it was … unwieldy and more importantly uninteresting).  But I am getting ahead of myself.  This episode has a fair bit of character work going on even before that final scene.

The A plot deals with Annie dating Vaughn and  Britta and Jeff trying to break them up using Troy.  This plot probably reveals more about Britta than about Jeff, Annie or Troy.  Britta is the one who has the greatest problem with Annie potentially dating Vaughn.  Even though it is Jeff who seems most gung ho about Annie and Vaughn it is Britta that is revealed to have been pushing Jeff to break them up.  Britta is motivated by two competing urges, the urge to appear cool (her primary motivating factor throughout season 1) and the fact that she doesn’t like Annie dating her ex-boyfriend.  This means that while she is willing to give Annie her blessing (and turn it into a snake) she is also seeking a way in which to break Annie and Vaughn up, and that way is better known as Jeff Winger.

Jeff is motivated by the desire to maintain control over the group.  I don’t think there are romantic urges toward Annie at this point in the series; instead I think Jeff’s primary motivation is simply that he doesn’t like members of the group spending a lot of time with people outside the group.  Jeff is already using the group as a crutch.  He has created a safety bubble that he has recently embraced (look at Investigative Journalism where he comes back and is happy to see them) and I think Jeff is scared of that bubble being upset.

Annie is seeking the trappings of maturity.  Annie wants a boyfriend because she has realized that she is attractive (can’t believe it took this long) and relationships are a sign of a maturity (one that even “adults” struggle with constantly as other episodes astutely point out).  Troy meanwhile is motivated by Jeff’s eye-opening perspective of Annie.

Meanwhile in the B plot we see Pierce’s desire to appear younger and fit in better with the group that he too often finds himself not fitting in with.  If there is one constant with Pierce it is desire to fit in, it is his prime motivating factor, the one urge that drives pretty much every group interaction.  Pierce is lonely and by fitting in he doesn’t feel as lonely.  It hurts even more to see Shirley, the group member he recognizes as the other outsider, to fit in with Trobed’s movie night so easily.  Heck even Chang fits in.  So Pierce acts out and comes up with a crazy caper and when it backfires (as all Pierce’s plans backfire) he ends up fitting in by ceasing to care about fitting in.  There is a lesson here, but Pierce won’t learn it. 

And it all culminates in that final scene; that magnificent scene where every group member considers the other members and the possibility of romance with them.  Where Remedial Chaos Theory is a study in what an individual means to the group, this one moment tells us what these people mean to each other on an individual level.  Pierce looks to Shirley because (as he says in a later episode) he respects her more than any other member of the group.  Though he sees Jeff as a reflection of himself he can probably relate to Shirley the best, so he has always considered her a natural partner.  Shirley of course never considers Pierce.  She considers Jeff because as she constantly reminds the group she is not as old as they think and she is actually closer to Jeff’s age (plus she admires Jeff’s physique more than a few times).  She desires to fit in like Jeff fits in but doesn’t know how to relate to the younger crowd as well.  Jeff looks to Britta; his initial reason for starting the group.  Jeff and Britta are mirrors, alike in their cynicism even if it gets channeled in different ways. At this point they have forged a fairly strong friendship.  Britta looks away to Abed, because Britta has trouble confronting any feelings she may have about Jeff due to Jeff’s relationship with Slater. But Abed is not a safe place for Britta to look because Britta has trouble relating to Abed.  She, more than any of the group members, seeks to change Abed and has trouble handling his “weirdness” directly.  Abed’s eyebrow waggle is something that Britta doesn’t understand and when Abed does something she doesn’t understand she tends to run.  So she looks to Annie.  I don’t know if this moment is anything other than fan service.  I personally see Annie and Britta as being the pair that is most secretly at loggerheads throughout the series.  This is something that I’m sure Loki would have some very interesting feminist theory thoughts but I don’t feel that I have the understanding to tackle it from that angle.  Instead from a character perspective i think this derives from the fact that in many ways they see themselves as rivals, their plots together usually turn competitive, and it is probably because personality wise they are such diametric opposites.  This topic i'll throw to the comments if anyone wants to discuss because this is too long anyway. 

Anyway, that look drives Annie to Troy, her first crush, the closest to her in age, and in many ways the most “logical” fit.  Troy feels rejected from earlier though and he never saw Annie as a partner anyway.  So he looks to Shirley, and his reaction is amusing but I don’t think he is actually considering a romantic relationship here.  I think Troy sees Shirley as the mother figure she is and appreciates that more than most of the group.  But of course the lack of attention from Troy offends Annie because this was the same problem that she was having before this episode with Troy.  So she looks to Pierce, but that is too creepy for her and then to Jeff and this look is lingered on an extra beat.  This was obvious set up for the finale, Debate planted the seeds, and here they show that those seeds have roots.  There is certainly an attraction between the two and their mismatched personas might fit well together (opposites attract and all that) but the main impediment to their relationship is Jeff’s feelings of guilt.  So driven by guilt Jeff looks away and we end once again with Abed, our eyes into the group, the filmmaker.  The person that is both the creator of the group in many ways and also the greatest outsider in his constant role as an observer.  See where Pierce feels he doesn’t fit in, Abed knows he is different, but Abed doesn’t care and because he doesn’t care he can navigate romantic entanglements without the fear that keeps the rest of the group apart.  Hence the eyebrow waggle, the move made by a man who is happy with who he is and doesn’t care about the reaction he gets. The rest of the group is scared by what they see when looking around the table but Abed embraces the possibility of connection. 

And at the end it is their fear of each other that motivates them to let Annie go.  They know they have a good thing and they don’t want to mess it up.  So Annie can date Vaughn (he may be dumb but he is honest) and Pierce doesn’t have a shot with any of them.

Stray Observations

  • “You have a gold star on your fly” “its nice to have a girlfriend who has a sense of humor and recognizes good work”
  • “He never has a shirt, he never has shoes, why hasn’t he died from lack of service” (this comes back later when he notes that it took him a long time to get ice cream because he had to find a shirt)
  • “I’m younger than the three of you put together”
  • Vaughn’s feet freak Jeff out
  • I can’t tell whether Annie is actually impressed by Britta turning it into the snake or not
  • Once again Jeff and Britta see themselves as the parents of the group. (but Annie’s mom would never wear boots that go up that high)
  • Vaughn is a gateway douchebag, that path leads to Starburns.
  • And of course Starburns also thinks Jeff is a douchebag
  • I like that Senor Chang is in formal white tie dress.  Where the hell could he have been planning to go?
  • Abed doesn’t get the group signals that they don’t want to invite pierce.  
  • “Lets not confine ourselves to your wheelhouse, this probably won’t respond to tapdancing or casual revelations that you spent time in New York”
  • Britta is terrible at being subtle.  Either that or she actually finds chemistry sexy.  
  • The best part of Jeff’s secret description of Annie and Troy’s reaction is “and she’s jewish?” I have no idea what could’ve inspired that.  
  • Buzz keeps going to the hair products well.  
  • Troy refers to Abed as his other half.  Lot of Trobed romantic subtext here.  Especially with them going to film the kickpuncher sex scene at the end…
  • Troy watches the classic Duchovny show Red Shoe Diaries, and is into butt stuff.  
  • “I did eat all the macaroni, it’s messed up that he knows”
  • “Tom Selleck just stood there and watched him die”
  • Pierce says he doesn’t need validation but of course the story is all about him needing validation. 
  • Britta admits she isn’t that cool she isn’t juno.  
  • Also Troy apparently got specific about Britta…interesting.  
  • “They’re just jealous”
  • Unsurprisingly Pierce has sex without kissing.  
  • Vaughn calls Pierce “Old Man River”
  • “His songs are dumber than he is”
  • When Annie says that Vaughn wants to show her a cloud that looks like a pumpkin, Abed looks to the sky. 

Notes from the Commentary

  • Apparently the boat episode ran over filming and they shot this episode in 4 days (a compressed schedule) and they regard it as  among the best of the first episode.
  • As mentioned above this was the intermediate step in sexing up Annie between Debate and the finale.  
  • The guy who played Kickpuncher is the newest Jason Voorhees.  
  • Dan Harmon totally quoted Archer in the commentary “Just the tip!” 
  • Apparently Joel was actually telling Glover some really dirty stuff when he was whispering.  
  • The famous weirdest boner line was adlibbed.  Glover has to be the best improviser in the cast.
  • Glover was really sick during this episode.  
  • Russo likes hippy annie, Harmon schoolgirl annie.  I feel we are learning too much of their uh predilections.
  • Chevy takes his pratfalls very seriously.  
  • The Pierce plotline was based on a true story of a professional comic coming prepared. 
  • This is their example of subtle, family episodes.  They spend the end talking about how they wanted to embrace an older post-cynical movement and call back to a more emotional feel good time in sitcoms.

On the A. V. Club: http://www.avclub.com/articles/regional-holiday-music,66270/#comment-427135936 (page 78)


  • Goddammit people, I can't keep up.

  • SpongyandBruised

    That was great. This is one of the standouts of the first  season. Even without the scene at the table, you have the first inklings of Britta embracing who she really is. Also, I'm with Russo. That choker is doing wonders.

  • I thought it looked kind of ridiculous on her, but to each his (or her) own.

  • I don't know, I gotta side with SpongyandBruised on this.  Alison Brie with a choker gives me all kinds of boners (narrow, hopeful, green, etc.).  Then again, that's pretty much the norm when it comes to Brie, regardless of what she's wearing.

  • I'd say I'm Team Harmon all the way on that one, but I'm not sure I want to endorse his feelings for Schoolgirl Annie.

  • I'll endorse them. Schoolgirl Annie is hot (although the same could be said for every other Annie).

  • Loki100

    "You think I'm too old to make monkeyshines at a picture show?" is a line I quote all the time.

    As far as Britta and Annie always at loggerheads, I do have some ideas, but I haven't fully fleshed them out yet.

  • Ha i threw it to the comments because i too have some half formed thoughts but i haven't fully fleshed them out.  And one of the ones i keep coming back to makes me a little queasy (basically i worry their rivalry is a desirability competition which means that Harmon thinks attractive women like Annie and Britta can't be friends, i don't think this is the entire root of their 'rivalry' but it is my worst fear.)

  • There are some age-related things going on there, too, and their outlook on life is fundamentally different; let's not forget that Britta doesn't respond to anything appropriately. It's certainly something that I'd like to see examined more, though. This isn't the first time it's been brought up, but I find it interesting that Britta got boobs before everyone else while Annie had to stuff her bra in high school.

  • Really nice analysis of the table scene; it's one of the very best scenes that Community has done. "And she's Jewish?" is without question the funniest line in the entirety of the show. One joke that took me several viewings to get was "I'm not Juno, homeslice!" The best thing about Jeff's line about Britta's casual revelations that she spent time in New York is that she replies with a casual revelation that she spent time in New York. Fun stuff, this episode. Let's not forget that it brought us Kickpuncher, too.

  • Loki100

    I like to think this moment is a call back to that.

  • Automatic_Taglines

    Watching that video with captions on is just fantastic.

  • SpongyandBruised

    That scene with Pierce and the guys from Derrick is great.

    "I said we write great jokes!"

    "Don't flatter yourselves."

  • I LOVE that line by the Derrick girl, its perfect

  • OccamsBlazer

    I love Meggie in this episode and in her return in "Pascal's Triangle Revisited."

  • Love these lines

    "You're complicated"
    "Well he's a baby"
    "Sherri Shepherd Lady"
    "Everybody knows you wanna cut up the T-Bone steak"
    "Phyllis Diller grade stuff"

  • SpongyandBruised

    I'm not sure what Troy was expecting when he does the Jesus pose.


  • All his come-ons to Annie are so absurdly ineffective in a hilarious way, which perfectly expresses Troy's immaturity with girls at that stage. In fact, the show makes comical references to a romance with Abed instead ("they're just jealous" and that joke where Annie says Troy once tried to hold her hand because he thought it was Abed), so they're explicitly making a joke of the football jock who can't hit on girls.

    P.S. The Troy holding Abed's hand is such a laugh track type of joke where a one-off joke is made about something that isn't seen and everyone gets a quick laugh at the character's expense. If not for the minor point it's making about Troy, I wouldn't like it.

  • obviously he was expecting butt stuff

  • It's pretty clear that Troy has never ever needed to actively pursue girls at all; everyone wanted a cut of the T-bone steak at Riverside.

  • OccamsBlazer

    He wanted to do something from "Red Shoe Diaries."

  • Janine Restrepo I'm not so sure. I'm in the camp, along with Donglover, that thinks Troy doesn't fuck at all. "He doesn't act like someone who has sex. When it's time to get down he'd be like 'what?'" The T-Bone steak stuff is the inflated opinion of his womanizing he has, but it's quite possible he's a virgin.

  • Oh, yeah, I can definitely see that, too; it feels weird to even think about him having had sex.

  •  LloydBraun i feel troy's sexual experience level is something they have not dealt with consistently.  for instance in season 1 we see him in the background hanging out with girls, like in the episode when annie gives him the blanket for a picnic and i remember a later episode where we see a girl riding on his shoulders.  These instances suggest a comfort level that i wouldnt imagine a virgin having.  On the other hand we have episodes like this and a lot of his season 2 and 3 development where he seems more childlike and innocent. 

  • LloydBraun The only conclusion I draw from that is you can't seem to reconcile Troy's immaturity with the idea that he's had sex with a woman.  In Anthropology 101 it's implied that he has sex with one of Britta's groupies in "the cleanest bathroom," and he seems reasonably adept at wooing the cute Librarian in Early 21st Century Romanticism, until she insults Abed.

    I agree with Janine Restrepo that his awkward come ons to Annie are mostly a result of not having to try very hard to get girls in high school.  They haven't shown as much interest in women on Troy's part this season, I think, because they're building toward something with Britta.

  •  *Does a double-take*

    Christopher Brown Did you just teleport here??!?!

    Anyway, I wasn't really sure how to take that scene.  Was Troy asking about the bathroom to have sex or just because he's fussy about where he pisses?

    It is kind of an interesting question whether he's had sex or not.  But even though the date was a little awkward I still say he fucked Randy. A guy like Troy might not have to be totally suave with women to get laid, especially in college (although I don't know if Community college is different, what with all these old people everywhere).

  • I also really like 'ok, if you're going to get all upper east side about this…" from britta

  • This is such a great episode, for all the great lines, for all the great character development, for the looking-around scene–and yet nothing big happens at all.  As I said last night, I think this episode is really a turning point in the Britta-Annie relationship.  Sometimes I think they're just very different people who can only hang out with each other with the buffer of the other group members (doesn't everyone have some friend like that?), but sometimes I'm with you, Mr. ATF ink, in fearing that the root of their rivalry is actually in a competing-for-boys sort of jealousy.  I hope not.  I have to think about it more.

    It's also a turning point in the Britta-Jeff relationship and such a fun episode for the two of them, doing what they do best together and conspiring and back-and-forth-ing (the mixed baby line killed me).  So glad they had the sense to back off on the forced romantic relationship and go where the actors' chemistry took them.  

    Speaking of chemistry, I miss Pierce-Vaughn.  They made a fun pair.

  • Pierce and Vaughn have probably the best chemistry of a main character and a guest star.  they are terrific together. 

  • i really wish their rivalry had been a season-long plot.

  • Good review!

    I do think that Jeff does, at least subconsciously, regard Annie as a potential romantic interest; as Troy notes, "you did get weirdly specific when describing Annie's body", and "the look" did happen, after all.

    It's nothing that he's going to act on actively, at least not yet, but the urges are there.

    Also, the final scene here really is outstanding. To me, it represents the first time the group as a whole really comes together and reflects upon their shared history. This scene is absolutely jam-packed with subtext and implied character callbacks, and it's all conveyed with nothing more than facial expressions. It's really exemplary of how damn good an actor everyone on the show is.

    Speaking of the group scene, I absolutely love Annie's horrified aversion of her gaze immediately after locking eyes with Pierce. Too funny.

    If I recall the commentary correctly, the Britta/Annie look was intended as mostly fanservice, although the bit in "21st Century Romanticism" reminds us that Annie will indeed try anything at least once.

  • Yeah, in 113, Jeff's line to Buddy about not sexualizing Annie was probably for his own admonishment as well.

  • Oh…and let's just spend a minute on the ice cream scene.  In addition the the payoff for the lack of service line, there are so many tiny hilarious moments like Troy and Annie's little shudders when Vaughn smashes the cones together and Vaughn's petulant look when he tosses the empty cone at them.  The best part of all, though?

    "Your study group is EVIL!"  

    Y'all…..I didn't see it til now, but Vaughn's been pulling the strings this whoooooooooooole time.

  • For those who don't know, the ice cream was mashed potatoes.

  • More commentary commentary.  Harmon said he thought the camera lingered
    too long between Jeff and Annie and hammered the point home a little too hard.   Watching it now, knowing what we know about those two, it does seem a little on the nose.  But I remember watching it the first time, when I thought they wouldn’t go there (and by thought, I mean passing thought.  In spring 2010 I was still watching like “hey, this is a good show!” not “hey, this is a show that’s going to blow my brains and cause me to discuss it on a thread 15,000 comments long!”) it seemed just right.  He also said they had an alternate ending that had some sort of Jeff-Annie romance in it.  That would have been too much. 

    But I still want to know what Joel McHale was whispering to Donald Glover.

    No.  No I don’t.  It was probably disgusting.

    Yeah, yeah I do…

  • Clearly it should have lingered far longer between Britta and Annie.

  • Off-topic but…I am surprised to find that there is a complete dearth of X-rated Britta-Annie fan fiction.  It's mostly Jeff-Annie, with little bits of Abed-Annie, Troy-Annie, and even Troy-Abed.  Britta is surprisingly neglected overall. 

    My hypothesis is that most sexual fan fiction is made by women, who are generally uninterested in Britta-Annie (but there are a few who are into man-on-man action, which is not as much of a turn on for women as lesbian sex is for men).  That's a big assumption though; I don't have any data on whether that's actually true, although I figure men (like me) don't like to waste time writing about sex when they could be fapping to it.

    As for why Annie is featured more than Britta….maybe there's an essay in there for Loki100.  Annie is the more conventional female lead.  What does that say about women who watch Community and and channel their fandom into erotic fan fiction?

  • Trying to leave my own bias aside here but it definitely seems that the general perception around the internet is that Annie is hotter than Britta. Brie has been fetishized a shit load over the net and that's reflected in that creepy fan fiction.

  • OccamsBlazer

    Gillian/Britta looked great in this episode. Her tights and skirt were a nice change of pace from her endless supply of leather jackets she usually wears.
    This episode was a turning point in the Jeff-Britta relationship began taking more of a sibling dynamic between them, and became more of a big brother and sister towards the study group as well.

    Also, you can't forget Leonard. http://www.fishsticktheatre.co… 
    "It's messed up that he knows."

    And finally, Abed in drag. http://www.fishsticktheatre.co… 
    "Let's go film the sex scene."

  • i was worried that i had forgotten Leonard but i see i did remember to include the Macaroni line which is one of my favorite lines ever.

    oh and i definitely see a sibling dynamic in Jeff and Britta, well besides the whole sleeping together occasionally aspect, but yes i think their dynamic has evolved into that of brother and sister

  • I know they often do this, but that scene with Jeff and Britta on the couch is a particularly nice example of how they dress characters in certain colors to convey a mood or harmony/discord.  Not only are they dressed in matching colors, but given Britta's not wearing her typical leather jacket/vest, it's also the most similar they've looked style-wise. 

    The macaroni line is incredible, but something always cracks me up about Troy's weird little marionette arms when he's yelling, too.


  • Right. They look like Harry and Hermione celebrating one of their successful exploits in Gryffindor Tower.

  • Good call about the matching colors. That moment Jeff and Britta have on the couch where she asks him if he wants kids (even if he's totally misreading it) might actually be the biggest step on the path the two take throughout the season, if it wern't for the fact that it doesn't end with them together.

  • this is the first episode of solid, comfortable friend zone for Jeff and Britta I think. though they hook up afterwards, it seems its simply as FWB. Jeff and Britta have that funny vibe going in this episode that defines their best verbal tete-a-tetes (like the ones they have in IDF, Advanced Gay)

    i'm going to ignore what Britta did in the finale, because I still don't get that completely. I guess it was a momentary lapse for Britta where she wanted to compete with Slater, but I don't think she ever really fell hard for Jeff

  • I'm still developing my ideas about the finale and what it means, but I broadly agree with your last sentence. She got caught up in the moment and things escalated and Slater began to make a move (perhaps herself going farther than she wanted to) and so she had to do something drastic lest that option be cut off forever; her reaction there was spontaneous and purely emotional, and it worked in that Jeff never did get back with Slater. A recurring theme throughout the episode is the idea of spontaneity and the conflict between what we think and what we feel; it's articulated in that wonderful last scene outside the dance.

  • I think the fact that they don't end the season together is what makes that question so significant.  The fact that there's not a Jeff-shaped hole in the door after she asks it shows they're not really thinking of each other in a romantic/sexual way.  Seems like she's just asking as a friend who's kind of in the same point in life–late 20s/early 30s, doesn't have a clear direction or even a significant other yet at an age when society says you ought to be getting on with the babymaking–if he thinks he'll ever have kids because that's something she wonders about herself.  Even though Jeff turns it into a joke, the fact that they're comfortable enough with each other to even muse about something like that without one or both freaking out is a huge step in their friendship.

  • sll03

    Consider this my preemptive apology for the comment that is to follow…

    BOO YEAH!  Harry Potter reference in a Community thread!  My world has now come full circle.  Thank you ever so much for that Harry/Hermione comparison, LloydBraun.  Made my day.

  • Agreed, that was definitely the hottest thing Britta's worn. For some reason, none of the screencaps really do it justice. Maybe it's supposed to be part of the joke/scenario of her and Jeff trying to tempt Troy into evil.

  • absolutely!

    this episode is where they dressed Britta the hottest by far. I love that look on her. 

  • sll03

    I award this review 10 episodes of Red Shoe Diaries out of 10!

    Romantic Expressionism is in my top 15.  I really love how it starts with such a simple, run-of-the-mill concept but ends in a rather moving and insightful way.  Not many shows can use a story about two characters dating the same person as a means to acknowledge other possible romantic pairings without seeming trite.  We have all undoubtedly seen jealousy or competition used as triggers for dormant feelings in television and movies, and it can be a bit cliche at times.  I've always viewed the table scene as doing just the opposite: shamelessly mixing and matching pairings for both entertainment and developmental purposes, but completely aware of that fact and loving it. 

    Also, everybody's performances were impeccable – as always – but I believe Gillian Jacobs wins MVP.  The way Britta's facial expression changes from distraught to indifferent when she approaches Jeff in the cafeteria is flawless.  If memory serves, I believe Dan Harmon points out this exact moment in the commentary.   

    The episode was also hilarious all throughout.  Here are some of my favourite moments that haven't been mentioned yet:

    Vaughn: Everyone's my bro, because we're all connected. Sharks, eagles, hats.
    Troy: Yeah? Well some things are more connected than others, like tarantulas and me peeing my pants. Or me and Annie.

    Shirley: Does anyone get specific about me?
    Pierce: Check your e-mail.
    Shirley: I mark you as spam.
    Pierce: Who the hell is Pam?

    Jeff: Troy, I want you to clear your mind.
    Troy: DONE!

    Again, really great job, mratfink: you wrote this review with the speed and determination of the incomparable Robin Williams.

  • I love the things that Troy is scared of chooses not to be around because they are unpopular: mice, tarantulas, centipedes, lakes, etc.

  • Harmon did point out that Britta moment on the commentary as evidence that in his mind Britta used Jeff to try and break Annie and Vaughn up. 

    oh and i obviously work ahead, i have neither the speed nor the determination of the incomparable Robin Williams.  And actually i found writing this episode review really difficult compared to the one i did for 103.  For whatever reason nothing grabbed me right away as a theme.  So i'm glad i worked ahead or you guys would be waiting a week

  • sll03

    So I should probably start working on my Modern Warfare review then, huh? 

  •  sll03 i work 2 or 3 ahead.  so i think i started trying to write after Investigative Journalism went up.  it will still be a while before modern warfare unless we really pick up the pace. 

  • sll03

    Good plan.  And if I don't finish it on time, I'll just blame you.  Kidding! 

    Or am I?!  No, I am.  I'm kidding.

  • sll03, your first paragraph sums it beautifully.

    As for Britta, she's the queen of facial expressions.
    http://www.fishsticktheatre.co… – She looks a lot like the high school girl in 122 here with the eyeliner caked up.
    http://www.fishsticktheatre.co… – So adorable
    http://www.fishsticktheatre.co… – Remind you of her "new path" outburst in 302?

    It was important for her as an actress to keep her feelings about Annie and Vaughn as cryptic as possible so it could pay off so well in that final outburst.

  • sll03

    Yay for fish sticks!  I just wanna give her a hug in that third one.  She looks so timid and it's just very un-Britta.

  •  You know I never really paid attention to where you guys got all these screen caps but holy fucking shit that place is awesome!

  • yeah, I kind of just kept seeing 'fish stick theatre' without looking into it but that site is awesome. I use it all the time now

  • Who puts that site together?

  • Great analysis. You really nailed the part about the looking around scene. It's another landmark moment in the evolution of the study group a a whole. This fits right in with the formation of the group in the Pilot and the growth that takes place around Comparative Religion/Investigative Journalism. At this point, I would say it is safe to call them friends with each other, but this was the point where they realize that there is more to each of them than just "classmates". It's not like they all necessarily see a romantic partner in the group, but there is that dawning moment where they can see that this group goes beyond "people from school that study together and get into random adventures" and see that they are people with a deep and potentially lasting connection. 

    Reading these reviews is great. Everybody has outstanding insight and each new one makes me question how I didn't rank the episode higher on my top 30 list.

  • i was kinda shocked myself by how low this episode ended up being on my list but there were so many other great episodes! 

  • I admit, I was a bit skeptical about the significance of the googley eyes scene. Dan Harmon talked about it like it was such a milestone but I kept getting hung up on the literal part of it (ie. but they're not all romantically viable pairings!) and I considered it more as a cute little gag. mratfink's terrific breakdown and sll03 and SG Standard's posts have convinced me that the literal part is irrelevant.

    "It's not like they all necessarily see a romantic partner in the group,
    but there is that dawning moment where they can see that this group goes
    beyond "people from school that study together and get into random
    adventures" and see that they are people with a deep and potentially
    lasting connection."

    Well put.

  •  one of the reasons i had trouble writing this review initially was because i tried to ascribe too much significance to the scene.  I tried to draw too many connections and make it too overarching.  Dialing it back and taking it one at a time it is much easier to see the relationships between the different characters and how they view each other.  Someone said it is kind of a summary of what has come before all in one scene and i think that is the best way of looking at it. 

  • Well, Jeff won't date Shirley and Pierce won't sleep with Britta. Part of that is the constraints placed on TV and part of it is (presumably) realism and being true to the characters.

    But the fact that it's in their heads, that they've considered it, is important. The risk is always that the ever-hanging possibility of a Jeff/Annie romance (or Annie/Abed + Troy/Britta) becomes so integral to the show's wiring that Pierce and Shirley slowly fade into the background.

    TV audiences are weirdly prudish, too. They want to see straight-lines between age appropriate monogamous partners, and easy family-like connections. Once they set their sights on those, they get angry if the show doesn't follow through. Community really has to throw up the big red "NO" more often, otherwise you get things like Jim/Pam on The Office where what seemed dangerous and exciting becomes oppressive because you know it's untouchable.

    Having now sat through a full 20 minutes of reruns of The Waltons, I think that would undercut what makes Community so modern, unique and consistently great.

  • sll03

    Jeff won't date Shirley because he intimidates her sexually.  Or he's racist.  It's one of those two.

  • It's amazing how many of the most quoted, best remembered lines and bits are from one episode. The fact that the ep sneaks under the radar as just another S1 ep is probably why we (the endless rewatchers) love it so much, but it's probably also what keeps it from being considered a slam dunk All-time best episode. That, and maybe the only other negative, that as satisfying as the ending is in the short term, it's obviously a placeholder for Annie to be with Vaughn since her real choices are in the group (and her issues with Britta are never so easily resolved).

    But the case for it as one of the best, or even the best overall ep is that everything connects, every piece sets up an escalation into another joke, or a tangent like Leonard's great one line. Or to put it another way, every time we get a joke or development we'd expect, just as we're thinking "That's it, huh? OK, I guess", there's another, more surprising one right behind it.

    In my head I've tried to compare it with "Mixology Certification", since those two eps compete for #3 on my Top Ten, but it's too hard to compare the two seasons. "Romantic Expressionism" is structurally perfect fast-paced comedy that functions as a criticism of boring TV sitcom (representative of S1). "Mixology" moves easily between tones and the jokes are more obvious because they're just bridges into the characters and into identifying with their situation. S2 is more a challenge to the idea of how many different things a show can try thematically, and different elements of it's world it can express, and less about the comedy itself, I guess.

    Since everyone else has gone into more depth about the "everyone considers the others" table scene, I'll just say that it is still on it's basic level about them seeing sexual possibilities in each other, and not just a makeshift family. It's important because it's self-aware and because it undercuts the expected complacency that shows settle into once the relationships become clear and organized. To the degree that Community refused and continues to refuse to do that, it's a constant reminder that the possibilities, present and future, are endless.

  • Two great comments there Eric. I don't have anything to add right now other than a kudos.

  • sll03

    Reading the last line made me want to raise my fist in triumphant unity.  Then I realized I'd look kinda silly doing that in the middle of the library, so I refrained.  My point is, I agree with Stephen77; well done.   

  • Excellent post. The idea of endless possibilities and of the freedom that they offer is something that comes up again and again. It's one of the defining themes of the show when analyzed as a whole.

  • You make a good point bringing up the theme of freedom and possibilities again, Janine Restrepo .   Which makes sll03 's point about the relationships being more defined by the second googly-eye session all the more interesting.  There are many things that are more defined by this point in the series–majors, personalities, life paths.  Of course, this is all as it should be as one goes through college and grows up, and we've seen various characters have little freak-outs about the attendant loss of freedom, but it's nice that even that little series of looks in RCT underscores that.


    Great review! Your breakdown of the googly eyes scene is truly fantastic. One question though: how do you read its repeat in Chaos?

    Re: Jeff's motivation for keeping Annie away from Vaughn. I don't think it's just a matter of keeping the group together. I think Jeff feels seriously threatened by Vaughn.

    I think Jeff is at this point quite attracted to Annie, but as in Debate 109, he's trying to channel this attraction into a protective role. So he says that he's trying to prevent Starburns from getting to Annie via Vaughn, but in reality it's Vaughn he resents. Vaughn is very much a proto-Rich. He's Jeff's biggest nightmare: a handsome, charming, sincere guy (while Vaughn may be vain, he's never deceitful or duplicitous), who, most importantly, is never in need of any validation and never appears insecure. It's why Jeff has always insitnctively disliked him, even before he started dating Britta – like Rich, Vaughn represents an ineffable threshold of confident masculinity that Jeff doesn't quite feel capable of reaching. It's why he tries to push Annie towards Troy: Troy is as non-threatening for Jeff as Abed or Pierce are.

    It's a nice bit of romantic politics, which ties in nicely with another central theme of this episode: jealousy. Britta's jealous of Annie and Vaughn, Annie's jealous of Britta, Jeff is jealous of Vaughn, Pierce is jealous of the group, and Abed is jealous of Britta.

    Why is Abed jealous of Britta? I give you the end of the tag:

    Troy: Are you sure Britta couldn't do the part?
    Abed: No, I asked her and she wasn't available.
    Troy (resigned): Let's go film the sex scene.


    Good points Semi-bored torontonian !   I wondered the same thing about the repeat googly eyes.  Is it just fan service or something else?  If I recall correctly, Britta and Troy share a look in RCT, which they don't in this episode, and, of course, there's a troll in the mix, but are there other couplings left in/out between the two occurrences that are significant?


     troy and britta dont share a look here but troy does express regret she couldnt film a sex scene with him and he has multiple times in season 1 made comments that suggest he finds her quite attractive.  doing a big rewatch recently it seems clear to me that troy has long had a crush on britta



    I believe the Remedial Chaos Theory googly eyes go like this:

    Annie and Jeff look at each other.
    Jeff turns to look at Britta.
    Britta turns to look at Troy.
    Troy turns to look at Abed (who wiggles his eyebrows).
    Troy turns back to look at Britta but Pierce puts Torg right in front of him*. 

    So the difference between this scene and the one in Romantic Expressionism would be the absence of:

    Pierce looking at Shirley.
    Shirley looking at Jeff.
    Britta looking at Abed.
    Britta looking at Annie (cue the sighs of disappointment).
    Annie looking at Troy.
    Troy looking at Shirley.
    Annie looking at Pierce.

    I think that's about right.  Looking at it in this way, it's pretty interesting to see how much things have changed.  I suppose that's the point; now that these people have known each other for 3 years, everyone's relationships are much more defined.  For example, I think it makes sense that Annie and Troy no longer feel inclined to share 'googly eyes' anymore because they're quite comfortable as friends.

    *It occurs to me now that this was totally a googly eye cock block (pardon my crudeness).


    "Eye cock" is one phrase that I did not expect to see when I woke up this morning.



    And aren't you glad you were wrong?

  • My day has been improved immeasurably.


  •  I actually don't remember the repeat scene in Chaos it has been a while since i've watched that episode.  I do remember thinking that what Chaos excelled at was pointing out each members importance to the group as a whole by showing what happens when they leave. 

    I like your reading of the Jeff situation here and i think it may be correct except i think that if it is then Jeff's feelings are still largely on the subconscious level.  Like i dont think he recognizes why he dislikes vaughn but i think your theory makes sense.  I also like your comments on why Troy is not threatening to Jeff because Troy looks up to Jeff too much at this point.  Threats to Jeff are those that operate outside his control, people that are confident in themselves and attempt to assert their own leadership and that people will listen to.  Abed could be a threat to Jeff because of his self-confidence but he just chooses not to use it. 


    Here's the second googly eyes scene:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v….

    I think Jeff's feelings are repressed, but not subconscious. That's why he leaves the room after Annie suggests they could be more "reproductive." It's also what makes him a decent guy imo, since he acknowledges his attraction, but chooses not to act on it. That doesn't mean, of course, that it's not there; I just think that Jeff is at this point, trying very, very hard to convince himself that he's being altruistically nice to Annie, so he won't feel like a creep.

    Abed will also turn into a threat for Jeff, both in Physical Education, and Contemporary American Poultry. In both cases, Jeff resents his effortless sense of authority. To quote from Home Economics: "How are you always so satisfied, Abed?"

    Jeff's a mess.

  •  Semi-bored torontonian and of course you forgot the most threatening Abed has ever been to Jeff in Critical Film Studies where he just completely disarms Jeff effortlessly without even trying.  You think that didnt scare the crap out of jeff? but yes Jeff's a mess. I rewatched that episode last night because it is the episode i have the murkiest opinion about but one thing i forgot was how pissed off and out of control Jeff gets.  Abed gets under his skin there to a level only Rich has. 

    As to the chaos googly eye scene i think that is much more straight forward.  Annie is attracted to Jeff and pursuing him, Jeff is repressing and looks to probably his most recent sex-partner, Britta seems to have left Jeff behind at this point and is finding a growing attraction to Troy and Troy's most important relationship at this point is Abed but he turns back away from Abed to Britta because he does desire her.  (The troll represents the things that stand between these characters and their desires… either that or its just a creepy ass troll)


    Nice breakdown, again! I do think the troll is just a creepy-ass troll, which makes both the randomness of its presence and Troy's creeped out reaction so hilarious.

    Oh yes, Critical Film Studies… It's amazing how much Abed gets Jeff to open up, considering that even Britta hasn't managed to get there. I think Jeff is occasionally threatened by Abed, but he also respects the guy and is drawn to him. It's Abed's aloofness which allows him to play either the confident leader, or the impartial confidante, as far as Jeff's concerned.

  • Jeff is a total mess. He's the neediest member of the group but the least aware of that fact, or at least he tries to play it off most of the time. Between the pretty little Indian girl Halloween, the Big Cheddar incident, and the fact that he is the son of William the Barely known, he is damaged goods. Now that he has found a surrogate family, he has grown to depend on the rest of the group and rely on them for his own sense of self worth. There is a reason so many episodes end with the big Winger Speech-he needs the group to stay together, and he is going to say what he has to in order to maintain the status quo. 

    Because of this, Jeff is the most vulnerable to outside threats and, as a result, is the first to defend any member of the group. He's Abed's bodyguard against Mike, he protects Pierce from Amber and his father, and he's right in the middle of the whole Britta/Annie/Vaughan thing. He needs the group to stay together for his own sanity, otherwise he starts attacking innocent study tables with axes.