Episode 123: Modern Warfare

Community Season One, Episode Twenty Three Review by sll03

Avatar
 

123 Modern Warfare

Full disclosure:  I have absolutely no idea how to write a proper television review.  None whatsoever.  So, naturally, when the opportunity to do so for one of the most revered episodes of one of the most adored shows of our time came up, I whole-heartedly volunteered.  Apparently, I’m a masochist.  I know we all love this episode very much (as was recently proven by the results of our rankings) so I will try my very best to do it justice.

There have been so many spectacular episodes of Community that pointing to only one and saying “that’s it; that’s the episode” seems not only foolish, but impractical.  After all, how can a show with installments like Cooperative Calligraphy, Mixology Certification, Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas, Remedial Chaos Theory, Contemporary American Poultry, Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, Critical Film Studies and Debate 109 have a single stand-out?  The short answer: it doesn’t.  And yet, I cannot help but feel like Modern Warfare really was a defining moment in the series.  I know that is a very bold statement to make and some of you may disagree, but this is my review, so tough bananas!  Seriously though, this was the episode that proved Community could go completely nuts and still manage to tell a grounded, relevant, and essentially character-driven story.  Speaking of stories, I will now stop rambling, and get to it…

We begin with a shot of the Spring Fling banner and pan downwards to focus on Jeff and Britta who are engaged in another one of their ridiculously entertaining banter sessions.  By this point in the season, it’s been fairly well established that there is mutual romantic interest between these two.  I think the writers felt like it was time to properly address this and figured there was no better way to do so than with an awesome action movie backdrop to offset any mushy stuff.  Before paintball even begins, the stage is set via a table scene in which the entire study group discusses Jeff and Britta’s relationship.  In a lesser sitcom, this most likely would have been used to sell the audience a particular point of view.  I’m imagining a quip about how their constant bickering obviously means they secretly love each other or something along those lines.  Thankfully, we are instead treated with dialogue that hangs a hat on what some viewers had been sensing for a while: Jeff and Britta are probably not going to be an epic love story.  This is cemented by Abed’s Ross/Rachel comparison and Shirley’s Sam/Diane allusion.  Personally, I really appreciated this.  Jeff and Britta clearly have some sexual tension and they obviously do care about each other, but the fact that the show was not going to force them into a typical arc was quite refreshing to me.  I’m personally okay with a little romance on sitcoms as long as it does not overtake the series and I felt like this was Community’s way of doing just that.  It is also interesting to note that approximately one year later, the study group would find themselves having a similar conversation about how Jeff and Britta’s relationship damages the fabric of the group in Paradigms of Human Memory.  Food for thought.    

Once Dean Pelton comes along and explains a nice game of Paintball Assassin will be part of the Spring Fling festivities, the real fun begins.  I’ll take this opportunity to say that I found the direction in this episode really well done.  The image of a post-apocalyptic Greendale was one of the coolest things to grace my television screen during 2010.  The plot moves along nicely here, coupling pertinent bits of information with dazzling action sequences.  As Jeff makes his way through the desolate campus he quizzically encounters Garrett, narrowly escapes Leonard, is EPICALLY saved by Abed, and finally learns about the coveted grand prize of priority registration from Troy.  After forming a tentative trio, Jeff, Troy and Abed make their way through the school, taking out the chess club in the process.  They then meet up with Pierce who double-crosses Starburns (I always get a chuckle out of the way he nonchalantly shoots him in the back) and enter the washroom completely unaware that Britta, Shirley and Annie are lying in wait.  The scene that ensues includes what would become a staple of the future paintball episodes: people popping out of garbage cansEverybody then joins forces and plays out the rest of the game together.  It’s also fun to note the differences between the original alliances when comparing Modern Warfare to A Fistful of Paintballs.  This episode opts for the boys vs. girls strategy.  Considering these people have known each other for less than a year, this may have been the simplest tactic for everyone to fall back on.  However, in season two, things have changed: Jeff and Abed are still together, but Troy teams up with Shirley and Britta (who in turn report to Pierce) and Annie is initially all on her own.

I should also mention that this episode was genuinely funny.  There are a lot of great one-liners (some I have listed below) and it also really excels with physical and situational comedy.  I often forget this marks the first run-in our study group has with the (in)famous Glee Club.  Troy, Pierce and Annie all fall victim to their dulcet tones.  Hit me with your best shot, indeed!

As night approaches, Jeff, Britta, Shirley and Abed seek shelter in the cafeteria and talk about what they would do if crowned the winner.  Their responses are very in character: Jeff would attempt to graduate sooner and get out of Greendale a year early; Britta would take classes that involve the least amount of effort; and Shirley would make a schedule that allows her to spend more time with her kids.  After electing they give the prize to Shirley if they should win, Britta’s sugary sincerity is scrutinized by Jeff, which makes way for a very crucial conversation later on in the episode.  Keeping that in mind, I still found Abed to be the most interesting here.  We never get to hear his initial plan, but he immediately agrees with Britta’s suggestion.  I do not doubt he did so because he’s a genuinely nice guy, but I also think Abed probably didn’t really care about priority registration in the first place.  He saw the entire scenario as a way to live out a real life action movie and fully devoted himself to the role of hero it required.  Since heroes win, he was highly motivated to do exactly that, but I feel like it was not for the same reasons as everybody else.  Unfortunately, in the midst of all this, the foursome is ambushed by Disco Stu and his posse.  Abed and Shirley don’t make it, while Jeff suffers a minor flesh wound.

Jeff and Britta proceed to the study room to tend to Jeff’s injury and here is where their earlier disagreement becomes very telling.  Britta admits to being phony due to a fear that she may not be a good enough person.  Oppositely, Jeff responds that insecurity about his own morality is what motivates him to publicly criticize hers.  How ironic is that?  Both are urgently trying to justify who they are and how they behave.  Jeff doesn’t want everyone to think he’s a jerk by comparison, so when Britta makes a grand gesture he attempts to undercut it.  Britta believes she always needs to be a selfless, humble, kind person, so she wears that mask and plays that role with the hopes it will eventually become true.  They may go about it in completely different ways, but in the end, they’re striving for the same thing: validation.  Now, just to clarify, I love Jeff and I love Britta and in no way think they really are bad people (I simply think that is how they see themselves).  This interaction serves as a catalyst of sorts and they eventually have sex on the study table.  As soon as it’s over, they’re all about paintball again, cleverly using the urgency of the current situation to cover up whatever real feelings they may actually have about being intimate.        

The climax of the episode is most definitely the Chang showdown and it totally delivers.  After being enrolled as a student by a desperate Dean to swiftly end the game, he bursts into the library in fully-fledged gangster mode and just lights the place up.  Well, I guess technically he paints the place up, but you know what I mean.  The slow-mo retreat of Jeff and Britta diving for cover is another example of excellent direction, as is the stand-off between Britta and Chang that results in both being eliminated.  A sniggering Chang then monologues the twisty truth that there is no such thing as priority registration and proceeds to blow every viewers mind by revealing a hidden paint bomb inside his suit.  In true Community fashion, this is perfectly insane and therefore surprisingly believable and leads to the moment I most associate with Modern Warfare: the piece de resistanceNarrowly escaping complete annihilation, Jeff stumbles into Dean Pelton’s office and demands what is rightfully his.  After effectively channeling his inner John McClane, he emerges victorious.

The following day, the school is in clean up mode and so are Jeff and Britta.  They decide to pretend like nothing had ever happened and chalk it up to a crazy night of paintball.  Still, something he learned from the previous day's events sticks with Jeff and he surprises both Britta and himself by offering the priority registration form to Shirley.  He really is a good guy after all.  D’awww.

Favourite Quotes:

Jeff: Raisins don’t belong in a chocolate chip cookie
Britta: It gives them depth.

I want TBD!  Is that new?!

Okay, we get it: YOU’RE YOUNG!

He said, fully erect.

Come with me if you don’t want paint on your clothes.

Checkmate, bitches!

FREEZE MAMMA JAMMA!

Troy made God mad!

That is so uninspired!

WRITE SOME ORIGINAL SONGS!

It’s blood! I thought it was paint, but I’m just bleeding.  Talk about luck!

Additional Notes (don't worry, I won't attack anyone with them):

  • Fun fact: when Jeff tells Pierce “well, you also put hydrogen in blimps and that was bad” during the opening scene, Dean Pelton enters the room on the word ‘bad’.  He’s always right on cue.
  • There is a poster advertising Transfer Day just above Annie's head on the announcement board.
  • This is awesome.
  • So is this.
  • Can you spot all the dalmatian paraphernalia?
  • Chang's golden guns say 'El Tigre' on them.
  • The gun taped to Jeff's back should probably be visible in a couple of shots prior to its reveal… but it's not!  Dun, dun, duuuuuun.
  • Outtakes for this end tag are some of the best ones from the entire season.  BACK THE FUCK UP!
  • Everyone on the commentary said they still find random specs of paint on set.
  • This episode used real paintball guns but had them altered so the shots wouldn't hurt as much.  Even so, a lot of people got bruises and Gillian specifically pointed out that Alison developed a huge welt on her chest after the scene where the Glee Club shoots her.
  • Unlike in A Fistful of Paintballs and For A Few Paintballs More, none of the paintball shootings are computerized.  
  • The production code for this episode is actually 119, which means it was the first 'high concept' episode filmed.
  • Movie references I spotted are from: Die Hard, Hard Boiled, The Warriors, 28 Days Later, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Predator, The Boondock Saints, The Matrix, Pitch Black, Scarface, Rambo and Battle Royale.  I'm sure I've missed some, so please talk about any others in the comments!
     

25 LIKES
On the A.V. Club: http://www.avclub.com/articles/regional-holiday-music,66270/#comment-460990660 (page 158)

‚ÄčDiscussion:

  • Loki100

    Shirley saying "The Lord is my Shepard and I shall not want," while shooting roller blading Disco fans is one of the most badass moments ever captured on film.

  • sll03

    I absolutely loved Shirley in this episode.  She's got a pretty good track record in paintball, now that I think about it.

  • Loki100

    She's unbelievably badass at paintball. A fact which weirdly fits perfectly with her characterization. Her aggressive golf cart driving in "For a Few Paintballs More" is possibly the most purely badass (I really can't think of a synonym) things the show has ever done.

  • justin lin FTW. I miss him

  • TestTubeMonkey

    It also makes sense with her Foosball history

  • That was a worthy review of this episode.  And OH GOD IT GOT FLAGGED, WHY. Maybe repost in another comment? God only knows when it will be back.

  • sll03

    So I just tried to re-post it and it didn't even show up.  I think it might be because of the fish sticks.

  • There are so many reasons why this is such a outstanding episode.

    It gave Community it's first real zeitgeist-y moment

    It's about as epic an episode as you can cram into 22 minutes

    It's the best-executed concept episode of the first season

    It was the biggest S1 example of the show really pushing the boundaries of sitcom storytelling (from a visual, story, and character perspective),

    It's wickedly funny.

    Any one of these bullet points could get it's own post, complete with charts, graphs, quotes, and fishsticks helping to prove the point. This isn't just a great episode because it is the "paintball episode", it's a great episode, period.

  • Big ups once again to the art department for the Transfer Dance flyer that I've never noticed before. It just warms the cockles of my heart to know how detail-oriented and dedicated everyone who works on the show is.

  • sll03

    They really are just streets ahead.

  • Loki100

    What is Jeff wearing in that tag? It seems wildly out of character… and yet I love that outfit and really want to buy it.

  •  McHale says in the commentary that he's apparently going to do some boxing later and he's also wearing a ton of eyeliner. It's very cute.

  • sll03

    I think the Pilot still takes the cake in regards to Jeff's most unusual wardrobe selection.  That being said, you're right: it's pretty weird.

    Edit: But I'm sure you'll look very spiffy in it!

  • SpongyandBruised

    I love the golden guns. Face/Off is awesome.

  • Modern Warfare will always be special because of how revolutionary it was. This was before Community news spread like wildfire, but i was still someone who was looking for information. I remember reading some interview or something where Joel had said that they had a cool 'action' type episode coming up, but I had NO idea what to expect. 

    I watched the entire episode in amazement, that was a great feeling. 

  • sll03

    It was the same for me.  I hadn't even heard there was going to be an action movie-esque episode and while I was sitting on my couch watching it live, I swear I could feel my brain exploding from awesomeness.

  •   Well i didn't get to read your review (DISQUS!!!!!!!) but i feel capable of discussing this episode regardless.  So this was my first Community episode and because of that it will always hold a special place in my heart (awww) but it is truly just an inspired episode.  I mean i'm predisposed to love this episode anyway because Die Hard is my favorite action movie of all time and my favorite christmas movie of all time.  That they pulled off all the little references and scene recreation with aplumb made my heart sing (oops no paintballs, hans and DEEEEEEEEEEEAN!!!! with the gun ducttaped to the back were my two favorites). 

    It is fantastic to see Jeff wake up and the world is just wrecked, just utterly ruined.  I loved that the ladies were outthinking everybody else and hiding in the men's bathroom.  I love the roller disco guys, how it was set up earlier and then of course came back during the game.  I love Abed's "death" scene.  this is just an episode that is pure fun.

  • sll03

    On the commentary, Joel said he watched Die Hard a million times before shooting in order to make sure he got his staggering walk into the Dean's office just right.  They really did think of everything!

  • The first time I watched this episode (which was after the original airing but I'd managed somehow never to hear about it) I had no idea what was coming and having Jeff wake up in a wasteland was such a fantastic way to go from the normal episode I thought I was watching to what it actually was.  It was also a really smart move to use him and his initial WTF reaction as an audience proxy to ease us into the world created by the high-stakes paintball.  

    Thus ends my stating the obvious fact that Dan Harmon knows what he's doing.

  • "What it is, soul brother!"

    Dean: "…with a prize for last man standing. Or last man in a wheelchair with no paint on him,"
    Britta:"Or woman"
    Dean: "Give it a rest, Britta.  Ugh."

    And the best, badassest Britta line ever (that maybe you mentioned in your review): "Said the woman holding the gun"

  • sll03

    I actually didn't include that in the review so great catch! 

  • the dean's office is a work of fucking art in the details.

  • When this episode originally aired, my girlfriend was about to start her senior year of college at a school with a rapidly shrinking budget, meaning fewer classes offered and many required classes with very long waitlists, making graduation difficult. The joke about the prize being priority registration hit real close to home.

    • Here's a comprehensive list of all the movie references:http://www.quora.com/What-movi…

    • Never noticed Chang's gun saying El Tigre before! Totally rad!

    •  -"Music, food, activities. What what!" – who did the what what thing first, The Dean or Laurie on Cougar Town?

      -"Give it a rest Britta, 'ugh'"

      -I like the "shell game" Harmon outlines in the commentary about the way
      they built Britta: "If we've done our job, you are in love with Britta.
      You understand she can do things that no other character in a sitcom
      can do. That's why we fucked with you so bad in the finale; we played
      the shell game: you hated her in the beginning, you start to identify
      with her, then you love her and then she loses."

    •  so is Harmon saying he palmed Britta?  (note must know how to cheat at a shell game to get joke)

    •  Jeff: "I'm all for winning, but let's not resort to cheap ploys" /*Takes shirt off*/

      "Everybody out there is shooting each other for nothing, while you sit here in your ivory tower!"

      "JEFF WINGER! YOU SON OF A BITCH!" Apparently Donald Glover was instructed to act like every black guy in every John Carpenter movie.

      Troy dies first, like black guys do in action movies.

      I just love this random member of the Post-Ironic Disco Stu Posse who leaves with Shirley and Abed: http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…

      Pudi really bounced off that wall at the beginning of the episode.

    • sll03

      I recently viewed this episode with a friend I'm trying to convert.  He was so concerned that the random Disco guy was a character he should have actually recognized that he paused the show immediately and asked.  Once I explained the joke, he ended up re-watching the scene approximately 5 times, dying of laughter during each one.  It blew his mind that such a simple, throw-away joke could be so entertaining.  I told him it was just Community being Community. 

    • Eaaaaaasy, sugarbear.

      Speaking of Sugarbear, it cracks me up how filthy Jeff is for absolutely no reason (other than the homage) when he comes into The Dean's office at the end for the Die Hard bit.

    • Ha, it's not just Dalmation stuff all over the Dean's office. There's the mailout of Jeff (attending his school!) and a serviette that looks a lot like Pierce's first drawing of the Human Being.

    • Random Thought(s):

      Any episode that pulls off as much amazing stuff as MW has to have some kind of contrivance, but I've always wondered how exactly the Paintball game (and it's one rule) polices itself.

      In particular, what's to stop someone who's been shot from continuing to eliminate others? Chang can trigger his post-mortem bomb, but he can't just keep firing at Jeff? Don't get me wrong, I see the logic to it, it just requires me to believe everyone in this "No boundaries, winner-take-all" game would never cheat even a little.

    • Automatic_Taglines

      I see it.  Your comment on validation reminded me of the pencil speech, 
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…

    • I think this is my favourite shot from the episode.

      http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…

      What other sitcom would do a shot like that?

      Also, your perspective on Abed's motivations is something I've never considered, but makes a lot of sense.

    • I love that shot too. I sort of miss the larger scope of the campus in season 1. I'm not sure if it's budget cuts or a creative choice but the show sort of feels claustrophobic in season 3.

    • sll03

      I agree.  I don't think they have as much access to shoot scenes around the school any more, which totally sucks.

    •  Absolutely!  I mentioned this earlier (somewhere), but I really miss the outdoor campus scenes.  Even when we're at Greendale, it's mostly indoors.  I really enjoyed them walking to and from classes, the scenes on the Quad, etc.

    •  huh that is something that i have not really thought about but you guys are right the scenes are more confined to the indoors these days rather than the outdoors.  It is just a missing bullet in the chamber

    •  That's a damn good point. We're always thinking of season 1 as the sunny season and we forget it's because it was literally sunny. Early season 2 had some sunny episodes also and then they went away from it. I'm willing to bet this is intended as part of Harmon's story circle.

    • Flashbacks to last night's Comment Apocalypse

      *shudders*

    • sll03

      Like I said, it was one of the coolest things to grace my television that year.

      That idea about Abed really only ever occurred to me after seeing his performance in For A Few Paintballs More.  I figured he must have had a similar state of mind in the first season, but because it involved different circumstances, he wasn't playing as specific a role as Han Solo, just a mishmash of various action heroes.

    • Great job, sll03. What's most impressive to me about this epic, genre-bending, trope-sampling sitcom masterpiece is actually its sense of groundedness; the feeling that we went to Greendale like any other week but a campus paintball war happened to break out this time. The episode starts with the usual study room cold open and the only clue that something might be amiss is Post-Ironic Disco Stu skating through the halls. Couching Jeff and Britta's season-long sexual tension in an apocalytpic setting with the story told in the language of action cinema somehow felt logical in a self-aware, comically hyperbolic way after their season of bickering. It's like the show's conscience needed to get this off its chest or something. It also has a meta rapier aimed at TV critics who kept wanting to talk about Jeff and Britta, and really the show itself, in terms of the 'will they/won't they'. This episode says, "oh yea, well trying boxing THIS into sitcom cliche terms, ya fucks."

      The second Halloween and paintball episodes throw us head on into an existing conceptual space. Epidemiology with the ominous introduction and Fistful of Paintballs with, well, paintball, as if it's something that's expected at Greendale now. I didn't like that. I like the grounded, restrained approach of Modern Warfare that suggests Greendale is a magical place where stuff like this is prone to happen at any given moment and for no apparent reason.

    • I'm with you on the paintball thing. Modern Warfare felt incredibly fresh and novel, while the season 2 finale (while both great episodes in their own right) felt a little stale. Paintball as a framing device has definitely run its course.

    • I think part of why they went with a different approach to Epidemiology and Fistful of Paintballs is because Modern Warfare already established that Greendale was a place where this type of thing could happen. They were able to get right to the crazy stuff because we knew it was coming already. In that sense I don't think they'll ever top Modern Warfare for the action episodes because it came out of nowhere and changed what the show could do.

    • They mention in the commentary that they debated about whether to explain the sudden desolation on campus (Abed shot out the generator) or just let it happen and I'm so glad they just let it happen. Of courseGreendale is a place where a Spring Fling paintball game can result in people warming themselves over a trashcan fire in a dark and destroyed cafeteria.  It just is.  You make a good point about the followup paintballs, though.  Even though we now know this is a place where paintball wars happen, it was a little jarring starting in medias res in the S2 episodes.  The way this one brought us in was perfection.

    • sll03

      I'm personally a massive fan of both season 2 paintball episodes, but I can definitely appreciate and understand what you're saying: they lacked the simple sense of justification that Modern Warfare seemed to have in spades. 

      I also couldn't agree more about the way the show handled Jeff/Britta.  It was definitely a "suck on this, critics!" kind of situation.

    • The reason I like season 2 paintball episodes a lot is because they involved more of the school. 

    • sll03

      Me too! I really enjoyed seeing the entire study group (and practically all of the secondary characters) in action for the majority of both episodes. Modern Warfare is amazing, but if there was one thing I would change about it, it would be keeping Troy, Annie and Pierce in the game a bit longer.

    •  Yeah, but the second paintball mess happened because City College set it up. Greendale wanted to have a nice, simple Western-themed party, capped with a quick, simple paintball game. And the zombie outbreak was an accident. I think the expectation that Greendale is this weird place where outrageous things happen belongs to us as viewers, not to the world of the show. Its why I don't mind the "gimmick" episodes on Community: the writers try very hard to make them plausible and integrate them in the world of the show.

    • its sense of groundedness; the
      feeling that we went to Greendale like any other week but a campus
      paintball war happened to break out this time.

      Great post, LloydBraun

    • OccamsBlazer

      I'm also a big fan of his "handsome hobo" style.

    • segue………..

      "Well guess what handsome hobo; your gravy train is leaving the station. Chugga chugga chugga chugga chugga chugga chugga chugga woooo wooooo."

      God I love that. Funniest S1 Annie moment for me, off the top of my head, I think. I also love how Jacobs' reaction so clearly just says "what the fuck is she doing?" Since it was ad libbed.

    • Hooray, sll03, for tackling both the Disqus monster and this monster of an episode!  You are a brave one.    I especially enjoyed your point about us never knowing Abed's plan for priority registration.  IDNOT (see what I did there?) really thought of it before, but I completely agree he probably never had one and was in it for the action movie.  Nice work!

    • That was a nice observation.

      I wish the prize was more than just one priority registration ticket, though, because seriously what kind of college only has one priority reg ticket? Nvm, don't answer that. But seriously, if Jeff had forced the Dean to award the whole group with priority registration that would justify them being able to take classes together. Just a minor continuity detail that I would've appreciated.

    • sll03

      I see what you did there.  And thank you!

    • i said this on the flagged disappeared review but to reiterate briefly: i love this episode; pure fun; first community episode i saw; love die hard references; love the way jeff-britta make fun of hooking up right before hooking up

    •  Excellent review!

      I'll be back soon with some actual comments, but until then please enjoy the best death-by-painballs scene ever committed to film:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…

      It's from the Spaced episodes called "Battles," and the key to its success is, as in Modern Warfare, taking the fight seriously, even if the stakes are extremely silly.

    • That scene's so well directed. Edgar Wright is amazing.

    •  I swear: that smash cut that takes you from Tim howling in despair to he and Mike walking merrily hand in hand must be the funniest thing I've ever seen on TV.

    • I also really like your outlook on Abed. Normally, he uses references and playing parts to help relate to people (CAP and CFS for starters), but this is different. It is somewhat set up in Science of Illusion. That is an episode where there is no reason to be the "African American police chief", but the situation calls for it and Abed goes after it full throttle in a manner similar to his actions in the paintball episodes. 

    • Cool.  Cool Cool Cool.  Nicely done.

      I always liked the moment at the end, where Abed can sense that something has changed, but he cant tell what.  Danny Pudi really sells the moment, and it fits nicely with the entire episode, the Jeff / Britta moment; it ties the end to the beginning cleanly.

    • It's interesting how many of the Jeff/Britta moments Abed has been witness to.  The Bunk Bed sex, the Mixology make out session, the Halloween bathroom sex.  The way Abed is part of the whole Booty Call episode.  Abed is the one who gives Jeff the initial way to approach Britta.  Come to think of it, Jeff/Britta/Abed is my favorite trio of the group.   

    • Wow. Good observation, but that's almost a little creepy. Abed is like Jeff/Britta's kid that they frequently ignore or forget is there! 

    • sll03

      I really enjoyed that moment, too.  The great thing about Abed is he can have a line like that and it feels completely earned because since the audience understands his character so well, we completely believe he would be picking up on what happened.

    • I like that even morality is something of a competition with Jeff. That is, he can try to best Britta at it, but in an unconventional way — with so many of the things he's inexperienced and/or deficient in, he has to feign indifference to it or knock how others practice it in order to mask his own insecurities. It didn't use to be that way; either he didn't have those insecurities, or wouldn't let himself feel them. Before, the governing logic of his professional life — that something was right or wrong to the extent that he could give a good argument for it — bled into his personal life. But the longer he stays at Greendale, the more insufficient that model is, and the bigger the potential for failure. Being a good person becomes just another thing that Jeff might fail at, so he still tries to pretend that what makes a person good is just so nebulous that it's pointless to even try. Feeling smart enough to have figured this out makes him feel superior to people like Britta, who openly care, who are passionate (which Jeff finds stupid).

      The "too cool to care" facade is still  thick even now in season 3, but it's been taking hits throughout the series, and this is another of those revelatory episodes in the vein of CAP where Jeff is really honest about his fears about what kind of a person he is. And lo, it is meaty and good. 

      I'd also like to offer up some love for Ludwig's score here. (Link to a medley from the episode.) I can't imagine Modern Warfare without it. As action-accompanying music, it's fun and exciting and surely adds to the mood. But there's some parts of the score that I love in and of themselves; the part around 2:12 just kind of gives me chills.

      Edited to be more coherent-like!

    • sll03

      That is an excellent observation about Jeff.  He didn't always have those insecurities: he caught them from Greendale.  In Accounting for Lawyers, I believe he made a speech to the group about feelings.  He said they had them but he didn't and if they really cared then to please not 'infect' him. Thing is, by that point, he was already 'infected', just like you said.  Well done!

    • Welcome to Greendale.

      You're already infected.

    •  It's strange how little I have to say about Modern Warfare, except that it's awesome, of course. But the episode is so self-contained, and it does its job as an action movie so well, that it becomes almost impenetrable to commentary. Even the big centerpiece with Jeff and Britta having sex is self contained: its effects are cancelled almost as soon as the episode ends, and the will-they-won't they starts again in 125 and of course, throughout S2.

      But as an action movie, it's perfect. It's better than the stuff that actual action shows do. It's absolutely breathtaking. Justin Lin's direction is essential of course, but so is the fact that the show takes the action scenes absolutely seriously: it never stops to wink at us, or to suggest: "hey, isn't it silly that our main character is doing a Bruce Willis impersonation?" That keeps the stakes (goofy as they are) real.

      I liked your analysis of Abed, and it ties in very well even with his claiming of the Han Solo role in S2.

      I find it really funny that Jeff goes straight for the gun when he hears about The Prize. It reminded me of how he wanted to stab Pierce when he discovered the magic trampoline: his selfishness still gets the better of him.

    •  Good work, sll03.

      Like SBT suggests, "Warfare" pretty much speaks for itself, and I imagine most of us have seen it now a billion times. I totally agree with sll that it's the defining moment for the show, and it's also the episode I use in an attempt to hook new viewers (maybe not the first one I show them, but always the one they "have to see."

      Amidst the amazingly precise mix of spectacle and realistic campus life, there's a couple of really cool character scenes, heightened by how they fit into the action-movie motif.

      1) Jeff/Troy/Abed when Jeff first finds them upon entering the game. Even though they're appropriately distrustful of each other, that first act is a really concrete bonding scene for the three guys and probably the firmest demonstration of how close all three have become over S1, even though it's not necessarily something they pursued, especially not in Jeff's case.

      2) sll went over it pretty well, but the "campfire" scene with Jeff, Britta, Abed and Shirley, despite being kind of a comic piece, reveals a comfort with each other in an urgent situation that couldn't be as aptly shown without such a dramatic plot (MW is really a discovery of what a goldmine an epic movie spoof can be for bringing out the essence of character dynamics under pressure, with high stakes.  See also: the best episodes of The Adventures of Pete and Pete.)

      3) Jeff and Britta sleeping together. Even at the time, this helped push the ep to another level (Harmon has mentioned the need to replicate such a big payoff scene in other "concept eps", with varying results). But I think it's only now that we can look back at this as a single moment of clarity in Jeff and Britta's increasingly weird, muddled, complex relationship that it's become my favorite scene in the Community run.  It's witty, sexy, woven perfectly into the overall plot and action, and it manages to maintain the balance and tension between the two while putting both characters into a new perspective, a different place. It's a barrier most TV romances have trouble breaking through, this ep shatters it and then shrugs it off.

    • sll03

      It's a barrier most TV romances have trouble breaking through, this ep shatters it and then shrugs it off.

      Preach on Eric, preach on!