Episode 202: Accounting for Lawyers


 Capt. Blicero

Accounting for Lawyers, S02E02

“Cool, he’s from your origins.”  

The trend of great television – the kind that strives for awards and critical praise, not Jim Belushi’s work – is to have long, drawn-out arcs not only across a season but across the entire series. Breaking Bad shows not just a man’s adventure through the meth underworld but his transformation from a meek high school chemistry teacher to a drug lord villain. This is in contrast to a procedural show where everything resets at the end of an episode, or even though there are major threads throughout the season few things actually change. Change, however, is detrimental to comedy: you want your character to be in stasis, frozen in perfect comedic personalities and situations to be mined for countless episodes. Pushing the plot forward as the characters change while the jokes continue to fly is akin to steering a cruise ship while you write poetry to your ex in hope of winning her back, and rarely are the jokes/poetry worth the paper they’re written on. 

If you’re reading this you probably know the episode well, so let me be brief with the plot recap and remind you of some of the key points – Jeff spots a friend (Alan) from his past life at his old law firm, they start hanging out with each attached at the cell phone holster (Tango and Sundance), Annie remembers Alan from her NA meetings and that he ratted out a former colleague to get him fired, Jeff attends an elegant gala at said firm, the rest of the study group cutely intrudes and searches for proof of Alan’s misdeed, Annie chloroforms a guard after they find the proof they need, the former lawyer lectures the group on morality before he tells them and the concept of caring to basically fuck off, Alan lies to Jeff and says it was Thompson the nicest main the world who turned him in, and it leads to Jeff realizing he cares about Greendale too much and comes in at the last minute to the group’s Pop-and-Lockathon. In between are great jokes, Annie’s boobs, and intriguing character growth. 

“Caring is a disease.” 

“Accounting for Lawyers” serves as a major part of Jeff “Nipple-play” Winger’s arc. Not only do we enter the secret confines of his law firm, but we see him reject the negativity of his former world and embrace Greendale all in one episode, serving as a microcosm of the entire series. The episode starts with him complaining about the Greendale hat club, one that completely summarizes the college by being zany and pointless, and it ends with him celebrating his new home by shamelessly dancing in another Greendale-ian event, “The Pop-and-Locktoberfest,” where the winner gets to annex Poland (edit: iTunes gift card.) 

Speaking of the b-story, Chang serves himself to the story as the dark creature of the underbrush, reminding Jeff of what can happen to a man without friends and support. He accepts the challenge of the danceathon as an attempt to enter the study group, and in a deluded state imagines himself in Jeff’s seat while Jeff himself is in the elusive eighth chair around the table bowing down to the new king. In the third season premiere, “Biology 101”, Jeff briefly dips into the madness of that dark place – “It’s a scary, Chang-filled world out there” – and comes through to the other side with a greater appreciation of the study group. Chang, however, is left out in the cold, and by the end of the season goes into full psychosis and is banished from the Kingdom after trying to take it for himself. Chang’s insanity, unfortunately, is driven by the study group. They accept a racist, a kid on the spectrum, and a lesbian, but not Chang. They were his only hope, and in rejecting him they helped lead to a meltdown. This episode is part of the germination of Chang’s descent, as they casually dismiss his asking to be in the group at the conclusion of the episode. Ultimately, however, this is Jeff’s story, but the Chang-ponent can’t be ignored. 

“And Jeff, you need to be more respectful of our time.”
“Shirley, if I killed a man, as a Christian would you forgive me?”
“I would.”
“Then either that man’s life is worth less than your time or it’s okay for me to be late.” 

A clever way to show a character’s past is to have it intrude on his new life. Instead of a flashback, we’re treated to Jeff falling into relapse via an old friend, a common precursor to the relapse. Jeff before used his lawyer superpowers for evil, like some sort of … regular lawyer. As a viewer it’s both entertaining on a purely surface level to watch him crack jokes and on a deeper level learning more about him as a character. This is the Jeff from the pilot, the one who created a study group to get into Britta’s pants (which, by the way, after seeing some of her ex’s is about as hard to get into as a Denny’s on Wednesday.) 

Jeff’s happiness was his wealth and status, not his bonds with people. A character reveal from another episode had Jeff bunk with Abed in his dorm after losing his expensive apartment, and the only souvenir he has is a faucet handle Britta stole for him. Few shows are as diverse as Community without looking like a politically correct university campus welcome pamphlet. Jeff was part of the elite, the upper class, while most of Greendale is the lower class he regularly ignored. Pierce is also part of the upper class, and he’s a warning to Jeff about how easy it to become out of touch with the world and how wealth doesn’t buy peace and contentment. Throughout the series we’ve heard a little more about why Jeff chose his profession, but it’s best said as a line in this episode: the only one who escaped the bloodbath of parents’ divorce, and problems inherent with caring, was the lawyer with the sweet ride. 

“You’re jealous because we’re fitting in with your cool friends.”

“No, I’m distracted by watching you mutate. Britta, you’re not a whore. Shirley, Jesus turned the other cheek; he didn’t garnish wages. Pierce, do I even need to say this? It is bad to hunt man for sport.” 

Before Annie tells Jeff about the letter Alan sent to the bar association, Jeff comes to the realization that the study group needs him (“Are you their court-appointed guardian or something?”) and he needs them. Annie, for example, gets into a hilarious escapade with Abed and Troy, the first of a few more to come when they move in together a year later. Abed brings everything a TV character would have for a sting operation, but in a reversal the plan goes horribly awry when realism sets in. Giving chloroform to a guard does not lead to a goofy adventure; they freak out and Troy in particular breaks down. Abed, still thinking in television/movie terms, tries to do a fake out and pretend they all passed out, but of course it doesn’t work. The entire sequence is one of the funniest the group has ever done. It also gives Annie an unconventional win as she was pushed to the hallway to keep guard, but she was the one with the rag maneuver. Later in the episode when Jeff brushes the group aside she hilariously loads more chloroform onto the rag: her power as a character is her strong, almost insane conviction to whatever situation she belongs to (see: Caroline Decker.)

Jeff, meanwhile, meets with his former boss, which is a strangely skinny Drew Carey with a hole in his hand (you’re not supposed to talk about it.) Ted, unlike a few of the lawyers there, is a refreshingly good guy and highly respected. He knows Alan is a dumb creep, and he also mentions that Jeff can do consulting work with the firm while he earns his real Bachelor’s. (Has he been doing that ever since then? Because unless he has a lot of savings he’d need a source of income.) Interestingly, Jeff made the case for Alan as a partner because he believed at the time that being a douche-y jerk didn’t matter, and almost two years later that decision came back to haunt him when Ted was literally eaten by sharks and Alan’s partner status turned him into a golem blocking Jeff’s path to his former, idealized life. However, his previous, privileged life no longer serves as his only way back to happiness. 

“You just stop thinking about what’s good for you, and you start thinking what’s good for someone else.” 

The above quote is from another episode (Intro to Finality), but it’s a good commentary on the resolution of the episode. We’ve seen Jeff threaten to leave the group and show his shallow side before, but in this episode it’s realistically driven by a taste of his previous life. Looking at Harmon’s story circle, Jeff enters Greendale for a real degree to get his old life back, but after three-quarters of the way through he’s already changed. The heavy price paid as outlined in the story circle could be Jeff’s coolness or it could be a lucrative job, the money and prestige. Jeff may end up like Thompson at the end of the series (or it was so intended):  a lawyer on the good side of the force, working cases to help people rather than capitalize on their misfortune. Jeff’s slow transformation is the opposite of Breaking Bad’s Walt; he’s breaking good. 

“I painted a tunnel on the side of the library, and when the paint dries I’m going for it.” 

The tag: It’s a funny little sketch, but it also foreshadows Abed’s dreamatorium and Troy’s almost blind dedication to his creative antics. It’s also referenced at the beginning of the episode with the above quote. I like it because it’s part the silly world of Greendale and something I’d have fun doing. 

Grade: crocodile 

Quote I couldn't find a place for: "Shirley, don't sue a stripper." "Why?" "Life sued her, and she lost." 

Side note: any errors, factual or grammatical, belong to Tibor, my foreign co-worker.

Objectification of women side note:  http://i53.tinypic.com/25pjpyq… 

Unrelated to this episode side note: we should have seven different people review the Chaos episode in short bursts. Because, you know, yeah. 

Edit: Disqus formatting … TIIIIBBBBOOOOR!


06/04/2012 09:54 PM  34 LIKES

AV Club link – http://www.avclub.com/articles/digital-estate-planning-the-first-chang-dynasty-in,73676/#comment-547460840 (page 89)



  • I like how Jeff's world very quickly transforms everyone into terrible people. When I first saw the episode, I found it unrealistic that Jeff would so quickly revert to his previous nature, but when everyone becomes bad versions of themselves, it somehow makes it fit more into the reality of the show, like the law firm itself destroys people's integrity.

  • That was a really good writeup. I love the Breaking Good idea and it really rings true. I don't want to encroach on a good review here, because you added some excellent analysis to an episode I didn't originally didn't care for at all. However, I've seriously reevaluated this episode lately, and I'm going to go a little crazy here. Bear with me. 

    This is an episode that I initially shrugged at. I didn't like seeing Jeff revert to asshole mode, and I was honestly shocked to see this episode rank so high during the hiatus, even if it was barely in the top 30. That has changed in recent months. It's now impossible for me to think about this episode without linking it with Intro to Finality. As much as ITF and the Pilot were a pair, I feel like this episode fits right in  with Intro to Finality as well. The surface links, such as Jeff in lawyer mode and Alan are obvious, but the changes that Jeff starts to undergo here fully come to fruition in Finality, which makes this a vitally important episode and a lynchpin for the series. 

    Up until now, Jeff has been focused on regaining his status as a lawyer. Yes, he has started to open himself up to the study group and enjoy his time at Greendale, but his main goal has never wavered; he wants his bachelor's degree as quick as he can get it while doing as little work as possible. He wants to be the carefree guy wearing a nice suit while driving away in a sky-blue Mercedes. Accounting for Lawyers is where that starts to change. Jeff gets to see first hand the kind of person he used to be, not just by seeing Alan and learning of his treachery, but by seeing how his lawyer personality transfers to his new friends. He didn't like Britta whoring herself out, Pierce playing the most dangerous game, Trobannie chloroforming a guard, or Shirley acting so un-Christian. If he didn't like them adopting those personalities, there was no reason to allow himself to do the same. This is the first trigger of a great change in Jeff, one that he alternately fights, embraces, and struggles with for the majority of two full seasons. 

    What we see in Accounting for Lawyers is Jeff starting to drift away from his dream, and how he starts to question what to do once that dream is gone. Think about what a massive crisis that could be for a person. Jeff has defined himself by his profession and his lawyerly qualities for the entire run of the show, and presumably for a good, long time before that. Now, all that is thrown into question. How does a person react to that? What can a person do after learning that the one thing they always wanted above all else might not be what they truly desire? How do you readjust your goals, your expectations, and your life? What do you do when you are told that you can't get your dream job because you decided at age 12 to swim full time instead of playing a baseball?* In Jeff's case, he makes a decision as important to him as it was symbolic to the viewer; he leaves his law firm and returns to Greendale for an event he had previously mocked and blown off. He doesn't do it to try and impress Britta or do get closer to Slater, he does it because it is what he wants to do. Jeff fully takes control of his own agency in that decision, casting his entire future and reason for being into doubt. 

    *And yes, that just got too specific to be improvised. There's more than one reason this episode has grown on me.

    Between this episode and Introduction to Finality, Jeff goes through a lot. Despite numerous struggles, he learns to truly love the study group, Greendale, and the person he has allowed himself to become. In Intro to Finality, this decision is put to the ultimate test. Jeff is once again put into lawyer mode. He once again faces off with Alan with his own future on the line. However, due to all of that time that has passed and all those struggles he has faced, Jeff has learned the answers to those questions I asked. Jeff knows what to do when you realize that what you thought was your dream is not what you truly wanted; you look for what is truly important.

    The nice suit and Mercedes were never what mattered most to Jeff, he just never had the chance to realize that. What Jeff had always needed was family, friendship, and a place to belong. By embarking on a new path in Accounting for Lawyers and starting to leave behind the life he thought he wanted, Jeff was eventually able to end up where he truly belonged; severing all ties with his previous life as a shallow, shady, self interested lawyer, and walking the halls of Greendale with his friends at his side.

  • Beautiful, and I've been thinking about this a lot, too. It's easy to forget, with all the chicken finger shortages and the paintball wars, that all these characters came to Greendale for a pretty specific purpose, and for Jeff it was so he could grab a degree and continue to practice law. I often wonder what pre-Greendale Jeff was like as a lawyer: there are flashes in season one where he has to defend Britta, or in every Winger speech, but here we get to see his interactions with the other people in his office and his boss. And the fact that he starts to realize that maybe there's more to life than being ridiculously good looking and practicing law in this episode is, like you said, a really interesting revelation and a good precursor for the ITF stuff. 

    I know it's cheesy, but I always loved that the study group is teaching everyone that what's really important in life is the family you make, and Jeff leaving the lawyer firm for Greendale and Jeff sacrificing his future career in ITF both showcase this learning. 

    (Wow, this show is very smart)

  • In season 3 the burden of "why are we here" kind of got shifted to Britta and Troy, but early on the focus was almost entirely on Jeff, with a bit of Abed thrown in. Up until Accounting for Lawyers, Jeff's quest to regain his position defined him. There were other parts of character shading thrown in, but his journey towards truly being a better person didn't begin in earnest until after this episode. I suppose that shift could be attributed to Jeff slowly evolving past the reason he came to Greendale. On the other hand, Britta and Troy evolved past their respective states of arrested development* and started to embrace a certain degree of maturity. 

    *Hey, that's the name of a different show!

    As Jeff a a character focused less on becoming a lawyer again, the show focused less on that quest, leading to all sorts of side adventures that had nothing to do with him getting his degree. Meanwhile, Troy and the AC Repair School and Britta as a psychologist were recurring themes all through season 3 as those became more and more important to those characters. So it works on two levels. This show is very, very smart.

  • SG Standard Definitely, as silly as the AC Repair school and Britta's psychology degree were as overall plots, their importance as a sign of increasing maturity for both characters is really cool to note now that season three's done.

    While Abed in season three didn't have a whole ton to do with his school choices (what is that kid majoring in, anyways?), I think it's obvious that Greendale/Study Group are helping him to change and mature in personal and interpersonal ways. And isn't that how college always is: go for the degree, actually get a ton of personal growth?

  • Abed and Shirley are the only two that came into Greendale with a fully formed and unwavering idea of what they wanted to do. Shirley wanted to be able to open a business, and Abed wanted to major in film. The show hasn't gotten as much main thrust mileage out of Abed because he's never questioned the path that he's on, and his filmmaking has become such an ingrained and expected part of the show. We've seen Abed's filmmaking prowess grow through the series, from "not exactly Citizen Kane" in Film 101 to his proficiency with documentary filmmaking in both of those episodes. As Abed's skill has grown, so have the products he has produced.

  • SG Standard He totally did/does want to become a filmmaker! How did I forget that? I love, too, that his love of film eventually leads him to make a Dreamatorium, a place where imagination and creativity are the most important things a person can possess.

  • I'm waiting for Jeff's father episode, and I'm optimistic it'll be handled appropriately next season. I'm interested in hearing how his home life was because it seems there was a lot of damage there. Jeff keeps people at a distance since as a young kid his parents divorced and he lost that kind of trust in people and in himself. 

  • I did a whole parallel chart a while back mapping out all of the ways that Jeff's journey had mirrored A Hero's Journey according to Campbell…and the big, final step is to defeat/come to terms with the father figure, and bring back that knowledge to the rest of the world or ascend to a higher plane.

    I was really looking forward to Harmon bringing Jeff and his dad together because of Harmon's obsession with Campbell…but now I guess I'll just dream about it.

  • Excellent job putting together Jeff's story circle of a man breaking good. This for me is the most underrated episode in the entire series.

    This was the first time the group ventured off campus and, as Todd pointed out in his review, it suddenly throws what had quickly become a "co-dependent" group into the wild. Not just any wild, but a den of moral ambiguity and depravity that is Jeff's law firm. It suggests that these people would be lost without each other and they need Jeff just as much as the episode shows he yearns to be one of them.

    It must be noted how wonderful Joel's acting was in this episode. His realization that his dream was based on a constrained childhood perspective, that it was essentially a lie he carried around, and that he had "caught something at Greendale" is marked with the appropriate blend of grief and a life-affirming sense of resolve. It's very moving and, along with CFS, it's a performance that should have competed only with Danny's in CFS for that Emmy.

  • I think Joel's performance in IDF could have been nominated too 

  • Yep

    Awesome things from this episode

    -The distinct popping sound made by the hole in Drew Carey's hand as he and Jeff shake hands.

    http://25.media.tumblr.com/tum… — Don't they look like Ravenclaws? This episode may be the best Gillian has looked on the show.

    Such a cute little entrance as the group tries to project their sophistication and confidence. Britta's put-upon swag is similar to her expression in the pre-credits swag walk 214.

    -Look for Annie almost chloroforming herself.

    -"He's got Britta DOWN!"
    -"Did you know Go-Gurt is just yogurt?"
    -"Britta, you're not a whore. Shirley, Jesus turned the other cheek. He didn't garnish wages."

  • I now think Annie almost chloroforming herself is the funniest thing in that scene. It's in the background and it's just a lot more subtle than Troy's freakout, which is the thing everyone remembers, and the thing that I, initially, loved the most. It's just that it's one of those jokes that isn't quite as funny after a while (although it'll always be funny).

  • You guys are making a lot of good arguments for this being an important Jeff episode. It hasn't really worked for me on that level, though. It's the flip side of the idea that something like Annie and Abed's talk in "Virtual Systems Analysis" is too underlined, smacks too much of "Big Sincere Character Moment." If that's the case (and that's not my personal opinion), couldn't Jeff's choices in AFL be considered too quick, too glib and too obvious?

    He goes from Greendale grouper back to slick, soulless lawyer in record time. Then faced with a series of ambiguities over whether the law firm is good for him or not, he seems to decide that each world (good friends vs. good co-workers) has it's merits, and that the rest of the group just aren't ready for that sophisticated "two ideas at once" type of life, so he's protecting them in a condescending way by making them leave. This isn't a big, satisfying choice but it seems honest.

    Then, when Alan is an even bigger snake than Jeff has already praised him for being, Jeff immediately snaps back and leaves. It's the same problem I have with "Debate 109." No sooner has Jeff, amidst a fairly cartoonish world, said that "This isn't TV, it's real life, and things aren't that simple" than he abruptly decides that, for a greater purpose, they are that simple. In both cases it happens in a few seconds while I'm still considering the ramifications of his first decision.

    Then, back at Greendale for the pop-and-lock contest, Jeff gives a half speech, half joke at the expense of how perfunctory and obvious said speech is. Plus the bitterness for Chang, who doesn't fit into any of this epiphany on any level, is so cruel it kind of undermines any good vibes. (In general AFL is a pretty mean spirited episode. Annie becomes violent for no real reason, every sin the group considers at the party is pretty awful, and Chang's abject feelings of rejection are just too much.)

    The thing is, over enough rewatches and intelligent discussion, we could find everything the show does to be a success. If they have a character beat, a joke and a bittersweet sentimental moment all in 10 seconds, we can potentially locate and believe in all of them. But in this case, I'd have liked to see the show make some of those choices. To maybe drop a few of the funny moments and draw a clearer picture of why Jeff loses interest in the Group he spent S1 growing closer to, and why he ultimately finds them more worthwhile.

  • I think I kinda of agree with Todd that the episode glosses over Jeff's change of heart, but then again he's spent a year with those lovable goofballs and I think he was only relapsing with Alan. (By the way, I hope people picked up on the relapse/Alan was in NA parallel; didn't want to make it too obvious.) He also had Alan lie to him right to his face after getting the information about his "friend" ratting him out. He probably had a bit of time to reflect on what happened, and chose to be with Greendale. The cutting of the episode is so fast that it seems like his decision was instant, but it wasn't. He was probably rehearsing his speech to the group on the over to Greendale as well. It's a little silly to see the dance contest and how Jeff wraps up the plot neatly, but I think it's perfect for them to have a big moment together at such a silly contest. What happens to Chang, however, is dark and mean, but that plot does lead somewhere. I think ultimately it's a much better episode than I thought, which is what happens to most Community episodes though with this one it's more profound after season 3 and episodes like ITF.

  • At the time it first aired, I had that same problem with Jeff in this episode. Too quick, too easy, too unearned. Later episodes, especially ITF, changed that. Looking back, this episode was the start of a Big Sincere Character Arc rather than being just an isolated moment. Jeff comes to a realization in this episode, but it takes a year and a half for it to really take hold. He wavers back and forth for a while and fights the knowledge that he doesn't want to be the person he thought he wanted to be, ultimately embracing that change and leaving his old life behind. As a single episode, that doesn't come across, but looking at this episode as a piece of a whole made it seem entirely different. 

  • Much like Jeff's behavior in the next episode, I think the point was that he had built up such a concrete ideal of himself in his mind that it was inevitable for him to relapse that quickly upon first contact with that part of his life (good point Capt. about that NA parallel). I liked that it wasn't outlined explicitly and rather the acting conveyed much of the transformation.

  • LloydBraun , agreed. The fact that Jeff was basically back to normal after this episode rings true to life. Major life changes don't just happen, they take time to process and accept. Jeff immediately becoming a new person after this episode would be something I'd expect from a lesser show, where actions don't have true consequences; they are either forgotten about immediately or have instant repercussions. Jeff underwent a major shift in who he was and what he wanted to be, and that took years. I like that. 

  • The group is so great going off-campus. They really do tend to get in wild and funny situations like animals being let from their cages. I watched a few random Jeff episodes again like Biology 101 and the first Halloween one (Stats) to prepare, and in the latter the study group interrupting the faculty Halloween party was one of the funniest moments to me. Britta in a squirrel suit, Slater asking if Jeff was the court-appointed guardian, Britta figuring out as she talked that Jeff owned a cowboy suit and it's pretty tight, Abed coming in as Batman, and the group being pissed at Jeff for abandoning them for Slater each telling him off as they left, except Troy said, "She's pretty hot," as a guy acknowledging another that he understands. 

  • I never realized how we go from Jeff warning everybody how "it's a scary, Chang-filled world out there" at the end of Anthropology to actually seeingthe scary, Chang-filled world for the first time in the very next episode.

  • And now: the puppet.

    I always wondered if this little scene is in any way an allusion to the rather special relationship of Jeff and Abed – of Abed's way to sometimes subtly use Jeff as a proxy for leadership within the group. At any rate, it fits really well in an episode which is all about the characters getting carried away and manipulated by increasingly uncontrollable circumstances.

    Great write up, Capt. Blicero ! You had me a Jeff "Nipple Play" Winger's arc.

    While I always enjoyed this episode a lot, it's only after Intro to Finality, that it actually took up a certain degree of poignancy. I've always wondered, after seeing him interact with Alan, if Jeff even has a realistic chance of ever returning to lawyering, BA, or no BA.

    I think that Alan's monumental douchebaggery underscores really well the fact that Jeff has never really been that big of an asshole. His manipulations of the group were always mostly bluster – more Saul Goodman than Maurice Levy – and seeing him to torn in this episode serves as a nice counterpoint to Anthropology 101, where he did seem to take on more of the role of a cynical villain.

    And I agree: Joel did a really fantastic job here, with a part that was essentially less flashy than the one in RCT. The way he says "Thompson…" in particular is great, as it seems to convey not only incredulous disappointment at Alan's incredible sleaziness, but also a sense of acceptance that his former career may have irretrievably gone away from him.

    Finally, there's this: http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…

    It always cracks me up how Abed's conception of fainting involves laying down in as straight a line as humanly possible.

    Also, if I'm not mistaken, this is Jeff's second appearance in a suit on the show (he cleans up nicely), and Annie's second time in heels (she looks great, and those are some really nice shoes).

  • Oh yeah I remember noticing that about Abed. It's perfect for his character. 
    And I almost mentioned this but I thought Drew's acting was weak, particularly when he said, "The student become the master." I don't think he has much range, but Joel was acting in circles like a shark around him.

    Edit: Drew was still great casting because we walked into a strange place as an audience, and that familiar yet strange actor was a perfect head of the company (Todd said that I believe.)

  • Yeah, thin-hole-handed-Drew Cary is just disorienting enough to work with the setting.

  • Good review.

    I believe NBC switched the order of this ep with "The Psychology of Letting Go," because this was a funnier, more colorful episode. The result is a little confusing, since the Annie/Jeff/Britta non-romantic-triangle is immediately dropped, where as "Psychology" kind of served as an epilogue, with the characters still letting off steam from "Anthropology."

    There are some super funny parts. Annie's chloroforming the guard (twice) and Troy freaking out and hopping around, and not being able to explain is, like you said, one of the funniest sequences of the show.

    I also really like the cold open. Hat Club is casually mentioned, then becomes the punchline with Jeff dryly remarking "Now you have some idea." One of those bits where they hide the set-up in plain sight, so the payoff comes just as your brain is putting it together. It's almost like a magic trick.

  • This episode really holds up because it's both important for the characters (Jeff and Chang mostly) and the lines are still stellar. 

  • That's the central tension between comedy/sitcom fans now: should sitcom worlds mirror the real-world, in that characters grow and learn lessons and change a bit from where they started, or is a sitcom a vehicle to tell jokes and forward the viewpoints/commentary of the creator? I sometimes like that Community can be both, and I thought that "Accounting For Lawyers" showcased that. Jeff got to see how different his firm was now that he'd been at Greendale for a year (change and growith!), and Annie/Troy/Abed got to be hilarious trying to break into people's emails (vehicle to tell jokes!). That scene with the memory loss is one of my favorite scenes Community's ever done.

    I also like your allusion to Walter White as a foil for Jeff's journey: Jeff starting out as a sneaky "bad" guy with shady morals and ending as a changed, redeemed "good" guy, and Walt's transformation as the opposite of that, a "good" guy becoming an irredeemable "bad" guy. Someone should do a BB/Community mash-up, right now.

    I mostly remember this episode showcasing the fact that the study group was the study group, no matter where they were. A good precursor for "Mixology", in that both episodes took place (mostly) off-campus but still remained Community-esque.

  • Great review and a great point about modern sitcoms.  I see it as two separate dichotomys: 

    Comedy Utilized as  Escapism from Reality, vs Embracing Elements of Reality and Unearthing Humorous Elements.


    Comedy as an active discourse between creator and audience vs being comfort food served fast, efficiently, and pleasantly.

    A lot of people in this world would probably embrace Chuck Lorre shows as pleasantly served escapism.  The exact opposite that comes to mind is Louie, as a direct conversation or inner monologue of Louie's thoughts projected openly to the audience and getting knee-deep in the world out there, dark comedy, sadness and all.

    Community seems to embrace all these elements at one point or another, sometimes in muliple methods throughout the very same episode.  Mixology's a great example of this daring Four Corners Monument approach. 

    You start off with what seems like a Pizza episode [awesome jokes one after the other at the usual study table scene].  Then you delve deeper and deeper into the reality of these peoples' lives and personas when they're out on their own in this big world.  Then you feel the show directly asking "what will Troy decide to do?  How has this night matured him since the beginning?"  And finally we have a relatively zany tag that both underscores Troy's innate fun and goodness whilst helping to segue us out of those previous 21 minutes of reality. 

    From my perspective– in the end it's not what approach you take but how you manage expectations with that approach and how well executed it is.  If you're comfort food, nothing wrong with that so long as you utilize your comedic toolbox effectively and go for the gusto.

    Sadly though, the majority of people in this world seem resistant to ANY MINUTE change and thought-provoking concepts from any entertainment medium so a chameleon show like Community subverts their expectations no matter how well it's executed.  They don't know how to feel because the tone and plot isn't being telegraphed on an assembly line to make them feel instantly better and they had being out of their comfort zone.

    Great review again though.  I've been thinking about parallels between Jeff's lawyer persona and Abed's need for Inspector Spacetime and this really helped put everything in perspective for Jeff's transformation throughout the show.  Well done /cheer.    

  • I guess comfort food is okay, but I'm frustrated that shows aim to BE comfort food. There's nothing wrong with that, but I'm just generally disappointed at how stupid network executives think people are (or show creators, I guess). 

    Although, it's probably just me who watches shows like that, yelling "YOU HAVE SO MUCH POTENTIAL!" and quietly sobbing. Well, me and Todd.

  • I could not agree more.  The defeatist in me just won't let up that "you're outnumbered– most people want to turn their brains off in some way when they watch TV."  Everyone's watching Rizzoli & Isles or the Kardashians?  So few people watching Mad Men? Breaking Bad?  Community? Sigh.   Even accounting on the outdated ratings system it's more than a tad depressing.  

    Reminds me of that quote from a SNL bit with Will Ferrell and Darrell Hammond as ousted Republicans in the late 1990s.  "What in the hell happened?!?!  I don't understand America anymore!  Did you see?! The number one movie in America is Patch Adams!?!?  The previews for that looked TERRIBLE!!  TERRIBLE!!! I just don't get it!"

    "I'm turning your entire medical establishment upside down!  Laughter is the best medicine!"

  • It just confuses me that shows like Breaking Bad and Community are watched by such small numbers of people. Even if I'm an atypical television watcher, I've gotten my mom into Fringe and Community, and she's pretty "normal" in terms of televison-watching habits. If my mom can love these shows, what is wrong with the rest of the U.S.?

  • I'm not entirely sure either.  I guess it revolves around that Police Squad quote about the shows that have "to have the viewer watch to appreciate."  The majority of viewers most susceptible to the influence of advertisements as well as most likely to simply turn their TV to ONE channel at 8pm and leave it on there for the rest of the evening dictates the bulk of policy/viewing populace for what hits/sticks and what doesn't. 

    Everything else is a fracture of degrees and different tastes.  Cable procedurals, TLC/History Channel/A&E short form docs, E! Reality shows, comedy stand up routines, Game Show network reruns, Sports channel after sports channel, and TV Land reruns to name a few.  One person I know only watches Animal Planet (nothing wrong with that especially since it's the Lemur drama, just saying). 

    Once you get to the smarter original programming out there, you're more likely to have a core viewer base that either A). Watches online or at their own leisure, and/or B). Waits for the shows to come out on DVD/Blu-ray to absorb them all in chunks over the weekend. 

    But even then I bet the higher end shows aren't as much of an impulse buy as, say: "GET SEASON 3 OF CSI: Miami in your market aisle, today! YEAAAHHHH."  The networks want appointment TV that gets the eyeballs tuned in at a specific time for specific demographics to get specific revenue for those eyeballs.  Everything else becomes a fractured sidebranch of diminishing returns for their outdated system of ratings.

  • I clicked on that GIF. Suddenly, it was 30 minutes later and I was waking from a hypnotic-boob-jiggle trance.
    (Also, this review is great, Capt! I can't think of anything intelligent to add right now but I will try tomorrow.)

  • I've always love this bit of acting from McHale:



    I love that glare in particular (I don't think the fishstick really captures it). I believe it's after Alan lays the blame on Thompson. Great bit of dramatic acting. His expression is perfect for the scene.

  • I knew exactly what you were fishsticking. Joel can act!

  • Y'know, I'm not quite sure what to make of that gif.  It seems like it's the shirt that's shifting around as opposed to Alison's breasts jiggling.

    I thus rate it 1.5 faps.