Harmonic Sentimentality Part 5: Episodic Index of H.S. in Community
Below is an extensive index* of the first three seasons of Community with regards to each episode’s particular parts of Harmonic Sentimentality. Some episodes are more successful in demonstrating H.S. while others, unfortunately, fall flat. Note that regardless of the success of the episode, H.S. is present within each episode and acts as the driving force for character development on a micro and macro level. At no point am I pretending for this to act as a synopsis of each episode’s plot. If you haven’t seen the show, the examples below may at times be difficult to follow.
*As a courtesy to the reader who may not want to slave over every episode in order to find the interesting examples of H.S., I’ll list the highlights here: Eps. 108: Debate 109, 111: Comparative Religion, 113: Interpretive Dance, 114: Romantic Expressionism, 116: Physical Education, 120: Contemporary American Poultry, 208: Cooperative Calligraphy, 209: Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design, 211: Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas, 214: Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, 216: Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking, 219: Critical Film Studies, 221: Paradigms of Human Memory, 223: A Fistful of Paintballs, 224: For a Few Paintballs More, 303: Remedial Chaos Theory, 321: The First Chang Dynasty
Ep. 100: Pilot
1. Jeff thinks he is wasting his time at Greendale believing he will be able to con his way to a degree. The cynicism that Jeff employs here is that of contempt. He is of the belief that he is above this institution and the whole idea of community college. The height of his cynicism is exemplified in the “Look Left Speech” where he manipulates the Study Group into calming down in order to win a wager where he would be able to go to dinner with Britta. Britta then reveals to the Study Group that Jeff was manipulating them in order to get into her pants.
2. Jeff is then shunned by the group and is forced to come to terms with why he is at Greendale. After confronting Professor Duncan (re: test answers), he is then rejoined by the Study Group and admits that he is going to fail the quiz because he doesn’t know how to study as a result of him always being able to talk his way out of doing any real work. The Study Group ends up pitying him for this and through sentimentality, allow him to rejoin them in order to study.
3. The realization that Jeff experiences on the steps of the library as the Study Group begins to depart is that he now knows that he isn’t alone in this. He now knows that he won’t be able to con his way through Greendale, and that there are people in the world who are kind to him regardless of how cruel he is to them. His realization is that these people shouldn’t be manipulated. This is exemplified when Abed says, “I’m sorry I called you Michael Douglas and I see your value now.” Jeff says to himself in a truly genuine, sentimental tone, “Well, that’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me.” Jeff was the target of sentimentality, and as a result exhibited a truly sentimental notion.
Ep. 101: Spanish 101
1. Jeff pretends to care about the stuff Britta cares about in an attempt to get in her pants (again). He does this at the expense of Pierce who is making a genuine effort at trying to impress Jeff. The cynicism that Jeff employs is that he doesn’t really care about the stuff Britta cares about, and that he is willing to hurt Pierce’s feelings in order to lie to Britta.
2. After Jeff and Pierce have a falling out over their Spanish project partnership, Britta reveals, “You know what he [Pierce] did that’s really crazy? He offered me $100 to switch cards with him just so he could be partners with Jeff. I think he thought getting closer to Jeff would bring him respect in the group. I think he spent his whole life looking out for himself, and he would trade it all for some shot at a family.”
3. After learning how much Pierce thinks of him, Jeff realizes that someone else’s efforts are more important than his self-interest of trying to be attractive to Britta. Jeff then feels guilt about trying to lie to Britta to get with her at the expense of Pierce. His realization is manifested in a ridiculous one act play in front of the Spanish class that accomplishes nothing but humiliating Jeff. But through his humiliation, Jeff proves that he is willing to perform a sentimental action that is harmful to him in order to make up for his cynicism.
Ep. 102: Introduction to Film
1. Britta’s initial actions in terms of interfering in Abed’s life appear to be sentimental when in fact she is being cynical towards the way Abed’s father raises and treats him. Britta’s cynicism is cloaked by her thinking she is being sentimental by taking over raising Abed.
2. The sentimentality occurs as a result of Abed’s movie in which he shows that regardless of how seemingly tyrannical his father may be, Abed still loves him (or whatever version of love Abed knows). The movie also seeks to show Britta that Abed’s life and his family situation are far more complex than Britta could have imagined.
3. Though Britta ultimately succeeded in getting how Abed is raised changed, she ended up realizing that maybe she shouldn’t be interfering in his life. She sums this up by saying, “I feel out of the loop,” in response to Abed’s movie.
NOTE: This is a weird form of H.S. in that it cloaks the initial cynicism with sentimentality. How Britta’s arc ends is that she realizes her sentimentality may be overstepping its boundaries. This cloaking shows how it is possible for cynicism to be contained by sentimentality. It ends up being an accidental cynicism.
Ep. 103: Social Psychology
1. Jeff can’t handle Britta dating Vaughn, so he chooses to bag on him with Shirley. It would appear that Jeff’s cynicism was directed at Vaughn by making fun of him with Shirley when in fact his cynicism was directed at Britta the whole time.
2. The sentimentality is that Britta actually cared about her relationship with Vaughn. When Jeff screwed it up by showing Shirley and the rest of the Study Group the poem Vaughn wrote for her, Britta is genuinely hurt.
3. Jeff’s realization is that he needs to redefine his friendship with Britta as a result of seeing how she felt betrayed by his actions. The idea going into this episode was that he and Britta were friends and that he was capable of putting his previous feelings for her aside. It turns out that he isn’t able to do this, and having learned this, he tells her that he can’t handle “just being one of the girls.” Meaning he isn’t capable of hearing about her personal relationships.
1. Annie is using her friends as subjects in a psych experiment in order to pad her own transcript and further her academic studies. She begs them to participate, even using their friendship as leverage, all out of her own self-interest.
2. Abed tells Annie after the experiment, after her expressing her anger with him for proving the experiment wrong, that the reason why he didn’t leave was, “Because you asked me to stay and you said we were friends.”
3. Annie’s realization is that she shouldn’t have used her friends for her own selfish needs. She realized that guilting Abed to partake in the experiment even though she knew he wanted to go see the Indiana Jones movies in theaters was unfair of her. Her realization resulted in an open apology to Abed in which she bought him the first three Indiana Jones movies, but not the fourth one because the fourth one blows.
NOTE: This is the first instance where we see two examples of H.S. being used. What makes this possible is the separation of story arcs into an A story, Jeff’s, and a B story, Annie’s. This becomes more frequent in the series as we become more familiar with each individual character. The show shifts its focus from being only about Jeff and Britta to being about the ensemble of characters. This would be impossible to do in the very first episode, but seeing as how by this episode we have a better idea who Annie and Abed are, it makes it feasible to give them their own story arc.
Ep. 104: Advanced Criminal Law
1. Britta doesn’t think Jeff wants to be her friend. She thinks he only sees her as a sexual prospect. This is indicated when Jeff asks her for her real cell phone number to which she replies that he can have it if he only uses it for friendship purposes. His response, “Hm. Pass.”
2. Jeff confesses during the recess of Britta’s trial that he’s psyched to be her friend, but he didn’t want to take sex off the table without doing his due diligence. His honesty about this is what makes this otherwise gross comment sentimental.
3. This makes Britta realize that she is so used to screwing up that she just wanted to get it over with. Jeff sums it up nicely, “She doesn’t want to succeed so she goes out of her way to fail.” Admitting this to Jeff is her saying that she needs his help, and that she trusts him now because of his honesty with her.
NOTE: The difficulty of this example is that the cynicism Britta uses isn’t revealed until the end of the story during the recess. The conversation between her and Jeff explains all three parts of this episode’s H.S. in one scene. The reason why her realization ends up being sentimental is that she begins to trust Jeff truly for the first time. The dialogue:
JEFF: What are you doing out there?
BRITTA: You know I have a problem with dishonesty.
J: You’re on trial for cheating! Fi– Look. We’ll be fine. I just have to go back out there and make the case that you’re a good person–
B: You don’t know that! You’re just doing all this because you want to sleep with me. I mean, you said it yourself, you don’t even want to be my friend.
J: Wait a minute. Wait. Is that what you thought I meant? Britta, look at me. Look at me.
B: I am.
J: No, look how handsome my face is. If all I wanted was sex, I could get it from plenty of women without having to go through all this crap. I’m here because I like you, and I’d be psyched to be your friend. I just didn’t want to take sex off the table without doing my due diligence.
B: I actually believe you.
J: Well why wouldn’t you?!
B: I don’t know. I guess for the same reason I cheated. I just have more experience being worthless. I think I left that crib sheet on the floor because I wanted to get caught. I’m so used to screwing everything up I just wanted to get it over with.
Jeff convincing Britta that he’s psyched to be her friend disproves her original cynicism that he only sees her as a sexual prospect.
It is possible to break Jeff’s cynicism away from Britta’s within the same arc and show two separate examples of H.S. However, it’s better to leave them together as one example because of how one character’s cynicism informs the other’s. Because their cynicisms end up informing each other, so do their sentimentalities.
Ep. 105: Football, Feminism and You
1. Jeff is manipulating Troy to play football in order to stop the Dean from using Jeff’s image in advertisements. There are two forms of cynicism here: the first being Jeff using Troy for his own purposes, and the second being Jeff ruining what Annie has been working so hard for (hanging out with Troy to satisfy her own infatuation) for his own self- interests.
2a. The first instance of sentimentality acted upon Jeff is by Annie who tells him, “You’re right. I can never be as good as you. Probably because I actually care.” She is referring to her selfishness not being as good as Jeff’s because of her actually caring about Troy. This lays the guilt onto Jeff and makes him want to go correct his mistake of manipulating Troy.
2b. The second instance is when Jeff goes to confront Troy about playing football. Troy tells him that he’s come to terms with not being the high school star he once was. He tells Jeff, “You should try accepting where you’re at, man.”
3. Jeff realizes that his cynicism towards Annie and Troy was a result of his insecurities about being at Greendale. He tells Annie, “Maybe I need to grow up and make peace with being here.” He then escorts Annie into the pep rally for the football team.
1. Annie tries to manipulate Troy into not playing football because she is infatuated with him, and she thinks that if he plays football, he’ll forget all about her.
2. Jeff points out to Annie that she is being just as selfish (re: Troy) as he is, however, she’s just not as good as him yet which is why Troy ultimately joins the football team, and Jeff “wins” the battle for him against Annie.
3. Annie realizes that she was being selfish, and that she can’t control Troy. She realizes that if she truly cared about him, she wouldn’t want to.
NOTE: Compared to Ep. 4 where Britta’s and Jeff’s respective Harmonic Sentimentalities are so tightly intertwined that they’re almost inseparable, this episode has two characters sharing the same situation to show how each of them react differently. Their cynical actions and the sentimentalities acted upon them are similar, but the difference is how they react. Jeff reacts by going to apologize to Troy and saying that he shouldn’t play football. Annie reacts by supporting Troy in his decision to play football, and that she’ll be there for him whether he does what she wants or not. Jeff seeks to remedy his mistake of controlling Troy through more attempts of control. Annie seeks to let go of the reigns and allow Troy to be his own person.
Ep. 106: Introduction to Statistics
1. Jeff’s cynicism is that he still views himself as someone who found themselves stuck in this Study Group. He still believes himself to be above the others as their superior, not their equal. He fears that being seen with them and doing stuff with them will have a negative impact on his personal life as well as his “coolness.”
2. The group confronts him at the faculty Halloween party and tells him how he hurt Annie. They also beg him to help a tripping Pierce. When he is leaving with Slater, the group stops him out front of the library where Pierce is trapped inside and yells, “Is Jeff out there? He’s the only one that can help!”
3. Jeff understands that he holds a certain gravitas over the group, but it’s not the one he wants to hold. Slater asks if he is a court appointed caretaker for them which describes his role quite well. The role he wished he was playing was the one who was cooler than them but was never needed by them. The realization is that his friends do look up to him and admire him. He then sacrifices hooking up with Slater to save Pierce and rejoin the party to appease Annie.
NOTE: This is an example of H.S. that falls somewhat flat despite this being a very entertaining and funny episode. The H.S. seems somewhat surface level and doesn’t go as deep as previous examples.
Ep. 107: Home Economics
1. Jeff is under the impression that Britta was attracted to him because of his shallow, materialistic ways, which, he thinks, is why she is trying to get him to regress back to them and to move out of Abed’s dorm. His cynicism is that he’s so full of himself that he doesn’t realize that she’s doing it for Abed’s sake as well as his own.
2. Britta steals Jeff’s handcrafted Italian faucets, and she tells him that she is putting all this effort in because she cares about Jeff’s and Abed’s well-being.
3. Jeff realizes he was imposing on Abed’s life and moves out of the dorm. He realizes that Britta actually cares and thanks her for caring. He realizes that he is better off being a part of the world.
Ep. 108: Debate 109
1. Jeff thinks he can blow off the debate like he does everything else and coast his way to a parking space.
2. The sentimentality Jeff experiences is actually an act of cynicism via Simmons. Simmons makes fun of Annie for being a former pill addict and being an outcast in high school. This triggers an instinct in Jeff to act sentimental and protect Annie from this bully. He immediately jumps in and declares war on Simmons saying that, “We’re going to debate the crap out of you.” His sentimentality came from within as a result of outside cynicism.
3. Jeff realizes that he needs to protect Annie from being an outcast and from being made fun of. The only way to do this is to put his own selfish reasons for being in the debate (the free parking space) aside and actually put effort into trying to win the debate for Annie’s sake. The stakes of the debate turned from cynical to sentimental by Jeff’s choice.
NOTE: This episode’s H.S. flips the second part around by having an outside cynical force trigger a sentimental reaction as opposed to the traditional outside sentimental force triggering a sentimental reaction. Both methods are effective in showing the cynical character that they need to be sentimental. Usually the character that shows the cynical character how to be sentimental is someone within the Study Group, i.e. a main character, and therefore needs to be protected from appearing like a villain. In this case, we have a peripheral character in Simmons affecting the group. Because Simmons is outside the Study Group, it’s OK to treat him as a villain and to use his cynicism as an example as to how not to be. If Simmons happened to be Shirley for example, we would never view Shirley the same again, and her character would ultimately be viewed as an unredeemable cynic who is only there to stir the pot of cynicism. Luckily, this isn’t the case.
NOTE: The interesting part of this episode is that the H.S. is completely overshadowed by Annie kissing Jeff and the chemistry that follows. Though the H.S. drives the episode to this moment, it isn’t what makes the episode memorable and significant.
Ep. 109: Environmental Science
1. He thinks real friends are only there to help him with things, not vice versa.
2. Abed questions whether he really is Troy’s friend:
ABED: I thought you might want to help me out because we are friends.
TROY: Abed, take it from a former prom king, real friends help me with things. Not vice versa.
ABED: I would face my fears to help you.
TROY: Exactly! Cause you’re MY friend.
ABED: Am I?
3. Troy faces his fears of mice to help Abed pass their biology project. He realizes that he has to meet Abed halfway in order to be friends with him. Friendship isn’t a one way street. Troy’s life experience has always been that he’s the popular one, and thus, he never had to put effort into friendships.
1. Jeff is forced to talk to Chang (re: homework) on behalf of the group. He ends up swinging it so Chang gives him a break on the homework, but not the Study Group. Pierce sums it up, “What kind of person is asked to help other people and helps himself?”
2. Chang confesses to Jeff how alone he is without his wife which reminds Jeff how alone he is without his Study Group.
3. Jeff reunites Chang with his wife and in turn realizes how much he needs the Study Group. He realizes that they’re not so bad after all.
Ep. 110: The Politics of Human Sexuality
1. Jeff is shallow and sees women as “catches” barely even giving the individual an identity at all. In his phone’s contacts he has Britta as “Hot Blonde Spanish Class.” He is in denial of being older and still acts like he’s in his early 20’s.
2. The escort, Doreen, hips Jeff to the vibe and points out that he can do better than a co-ed who says, “I have to make tinkles.”
3. Jeff’s realization occurs when he’s making out with the co-ed in his car, and she calls him “Professor.” Jeff aborts the make-out session and retreats back to the STD Fair where Pierce explains:
PIERCE: There he is, back already. Detail time?
JEFF: I stopped. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I mean she’s hot. I think this place is sapping my life force.
PIERCE: Oh, it’s not Greendale, Jeff. It’s you. You’re becoming more mature. A man reaches a point in his life where he stops looking for a place to hang his underwear and starts looking for a place to hang his hat.
Jeff then becomes sentimental and accepts that he’s becoming more mature. He aborts his cynical shallowness and changes Britta’s contact info in his phone from “Hot Blonde Spanish Class” to “Britta.”
Ep. 111: Comparative Religion
1. Jeff is opposed to Shirley imposing her religious views on him not because they’re religious, but because of how she is imposing them, that being via guilt. He says she has “Motherly guilt inducing powers.” The apex of his rebellion against Shirley’s guilt trips is seen when she confronts him about the fight by saying, “Jeffrey, I forbid you from fighting.” Jeff responds, “Well, you don’t get to.”
2. When Jeff is about to fight the bully, he sees his What Would Baby Jesus Do bracelet Shirley gave everyone in the Study Group which reminds him of Shirley imploring that he turn the other cheek.
3. His realization is that you may not agree with what your friend says, but holding onto your beliefs isn’t worth losing the friendship. His speech:
JEFF: Mike, I’m not going to fight you. I have a friend that believes that this is the time of the year when you put aside your differences, and you make peace. Me, I don’t believe in any of that. But I do believe in friendship. And as much as I hate you and the cast of Break-In, I have to ask myself, What Would Shirley Do?
To which the bully, Mike, begins to beat up Jeff. Jeff continues to turn the other cheek because he values his friendship with Shirley.
1. She believes that the real meaning of the holidays is her religion’s Christmas. She claims to be accepting of other people’s religions, but she isn’t.
2. Britta takes Shirley off her pedestal with an impassioned plea to try and understand what Jeff is doing and to realize that everyone sees how important this particular Christmas is to Shirley, but that doesn’t give her the right to handcuff everyone. Britta:
BRITTA: Are we really going to let religion divide us like this? I think there’s one thing we can agree on.
ABED: I get 72 virgins in heaven.
BRITTA: No. That we’d all like to have Jeff at this party.
SHIRLEY: Mm. He can’t come.
BRITTA: Shirley. Shirley, listen. I get that this is your first Christmas since your husband left you, and I don’t know, maybe that’s why you’re being so stubborn, because you’re trying so hard to recreate something that you’re afraid you’ve lost forever, but if you really want us to be your second family then you’ve got to start treating us like one. Even if that means supporting us when we do things that you don’t agree with. You can start by rooting for Jeff while he roles around on the ground groping another man. That’s what I’m going to do.
3. Shirley sees Jeff have his realization at the sight of the WWBJD bracelet, and she realizes that if Jeff, a cynic, can change and use the philosophy that Shirley uses, that being turning the other cheek, then she is just as capable of accepting other people’s philosophies as well. That’s what friends do.
When she sees Jeff being beat up by the bully, Mike, she then begins to employ Jeff’s realization described above. She switches to his side and implores him to fight back even though he had switched to her side by insisting to turn the other cheek.
NOTE: This is an example of when two arcs collide, and their realizations end up informing each other. The characters are switching realizations in general, which is to say that they have the same realization.
Ep. 112: Investigative Journalism
1. Jeff masks his manipulations by affecting a persona that portrays him as being laid back. Buddy describes it best, “You’re not relaxed, you’re an uptight puppet master and these are your puppets.”
2. Abed tells Jeff that the way he got rid of Buddy was necessary, and that leaders do what is necessary whether the action will be popular or not, and that Jeff is the leader, he is the Hawkeye of the group.
3. Jeff’s realization reverses the logic that Abed uses. He realizes that because he’s the leader, he’s not allowed to exclude someone for being crazy since he would be just as crazy if he were to be excluded. His decision to bring Buddy back is now the unpopular decision in the eyes of the group whereas his decision to kick Buddy out was the unpopular decision in the eyes of Buddy.
Ep. 113: Interpretive Dance
1. Troy values his appearance of seeming manly and is afraid he will be emasculated if he reveals that he is taking a dance class with Britta. His cynicism hits a high point when he is supposed to make the reveal with Britta. Instead of supporting her, he lies and makes fun of her with the rest of the group.
BRITTA: Hey everybody, speaking of secrets, Troy and I have something we would like to announce. There is a dance recital on Friday and I would be honored if you guys would attend because since last semester I have been taking a tap class.
BRITTA: Well, I don’t know how funny it is.
JEFF: Come on, we’re not making fun of you. But obviously you kept it a secret because you saw the irony too.
ABED: Well, you’re not typically a vulnerable or feminine person, and the act of dancing is considered both vulnerable and feminine.
BRITTA: I disagree. What about Fred Astaire? What about Barishnakov?
ANNIE: Yeah, I guess.
JEFF: There are exceptions to the rule, but even when Jerry Rice went on dancing with the stars–
PIERCE: Jerry Rice? Oh, I liked him.
SHIRLEY: Troy, what’s your secret?
TROY: Um, my secret is that I knew Britta’s secret. Yeah, I saw her in her dance outfit, and she looked ridiculous. Yeah, I helped her protect her shame. I’m just glad that she’s out now. Bravo, Britta.
2. Troy’s cynicism takes a sexist turn when Britta confronts him. He claims, “I’ve got way more to lose getting up on that stage because I’m a man.” To which Britta sentimentally replies, “Well guess what? A real man doesn’t bail on his friends or on himself. You’re a dancer, Troy, it’s who you are.”
3. Troy’s realization hits when Britta is on stage at the recital and she freezes into an endless tap-loop. He jumps on stage and helps her snap out of it. Britta is shocked, “What’re you doing?” Troy, “Being a friend and a man.”
1. Jeff sees his relationship with Professor Slater as just casual sex even though it’s obvious that it is more than that.
DEAN PELTON: Would you describe yourself as boyfriend and girlfriend?
JEFF: It’s semantics, really, isn’t it?
SLATER: We’ve slept together every night for the last three weeks. How would you describe me?
JEFF: The best friend ever!
SLATER: Well, I guess I’ve had the wrong idea about us. But you know, this is good. I’d be better off dating an, um, adult. See you around.
2. The sentimentality enacted by Slater onto Jeff is a harsh one. She makes it abundantly clear that she will not tolerate his immature antics.
JEFF: I got freaked out by that boyfriend label. I’m afraid of commitment.
SLATER: How original.
J: Look, the biggest truths aren’t original. Truth is ketchup. It’s Jim Belushi. It’s job isn’t to blow our minds, it’s to be in reach. So, the truth is I get claustrophobic when things get official.
S: You’re acting like I’m a venus fly trap. I didn’t want or need more than what we were doing.
J: Let’s get back to it. Should I get the door?
S: I can’t now because you went to the friend place. That’s you getting official, not me. Because if there’s something I need to know about the lunch lady or that blonde in your Spanish class with the infinite supply of leather jackets, somewhere between our ninth and eleventh slumber party, statistically speaking, most people would call us more than pals.
J: Yeah, but as soon as you say it, it can get complicated and messy.
J: Because when you say it, later on you might have to unsay it.
S: Whoopee-flippin-do Winger. It happens fifty million times a day. It’s the Jim Belushi of sexual commitments. It barely means anything, and it grows on what’s there over time.
J: Boy, that guy’s really taking a pounding in this conversation.
S: I’ll see you around, Jeff.
3. To which Jeff realizes that he’s no longer in charge of this relationship, and through that, he doesn’t care what the relationship is called as long as he’s with her:
JEFF: I really liked what we were doing, and if the ratio of work to pleasure can really stay at that same level, I don’t care what it’s called, let’s do it. I’ll do it.
1. Britta is convinced that Jeff is incapable of changing (re: girlfriends/relationships), and that he’ll always be a cat. She refuses to believe that she has had any influence on him as a person.
2. Along with hearing that Jeff and Slater have made it “official,” she sees them holding hands in the audience which is something she never thought Jeff would be capable of doing.
3. Her realization is that her being friends with Jeff did have an impact on how he views relationships. After the dance recital:
BRITTA: Heard you guys are official now.
JEFF: Yeah, I guess. You actually had a big part in that. I mean, if I can handle having a girl for a friend who is to say that I’m not ready for a girlfriend.
BRITTA: Makes perfect sense, break a leg.
NOTE: This is a significant episode in the use of H.S. because it’s used three separate times in one episode. The reason why this works without making the episode seem cramped is that the characters go through multiple parts of H.S. within the same scene or the same dialogue. They’ll experience someone else’s sentimentality and then immediately have a realization right after it. Another reason why it’s possible to do this is that Harmon was able to stagger the realizations so that one character’s arc was concluded before addressing the second part of another character’s arc. This gives the episode a good rhythm as opposed to concluding all the character’s arcs right at the end in a messy montage or something.
Ep. 114: Romantic Expressionism
Jeff and Britta’s Arc
1a. Jeff doesn’t like the fact that Annie is seeing Vaughn because he’s attracted to her. Instead of directly admitting this to Britta, he concocts a series of reasons as to why it’s bad that Annie is seeing Vaughn:
JEFF: Look, this isn’t about you, you groovy hipster. It’s about Annie. We’re like her Greendale parents. You gotta say no to that stuff.
BRITTA: He’s not that bad.
JEFF: Yeah, not if you’re twenty-eight and you’re fooling around with him. She’s eighteen. Her taste in men is still being established. Now creepier and creepier dudes will start thinking of her as an option, and it all starts with Vaughn. He’s a gateway douche-bag.
BRITTA: People collide, things happen. It can’t be controlled, right?
JEFF: And that can be your toast at her shotgun wedding to Starburns.
1b. Britta is in denial about Annie seeing Vaughn and acts as if it doesn’t bother her. This, however, is a false front and she actually isn’t pleased at all that Annie and Vaughn are becoming a thing. Her reason for this displeasure is more than likely jealousy.
1c. Jeff convinces Britta using the points he made above that Annie seeing Vaughn is not a good idea, and they, as a team, seek out to create a scheme that will keep Annie away from Vaughn. Even though they are working together now, they are both doing it for their own selfish reasons: Jeff is attracted to Annie, Britta is jealous of Annie and may still be attracted to Vaughn. They then begin to try and manipulate Troy in order to manipulate Annie. This is the height of their cynicism because now they’ve dragged Troy into the whole thing without even considering his feelings.
2. Because of Jeff and Britta’s carelessness with other people’s feelings, specifically Annie’s and Troy’s, they are subjected to their friends ridiculing them for trying to manipulate everyone. This leads to a scene in which Jeff and Britta each reveal their own individual motivations to not only each other, but everyone else, too. The sentimentality here is that they are being honest with each other even though they are all pretty much at each other’s throats.
3. The realization here is that they should stop interfering in each others love lives. To take it one step further, they even realize that dating within the group might not be such a great idea either. This is considered before Vaughn sings his song to Annie, but it turns into a realization once everyone sees how happy she is with him:
ANNIE: Vaughn wants to show me a cloud that looks like a pumpkin. If that’s OK?
BRITTA: Annie, it’s more than OK. Please date Vaughn.
JEFF: Or anyone else outside this creepy circle.
ANNIE: I wouldn’t hang out with you guys if you were creepy. Trust me, I have good taste.
NOTE: This is an interesting episode because it contains two arcs that start out separately. Each character has their own motivations but end up being the same exact type of H.S. Instead of the typical way side-by-side arcs tend to inform each other or influence each other, these two separate arcs just merge together into a single arc. It can be described as a Y-diagram:
Jeff’s (1) Britta’s (1)
Jeff and Britta’s (2)
Jeff and Britta’s (3)
Ep. 115: Communication Studies
1. Jeff doesn’t believe that return drunk dialing Britta will restore balance to the group. He doesn’t believe Abed because it can’t be that simple, right?
2. Abed shows Jeff his willingness to sacrifice for the sake of the group by getting drunk with Jeff. This is a sacrifice because Abed supposedly doesn’t drink, but he claims, “It’s not for me, it’s for the audience.” The audience is supposed to be Britta in this case. On first blush, it appears that Abed is doing this for Jeff when in actuality he’s doing it for Britta.
3. After having gotten sufficiently drunk with Abed, Jeff drunkenly calls Britta and tells her how happy he is being with Slater, and that he just wants Britta to be as happy as he is because she’s his friend:
JEFF (Drunk on Britta’s Voicemail): Hey look, I’m really into Michelle, and I don’t want to screw it up. She’s a PERFECT girlfriend, and I want you to be as happy as me because you’re like my favorite friend so, HAHAHAHA, I’m sorry, Abed just made a turtle face–
Troy and Pierce’s Arc
1. They feel insecure about not receiving any Valentines when everyone else did, so they send themselves some gifts in an attempt to impress other people by showing that they have special lady friends, when they don’t.
2. When Chang embarrasses them in front of the class for not having special lady friends, Annie and Shirley try to get back at him. Their attempt fails, and Troy and Pierce have to pay the consequences. Annie and Shirley, however, stop them just before they do and confess that they should be the ones who are punished, not Troy and Pierce.
3. Troy and Pierce come to the realization that they’ve had people who care about them all along, and that they will bite the bullet for Annie and Shirley because that’s what they should do:
ANNIE: Look, we’re going to tell Chang the truth, and we’ll pay the price.
TROY: Wait, we can’t make you do that.
PIERCE: Yeah, he’s right. First we have to get out of these pantsuits, and you can put them on.
TROY: Look Pierce, this whole thing started because we didn’t have ladies that cared about us, and the good news is that we obviously do. The bad news is that it makes it our manly duty to protect them tonight.
Ep. 116: Physical Education
1. “Vanity, thy name is…his name. His first name I didn’t catch.” Coach Bogner sums up Jeff’s cynicism by pointing out that Jeff cares more about how he looks than anything else. Jeff simply doesn’t think he looks cool in shorts.
2. Preach, Abed, preach!
BRITTA: Abed, you know we just want you to be happy, right?
ABED: Yeah, I know. Everyone wants me to be happy. Everyone wants to help me. But usually when they find out they can’t, they get frustrated and stop talking to me. Or, they trick me into buying them ice cream and shove me into a clothes dryer. Which I didn’t want to happen with you guys, so I wanted to make you feel like you could help me. The truth is, lots of girls like me cause let’s face it, I’m pretty adorable, and my aloofness unconsciously reminds them of their father. So. I’m more used to them approaching me.
BRITTA: So, we didn’t damage your self-esteem or anything?
ABED: Britta, I got self-esteem falling out of my butt. That’s why I was willing to change for you guys. Because when you really know who you are and what you like about yourself, changing for other people isn’t such a big deal.
3. Jeff realizes via Abed that his inability to wear shorts to play pool is because he doesn’t know what he likes about himself. All he knows is how to make himself think he likes himself. He does this by dressing stylishly and being vain. He now realizes that his clothes aren’t what’s important to him. He should just like himself for who he is, shorts or no shorts.
Study Group’s Arc
1. The Study Group (minus Jeff) thinks it is important for Abed to date people. In order to do this, however, they feel that he needs to change his personality. They exercise two cynicisms simultaneously: (1) forcing Abed to do something he may not want to do because it’s what they think he is supposed to do, and (2) wanting to change who Abed is.
2. Preach Abed, preach! (supra)
3. They realize that Abed isn’t the one who needs changing. It’s obvious that the Study Group has a fairly low self-esteem in general, and by way of Abed, they were trying to raise it in themselves. They learned that they need to figure out what about themselves needs to change so they don’t go about interfering in other people’s lives just to make themselves feel better about themselves. The tricky part of this is figuring out what is important enough to change. Britta gives an example of something that she doesn’t need to change or stress about because it’s not important, that being her pronunciation of the word “bagel.”
NOTE: For both character arcs, the sentimentality that changes the characters from being cynical to being sentimental is the same thing: Abed’s speech about his self-esteem. This is an example of dovetailing two stories into one and then having them go their separate ways in the end to conclude. It can be described in an X-diagram:
Jeff’s (1) Study Group’s (1)
Abed’s Speech (2)
Jeff’s (3) Study Group’s (3)
Ep. 117: Basic Genealogy
1. Since Slater broke up with him, Jeff is now on the rebound and is looking to score. He’s concerned that he might lose this opportunity to use being recently dumped as a reason to hook up with chicks. When he’s guilted into being a good friend to Pierce by Annie, he finds a way to hook up with Pierce’s ex-stepdaughter (obviously behind Pierce’s back), Amber, while still maintaining that he’s being a good friend to Pierce.
2. Annie straightens Jeff out:
ANNIE: Well, you still have to tell Pierce she’s [Amber] taking advantage of him. Don’t you?
JEFF: Well, when you think about it, nobody is getting hurt. Pierce is getting a daughter, Amber is getting allowance, I’m getting, well we already talked about it. But don’t forget this is Pierce, he’s a racist, homophobic, old goof. He does bad stuff all the time.
A: Well, it sounds like you’ve got it all figured out, so why are you talking to me about it?
J: Because you’re, you know–
A: A decent person?
A: And you knew that talking about it would make you feel like a bad friend, and you wanted to feel like a bad friend because you wanted to be a good friend.
J: You really suck, you know that?
3. Jeff plays hardball with Amber and explains that Pierce is his friend, and he can’t let her grift him like this. He does this because he realizes now that his friendship with Pierce has value, and that’s more important than petty attempts to hook up with chicks on the rebound.
PIERCE: You’re lucky Jeff, it’s not too late for you. Have a family, share your life. That and understanding computers are two things you just can’t knock out at the end.
JEFF: Pierce, who did you call last week after you farted on Vaughn?
P: Ha, you.
J: And who did Abed call after that squirrel stole his hot dog?
J: That’s sharing your life. If you have friends, you have family.
1. Shirley begins to doubt how she raises her kids and whether or not she is a good mother. She starts to think her sons may not be as good as she wants them to be. Even though she defends how she raises her kids, she is still inwardly cynical, questioning her own worth.
2. Her two sons cover for Abed’s cousin Abra, so she can go play in the bouncy house which was previously forbidden by Abed’s father. Abed tells Shirley that this was her sons’ idea, not his.
3. She realizes that though her mothering style and her kids aren’t perfect, they’re still good kids at heart. If they weren’t, they never would have helped Abra.
Ep. 118: Beginner Pottery
1. Jeff is insecure about his ability to make a clay pot, and therefore, is cynical towards Rich. Jeff is unwilling to admit that Rich is better than him even though it’s brutally obvious. His cynicism even goes so far as to pull an all-nighter in an attempt to prove to everyone else that Rich is a phony, a pottery ringer.
2. Pierce gives Jeff a pep talk:
PIERCE: Face the facts Jeffrey, this kid’s got some natural talent you just don’t have.
JEFF: How would you know?
P: It’s all over the school.
J: Great. Why aren’t you in sailing class?
P: They drowned me.
P: For a better grade. But weren’t we discussing your flaws, Jeff? Why are you letting this guy get to you so much? What’s really going on?
J: I made a bad pot. For some reason I always thought I was special and different. I guess I just have a really hard time when I want to be good at something and I suck.
P: Here, give me a hand.
J: What’re you doing?
P: I’m going back to my sailing class.
J: After they murdered you?
P: Jeffrey, when I was born I got my umbilical chord wrapped around my neck, both arms, and one of my ankles. Mom said there came a point when the doctor stopped delivering me and just started laughing. If I ever let being bad at something stop me, I wouldn’t even be here. That thing some men call failure, I call living. Breakfast. And I’m not leaving until I clean out the buffet.
3. Jeff returns to pottery class with a new attitude and realizes he was being unfair to Rich by taking his frustrations out on him. He apologizes:
JEFF: I can’t fully explain my behavior. I mean, I’d love to blame booze or demon possession.
RICH: You know what, don’t even worry about it. I’m bad at holding grudges.
JEFF: Well I’m bad at pottery. I’m an amateur pottery enthusiast trying as hard as I can at something I suck at. It’s great.
1. Being crowned Captain of the sailing class, Shirley’s new position has gone to her head. She ends up telling Pierce who isn’t pulling his weight, “On my boat the crew comes first. No single person is above it. So you either shape up or ship the hell out.” She says this despite Pierce being her friend:
BRITTA: Shirley, I thought you said that kind people are always kind.
SHIRLEY: Yes, and strong people change. If the sea were always still and calm, nobody would respect her. I’m like the sea.
Shirley then proceeds to let Pierce drown in order to save the boat in their next class.
2. After seeing Pierce attempt to get back onto the boat via a homemade rowboat, the rest of the class makes fun of him. This pains Shirley. It’s another case where an outside act of cynicism triggers a sentimentality inside the cynical person.
3. Shirley realizes she should save Pierce even at the risk of losing her good grade in the class:
BRITTA: I’m about to get the only ‘A’ I’m ever going to get, and Pierce isn’t even dying. You don’t have to do this.
SHIRLEY: I know, but I’d rather be kind and get stepped on every once in a while than be a hard-ass and turn my back on a friend.
Ep. 119: The Science of Illusion
1. Britta is in denial and cynical of being an actual cynic. She refuses to accept that she’s the un-fun one, a buzzkill, a sourpuss. Instead of embracing who she is and maybe change who she is, she simply tries to cover it up and pretend that she isn’t a buzzkill by pulling a lame prank. Jeff, albeit halfheartedly, basically tells her to accept who she is:
JEFF: Britta, why waste your time envying my gift for levity when there’s so much you can be doing with your natural talent for severity?
BRITTA: You know what, my prank is going to cause a sea of laughter and I’m going to watch you drown in it.
JEFF: ‘Atta girl!
2. Jeff tries to ease the pain of Britta coming to terms with who she is.
BRITTA (Crying): Great I did it again! I killed the buzz!
JEFF: Look, um, maybe, maybe buzzkill is a bad choice of words.
BRITTA: What’s a good choice of words?
JEFF: I don’t know, I, um, you’re like the dark cloud that unites us or the anti-Winger. You’re the heart of this group. Look I don’t really have a good handle on all this mushy stuff, and if I did then we wouldn’t need you.
3. She finally accepts her role as the buzzkill in the group, which is to say that she accepts her role as the truly sentimental one. Despite her being the truly sentimental one, she more often than not comes off as a cynic.
Ep. 120: Contemporary American Poultry
1. Jeff feels power slipping away from him and is afraid he won’t be able to get it back. He worries that his status in the group as its leader is being usurped by Abed. When Abed points this out, Jeff denies it entirely out of pride and ego.
JEFF: Abed, eventually people are going to get tired of chicken. I’m tired of chicken.
ABED: You’re not tired of chicken, you miss the taste of control.
JEFF: Well that’s crazy.
ABED: Is it? Unfortunately the very thing that drove you to this dorm room is what would prevent you from properly running this machine. Or even being a cog in it, your ego.
JEFF: I see, I see. This has been about me the whole time. You want a shot at the Jeff Winger throne? Well, you better bring a powerful ass. Oh, and for your information, I don’t have an ego, my Facebook photo is a landscape.
As a result of Abed confronting Jeff about his ego, Jeff attempts to turn the Study Group against Abed in order to regain control despite him denying that this is what he’s most desperately seeking. Jeff’s cynicism is that he’s jealous of Abed and is willing to try and turn everyone against him for his own selfish reasons.
2. Through Abed’s own actions (almost being self-destructive), Jeff regains his power over the group and finds he can control them again. He ends up talking to Abed and learns what was really going on:
ABED: Everyone else needs my help. That’s what people don’t get, that they need to get me. I just need to connect to people like you can, then I can make everyone happy.
JEFF: Do you know why I’m here?
ABED: You got caught with a fake bachelor’s degree. By the way, they started using that as a seasonal arc on Law and Order. Total ripoff.
JEFF: I’m here to dismantle the fryer. To cut your power off at its source. I manipulated the group into getting you the fry cook job so I could have some chicken. And you turned it all into a way for everyone to like you. Made me ashamed of myself. Made me jealous.
3. Jeff’s realization that he was manipulating people for his own self-interests and then got upset when someone else manipulated him for their own self-interest makes him ashamed of manipulating anyone at all. He makes a deal with Abed, “I’ll help you connect with people, and you help me do a better job with them.”
NOTE: At first glance, it appears as though Abed is the cynical one in this episode. It seems like he’s putting Jeff through the wringer by usurping his throne in order to fulfill his own self-interests of getting others to like him. However, Abed is just confused and misguided. He doesn’t believe that he’s actually hurting Jeff because he’s doing exactly what Jeff is doing, manipulating the Study Group. But what makes Jeff cynical and Abed not is that Jeff manipulates them out of a need to be in control, Abed manipulates them in order to connect with them which he thinks will make them happy. His misguided cynicism is actually sentimental. This is what makes Abed unique throughout this season: his innate inability to connect with people prevents him from being cynical, from ever being selfish, acting in his own self-interest, or to manipulate anyone for his own gain. On the surface it may seem like he’s doing something cynical for his own gain, but he’s always doing it with the end goal in mind of benefitting the well-being of others. It’s not that he’s naive of his actions, he just lacks the empathy required of him to be aware of how his actions really affect other people. Whether a gift or a curse, this is what prevents him from being cynical (specifically in this season) which, more often than not, makes him the unwitting source of most of the season’s sentimentality.
Ep. 121: The Art of Discourse
1. Doesn’t think he embarrassed Shirley. He’s totally oblivious to how his actions affect other people.
2. Shirley, with sincerity, calls Pierce an “arrogant, self-righteous ass.” Usually when people point out his flaws they do it in a way that allows him to deflect it as a joke. Shirley begins to relate to him in that they’re both seen as the old ones in the group and are often excluded.
3. Pierce realizes how strong Shirley is and tells her so, saying that even he couldn’t strip her of that:
SHIRLEY: It’s called respect and no one ever gave me didley.
PIERCE: Except me. I respect you more than anyone else in the group.
S: Which is why you pantsed me.
P: Well, you see, that wasn’t wrong.
S: Oh for heaven’s sake, you are such an arrogant self-righteous ass.
P: And you are a strong dignified woman who is raising a family, a bigger accomplishment than anyone else in that room. And no one can ever strip you of that, not even me.
S: You really believe that?
Study Group’s Arc (minus Pierce and Shirley)
1. They are willing to undermine Shirley and go behind her back in order to get Pierce back in the group so that they have someone to make fun of again. This is motivated by their own self-interest completely at the expense of Shirley.
* This arc goes completely unresolved. This is the only arc of the season that behaves this way. The group’s cynicism is obvious but at no point is any sentimentality acted upon them in order for them to have a realization that changes their original cynicism. Pierce and Shirley’s sentimentality happens away from the rest of the group, and as a result, they rejoin the group at their own behest, not because of anything the others do. The realization that the group should have had was that they should never have gone behind Shirley’s back to try and get Pierce to apologize to her. The reason why this arc goes unresolved is a mystery. It could be because of time, editing, or any other production reason. Regardless, the episode is wrapped up rather hastily with a food fight that does nothing with regards to character development. Shirley sums it up well (re: the Study Group), “They don’t even realize how much they need us.”
Ep. 122: Modern Warfare
1. Jeff is cynical that Britta does charitable things for the right reasons. He thinks she’s a phony.
BRITTA: You know what, I say if anyone of us wins the prize we give it to Shirley as a Mother’s Day gift.
JEFF: What? Abed you don’t have to do that. I am so sick of you guilting people with your phony humanitarian shtick.
BRITTA: Phony? When I win you can watch me do it.
JEFF: Of course you’ll do it, but that won’t make it less phony. You know, you’d be a lot more likable–
BRITTA: If I never did anything for anybody ever?
JEFF: Yeah, because when you help people that always turns out great.
Jeff’s cynicism is similar to Britta’s self-cynicism in episode 119. In 119, she pretended to be someone she’s not. In this episode, Jeff is trying to tell her that she’s trying to be someone she’s not. Britta’s phoniness is only surface level, and she really does have good intentions (see Jeff calling her the heart of the group in 119). Jeff’s cynicism is that he has difficulty believing that people can be as unselfish as Britta without ulterior motives. He has difficulty believing in genuine unselfishness.
2. After Britta’s attempt to turn on Jeff fails, she decides to help him escape by biting the bullet with Chang. She believes this to be the only fair remedy for her betrayal and is an example of her sincerity:
BRITTA: Look, you got the drop on me, I lost. Let me do this for you.
3. Jeff is affected by her actually going through with this and realizes that Shirley should get the priority registration prize. Britta’s season long sentimental influence continues here, and Jeff starts to think that her “phony humanitarian shtick” might not be that phony after all.
NOTE: Despite this being a significant episode with regards to how Jeff views Britta, it shouldn’t be overlooked that his views on her may have changed as a result of her finally sleeping with him in the middle of this episode. It’s uncertain if this is why Jeff is willing to be generous and sentimental by giving Shirley the prize but it’s definitely possible. Like Debate 109, Britta and Jeff doing it on the study room table overshadows any instance of H.S. in the episode.
Ep. 123: English as a Second Language
1. Annie spills the beans on Chang’s lack of credentials which in turn puts the entire Study Group at risk of not passing his class. She did this in hopes that everyone would fail so that they have to retake Spanish together. She was afraid that if they don’t have a class together next year, they won’t still be friends. She has trouble believing that this group is capable of being friendly without a class to center their friendship around.
2. Jeff takes her to the streets and gives her a harsh lesson on friendship. Though Jeff’s actions aren’t sentimental in the way he delivers them, they act in such a way as to help Annie grow up:
JEFF: Friends don’t do what you did to us. Did the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants poison each others food so they were too sick to leave? No! I’ve never seen it, but I’m pretty sure they mailed each other pants!
ANNIE: I said I was sorry!
JEFF: Who cares if you’re sorry, we’re still screwed! Be sorry about this stuff before you do it! Then don’t do it! It’s called growing up!
3. Annie, via text message to Shirley, says she realizes her mistakes and will patch things up with Chang.
1. Jeff’s only concern is graduating as soon as possible with or without the group. He makes it clear that his graduation date is set in stone, and he won’t let any extraneous academic efforts stop him.
2. Annie, via text message to Shirley, says she realizes her mistakes and will patch things up with Chang. Annie’s realization acts as the sentimentality Jeff needs.
3. Jeff aborts the final in order to save Annie from Chang realizing that their friendship is more important than him graduating on time. He’s starting to understand that it’s OK for him to admit that he likes his friends. He gains perspective by way of Annie’s sentimentality.
ANNIE: Jeff, I could never forgive myself for what I did.
JEFF: Look, I treated you like a child for having feelings. And maybe, because you know, that’s when I stopped having them. But you shouldn’t. You don’t have to be a kid to admit that you like people.
Ep. 124: Pascal’s Triangle Revisited
1. Britta ends up participating in the Tranny Queen competition for false reasons. Instead of doing it because she wants to do it, she’s doing it to compete with Slater in a thinly veiled attempt to impress Jeff.
2. She sees that she might lose Jeff to Slater and panics as a result, showing that she might actually care about Jeff.
3. She then announces that she loves Jeff. This is supposed to be her big realization, but as a viewer having forward knowledge of what happens in Ep. 201, it would be a dubious assertion that she actually loves him.
1. Troy is bitter that Abed hasn’t asked him to move in with him.
2. Abed points out the all too true cliche of how it could ruin their friendship.
3. Troy realizes his friendship with Abed is a giant cookie:
JEFF: What’s wrong with you?
TROY: I’m sick. I don’t know why.
J: Have you considered the 60-inch diameter cookie you’re eating?
T: How can something that’s delicious make me sick? Unless too much of a good thing is actually a bad thing. My friendship with Abed is a giant cookie!
Ep. 201: Anthropology 101
And we’re back.
1. Jeff finds himself at odds with Britta. After Britta confessed her love for Jeff and he walked out on her at the end of Ep. 124, Britta is heralded throughout the school as a figure of empowerment while Jeff is ridiculed. He starts to think that Britta’s new popularity will adversely affect his ability to get laid. Because of this petty mindset, he seeks to even the odds with Britta by saying that he loves her. They now enter a competition to see who can get the upper hand in their fake relationship at the expense of everyone else in school thinking they’re actually being genuine. Jeff explains his cynicism to Annie:
JEFF: She’s turning every woman on campus against me.
ANNIE: Well not every woman, certainly not the one who deserves to be with you.
JEFF: Annie, all women deserve to be with me. And vice versa.
ANNIE: Granted but who doesn’t actually settle down.
JEFF: I don’t, and I never will. And if I did, if I did I could beat Britta at her own game.
2. Abed, after Jeff and Britta reveal that their “relationship” was just a competition between the two to see who can get power over the other, burns Jeff:
ABED: By the power invested in me, I pronounce you cancelled.
JEFF: Oh good, yeah Abed, cancel us. And while you’re at it, why don’t you take your cutesy ‘I can’t tell life from TV’ gimmick with you. You know it’s very season one.
ABED: I can tell life from TV, Jeff. TV makes sense, it has structure, logic, rules, and likable leading men. In life we have this. We have you.
3. Jeff comes to the realization that there is a severe lack of respect in the group, and it all starts at the top with him. Jeff’s speech:
JEFF: It was a trick question. The tool most important to humanity’s survival wasn’t any of the nine in the box. The most important tool is respect. And the reason why I know that respect is a tool is because it is clearly not a natural thing, and we forget to use it all the time, and then we start competing with each other and exploiting each other and humiliating each other and controlling each other. And we lose each other. And without each other, we go extinct. And that’s a fact.
1. Britta’s cynicism is her embracing her newly found popularity at Jeff’s expense. She continues this by indulging him in his competition which ultimately ends in the Study Group self-destructing.
2. Jeff gives his speech about respect and is attacked by Prof. Bauer. He then tries to fight her off by saying, “I respect you.”
3. Seeing Jeff get beaten up by an old woman who drinks her own pee makes Britta realize that Jeff had the right answer, that they need to respect each other much more if they want to survive.
Ep. 202: Accounting for Lawyers
1. Jeff thinks the study group is holding him back from ever becoming a lawyer again. Meeting up with his old friend, Alan, gives him a taste of what he’s missed so much. Now he’s confusing who he really wants to be friends with and begins to put Alan and his old lifestyle before the study group.
2. The study group makes it their business to show Jeff that Alan is a bad friend and even conjure up evidence to prove that Alan turned Jeff into the Bar. Alan proves his poor friendship by continually lying to Jeff.
3. Jeff comes to his senses and realizes that he just wants to work as a lawyer, not hang out with them. He’d rather hang out with cool people, i.e. the Study Group.
SHIRLEY: Jeffrey, did you punch Alan in his rotten face and then storm out?
JEFF: Hell no. That guy’s useful to me. Thanks to you I’ve now got leverage over a spineless jag who’s just made partner. That is the place I want to work, but I’d prefer to hang out with cool people. People so cool they care.
Ep. 203: The Psychology of Letting Go
1. Despite his relentless dieting and exercising, Jeff is coming to terms with the fact that he could possibly die before someone who sucks down donuts and figgy pudding every day. He then takes the frustration from this out on Pierce who refuses to acknowledge that his mom is dead.
PROF. DUNCAN: Look, the way I see it, claiming that you have no religion you are actually devoutly worshipping yourself. Now that your God has high cholesterol, you’re trying to kick Pierce’s in the balls.
Jeff wishes that he could be as oblivious or easy going about death, and the fact that he can’t be is what drives him to cynically kicking Pierce’s God in the balls.
2. Pierce’s Mom recorded herself on a CD for Pierce who plays it in the car with Troy and Jeff present:
PIERCE’S MOM: Pierce, you found the CD which means I’m dead. Not vaporized, I’m gone. Gone forever, and that’s how I like it. Life is only worth a damn because it’s short. It’s designed to be consumed, used, spanked, 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.
3. Jeff realizes that his views on death are separate from Pierce’s, and that if Pierce wants to believe his Mom is vaporized into energon cubes, then that’s his business. Jeff realizes, “Nobody lives forever.” Including him.
Annie and Britta’s Arc
1. Both experience the same kind of cynicism, but they express it in different ways. On the surface, their cynicism seems to be towards how each other uses their gender to create an identity, and as a result they attack each other in order to protect themselves from appearing wrong.
2. When their tempers finally boil over, they get in a mud/oil fight.
3. In wake of their brawl, they realize why they’re always at odds:
BRITTA: I just got jealous of you.
ANNIE: No, but you totally called me on what I was doing, and I only kissed Jeff because I only wanted to see if I could do it, because I wanted to be cool and sexy like you. I can’t believe how gross I am.
BRITTA: I only slept with Jeff because I hate myself, and that’s why I got after you for raising more money. I’m twice as gross.
Once they finally venture into deeper water, the two figure out what they were really squabbling about. They weren’t actually concerned about how each other uses their gender, instead, they were concerned about the competition between the two for alpha female within the group. Claiming the other was disgracing their gender was just a way to disguise their true cynicism for the other as a person.
Ep. 204: Basic Rocket Science
1. In an attempt to gain favor with City College to help her transfer, Annie tried to sabotage Greendale’s Space-bus and in turn got the Study Group mixed up in the whole thing. What she’s doing is turning her back on her friends and her school in order to further her own interests of hopefully transferring out of Greendale.
2. Jeff’s crappy speech:
JEFF: Wait, City College was behind this? We have to get back in time for that launch.
JEFF: We earned the right to pick on Greendale every day by going there. Our school may be a toilet, but it’s our toilet. Nobody craps in it but us.
3. After Jeff’s speech, Annie is all of a sudden back on team Greendale. There is no focus on her apologizing or coming to terms with why she wanted to transfer and why she should stay. She just all of a sudden flips sides. The only real line of significance for her regarding this change of heart comes at the end:
DEAN SPRECK (City College Dean): Well Ann, I guess you’re not City College material after all.
ANNIE: Thank you!
NOTE: Sometimes the H.S. falls through the cracks. When this happens, the episode loses some of its heart and feels kind of deflated. The usual focus on character development and turning cynicism into sentimentality is overrun by plot semantics. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad episode, it’s just not as powerful or relevant in terms of H.S. Dan Harmon expands on this in the commentary:
DAN HARMON: And I think our little error was, but it was for a good reason, OK we’re doing this conceptual episode but it’s got this sci-fi angle to it, now more than ever we need what we got from the Jeff/Britta hook-up in the paintball episode. We need that grounded character element otherwise this thing is going to be flying off into Family Guy space. Um, so we, it feels forced the Annie as a potential transfer student arc. We didn’t mean for it to feel forced, we had justified it in our heads. It’s earlier in the season, maybe over the summer she’s been thinking about switching out. You need a good plot twist, someone aboard the ship is a Russian spy kind of thing. People, people– I think that was the most negative thing critics said about the episode was that that felt a little sweaty.
Ep. 205: Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples
1. Abed believes that his film will be the greatest film ever made. His ego gets completely out of control, and he loses perspective of who he is, what his role is, and his friendship with Shirley.
2. He sees Shirley respond to his prayer by destroying his unbelievably disappointing film with a Louisville Slugger.
3. He realizes that it was wrong of him to hijack Shirley’s film and to turn it into his own. His response was to make Shirley’s film the way she wanted it to be made in the first place. He realizes that their friendship humbles him.
1. Shirley manipulates the study group via her guilt inducing powers to help her make her religious film.
2. She hears Abed praying to God for help (re: his unbelievably disappointing film).
3. Shirley realizes that it was wrong of her to guilt people into making her movie. She comes to the same realization that Abed does: that their friendship keeps each other’s ego in tact.
NOTE: This is one of the first instances where we see how Abed can become cynical. It appeared as though in season one that the character of Abed was designed to be the catch all for any sentimentality that was needed. He was a type of safety net that if the episode needed a sentimental act that couldn’t come up as organically as possible, then he would fill in. In season two, the writers are more acclimated with each character and were able to exploit each character’s sentimentality in order to spawn realizations. Abed wasn’t necessarily needed all the time because of the familiarity with the other characters. As a result, the writers were able to explore how to break Abed. They were able to see how his personality could negatively impact other people. He originally was just the cool one, but now we see that even he has his flaws. This is explored more throughout season two, and even more in season three.
1. Doesn’t want to be seen as the Dad of the group and refuses to monitor Pierce.
3. He sees Pierce sitting sadly by himself in the Dean’s office. He asks the secretary about Leonard:
JEFF: Is anybody coming to get Leonard? SECRETARY: No, nobody comes for him any more. His kids asked us to stop calling them. Why do you think he acts like that?
His realization is that maybe Pierce has been acting out because of how he and the rest of the Study Group treat him. After hearing about Leonard, he realizes he doesn’t want Pierce to be that way.
* There isn’t much of a sentimentality that affects Jeff to make him come to his realization. The only thing that happens is the secretary tells him the facts about Leonard and then opines on them as seen above. It can be argued that Pierce was the one who was supposed to experience the sentimentality and thus have the realization. He did have some guilt in the later parts of his story about the way he and the “hipsters” were behaving but as evidenced by his tantrum with Jeff, he never experienced a realization because of it. This is another example of a H.S. that falls flat but because it was a B-story, it doesn’t impact the episode as much as it could have.
Ep. 206: Epidemiology
1. Troy begins to feel insecure about his nerdy-ness after having been dissed by some hotties. In an attempt to regain some element of coolness, he ditches his Alien costume that he did with Abed for a minimalist “sexy Dracula” costume. He then calls Abed a nerd.
2. Abed talks to Troy about what being a nerd is:
ABED: Troy, why’d you change your costume?
TROY: Why bring that up now, Abed? We might die down here.
ABED: All the more reason to get this ironed out. You called me a nerd up there. What defines a nerd? Committing to an awesome Halloween costume with your best friend. Is that what nerds do?
TROY: I don’t know Abed. Because I’m not a nerd. Which is why I’m not taking part in this nerdy conversation.
Soon after, Abed decides to sacrifice himself in order to save Troy by using his nerdy knowledge to convince him that he should be the one who is saved:
TROY: I’m not going without you!
ABED: Troy, make me proud. Be the first black man to make it to the end.
3. Troy realizes that being a nerd for your friend is OK no matter how many hotties diss you. Even though it doesn’t really work, Troy dons his Alien costume again telling the Dean that his plan to save everyone is to be a nerd.
Ep. 207: Aerodynamics of Gender
1. As a group, Annie, Britta and Shirley use Abed for their own self-interest. They reveal themselves to be incredibly insecure about themselves, specifically their appearances. This is brought to the surface when Megan, the school bitch, insults them in front of the whole class. The girls then use Abed and his ability to remorselessly make fun of people’s most glaring flaws to get even with Megan and then some. Eventually the girls abuse this power in order to mask their own insecurities, placing them on the very top of the female hierarchy at Greendale.
2. Abed sees that the girls are themselves becoming bitches and takes them down a peg. He eventually sees that he is now at the very top of the hierarchy and tells Megan how to take him down. He initiates a self-destruct code via Megan in order to show the girls what being a bitch makes you capable of doing:
MEGAN: Hey, horse neck! So, what’s with the clothes? You look like a toddler who got dressed in the dark. Look at your face, it’s like, your mom was a lizard who got raped by a muppet. What, too hurt to respond? That’s right, you don’t have feelings. See, the rest of us feel ashamed of ourselves so we act like bitches to make ourselves feel better. But you did it to fit in and no matter how hard you try, you never will.
3. The girls realize that them using Abed was absolutely wrong. They see now that their insecurities are their own problems, and they shouldn’t have dragged Abed into it.
BRITTA: Abed, are you OK?
ANNIE: That was so cruel.
ABED: I deserved it. I should have never been mean to anybody. Least of all you guys. I was trying so hard to fit in that I took it too far.
BRITTA: We took it too far. We became the kind of women that we hate, and we turned you into a monster.
SHIRLEY: The kind of monster that makes outlandish statements about someone’s weight. Those kind of things hurt, even when they’re not true.
ANNIE: And all because we were insecure.
ABED: Everyone is. Even Tom Cruise knows he’s short and nuts. We’re at the mercy of each other and ourselves. That’s why there has to be forgiveness on both sides.
Ep. 208: Cooperative Calligraphy
The Study Group’s Arc
1. The cynical person in this episode is the group as a whole. They end up distrusting each other completely. Everyone is suspicious of everyone else. It turns out that everyone has a small reason for being a suspect for stealing Annie’s pen, and the others all latch onto that small reason and amplify it in order to make it seem less likely that they themselves stole it.
2. The holy grail that everyone is trying to get to throughout this episode is that they all want to trust each other. They want to believe so badly that these people around them truly are their friends. It seems inconceivable that their friends are capable of stealing something from one another and then persistently lie about it in order to cover for themselves. The sentimentality snowballs as the episode chugs along and is showed by everyone confessing that they want to know what happened to the pen so that they can once again trust their friends.
3. The realization the group comes to collectively, exemplified through Winger’s speech to bring them home, is that it is near impossible that one of the Study Group members has the audacity to put the others through this tumultuous experience just to cover their own butt. They realize that the reason why they didn’t trust each other was because they wanted to find evidence to show why they should trust each other. The last scene:
BRITTA: Annie I’d just like to say on behalf of whoever stole this pen, I really am sorry about all this.
PIERCE: I knew it was you.
TROY: I knew it was you.
ANNIE: All I know is it could be any of you.
JEFF: And for all we know, it’s you.
ANNIE: I wish it were, I really do. I wish I could just find it behind my ear. I’d rather be that stupid than to have to think that any one of us could be that inconsiderate.
SHIRLEY: After all we’ve been through it almost seems impossible.
JEFF: It seems less than impossible. Something impossible actually seems more likely.
ABED: Here we go, Winger’s speech to take us home.
JEFF: What if a ghost took the pen?
ABED: Let him finish.
JEFF: I am finished. For real, honestly, seriously, why not? Why not just a ghost took the pen?
TROY: OK, I’ve been saying that for hours.
JEFF: And we should have been listening to Troy from the beginning. Guys, look in your hearts and answer this question honestly: what’s more likely, that someone in this group doesn’t belong in this group, or, ghosts? If we have to choose between turning on each other or pinning it on some specter with unfinished pen related business, I’m sorry, but my money’s on ghost.
Ep. 209: Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design
1. Jeff’s cynicism is that he only sees Annie on a surface level. He automatically assumes that Annie is pursuing his attempt to get a free credit in order to catch him in his own lie. He thinks that she wanted to make sure that he doesn’t deceive the Dean under the guise of protecting academic integrity. He was dubious of his friend’s intentions from the start. He even goes so far as to try to manipulate Annie into not being herself to ensure that he gets his fake credit. He says, “Now do me a favor, be very un-Annie, and blow it off too.”
2. During the triumphant showdown with fake guns, Annie goes off script and says, “But Jeff, I only did it because I love you!” This shows Annie’s true intentions that she only wanted to follow through with the conspiracy because she cares about Jeff.
3. Because of what Annie says, Jeff realizes that his somewhat half-hearted attempts at corrupting Annie into blowing this thing off in order for it to be forgotten so he can get his fake credit was asking too much of her. It was unfair of him to try and use her like that. In response to her telling him she loves him, he says, “Well, when you love someone, you have to take them as they are, people aren’t playthings Annie.”
NOTE: The H.S. in this episode may appear somewhat forced to some. It is definitely overshadowed by how convoluted the series of conspiracies within the episode are. It’s possible that the reason for this can be found in the pitch of the episode the writers (in this case, Chris McKenna and Dan Harmon) gave to the studio. It seems that the episode was conceived based on a gimmick instead of grounded character development. They mention it in the commentary:
DAN HARMON: There’s a couple odd things about this episode. It’s weird because it stands out as just a beautiful piece of complete storytelling, film making, and yet, there’s some glaring pieces of evidence that this thing was produced hand to mouth. Meaning, we were way behind schedule, and we once again were sending pages down to the set. In this case, really more egregiously than ever because we literally did not know the third act while we were shooting it.
CHRIS MCKENNA: We exploded it.
D.H.: The pitch for this episode was McKenna pitching this entire first act basically. That was always the pitch for this episode because it’s an episode about plot twists, so the pitch was this happens, what you’re watching right now [the opening scene], then they go to that room, and Garrity shows up and he walks away and Jeff says, ‘I’ve never seen that guy before in my life,’ and that’s the pitch. But part of the pitch isn’t then here’s what happens. We had to then try to keep, and we were racking our brains, so because of that we kept the brain racking going while they started shooting, and there was just a point where, the whole third act which is all the gun play, that was written the night before the shoot, so like six hours before cameras were rolling.
C.M.: So it wasn’t sent down to the set, it was I was with you, we wrote it all night long then we walked it down to set.
Ep. 210: Mixology Certification
1. Annie’s cynicism is similar to what she experienced in Ep. 207, that she’s insecure about herself. While at the bar, she pretends to be someone else for the entire night. She even goes so far as to criticize herself in the third person:
BARTENDER: So, what now?
ANNIE: I don’t know. Even if I planned it, plans just fall off me like chicken crap off an armadillo. Annie’s the one who plans things, not me. Annie’s my friend. She goes to school here, thinks she’s got it all figured out. She wants to major in healthcare management. What does that even mean?
BARTENDER: No idea.
ANNIE: I’ll tell you what it means. It means a masters degree, followed by an internship. She’s got the next fifteen years of her life all mapped out, and all she’s got to do now is follow it or screw it up.
2. At the end of the night, Troy snaps her out of it and tells her how cool she is:
ANNIE: Weird night, huh?
TROY: Yeah, alcohol makes people sad. It’s like the lifetime movie of beverages.
A: I pretended to be a different person tonight.
T: Abed does that like three times a week.
A: But I did it because I didn’t want to be me. I did it because I’m not sure who I am. Admit it, we went to school together for four years, and you didn’t even know me.
T: Yeah, but I know you now. You’re Annie. You like puzzles and little monsters on your pencil and some guy named Mark Ruffalo. You’re a fierce competitor and a sore loser. And you expect everybody to better than who they are, and you expect yourself to be better than everyone. Which is cool.
3. Annie realizes that she is herself and that there is nothing wrong with that. She starts to become comfortable in her own skin. If her friends are capable of seeing what makes her Annie, why can’t she?
Ep. 211: Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas
1. Thinks she is the only one who knows what Christmas is about:
ABED: Ladies, cut the non-thematic chatter, and keep your eyes on the prize. We’re looking for the meaning of Christmas.
SHIRLEY: Uh, you know what Abed? I happen to know the meaning of Christmas, and I’m pretty sure I’m the only one here that does. So I would appreciate a certain level of respect even if I’m a guest in your make believe therapy wonderland.
1. Wants to let Abed have his claymation delusion by possibly ignoring it. When he does end up indulging it, he hints on several occasions that he wants to get it over with as quickly as possible so he can go get laid.
1. Only wants to help Abed so he doesn’t get kicked out of school. Though her intentions are pure, they’re misguided. She should want to help Abed because he’s her friend, and he needs help beyond his status at Greendale. She doesn’t see the big picture. She also ends up lying to him in order to get him to the makeshift therapy session.
Although Shirley, Jeff and Britta each have their initial forms of cynicism, the way their arcs play out are all identical, and their arcs all merge into one arc that ends up being shared by the entire group whether the other characters were cynical or not.
2. The sentimentality that everyone experiences is when Abed goes catatonic in response to Duncan’s relentless cynicism. This is an act of incidental sentimentality because it shows how Abed is giving in/ committed entirely to his emotional connection to Christmas. Abed’s feelings right now are completely genuine, and this is shown through him becoming frozen.
3. Everyone realizes that Christmas time is more than just about Christmas. That it’s more about the idea than the actual religion. Their song sums it up:
JEFF: The delusion you’re trying to cure is called Christmas, Duncan.
ANNIE: It’s the crazy notion that the longest, coldest, darkest nights can be the warmest and brightest.
BRITTA: Yeah, and when we all agree to support each other in that insanity, something even crazier happens.
ANNIE: It becomes true.
TROY: Works every year like clockwork.
DUNCAN: Try telling that to your catatonic friend.
SHIRLEY: I’ve got a better idea, why don’t we sing it.
BRITTA: Wait, what?
JEFF: Yeah, let’s not go overboard.
SHIRLEY: Will you two commit to something for a change.
JEFF: Let’s sing it.
BRITTA: Yeah, let’s sing.
TROY: Can we sing while we blow Duncan away?
SHIRLEY: You start Britta.
BRITTA: Christmas time is a time to sing, that’s what Christmas is for.
ANNIE: Christmas can even be a Hanukah thing, that’s what Christmas is for.
SHIRLEY: And for a huge percentage of this god fearing planet it’s about the birth of JESUS CHRIST!
JEFF: But for the rest of us it’s still a good time to remember that it’s good to be nice!
PIERCE: Music and liquor and cookies and trees, that’s what Christmas is for!
TROY: Video games for two straight weeks, that’s what Christmas is for!
ANNIE: Hanging out with the people you love.
JEFF AND ANNIE: And saying, I love you!
BRITTA: That’s what Christmas is…
EVERYONE: That’s what Christmas is, that’s what Christmas is, that’s what Christmas is for!
1. Abed’s cynicism is that he is in denial of his Mom not visiting him even though she did every single year on the same day since she and Abed’s Dad divorced. His response is to check out mentally and imagine the world in claymation.
2. The Study Group enables Abed’s delusion and teams up against this episode’s villain, Duncan. They commit to the format of a Christmas special and defeat him via song (supra).
3. Abed realizes that Christmas is to be with his family, and the Study Group is his new family now. Abed sums it up:
ABED: I get it. The meaning of Christmas is the idea that Christmas has meaning. And it can mean whatever we want. For me it used to mean being with my Mom. Now it means being with you guys.
Ep. 212: Asian Population Studies
1. Jeff is secretly jealous of Annie’s crush on Rich, and he tries to manipulate everybody into not admitting Rich into the Study Group. He does this by using Chang. Even though Rich would be a beneficial addition to the Study Group, Jeff tries to sabotage him in order to further his own self-interest, i.e. relations with Annie.
2. Jeff talks to Shirley’s ex-husband, Andre:
JEFF: So, um–
ANDRE: Look, I’m not mad at Shirley.
J: You’re not?
A: No, I’m mad at myself. You know if I hadn’t left her like I did, none of this would’ve happened. You ever have something you didn’t truly appreciate until you didn’t have it anymore?
J: Oh yeah, Carestina.
A: Old girlfriend?
J: Almond facial scrub, they only make it in Finland.
A: The old me would’ve been long gone by now. I didn’t think I could ever change, but let me tell you, the love of a good woman makes anything possible. Looks like I’m gonna be a daddy again.
3. Jeff realizes that he can change, and that he can learn to appreciate the things and people in front of him. This isn’t necessarily with regards to Annie, rather, it’s a bigger realization for Jeff. Instead of running to Annie, he runs to Rich so he can learn to become a better person:
JEFF: Don’t say anything until I’ve said what I’ve got to say. I’ve known you for almost two years now, and I’ve never taken you as seriously as I should have. You are the strangest, coolest, most genuine person I’ve ever met. And the thing that scares me about you is how good you make me wish I was. Help me Rich, help me become like you. I mean, I am so amazing, but I’m not perfect. You are. Give me that power so I can abuse it.
RICH: Jeff, you are one funny bunny. You can’t just fake being good in order to get away with doing bad things.
JEFF: I completely understand, and do you understand that I still have to try? And if you don’t help me, you’re a bad person.
RICH: You got me there guy! Come on in and dry off!
Ep. 213: Celebrity Pharmacology 212
1. Annie takes Pierce’s money which turns out to be a bribe from him in order to get more lines in her play. Annie is compromising her message for her own personal gain and in doing so, is lying to the rest of the group.
2. When the study group finds out what Annie has done, they act like they should- outraged:
ABED: That’s why the script got changed, Pierce bought his way in. Annie sold out her message.
JEFF: You’ve been indulging this maniac?
ANNIE: Yes! I’ve been indulging this maniac. You’re fired.
PIERCE: Fired? The next time I’m at Dildopolis, I will not be coming upstairs to say hi.
JEFF: The only reason we did this was for your stupid ideals, and it turns out you don’t even have any!
SHIRLEY: We supported you, Annie.
BRITTA: Yeah Annie, you’re fired.
3. Annie realizes that she can’t take Pierce’s money anymore, not because she was compromising her message in the play, but because she’d be compromising herself as a person:
PIERCE: Annie, before you say anything I just want you to know that even though I did nothing wrong, I’m still going to give you money.
ANNIE: No, I can’t take your money Pierce. I can’t go from depending on my parents to depending on you, which is why I’m going to get a job.
P: So you’re cutting me off?
A: No, Pierce. I know you don’t depend on anyone, but you do depend on people depending on you. I’m not going to take your money.
1. Shirley is adamant that she can just ignore Chang’s existence under the guise that this will solve everything for her (re: the possibility of Chang being the father of her unborn child). She doesn’t even view him as a person anymore.
2. Chang saves the play the only way he knows how, by being a lunatic.
3. Shirley realizes that the way she’s been treating Chang is unfair, and she thinks that he might not be as crazy as she originally thought. She’s beginning to come around to the idea that it is a possibility that Chang can have a role in her child’s life.
Ep. 214: Advanced Dungeons and Dragons
1. Pierce rips into Fat Neil because he feels like he has been excluded by the group from playing Dungeons and Dragons, which is true. His response is complete and total cruelty to the person that he believes he is being replaced with. He seeks out to destroy not only Fat Neil’s self-esteem, but the game itself:
JEFF: That kid in there is severely depressed.
PIERCE: Oh yeah, is that what he told you? From the looks of it he’s been using that line since he was five years old to get an extra slice of pie.
J: What the hell is wrong with you?
P: I don’t like being excluded, Jeff! Do you?
J: Yes! Now go in there, and tell him you’re giving him his sword, or you are out of the Study Group.
P: I’m sick of you threatening me and talking to me like a kid and giving me that look you give me like I can’t get erections.
P: Abed, I keep running.
ABED: OK, but since you’re working against the group I need to separate you from them.
P: Good, who wants to sit with a bunch of fat cry babies anyway?
2. Everybody in the group, including Fat Neil, pities Pierce for the way he is acting. They feel bad that this is how he responds to being excluded. After the game is over, Neil even invites him to play again:
NEIL: Hey, that was the best game I’ve ever played in my life.
PIERCE: Don’t mention it.
NEIL: Want to play again next week?
NEIL: OK, I’ll be around.
*Neil inviting Pierce to play again next week is where the episode ends. It’s possible to infer that Pierce could have had a realization, maybe he realizes that he doesn’t have to be mean and cruel to people, or maybe the reason why he was being excluded was because he’s a dick. The reason why his realization isn’t clear-cut like all the other realizations up to this point is because at this point in the season, Pierce is still being written as the villain. Harmon found it to be necessary for the Study Group to have an adversary this season, and it turned out to be Pierce. So as of this point in the season, Pierce is completely unredeemable and incapable of changing from his cynical ways to being sentimental. At least, he is incapable of showing it. The cleaning lady’s V.O. sums it up well. She says, “And so it was that Pierce Hawthorne saved the life of Fat Neil while learning very, very little.”
NOTE: This episode is extremely heavy. It attempts to juggle extremely dark themes (e.g. bullying, suicide) while still maintaining that the show is a comedy. H.S. allows for character development through these themes instead of just addressing them in a way that has no impact on the character’s overall development w/r/t the entire season and series. It seems that when there is only one H.S. being addressed in the entire episode, it tends to be much heavier and concentrated. The writers are dedicating the entire episode to this one thing which gives them the option of balancing it in such a way that it can affect the viewer in the most extreme ways.
Ep. 215: Early 21st Century Romanticism
1. Despite Jeff having submitted to the Study Group and admitting them to be his friends, he still has trouble coming off his pedestal and admitting that he has fun with them and that he has fun at Greendale. He still has a pretentious, elitist attitude that he’s above Greendale and above the Study Group.
2. Duncan points out Jeff’s elitism:
DUNCAN: Well, I hope you found tonight therapeutic, because I’d love to pretend that that was my plan.
JEFF: Well, I actually started to have fun until that maniac tried to move in. What is it about me that makes broken people flock to me? Is it my height? Do huddled masses mistake me for the Statue of Liberty?
D: I don’t know, but being as how you’re halfway through your second year at Greendale, you might want to either stop resisting or admit that you’re actually starting to enjoy it.
J: Well, you assume that I enjoy it because you think you’d enjoy it.
D: It’s true, I am very lonely.
3. Jeff sends a text to the study group admitting how much he loves them:
“It might not shock you guys to hear the real reason we had a fight today. It wasn’t about the Bare Naked Ladies, although I do have some unresolved issues there. Caring about a person can be scary, caring about six people can be a horrifying, embarrassing nightmare, at least for me. But if I can’t say it today, when can I say it? I love you guys. Oh, and Pierce, take it from an expert. These knuckleheads are right outside your heart. Let them in before it’s too late. Happy Valentine’s Day.”
Ep. 216: Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking
1. Pierce uses his predicament of being in the hospital for a pill overdose as an excuse to exact his revenge against the Study Group for not respecting him. He manipulates them into confronting their own flaws and shortcomings just to prove to them that he deserves their respect. Jeff explains it:
JEFF: Pierce, it’s starting to seem from observing the others that you’re using the social leverage afforded to you by your alleged death bed to exact complicated acts of psychological vengeance on those closest to you.
2. Jeff freaks out at him and comes close to beating him up. Pierce, in his warped mind, sees this as proof that Jeff cares about him enough that his (Pierce’s) mind games have worked in such a way that Jeff is impacted by his actions.*
3. Pierce, somewhat delusional, believes that through manipulating Jeff, he has actually made him a better man. He thinks that he has come to the realization that he has taken over the role of Jeff’s father, and now the group will respect him. The validity of his realization is questionable, obviously.
1. Britta thinks she is a terrible person because she knows that she wants to keep the money that is supposed to be for charity. This tortures her into be cynical of herself, not believing that she is a good person. She says, “I did it. I gave away the money. The Red Cross. You know what that makes me? A terrible person, because if that camera wasn’t on me, I would’ve taken that money right out of the mouths of crippled, starving, malaria ridden refugee kids, and now I know that. Forever. Thanks, Pierce.”
2. Actor Lavar Burton opens her eyes:
LAVAR: Hey, you know, I assumed that Troy was a fan but he hasn’t said a word to me since I got here, and now I’ve got to catch this flight–
BRITTA: No, no, you can’t go. He loves you, he talks about you all the time. How much would it cost to change your flight to tomorrow? Is, um, $261 enough cause that’s all I’ve got.
L: That’s all you’ve got?
L: No, you, you keep your money. I’ll reschedule.
B: Oh my god, thank you. He’s going to be so happy.
L: You know, you are a very generous friend, but you’re really stupid with your money.
3. Lavar helps Britta realize that she isn’t actually selfish at all, just stupid, as she reveals in her talking head, “It’s not that I’m selfish it’s just that I’m really stupid with my money which is why I’ll never have a lot of it, and because I’m a really generous friend. Problem solved. Dilemma deleted. Britta for the win!”
1. Shirley believes that she’s taking the high road by not listening to the CD that allegedly proves the Study Group talks behind her back. She has no problem rubbing this belief in everyone’s face in an attempt to show that she forgives them for something she doesn’t even know that they did. This shows a skewed sort of distrust she has for her friends in that if she trusted them, she would either not have taken the CD and dismissed Pierce’s attempt at manipulating her altogether, or she would have listened to it right away just to confirm that she knew they would never talk about her behind her back. But she didn’t.
2. Britta forces Shirley to listen to the CD in order to end Shirley’s elitist attitude of being the all-forgiving one of the group.
3. Shirley realizes that sometimes she uses guilt as a weapon to put herself above others.
1. Jeff denies his unresolved issues with his father and refuses to acknowledge their existence. He affects a tough guy act by claiming that he’s come to terms with his father being a jag. Because this is untrue and it’s just a facade, Jeff ends up taking his anger with his father out on Pierce. He does all this to protect himself from the pain of confronting his father.
2. Pierce exhibits an act of accidental sentimentality by going the extra mile and pretending to be Jeff’s dad. This allows Jeff to see his shortcomings w/r/t his father. This is accidental because Pierce did it in order to screw with Jeff’s head.
3. Jeff admits his father troubles, “Apparently I need to say some things to my father. Things that I may have screamed at Pierce instead. I’m not saying he doesn’t deserve it, but my father deserves it too.”
1. Annie automatically assumes that Pierce’s gift of the tiara was him trying to screw with her. She is naturally suspicious of her friend and can’t bring herself to believe anything to the contrary.
2. Pierce tells her that she’s his favorite.
3. Annie finds a silver lining in what she believes to be Pierce torturing her, “Pierce, I figured out your test. Crowns, presents, punishments, favorites. You’re trying to show me the dangers of my own elitism. My constant striving to be the best. So, I’m re-queathing this tiara. Because if I become the kind of person that thinks it’s their place to pick favorites and torture the rest, I’ll die sad and alone, and that’s what you were trying to teach me.”
1. Abed believes that the documentary format is beneath him as a filmmaker. He views it as an easy way out to tell a story.
2. He sees the emotional nuance that the format allows for.
3. Abed gives a summarizing V.O. at the end of the episode, “So, I thought the documentary format would be like fish in a barrel, but as is the case with a real barrel of fish, after a while it can become cramped, chaotic and stinky. Fortunately, if in the end your documentary is turning out just as messy as real life, you can always wrap it up with a series of random shots that when cut together under a generic voice over, suggest a profound thematic connection. I’m not knocking it, it works.”
*It’s possible that the sentimentality that affects Pierce is the speech Annie gives him as her own realization. In it, she essentially describes what has happened to Pierce and tells him indirectly (and accidentally) that she doesn’t want to be like him. The only thing keeping this from being the sentimentality that affects Pierce is that it doesn’t work chronologically with his realization. It’s possible that in the reality of the show, Annie’s speech came before Pierce’s realization and thus partially caused it, but because of Abed’s editing of the episode, it comes after. This requires a leap of faith on the viewer’s part but isn’t out of the question.
NOTE: This is by far the most prolific use of H.S. up to this point in the series. It’s a monumental episode without appearing to be monumental at all. It’s able to cram a separate yet intertwined arc of H.S. for every character except for Troy into 22 minutes of television. The reason why this is possible is because of the format. Harmon openly admits that the reason why they did the episode in a mockumentary format was for budgetary and scheduling reasons. They were behind schedule in the season and over budget, and the format alleviated some of that pressure. That’s one of the reasons why the format is so popular in today’s sitcoms. It’s cheap and easy to use. Another reason it’s popular is for its ability to tell stories much quicker without having to worry about how to actually tell a story. Abed alludes to this in the beginning of the episode citing how a character can just tell the audience how they’re feeling instead of having to show it through an actual story. Harmon also admits that this is why Community is written how it is written. He wanted to do it the hard way to show that stories can be told in compelling ways without taking the easy way out. In a way, this episode is both an homage and a jab at mockumentaries. The funny thing is, is that the format allowed for rapid fire, easy storytelling which gave the writer, Megan Ganz, and Harmon a lot more space to insert a H.S. for six of the main characters. The reason why Troy didn’t have a H.S. arc is unclear but not regrettable considering how funny and entertaining his comedic arc was. The comedy of his arc does balance the seriousness of the rest of the episode which may have been the reason why he wasn’t given a H.S. though I can’t confirm this. If this was the case, it wasn’t necessary because seemingly every line of the episode contains some sort of joke, most of which aren’t apparent on the first viewing.
Ep. 217: Intro to Political Science
1. Jeff finds Annie’s idealism w/r/t student government unnerving. Because of this he embarks on a mission to bring her back to reality via running against her for the student council presidency. She insults him by way of him not being a lawyer anymore, and he wants to crush her because of that. He doesn’t actually care about the presidency, he just wants to prove Annie wrong by beating her.
2. Annie uses dirty tricks that Jeff previously said politics were all about. She embarrasses him in front of the whole school. Her cynicism in doing this put a mirror up to what Jeff was doing. This is another instance where the sentimentality is actually cynicism used to encourage a sentimentality in the cynical person.
3. Jeff realizes that he was being a terrible friend for trying to undercut Annie’s idealism.
ANNIE: I went too far. I’m sorry, I didn’t know it would be that bad.
JEFF: You knew, you didn’t care. No, don’t apologize, I got what I deserved. I’m a gross, jaded adult with control issues that couldn’t let a young, bright, idealistic kid run for president.
1. Annie’s cynicism is similar to Jeff’s in that she wants to be president so badly that she is willing to embarrass Jeff in front of the whole school just to get it. She is ruthless, holding no quarter for anyone including her friend.
2. Jeff is genuinely hurt and breaks down in front of everyone. His embarrassment is palpable, and he’s giving into his emotions fully.
3. Annie sees her mistake and takes the ultimate action in withdrawing her candidacy, “Me too, I withdrew my candidacy. Nobody that treats a friend the way that I did is fit to represent the student body.”
Ep. 218: Custody Law and Eastern European Diplomacy
1. Shirley asks Jeff to get Chang to sign legal papers saying that he will not be allowed to have a role in the new baby’s life. Jeff uses this opportunity to tell Chang that if he cleans up his act, Shirley might consider letting him have a role in the baby’s life. Jeff takes Shirley’s request and lies to both Chang and Shirley in an attempt to further his self-interests by getting Chang to move out of his apartment.
2. Shirley lays the guilt trip on him:
SHIRLEY: So I ask you to help me and you take that as an opportunity to get Chang out of your apartment?
JEFF: Hey, who am I to stand in the way of someone trying to put their life together? What am I, daytime television?
S: Very cute Jeff, but how cute is it gonna be when that lunatic is dangling my baby over a lion cage on alternate weekends.
J: It’d be pretty cute, are they baby lions?
S: New low Jeff, even for you.
3. Jeff realizes he shouldn’t have used the situation with Chang and Shirley as a way for him to get what he wants:
JEFF: Look, Shirley. I’m sorry I tried to capitalize on your situation with Chang.
SHIRLEY: Apology accepted. Punishment is time served.
Ep. 219: Critical Film Studies
1. Abed affects the persona that he is now cynical of who he once was. He uses this cynicism of his old self in order to enact a cynicism of his own which is to lie to Jeff in order to further his old self’s self-interests. The act is that he is still his old self, and that he’s just putting Jeff on to make himself happy at the expense of Jeff trying to be a good friend. Abed is unwittingly using Jeff.
2. Jeff gets real. So real that Abed can’t really handle it and starts to see the shortcomings of his ruse. He starts to break character and aborts his homage. Jeff:
ABED: How’s it even possible to lie when you’re alone?
JEFF: You can call a phone sex line, that’s lying to yourself.
A: No, that’s just being honest with a stranger about being lonely.
J: What if you’re dishonest about why you’re lonely? What if you’re a good looking guy who calls a phone sex line and tells them he weighs 400 pounds just to hear a woman say that she’s attracted to him anyway?
A: Well, I don’t believe that happens.
J: [Slams the table] Wrong! That’s me, I did that last week.
A: Wha– Why would you pay a woman on the phone to think you’re fat?
J: Because I’m scared that if I were overweight no one would like me. God, that feels good to admit. Abed, the point being you don’t have to worry about being normal, or real, or whatever this is tonight. The world is a sick place full of sick, sick people. Can I tell you something I’ve never told anyone else.
A: [Breaking character] Yes.
Jeff keeps the honesty alive:
JEFF: And I said, ‘NO, that’s a girl’s costume.’ And my Mom said, ‘It’s fine, Indian boys have long hair and braids too.’ There was only 45 minutes left to trick-or-treat, so what could I do? I put the damn thing on, and I went door to door. And everyone was going, ‘Oh, what a pretty little girl!’ And by the third house, I stopped correcting them. I mean, why draw attention to it? And honestly, once the shame and the fear wore off, I was just glad they thought I was pretty. God, this is incredible. To be able to talk this openly. I mean why can’t people be like this? What’s wrong with this world?
3. Abed comes to terms with the fact that he doesn’t need to change in order to please his friends and make them happy. His friends are his friends because they like him for who he is. He basically realizes that it’s OK to change if he wants to, but there’s no need to force it in order to appease other people.
ABED: You’re mad at me.
JEFF: I spent a week planning a party just to make you happy. Then I bailed on the party and ruined it, again just to make you happy. And it turns out while I was wasting my time just to make you happy, you were making yourself happy all over everyone else by doing yet another stupid movie spoof.
A: I prefer the term homage. It wasn’t about making me happy. I chose ‘My Dinner with Andre’ because it’s about a guy who has an unexpectedly enjoyable evening with a weird friend he’s been avoiding lately.
J: You think I’ve been avoiding you?
A: You and I hung out more last year. It makes sense. Everyone else is growing and changing all the time, and that’s not really my jam. I’m more of a fast blinking, stoic, removed, uncomfortably self-aware type. Like Data, or Johnny-5, or Mork, or Hal, or Kit, or K-9, or Woodstock and/or Snoopy, of course Spock probably goes without saying–
J: Abed. I don’t need you to grow or change. And take it from someone who just had a meaningless one, sometimes emotional breakthroughs are overrated. And seriously, I need you to keep a tight, heavy lid on the little Indian girl story.
NOTE: This is probably one of the weirdest instances of H.S. because when considering the series run and the character of Abed thus far, there isn’t much irony. He does exactly what the viewers expect of him. The character is written so concretely that at this point in the series there’s still no solid, justifiable way to change him (this is rectified in Season 3). But if you were to consider this episode as a stand alone, outside the realm of the entire season, you can see the clear-cut definition of H.S. within the language of the conversation Abed and Jeff have. Abed thinks he needs to change and does so at the expense of his friend, Jeff tells him out of sentimentality that he doesn’t need to change, Abed realizes that he doesn’t need to change. Once all the rhetorical necessities that are there to turn it into an actual episode of TV are stripped away, the skeleton of the episode is a tight, clean example of H.S. Again, focusing just on one instance gave it a gravitas that allowed this episode to venture into heavier, deeper, philosophical territories that are seldom explored in comedies.
Ep. 220: Competitive Wine Tasting
1. Subjected to his own insecurities by Pierce being able to land an attractive woman that he struck out with, Jeff tries to find a way to sabotage Pierce’s relationship in order to prove that he can still get women. When he finds out that Wu Mei was merely trying to corrupt Pierce so her company can take over Hawthorne Wipes, Jeff makes this reveal not to save Pierce from corporate espionage but to prove to himself he can still get attractive women:
JEFF: I’d like to propose a toast. Wu Mei […] is not only not a Greendale student, she works for Red Dragon Wipes. The number two wipe in Asia currently attempting a takeover of Hawthorne Wipes. So please raise your glasses to saving Pierce from the clutches of a corporate spy and to me for being attractive enough to get a girl like her under normal circumstances.
2. Pierce explains to Jeff what he had done, even though he (Jeff) thought he was helping Pierce. Jeff was so oblivious to what he was doing, that his cynicism was covered up even from his eyes, that he needed Pierce to tell him flat out how he had hurt him.
JEFF: Do you want to come?
PIERCE: Why would I want to go anywhere with Judas Winger?
J: You’re mad at me? You should be thanking me.
P: For what? Ruining my relationship?
J: What relationship? You just met the woman, and the entire thing was a lie. She was just using you to get your company in China.
P: And I was just using her to get her company in the sack. People use each other Jeff, that doesn’t mean there aren’t good feelings that go along with it. I liked her, she was busty. I thought we had something.
J: I was trying to help you.
P: I think what you were trying to do was prove that no woman could want me.
3. Jeff realizes that for all of Pierce’s shortcomings– racism, stupidity, an overall dickish-ness– that he still doesn’t have the right to interfere with his personal love life no matter how insecure he may feel. It might sometimes be better to tend one’s own garden and to let some people make mistakes on their own.
PIERCE: What’s she doing here?
JEFF: I asked her to come. I was thinking that maybe you two were meant to be together. You’re both rude, you’re both deceitful and racist, and you both come from moist wipe dynasties. I think having that much in common justifies having at least one real date.
P: I guess we can go out to one dinner.
1. Troy, finding himself more and more attractive to Britta, lies about a traumatic experience in their acting class in order to make Britta be attracted to him. Britta has a history of being attracted to damaged men, and Troy knows this. He lies about being molested by his uncle in order to seem damaged to Britta and to manipulate her into being attracted to him.
2. Troy finds out that Britta actually is sincere about her caring about this and that she truly does support him w/r/t the alleged molestation.
3. Troy realizes that telling Britta the truth would have been the best thing to do from the start. His act of sentimentality is confessing his lie in front of the acting class and revealing that he is insecure about his lack of insecurities.
TROY: Well, maybe someday you’ll fall for someone who’s healthy. Someone who, other than his irrational fear of automatic toilets, is normal.
PROF. GARRITY: Who would like to begin today?
TROY: I would, with a confession. My uncle never stuck his finger in my plop-plop. I know, I’m bummed about it too. I’m sorry, I want to be interesting, I want to fit in with you guys. I want to be able to be an actor.
PROF. GARRITY: The pain of not having enough pain is still pain, young man.
Ep. 221: Paradigms of Human Memory
1. The initial cynicism is through Jeff and Britta hooking up which is viewed as selfish by the the rest of the study group. They claim that Jeff and Britta have a history of putting themselves before the group in various scenarios which in turn causes turmoil. This eventually turns into an all out free for all in which everyone ends up pointing out that everyone else can just as easily be blamed for causing turmoil within the group because of their own selfish mannerisms. It’s similar to Ep. 208: Cooperative Calligraphy, in that everyone is blaming everyone else in order to make themselves seem less guilty.
2. Shirley resumes construction on the diorama showing that no matter what turmoil or argument they may be experiencing, they will still be a Study Group and friends afterwards. It’s just another thing they have to go through. Jeff insists on giving another speech:
JEFF: Uh, you guys wait, I want to say something.
ANNIE: You don’t have to save us with a speech. We’re not breaking up, so we don’t need to get back together.
JEFF: I know I don’t have to, but I want to. Look, we’ve known each other for almost two years now. And yeah, in that time I’ve given a lot of speeches. But they all have one thing in common: they’re all different. These drug runners aren’t going to execute Pierce because he’s different. It’s a locomotive that runs on us. And the only sharks in that water are the emotional ghosts that I like to call fear, anchovies, fear, and the dangers of ingesting mercury. Because the real bugs aren’t the ones in those beds. And there’s no such thing as a free Caesar salad and even if there were, The Cape still might find a second life on cable and I’ll tell you why, El corazon del aqua es verdad. That water is a lie! Harrison Ford is irradiating our testicles with microwave satellite transmissions! So maybe we are caught in an endless cycle of screw-ups and hurt feelings, but I choose to believe it’s just the universe’s way of molding us into some kind of super group.
TROY: Like the traveling Wilburries.
JEFF: Yes, Troy. Like the traveling Wilburries of pain. Prepared for any insane adventure life throws our way. And I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to every one of them.
3. The group realizes that trivial things like Jeff and Britta hooking up is nothing. They see now that no matter what happens, no matter how each of them could possibly put themselves in front of everyone else, that they will always be friends and will always be a study group.
NOTE: This is another example of doing a high-concept episode, that of the fake clip show, but keeping it grounded through significant character development. Up to this point in the series, it’s the same thing that made Eps. 120,122, 206, 208, 211, 214 and 219 work as well. There’s no pressing rewind on these episodes even though they flirt with the fabric of the reality of the series. They walk the line of believability but always end up falling on the side where you buy into it because of the grounded, emotional character arcs.
Ep. 222: Applied Anthropology and Culinary Arts
1. Britta insists on giving her opinion about natural births to Shirley thinking that she, Britta, someone who has never given birth, knows more about it than Shirley, someone who already has two kids.
2. Jeff gives Britta a pep talk when she gets down on herself for chickening out when Shirley needed her help the most:
JEFF: What’re you doing? Get in there.
BRITTA: Me? Forget it, I’m the worst.
J: Well, that’s a discussion for a different time. Look, Britta, there is something in you that wants to take care of people so bad that you’ll do it until you puke. That’s what Shirley needs right now.
B: Are you saying I’ll be a good mom?
J: What? No. Man you will really force anything, won’t you? Just get in there and force that baby out of Shirley.
B: Step aside people, Britta for the win!
3. Britta sucks it up and delivers Shirley’s baby. She realizes that her personal discomfort is a small price to pay for helping your friend by yanking a little dude out of her. Britta is gaining confidence in who she is and starting to accept that yes, she has her flaws, but that means she can correct them and overcome them.
Ep. 223: A Fistful of Paintballs, and Ep. 224: For a Few Paintballs More
1. No longer trusts Pierce and holds no bar when expressing it. He has made it quite clear that he thinks Pierce has gone off his rocker and shouldn’t be in the group anymore.
2. Jeff remembers via flashback that Annie was the single vote objecting to kicking Pierce out of the group. Annie is the person Jeff wants to please the most out of the whole group, and her sentimentality ends up affecting him.
3. Jeff realizes that Pierce’s presence in the group goes beyond him being in the group. He realizes that if they were to kick Pierce out then all of a sudden there is a hierarchy which could lead to an abuse of power which would undermine all their friendships as well as the original purpose of forming a study group.
JEFF: Look, about Pierce, I feel bad. I shouldn’t put so much effort into–
ANNIE: It’s OK. I just think that the Study Group is my family, you know, and if we start picking and choosing–
JEFF: Where do we stop. I get it. You’re a good kid, and I want to do my part to help you stay that way.
1. Pierce always sees himself as the victim, without exception. He thinks that the group has unfairly aligned against him for the entire year which he doesn’t appreciate and sees as an expression of disrespect.
2. Annie, the Ace of Hearts, reveals that she was the one that voted to keep Pierce in the group:
TROY: We’re always nice to you, Pierce.
PIERCE: Wrong! Wrong. Three days ago I walked in on you guys playing cards without me. Three days ago!
ANNIE: We weren’t playing cards, we were voting, and you weren’t invited because we were voting about you.
ANNIE: We were taking a vote on whether we’d invite you back to the group next year. Lucky for you, it had to be unanimous. There was one holdout, one red card.
3. Pierce saves the school and realizes that he might not be the most healthy person in the room. His way of coming to terms with this is that he partially shifts the blame onto the others in order to ease his own pain of confronting why he has acted like the villain this year.
PIERCE: You know, I’ve been coming to this school for twelve years. I’ve never been friends with anyone here for more than a semester. Probably for the same reason I’ve been married seven times. I guess I assume eventually I’ll be rejected, so I, you know, test people, push them until they prove me right. It’s a sickness, I admit it. But this place has always accepted me, sickness and all. This place has accepted all of you, sickness and all. It’s worth thinking about.
Group’s Arc (minus Pierce)
1. There is a collective distrust of Pierce throughout both episodes. They basically see him as a villain and have trouble trusting him even when he appears to be helping them. Their distrust is centered around their perception that Pierce is always trying to prove to them that they’re just as cynical as he is. He does actually prove it, but he proves it to the viewer instead of the characters.
2. Pierce wins paintball and gives the money to Greendale.
3. The study group decides to let Pierce back in after he has his own realization:
JEFF: I think we have thought about it Pierce, and you’re right. And we were just picking a class we can all be in this fall, and we’d love for you to join us.
PIERCE: No thanks, I’m done with you guys. I like this school, but I’m done with whatever you call this. Adios.
Ep. 301: Biology 101
1. Seizing the gift he always wanted, Jeff is determined to keep Pierce out of the group even though Pierce has confessed to becoming a more evolved person. Pierce admits that he wants to be back in the group, but Jeff will have none of it:
JEFF: I’ll do you one better. I think we’ve evolved beyond reliance on a group at all. Aren’t we all just actual friends now no matter where we are. You now what’s magic about this table? It magically keeps our books from falling on the floor. The table is for studying, but as friends, we’ve evolved. And let’s use that first breath of crisp, new, super-evolved air to declare that proudly, and in one voice, that Pierce, we’ll see you when we see you.
Jeff’s cynicism evolves to a general paranoia that Pierce and the new biology professor are out to get him.
JEFF: I came here to let you know that your best friend Pierce is the one who got me kicked out of bio class and the Study Group. It was a plan he hatched from the beginning with his pal Professor Kane.
2. Pierce takes the fall for Jeff getting kicked out of bio class by saying that he bribed Prof. Kane to kick Jeff out so he could take his place and get back in the Study Group. Jeff is the only one who knows this is a lie, and he recognizes that Pierce willingly accepted the role as the villain in order to make Jeff feel better.
JEFF: OK, I was lying the whole time. I didn’t want the group to evolve. I just didn’t want Pierce around. I hate him.
ANNIE: OK, but Jeff, what you did, it’s hard to get past that. I know you’re already out of the Study Group, but I’m going to have to ask that you stop being my friend.
PIERCE: OK, look everybody, here’s the thing. I’m not as evolved as I said I was. Biology class was full, so I told Professor Kane I’d pay him a few thousand dollars to kick Jeff out.
3. Jeff repents and admits that he’s a bad guy. He figures out that Pierce is lying for him and realizes that it’s unfair of him to let Pierce be kicked out of the Study Group. He realizes that the right to choose who stays and who goes really belongs to none of them:
JEFF: Stop, stop! Pierce isn’t crazy. The table is magic. As someone who’s been on the other side, I can tell you it is a scary, lonely, Chang-filled world out there. And sure, this group has sprouted some legs, but why are we in such a rush to leave the tide pool when the only things waiting for us on shore are the sands of time and the hungry seagulls of us slowly growing apart.
TROY: Man, I really need this biology class.
JEFF: [Aside] Pierce, Professor Kane has never taken a bribe from anyone in his life. You feel me?
PIERCE: Yeah, I lied, but you seemed to have a harder time being the bad guy than me.
JEFF: You’re right, I do. Which in a weird way makes me a pretty bad guy.
Ep. 302: Geography of Global Conflict
1. Annie is deeply jealous of her doppelgänger, Annie Kim. She is extremely insecure with her never ending obsession to be perfect, and when Annie Kim starts to get in her way, Annie wraps the Study Group up in her childish competitions.
ANNIE: Are you kidding me? I practically ran to you with that flyer. I wanted to destroy her. All because I couldn’t handle the thought of anyone getting more gold stars than me. I’m such a child.
2. Jeff confesses how he feels about Annie. He cites a certain need to protect her, which is what an adult does for a child, and he has trouble thinking of Annie as an adult.
JEFF: When you really hate someone like the way you hate Annie Kim, or when you feel the way I feel about you, the easy loophole through the creepiness and the danger is to treat them like a child. ‘A chip off the old block, you’re the best kiddo!’ It’s a crutch, it’s a way for me to tell you how important you are from a distance. But now you’re becoming this mature, self-possessed, intelligent young woman, and I can’t keep patting you on the head or talking down to you.
3. Annie apologizes to the group and realizes that she never should have put her childish need to win over her friends.
ANNIE: Guys, I’m sorry I put you through that. And I know it doesn’t make up for what happened, but would it help if I said I farted.
Ep. 303: Remedial Chaos Theory
NOTE: This is by far the most complicated use of H.S. in the entire series. Obviously, this is the result of this episode being the most intricate episode with the most implications for the remainder of the season. In 22 minutes, Harmon and McKenna and their cronies were able to fluently demonstrate what each character brings to the dynamic of the group and when they are expelled from the group, how the others end up reacting. The layout of this episode w/r/t H.S. is first, Jeff has a different form of cynicism in each timeline because of his competitive alpha male relationship with Troy and because he is the source of the fragmentation of reality into different timelines via his dice game. Secondly, each character demonstrates a certain cynicism throughout the episode, then they all experience a collective sentimentality that affects them, then they all have a subconscious realization. Let’s start with each individual cynicism Jeff has w/r/t their respective timelines:
Jeff’s Separate Cynicisms
When Annie leaves: Essentially ignores the fact that Annie thinks she needs to have a gun to feel safe in her neighborhood. Troy asks him what they’re going to do about it, and Jeff’s response is to get a drink. He’s indifferent about the gun because Troy brought it up and presented it as something the two of them have to solve.
When Shirley leaves: Tries to undermine Shirley by telling everyone not to eat her pies by saying she has a baking problem. He later chastises her for holding onto the idea that baking gives her an identity.
When Pierce Leaves: Makes fun of Troy in order to establish his hierarchy over him. Troy looks up to Jeff, but Jeff only sees him as competition for his alpha male status and thus seeks to belittle him every chance he gets.
When Britta Leaves: Instead of cutting Britta off from singing, Jeff now cuts Troy off from saying, “You guys are my best friends!”
When Troy Leaves: Jeff actually doesn’t go through any cynical actions in this timeline because his attempts at establishing his alpha male status over Troy within the group are no longer needed without him in the room.
When Abed Leaves: Jeff insults Annie during their make-out session.
1. Now let’s look at each individual character’s cynicism as they manifest in either one or multiple timelines:
Jeff: Besides the ever evolving separate cynicisms that Jeff experiences above, he also has three more instances that remain a constant throughout the whole episode regardless of who leaves the room: (1) He manipulates the dice game so he doesn’t have to ever go get pizza. This allows the existence of the timelines and thus allows him to act cynical in every timeline (save for Troy’s). (2) He constantly dismisses Abed’s theory of multiple timelines, and (3) He cuts Britta off from singing.
Pierce: He is bitter that Troy moved out of his mansion and wants to torture him with the Norwegian troll because of it. He inadvertently ends up insulting Abed too:
PIERCE: Feel the terror! Feel the terror, Troy! Feel the terror of the Norwegian troll!
SHIRLEY: What’s going on in here?
ABED: Pierce is terrorizing Troy because he’s jealous we moved in together.
PIERCE: You’re the one who’s jealous.
ABED: Why would I be jealous?
PIERCE: Because you’re lonely and crazy!
Abed: Tries to control the party in order for it to be a hit. He ridicules Shirley for making a pizza when they ordered real pizza. He photoshopped a fake invitation so Jeff would keep this night open. When Britta gets high in the bathroom, he insists on knowing why it smells weird.
Shirley: Uses baking as an identity and imposes it on the others. She demands instant gratification from the others for her efforts, and when she doesn’t get it, she lays down one of her signature guilt trips.
Britta: Britta gets high in every timeline except for the one where she leaves to get the pizza. Getting high in and of itself is not an act of cynicism, but the reason why she gets high is. It’s her immediate response after Jeff cuts her off from singing. She thinks that if Jeff is going to be cynical towards her, the only way she can have fun at the party is by getting high by herself in the bathroom.
Troy: Insecure that people aren’t respecting him as a man. His main insecurity deals with Jeff’s view of him. All he wants is approval from Jeff.
Annie: No matter what sentimentality she otherwise exhibits to any other member of the study group, if Jeff does something, she’s right at his side with him. She made fun of Troy when Jeff did, but when Jeff hits his head on the fan and Troy mockingly laughs, Annie doesn’t make fun of Jeff, but instead she helps him and attends to his head wound.
2. Having established that each person experiences a different type of cynicism throughout the episode, it’s important to understand that the type of sentimentality enacted upon them is a retroactive sentimentality that affects every person the same way regardless of their form of cynicism. The reason why it’s retroactive is because it happens at the end of the episode, and it prevents reality from being fragmented which prevents any of the characters to express any type of cynicism. Even though the audience experiences each cynicism, because of the sentimentality, the characters do not. The sentimentality is Abed’s speech:
ABED: Just so you know Jeff, you are now creating six different timelines.
JEFF: Of course I am, Abed.
ABED: I don’t think you should. Chaos already dominates enough of our lives. The universe is an endless raging sea of randomness. Our job isn’t to fight it but to weather it together on the raft of life. A raft held together by those few rare beautiful things that we know to be predictable.
BRITTA: Ropes? Vines. Vines? Let him finish!
ABED: Us. It won’t matter what happens to us as long as we stay honest and accepting of each other’s flaws and virtues. Annie will always be driven, Shirley will always be giving, Pierce will never apologize, Britta is sort of a wild card from my perspective, and Jeff will forever remain a conniving son of a bitch. There are six sides to this die and seven of us. He devised a system in which he never has to get the pizza.
3. Abed’s sentimentality of stopping the cycle of cynicism before it even starts leads the characters to a sort of subconscious realization. That being that when they don’t experience any form of cynicism acted upon themselves (whether they’re aware of it or not), they in turn won’t act in a cynical way. With Abed’s sentimentality replacing Jeff’s cynicism, Pierce throws away the troll, Abed lets everyone go wild, Shirley doesn’t push her pies, Britta has fun without being secretly high, Troy acts like his goofy self, and Annie laughs at Jeff when he hits his head on the fan joining the group in their solidarity. This dynamic isn’t trying to say that if Jeff weren’t around everyone would be better off. Rather, if it has to say anything, it’s that there is a time and place for cynicism in order for there to be a time and place for sentimentality. You need to have cynicism exist in your life in order to recognize the importance of sentimentality. This exemplifies the whole point of H.S. and the inevitable existence of sentimentality within cynicism. The realization in this episode doesn’t necessarily fall solely on the characters, it also falls on the audience who realizes that the existence of each character within the group serves a purpose, and without one of those characters, as Abed describes, their lives may end up being dominated by chaos. Or maybe it won’t. In the commentary for this episode, Dan Harmon explains:
DAN HARMON: Are we saying Jeff is a bad person, or is Jeff holding the group back? No, that’s not what we’re saying, but we’re never saying anything. We’re telling stories. Jeff’s personality, Jeff’s archetype, is that he’s the leader. So you need a leader sometimes, and sometimes you don’t. Sometimes the best thing is to have anarchy. Sometimes, sometimes clumsy, silly people need to do whatever they wanted to do and just be dumb together. And Jeff goes out for pizza and what needed to happen happens.
Ep. 304: Competitive Ecology
The Study Group’s Arc
1. The group as a whole is having difficulty trusting each other when it comes to their biology assignment. They have subsequently abandoned their outside-the-group partners hoping partnering up with each other would be more fun. Because their partnerships have yielded unfavorable results for everyone, they blame the problem on their classmate, Todd, dragging him into an all night meeting in order to sort out their own personal problems with each other. They would rather sacrifice his personal time than to admit why no one likes who their partner is. Todd is also the subject of relentless criticism by the group.
2. Todd snaps:
TODD: What is wrong with you people?! Huh?! I thought you were supposed to be friends! I thought you were supposed to love each other! Your love is weird! And toxic! And it destroys everything it touches! I no longer care about grades, or biology, or finally graduating from college like I promised my dying father. I’m going home. I’m gonna hold my wife and my child close, and I’m finally going to take my insulin shot! Offense taken. Offense taken.
3. The group realizes that the thing that destroyed the balance within the group was Todd. To the members of the group this appears to be sentimental because now they don’t have to blame each other for the strife within their ranks, they can put all the blame on Todd. But from our perspective, and certainly from Todd’s, the group didn’t realize anything meaningful at all and will remain cynical of outsiders.
Ep. 305: Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps
1. Britta, being the overzealous psych major that she is, manipulates the group into telling ghost stories so that she can try to analyze them in hopes of finding which one of them had a sociopathic, potentially homicidal, score on the psych test she gave them the previous week. She’s satisfying her need to pretend to be a therapist at the expense of the group.
2. Jeff tells a story that demonstrates why people in typical scary stories kill people: they’re afraid. He uses this concept to show that if the group is afraid of each other, that’s the first step to them being potential killers. All they need to calm down is a hug.
TROY: You heard all the stories! Anyone here could be a psycho.
JEFF: Thinking that is what’s psycho. Here, I have a story that I think might help.
3. Annie notices that Britta ‘Britta’d’ the test results giving incorrect scores. After Britta corrects her mistake, they find out that six of their tests indicated a potentially homicidal personality disorder, and one test indicated a normal personality. After contemplating what to do with this information, the group realizes it’s better to keep the results anonymous so that they can retain the comforting notion that any one of them could be sane.
Ep. 306: Advanced Gay
1. Pierce submits to his father’s will of banishing any pro-gay actions by Hawthorne Wipes and by Pierce. Pierce lives in fear of his father and obeys him even though it goes against what he wants to do.
2. Jeff rips into Pierce’s father and in the process, kills him:
JEFF: Listen up Colonel Crypt Keeper, I can live a million years and I could spend every minute of it doing important things, but at the end of it all, I would have only lived half a life had I not raised a son. This was a gift that was handed to you, you squandered it. And the reason why you have so much hatred in your heart is because you’re trying to fill a hole where your kid was supposed to go, and now it’s too late. Now you’re just stomping around trying to prove you exist. Well, mission accomplished. Here’s a question I’d like to pass on to you from every son of every crap dad that ever lived, so what?! I’m done with you. He’s done with you. The world is done with you.
3. Pierce finally stands up to his father even though he’s dead.
PIERCE: Father, I’ll never forget what you said to me on my first day of school, ‘Comb your hair you idiot, you look Greek.’ I’ll never know if that was true, but I do know that I was too scared to stand up for myself. Well I’m not scared of you anymore because you’re dead and I’m not. So, I win. You can suck it.
1. Jeff maintains that Britta’s analysis that he has unresolved issues with his father is wrong. He’s persistent in this belief even though he is actively interfering in Pierce’s relationship with his father rather than working out his own issues.
2. Pierce gives a heartfelt speech at his Dad’s funeral (supra). His speech puts a mirror up to Jeff’s own father issues.
3. Jeff realizes and admits that Britta might be a good therapist someday. He points out that she really nailed Pierce and his Oedipal complex. However, Jeff won’t admit that Britta might be right about his own unresolved issues with his father.
Ep. 307: Studies in Modern Movement
Troy and Abed’s Arc
1. They invite Annie to come live with them under the guise that their apartment is a two-bedroom apartment, which it is. However, they’ve created the Dreamatorium in the second bedroom displacing Annie to the living room by way of a blanket fort. They insist that the Dreamatorium stays because it’s bigger than any of them.
2. Annie describes how she’s been compromising who she is in order to fit in with them and then gives them an ultimatum:
ANNIE: All day, I’ve been jumping through hoops to fit in, including the literal hoops you put in front of the toilet, and you guys are hoarding this second bedroom as some kind of playroom? And making me sleep on a pile of laundry?
TROY: Hey, we worked hard on that, and it’s a blanket fort.
ANNIE: It’s an asylum for half-witted children. As the only adult in this apartment I’m making an ultimatum: me or this stupid Dreamatorium.
ABED: The Dreamatorium is non-negotiable, read the lease.
TROY: Especially the part we added in crayon.
ABED: You don’t want to take this to court.
TROY: Trust us, this place can be a court room in the blink of an eye.
ANNIE: This doesn’t work for me. From the minute I joined the study group I’ve been worried about how uptight I am and how I’m no fun, and then I was worried that I wouldn’t fit in here or hang with you guys but you know what? Why don’t you ever ask yourselves whether you can hang with me? Why am I always the one who has to adapt? I’m sick of this crap! Enjoy your stupid Dreamatorium!
3. Troy and Abed realize that they blew it and that they need Annie. They decide that the Dreamatorium is more important than any of them, but that she is more important than their bedroom, so they gave her the bedroom and moved their bunk bed to the blanket fort.
Ep. 308: Documentary Filmmaking: Redux
1. The Dean becomes unhealthily obsessed with making the new promotional commercial for the school. He eventually walks down the path to losing his own sanity in hopes of making the most amazing commercial ever. In doing so, he puts everyone else through the psychological wringer, warping how they view themselves and each other.
2. Luis Guzman agrees to be in the commercial, but when he arrives he sees that the Dean has totally lost it. He tries to explain to the Dean what his priorities should be:
LUIS: Oh I get it, you’re worse than crazy. You’re ashamed of your school. And that statue of me out there, that’s just wrong man.
DEAN: The bronze adds ten pounds.
LUIS: Naw man– screw you. I’m just saying don’t worship the people leaving Greendale, worship the people that are here. Worship this place! It changes people’s lives. Look, I love my time here, I got laid like crazy. And that’s way before Boogie Nights, too. Look, this is a special school. You don’t deserve to be here.
3. The Dean realizes that he is insecure about his status as Dean of Greendale. His elitism is now staring him straight in the eye forcing him to confront the reality that he’s not above Greendale.
DEAN: Hi, I’m Craig Pelton, Dean of Greendale Community College. I have failed this school. I have failed it because I thought I was better than Greendale. See, I went to a university, so I thought it was my job to improve this place. But it turns out that the only thing wrong with Greendale is that it’s run by an insecure wreck who holds five dances and two talent shows a year because he’s afraid that the school isn’t good enough. But Greendale is good enough because it accepts me for what I’m not. Greendale is the best school in the entire world, and I’m so sorry for what I’ve done to it. And I’m sorry for what I’ve done to the ice cream machine. Please no one eat out of it until you clean the nozzles, the janitor knows how. I’m horrible.
Ep. 309: Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism
Jeff and Shirley’s Arc
1. When both characters were younger, they used foosball as a way to validate themselves. They used the power that the competition gave them as a way to fill the holes in their lives: Jeff was absent a dad, Shirley was oversized for her age.
2. At the height of their battle, they both end up showing each other why it’s stupid that either of them feel the need to validate themselves via a game:
JEFF: Every game I ever won, I won fairly! Foosball was how I measured my value as a man! You took that away!
SHIRLEY: Why do you think I had to?! You try sprouting three feet just when boys were about to look at you! Everyone stopped liking me, this game was all I had!
J: It’s all I had!
S: Well, that’s stupid. You’re a perfectly fine person.
J: So are you.
S: Thank you.
J: You’re welcome.
3. They realize that they’re not defined by how well they play foosball and that they’re not defined by their past. They decide that they’ve played enough foosball for one lifetime and to leave the past where it is.
1. After breaking Abed’s DVD, Annie is in denial that she is capable of such a thing. She affects such a perfect persona, that she can do no wrong, that when she does in fact do something wrong, she panics. She concocts an elaborate ruse in order to lie to Abed about it instead of admitting she did it.
2. When Annie shows the true depths of her diabolical deception, Troy asks her, “Who are you?”
3. Annie realizes that she isn’t perfect, finally confessing her crime to Batman/Abed:
ANNIE: Maybe he stepped on it by accident and felt really, really, really bad.
ABED: All the more reason to confess.
ANNIE: Not everybody’s perfect Abed.
ABED: Batman. And I am.
ANNIE: Well Batman, on behalf of all of us that aren’t perfect, can I just say I’m sorry I broke your DVD?
Ep. 310: Regional Holiday Music
1. Abed tries to manipulate the group into participating in the Christmas pageant in a misguided attempt at brightening the group’s lives. It has been a dark year, and Abed is afraid that his family won’t be together on the holidays. He wants to make sure that they all do something together so he won’t be so lonely. Like all of Abed’s cynicism, it’s accidental. In this case, his intentions are good, but they turn for the worse when he refuses to see the evilness that is participating in the Glee Club.
2. Mr. Rad’s cynicism, his obsession with Glee Club, snaps Abed out of his blind participation. He finally sees that Mr. Rad is completely bats and is only using the study group to satisfy his needs to get the Glee Club to their meaningless regionals and beyond. He admits that he killed the last Glee Club, insinuating that they weren’t up to his standards.
3. Abed realizes that while he was trying to brighten things up and bring joy to his friends, forcing them and manipulating them into doing something they didn’t originally want to do only made things darker. He apologizes for using them.
Ep. 311: Contemporary Impressionists
1. Jeff’s ego grows to an unmanageable size. He’s already the most narcissistic of the group, but once he starts taking anti-depressants his ego begins to eclipse his rationality leading him to Hulk out at the Bar Mitzvah.
2. After he Hulks out, Britta pulls up beside him on the highway and takes care of him. She shows her concern for him in that she was worried about him from the beginning, and despite his rampage she’s still worried about him now.
3. Jeff confesses that he might be a bad person suggesting that he should be the subject for Britta’s psychology midterm.
1. Abed continually uses the celebrity impersonation service even though he’s in massive debt with them and has no money. He does this even after Troy breaks his back to square the debt with Vinny, the manager of the celebrity impersonators. Abed has no regard for how much effort Troy is putting into protecting him.
2. Troy introduces his reality to Abed:
TROY: I am mad at you.
ABED: You said you weren’t. We never lie.
T: I know.
A: We made a deal, October 15, 2009, friends don’t lie to each other.
T: I know! I lied because you don’t like people who tell you what to do, and I don’t want to be one of those people.
A: Then don’t be.
T: I have to be! You have to stop renting celebrity impersonators. Vinny was going to break both of your legs. I had to work really hard to help you.
A: But that’s what you wanted to do.
A: But I can’t do what I want to do?
T: I guess not, not all the time. Sometimes you’re just gonna have to trust that I know better about stuff.
A: I don’t know if I can do that.
T: Then I guess you’re just gonna have to trust that you’re just gonna have to trust me.
A: Well, I don’t want to stop being your friend so I guess I’ll let you tell me what to do sometimes. Still best friends?
T: Yeah! Still best friends. Always.
3. Abed is still incapable of understanding the impact his actions have on other people. He’s not thrilled with the idea of even Troy telling him what he can and cannot do and demonstrates that by going to the Dreamatorium, alone. In the Dreamatorium, Abed realizes by way of a split personality, Evil Abed, that his reality doesn’t crossover with other people’s. He’s starting to think that maybe it doesn’t even have to.
EVIL ABED: Hi Abed.
EVIL ABED: Where’s Troy?
ABED: In the other room.
EVIL ABED: That’s OK, there are many advantages to traveling by yourself. You can drive faster, change the direction, and the only pee breaks are yours.
ABED: Are you real?
EVIL ABED: Are you?
ABED: This is really crazy and inaccessible and maybe too dark.
EVIL ABED: Maybe to them, but not to us.
Ep. 312: Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts
1. Shirley puts in effort to find excuses not to start her sandwich business with Pierce. She is both scared of realizing her dreams as well as unwilling to have Pierce be her business partner. The idea is a no-brainer, but Shirley balks at it using her wedding as an excuse to put it off.
2. Pierce admits that Hawthorne Wipes fired him, and that he’s just a kid with a bunch of money.
3. Shirley realizes that her wedding and her sandwich business are intertwined:
SHIRLEY: Knock it off! Being good at weddings doesn’t make you good at marriage.
JEFF: Exactly! People can make all sorts of promises, but they never stick it out.
ANDRE: It’s not something you just stick out man, it’s a risk you take together. You don’t just promise it once, you gotta promise it everyday.
SHIRLEY: Yes, but the person you’re making promises to is gonna change. You have to accept that.
ANDRE: I do. But do you promise to be patient when that person’s stereo business takes a little while to get off the ground?
SHIRLEY: I do, but do you accept that ten years is more than a little while, and iPods aren’t going away, and maybe it’s time to let someone else take the lead.
ANDRE: I do.
SHIRLEY: You do?
ANDRE: Yes. Baby, I swear I do.
SHIRLEY: Then I promise I’ll do whatever it takes to make this work forever.
Jeff and Britta’s Arc
1. Both characters are totally anti-marriage because of how the examples of marriage in their past have failed. They have no remorse in expressing this even when Shirley is around. They even momentarily hi- jack the rehearsal wedding by almost drunkenly marrying each other.
2. Shirley and Andre improvise their vows (see above).
3. Their realization is that there are good examples of marriage, and that Shirley and Andre will be one of them. They momentarily express this realization through brief but joyous expressions before immediately jumping back into their cynicism by declaring “Lame.” It can be inferred that they’re moved by Shirley and Andre’s moment of sentimentality but are too proud to admit it, choosing to mask it instead.
Troy and Abed’s Arc
1. After Shirley asks them to act normal at her rehearsal wedding, Troy and Abed take it personally and attempt to prove to her that they can be normal. Their motivations for this are skewed, however, doing it just to prove her wrong instead of doing it because it’s her wedding and she’s their friend.
2. Troy has an odd thought:
TROY: Abed, I just had an odd thought. What if once you go from being weird to normal you can never go back to being weird again?
ABED: That is an odd thought.
TROY: Well, let’s hope it’s the last.
3. Troy comes to his senses and snaps Abed out of it. They realize that this fake persona of being normal isn’t them, and that they can never not be themselves. They admit to their weirdness and commit to it, totally unashamed of how they are. This is one of their most endearing traits as characters, and it would be disingenuous if they acted otherwise.
Ep. 313: Digital Exploration of Interior Design
NOTE: The majority of Troy and Abed’s arc occurs in Ep. 314: Pillows and Blankets, and will be explored then.
1. After discovering a hate letter in his locker, Jeff learns that the person who sent it to him died. He is disturbed by this not because of how he treated that person, but because he can never correct his appearance of being a dick. He is much more concerned about his self-image than how he affected another person’s life. His apology is rooted in his obsession with how he feels about himself as opposed to how his being a dick made another person feel.
2. Annie explains to Jeff what an apology is supposed to be like:
JEFF: She is someone who died thinking I was a dick. I can never apologize. I can never change her mind. That makes me a dick forever.
ANNIE: You think that’s what an apology is? A spell you cast on another person to make them forgive you? Apologies are opportunities to admit your own mistakes. Apologize to her locker.
JEFF: But how can I apologize if I don’t know what I did wrong?
ANNIE: Well, didn’t she call you inconsiderate? Sounds to me like you know exactly what you did wrong.
3. Under Annie’s guidance, Jeff apologizes:
JEFF: Kim. It’s me, Jeff. The inconsiderate jerk. Look, I don’t remember hurting you, and I have to assume that’s what hurt you. God knows what crime you committed to deserve me disregarding you entirely. But whatever your crime, I think we both know the real crime is mine. I’m a self-centered shallow jackass. And I just want to thank you for your note because I’m going to try and change. I just wish you were here to forgive me.
Ep. 314: Pillows and Blankets
1. After war breaks out at Greendale between the formidable forces of Blanketsburg and the audacious armies of Pillowtown, Jeff finds himself in a unique position to manipulate his friend’s squabble to his advantage. Using his silver tongue, he disregards Troy and Abed’s quarrel and seeks to draw it out for as long as possible in order to delay schoolwork.
2. Annie scolds him:
JEFF: Why are you ignoring me?
ANNIE: What’s the point in talking to you? Your words don’t mean anything. They’re just things you say to get whatever you want.
J: Well, that’s what conversation is, Annie. People saying things to get stuff.
A: Then maybe you should just shut up. Do you ever just write stuff down in a journal, Jeff? One you don’t show people or use to get anything with. A place that’s just for you to sort out the truth.
3. Jeff takes Annie’s advice and starts a journal. The first entry:
“First entry in my stupid journal: Today I had to run and get two imaginary friendship hats from an office. I could’ve just walked around the corner and then come back, but for some reason I actually went all the way back to where they were supposed to be. One was crumpled up a bit, that was Troy’s. The other was just a little dusty, that was Abed’s. I fixed them up even though I was the only one watching because I settled on a truth today that’s always going to be true: I would do anything for my friends. Which is what I think everyone in the world feels, which makes me finally understand war.”
Troy and Abed’s Arc (Starts in 313, ends in 314)
1. At this point in the season, both characters are learning the pitfalls of being friends with one another. Their strife is aided by the meddling of Vice Deane Laybourne who happily plants the seeds of doubt into each of their heads. It’s important to note that neither Troy nor Abed were being cynical and selfish before the Vice Dean entered the picture. His conversation with Troy:
VICE DEAN: Any chance you’ve given a second thought to joining my air conditioner repair school?
TROY: Sorry, kind of busy at the moment doing some awesome work with Abed.
V.D.: Ah, yeah, Abed. You guys watch that television show together don’t you? Inspector Spactime. Funny, Troy, you and Abed have always reminded me of the Inspector and his trusty Constable Reggie.
T: Ha, cool!
V.D.: The Inspector is of course smart, decisive, and Reggie is, well, he’s Reggie.
T: Reggie is trained in zero gravity martial arts. And has a whistle.
V.D.: Yeah, but he never really gets to blow the whistle unless the Inspector says it’s OK. Less of a friendship more of a self- centered nerd and his naive, obedient lap-dog. Well, I got a thing, you take care.
This starts Troy down the path of cynicism where he begins to put himself in front of his friend. He then secedes from Abed’s pillow fort and starts his own blanket fort. When their forts collide, Abed volunteers to take his down because it’s what Troy wants. Just when Abed is about to pull the self-destruct sock, the Vice Dean interferes again:
ABED: Prepare to initiate protocol Omega. Goodbye pillow fort, you were a beautiful dream.
VICE DEAN: More than a dream. It’s here.
A: Who’re you?
V.D.: Someone who understands the dedication to craftsmanship in the face of mediocrity. This world is run by the unremarkables. Don’t do what you always do, Abed. Don’t corrupt the host to pacify the parasites. Ask yourself, what if I stopped worrying about their acceptance of me? What if it fell to the Reggies of the world to keep up with the Inspectors? Or perish.
Now both friends are at the mercy of their own cynicism and are unwilling to compromise their blanket or pillow fort for the other. It has no longer become about sacrificing one’s own desire for that of their friend. Now it is about putting one’s own wants in front of everything else: friendship, the comfort of others, the school, etc.
ANNIE: What’s going on here?
TROY: Abed won’t tear down his fort.
ABED: I shouldn’t have to compromise my craftsmanship to placate mediocrity.
Eventually the fight between the two friends becomes a campus wide conflict, and the two begin taking public pot shots at each other by calling each other names and revealing each other’s embarrassing secrets. The whole school is at odds just because these two are acting like children.
2. During the final battle, after the whole school has been exasperated by the adorable conflict, Troy and Abed still remain in the midst of a stalemate, hitting each other for hours with pillows. Jeff points out the significance of this:
JEFF: Come on guys, let’s wrap this up.
TROY: I don’t want to.
ABED: Me neither.
JEFF: Why not?
ABED: Because this will be the last thing we ever do together.
TROY: We can’t stop.
JEFF: Well doesn’t that kind of solve your problem? The realization that you like each other so much that you’d hit each other with pillows forever.
ABED: Knowing that doesn’t feel like enough anymore.
TROY: Yeah. We’re grown ups now, we have grown up problems.
JEFF: That’s very clear. Unless you use those magical friendship hats that I got for you.
TROY: We’re not stupid Jeffrey, we know you made those sarcastically.
JEFF: Yes, yes. And I will roll my eyes at both of you when I put them on your heads because that’s the way I am. But that’s not the way you have to be.
3. They realize, as Jeff points out supra, that if they’re willing to fight forever because it’s the last thing they’ll ever do together, that just means they’ll be friends forever. Because of this, they see that they’re eventually both going to have to make sacrifices of some sort in the future, but no matter what happens, they’ll still be friends.
Ep. 315: Origins of Vampire Mythology
1. Jeff is transfixed by the idea that a man can control a woman when he sees the kind of power Britta’s ex-boyfriend, Blade, has over her. Jeff wants to wield this power for his own self-interest, just in case he ever needs to use it to manipulate people and get what he wants.
2. Blade openly admits his secret to Jeff.
3. Jeff realizes that Blade’s power isn’t something that should be meddled with and decides it’s better off if everyone knows it so they can stop depending on other people to make themselves feel loved.
JEFF: I just got back from the carnival where I met Blade.
BRITTA: Is he OK? How is he?
JEFF: He’s brain damaged.
BRITTA: Well let’s not be petty.
JEFF: No, I’m serious. He showed me the scar. Ten years ago before he even met you, a loose bolt flew off a ferris wheel and imbedded in his skull destroying the part of his brain that feels shame. I mean he’s basically irresistible to people for the same reason he can pretty much only work at a carnival. He has nothing to prove or disprove about himself or to himself. He has no shame.
BRITTA: Why wouldn’t he have told me that?
JEFF: Because he didn’t care if you knew.
BRITTA: That is so like him. I have to go to him.
JEFF: No, woman. None of us have to go to anyone. And the idea we do is a mental illness we contracted from breath mint commercials and Sandra Bullock. We can’t keep going to each other until we learn to go to ourselves. Stop making our hatred of ourselves someone else’s job and just stop hating ourselves.
1. Asks Annie to lock her up to make sure she doesn’t go see Blade. Even though Britta asked her to do this out of her own good, she puts Annie through hell by manipulating her at every opportunity so she can try and get in touch with Blade.
2. Along with Jeff’s speech (see above), Britta finds out that Troy sent her the nice text message that she originally thought was from Blade.
3. Britta realizes that maybe it’s time her taste in men evolves a bit. She starts to see how awesome Troy can be.
Ep. 316: Virtual Systems Analysis
1. Tries to change how Abed acts in order to avoid barriers to her matchmaking endeavors with Troy and Britta. Behind his back she says he is a “control freak with no empathy, people bend over backwards to cater to him.”
2. Annie, while conversing with her imagined self, she says, “We’re just in love with the idea of being loved. And if we can teach a guy like Jeff to do it, we’ll never be unloved. So we keep running the same scenario over and over hoping for a different result.” To which the virtual Annie points out that she’s starting to sound like Abed.
3. Annie realizes that instead of preaching empathy to Abed, she should be employing it by putting herself in his shoes. She needs to use empathy to try and see how he feels about her trying to control how he acts. She realizes that being a control freak isn’t the best way to go and that they both need to get more comfortable winging it.
1. He basically scolds Annie for trying to be a control freak saying that he’s more suitable for that role. He’s upset that she tried to tamper with the group’s fabric by playing matchmaker with Troy and Britta. He thinks that if Annie wants to do what he usually does then there’s no need for him to be there, so he filters himself out of the scenario.
2. Annie turns into Abed showing him that she needs to use her own empathy to have some understanding of him. She says, “Your simulations are nothing more than anxieties. You’re afraid you don’t fit in. You’re afraid you’ll be alone. Great news! You share that with all of us, so you’ll never be alone, and you’ll always fit in.”
3. Having experienced Annie using empathy to understand where he’s coming from, Abed begins to use it himself:
ABED: I am Abed Nadir, and I don’t know a lot of things everyone else knows. I wander the universe with my friend Troy doing whatever I want, sometimes accidentally hurting innocent unremarkables. This week, however, Troy went to lunch and I adapted. I now have the ability to enter the minds of others using an elusive new technique known as empathy.
Ep. 317: Basic Lupine Urology
1. Jeff tells Troy and Abed to do what they have to do in order to get to Starburns, regardless of any ethical implication. He’s unconcerned with the fallout of their investigation and only wants to get to the bottom of who killed their yam.
2. Jeff begins to see that their case doesn’t make sense, and once he sees Annie skewer Todd on the witness stand to the point of tears, his conscious gets the best of him.
3. Jeff realizes that what they’re doing is beginning to take its toll on the innocent and that he corrupted Annie:
JEFF: I want a mistrial, just give us a C. Give Todd a C.
ANNIE: What? Can we take a sidebar in this sidebar? Jeff, we’re about to get our A.
J: Todd didn’t do it.
A: Um, he just confessed, dummy.
J: He said the jar burned him? It doesn’t make sense. People don’t half confess to crimes. Look, when we started this you were after the truth. Then I convinced you it was more important to win. Don’t be like me. A man’s got to have a code. I can only assume there’s a female equivalent to that, a codet or something.
J: It’s not worth getting an A if an innocent man gets an F.
Ep. 318: Course Listing Unavailable
The Study Group has two moments of H.S. The first:
1. As a group in mourning over Starburns’ death, they act out as most people who are going through the grief process do. They turn on the Dean and the school inciting the single worst wake riot this district has ever seen. Their cynicism is that they completely misplace their anger, blaming the Dean for everything.
2. The sentimentality that affects them is that because of their selfish behavior in trying to blame Greendale for their grief, the Dean takes it personally and thinks that he’s to blame for the whole thing.
3. Jeff realizes that the Study Group is mostly to blame for the events that occurred:
DEAN: I’m such a bad Dean!
JEFF: No you’re not. Well, you are. But we’re worse students. While you tried to save Greendale we trashed the school like a TV commercial where the teacher banned Skittles.
1. Having been expelled, the Study Group sulks into a depression where they all place the blame on themselves. Britta thinks she’s the worst. Jeff corrects her by saying he’s the worst. Annie starts to drink thinking her life can’t get double ruined. Shirley pours herself a drink. Pierce’s 13 years of college are down the drain. Troy won’t be the first one in his family to graduate from community college. Abed starts to think this is the darkest timeline, and what would have happened if he let Jeff roll the die in Ep. 303.
2. Troy snaps them out of their funk, “No! We’re all going to get through this. We’re all alive, and we’re all fine. And Britta, you’re not the worst, you’re the best.”
3. Abed realizes this is the perfect timeline regardless of their situation, “He’s right. Things are bad, but we’re together. That makes this the perfect timeline.”
Ep. 319: Curriculum Unavailable
1. The Study Group accompanies Abed to a therapy session which he has to go to in order to have his trespassing charges made by Greendale dropped. In the session, the therapist examines the crazy, erratic behavior of the Study Group. They blame their craziness on Greendale much like they did in Ep. 318:
DR. HEIDI: His [Abed’s] continued obsession with Greendale Community College suggests the potential for escalation, and frankly these stories you’ve been telling me are very troubling.
PIERCE: You’re troubled? I don’t remember any of those things happening. Since when do these three live together?
JEFF: Look, Abed’s obsession with Greendale doesn’t make him crazy. If you’d had gone to school there you’d be obsessed with it too. It was a messed up place, we had lockers.
ANNIE: Yeah! We’re survivors.
2. They talk themselves into remembering the good things about Greendale and then notice that these memories all tend to involve the Dean.
3. They realize that they’ve once again stabbed the Dean in the back by blaming him and Greendale for their craziness when the sentimental moments they experience while at Greendale are often the result of something the Dean has done.
ANNIE: You know what occurs to me? What all those great Greendale memories have in common?
PIERCE: That I was barely in them.
SHIRLEY: They were all about Dean Pelton.
ABED: That’s what I’ve been trying to make you guys understand for the last two months. I keep telling you we weren’t expelled by the real Dean. It couldn’t’ve been him, he loved us.
BRITTA: Maybe we’ve been so concerned with moving past Greendale that we’ve been living in denial.
JEFF: It’s true, I mean let’s face it, we weren’t driven crazy by Greendale. And Abed’s not the crazy one for obsessing about it. Abed, we’re sorry. We haven’t been supporting you, and we haven’t been honest with ourselves.
Ep. 320: Digital Estate Planning
1. Pierce believes that his father’s inheritance is rightfully his, and Gilbert is trying to steal it from him. The group goes along with this and tries to help Pierce as much as they can.
2. Gilbert reveals the true nature of his relationship with Cornelius Hawthorne:
PIERCE: Yeah, don’t be a knob. That inheritance is rightfully mine!
P: I’m his son.
G: So am I.
P: What? That can’t be true. You’re half…white.
JEFF: Nice save.
G: Do you remember your childhood nanny Etta? Well, Etta had a hot cousin– my mother. So, you see Pierce, I am your half-brother, and I am more your father’s son than you ever were, so shut up and play the game.
3. Pierce and the others sacrifice themselves in the game to defeat Cornelius and thus forfeit their right to take the inheritance allowing Gilbert to claim it as his own. Their sentimentality is reciprocated by Gilbert who is happy to have Pierce as his brother.
Ep. 321: The First Chang Dynasty
NOTE: This episode is unique in that it is completely meaningless in terms of H.S. if it stands alone. The episode is filled with everyone exhibiting sentimentality numerous times on different levels and by different people. The group saves the Dean, then they save the school. The Dean says he’ll be able to cover up the whole Chang thing saving the administrators. Troy sacrifices himself to the AC repair school in order to free the gang and the Dean. If this episode were taken out of the context of the season, all these sentimentalities would appear to just be acts of kindness with no preface to explain why the characters acted this way. But when you take into account the entire season and the individual H.S. of each episode that addresses season long arcs, these sentimentalities act as the third part of the season long Harmonic Sentimentalities. The group saving the Dean and the school completes their realization from Ep. 319. The Dean taking the fall completes his H.S. from Ep. 308. And Troy joining the AC repair school to save his friends completes his H.S. from Eps. 313 and 314. The episode itself seemed to fall flat not because of it’s lacking of a singular H.S., but because the conceptual homage to Ocean’s 11 took center stage over the conclusion of the season long arcs. This made it more difficult to see the connections between the individual H.S. listed above and the sentimentalities experienced in this episode.
Ep. 322: Introduction to Finality
1. Jeff’s self-interests of regaining his status as a lawyer at his old firm begin to conflict with the disagreement between Pierce and Shirley as to who is the majority owner of the sandwich shop.
2. Jeff is leaning towards throwing the case in order to ensure that he has a job when he gets out of Greendale when Shirley makes the sacrifice:
SHIRLEY: Jeffrey, this is a terrible situation for me to have put you in. A guy like Alan isn’t above making trouble for you at your old firm.
JEFF: Shirley, I–
SHIRLEY: It’s not worth your career. I want you to have what you want.
JEFF: Thank you Shirley.
3. Jeff realizes that selfishness is bad and that helping other people is good no matter what sacrifices you have to make. This realization has been a culmination of his newly found friendship with Shirley that has been blossoming throughout the whole season. Jeff’s closing arguments:
JEFF: Your honor, I have no closing statement because I’m throwing the case. No, no. It’s OK. It’s fine, don’t worry. My client Shirley Bennett, my friend of three years, she told me that it’s OK. She said what I want was more important. She’s right, right? I mean, guys like me we’ll tell you there’s no right or wrong, there’s no real truth. And as long as we all believe that, guys like me can never lose. Because the truth is, I’m lying when I say there is no truth. The truth is, the pathetically, stupidly, inconveniently obvious truth is, helping only ourselves is bad, and helping each other is good. Now, I just wanted to get out of here, pass biology, and be a lawyer again instead of helping Shirley. That was bad. And my former colleague wanted so badly to keep his rich client that he just asked me to roll over in exchange for my old job. So, I guess we all walked in here pretty bad, but now Shirley’s gone good, Shirley’s helping me. It’s that easy. You just stop thinking about what’s good for you and start thinking about what’s good for someone else. And you can change the whole game with one move. Now if you like this idea, you can make it true by doing something good for everyone here: throw this case out of court. It’s dumb. That is all.
1. Abed is scared of living without his best friend Troy and thus hides behind his evil persona, Evil Abed. Evil Abed then skewers Britta, crushing her world around her. His ultimate evil mission is to turn this timeline into the evil timeline by destroying everyone’s lives. Abed is letting Evil Abed run rampant instead of dealing with his fear of being without Troy.
2. Jeff gives his closing arguments (supra).
3. Abed realizes that he probably needs therapy and not the normal kind. He thinks he can only trust Britta because she has as little control over his mind as he does.