Community: The Movie – by Tereglith
COMMUNITY: THE MOVIE
A story treatment by Tereglith
We start with a montage that intercuts between these scenes:
-Jeff is walking through his old law firm, greeting various other lawyers with increasingly obnoxious special waves and handshakes. He enters his office and the fake smile drops off his face. He opens up his e-mail and sees an invitation to be promoted to partner. He seems torn by the prospect.
-Annie is on break at a hospital, standing by the water cooler and observing all the nurses and doctor helping people hands-on. She looks at them admiringly, then heads back to her office (shut off from the good work done by the hospital) and begins to work on a pile of meaningless paperwork.
-Troy is working on a huge, complex A/C unit. He messes around with a few parts and suddenly it starts running. A thankful customer hands him a check, and he heads glumly back to the A/C repair van and sits in the passenger seat. His assistant starts driving.
-Britta is at her apartment going through her mail. She opens up a letter that is a cease-and-desist order for her rinky-dink psychology practice. She pets her one-eyed cats for comfort.
-Shirley is dealing with her now early-teenage boys and four-year-old Ben. Business and entrepreneurial books are scattered around the house, used only as coasters. There is clearly a meaningless crisis going on between the boys, and she is too tired to deal with it. She sits down at the dining room table, exasperated.
-Abed is working behind a Falafel counter. A customer comes up wearing a Star Wars logo shirt. Abed asks him about some piece of SWEU minutiae, and the customer walks away, confused that someone would associate wearing a shirt with having knowledge of that featured on the shirt. Abed looks disappointed, then consciously pulls himself back into a helpful Falafel attendant persona.
-Pierce walks bewildered through a well-ordered lecture hall where people are studiously taking notes as a dull teacher drones on about a dry, academic subject. Eventually he finds an open space at the very back table and sits down.
Once all these settings are established, we see Jeff’s office from above as he sits down in his chair. A black rectangle descends from the top of the screen so that Jeff’s desk is on the bottom edge of the screen.
Filling in part of the black rectangle is a small rectangular overhead view of Britta’s cat-covered table spliced in above Jeff’s desk so that the edges of the furniture line up. Above that we have an overhead view of Abed’s falafel counter, with the counter lining up with Britta’s table. The dashboard of the AC van takes the corner, and lines up with the edge of Pierce’s table, the corner of which becomes defined by the corner of Shirley’s table, the edge of which lines up with the front of Annie’s desk, which matches with the other side of Jeff’s desk. The final effect is an overhead shot of the study room table stitched together from the different surfaces, but divided up so that everyone is in their separate places, cut off from one another.
There is still an empty space in the center. It fills with the actual part of the study room table that would go in that spot in a real overhead shot. On the table appears in blue “Community”, and then, below that “The Movie”
Cue theme song.
[NOTE: Assume that in the actual movie there would be funny stuff throughout.]
It’s three years after graduation. Jeff is still sitting at his desk, contemplating the offer to move up to partner. Instead of answering it, he opens a new browser window and checks his other e-mail. There is an invitation to the one-year memorial service for Rob Corddry’s character (he couldn’t swim with the sharks either),and an e-mail that we get to read asking whether he’s found “the loophole I asked for.” After answering that yes, Jeff has found the loophole, “the time and place for the final competition are not specified and can therefore take place anywhere”, he opens up an e-mail from Annie inviting him to the Greendale Class of ’13 three-year reunion. Jeff pulls out his phone and enters ‘recent contacts’. He seems surprised by how far he has to scroll down before reaching Annie’s number.
He asks her about the reunion and she tells him that she’s organized it to catch up with all their other classmates, but also to get the group back together and attempt to figure out why they drifted apart. During the call we get a better idea of what her job in healthcare management is like – soul-deadeningly bureaucratic and pointless.
The next day, everybody except Pierce meets up at the campus. They are amazed to find a campus that’s devoid of silliness and weirdness. There’s no more hat club, no ads for an upcoming STD Fair. The entire atmosphere seems very… collegiate. In stark contrast to the unfettered mayhem they remember, there is a strictly-organized and obedient Paintball Militia practicing on campus.
Because there are no real events planned for the impromptu class reunion, they’re at a loss for what to do. Abed suggests visiting some of their old teachers, but when Annie looks through a staff guide they find that everyone they remember – Whitman, Duncan, Garritty – is gone.
Perplexed by this staff exodus, the six wander through the halls getting caught up with one another’s lives since they stopped meeting regularly almost eighteen months ago. As they go they notice that the new students are giving them strange looks, whispering about them as they pass. Even beyond these strange looks and furtive communications, the students seem sadder than their classmates were, lacking any joie de vivre.
Annie makes the six of them slow down in the library and admits to everyone that she gathered them together to see if they could figure out why they drifted apart, not actually as a reunion. Flashbacks take us back to a couple years ago, when Annie was always trying to organize events and manipulate people into attending and enjoying them. Everyone was a guilty party in their drifting apart; soon after Alan died, Jeff became preoccupied with getting his job back, rationalizing that even if he had learned life lessons at Greendale they had still been in service of him getting back on the bar. Shirley attempted to steer their meet-ups towards being serene, pie-infused family gatherings, while Abed and Troy wanted to spend time watching Blade and such, or screening Abed’s films (which grew more and more infrequent). Pierce had stopped participating during a brief period when they tried to have a regular D&D group and he couldn’t steal the DM guides, and he never came back. Britta was against having regular, planned meetings after graduation in the first place.
Overall, the old pairings just aren't working. Troy and Abed are now separated by Troy’s begrudging maturity and Abed’s falafel -damaged interactive mechanisms (he’s spent so long interacting with people who don’t understand him or his pop culture references that he’s created a bland, Lindbergh-Lean-doing persona to work behind the counter, and has to consciously pull himself back towards being himself now that he’s back with the study group). The idealism that drew Jeff to Annie seems to have been buried under hospital paperwork. Britta is still reeling from the news about her psychology practice, Shirley is burnt out, and Jeff is still mulling over his potential partnership. The six wonder whether there’s anything that can unite them again.
They look towards the study room. Its blinds are closed. They all realize that if anything can pull the group back together, it has to be the magic table. As one, they stand up and move towards the doors. They open them, and survey the familiar setting…
Except that there’s something weird going on. People are inside, six people who look suspiciously like a replacement study group, and one person whose back is turned to them. Pierce is sitting in Jeff’s chair, regaling a rapt new study group audience with tales of the Seven’s time at Greendale (with his own role apparently greatly inflated). He has convinced them all that his nickname is Magnum. The replacement study group is almost as astonished as Pierce is to see the Seven back together. In fact, when they ask
a few questions of the group members, they quickly realize that a lot of the things that ‘Magnum’ did in the stories were Jeff’s actions, and reject him.
Disappointed at the loss of his sycophants but glad to see his friends again, Pierce briefly tells his story. When all of them graduated three years prior, it was Pierce’s third time doing so – he holds degrees from Greendale in Fashion Design, Chinese History, and Sewing, and in the three years since he’s been working on a Bachelors of Stenography. He never told them he was still attending because he’s never told anyone he knew until graduation that he was still attending. Greendale has provided him with a constant stream of fresh starts.
Since they left, he tells them, the school has changed a great deal, and not for the better. The Dean has done the worst thing possible – he’s made Greendale a Legitimate School, positioning it in direct competition with City College. Everything that the group loved and hated about the school is gone, replaced with tightly controlled academic focus. Pierce has parlayed this change into fame and notoriety for himself and the absent study group. Since they left, the Greendale Seven have become Greendale folk heroes, emblematic of a fun, weird, wacky time that the majority of students don’t even remember. As the only surviving member of the Seven, Pierce has enjoyed a vaunted position as an old hero for the school. Now that they’re back, he says, the rest of the Seven will enjoy the same.
Pierce, being Pierce and projecting his needs and desires onto everyone else, thinks that the rest of the group ought to revel in the respect and legitimacy that he’s managed to give them all, and is perplexed with the rest of the group doesn’t react with pleasure. Any positive reaction they might have had to meeting back up with Pierce is overshadowed by their indignation about the normalization of Greendale. They find themselves binding back into a group almost subconsciously as they head up to the Dean’s office to confront him. They find the Dean sitting in a normal suit, acting completely calm and put-together, discussing with a Sub-Dean of Admissions about which students to let in next semester and which ones will be denied. His costume closet is full… of more suits. He doesn't seem nearly as pleased to see them as they expected – he is polite, but dismissive. He tells them that he’s led Greendale to a new stage in its evolution. The school is completely normal and completely under control. The threat that nearly put them out of business five years ago (paintball) has been under particularly tight control, with an intramural paintball army league forming and the Greendale and City College troops regularly meeting to battle on an off-campus arena. Instead of destroying the campus, they are now competing in a vacuum for a national tournament top prize of nearly half a million dollars. The antics that the Greendale Seven are emblematic of are no longer welcome.
Disillusioned, the group starts to leave, going back through the cafeteria. They’re not sure how to feel about what Greendale has become or whether they can ever come back together. Maybe the study group has come to a new stage in its evolution as well, and for all of them to be under control they need to be apart. After all, it was repeated attempts to control their own lives that helped drive them apart in the first place.
As they come to this glum realization, they realize that Annie’ invite was not merely sent out to the study group; she actually went above and beyond and organized a real reunion, and now everyone from Magnitude (now a successful local politician) and Vicki ( now a professional dancer) to Quendra (now a Quindergarten teacher) and Leonard (provided Richard Erdman is still alive) is back for the ‘festivities’ and hanging out in the cafeteria. They begin to interact with the Study Group when the Dean comes on the intercom and gives a panicked message about a huge invasion force. He is quickly cut off, and Dean Spreck comes over the intercom.
He tells the school that City College has found a loophole in the paintball tournament contract. Once the final two schools are determined, they can have their final fight whenever and wherever they choose. And Spreck has chosen for it to happen here and now. Jeff has a horrible moment of realization as he remembers the e-mail he wrote the previous day – he was the one who found that loophole, carrying out his consulting lawyer-y duties without even considering the consequences. Everyone watches through the windows as the bulk of Greendale’s paintball militia is destroyed in seconds.
The Dean rushes into the Cafeteria with the remnants of the paintball militia just as the doors are barricaded. It is anarchy outside and in; the careful state of control that the Dean has built is in shambles. When asked why it’s such a big deal if they don’t win, he reveals that to build the school’s programs and put it on a par with City College has required an immense amount of money, and without the tournament prize the school will go bankrupt. The Dean begins to panic, and tries to come up with some sort of scheme to seize control of the campus again. He tries to enlist Jeff’s help, since he won the first paintball and helped win the second. Jeff responds that he’s evolved beyond that; he’s retired.
This reference to retirement gives Abed an idea. Finally back in the pop culture swing of things, he realizes that this reunion is now their ‘movie’. "Movie adaptations of serialized television-style stories always involve the heroes banding together to undertake a more epic quest than they ever have before. Serenity. Most of the Muppet Movies. The Spongebob Squarepants Movie. The pattern is always the same,” he says. He can’t decide whether they’re a band of cops going out on one. Last. Mission! or a group of
superheroes getting together Avengers-style (“I’m definitely getting a Lethal Weapon vibe off Shirley, but the superhero thing fits just as well. Troy’s power is plumbing and mechanical systems, Jeff’s the ability to say things and make situations better or worse. Everybody else’s would be kind of contrived, though. “) Either way, though, they’ll have to be triumphant.
Even if Jeff and the rest of the Greendale Seven are reluctant to fight, the others that Annie gathered for the reunion are not. Magnitude and Vicki attempt to rise up as leaders, but the normal Greendale students don’t take to it. They’re weirded out by the idea of a paintball war occurring on campus, and can't be called to action. Everyone, Abed in particular, looks to Jeff to make a Winger Speech at this point, but he refuses. Instead it’s Britta who gives a characteristically impassioned by crappy speech about why Greendale has to be saved. Nothing that she mentions about the school strikes a chord, though, because none of the new students remember it. In the end, the City College troops bust through a door and Troy leads an evacuation through the large utility corridors and ductwork of the school.
The battle rages across the campus, its particulars left to be decided another day for maximum hilarity/awesomeness. The problems that have plagued the group since reuniting persist, however, and Jeff seems unwilling or unable to patch them up with a Winger Speech.
The fighting takes the group to the library, where the split-second decision to lock themselves in the study room (where they’re now surrounded with no apparent avenue of escape) leads to major infighting, anger, and recrimination between group members, alumni, students, and the Dean. It has come out by this point that Jeff is the one who found the loophole, and he is not immune to the scorn.
At last, he simply stands up, walks over, and climbs up to stand on top of the table. Everyone stops talking instantly, and even the guards outside seem to take notice.Jeff takes a deep breath, and as much to himself as anyone, delivers the mother of all Winger Speeches. It is much like the one you see below, except edited for length, Winger-ier, and overall better-written.
“It’s a scary thing to admit, but there is very little that we, as human beings, can control. We’ll try to control everything we can, it’s in our nature. We invented remotes to control TVs, and laser pointers to control cats, and laws to control people. But despite our best
efforts, people still murder and steal, cats still lick their asses in front of company, and Tyra Banks still has more than one show. So we can try to control when we grow up [shot of Troy], or what our talents are [shot of Britta], or how we’ll be remembered after we’re gone [Pierce]. We can do our best to change how much time there is in a day [Shirley], or what pop-culture patterns the world falls into [Abed], or how our friends interact with us and with each other [Annie]. We can do everything in our power to clamp down on the chaos that surrounds us, to control circumstances that are less than ideal [The Dean], but in the end, even if it looks like we’re succeeding, the world will come in and destroy our best-laid plans [Dean Spreck, City College troops].
“And you may be wondering, what’s the point of trying to do anything? If there’s nothing we can control, why not just give up, descend into cynicism, stop caring? [Jeff’s office, where the invitation to be partner lingers on the computer screen] Why not just become a non-agent and let the world do what it will?
“I want you all to look to your le- to look to the person next to you. Because we don’t completely lack control. There is precisely one thing you can control about that person –how you react to them. That’s the one thing we know we can always control, about
everything. And sometimes, we have to react by locking up murderers and thieves. But with other things, when we’re at our best, we react by embracing the things that we have no hope of controlling. We turn the cat licking its ass into a conversation piece. We realize that Tyra makes for a great butt of jokes. And we decide – we all decide – that instead of trying to control the other people in our circle of friends, we’ll react by accepting them, and supporting them, and loving them.
“Greendale might not have been the best school for learning things at, but it had at least one great lesson to teach us. It used to be a flood of unfavorable circumstances so great that we couldn't help but relinquish control of everything but our reactions. And when we did, even though we didn't realize it or learn from it at the time, it made us stronger, as people, and as a group. Once we got out, we started trying to control our circumstances and ourselves, without realizing that the whole world is a Greendale, one that’s bigger and subtler and meaner. And when we did that, we pushed away from each other, and the world pushed us away from being the best that we can be.
“It’s when we stop trying to control our circumstances and start controlling our reactions that we become better than the people we were. Because when you control your reactions there’s a lot that you can change. You can’t stop yourself from growing up, but you can control what growing up means for you [Troy]. You can’t control what people remember about you, but you can control what you do and therefore what stories there are to tell [Pierce]. We can control where we apply our talents [Britta] and how we use our time [Shirley] and whether we’ll keep trying to point out shapes in the world, or try to shape it ourselves [Abed].
“When we stop trying to control the world we can become better than the people we were. And it’s when we stop trying to control each other and start accepting one another that we become better than the group that we were. That’s when we become a Community.”
Looks of reconciliation fly between group members as they realize just how much what Jeff is saying applies to the root causes that drove them apart. There may or may not be a group hug.
“Dea… Craig, Greendale needs to be Greendale. It wasn’t a legitimate school when we went there. I’m not even sure I’d have called it okay. But that’s because it was so much more. When you shut down hat club and stop having dances and start an institutional paintball militia, you’re trying to control your circumstances too much, and you end up in the outside world, playing by City College’s rules. If you’re going to do that, then the only thing left to control is your reaction to loss, because there’s nothing you can control that will change the fact that City College will always win when you’re on their playing field. We beat them into fake space, and we beat them at paintball last time, because they were trying to control Greendale, and that will always fail. Now, you’re trying to control it yourself to fight back against them, and that’s either shooting yourself in the foot or grabbing the sword by the blade, depending on which metaphor you’re using. [The Dean looks more interested in grabbing the sword.]
“I guess what I’m trying to say is, the paintball militia is gone, and things look grim for the school. We can’t control those facts. But what we can control is how we choose to fight back, and where our paintballs fall, and how determined we are to win. FOR GREENDALE!”
What follows is an epic, all-out final battle that shows the study group and the Greendale population at their very best. However, it isn't enough to keep them from being eventually overwhelmed, with Dean Spreck delivering the final paintball shot that gets Dean Pelton. He’s getting started into a really nasty and loathsome villain monologue when Shirley gets pissed off enough to punch him in the face. (Abed: “Okay, that settles it. This was definitely closer to the Avengers than Lethal Weapon.”)
The Dean laments that Jeff’s speech about control is all well and good, but now that Greendale’s spirit has been broken, its campus destroyed, and it’s now bankrupt, he has no idea how to react. But Jeff has figured out a way out.When he told Spreck about the loophole, he was only half-certain it was there.he was giving him what he wanted, because at that point he was still just going with the flow. It would take an experienced and dedicated lawyer, but it would be very possible to argue that Spreck violated the agreement and owes Greendale the prize money plus damages. Annie points out that the opinion Jeff offered is now the official legal stance of his firm; he can’t fight in court against the firm he works for.
Jeff makes a snap decision to control his reaction and with it his life. He can’t fight against his own decision, but the law firm of Winger and Edison can. Annie is surprised, but realizes how much more this seems like her calling than mid-level hospital administration. She agrees.
We go to two years later, when the legitimate 5-year reunion for the Group’s graduating class is occurring. Inspired by the events of the third-year reunion, everyone has turned their life around. We see that Abed is a successful filmmaker, Troy has invented DancePants, Shirley’s Sandwiches now has several locations, Winger & Edison is a successful law firm, and Britta has found a place where her Britta-ness is accepted and celebrated; she now teaches at Greendale.
Everyone filters into the library, meeting up, talking. It’s not the conversation of people separated for months, though; they’ve clearly been meeting regularly. They had all been contemplating going back and sitting in their seats for old times’ sake. They continue to discuss the possibility for a while. We watch through the window from the perspective of the top of the table as, instead of going in, they continue to enjoy each other’s company and drift back out through the library doors.
After the reunion is over, everyone goes back to work. We see Jeff, Annie, and Pierce sitting together around a large wooden table where they conduct the business of their law firm. They are situated such that they’re spaced out across the table, in the same relative positions as they were in the study room. Spliced in over that so that they match up with the edges are Abed at an editing desk for his films, Troy at a drafting table for new DancePants designs, Shirley at a Shirley’s Sandwiches counter, and Britta behind a teacher desk in her classroom at Greendale. This time, however, all the disparate settings only start out sharply delineated, and soon blend into each other. Each table surface slowly morphs to the familiar tan color. The group is now, finally, its own study room table.