Episode 301: Biology 101

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Hector The Well Endowed presents…
Community Season 3. Episode 1. Biology 101. The Review*
 

*review might be pushing it. Things I wanted to write about might be a better subtext.

“So this is the year we all die.”

Depending on your views on season 4, the last line of Biology 101 may or may not be true. Sorry, had to get that joke in. As Jeff uttered those words I had a giggle to myself remembering the anticipation I had for this episode and the subsequent reticence I had at Season 4’s debut outing. It would be easy, and frankly lazy, to compare Season 3’s opener to Season 4’s just to cast it in a better light. And given I am neither lazy nor…well, I am kind of easy but lazy I am not! So that’s the last you’ll hear of Season 4 here (it’s probably not but it’s an admirable goal to have in this review, nonetheless). So what to make of Biology 101 in a vacuum. Well, it’s ambitious. A meta letter to fans and studio’s that this show will never comply with your expectations and will, in fact, distort them just to show that it can. It’s also a reset button attempting to bring Pierce back from the brink, showing how easy it is to be portrayed as the villain of the piece when excluded from the core. It also establishes one of the seasonal themes of separation and how these broken people deal with it. Separation from Greendale, from the study room, from family, from each other and finally from reality itself. As to my review itself, I’m going to attempt (give me props for trying at least people!) to analyse the three storylines; Jeff’s forced separation from the group, Britta’s attempts to help Abed through the trauma of his favorite show being moved to mid season and the Dean’s attempts to make Greendale more college than dorm room; through the looking glass of three different stories that mirror their themes/structure. I figure I can’t top Shinigami in the one for one comparison so I’m gonna throw a bunch at you people to confuse you. It’s how Chang would want it.

1) Jeff’s story/Wanda Maximoff’s arc in Avengers comics since just before Avengers Disassembled.

Jeff Winger; former bad guy turned good guy who turns bad again before being saved. The Scarlet Witch; former bad girl turned good girl who turns bad again before being saved.  Scarlet Witch loses her mind after being separated from her “family”, Jeff Winger does the same. Scarlet Witch married a robot, Jeff almost married Britta-Bot. It writes itself people! Biology 101 in particular is the perfect mirror with which to compare the two characters. Jeff’s imagination has more influence in this episode than in anything we’ve previously seen. The musical number at the start, while a hilarious meta commentary, takes place in Jeff’s head. He wants the group to be normal, he wants to have sex with Annie (I do love how this show continually pokes the bear that is Jeff/Annie shippers), he wants to see Dean Pelton in a dress I guess. The photo he finds of Pierce and Hawthorne Wipes spokesman and rap artist Sugar Cube is, in Jeff’s head, evidence of collusion between Pierce and Professor Kane. The dream sequence showing Jeff how the tables power is turning Jeff into Pierce, the villain in the groups midst. The main driving force behind the actions that lead to the group turning their backs on Jeff are fueled by Jeff’s own insecurities given voice by his imagination. Compare this with Wanda, who’s very power is her imagination. She controls the very essence of chaos and once her insecurities and mental fragility take over, she completely alters reality. She hits the table with an axe (House of M). And in the end (in this case Avengers: The Childrens Crusade) she, like Jeff, is saved by the very beings that inadvertently supplied the doubt and anger that set the events in motion. The smashing of the table is symbolic of more in both the characters and worlds cases too. For Jeff, and the world of Community, it starts the slow move from basing their entire friendship’s around that table in that room to the outside world. For Wanda, it sets her free. For years she’s been a pawn of various villainous types. By breaking the world she forgets and can live a quiet life, at least for a short time. For the Marvel Universe as a whole it took away the ever growing population of mutants, something that would have to be dealt with sooner or later. See, I’m not crazy! Parallels people!

I assume most of the above paragraph will be absolute gibberish to a lot of you so I’ll focus solely on Jeff for a bit. Jeff’s own psychology is better explored here than in any episode of Community, in my humble opinion. We get to see how his brain works and I think it was a noticeable and frankly brilliant choice to switch from the bright, luminous world of the musical number at the weekend to the lifeless, colorless world of his monkey gas hallucination. It shows what a truly divisive and, frankly, broken man Jeff really is. To go from an internal monologue of a B-52’s video starring the people he knows to a dreary, German art film in the space of a day is quite the jump. I honestly see the color pallet of the two dream sequences as more telling of what a broken man Jeff is than his loss of control with the axe. That was a slip, a moment of passion. The dream sequences occurred when he was serene and calm. His appreciation for Pierce taking the mantle of the villain of the group is just as short lived as well. As much as he defends Pierce in his closing Winger Speech, he still will not accept Pierce saying “We’re one in the same.” Acceptance has always been the biggest theme running through Community so for Jeff to still not accept, after everything he went through in the course of Biology 101 that he is somewhat like Pierce shows how far the character still has to go. But, like Scarlet Witch before him, as the season plays out and the separations get bigger, Jeff might just come to terms with who he is.

2) Britta and Abed’s Story/Henchman 21’s story arc in Venture Brothers

Another tale of loss, separation and recovery here this time aided by what can only be described as Season 1 Britta. Struggling to help her friend but failing at every attempt until finally stumbling upon the answer. The comparison here, though, would be between Abed and Henchman 21 from The Venture Brothers. Abed’s first sign of his reluctance to let things go (which obviously will be a continuing theme throughout the season) starts with a scream. With Cougar Town being moved to mid season one of the constant sources of happiness in his life departs but, with the help of a consoling Troy, he manages to stay afloat. That is until Britta gives him the original British version of Cougar Town, Cougarton Abbey, which culminates in everyone killing themselves after 8 episodes. This leads to Abed’s almost catatonic state until Britta finally comes through giving us Inspector Spacetime, the joke that can NEVER GET OLD. Compare this with 21 in The Venture Brothers, a content henchman for supervillain The Monarch until his best bud and fellow henchman, 24, dies horribly. Like Abed, a breakdown occurs with 21 (Gary) seeing 24 everywhere and becoming more and more intense and volatile in his henching duties. This all culminates in his departure from The Monarch’s service to work for an old organisation that’s been around for years, Sphinx. While Abed’s arc as a character throughout the first 3 seasons is a better mirror for Henchman 21’s journey throughout The Venture Brothers run, the comparison works in this episode as well as any other individual one. And not just because Gary would probably watch Inspector Spacetime too.

Abed’s journey in Biology 101 pretty much sums up the entire season for him. The, at the very least imagined, loss of his closest friend, the groups tribulations resulting in them having to live their lives outside the safety net of Greendale (beautifully illustrated in the mid season metaphor: If you aren’t part of the regular season rotation you’re living on the edge of losing it all) all lead Abed to go deeper into himself leading to darker storylines for the character. The fact that it’s Britta that pulls him out of his flunk in this episode and Britta that “therapises” Abed in the final episode of the season is surely no coincidence either. Abed inspires Britta to keep trying despite the doubt and brilliantly specific insults thrown at her. The use of TV shows as therapy probably hits a chord with everyone reading this too. I know it did with me at least. Abed’s characterisation this season is something that I’m sure will warrant a lot of discussion but this seems to be the starting point for the exploration of Abed’s psyche. And while not as obvious because It’s pretty much the C plot, it has important ramifications for both characters going into the year. Abed and Britta have an almost symbiotic relationship at times this season and this is one of the first indications of it, a reminder of times gone past (Introduction to Film) and a hint of the season to come. Plus, Inspector Spacetime. Everyone loves that, right?

3) The Deans Story/My perceived notion of how Guarisco and Port’s tenure as showrunners of Community went

Hey, I got through most of this, right?! Okay, so when I was trying to come up with a good comparison piece in media I stumbled across this wayward thought which is entirely subjective but I thought it would be funny. They were hired to bring a bit of normality/save money/not be complete assholes. Despite the Dean seemingly taking on Dan Harmon’s personality, his actions were more (my imagined) Guarisco and Port: “See? This is the kind of national lampoonery that is coming to an end this year.” Unfortunately, imagined Guarisco and Port hadn’t counted on the fact that 80% of Greendale’s money is supplied by the Air Conditioner Repair Annex (the crazily motivated fan movement) run by John Goodman (@violincatherine on twitter) who decides to shut him down and shave his stylish goatee (foreshadowing?). It all ends up being the same show “with the noticeable exception we won’t really have any money.” Now, while my example is ridiculous and meant to make at least one of you giggle, it really is the old “the more things change, the more they stay the same” type message. The fact is that the show had established a beat for itself, created a niche. To abandon that niche, to completely change the show/school from what made it special would result in all the money/fans being pulled from the show. It’s as simple a commentary as that. Dan Harmon can change who he is, he can put on a suit and demand focus and realistic targets from his writers room/school but they’ve already been on campus for 2 years and there’s a monkey living in the vents. No amount of monkey knock out gas and reduced funding would change how this show/Greendale does things. And that’s kind of special.

And that’s that. Biology 101 is, more than the Pilot or Anthropology 101, sets the tone for the entire season. A mix of cartoonish laughs (Chang), redeemed villains (Pierce) and goatee’s to accompany the themes of separation, loss and family. And that’s what this is about really. Do I believe Annie would have not been friends with Jeff anymore? Pierce was a monster in the previous season and yet they kept coming back to him. It was said in anger. These people are a family. A family that fight and bicker and hate and yet love each other so much that one of the members would search to look for a television show that lasts practically infinitely just to make a friend happy. But the season ahead tests these characters commitment to each other like never before which is why, if I was to nominate a theme for the discussion below, it would be separation. In this episode, Jeff is gone from this magical group of people for around a day and completely loses it. Now that speaks to Jeff’s own psychological issues but more in the acceleration of his fall into darkness than anything else. The episode leads us to assume that they would all fall the same way given time if they lose the magic in that study table and are cut off from the whole. I suppose what all my paragraphs of babbling have been about is when Biology 101 is viewed as part of this whole season it gets eminently better. It’s main strength is the clarity of it’s thematic vision rather than the story as a whole. And that’s something they should be proud of. They warned us how the season would go, we just weren’t listening at the time.
So, that’s my inane ramblings on the subject. If you’ve taken the time to read this whole thing, thank you and have +1000 bonus points. I’m honored to have a name I stole from a show I love be associated with these reviews and I hope I at least gave you guys something to chat about on this fine day. Thanks again for reading and I’ll see you all next week.

On the AV Club: http://www.avclub.com/articles/advanced-introduction-to-finality,97134/#comment-955495038 (page 122)

Discussion

  •  
    • Good work, Hector! This whole section on Jeff

      I honestly see the color pallet of the two dream sequences as more telling of what a broken man Jeff is than his loss of control with the axe. That was a slip, a moment of passion. The dream sequences occurred when he was serene and calm. His appreciation for Pierce taking the mantle of the villain of the group is just as short lived as well. As much as he defends Pierce in his closing Winger Speech, he still will not accept Pierce saying “We’re one in the same.” Acceptance has always been the biggest theme running through Community so for Jeff to still not accept, after everything he went through in the course of Biology 101 that he is somewhat like Pierce shows how far the character still has to go.

      is my favorite part and unpacks my favorite portion of the ep and of s3.

      "Biology 101" definitely does a great job setting up a number of s3's story arcs.

      – Jeff's emotional crisis (isolated/depressed/unsure of his future)
      – Abed's mental/emotional crisis
      – Britta's coming out of her crisis, stubbornly insisting on being positive and useful
      – The Air Conditioning Repair Annex dominating everything
      – Chang slowly consolidating power to take over the school
      (One could argue Troy's anger at Britta is disappointment that she can't co-exist properly with Abed, and a precursor to their slow building relationship, but that might be stretching it a little.)

      Jeff's 2001-homage dream transitioning into a Shining-homage real life breakdown was pretty elegant storytelling…though it hinges on a) following or being cool with the references and b) Joel McHale's amazing ability to make an extreme loss of temper seem believable without making us hate him.

      Those qualities made Jeff's s3 arc very rewarding IMO, even when it didn't hit as many clear beats or always make his conflicts obvious. I also love Britta's awkward "heart's song" redemption thru the first half of s3, though it was often treated as background or for comedy, it really reconciled s1 Britta and s2 Britta neatly. Everything about John Goodman and AC Repair is great in this episode and elsewhere. I like the character and story even when the back half of the season didn't follow through on it cleanly or emphatically enough….which is true of basically everything about this season, and it's all evident at it's best and messiest in "Biology."

    • "(One could argue Troy's anger at Britta is disappointment that she can't
      co-exist properly with Abed, and a precursor to their slow building 
      relationship, but that might be stretching it a little.)"

      I don't think that's a stretch at all. Troy's unease with Abed had been foreshadowed going back to season 2 and he saw Britta making inroads as a threat. There was a cut portion to one of the lab scenes where Troy explicitly told Britta to back off. Troy eventually getting romantically involved with Britta was written as a separate thread entirely, but now it occurs to me there was a throughline: instead of the hollow/superficial nature of the couple, it could have been about them bonding over trying to relate to Abed.

    • HectorTheWellEndowed

       The one thing I didn't mention was how great Chevy is in this episode. It's the ones like this, the ones he evidently hated, that were a bit more chilled and focused on relationships that he quietly shines throughout his run on Community.

    • He even invented the word "enlightful"

    • "(I do love how this show continually pokes the bear that is Jeff/Annie shippers)"

      I do, too, despite being a sub-species of Community fan that is closely related to Jeff/Annie Shipper.  The bear-poking was particularly strong in Season 3.

      "Inspector Spacetime, the joke that can NEVER GET OLD"

      It's nice to have company regarding this opinion.  Or should I say, it is nice when I have company regarding this opinion.

      I gave this episode a B+ and placed it 36th in Glazo: Redux.  Like a lot of B+ episodes, there are some really awesome moments that are as good as just about anything in A-level episodes.  But there are a few moments that make me go, "Eh, it's not perfect, though."  I would agree with you that this episode explores Jeff's psychology quite well (not sure if I'd say it's the best example; maybe I would – it's definitely up there), but I wondered if his psychology got too dark.  I'm thinking specifically of the end of the episode when he says of Pierce, "I hate him."  Really?  He hates him?  Doesn't he remember the heartwarming moments they had together in the first two seasons?  But I guess I can see a justification for the darkness from a character continuity standpoint, as Pierce was pretty insufferable by the end of Season 2.  Jeff may not really full-on hate Pierce, but it is surely believable that he would be angry enough in the moment to say so.  I just think these emotional moments can be done – and have been done – more elegantly than "I hate him."  Still, the 2001 homage totally owns.

    • I think at that moment Jeff hates Jeff. He's seen Pierce being a dick to the group, and he imagines there's justice in getting rid of Pierce for good, and that enacting that justice makes him better than Pierce. Instead he finds the tables (no pun intended) abruptly turned and has to consider that he might be Pierce, or even at that instance the worse version of Pierce.

      I've personally found this to be the main source of vitriol in social situations, on my part and others: We want people to be punished if they do things we have been judged or punished for in the past, and it can become something of a crusade: Like you can dump everything bad about yourself onto someone else's lap and then cut them off.

      But I definitely agree that the anger amongst the group in the first 5 episodes of s3 is really jarring. I thought the end of s2 saw them repairing some of that, but instead this was the nadir of the fighting amongst the group. In some ways "Biology 101" takes "Cooperative Calligraphy" to an even more unpleasant place. Instead of all wanting to preserve the group, some of the group-ers just have an "Oh well, screw it" attitude. Maybe they know by now that they're stuck with each other, so it's easier to be dismissive?

    • Great comparison of Jeff's musical reverie and the 2001 sequence as two poles of Jeff's psyche. Also the bit about TV shows as therapy. You're right about this episode being a fantastic table setter for the season.

      After this aired I bitched (http://www.avclub.com/articles… ) about Jeff's dreamy opening number including meta thoughts that Jeff would never have, like the line about wanting to be a mainstream dream. For someone who loves this show I'm very allergic to meta overload. I like it when it works as subtext. I got over it quickly and came to love this episode, but then, as it turns out, my fears were fully validated as the season got even moreself-referential and meta.

      Hector touched on this, but I like how 301 kicks Britta's comeback into gear, highlighted by that Ruiner's Club exchange with Troy. Watch out, folks; Britta doesn't care about being the worst anymore. She's fully embracing what she loves and cares about and she's not looking back. Her S3 arc was terrific start to finish. The downside to this, as we'll see, is that they make her too dim and oblivious along the way. Yvette even asks in the commentary, "is she that dumb now?" when they get to the joke about her having the wrong textbook.

    • I think those meta concerns would have to go away, if, say, it was Abed who was having the daydream sequence, seeing as he sees life as a TV show.  And I think Jeff's perspective has been affected by Abed's a little in this regard.  I'm not sure if at this point in their friendship it makes to sense to say that Jeff has been influenced enough by Abed for his daydreams to show that he sees his time at Greendale as a TV show, but I can see the argument being made.

    • Of course one of us would be able to draw a logical line between episodes of the show and the real world events surrounding S4. It's just meta enough to make me think that Harmon engineered his own firing to ensure such a read could come to pass. 

    • HectorTheWellEndowed

      I was first so I figured if I did it, none of you would have to. You are welcome!

    • Man. Britta is the best. Every review needs to include a violinCat reference.

      "Homey don't DEAN this."
      I ranked it #35 of 71 with an "A-" grade.

    • "In this episode, Jeff is gone from this magical group of people for 
      around a day and completely loses it. Now that speaks to Jeff’s own 
      psychological issues but more in the acceleration of his fall into 
      darkness than anything else. The episode leads us to assume that they 
      would all fall the same way given time if they lose the magic in that 
      study table and are cut off from the whole."

      That brings to mind the first time the show and the group had ventured away from the familiarity of Greendale itself in Accounting for Lawyers. Out in the comparative wild, each of them quickly "fell into darkness", whether it was Shirley wanting to sue a stripper, Britta whoring herself to a lawyer, the chloroforming, etc. That was more about culture shock, while this has greater, long-term stakes attached.

    • Great point and well said there- Accounting for Lawyers is like the first arrival of the chaos of the outside world upon the fabric of the study group's integrity, shown to best degree in Mixology just a few episode later to boot.

      And we have the emergence of de-evolution or degeneration of the group dynamic as far back as The Art of Discourse- where Jeff and Britta get petty and childish the way they did to a smaller extent as F-buddies in S2 against the rest of the group as viewed in Paradigms.  And Abed/Troy are focused on their college experiences trying to keep things alive and fresh, while Annie just stays driven and the two outsiders, Pierce and Shirley, reconcile that they both serve an essential function in keeping the group stable.  Like Abed said, lose that lightning rod and there's destruction everywhere.  

      Elements outside and inside the group have been pecking away at their solidity for a while now, and here's where we really get to see them adapt to the idea of their eventual "separation" from each other.

      • What does everyone make of Prof. Kane's role in this episode and season 3? I don't think whatever Harmon was going for (he did say he wanted to bring a level of intesity to season 3) ever quite took off, but the thing I ended up enjoying the most was the effect he had on Jeff. Kane intimidated Jeff like few could and rocked his sense of self-confidence to the point that Jeff was parroting Kane lines like the "you feel me?" to Pierce at the end and the "a man's got to have a code" in BLU. Jeff rattled and on the defensive is as enjoyable a departure from the status quo as is seeing Jeff relaxed and worry-free as he is on the trampoline and the barbershop.

        I think these observations by close-watcher when it aired are helpful too:

        I thought Omar's – sorry, Kane's – use of the blade of grass was hilarious. That's the only bit of wisdom he's got, so he's going to trot it out in every situation. I don't know if the writers intended that to be funny and/or for Kane to be kinda shallow in that respect, but I liked it. As well as the Sean Penn exchange.

        Watching it again, I'd be fine with Omar as a straight man and antagonist. I definitely do not want him to be weird, like Chang/Betty White/Duncan. I think it's about time they are faced with a professor that's grounded and an actual threat to their academic future. The Frank Grimes kind of straight man.

        Also on rewatch, he really does seem like a completely self-involved jackass. He's more interested in advertising his own tragic past, what with the horrible segue between his personal story and biology. "Serving my sentence of 25 to life. …Now, let's talk about that word: life."

  • HectorTheWellEndowed

    In this episode he seems more like a plot device than anything else. I mean, he's not in it as much as future episodes so he doesn't give a huge account of himself as a character. If he had played out as a Frank Grimes type straight man, which he does inBasic Lupine Urology, the entire time it would have been a more memorable part.

  • Hiring Kane seemed a bit pointless, he was used well enough in Biology 101, but went nowhere after that.
    Except for the "A man's gotta have a code" line in BLU, which we'd all been waiting for, but that might have been too big a wink to the audience.

  • I honestly really like Prof. Kane. I think the 3 episode limit was more of a problem than any of his appearances. Though it didn't help that one of those was in "Ecology" which was purposely dark and less funny.

    Like Hector said, Kane had real value as a straight man (though I think he was meant to influence Jeff in a good way rather than be broken by the Group's antics). I love what they did with Kane in "Basic Lupine Urology," both comically and in his setting an example for Jeff and Annie. That, to me, brought the character full circle and validated his use in s3.

  • To me, Kane almost served a different purpose in every episode he was in. In Biology 101 he seemed to be a foil for Jeff of sorts, a "real" man who's been through real struggle to challenge Jeff's (lessening) artificiality. But they never really used him as that again. Harmon has recently (I think?) said his intention with the character was for him to be the Principal Skinner of the Community universe – the lone straight man in a cartoonish world. That was definitely apparent – and very successful – in Basic Lupine Urology, which was arguably Kane's best episode. I sort of wish that they had played with that aspect of him more. Then again, the Community universe isn't as cartoonish as the Simpsons universe on a regular basis.

  • I agree with the consensus here– he had some great lines and a really good rapport with Jeff when he was utilized as a catalyst for Jeff's improvement this season.  Essentially, in a season of exaggeration and fantasy, we have one guy who realistically built a life for himself from the ground up out of prison, representing the very intellectual study of life in Biology in the most direct way possible.  

    Terrariums and yams, no middle ground for compromise and no tolerance for theatrics.  Jeff of S1 is all bluff, no reality.  S2 Jeff is subdued BS and an attempt to build something real of a facsimile of it.  So S3 Jeff trying to kill Jeff Winger© and really change fits in with who Kane is– a man who lost everything and rebuilt himself.  But it turns out Duncan worked better in the past for the themes of the season due to his own chaos merging with the frantic energy of Season 2.  If Season 3 had been more grounded in Jeff's migration, Kane would have fit in better.  

    As he stands with what we got, I like how he was used when he was used, and only dislike the abrupt, off-screen nature of his departure to signify the inundation of chaos onto the group in late Season 3.  But that's the way contracted episode counts go, and we got the Omar episodes we got.  Still, I would have liked to see them dissect pine cones next year.

  • Shame that this is getting pushed back by the Donald Glover stuff, but fantastic review. Interestingly, I'm not really a big fan of the episode, even though I loved season 3, but your review did a good job of making me think I like the episode more than I think I do.

  •  Impressed by the Venture Bros. comparison. Someday we'll have to do a thread of as many Community + Venture comparisons as possible.

  • HectorTheWellEndowed

    I think there are four of us who watch it here and I'm convinced we could take up pages with that thread.

  • I'm gonna watch it soon! I have it all downloaded but I got lazy and started watching Nathan For You and rewatching Gravity Falls and I'll get to it soon.

  • Great review! This episode grows on me every time I watch it. Looking back, I can't really think of much to complain about with it and I don't know why I used to look at it as a lesser episode for a while. It doesn't scale the heights of the best of the show, but I think it does a stellar job setting up Season 3, and it definitely works better looking at the entire season in retrospective. 

    I also definitely agree that it might be the best premiere in terms of setting up the season. Anthropology 101 is a stronger episode overall, but it always felt like more of an extension of Season 1 than a premiere of Season 2 to me.

    Not too much character-wise that hasn't been covered…so I'll just say that the opening number is perhaps one of the best openings to a television season ever. 

  • "This episode grows on me every time I watch it. Looking 
    back, I can't really think of much to complain about with it and I don't
    know why I used to look at it as a lesser episode for a while."

    Me neither, but that's not to discount what a jarring shift it was for the show in many ways. 301 felt verrrry different tonally and visually from anything the show had done before so a lot of us reacted with appropriate skepticism and even repulsion. Now with two seasons of episodes that followed, it's harder to see that shift but it was there. Having seen S3 we now know it was integral and successful in setting up what followed, regardless of how you feel about what followed.

  • Superb review /cheer.  I apologize for the delay in posting this– work has been really nuts the last couple of weeks.

    Firstly, I really enjoy your parallel of Guarisco and Port to the Dean in this episode– it works to convey the Discrepancy of Mis-Managed Expectations we see all episode long while at the same time flipping our S4 "villains" into the protagonist spot the way Jeff was inadvertently cast out into the villain spot here.  Britta with the infamous Biology book, the Dean wanting to change the status quo for his school, Jeff's daydream, Troy and Abed living together, Pierce's Laser Lotus training– whether people are changing things actively or trying to keep a lid on things– expectations are high for the future.  And G&P wanted to keep the ship going and please everyone anyway they could without rocking the boat.

    Which escalates exponentially the anger and tension when things don't go according to plan.  Britta is saddened and has to get a new book ASAP, the Dean gets crestfallen and forgets everything after Laybourne says "RECTUM," it's clear from Abed's extreme reaction to the Cougar Town news that he's headed for his own "The Psychology of Letting Go" episode, and Pierce hasn't changed so much as he's just re-calibrated his center of the universe– Greendale is his home, not the Study Group.  And as you so comprehensively point out in each of these instances– we're going to see these guys go through some rapids and get separated down this Season 3 stream.  But unlike G&P, they're gonna make it through intact as a group and back for more later.  /comfort G&P for giving people the season they wanted but not the one we needed.  You did your best.  

    And great parallel with Abed and 21– two people using fantasy to supplement reality and avoid dealing the consequences with real pain from separation (of which for Abed the key example in parallel is Nocturnal Vigilantism and his Batman persona– it's a far cry from his use of it in Intro to Stats).  This isn't the Abed who just filtered things through TV to talk to people in general– this is an Abed who NEEDS Troy and his shows to keep things from falling apart inside.  And much as Jeff learned this episode he'd been latching onto the Study Table in light his Season 1&2 revelations post lawyer-life, Abed's latching onto the familiar where possible in light of losing the support of his mother in Season 2.  But eventually 21 has to face reality and accept his friend has moved on and 21's still alive and the world didn't end– so to with Abed this season.  

    Interesting visual comparison for Jeff:

    His apartment in 201:
    http://fishsticktheatre.com/TV…

    The 2001 Sequence in 301:
    http://fishsticktheatre.com/TV…

    Obviously the latter is simply a 2001-esque removal of everything earthy and lively within the study room, but I like how the sleek, sterile, faded colors you point out show that Jeff's a lot closer to his nightmare than he thinks.  If memory serves it reminds me of that Pete & Pete episode where the mailman or milk man that visits is a perfectionist to the extent that he eats Sloppy Joes with a knife and fork– but life is meant to be messy and chaotic at times.  

    Jeff was there for Pierce's mother's speech about that very point- and he heard all of her influence in Pierce's monologues of wisdom from Season 1, but he has yet to integrate those concepts fully into himself.  Sadly, I don't know enough about the Scarlet Witch to add to your excellent comparative analysis of her to Jeff, but I agree wholeheartedly– much like Pierce in Season 2, Jeff has to break himself down first and figure out who he really is inside before he can build a new foundation and move forward (and Season 3 illustrates that well when it goes to that well).  A Scarlet Witch time where she's just Wanda without others' expectations laid onto her, and a Jeff time this season with the Winger Charm©.

    I have one question for discussion regarding this review:  How does everyone feel about this image knowing how Season 3 progresses:

    http://fishsticktheatre.com/TV…

    Acceptable as Abed behavior given his fragile state this season?  An unnecessary exaggeration compared to his more subdued response earlier?

    http://fishsticktheatre.com/TV…  

    For my 2 cents, I didn't mind the first response at all or a more subdued form of the above for the second response, but the frequency with which this season goes back to this well of exaggeration for humor, culminating in: 

    http://fishsticktheatre.com/TV…

    Does irk me a bit.  Much like Britta with the Biology/Chemistry mishap here, it takes a character moment, dials it up to 11, and pushes things without fruition (to no real purpose other than a quick punchline).  Yes it can be taken as chaos pushed to the audience so we're in the same boat as our characters– the show is testing us the way they're being tested– but there are other ways to embrace that symbolism AND keep our characters as characters and not  caricatures.  Britta doesn't need to make this mistake to illustrate she's nervous about changing/forming a major and committing, and Abed doesn't need to shriek to show us he can't handle change as he is now given his recent past.

    Finally, Season 3 DoppelDeaner Count for this episode
    We have Jeff's version of the Dreamatorium in the beginning.
    We have Jeff and Pierce as the outsiders of the group, followed by Jeff and Chang as the outcasts of Greendale. 
    We have the Dean and Vice Dean Laybourne, Greendale and the Air Conditioning Repair Annex, Bearded Dean vs. Old School Dean, and the school with money vs. the school without money.  
    We have the two versions of Cougar Town, plus the meta reference to Doctor Who with Inspector Spacetime.
    We have the precursor for Constable Reggie and Inspector Spacetime paralleling Troy and Abed, respectively.
    We have Britta and Troy as the two fold support structure for Abed's grasp to reality.  
    We have the multitude of identity duplicated issues in Starburns throughout the past seasons (as seen most prominently in comparing 201 to 301).  He also served as the catalyst for Jeff's rehabilitation in both episodes to an extent (his negative comments in 201 and his getting kicked out for his Breaking Bad scheme in 301).

    We have Jeff's dream of evolving with the group by hooking up with Annie, vs. his nightmare, and the evolution of his life connected to that table in his nightmare with his reaction to that image, his own evolution of taking an ax to the table.
    We have the parallel structure for the movie titles that double as scatological humor.
    We the aforementioned Biology/Chemistry book mishap.

    Jeff taking an Ax to the table reminds me at the moment of Chang doing this:
    http://fishsticktheatre.com/TV…

    So Jeff is mirroring Chang's craziness that in S1 assaulted Jeff's former home and center of the universe with his craziness thrust unto his new center of the universe in S3.

    And hey, that S1 episode had the group potentially breaking up and these guys in it too!:
    http://fishsticktheatre.com/TV…

    WEIRD (and this didn't have the duplicate/Harpo-Groucho Tag either)~!

    Far cry from these guys:
    http://fishsticktheatre.com/TV…

    And we have the confusion over Professor Kane and this photo:
    http://fishsticktheatre.com/TV…

    And finally, the whole group in the past with the whole group as it stands now– past and present staring at each other, trying to make it to the future.  Lots of duplicates this episode.

    Again– stellar review and a great way to start this all off /praise HectorTheWellEndowed.  

  • To your question about Abed's squeals, that was one of those jarring shifts I refer to above. I rationalized it as Harmon reverting Abed back to season 1 Abed (specifically the pilot Abed) to serve the Troy-Britta-Abed conflict but I didn't think it was actually there to stay. So yea, that's one of the those things that made season 3 deeply frustrating. Same with dumb Britta, as I alluded to before. I can't put it any better than what you said:

    "Yes it can be taken as chaos pushed to the audience so we're in the same boat as our characters– the show is testing us the way they're being tested– but there are other ways to embrace that symbolism AND keep our characters as characters and not caricatures."

  • Ooo yes indeed, well said. "Jarring" is definitely the word I'd use for 301 in discussing how's it's an excellent episode, but not initially well-received.  As you state above– there's a ton of stuff here that seems chaotic and out of place in the context of first viewing the season that comes together once we've moved on from 322.  

    But as with all things Harmon– there was definitely thought put into it– it definitely develops and cultivates discussion after the fact, and there's always gonna be something unique to this one chaotic fixture.  Each of Abed's screams this season do fit a different context well I suppose even in this exaggerated format.  

    Compare this to S4 with the rhyming scheme ad nauseum and it's clear in the former we have an interesting idea with atonal execution, vs. ten too many empty retreads of a limited concept from an old beloved episode.  Doing the rhyming serves no purpose for the conversations taking place in the S4 episodes where they're implemented– they just exist as callbacks and that's that.  

  • I know a lot of people didn't like it, but we can all admit it-that reaction shot of Danny in your third fishstick is pretty freaking stellar. 

    I remember that Pete and Pete episode! The guy was an underwear inspector who took Little Pete under his wing, and was eventually defeated when everyone realized that chicken wings were supposed to be messy. 

  • Doh- Underwear Inspector!  I knew it was something awesome like that.  And chicken wings.  Dammit I was torn between BBQ Wings and Sloppy Joes– and I know little Pete mentioned Sloppy Joes at some point in the show.  The only thing I distinctly remember is Little Pete dressed up like the inspector and being all stiff in tow until the resolution at the cookout.  

    That's what I get for having only remembered part of the episode and badly remembered it at that.  THANK you for the refresher! ^^  

    And agreed– as always with this show– the acting and set design and placement of everyone on screen is stellar– Danny Pudi sells that Daylight Savings moment like nobody's business.  It's just that, like the Bio/Chem mistake, it's taking a character and making them a quick punchline without adding anything substantive to that character.  

    Let's say we're talking Paradigms and Annie using martial arts on Pierce and Shirley.  

    http://fishsticktheatre.com/TV…

    Annie taking a variety of subjects to better herself fits.  Annie taking self defense in a year where she's all alone and trying to stay calm fits perfectly too.  Annie defending herself at the drop of a hat works for the character and the moment– hence her jumpiness in Remedial Chaos Theory if nothing else.  And we know the characters are OK since it's a flashback and they're still together so we can laugh at the quick slapstick for what it is.  

    Now let's say that moment is instead Annie using a drug fix from her NA group to help Shirley with pregnancy pains or Pierce with his painkillers (prior to his bottoming out moment).  Hallucinations may or may not occur for a quick laugh, but regardless of how this is used for humor, we're twisting who Annie is with an exaggeration of her past characteristics TOO much to sell the joke.  

    Her NA self is behind her and if anything it's trying to figure out who "Annie Edison of the Future" IS that's her dilemma in the present– she wouldn't use her past in that way EVER.  The way she applies her past in Accounting for Lawyers and Vampire Mythology emphasizes that completely– gotta try to make things better than the way they used to be, not worse.  

    Not that the show would actually go that route, but this example illustrates how fast we can go from using characters and their past to set up jokes to inadvertently hurting/assassinating characters to emphasize the punchline.  And yeah it's all over and gone in a couple of seconds but still, it can hurt to see it happen.

    A key S4 example of this for me is Pierce's electrocution, and his nonstop racism for the sake of racism (as opposed to the much better S1 executed "I'm never as cool as I'm trying to be" obliviousness– a foundation of his ill behavior from the get-go).  Pierce exhibits these traits in specific ways– when we make Pierce JUST these traits for a quick gag– it demeans who he is– this isn't the Pierce that treats life like a buffet.  And Annie is more than that robot-glass door freak out.  

    And Abed is more than shrieking at the clock because he has trouble comprehending and interpreting linear time changes (the joke in Basic Lupine Urology is a much better utilization of this limitation). 

    http://fishsticktheatre.com/TV…

    "I have other virtues."
    Abed gets to defend and assert himself amidst his chronological confusion- it underlines the current tension between Troy and Abed in the aftermath of Pillows and Blankets, and it can still be a quick laugh without dragging Abed down at all.  It's all about application and execution.

  • Happy to help!

    I hope you don't think I was schoolmarming you and trying to correct you and stuff. I was just so excited to be reminded of that episode that it all just came pouring out!

  • Nah, no school-marmin' perspective taken in the least!  ^^  /cheer to a fellow Pete and Pete fan.

    I just find it funny that I was so completely off– I should have realized when Googling Sloppy Joes with PETE and PETE and no hits came back that I had the wrong idea for the episode.  But I figured the story concept was good enough Prima Facie– perfectionist realizes reality needs chaos.  

    I really appreciate getting the correct info for that one– just thinking of that guy as an underwear inspector meticulously trimming chicken wings sells the idea being conveyed that much better.  Even Hannibal in the movie Hannibal got his hands dirty when he was eating with the boy on that airplane ride coda.  And I'm glad Abed learns his lesson once Virtual Systems Analysis hits.  Enjoy your buttered noodles, but don't bogart their very existence.  

  • I like your description of S1 Pierce as suffering from "I'm never as cool as I'm trying to be" obliviousness, but I gotta say, that's how I would describe him in S4 as well.  Pretty much every time people were complaining about how horribly racist he had become, I was like, Come on, that's just his  "I'm never as cool as I'm trying to be" obliviousness.  Perfect example: Blackface Señor Wences upset some people, but I'm thinking, Isn't this Pierce trying to pull off "edgy" humor?

  • "Inspector 34" is an episode of Pete and Pete that a lot of people seem to remember. Something about it sticks with people, it seems to me.

    I wrote a little review on the episode page and I think the ep kind of sums up the themes and plots of a lot of P&P eps into one "Greatest Hits" package. Or maybe it's just that the concept is so funny, IDK.

    I love P&P. It has a lot in common with Community and it's one of the most perfect shows ever, at least in it's best episodes. I wrote a lot about P&P in the comments of all the reviews, even going back to before I registered (hence my name). Not that you don't already have enough to do. ;-) But the eps are out there on the net and IMO maybe half of them or more hold up really well into adulthood.

  • [Oops…this ended up in the wrong spot]

    Creaks the ol' Community-analyzing machine back to life….ahhhh, that feels good.

    Well, I'm a halfway-through puppy parade late to this one and don't have much enlightful to add, but I wanted to say thanks for a fantastic start to the S3 reviews.  I kind of can't believe I hadn't made that connection with Jeff's opening and closing day/monkey-gas dreams, but it's a fantastic point.

    Also, how pissed were the Jannie shippers that that whole "we're gonna sleep together" never happened?!? (Oh LORD, tell me it didn't happen in S4!).

  • The shrieking did kind of bother me … but I think there are potentially solid explanations.
    The first shriek could have been Abed just being overdramatic, i.e., purposely playing up his frustration.  Then the reaction to daylight savings in "Curriculum Unavailable" I think may have been Abed acting a bit.  That is to say, he really does have a problem with daylight savings, but he's exaggerating that frustration.  I've chosen to interpret it as the same sort of thing as the "It's a mixer. We didn't know how to reach you. It's a mixer…" moment from "Asian Population Studies."

  • *cries* you included me? omg, hector, my darling!

    I will write a detailed review of your review when i get my head out of my ass long enough. 

    xoxo
    cat