Episode 201: Anthropology 101

 

NewlyRegisteredRandom

201: Anthropology 101

Preamble:

I have a secret; unlike many of you, I didn't start on Community with the pilot.  Yes, it's true; my favourite show on network TV piqued my interest by strong online word of mouth and critical buzz…also Alison Brie, who I have been in love with since Mad Men (Seriously, the first time I saw her in the first episode I said ‘How in the shit did that scrawny little dork Pete Campbell snag that fine piece of ass?’.  The Mad Men depth chart is as follows; 1) Alison Brie, 2) Peyton List, 3) Jessica Pare, 4) January Jones, 5) Elisabeth
Moss and bringing up the considerable rear at 6 is Christina Hendricks
), may have played a role in that, but whatever.  I myself am proof that there are people out there that will check something out given a large enough buzz, and why we should never give up.

But…a 'problem' that shows like Community face (and I say problem in the most endearing way) can often be people like us, myself and some of the fine, active members that constitute the commentariat; when you love something, you fight for it, and when you fight for it, it's often easy to lose sight of the risk you run of alienating certain people (and I am not excluding myself from this classification).  Community's fan base is small and passionate; think Freaks and Geeks and Arrested Development, and often, our best intentions spring forth an almost us-and-them mentality amongst the others…the non-groupers.  People can be put off by the alleged superiority of a fan base as much as they can by any show, just look at some of the tools in the 30k milestone article comments; 'I don't like Community because the fan base is smug!', well newsflash; in five years everyone will like Community so everyone will be smug (my reply to them is 'If you watched it when it was airing, it would still be on the air!', this is the exact same thing that is happening with Arrested Development, which during air had ratings that make Community’s look like American Idol, but now everybody loves, or is at least familiar with; I
know Arrested Development is good bitch, I own all of the DVDs!
).  Some people hate that shit…not me though; I like being a part of a group of people who care about something so much that it actually hurts.  I am already at this point out-VanDerWerffing VanDerWerff (there will be a job offer in my inbox tomorrow; don't worry Todd, as long as I'm getting paid I can scale back on my racism, sexism and general misanthropy).

So anyways, I'm just CHANGing out one day in Oct '10, and I say 'I think I'm gonna check out that show Community that I keep hearing about.'  It turned out to be a life-CHANGing moment.  I had 201, 202, 203 and 204 OnDEANmand and I watched them all in one sitting, but this episode is sort of special to me; it was the first episode that I ever watched.  201 broke my Community hymen, though while at the same time it didn’t give me the ride of my life, I still sometimes don’t mind calling it up to come over for casual sex. I'd actually been meaning to check it out for a few weeks, but as it was a fairly warm Indian Summer, I spent it up with my ex-stepdad (yes, I actually do have an ex-stepdad) at the cottage up north, commuting 5 hours a day to and from work (at the time I was working for the government in Toronto, and he was up near Bancroft – only sll and SBT know what this means), but it was still awesome.

Seeing it and missing much of the subtext (I picked up season 1 on DVD after the stellar Cooperative Calligraphy aired), I could sort of see where some of the shows' detractors have it right; Community has succeeded in building a very realistic, but somewhat insular universe, full of its own in-jokes, zany characters, references and callbacks that require quite a bit of context to fully appreciate.  It’s universe is one
that exists outside of reality; it’s not the Big Bang Theory (‘Four nerds and a hot chick, laugh when we tell you to!’) or Modern Family (‘They’re ‘modern’ because one of the families is gay and no one makes a big deal out of it! Look at how gay Cam is! Look at Sofia Vergara’s tits!’)

The very best thing about the show is the reason it's so ratings-deprived; it requires your total attention (maybe even multiple viewings) and yeah, it's not for everyone, but I find the audacity with which it experiments and take risks to be commendable.  It could qualify on some level as 'hangout television' (because of the humor and the likeability of the characters…but is all television not 'hangout television' in that regard?), but it’s a different beast and I'm not sure where on the spectrum it lands; it's not 'bad' hangout television like BBT (ensuring the audience understands that a no-risk-low-reward joke
happened with a badly overused laugh track, comprised of characters that are actually caricatures, being guilty of frequently setting up punchlines or character beats that either fail to materialize or are forgotten instantly and perhaps most heinously, after five seasons now, having the four male lead characters in the exact same place as people that they were in the pilot (well okay…Leonard can actually attract attention from women with semi-regularity now [does the show take place in an alternate timeline where hot women like short, insecure, pathological nice guys who dress like children? My own real world experience tells me that they like tall, aggressive badboys who look good in leather and suits, like moi], but Raj still can't speak to women, Howard is still a slimy little man-child and Sheldon is still a self-centered sociopath…giving them female counterparts is supposed to constitute developing a character?)…I know the idea of 'hangout TV' is that it's something you can put on with friends that won't go over anyone's heads when you're all 'hanging out', but come on…TV shows are journeys, journeys comprise of growth and revelation, of which BBT either doesn't know how to arc, or has no desire to
), and it's not 'good' hangout television like Parks and Recreation (which has had an admittedly middling season and has been coasting with increased frequency, but is still the funniest half hour of major-network TV you can find outside of Community), it is something sort of similar, but different at the same time; it's not a show you can just turn it on and go about doing your laundry, writing a paper or getting a blowjob from your girl and expect to catch everything, it's a show that rewards people who pay attention and stick with it, and given that the average person in our Android Smartphone-Antidepressants-'My life will not be complete until I find out who this celebrity is fucking!' Generation has the attention span of a fruit fly, it's no small mystery why there has always been the black shadow of cancellation looming over its head.  The masses want their comedy hard, fast and obvious, while what Community delivers is layered, languid and subtle.  In many ways, Community’s inability to penetrate into the mainstream consciousness encapsulates the very essence of all that’s wrong with Western society; everyone wants the quick fix, to get rich quick, to receive maximum gains on minimal personal investment, instant gratification even at the expense of long-term diminishing returns (BBT?)…no one wants to stick with something, to watch something grow, and to grow on them; most people are stupid and lazy.  Whenever I lend out my Community DVDs (which is now rarely because a
certain fuckhead I know scratched the shit out of season one disc two so badly I had to replace the entire set), I tell them, ‘Give it seven or eight episodes to get going’, but so few are willing to put in the investment.

Cementing the realism of a legitimate, friendly bond between the characters, the ending scene in the infirmary was nice and warm and really does a good job showing how they all
care about each other.  I will bash The Big Bang Theory again; when you watch it, you might get a few laughs (given that Chuck Lorre is dead on in his assertion that the average person is an idiot and therefore needs to be told when to laugh…in case you're
just tuning in, I'm a pretty big misanthrope
), but you're also like 'Why exactly do Penny, Leonard, Amy, Raj and Howard hang out with Sheldon?  He's an arrogant, bossy, obsessive compulsive dick who thinks that his intelligence (in something that won't have useful real-world applications for at least 200 years, if ever) means that the world
should revolve around him.' (my sister [This is her outfit!], a fellow BBT hater who I am trying to veer into Community, compared Sheldon to Hitler…I think he's more along the lines of Kim Jong-Il; an anal, self-important little man who's paranoia and unwillingness to exit his microscopic-in-size comfort zone negatively impacts the lives of all those around him.) whereas in Community you think 'Jeff is kind of shady, Annie is a little high-strung, Britta is an obnoxious hipster, Pierce is an insensitive ass, Troy is dense, Abed is a computer, Shirley is single-minded, Chang is insane and the Dean is a predator, but you can at least see that despite the differences, these characters care about each other.'

As a result of this fact (the semi-inclusiveness), I missed a bit of the humor when I first viewed (of course after watching season one, it all made perfect sense), but I still found 201 to be enjoyable enough to keep me watching (202 was the episode that made me say 'Hmm, this show is pretty good', and 208 is one of the finest episodes of TV I've ever seen; Harmon and company have yet to top it in my mind).  So, now that this preamble is complete, let's talk about the show, shall we?

 

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Overview:

This review will not be spent summarizing the episode; you've all seen it, and if you haven't, then just why are you reading this review?  It, like my penis, is super long and meaty, go fly a kite or some shit, hit the showers.  Instead, it'll mostly be me
VanDerWerffing about the episode's structure and its long term implications on
the characters and their journey.

Nonetheless, for the uninitiated, I feel you should at least get a quick and dirty summary; the study group returns to Greendale for a fresh semester after the cliffhanger at the end of season one.  Annie is in love with Jeff, Britta becomes a folk hero, Jeff takes a beating, Abed is bored, Troy is quoting Pierce on Twitter, Shirley can't keep her mouth shut, Chang
wants into the group and Betty White guest stars as the Anthropology professor.

With the exception of the Chang story, all of these things will be resolved by the time the episode is over.  No homage, no concepts, no hugely layered jokes, just a straight up standard sitcom episode.  This episode (shown in tandem with Pascal's Triangle Revisited for context, of course) would be a fine example to show someone who wants to get into the show, but may be put off by some of the alleged 'weirdness' that Community is often wrongly perceived as having, and it also goes to show that while they can do a pitch-perfect genre riff (Modern Warfare) or play around with the format to the point that it makes you question the very idea of what a sitcom is (Remedial Chaos Theory), they also do a pretty damn good standard TV episode.  That's one thing that we often forget; Community is great at doing the unexpected, but they're also damn good at doing the expected.

I loved the cold Wes Anderson-inspired open, seeing just a glimpse into each characters' life, especially the Twilight poster in Annie's room, Troy as Spiderman, Pierce with
a picture of young Chevy and Jeff's minimalist workout space.  It let me get to know them a little before I got to know them, and was also a very nice visual scene.  After that, we arrived at the school and saw a nice jab at 'S##t my Dad Says!' with 'Oldwhitemansays', and we got several very nice jokes throughout with it ('Fair warning, it’s my penis.').  Naturally I did some reading up on Community101 and the Wi-Ki-Pe-Die-ah beforehand to get a baseline idea of who is who and who does what, but the rooms showed me who they were, and were
also extremely apt given the characters (aside from Abed, this was the first glimpse we ever got into their bedrooms).  It was the perfect way to open up the season, for both the fans and the Community rookies.

The key component; the 'A' story, if you will, of this episode is the Jeff-Annie-Britta love
triangle.  This episode is basically one big A story; the Annie-Jeff arc is woven together with Brittamania, while Abed's wanting to have adventures culminates in the wedding scene.  Anyways, on first view I thought 'God you're dumb Jeff, if Annie was twirling her hair and smiling at me like that, by the time I got through with her her future kids could ride out of her vagina in a presidential motorcade! Seriously, boobs!' (I could write for Whitney…I won't, but I could…); it made no sense to me, but going back to this one after watching season one, it makes perfect sense; Jeff has developed some morals, but really is still a broken, damaged individual who is a long way from being anything resembling a caring and empathetic person (a theme being explored in the current season) and Annie is innocent, sees the good in everyone and has finally come to terms with (and obtained understanding of how to use for maximum benefit) her extremely well-developed boobs sexuality.  I would also like to point out now that we cannot really fault any spotty characterization that Annie gets for this reason; she is young, and having once been young, I know that you change far more as a person between the ages of 18 and 22 than you do between 28 and 32, just a heads up for you, considering that much of my defense of the character of Annie Edison relies on this point.

As a result of this dynamic, we get Annie twirling her hair and Jeff giving her the brush off.  Not because there's no attraction on his end or knowledge of this on hers, but because now is just not the time in the story for a relationship (or sex) between them to happen, and Jeff; snarky, pessimistic and cynical but also an experienced and observant man, sees this, while Annie; effervescent, curious and soaked in delicious, delicious Estrogen,
just wants someone to teach her a thing or two about 'adult' relationships.  ‘Virtual Systems Analysis’ finally gives explanation for the reticence both characters have about each other; Annie isn’t in love with Jeff so much as she’s in love with the idea of making Jeff love her; if she can teach Jeff (or Abed) to love her, then she can teach anyone
to do it (but being real…how hard would it be to love Annie?  Not very).

Britta is an entirely different story; Jeff has no reservations sleeping with her because with her (through a bad relationship with her parents and an alluded-to series of bad relationships with men) the damage has already been done; he would most definitely Britta Annie, but the Brittaing of Britta happened long before Jeff ever wanted to fuck her; he has his issues, but so does she, and anything he throws at her can hardly make her worse.  She did take it a little far in 125 ('Jeff Winger, I love you!'), but in
the end that was all to one-up his ex-girlfriend, Professor Slater, which 201
got out of the way early.  It was nice to get that residual tension over with quickly; I despise when shows use romantic tension as bases for humor and conceits for easy storylines (something which Community itself has been guilty of with Jeff and Annie, see 217 and 302, as well as with Troy and Britta, see 220, but it's sitcom low-hanging fruit and
who among us hasn't picked the low-hanging fruit at times in their lives?
).  This episode paints a great picture of almost every character except Britta, because if you had only seen this episode, you'd imagine her as a popular, slightly-tomboyish hipster
who has no idea how to show weakness, which is partly true, but it wasn't until
I watched the first season that I really got what she was about; she's a woman
who cares about many things, but none more than how she is perceived, which is
probably why she so fully embraces her fanclub, and why throughout the show's
run she dives headfirst into her token causes.

This episode really shone a light on how petty Jeff and Britta are; for the sake of appearances, they're both playing a game of chicken to see who will crack first.  Harmon is showing just how little either of them know about being in a functional and healthy relationship, and I also think that there's some social commentary happening; Harmon and company are using how nauseating and awkward Jeff and Britta are as a riff on how
nauseating and awkward it is being around real couples that are like that.  We all know at least one overly-loving couple who we love, but secretly make fun of behind their back because of their saccharine schmoopyness and quease-inducing open affection.

The Jeff-Britta-Annie subtext shown here reveals the key thing about the supposed 'love triangle' between the three characters.  Jeff and Britta works on just a sexual level and nothing else, because neither of them know how to properly love or be loved. 
This I think is the key reason that Jeff resists Annie; he doesn't not sleep with her because he is not attracted to her (he most certainly is, thanks to the hair-drop and over-the-shoulder-boob reveal in Debate 109 and the great many subsequent confirmations of her boneability afterwards, but he sort of hates himself for it), he doesn't sleep with her because he knows how much he could grow to like her but how badly he'll fail at showing
it, and he knows that it wouldn't just be sex for the sake of getting off (despite what hundreds of fanfics by airheaded teenage girls all over the internet will tell you, Annie is in it for the long haul; she is not a sexual predator who will move the Earth if it means she gets to suck Jeff’s dick, and Jeff is not a big giant pussy who is one compromising situation away from banging Annie).

I hate to spout Freudian psychobabble (though what with Psych-major Britta, important
side-character Professor Duncan [and where has that bitch been?] and some of the arcs and motivations, Psychology does seem to inform quite a lot of the show's content), but to a great extent, Jeff looks at Annie and Britta in a very Madonna-Whore type of way (I know quite a few women comment here so let me inform you; you are all either whores or Madonnas to us, but just because we do this, doesn’t mean we do it consciously); desiring Britta in part because she is an experienced, sexual woman, while simultaneously repressing his desire for chaste, untrodden Annie; Jeff at this point doesn't love Britta, but that doesn't mean he can't desire her…while (again, this point…) he doesn't desire
Annie, but he may love her…love and desire, two different things (the real rub?  By season three these tropes have been totally flipped…not because Annie's gettin' some dick or Britta got her hymen restored, just the way Jeff looks at the two of them, now desiring Annie, but loving Britta).

Being that he fears so greatly truly connecting romantically with another human being
(Jeff has an obvious fear of intimacy, but to be fair so does Britta and – to a lesser extent –  so does Annie, though Jeff and Britta fear emotional intimacy while Annie fears physical intimacy…Psychobabble!), he can see what will happen with him and Annie if him and Annie became a 'thing'; with his penis, he'll turn idealistic and wide-eyed Annie down the path of becoming bitter and jaded Britta Annie and lose her forever (Remember that a lot of Britta's initial cynicism and distrust of Jeff seems to come from a series of bad relationships with men in her past…douche-ray vision), and I hate to sound shippy, but if there is any one 'end-game' pairing (and we do not know if there is or isn't one yet, but at the same time exactly 0% of sitcoms in history have had no romance and Community is a show somewhat dependant on the shows that preceded it), you'd have to be blind if you couldn't see that it's hugely likely to be Jeff and Annie
(I give Abed-Annie an outside shot…like 15% at best, though again Abed-Annie seems too fan-service-y). At this point in the show's run (and when I say 'at this point' I mean right now, after season 3, and not by this episode, though I'd have to imagine that the idea had occurred to him in passing by this point, 'this point' meaning 201, not at the end of season three), it seems that Jeff has become aware of this, but he's kinda keeping Annie in his back pocket until the time comes, which is why he bats away any guy that shows interest in her; no, it's not because he hates them or is protective of her…he does it because he wants her for himself, just not yet; this is not at all fair to Annie, but at the same time, given how far he has yet to go, it’s probably the best thing for the both of them in the long run.  If Jeff and Annie got together now, it lasts six months tops and ends when he cheats on her or she makes him snap; by the time the evolution of Jeff is complete, that pairing (and again, IF it is the true end-game pairing) ends in wedding bells.

In this regard I empathize with Annie; she's not stupid (she's at this point a character who is good with books and bad with relationships [props to Dan Harmon for only rarely going to this well for stories and jokes…entire sitcoms are constructed on this premise]), she sees that this is happening, but if she really wants it (and there have been few
indications to the opposite), she has to do something that she probably hates doing; she has to sit back and understand that if this is going to happen, it won't be today or tomorrow; she can't put 'Jeff will fall in love with me!' in her day planner, and that she has little control over anything (Coincidentally, Annie and Jeff-Annie shippers both need to do the same thing); for all her smarts and empathy and studiousness, Annie is also not the most patient person.  This show is about the group, but it is still very much about the journey of Jeff first and foremost – Jeff will get what he wants and what he deserves – a legitimate legal career, the bountiful fruits of his labor, the love of a good woman (who may or may not be [but probably will be] Annie) – but only when he is fully ready to appreciate these things and give them their proper value.

Let me take you to an alternate timeline; Jeff is never ratted out by Secretary of Homeland Security Ron Fox, while Annie never overdosed on pills, got into Princeton and in the summer before she left, she got hot (I don't know…maybe she did some yoga, some jogging and got a new dermatologist or something).  Suppose that in this alternate timeline, they run into each other at the mall, she loves his stilo and he likes her boobs and
femininity, he then bootynators her in the change-room of Express for Men, puts her in the mobile as 'Stacked Disney-faced Brunette' but then never calls her again, effectively breaking her heart and moving her two levels up the Kardashian-Handler Slut Scale.  But the school, and the group especially, are humanizing him and forcing him to grow and
develop a sense of empathy (though as this episode shows, it's not quite developed yet; he was pretty douchey to Britta and unfair to Annie this week).  Even after just one season, the amount of CHANG Jeff has shown is monumental. It's at the point now where he is almost a different person (not outwardly, but with regards to how he acts and treats people).

So I think that’s about all I can say about Jeff-Annie-Britta, so let’s talk about the rest of
our cast of misfits.  Another thing this episode establishes that has been a recurring theme is just how far Abed is willing to go to get a 'good scene' or 'character development', and how little the feelings and emotions of his friends matter to him in the pursuit thereof.  We saw it in 103, we saw it in 219, and we see it here.  Abed, being a computer with
no empathy (not maliciously does he lack empathy; he lacks empathy because he
has no idea how to express or feel it, but at the same time I have made it known how tired I am of Abed constantly getting a free pass to get away with whatever because of his unspecified ‘condition’), knows that Jeff and Britta aren't in love and won't get married, but he films everything and hires a wedding party (best man: George Clooney!) just to see how far each of them will take it.  In 103 he used Britta to get his Dad to let him enroll in film class, in 219 he got Jeff to reveal his deepest insecurities with a private dinner ruse and perhaps most famously in 224, his dead-on channelling of Han Solo got Annie all hot and bothered.  In this way, Abed is the single greatest force for change within the group, because he pushes the other characters so far out of their comfort zones that they're forced to adapt to his reality.  Why do I think the Annie-Abed pairing that the show sometimes veers towards wouldn’t work? Because Abed lacks the sufficient empathy that relationships require, he has no ability to put the needs of someone else before his own needs (which led to the spectacular pillows and blankets arc this season, and I don’t care what Virtual Systems Analysis taught him), while Annie has myriad needs that need to
come first; it might work for a bit at first, provided there was some sexual attraction, but long-term?  No.  Why do I think Annie-Abed feels too much like fan service?  Because the role Abed plays on the show is that of the observer (or the viewer), and Annie is Alison Brie
in a tight cardigan (and if you’re a man and don’t want to fuck Alison Brie, then you’re gay). So now you know that.

So overall, on rewatch and looking back, the stuff with the study group is on-point, but this
episode doesn't come without its flaws. Betty White never sold me as the guest star Anthro professor.  Not that it was a bad cast (I like Betty White…don't necessarily comprehend the recent resurgence in her popularity, but I find her frequently amusing and occasionally hilarious), but it wasn't the greatest way to use her character; she
was extremely droll and unaware relative to the zaniness that was unfolding
around her.  I get that her function was to be the straight-woman to the group's escapades, but I really think that this episode could have worked better without a character like that.  I always figured Professor Whitman would have been funnier as the Anthropology professor because he himself is a very zany and aware character, and Betty would have been funnier as a quirky student or Pierce’s girlfriend or something.  If
they brought her Hot in Cleveland character (more sharp, less out-and-out psychotic), it would have been a better fit; it was an (I imagine) very costly stunt-cast blunder. I loved her rapping with Troy and Abed in the tag, though.

Also, Chang as Gollum.  Yeah, it was cute, but an issue I (and many) have with season 2 is that it had no idea how to properly utilize Chang once he was removed from his position of power, which in part led to that abominable Chang baby arc; Chang's arc in season two, and how bad it was, was the only thing keeping it from being a perfect season of television
(well okay…that and a few half-assed efforts like Custody Law and Wine Tasting in the back half…part of the reason that the hiatus bummed me out but didn't set me off is because with more time given to refine and CHANG future episodes, we can avoid such goose-eggs like these…even though Contemporary Impressionists was a very weak effort for the show).  I think if they kept the original ending in (which you can view here), it would have CHANGed his entire arc for the whole season for the better by giving his madness a method, instead of always explaining away his behaviour as 'He's just crazy!'.  This is a problem with Chang that still persists after three seasons; Annie is driven because if she
wasn’t driven, she wouldn’t know what to do with herself, Shirley is devoutly religious because she saw the error in her past ways and wants to raise a moral family (both her actual family and her surrogate family, the study group), Britta is preachy and cares for things because she wants people to accept and love her…Chang is crazy just because he’s crazy.  It’s BBT-level character writing, and on a rare opportunity to actually give the character some depth and provide an explanation for his behavior, the network heads tell them to drop it because it’s ‘too weird’, oy fucking vey.

The folk-hero Britta storyline, while eminently hilarious (one of the best Britta storylines of the season), was in my mind a tad misguided, and kind of ran afoul of the whole Jeff-Britta story of the show.  Think about it; Jeff spends season one pursuing Britta, and he makes no effort to hide this from anyone in the study group. She is at first repulsed by him, though you can see that over time she slowly begins to come around (crucial Britta-might-like-Jeff episodes include Home Economics, Interpretive Dance, Communication Studies and The Science of Illusion, among several others).  They have sex on the study room table in Modern Warfare, and from what it seems, Jeff is open to a relationship after this point (as illustrated by this fishstick from the infamous 'guarded' scene in Pascal's Triangle Revisited).  I maintain that while Jeff wouldn't turn down a purely sexual relationship with her (and indeed as we later discover in Paradigms of Human Memory, he doesn't), he'd also happily commit to Britta beyond that, an assertion backed up by Dan Harmon several times over season one's commentary tracks. 
Avoiding this entirely, Britta then enters a war with Slater over his affections that culminates in the mother of all scorched Earth tactics; 'Jeff Winger, I love you!' (a ReverseMosby).  So Britta declines Jeff's continued advances, then bangs him, then declines some more of his advances and then tells him she loves him in front of a large group of people to further her petty and selfish motivations (wanting to look good in the eyes of others by winning a
competition), in the process showing complete disregard for the position that this puts him in, and that makes her a hero to the women of Greendale?  Banging a guy who initially disgusted you and then fighting with another woman over him to the point where
you humiliate yourself in front of a group of your peers is Nobel-worthy work at Greendale?  That shit happens every day! it's happening somewhere right now!

It's not like Jeff is totally a saint in the matter either and he is holding some of the blame here (he didn't have to kiss Annie, after all, as I have maintained [esteemed commentator Semi-Bored Torontonian and I wrote reams about the cause, the effects and who the blame lies with of this kiss in the discussion thread of Remedial Chaos Theory if you’re interested…I doubt you are, but you might be, so go there, my stance is that Annie is totally at fault], she instigated the kiss and I really don't think he would have done it if none of Britta's Brittaing of the romantic situation between the two of them had happened…classic 'I need an escape so I'll just let my dick take over…' situation, but the wounds that this event created are only now starting to heal…can’t help noticing that for most of season two Annie and Britta were at odds with each other), but the lionization of Britta and the vilification of Jeff, by people who know nothing of the situation (the lunch lady, the fan club), especially given that the whole shit is at least 80% Britta's fault kind
of rubbed me the wrong way, and while I can hardly complain because it was hilarious, it kind of smacks of 'easy-way-out' story construction by the writers' room.

All in all, Anthropology 101 is an enjoyable affair, and though it's not one of their
classic outings in the vein of Romantic Expressionism or Mixology Certification, it's certainly not a weak one like Custody Law and Eastern European Diplomacy or Geography of Global Conflict; it's pizza, through and through, and that's okay.  It is the best
premiere episode the show has done (Anthropology 101 > Pilot > Biology
101).  It was my first joint and I came away impressed enough to stick with the show and well…here we are; I'm the guy who now posts essays on the AVClub Community threads, and your lives are all made better by me, NewlyRegisteredRandom, and my awesomeness, insight and big penis.

 

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Doing Lines:

– 'Celebrate your fresh start tonight at the Fresh Start Dance in the cafeteria, the same
cafeteria where Britta Perry publicly professed her love for Jeff Winger who then walked out on her, unforgettable.' – Dean Pelton (Best PA Announcement ever!)
– 'I checked the make-out meter in this month's issue of…National Review…' – Annie
(Maturity!)
– 'I don't like where that's going…' – Jeff (Well you're kinda holding the blame for that one
there, Jeff)
– 'In the eyes of the public Britta put herself out there and you walked away, making her the
underdog, the jiltee, the Aniston…' – Abed (Can I first say how much I love
that Abed prefaced this with 'In the eyes of the public'?  Why is there even a shred of empathy for Jennifer Aniston?  She comes off as crazy and needy on a continual basis, she got to bang Brad Pitt for like 7 years and she pulls 8 million a movie despite a severely limited acting range [Aniston is the token cute, frustrated hot girl who somehow can’t get a man in movies…Courtney Cox was the talented girl from Friends]. 
Beautiful and Wealthy Woman Problems…)
– 'HIGH ON MY OWN DRAMA!!!!!!?????' – Britta (Perfect delivery)
– 'All women deserve to be with me!' – Jeff (Narcissism!)
– 'Shrink your enemies!' – Troy (That would be helpful…)
– 'I downloaded a song that makes me think of you, let's listen to it, each using one ear bud.' – Jeff (Nauseating and adorable)
– 'I was in my car…loving Britta.' – Jeff (Sometimes I love Britta in the shower…)
– 'I just peed a little.' – Britta (Abed first said this in 112)
– 'Way to hog all the girls, Jeff.  You know, when there's three sprinkled donuts you don't eat one and lick another!' – Troy (Sounds like you need to step your game up, Troy)
– 'Well Shirley, since you have clearly failed to grasp the central insipid metaphor of those
Twilight books you devour, let me explain it to you; men are monsters who crave
young flesh!' – Jeff (Guilty as Chang'd…)
– 'I better not smile at that wall outlet; you'll fry your tongue off!' – Britta (Do it!)
– 'He thinks all dogs are boys and all cats are girls!' – Pierce (In a way I can see how that makes sense)
– 'I can tell life from TV, Jeff.  TV makes sense; it has logic, structure, rules and likable leading men.  In life we have this…we have you.' – Abed (BURRRRRRN!)
– 'GAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!' – Chang (Again, stellar delivery)
– 'Which will be easy for me because I kinda think you're gross now.' – Annie (A sentiment which lasted exactly one episode…Oh Annie!)
– 'Is there any room in this pocket for a little spare Chang?' – Chang (I carry a lot of stuff in my wallet, but am thinking of getting a wallet Chang, so maybe…?)

Scenes and Such:

– Britta sleeps in her Chacata Panecos T-Shirt from 102.
Cute large-haired black extra (we really need to start learning people’s names) makes an appearance as Britta makes her shameful return to Greendale.  In addition to Asian guy and Long-haired guy (the one that isn't DC Pierson), I'd like to see her get a bit of dialogue sometime.
– Annie hugging Jeff too long and then him trying to get away was adorable.  She also pulls off a very sexy hair-twirl, and I love the way she often just appears out of nowhere (such as when she did the aforementioned hair twirl).
– Annie's awesome pained reactions to Jeff and Britta, especially her face when they kissed in the Anthropology class.  I felt so bad for her.
– Goal scored by: Troy Barnes on that blonde girl he was carrying around in the faculty bathroom, assisted by: Britta Perry and Annie Edison.  I’m shocked that Troy even knows how to fuck (even though sex, like breathing, is hardwired into our biology)…
– Correct me if I'm wrong, but this episode is the second time (the instantly preceding Tranny Queen) that Britta has been popular among the Greendale student body, the
second and the last time it has happened.
– Britta turns her snake on like 6 times this episode.  Get up out of bed, turn your snake on…
– 'The Kiss'…need I say anything at all about it?  Two gorgeous people, one ugly kiss, it was great.
– Annie throws an epic right hook.  If Community ever does
a Fight Club episode (and I’m kind of shocked that they haven’t yet), I envision Annie as some crazy, legendary brawler.  Whoever does the sound editing also did good with that effect, as I noticed, and was noted in the commentary.
– Leonard was playing the acoustic guitar in the wedding scene. 
He was also a bass player in one of the season one tags (I forget which one, but think it might have been Art of Discourse).  Leonard the multi-instrumentalist?
– I completely missed Derrick Comedy in the wedding scene until I saw the commentary; baffling because I see more than Abed does.
– The shot when Jeff is on the floor and Pierce throws pee in his face is just great camera
work…as I type that out, I think 'Only when speaking of Community does what I just said make total sense.'
– On the board: Dioramas: They better be cool.
– Jeff's 'Winger Speech' (Respect is a tool we can use every day!) is one of his weaker
efforts.  The speeches from Paradigms (Fear, anchovies, fear, and the dangers of ingesting Mercury!) and Asian Population Studies (No one is this good, and it doesn't get any worse than this…) are still my 1 and 2.
– I love Pierce first being oblivious to Oldwhitemansays, then hating it, then wanting to keep it going after hearing of the 600,000 followers.  Pierce in a nutshell; he doesn't like to be the butt of the joke, but it's okay if it makes him more popular (which we also saw in Home Economics with 'Pierce you're a B!').
– I felt and do feel some sort of a connection to Jeff.  In some ways were similar, but in others Jeff is like the Bizarro-NRR; Jeff cares too much what others think about him, I care not enough what others think about me.  Jeff is a compulsive liar, I am
brutally honest.  Jeff has been in zero long-term relationships that we know of (sneaking around for a couple of months and then openly dating for a couple more all while lusting after another woman doesn't count as a 'long-term relationship'…and neither does sleeping with your best friend for a year and hiding it from the rest of your friends.  The cut-off line for long-term relationships is six months; anything less is just a playmate), I have been in four (believe it or not, I was once engaged to be married…yes me, colossal sociopath NRR…).  Jeff seeks out the leadership role because he needs to feel validated; I reluctantly accept the mantle of leadership as it falls on my broad, masculine shoulders.  Jeff likes tight dress shirts and designer jeans, my fashion stilo ranges from suits, jackets and trousers, tees and male-Britta (call it Brotta).  Jeff is tall with tanned skin, a big forehead, blue eyes, a small nose, thin lips and blonde hair; I am tall with pale skin, a big nose, green eyes, pouty lips, a normal-sized forehead and dark hair.  Jeff puts people
down, I elevate myself above them.  Jeff has been in one fight in his life, I have been in two in 2012 alone.  Jeff's humor is sarcastic and snarky, mine is lyrical and witty.  Someone who didn't know Jeff would look at him and say 'I bet he's an actor', some people who don't know me say 'I bet you're a musician'.  There is some overlap (namely the narcissism, the way with words and the aggression; I used to have the Winger body, but it fell by the wayside in China, no gyms or supplements), but it's downright creepy how this plays out, and its why Jeff is one of the rarest characters to me; in an ensemble comedy, the leading man is almost never my favourite character (especially when he's as big of a douchebag as Jeff), but Jeff is, and has been since day one. 

5 Stars:

1) Jeff – Great performance, took a punch, got pee thrown in his face while throwing pee on the face of the way that most TV shows handle their love triangles.  Consider your tropes subverted!

2) Britta – Was a monster, especially with her newfound level of respect from women.  I actually started out liking Annie much more as a character, but going back to see each episode, and just watching the evolution of them both…Annie is still hotter and at her best (paintball, Caroline Decker, purple pen, Annie the werewolf governess, Deandale's
documentary) isn't just the best character on the show; she's one of the best characters on TV, but at her worst (getting Chang fired, running for student government, model UN) she's a grating and selfish toddler in a woman's body.  Britta is just more consistently excellent, and a more original character and she was in top-form tonight.

3) Annie – Knowing that Alison Brie was like 27 at the time and seeing her play a serious
character on Mad Men, I wasn't sure I'd be sold on her as a 19 year old, but now (like all of the other characters), I couldn't imagine anyone else playing her; everything from her teenybopper crushing to her pained expressions to her punch makes her a winning character in my book (even if, as I said above, she sometimes gets inconsistent characterization but I can get why).  Oh, and did you know that she's quite fetching in an 'I want to put my big penis inside of her' way?

4) Abed – His burn on Jeff about likeable leading men is one of the most harsh putdowns the show has done.

5) Troy – Troy had one-liner after one-liner today ('Which bathroom is the cleanest one on
campus?', 'Shrink your enemies!', 'You don't eat one donut and lick another!', 'Have you ever seen a cat penis!?') but what I really noticed is that aside from Alison Brie, he is the best at jumping between the funny and the dramatic.  Solid throughout.

Social Commentary:

– Your commentators are Joel McHale (Joe Russo), Gillian Jacobs (Danny Pudi), Joe Russo (Joel McHale) and Chris McKenna (Chris McKenna).

– Joe Russo alternatively sounds like Joe Pantoliano and a massive stoner in his
commentaries.

– At times I had trouble discerning McHale's voice from McKenna's, peat-farming Scottish fucks…

– $75,000 opening shot, worth it!

– The palm trees that are clearly visible here were wrapped in season one.  I'm still waiting for my 'We're in Colorado but there's palm trees, what's up with that?' meta joke.

– As I highlighted earlier, the central theme of the episode is that Jeff and Britta are so petty
that they'd get into a love battle! +1 internets for me!

– Alison's lookback at Jeff after the 'discretion' chat was improvised.  Not a huge change to the scene, but enough of one to sell how hard she fell for Jeff. Both her and Danny stand out among the cast for inserting these little mannerisms into their characters that add a degree of realism to their personalities.

–  'Everything Alison does is cute!' – Joel.  Indubitably.

– This episode spent about a month in the editing bay and was originally about 27 minutes long.  It'd have been nice to see a first-cut (ala the 28 minute version of Communication Studies on the S1 collection) in the special features.  Anyone else holding out hope for the addition of all of the long-running episodes in the 12-disc Master Collection on Blu-Ray five years after the show ends?

– The cast loves making fun of Sacramento.  I've never been to Sacramento so I assume it must be wack, but it's not like LA isn't small patches of 1%er paradise surrounded by low-income neighbourhoods full of illegal immigrants and gang violence, and it's not like San Francisco isn't full of people who constantly pat themselves on the back for how 'progressive' they are (a city of Brittas?) and espouse more 'accept my agenda no matter how many of your rights it stomps on or I'll tell everyone I know that you're a bigot!' burn-the-witch sheeple groupthink than anywhere else in the Western Hemisphere…Right?

– They mention how badly the set got destroyed in paintball.

– It seems all along that they planned for John Oliver to be the teacher for Anthropology.

– Betty White shut production down by firing a dart at Dino Stamat…Dino Stamapato…Starburns eye!

– 'Ish…' – Gillian after McKenna says 'That's Ken Jeong, he is an actor.'  I was always baffled that Ken Jeong is as big of a star as he is given that he possesses none of the superficial traits or talent of a big-name actor.

– One of the fanclub members is a friend of the Russo's sister.

– 'Her snake is impeccable!' – Gillian on the girl on Troy's back, and she gave her snake
lessons (I bet this cast is a ton of fun to work with).  My favourite line of the commentary, Gillian was kinda subdued in her S1 commentaries but this year overall was my favourite
contributor of the cast.

– Off on a tangent, why exactly did Alison skip out on the commentaries?  Putting aside that she's delightful and her voice gives me a semi, I'd have loved her insight and stories on several episodes (208, 209, 210, 213, 214, 217 and 223 spring immediately to
mind).  I know she was probably filming The Five-Year Engagement and Save the Date, but come on…it's 21 minutes apiece!

– Chevy is apparently a take-eater, 9-12 takes on average.

– 'The Kiss' took something like 27 takes.

– Abed's fabricated stories: Abed has a painting of Greenbeard the Greendale Pirate and he finds a treasure map in an old portrait of him?  I need to see this now.

– Gillian talks about Double Penetration, who was a pornstar who was quoting prices to Danny Pudi.

– They wanted to have Britta dating a George Clooney impersonator this season…goddamn, I watch the show and while I love it, I realize that it would probably be even more awesome on a cable network with no suits putting their hand up Dan Harmon's ass and manipulating him like a fat, hairy alcoholic puppet.

– They moved from the Winger speeches until Paradigms, except Asian Population Studies.

– 'That's your Bogdanovich?' – Gillian, 'No that's his Terrence Malick.' – Joe.

– Apparently this episode could have had a crazy and great arc for Chang, but it didn't get
used…once more, I link to the original ending and linked to it above, and also below if you haven't seen it and want to Chang it out.

– Joe is going to see Super 8, he will walk away satisfied, but will feel a little twinge of
disappointment because it was good, but could easily have been great.

– This episode was the origin of the CHANGism.  His Chang
from teacher to student could have been chronicled with more Chang throughout
the season.

– Okay, they clearly had a plan for Chang and the suit-dummies asked Harmon to Chang direction, but that doesn't mean the guilt and twin-eating couldn't have been shoehorned into a future episode.

– They wanted to mimic the Jeff-Annie kiss with Chang-Chang's dead sister?!  Tell me more…

– Just five takes for the tag rap, which is impressive.

– Yvette did a lot of 'heavy lifting' for the tag rap, according to Gillian, and she blows her a
kiss!

Good Times with Outtakes:

– Ultra-serious Betty White in the dirt-roaded scene, awesome.
– Alison messing up her blocking, but being fair she's tiny and it was a moving scene with Joel 'The Human Giraffe' McHale.
– Even if Betty White didn't totally work for me, one of my favourite outtakes in the entire season was her 'closet cougar' line in the tag.
– 'I gotta go where the heat is…that's not good, I'll do it again.' – Donglover.
– They had no idea Chang wanted to be in the study group!
– Blanketing the entire season, my favorite outtake: It's hard to pick between 'Closet Cougar', Gillian sneezing on Donglover, Alison getting 'raped' in the bathroom (people
hated this joke, but I commend them for going there; is rape funny?  No it is not, but saying you can laugh at one thing, but not another thing is the type of PC shibboleth that is turning North America into a police state), and finally Joel humping Alison…but Josh
Holloway getting his foot caught in that hole in the door, effectively making
his exit 80% less cool, that's my winner. I do, however, have a clear choice for my least-favorite outtake: Chang signing Baroque to Shirley's baby.  Aside from not even being a funny joke to begin with, the outtake stretched on for like three minutes, time which could have been used to put in more and funnier outtakes.

Dilemma Deleted…Scene!

Here
again is the scene with Chang and the baby crying that the network thought was
'too weird' so they ordered they refilm it.  Assholes.

5 Caps that sum up the Episode:

#Donaldforspiderman

Their babies will be so cute!

Turnin' it into a snake!

And here comes the wind-up…

We're gonna finally be fine!

 
Required by Law Alison Brie .gif (Don't look at me it's in the Terms of
Service!)
:

The
Twirl

Grades:

Character Development: B+ (A great leap forward for everyone)

Plot & Structure: C (Kinda mundane and straightforward…pizza)

Overall Humor: B+ (Very funny but not one of the top-10 funniest)

Importance within the Show's Universe: A (Cleared up a LOT of excess drama)

Character Interactions: A- (Lots of great group scenes and some good
one-on-one Jeff-Annie, Jeff-Britta, Jeff-Abed, Abed-Shirley and Pierce-Troy)

Quoteability: B+ (Highly quotable)

Memorability: C+ (Not an episode that immediately comes forth in my mind,
but every time I watch it I'm like 'That was pretty good.')

Overall non-averaged Grade (relative to the rest of the episodes): B
(PIZZA! pizza pizza go in tummy, me so hungee, me so hungee!)

 

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A.V. Club review links – Preamble, Overview, and Quotations (page 65)