Episode 203: The Psychology of Letting Go



203 – The Psychology of Letting Go

For Scrawler

The Psychology of Letting Go ostensibly continues the show's discussion of faith left off in Comparative Religion, where the group discovered how messy the varied religions and "philosophies" of a make-shift family can become. Annie resignedly concluded, "Everyone's belief's are weird, let's not talk about it." But this is not so much a Special Episode about Religion as it is a character-driven look at the personal toll of holding too hard to beliefs. For the first time since 112 (this was produced ahead of 202), our study groupers' deeply held convictions and assumptions about themselves and indeed existence itself are challenged, be it Pierce's faith in his Laser Lotus "cult", Jeff's worship of himself as an immortal god, or Troy facing the concept of death for the first time. As a whole, the episode plays as a mosaic of parallel stories and serves a reminder that life marches on as we let irrational obsessions and grudges consume us.

Geez. Who died?

Mama Hawthorne did, after crawling out to the garage like a cat. Pierce is expected to cope with his loss according to ritualistic norms prescribed by societyeven Britta agrees. In fact, Pierce's cult does help him cope; it's just that his friends can't stomach the involvement of lasers and lava lamps. One of the great achievements of this story is its pitch-perfect balance of the absurdity of the stories with the gravity of the emotions evoked in the characters.

Pierce awaits the Buddha's Hawaiian Punch

Pierce is a dear character to me because he's the most desperate and doomed to unfulfillment. It's all the more sad considering it is arguably the prime of his life after being the sheltered, cowering son of Col. Eugenics and a seven-times-failed family man for most of it. At this stage in his life, he's not a tragic hero, like Jeff, Abed and Troy; he has no hero's journey to undertake. No, the "pathetically, stupidly, inconveniently obvious truth" about Pierce is that death is calling and that prospect informs a lot of his behavior on the show. At Annie's Danza de los Muertos party Starburns' pills sparked a panic about his age and he told Jeff he wanted to die. He envisioned an actual dance of the dead in his name – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…. If Pierce isn't explicitly fretting about death, it comes through in his constant, desperate attempts to be relevant and respected by people he cares about before he finally sinks down that drain of eternity.

Since they met, Pierce has seen shades of himself in Jeff and thought of him as a son, much to the chagrin of Jeff, who fears he may indeed turn out like Pierce (see 2001 sequence in 301 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v… and he certainly isn't going to open his arms to anything resembling a father figure, at least not yet. They both share a deep resentment for their fathers and both are very close to their mothers. To that end, Pierce often imparts lessons learned from his failings to Jeff, as he does in 104, 111, and 118. A part of me wishes the episode would have been more daring in working their similarities into this story by having them therapize each other–maybe something like Jeff-Abed in CFS. Even more than was the case in 107, Jeff was the "only one that can help" with Pierce's latest crisis but he opted for outright antagonism. Pretty cruel even for Jeff.

On the other hand, Pierce's peculiar reaction to his mother's death is genuinely heartbreaking and revealing on its own. Reading his expressions and hearing him earnestly defend his religion conveyed all that was needed about what he was doing. He may genuinely believe the tenents of Reformed Neo-Buddhism, but you have to believe some part of him knows it's all crazytownbananapants. In the immediate aftermath, all he had to hold onto was pretending his mother would be recondensed one day and get right back to making Troy and him sandwiches in their mansion (it's adorable that he lived with his mother). Admirably, he never once lashed back at Jeff and all of his turmoil is internalized and channeled into outer calm. For a story that is essentially slagging off Scientology, that's a remarkably hopeful and generous outlook for a show to have about the healing power of faith.

Pierce's peace will be short-lived, though, because this episode officially kicks off what I call the Dark Pierce Saga of season 2. In the next episode he gets space madness and hallucinates Col. Sanders as his father. He grows more irascible and hostile by the episode in his cries for attention, and along the way he develops an addiction to painkillers that lands him in rehab. Getting old must suck.

Jeff wants his donuts back

In Beginner Pottery, Jeff confessed to having a hard time when he wants to be good at something and he sucks. He always believed he was special–his mother dotingly reminded him as much. And on at least two other occasions he has referred to himself as a god. Throughout his life, his skill in negotiating his way out of any corner gave him a false sense of security that, combined with his outrageous narcissism, makes it easy to see how a blood test reporting slightly high cholesterol would set off the mother of existential crises for him. Naturally, his instinct is to tear someone else down to soothe his ego.

The cynical view of this is of another story of Jeff Winger the jerk looking out for himself, then being humbled and eventually doing the right thing. But much like what brought Jeff back to Greendale in 202 being the result of a prolonged internal push and pull about what he really wanted, his path to doing the right thing here is based on a sincere empathy for Pierce. That is, this episode is arguing that discovering that he's going to die no matter what was just as crushing for Jeff as losing a beloved mother was for Pierce. This season kicks off Jeff's great humbling. For once, Jeff is losing something valuable in the process, not sex or cool pool attire.

Troy wants to eat a ghost

I've never seen Troy's part in this episode discussed to any extent. His story may look like it just gives Troy something to do, but he lived in the same house and his reaction comes in stark contrast to that of Pierce. Seeing a dead body for the first time leaves a lasting impression on him and I see it as a vital bit of development about Troy as an individual. Seasons 1 and 2 catch Troy at a turbulent period in his life marked by major lifestyle changes and a simultaneous arrested development, the consequences of which lay the plumbing for his reluctant maturation and individuation in season 3.

In this episode and in the cartoon wall tag from 202, which I mentally place in this episode, we see that Troy continues to be incapable of separating the natural world and its boundaries from the reaches of his imagination. This means it will not take long for him to start talking to a goat like it's a person, to start referring to a human (Rich) wearing a banana suit as "the banana", or to blame a ghost for stealing a pen; without question, he would eat himself if he woke up as a donut, and as we see here, he comes dangerously close to joining a cult based solely on the possibility of eating a ghost. Power of Imagination Troy is attracted to anything that transcends earthly limits and his brain is wired to believe these things exist on the same physical plane for him to freely traverse and explore.

These characteristics are played for jokes, sometimes cheaply relegating him to the Supporting Dumb Guy, but in the aggregate they arise from real anxieties he carries around. This episode forces Troy to confront the reality and finality of death, a fact of life Troy had always bypassed in pursuit of that rampant imagination. That is, he loves the idea of ghosts but never thought about how they became ghosts. So when he saw Mama Hawthorne had crawled out to the garage to die like a cat (Troy's tendency to anthropomorphize animals is very Karl Pilkington-esque), he wasn't just grieving for a personal loss, but also he was legitimately stunned it could happen at all. Just as Abed did some damage to Troy with the cartoon wall, this ordeal left him permanently scarred, as evident by his unease with Starburns' death: "I'm not as comfortable with death as you guys" and later, "May your dreams be sweet and your nightmares be spooky monster scary and not Grandma died scary."

There is a key exchange early on when Pierce explains that the vaporizing process "frees you from the burden of your earthly body". Troy thinks out loud, "it is a burden". That epiphany crystallizes for him how much he has always felt burdened and cursed by his physical talent. He never loved football and indeed resents it because it's all about order and authority–anti-imagination. Plus, just as he was wearing his letter jacket in the pilot "for them", he was only playing football to fulfill the aspirations of his family members who pushed him into it.

So this episode sees Troy introduced to death as he starts to unconsciously arbitrate some of the competing psychological forces at play in his mind. In Jungian psychology, individuation is the gradual integration and unification of the self through the resolution of successive layers of psychological conflict. For Troy, this incorporation of his psyche begins a process of self-actualization that starts in Mixology Certification and fully takes hold in season 3 with the AC school arc. We'll get to that later.

Mama Hawthorne's CD

"Life is only worth a damn because it’s short. It’s designed to be consumed, used, spent, lived, felt. We’re supposed to fill it with every mistake and miracle we can manage, and then we’re supposed to let go. I can't force you to do that for yourself, Pierce, but you can't force me to stay."

What a lovely scene as the stories of Pierce, Jeff and Troy converge on the way to the morgue. I love watching the acting of the three in the car, especially Troy, who is a joy to watch when he's rapt and left speechless by something, as he is in the Room Temperature Room. Jeff and Troy radiate the simple humanity of people who have been profoundly moved, but Pierce's is unaffected, and why should he be? He has his faith to get him through this ordeal, as silly as his particular faith is, and that's OK.

Annie and Britta change sweaters

A lot has been said of the Chang's pile of nothing that is the Britta-Annie pairing. They have radically opposed worldviews and personalities, and they seem to only share attractiveness in common. So then, as mrafink has noted in his 115 review, the unintended implication is that two attractive females can never share a healthy friendship. I'm afraid this episode doesn't offer us much more shading on that front and the subsequent two seasons have mostly ignored the pairing altogether.

Dan Harmon hated this episode, dismissing this plot in particular as "literally about Annie and Britta changing sweaters and doing impressions of each other." Their fundraising rivalry and sweater changing is meant to address the third side of the triangle left over from 201, but it rehashes the same tensions from 115. The resolution is weak and they're back to square none in subsequent episodes. One new wrinkle I appreciate is that, while Britta is often called on her phony values and dishonesty, Annie is rarely called on her even more manipulative school girl "routine". Many people saw Annie shaking her tits two episodes in a row and felt the show was sexualizing her too much, but for the first time the show clearly lays scorn on Annie's behavior as a character flaw, not something adorable Annie does. It's also just fun to watch Britta and Annie (or Gillian and Alison) get needlessly indignant.

OK Communists, let's take a crack at this relationship one more time. What the hell is it about? Are they just auditioning themselves for Jeff or a Jeff? Releasing pent up gayness? Is it really as simple as two hot skinny bitches competing over attractiveness?

Celery and Mustard

  • Tag: Betty White explains Inception to a tribesman, careful not to spoil it for the other guy who hasn't seen the movie. – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…. Like I said, for me the cartoon wall tag has a thematic home in this episode, despite Abed mentioning it to Jeff in 202.
  • Abed's Z-plot: Honestly, it's not even that important to the episode but it's all everyone wants to talk about: "I saw it right away!", "OMG, I never caught that!", "I saw it, but also…I didn't?" It's a nifty device but I don't read much into it other than a visual punctuation mark. Here are all the scenes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…
  • Britta is turned on by the demonstration of the oil spill diorama. Of course she gets off on destruction because she's an anarchist, and apparently she's drawn to broken, unavailable men AND planets. http://www.fishsticktheatre.co… – [123 when Jeff is hurt, 218 with Luka the war victim, 220 with Troy, 315 with Blade]
  • Troy Crying Awesomely: When he tells everyone about Pierce's mom dead and Pierce won't accept it.
  • Duncan and Chang have a plot of their own in this episode about "letting go" of grudges. Both play very well off each other as always.
  • Duncan and Jeff's relationship in a nutshell: Duncan interrupts his chat with Jeff to shoo Chang away with his "force field" and then comes back to dispense sound psychoanalysis. I love that while Duncan may be a drunken, careless lunatic, he is still fairly competent in his actual field of academia. [Pilot with Jeff, 125 with Britta, 211 with Abed, 215 with Jeff]
  • Jeff: "If you guys just let me get to the can opener, I can feed you." [Jeff feigns annoyance but he clearly loves being needed.]
  • Shirley mentions the notoriously hellish East stairwell and its meth infestation. Why hasn't there been a Breaking Bad homage about that, hmm? [It also has a mold problem, as noted in 217.]
  • Nice job by Britta avoiding that tall guy. Is it Tall Kyle? –http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…
  • Jeff taking people out for ice cream to soothe his guilt returns in 207 when he takes Troy for ice cream because his "white guilt is doing somersaults".
  • Abed: "He hasn't cried yet. From what I've been told, that's not normal." [He has not cried on the show yet but he will in 211]
  • Nurse Jackie compares life to collapsed movie franchises, referencing Indiana Jones (the fourth one blows) and the Temple of Doom.
  • Britta and Annie totally ignore Shirley's (she was awesome in this episode) several reminders about not being invited to be part of the oil spill fundraiser. [In 122, talking to Pierce in the library, Shirley resents the other two girls for not inviting her when they go shopping]
  • Fake brand: Shirley eats "Let's" chips. [Pretty much every episode with a cafetaria scene.]
  • Jeff eats egg whites in the cafeteria after his diagnosis. In a flashback in 221, Troy and Abed mocked Jeff asking them "does this hard boiled egg make me look fat?"
  • Pierce's cult stole 'Energons' from Transformers
  • Pierce: Reformed Neo-Buddhism is not a cult. It is a new way of looking at the world, emphasizing empowerment.​

             Troy: Like a video game?

             Pierce: Yes, very much like a video game. You gain levels and at a certain point you actually can eat a ghost.

              Troy: What! I wanna eat a ghost!

  • Everyone else is on board with Reformed Neo-Buddhism when Pierce informs them the ocean will taste like Hawaiian Punch upon Buddha returns. [The group’s trademark simultalk]
  • Music note: Mama Pierce's gangster play-out song "Best of the Best" is written for the show by in-house rapper Jacques Slade aka KU.
  • This is the actress who voices Pierce's mom:http://www.imdb.com/name/nm011… She even looks the part. In 107, it was this woman on Pierce's uncooperative cell phone:http://www.imdb.com/name/nm050…, although I swear it sounded like Dan Harmon doing a geriatric Jewish woman.
  • Guest: Patton Oswalt plays Nurse Jackie. He previously appeared in 108.
  • Cameo: Alan Sepinwall can be scene leering on as Britta and Annie exchange oil. –http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…
  • Cross-promotion: That oil is Wilde Oil, a reference to Running Wilde, a Russo Bros production. – http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…


06/07/2012 12:11 PM  26 LIKES  &  06/07/2012 12:12 PM   16 LIKES

On the A.V. Club: – http://www.avclub.com/articles/digital-estate-planning-the-first-chang-dynasty-in,73676/#comment-549964117 (page 95)



  • Is Alan Sepinwall in every television program ever? This dude gets around.

  • what else has he been in?

  • Los Pollos Hermanos I thought he was in an episode of Cougar Town too. Maybe I just made that up…

  • Why weren't those tags switched?

  •  what the fuck dude?

  • We're doing reviews of season 2, Yee Yee.

  • When posts start getting dedications, you know we're getting somewhere.

  • Scrawler once said she links to Todd's 203 review on her Facebook because it's crucial to understanding who she is. Todd really nailed it. I couldn't put it any better than "Do what you can."

  • It's still there in my "About Me" section as one of the most important things to experience to understand me as a person.

  • Professor Whitman would have been proud of that sundae Jeff was eating at the end. Carpe diem, good sir. That's one of the more inspiring parts of the episode to me. Enjoy life. Why the hell not?

  • http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…
    Jeff's ice cream diplomacy needs to become a thing

  • What does this say about Chang's gesture a few episodes later?



    Persona non grata, Chang.  Persona non grata /comfort.

  • Awwwwwww, a dedication! I'm sincerely and honestly touched. Thank god I have someone else whose shared my love for this episode all these months, because I would have gone crazy otherwise. You kept me sane, dude.

    Secondly, just a beautiful analysis. Seriously home run-level work here, Lloyd. You broke down the characters so well, particularly Troy, whose journey here is really not discussed as often as it should be, you're right.

    I tend to focus on the Jeff aspect of the story, because that's the one I relate to the most. I do find that whenever various parts of my life are in turmoil and uncertain, I start dwelling on my own mortality more than is strictly healthy. Logically we all know that, of course, someday we will all die. But in times of health, it's easy to think about it as an abstract and even easier to fall into a false belief that it's something that will happen "to everyone else, but not me" or that it's so far off that you don't really have to think about it at all yet. But, of course, that's not true at all. So when you're forced to confront it, it can be easy to spiral into a feeling that your whole life is out of control and none of your goals will come to fruition and all of your best efforts are meaningless.

    I also get a lot out of the Abed story, in spite of its slightness, because I try so hard in life to be an optimist in most aspects of life, but it's really very hard to maintain when faced with my crushing fear of my own life ending. Really the only way to cope, when I get into a bad place, is to think about life from a bigger perspective than my own and Abed's story reminds us of that, particularly at the end, when I really needed it.

    Lastly, I while the Britta and Annie storyline isn't one of the best the show's ever done, I do think that it acknowledges a truth that many friends are competitive with each other, in spite of their mutual affection. I mean it's really not all that different from Troy's jealousy over Abed's athleticism in S1, right? And I think you're so right that it did serve a much-needed purpose in calling Annie out on her behavior being intentional, even if she pretends it's not.

  • The Annie thing is a subtle way of showing the viewer that Manipulative Annie is actually Annie being manipulative, not just naturally cute and adorable. Jeff was on to her earlier, but it brings the heretofore angelic Annie down a peg. Necessarily so. 

  • I was going to inject my own feelings about this in the review but I didn't know how to articulate it without sounding like a pious hack, so I will do it here. I have a similar obsession with death as yours, but not my own, just the whole thing itself. Like, if a family member goes out for the day, I'll make sure to say bye and get a "last look" at them. It's fucked up. I'm consumed by the fickleness and tragedy of death everywhere, what it does to families and how people cope with it. I'm constantly amazed by the resiliency of people and groups who deal with its many faces, but I also never feel better because of those stories. A stand up bit from Louie always sticks with me: “That’s the best-case scenario. You’re going to lose your best friend, and then just walk home from D’Agostino’s with heavy bags every day, and wait for your turn to be nothing also.”

    Before anyone asks, no, I did not like Crash.

  • Yes! I do the same thing. Both my sister and I are famous amongst our family and friends for immediately assuming someone is dead if they are late or if anything goes wrong. It's fucked up. Also, when I get in a fight with someone, I'm always afraid that they will die before we're able to make up.

    I love the C.K. quote, too, and also hate Crash.

  • I thought I was the only one!  I do that, too, and working in a hospital, seeing the utter fickleness of minor little things sometimes killing people and major, terrible things sometimes not doesn't help.  Nice to know I'm not alone in my neuroticism.

  • Annie and Britta…hmmm.

    I haven't really given those two a lot of thought, to be honest. At this point in the show, its reasonable that they'd be a little bit uncomfortable with each other. Annie is young and infatuated, Britta is immature and threatened. Putting them back to buddy-buddy terms would reek of the reset button, especially given the "I'm not Juno, homeslice" conversation from Romantic Expressionism. They weren't necessarily for Jeff, but he was definitely the driving force. 

    Later in the season, Britta is somewhat fulfilled by her friends with benefits relationship with Jeff. In the meantime, Annie is left hanging romantically, although Jeff clearly still has an affection for her. At this point, it's still understandable that there would be tension between the two, as each one has what the other wants; Britta and Jeff are in some sort of a relationship, while Annie has a genuinely caring friendship. I guess it would be natural for those two to not be necessarily close due to the circumstances, but I'd hate to think it wasn't any deeper than "they are both hot, therefore they can never get along".

    I think Vampire Mythology was a good step towards putting them on a more sisterly footing, as it was simply Annie trying to be there for Britta when she needed someone. That said, and based on the difficulty I had getting thoughts as scattered as these down on the subject, there's still a lot of room to explore in the Annie/Britta friendship. 

  • Although their main plots are with others in Modern Movement, I do really like the Annie/Britta interaction there.

  • I actually think the episode switch works well because the distance from 201 removes the big fight in that episode as the only context for this one. This one is about them and not necessarily their relationship to Jeff. I just think they missed an opportunity to do something more interesting with them.

    On OVM being a good step, I agree and disagree. They were on good terms but it was based on deception. Annie doesn't even see Britta as a rival anymore–she's constantly rolling her eyes at her antics–so they are even more backgrounded now. That said, Annie is now actively trying to help with Britta's love life so that's pretty healthy. I just wish they actually talked more.

  • was this the only episode where we are told that Annie and Britta ever hang out together, outside of the context of the group? (Shirley's comment about them shopping together).  I wonder if Britta was the one who helped Annie change her wardrobe during season 1.

  • Yea, I'm pretty sure this is the only one on-screen. It's odd, but then again, we don't hear about Annie or Britta having other friends either.

  • That epiphany crystallizes for him how much he has always felt burdened and cursed by his physical talent. He never loved football and indeed resents it because it's all about order and authority–anti-imagination.

    Umm, wow.  I'm not sure I ever really caught that line, much less made that connection.  Nice.  

    Revisiting the genesis of Power of Imagination Troy, I have to say I'm really struck by the transformation in Troy by the end of Season 3.  It's not a big, thunk-you-on-the-head "HE'S CHANGED AND GROWN."  It's more like at some point in S3 he veered off-course by a degree or two, but the difference that was barely noticeable at the vertex of the angle has become visible now that we're further out along the ray (I have no idea why I'm speaking in geometry).  S2 Power of Imagination Troy was still so enthusiastic and we were seeing the pure, innocent joy he got from shedding his cool dude, jock persona and discovering his true, nerdy, fantasy-loving self.  That continued to some degree into season 3–for example, in the tag where they're attacking Jeff the Blorgon (Horror Fiction, maybe?)–but mixed in, though he's still a grown dude playing in a dreamatorium, is a sense of burden: he started doing this for fun but now he needs to continue for Abed.  It's an interesting transformation.

    I don't know what wave of feminism this does or doesn't put me in, but I just can't with the Annie-Britta story (actually, I'd totally blocked out that it was in this particular episode–somehow  I thought it was from a much worse one).  I'm with Todd on this: at this point, putting your two hot lead girls in an oil fight ironically is still just putting your two hot lead girls in an oil fight.  

    Great review of an episode I really didn't appreciate as much the first time through as I do now (which I'll pretty much end up saying about every episode of S2….and pretty much of the series).

  • I'd like to see your Power of Imagination Troy Theorem written in proof form. 

    The terms "theorem" and "proof" are about all that remain of 7th grade geometry.

  • I've got to say, I was pretty disappointed when I got to seventh grade and geometry turned out not just to be learning the names of all the fancy, many-sided geometric shapes.

  • This post was equilateral. 

  • I think Power of Imagination Troy never went away but the difference is that season 2 sparked biological and psychological urges that come with turning 21. They simmered under the surface until finally causing friction with fantastical Troy in season 3. Unlike with Abed, Troy has to juggle the two and even choose between them sometimes.

    In the next episode Troy "pulls rank" on Jeff in the space bus and he's very proud when Jeff calls him captain. After getting that taste for leadership and alpha maledom, he embraces the role and sees Jeff as a rival in the paintball finale, which is why he's so hurt by Jeff belittling him in RCT. Troy in season 1 would have taken that as a compliment.

  • You know, I've never thought about attributing Troy's growing up to him turning 21 and the events of Mixology Certification. That's some really good insight. I didn't really pay it much attention til Dean Laybourne came on the scene, but I'll keep an eye out for those changes in season 2 as well. 

  • I really loved the parallels between Jeff becoming a leader and Troy eventually taking his place over the past couple of seasons, especially in RCT. At the end of the season it really does seem like Troy could be a leader, maybe THE leader (he's already a messiah), and he's proven that by his romance with Britta, his caring for Abed, and his sacrifice to go to the AC school. 

    Oh man, I gotta get out my Campbell. I'm sure Troy's completed his hero's journey now.

  • The thing that works so well with the plumbing/AC story is that it couldn't be a more grounded (literally) preternatural gift for someone like Troy to have, but unlike football, he doesn't see it as a curse this time. That biological urge to grow up and make something of himself causes him to embrace his "gift". He's special, as he tells the janitor, and he likes the sound of that. He's proud of being the AC weirdos' "messiah" and his face lights up when Laybourne mentions "lucrative employment" in the Room Temperature Room.

  • Exemplary work on a stellar episode /cheer.  Shame how Harmon feels down on this episode, as to me it's one of Season 2's best.  It sets up Dark Pierce, exposes the first major fragment/cracking facade of Jeff's Lawyer/Materialist Persona, and everyone gets something to do throughout.

    My take on the Annie/Britta confrontation– while it's a shame they don't build much between Annie/Britta/Shirley in this episode, nor this season, nor the next season, at ALL remotely the way they built things up in Season One, this dispute DOES settle the love triangle generated animosity.  And I feel any future outbursts between Britta and Annie refers more to projections of their own insecurities than something they directly feel for one another beyond "grass is greener" social envy.

    Using Cooperative Calligraphy as an example–  yes Annie does call out Britta as the first major Pen Thief Suspect™.  And yes Britta's the main naysayer who thinks Annie must have found it later on and is pretending to still not have it to avoid looking foolish. 

    But once Britta's bag is emptied, Annie moves directly onto everyone else one by one; her feelings there are focused more on the group's general disregard for her role and her things (now that I think about it, sort of an offshoot of Pierce's general anger in S2– "you people don't take me seriously!").  Attacking Britta's scholastic deficiency and unpreparedness (condoms and used q-tips aside) is simply the Occam's Razor approach to find the culprit as fast as possible. 

    Conversely, Britta doesn't take Annie's assault as personally as one might expect.  To her in this instance it's more that EVERYONE lets her bag be inspected; the loss of privacy and personal trust just to find a pen.  Lashing back at Annie's just a way to vent, more so than representing any pent up angst about any resentment towards Annie.

    In any event,  is it a shame these gals didn't get considerably more time these past two seasons as well as character development?  Most definitely.  But I also think what real gaps or chasms of tension these two ladies in particular had got resolved by this episode's end with good wholesome oil wrestling.  It's why Duncan came to America! 

  • I really loved Britta and Annie's scene in "Studies In Modern Movement," as a moving past the Jeff-love-triangle, bitchy-girl-relationships characterization towards a more maternal or sisterly vibe. I don't think they get paired up enough, and I think they're interesting together: both are women coming into their own at community college, but at very different stages in their lives. Britta could learn from Annie's dedication and innocence, while Annie could learn from Britta's silliness and willingness to go with the flow.

  • Agreed.  I love the mutual understanding and rapport they have, both during Studies in Modern Movement and Origins of Vampire Mythology.   Shame we didn't get more of that throughout season 2 and 3. 

    Let alone giving Shirley some face time in there too. 


    Definitely trumps

    Though we did get this

  • i think annie and britta do share at least one bond: annie and britta start out working together to support a good cause, because both of them share an underlying optimism and need/want to help others. they just have different ways of expressing it and possibly different reasons for feeling that way. it would be easy to say that red-haired guy is right and that the oil spill issue was something everyone was for, thus this common bond is meaningless, but (a) universal bonds are the opposite of meaningless and (b) annie and britta's desire to do good in this manner has been shown before (guatemala).

    as someone who lives in new orleans, i have to say it felt really good to hear red-haired guy say that, by the way. i didn't watch this at the time it aired, and my life was not immediately affected by the spill, but watching the whole thing unfold was definitely a very upsetting experience. it kinda put blinders on me at the time, so i was more or less unaware of any sort of common support–i could just see b.p. fucking up in trying to fix it, over and over and over and over. so even belatedly hearing this idea of universal support of the crisis was a nice reminder/eye-opener.

  • Has anyone mentioned how hilarious this episode is?
    Some of the greatest hits: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…

    Commence quotes thread

  • "Oh, cool, we made the list!"

    "Is this anesthesiology?"

    I do forget how funny this episode is. I tend to focus on the heavier aspects of the Jeff/Pierce/Troy plot, but it's got some great bits in it. 

  • "here's to having fun in pairs!"

  • My true favorite is the "let me get to the can opener" quote, but I find "I'm so glad this tragedy overshadowed Haiti. I couldn't think of anything for that" wickedly funny too.

  •  The can opener quote is one of my top 5 quotes from the whole show. It so nicely reflects the sometimes exploitative way the group sees Jeff (he's there to fix things and be the ultimate arbiter of conflicts), as well as Jeff's reluctantly protective role – he's like a bemused dad assaulted by his brood of toddlers. Or hungry kittens.

  • Duncan using his "force field" on Chang is never not funny, most especially when he does it in the midst of lecturing Jeff.

    “Did I accidentally tell you you have AIDS, because I've done that before.”

  •  Oh, God, Duncan and his pompous vortex of overlapping fangs:


  • Hee hee. I giggle just looking at that pic.

  •  Which reminds me: I absoultely LOVE the way the show dresses Duncan: it's all stripes, and paisleys and warm browns and purples.

  • Yeah Duncan really is very well dressed on this show. I don't really focus on it, but he definitely is.

  • "These paps aren't going to smear themselves."

    "Well then you're not listening because his has lasers"

  • "Guys go home and make socks with your name on it."
    "If a guy wants to make a puppet of me, that's hardly your concern."

    Oh, Annie…

  • The_Tuna

    I love this joke. Really surprised they got away with it.

  • The_Tuna I'm still surprised that the whole Dalmatian fetish thing happened in the first season. Was NBC not watching the show at all?

  • Annie's "lording my righteousness over Jeff" face might be my new favorite Annie face. Oh, my. 

  • Indeed. Who knew that lording righteousness could be so adorable?

  • Britta does it too, but Annie's is so cute and "dangerous". –http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…

  • When they wrote the "you're dangerous" line, they were. Not. Kidding. 

  • Great review!

    I'll just jot down some observations in no particular order of importance:

    Britta and Annie

    Hey, that oil fight really was something, amirite? Youwza! Hubba-hubba! Auugahhh! /Whacks head with mallet/

    Oil wrestling aside, I don't think Annie and Britta's rivalry here has anything to do with Jeff. Rather it has to do, just like everything else in this episode, with the fear of irrelevance, aging, and mortality. Britta and Annie bond over one of Britta's favorite activities: protesting and random cause taking-up. Not just a favorite activity in fact – but rather one of Britta's defining characteristics – something that individuates her just as much as Jeff's shallow cynicism and good looks individuate him. Seeing Annie succeed without even trying crushes Britta. It's not just that Annie is better than her, it's that Annie is better than her by appealing not to the altruistic, sincere, outraged-at-corporate-immorality-and-common-man-suffering side of people that she has valued since 102, but to the absolute lowest, most leering common denominator: people give Annie money because she's hot.

    Britta is going here, imo, through the same motions and emotional states as Jeff. Jeff realizes that his good looks and finely tuned body (he waxes, you know?) are failing him; and Britta recognizes that her moral authority and and leadership (doesn't really matter that they aren't all that great, or even real; Jeff isn't exactly the ladies' man he fancies himself to be, either) aren't as persuasive as she thought they were.

    That all this resolves itself with an exploitative oil fight is actually quite a brilliant move on the part of the show. The whole episode is about surface and depth: Pierce's Laser Lotus cult seems stupid, but it actually affords him a comfort that Jeff's self worship doesn't. Jeff may look awesome on the outside, but inside he's insecure and anxious (not to mention cholesterol-laden). Troy may seem like a dim nerd, but inside he's wrestling with some pretty weighty issues. Abed may seem to lack emotion and empathy, but he spends the whole episode helping out a complete stranger. And finally, Britta and Annie's cat fight may look like every fan's wet dream, but it's really not about sex at all.

    Abed's little side adventure

    On the surface, this looks like a textbook case of Matt Weiner Symbolism!™: one life ends while another begins. But where Weiner would have went in and underlined everything with a fluorescent marker, put in a nice parallel montage, and maybe added a nice blinking sign to make sure nobody missed the point, Community places the whole thing in the background, where it's barely even seen. It's a lovely little ray of optimism, in a otherwise rather dark episode, as well as a good bit of character development for Abed, who proves to be the most selfless and altruistic of the bunch (helping out a random stranger, seeing a need and doing something about it, literally while Britta and Annie duke it out in the name of moral superiority and Jeff wants to make Pierce just as miserable as he is).

  • I really like your take on the Annie/Britta fight.

    Then again, I also like Matthew Weiner Symbolism.

  •  I like Weiner's use of symbols quite often. I just don't like it when he feels compelled to point at it again and again. It's why I'll always consider BB as the far superior show.

  • I honestly can't choose between the two. They both do what they do so well. When MM is on I think it's the better show, then when BB is on I think it's the better one. I get what you mean about Weiner, but 99 percent of the time it doesn't bother me, because he's skillful enough to do it really well. (Now his imitators, on the other hand, should all be taken out back and shot.)

  • Scrawler That's exactly how I feel about both shows.  I like whichever one I saw last the best. 

  •  MM can do very subtle things. But when it decides to bring out its SYMBOLISM!! guns, it rarely does well. It seems far too enamored with its own weightiness and cultural cachet, in a way that BB never is (despite, imo, being the far more profound and intriguing show).

  • I liked both of the two most recent episodes pretty damn well, although two weeks ago more than last week, and they couldn't have possibly been more heavy with the symbolism. If they did that week after week, it would be tiresome. But considering that prior to that there was a long stretch of glacially paced episodes with very subtle plot motions, I'm willing to take it as part and parcel of the artwork. I guess what I'm saying is that I see what you're talking about, but it just doesn't bother me. The two shows are very different and I wouldn't want either one to be more like the other.

  • BB did that circle of life thing too with SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER the murder of Combo followed by Holly's birth SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER. Granted, it wasn't too heavy-handed and it implicates Walt in both instances.

  •  Well, that's just it – it's because Walter had a hand in both, and one in essence was paying for the other.

  • Great review, LloydBraun !

    It might be a bit of a stretch, but, in the same way that that group lets Pierce have his comforting fiction–something that is clearly illogical but maybe makes him happier than facing cold truth–the episode also does this with other characters. Putting your father's Ferrari in reverse does not make the odometer move backwards, and eating a million egg whites–though preferable to eating a million egg yolks, of course–does not actually de-age you. Jeff was taking them like medicine almost. I think in his head he was letting himself think they would undo some damage to the temple rather than just not do further damage.

    Similarly, the thought process that leads to the decision of having the ice cream doesn't quite hold up to scrutiny. It does work as a "Wedding cake!" moment, but logically it is not sound, of course, even if it's churlish to point this out. It might be the case that Jeff would have been a lot worse off, health-wise, had he eaten all those donuts along the way. It's a fallacy that if something can't be perfect, then no small, marginal improvement is worth pursuing. But, again, the comforting fiction here is that death might kick our ass no matter what we do, but we maintain some degree of control by sometimes being contrary. Like Annie and Abed in VSA, Jeff has been running a scenario where he lives well (works out, eats healthy food) and lives a long time, if not forever. ("living god"?)

  • That's a really good point. Jeff thinks he's beating the system by doing all the healthy things he can think of, but really he's just maybe possibly gaming it, if he gets really lucky and doesn't get hit by a car or struck by lightning or something random like that. There are no shortcuts, although just ignoring the rules altogether is a terrible idea, too.

  •  Jeff's delusion is one you see commercialized everyday in the form of diets and eating tips that tell you that if you only eat broccoli and alfalfa sprouts you will never age and live to 150. It's peddling fear of death and irrelevance couched in health advice.

    It's cool to see the subtle echo of Jeff's salad-based diet in Britta's lunches of celery and mustard.

    Also, Jeff talks about dabbing his pizza with napkins, and then in RCT gingerly picks at a slice. Yay, continuity!

  • Another continuity win: http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…

    There are several other cafeteria scenes with him eating next to nothing. Like they say on the DVDs, his diet is egg whites and pushups.

  • I didn't see it so much as embracing a fallacy as an empowering realization for Jeff. It comes from part of Pierce's mom's message;

    "Life is only worth a damn because it's short. It's designed to be consumed, used, spent, lived, felt."

    There's no reason to deny yourself things you enjoy in hopes of living forever. Otherwise, all the extra time you may get isn't worth it. Nobody lives forever. Therefore, the best way to spend the time you have is by doing things you enjoy because they make you happy now, instead of skipping them because that might buy you a few extra minutes on the back end. 

    Jeff had always gone too far into the "I want to live forever" direction. I'm not suggesting he should have started shooting donuts straight into his veins, but there's nothing wrong with taking advantage of life's little pleasures every now and then. Hence, some ice cream with fudge and peanut butter. What the hell, right?

  • To the Empowerage of Words.

    Seriously. Beautiful stuff, LloydBraun.  Super-duper discussion by everyone as well.

    So … where's this ice cream place?

  • To the irony of that sentence. 

  • The full "Best of the Best" play out song

  • Not sure if this has been mentioned yet (it probably has), but the following is probably my favorite freeze frame moment of the entire series.


    "Proportions" in quotes never fails to make me laugh.

  • Dan Harmon's walkthrough

    "I think part of the reason we flopped episodes two and three is because I got anxious about that one. I think that was kind of a misfire, frankly. The whole B-story was literally about Annie and Britta changing sweaters and doing impressions of each other. The buck stops here. I remember running with that ball, just sort of falling into that, “Yeah, this feels good because this feels like something on television.” And once we were on the set and I was watching this thing unfold and then editing it, I was like, “What have I done? This is like Small Wonder or something.” You could hear the spaces where there’s supposed to be a multi-camera audience applauding because someone’s dressing like the other person and doing an impression of them. This is your second episode of a season that no one watched the first season of. This is both pretentious, presumptuous, and, at the end of it all, tacky, twee, and underwhelming. And you’re using it to anchor a story about a lava lamp that may or may not contain the soul of Chevy Chase’s mother?

    I got really nervous about the episode and thought—and I think simultaneously the network probably did too, so it was an easy conversation to have—“You know, this ‘Accounting For Lawyers’ episode is really turning out swell. It really feels like a second episode.” And so we made a quick flop. Sometimes that happens. It seems like an even enough exchange, because it felt like they were both just modular episodes, and it was easy enough to put our best foot forward, and we
    were helping this supposedly weaker episode by getting to know these characters a little more first. You didn’t ask for all that commentary on the quality of the episode, but I look back on it like the shadow of what certain people expect of our show when they say, “You’re getting too weird.” I wonder if they understand what comfort really looks like, and how uncharismatic it would wear on our show."

    Too bad, Dan Harmon, I like your show.

  • Haaarrrrrmon!

    ::shakes fist::

    I remember being so shocked and sad when I read those words. I already felt like we were the only ones that liked this episode and then on top of that the damn creator didn't even think it was good.

  • The theme of that entire walkthrough was Harmon underrating himself. It's why I'm so anxious to see the season 3 walkthrough 

  • Those walkthroughs were such a jolt of negativity after a great season. It seriously made me question my investment in the show, as in, "If the creator hates it so much, why should I love it?" I know Dan Harmon much better now.

  • There were other episodes, too, that he commented people (fans) were being negative towards…and I only had love for those episodes. I don't even remember what ones, but I couldn't help but think he was talking to the weirdest subset of people who were disappointed.

  •  I actually like it that he's so relentlessly negative and insecure. It's selfish of me, I know, but I think the show wouldn't have been quite as good, if Harmon hadn't been so terribly harsh on himself and pushed himself to keep doing better.

  • I can't describe how much I love that Dan Harmon's critique of himself/an episode of his show is "this feels like something on television." That is, in a nutshell, why the show can never be as good without him again.

  • The mere fact that he critiques himself in that manner is why Community ISN'T like anything else on television, and nothing may ever be again. It's pretty clear Community's meta self-reflective nature is mostly because that's exactly how Dan Harmon is in real life. 

    That walkthrough is gold. Sad gold, but so much fun to read.

  • This is both pretentious, presumptuous, and, at the end of it all, tacky, twee, and underwhelming.

    (in Troy voice of awe): I wanna talk like that!

  • Oh he's got Harmon DOWN!

  • I remember that this is one of the only episodes that deals with death in a way that plays it for both comedy and heart. If there's too much of one, it's just a plot device to generate laughs, and if there's too much of the other, it becomes A Very Special Episode About Death, Dying And How To Cope With It. I found Pierce being vulnerable really touching, for some reason, and his mom's CD message a poignant moment weirdly placed between a scene of some girls wrestling (eh, that plot didn't really make an impact on me).

    I'm not sure if this was the first episode where I knew Community had an important message about life and living and growing up to tell me, but this is the one I remember. I loved getting to know everyone in season one as characters, but season two they really started to deepen: here's when things got real. I shouldn't have been so surprised at "Mixology", because this episode does serious and silly very, very well (at least in the Jeff/Troy/Pierce storyline).

    Also, I guess it makes sense that Pierce would "go dark" this season of all seasons. His mom dies, the KFC space voyage reminds him of his father (who he hates, but is his only living parent now), he breaks his legs and isn't able to interact with the group as easily because he's either high on pills or cumbersome in the wheelchair (re: trying to get into the bar in "Mixology"), and then after feeling alone and isolated because of death and injury they leave him out of playing D&D. He's a sad, lonely old man who's lost a lot of people, whose only constant has been Greendale, and even then Greendale turns into a place that reminds him of his friends who constantly exclude him. He is so incredibly sad as a character. I'm glad season three had him interacting more with everyone, and even though he experiences more loss (re: his dad dying) he seems to rely on the group more.

  • The_Tuna

    I really like the analysis of Troy's role here, since, as you note, it's generally one that is overlooked.

    Overall, I find that the flippant and absurd tone of the episode contrasts rather powerfully with the very dark central theme. I mean, Christ, Pierce's mom died and Jeff is having a nervous breakdown over the prospect of his inevitable death, and we have Pierce's mom rapping and Britta and Annie mud-wrestling.  It's a great contrsat, and the hallmark of a great show like Community or [insert obligatory Buffy plug here] is the ability to use humor to make you contemplate these themes further even as you're laughing.

  • That's my preferred way of thinking about things: laughing but serious. Probably why The Daily Show/The Colbert Report are my favorite ways to hear about news, even though I also watch "real" news. Somebody has to have a sense of humor about things, right?

  • Good review! I'd never even thought about this ep as being important in Troy's development.

    I did always like Chevy's acting in the car. His way of expressing going through several emotions without making a big thing about it is impressive. That's why I think Pierce is a much better role for Chase than he understands. When he was the one getting the laugh lines and being the cool guy in movies, he never had to do subtle work like this.

  • Chevy's performance always surprises me for how subtle it is. I don't even think he knows he's doing it? Not sure. But for some reason it keeps sneaking up on me.

  • I agree. I thought his speech in the end of season two was really moving, probably my favorite Chevy Chase thing ever. I wish he knew what a gem this show is, and wasn't all complain-y about it all the time.