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Community: Pillows and Blankets

Pillows but no sleep
Feathers but no birds
Pajamas without children
Violence without purpose
I saw Mommy kissing ExxonMobil

-Amanda Johnson (poet by choice, lesbian by birth)

I loved this episode. Yes, it was another documentary parody. But that didn't bother me. When episodes are as good as this one, I can forgive the writers for repeating themselves. I lost count of how many times I laughed my head off.

This time the focus was on war documentaries, notably the work of director Ken Burns. Unlike those responsible for Scary Movie, Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans, and similar dreck, the makers of Community know that in order to make parody work, you need to have an intensive understanding of your subject. Just mixing toilet humour with random references to movies and pop culture isn't going to cut it. No, when these guys set about parodying something they do their homework. I'm might not be that familiar with Burns's work, but I've seen enough WWII documentaries to know the attention to detail in this episode was staggering.

Following last week's kerfuffle in the study room, it was all out war at Greendale Community college. The citizens of The United Forts of Pillowtown and The Legit Republic of Blanketsburg were locked in a deadly conflict that engulfed the entire campus. The hallways were drenched in feathers as friend turned against friend, classmate against classmate, lab partners against lab partners. In true documentary style, we only saw the conflict through a collection of still photos, caught-on-camera footage, interviews with those involved, text messages, e-mails, maps and Facebook status updates. Best of all was the brilliant, endlessly quotable narration by Keith David (yes, he who wasn't in The Cape but really was). It was so good I had a hard time deciding what bits I wouldn't quote.

While Tory and Abed cried 'Havoc!' and let slip the cushions of war, the other members of the Study Group reacted to the conflict in their own unique way. Britta, no doubt still coping with the loss of her beloved Subway, became a war photographer (very Britta) but was lousy at it (ditto), producing some of the most blurry and poorly framed photos taken of the war. Jeff, in true Ferris Buellerian style, manipulated the situation to avoid going to class. Classic Winger. And Annie, the Angel of the Battlefield, channelled Florence Nightingale and took care of all injured soldiers, while still finding time to teach Jeff how to be a better person and where to download special icons for his phone.

Shirley and Pierce were the only ones to take part in the actual fighting. Ever the concerned mother, Shirley chose to side with Troy, because she feared that Britta would get him on the evil weed. Not surprisingly, Big Cheddar proved to be formidable on the battlefield. And after Shirley was promoted over him, Pierce defected from Blanketsberg to Pillowtown, despite initially describing Abed as “weirder” and “more foreign” than Troy.

There was only really one thing I found wrong with this episode, and that was how easily the rift between Troy and Abed's was resolved. They've been building up this rift for a few weeks and it was a little disappointing to see it resolved so quickly. It was all too much of a deus ex machina (another overused term that I loathe using). Once the magical friendship hats were put on it was back to business as usual for Troy and Abed. It was as if nothing had ever happened. As I've said before, I've not been happy with this development, but I was willing to put up with it in the hope that we might get a good episode out of it. And we did. A great episode, in fact. But I don't think we got a satisfying ending to that episode.

Notes and Quotes

-- Leonard was a veteran of the Korean War. For North Korea.

-- So, Pierce's doomsday weapon; Stay Puft Marshmallow Man or Michelin Man?

-- Bad news; this episode had the series' lowest ratings to date. Good news; it was still the number one show on NBC that night.

-- There was no sign of Vice Dean John Goodman. Guess he was too busy at band practice.

-- On a completely random note, who in their right mind would ever name a child Ferris? No wonder he wanted to skip school. With a name like that he would've got the shit kicked out of him at my school.

Narrator: “And his socially dysfunctional best friend turned bitter rival, an uncompromising tactical mastermind feared by all, yet unable to pay parking tickets or know left from right without mouthing the Pledge of Allegiance.”

Narrator: “Unfortunately for Britta and millions of photographers like her, just because something is in black and white doesn’t mean it’s good.”
-- Speaking as an amateur photographer, that is so true.

Narrator: “The North Cafeteria, named after Admiral William North, is located in the western portion of East Hall, gateway to the western half of North Hall, which is named, not after William North, but for its position above the South Wall. It is the most contested and confusing battlefield on Greendale’s campus, next to the English Memorial Spanish Center, named after English Memorial, a Portuguese sailor that discovered Greendale while looking for a fountain that cured syphilis.”

Abed: “Blanketsberg has drawn First Blood. Pillowtown will draw First Blood Part II.”

Abed: “The war won’t stop with First Blood Part II. It will escalate to Rambo III. Which should really be Rambo II: First Blood Part III, but the Rambo titles never made sense. And neither does war.”

Jeff: “Doesn’t that kind of solve your problem? The realization that you like each other so much that you would hit each other with pillows … forever.”

Narrator: “Critics suggest he merely improvised hot button patriotic dogma in a Ferris Buellerian attempt to delay school work. Winger decries the accusation as quote: ‘a slanderous betrayal akin to 9/11.’ Later, after the war, he would refer to the theory as ‘essentially accurate.’”

Troy: “I’m giving you an all-tomato. Meaning you give me the whole tomato, or else.”

Shirley: “There were no rules in that first battle. You hit someone, and if they went down you’d stop hitting them. Call that… common courtesy. But then what if they get up? Maybe keep hitting them until they learn to stay down? We call that common sense.”

Dean Pelton: “Jeffrey, find me!”

Jeff: “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 I think is how everyone in the world feels, which finally makes me understand war.”

A near flawless example of Community at its finest. Three and three quarters out of four narrators who may or may not have been in The Cape.
---
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.

8 comments:

celticmarc said...

Mark,

haven't read read your review yet, but this is what I have to say right now: ladies and gentlemen, THIS is WHAT Community is all about. American TV at its most genius and inventive. Brilliant satire.

Four point five unwashed blankets for way too long.

celticmarc said...

(after reading)

Wow Mark, your reviews are as good as the show itself. Kudos.

Lowest ratings ?? Eyes rolling. hate that so much,

Matratzenbezug said...

Waaowww.....Its a gr888 review I would really like to appreciate you for this..nice..

Kathy said...

I don't think the riff between Abed and Troy is just going to go away. Yes, they're friends now, and they will work it out. But they also have some serious issues with each other that they need to talk out. The magical friendship hats Jeff gave them healed their friendship, but it's still scarred.

Mark Greig said...

That is certainly a possibility, Kathy. But if that was the writers' intent then I don't think this episode did a good job of conveying that. There was nothing to indicate that there was any lasting damage, despite the very mean things they both said to each other during the course of the war.

ChrisB said...

Although Community usually makes me smile, it doesn't always make me laugh out loud. This episode had me howling.

I love PBS and all things documentary and, as you say Mark, they nailed it! The voice over, the maps, simply everything was brilliantly parodied. I couldn't even pick one thing that I like above all others as it was just one giant episode of awesome.

The coda had me laughing so hard I had to watch it not once more, but twice more. Talk about nailing the PBS pledge drives. One of my favorite episodes of this series.

Scott Riggan said...

Everything about this one was awesome. Once again, I owe a debt of gratitude to the Agents of D.O.U.X. for persuading me to give this show a chance after initially not getting it. And Mark, your reviews have been a huge part of my enjoyment of Community. Thanks!

Great PurpleRobe said...

I love Ken Burns' documentaries. This episode nailed that format, hilariously. My favorite episode so far!