I can build up a person by borrowing one feature from one person and one from another, or by giving to the form of one the name of another in my dream. I can also visualize one person, but place him in a position which has occurred to another. There is a meaning in all these cases when different persons are amalgamated into one substitute. Such cases denote an “and,” a “just like,” a comparison of the original person from a certain point of view, a comparison which can be also realized in the dream itself. As a rule, however, the identity of the blended persons is only discoverable by analysis, and is only indicated in the dream content by the formation of the “combined” person.

- On Dreams by Sigmund Freud

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Community 4x01: “History 101”
Troy and Abed enter with a modified catchphrase, and they are greeted by a laugh track. The laugh track continues to regurgitate over every other word that is said as the rest of the group enters, wearing the same hipster glasses as Troy. Jeff is the only one not wearing the glasses besides Abed. Pierce enters, played by Fred Willard instead of Chevy Chase; he is wearing the same glasses as everyone else, not because they are cool, but because they are his old backup pair. We hear Britta’s voice over the incessant laugh track and a Big Bang Theory-like transition pulls us out of Abed’s head and into a laugh track free environment. This episode is the first episode without Dan Harmon. The show had quite a public dysfunction last season, and this opening voices what many fans may have feared: that the show may be infused with popular sitcom trappings and become indistinguishable from the wasteland of broadcast television sitcoms, and Chevy would be replaced or removed for being part of the public dysfunction. The audience will hopefully breathe a sigh of relief when it is revealed that the scene was all manufactured in Abed’s head and everyone is pulled back into the reality that has come to be expected of the show. This episode uses the film Inception as its framework. In that film, people travel through multilayered dreams within dreams to plant the seed of an idea into the mark’s mind, so that when the dreams are all ended, the idea germinates and the mark feels that they have conceived of the idea on their own without any outside influence. A popular reading of the film is that each person is a personification of a particular role in the filmmaking process, and that the film itself is a commentary on how films work on the viewer. The ending is somewhat ambiguous so that the viewer may read into it what they will, and feel like they have come up with the meaning themselves from whichever clues they decide to use from the rest of the film. This episode of Community casts its characters in the roles of the Television production process. The idea that the viewer is being incepted with is that the show is still the show they love even though Harmon is gone and it may grow outside of the school. The title of this episode is History 101, and as with previous seasons, the first episode introduces the concept the episodes will be exploring for the rest of the semester. Here we will study the viewer’s personal history with the show and adherence to traditions.

In the real world, we learn that Britta (still wearing the hipster glasses from the laugh track world) has used her amateur psychology to instruct Abed that whenever he feels stressed, he should retreat into a happy place that he has constructed inside his head. She gave him the instruction to start with a babbling brook, and Abed says “I started out with a babbling brook, but then I layered in elements from our world. I’m sure fans of the babbling brook will complain, but I felt it was limiting.” The babbling brook is the typical laugh-track-a-second sitcom, into which Abed layered in elements from what he calls the real world. The real world is the show we are used to and the elements layered in are the characters therein. Britta asks Abed if he is ready for the “last first day of school” we see that this is the stress trigger that prompts Abed to retreat into his fantasy world. This is our stress trigger as well: the fear that the show will be canceled now that Harmon is gone and it may be homogenizing into bland background noise. Abed retreats into his head and we see the opening credits with new lyrics sung by Abed. The new lyrics open with “this is my show, it’s about me, and all my friends”, describing the personal connection a devoted viewer has with the characters of any show with which they connect. Fred Willard is listed as Pierce in these credits, and we see Chang here even though he does not appear anywhere else in the laugh track world.

In the real world, we find the study group reuniting (now including Chevy as Pierce), excited to begin a class called The History of Ice Cream. Annie says that she is going to do senioritis which she defines as “hangin’ out, blowin’ off classes, pullin’ pranks, not sayin’ my G’s.” Shirley lights up at this idea, and says that she will pull some pranks with Annie. Annie nonchalantly says she would rather pull them with Jeff, but will do so with whomever. Troy confirms his date with Abed to make wishes in the fountain, as is their first of the year tradition. Pierce tells them that “wishes aren’t real. If you want something bad, you have to work for it or use a spell.” The group sees a long line outside the ice cream class, as Jeff sticks his head outside the classroom to beckon them forward. We see world bleed as Jeff is wearing the hipster glasses from the laugh track world. He notices Britta is wearing the glasses too, and he takes his off, shoving them at Neil. We learn that Jeff showed up to the ice cream class early to save the rest of the group seats. Britta and Annie comment on Jeff’s behavior, calling him “a whole new Jeff Winger.” As the group sits down, Leonard complains that he has been “pissing in jars for an hour trying to keep this seat” while the group got in right away because of Jeff’s antics. During commentaries for season 1, we learned that Leonard’s original purpose was to act as an embodiment for the heard but not seen studio audience reactions in classic sitcoms. Leonard here is the audience, angry that a new production team waltzes into the show to pick up the history with a simplified view towards pleasing everyone, and turning the show into ice cream, while he has put in so much work with the last three seasons of the show. (The pissing in jars is a reference to DiCaprio’s character in the Aviator which will also come up later). The group yells at Leonard to stifle his cries and the dean comes in to quiet everyone down. The dean announces that the admission slips to the ice cream class have been counterfeited and the student pool has been flooded, negating the old way of accepting people into the ice cream class.

The dean leads everyone to the gym where he has set up an obstacle course which he calls The Hunger Deans. He expects the students to perform antics and jump through hoops in the post apocalyptic wasteland of sitcom television so that they may make it into the easy history class. Upon seeing the obstacle course, Shirley says “Oh, Lord, no.” and the rest of the group shares her sentiment as they reject the idea of competing in favor of taking history class next semester. Jeff reveals that ice cream is the only history class offered this semester and that it is the last class he needs to graduate. Jeff had hidden from the group that he took classes all summer and history is all he needs to graduate one semester early. The group feels betrayed that Jeff planned to leave them early, and Annie calls him selfish. Jeff is the spirit of the show here, fluctuating between old and new Jeff/old and new showrunner. Harmon is leaving early, and the restrictions placed on him by the producers (embodied by the dean) are turning him into a different Jeff, a new showrunner. The group represents different aspects of the writers, viewers, and the show itself, and they all feel betrayed and uncertain about their future after learning the truth about Jeff. Jeff says that he has been working on a speech to tie everything together and give closure to what he was planning. He offers a little bit of the speech, but not all of it. One of the show’s rules has been that Jeff will deliver a speech to tell us the lesson of the episode at the end. Abed tells Troy to fulfill the wish tradition without him so that he may stay in the gym to watch Jeff. As Annie leaves, she says “see you around, old Jeff.”, and Jeff protests that he is new Jeff and will win 7 red balls to enter the ice cream class because he is “not going to take that class unless you guys are with me.” As everyone has turned away, Jeff delivers part of his planned speech: “we’re gonna have to leave this place sometime. Like an ice cream cone melting in the sun, our time here can’t last forever.” This triggers Abed’s anxiety which pushes him back into the laugh track world.

Inside Abed’s head, we see the group reading generic pamphlets labeled JOBS as Jeff tells Abed they are making plans for the future because they “can’t stay at Greendale forever.” Now we have world bleed in the other direction, as Jeff’s words from the gym have corrupted Abed’s happy place. The dean comes in dressed as Leonardo DiCaprio from The Aviator and announces: “just as his character lost his mind, so have I lost your student records.” Shirley comments on how Amelia Earhart would have been a more straightforward demonstration of the dean’s news. The dean mentions DiCaprio, however, to ground us further in the referencing of Inception. The dean says that the group will have to repeat the last 3 years and Troy says dejectedly “we’re gonna be here forever.” This idea echoes in Abed’s head, making him happy, as we are pulled back to the real world.

In the gym, the dean starts the competition and Jeff tells Leonard to give up his pursuit of the first red ball. He assaults Leonard and climbs over him to capture the ball. Chevy sits with an unresponsive Abed, struggling to come up with a joke about Jeff acquiring balls. Jeff brings him the first ball, and we are pushed back into Abed’s head. In the laugh track world, Annie says that she would like to begin a major in forensics if she must start over. Troy mentions that you can major in antics, and Abed spouts off a lot of information about  it as if he has researched it seriously. Jeff protests the idea that they have to start over as freshmen, but a group of girls comes in and invites the study group to a freshman mixer and Jeff accepts the role of freshman to chase after the girls. This is the opposite of new Jeff who sent girls away in order to take the final history class needed in the real world. Abed smiles and shakes his head seemingly thinking “classic Jeff” as we are pulled into the real world.

Annie and Shirley are breaking into the dean’s office to pull their senior prank. Annie keeps thinking small, and Shirley has to prod her to think bigger and actually pull off a prank. Annie gets excited about Shirley’s ideas and decides to move everything around the stapler, calling it a prank on a prank and mentions that “there are so many levels to this” —again referencing Inception. Shirley comes up with the idea of filling the dean’s car with popcorn instead. Annie misunderstands the reasoning at first, but grows to accept it. Annie begins to pretend she is the dean to figure out where his keys are. She does an impression of him and has the insight that the character wears heels, so the keys would be in a higher drawer than she first thought. Annie is the old writer, having been left by Jeff, the old show runner, she is treading water and coming up with trite ideas, but Shirley is a new writing partner who can use Annie’s expertise about the characters to prod her into new directions and come up with their own show to create a new history. Jeff comes in to show Annie that he has acquired a red ball for her. Shirley asks if that is blood on Jeff’s shirt, and he says that it is cool because the blood is Leonard’s.

Britta goes to the fountain with Troy to make wishes using the jar of pennies. Troy says that he and Abed always make the first wish together, so they each grab a penny and throw it into the fountain. Britta wishes for a great school year, while Troy wishes for a thousand wishes. He tells Britta that she is not following the rules, because the first wish is always a thousand wishes. Britta acquiesces as Troy wishes that she have half of his remaining wishes. With her next wish, Britta wishes to end all wars, which breaks Abed’s rule about wishes containing the word all because they yield guaranteed ironic consequences. Britta gets into the fountain to take the penny and the wish back, but Troy tells her that this is also against the rules of how the fountain works and that the pennies are not the wishes. They get into a fight and end up spilling the remaining pennies and breaking the jar. Troy is an old fan of the show and Britta is a new fan of the show. In Inception, a character would use a totem to test whether or not the possessor was in their own dream or someone else’s. The show is our dream and our totem as the viewer, and it must conform to the rules we have defined for it or else it is not our show, but someone else’s. Britta is accepting of anything at first, but Troy’s insistence on following the rules to maintain the old status quo is draining all of her pleasure.

Annie and Shirley have lined the inside of the dean’s car with tin foil and are filling it with popcorn which they will pop with magnifying glasses. Annie is complaining to Shirley about Jeff leaving early and what will become of everyone else. She is running future scenarios of everyone outside of school, seeing no fun in any of it. She calls the imagined future a “sad, slow march towards death.” Shirley tries to make her see the bright side, but Annie ignores her. Harmon has said in the past that the Community of the title is not the college, but the study group and that the show could extend outside of the school easily, as long as the group is together. The viewer is also part of that Community. Annie cannot see any of this, however, she only sees that the old, comfortable formula she was writing in is disappearing. 

Jeff is still competing for and winning red balls. He wins each one, bringing his total to 5. The sixth competition is revealed to be a tango contest, which the dean says “requires complete emotional commitment.” Jeff surprises everyone by saying he chooses the dean as his partner. The dean gasps and whispers “the fountain works.” They begin to dance as Chevy still struggles for a joke about balls and we are sucked inside Abed’s head. The freshman mixer from the previous laugh track scene has turned into a food fight. Abed looks happy amidst the chaos, but Annie comes in and says that after only one forensics class she has found a way to retrieve the missing student records. She holds up a giant red ball safe and says that all their student records are backed up inside.

The dean made an undisclosed wish in the fountain, but we know that it was answered when he requested complete emotional commitment from the dancers and Jeff chose the dean to be his partner. Jeff accuses the dean of not wanting him to graduate, and the dean says “I want success for all Greendale students.” The wish seems to have the ironic consequences involving “all” which Troy warned about earlier, because Jeff has identified with the dean enough to know that he is the only one who could have counterfeited the admission slips for the ice cream class. The dean finally admits that he did erase the second history class, and he had hoped Jeff would walk away from the challenges like the rest of the group. If the wish of the producers is that the show will find success with all Greendale viewers so that it may make money, the consequence of this happening is that the viewer will begin to become emotionally invested in the characters and will recognize when the showrunner’s voice behind them changes and that old history between character and viewer is negated. Jeff delivers the sixth ball to Abed and Pierce, and we are pulled into Abed’s head again.

Annie is getting close to cracking the red ball safe, but Abed grabs it from her and holds it close, saying that he does not want her to open it, but that he wishes to stay in the laugh track world forever. Britta coaxes the safe from him, handing it back to Annie as she tells him about going to his happy place. We are now going another layer deeper. In the film Inception, the mark would construct a safe where the idea they most wanted to guard was kept, and the team of extractors would have to crack the safe to find the information they needed. For Fischer, they planted the notion of the safe and then planted the idea with which they wanted to incept him inside the safe. Fischer then journeyed with the team to open the safe, believing what was inside was true. Here, the idea of the red balls being what will release the group from the confines of the school has been planted in Abed’s mind, and he has turned it into a safe which houses the realization about the group which he does not want to face. His subconscious is breaking that idea outward though, thanks to the rules of his totem. The idea of the importance of the red balls and the red safe has also been implanted in the viewer’s mind, and whatever comes out of the safe will be considered more important. However, the safe has not been cracked yet, so Abed retreats further away from it before it can be opened.

In the third world, we see the group as a parody of the Muppet Babies cartoon series. The idea the viewer is being incepted with first was that though the show may be different, at least it has the characters you know and love and not some typical sitcom laugh track fodder. This new idea is that it could be even worse than laugh track fodder though and be an inane cartoon abstraction of all the beloved characters from the original show. In the real world, Pierce finally finds his joke about the balls, but it is weak and anti-climactic. Britta reveals to the rest of the group that she told Abed to go to his happy place in his mind, and the group deliberates about what to do as Jeff pulls himself away to win the last red ball. Troy has everyone else join hands, as he tries to bring them into Abed’s head. Troy says that it is not working though, and no progress is made into waking Abed up from his fantasies. In Inception, a person outside of the dream would deliver what was called “the kick” to the dreamer, as a signal that it was time for them to wake up. This kick could cause the world they were in to crumble, and as seen in the final action sequence, a sequence of kicks can pull the dreamer from one dream to another all the way up until they are back in the real world.

In the cartoon world, baby Jeff announces that he has something to say and the rest of the group cheers “Yay, like always!” As mentioned before, one of the rules of the show is that Jeff delivers a wrap up speech at the end, to tell us the lesson we were supposed to have learned during the episode. This speech serves as Abed’s kick, and the opening of his safe. As cartoon Jeff unlocks the realization Abed had been storing in the safe, Abed is brought out of the cartoon world, back to the laugh track world, where Jeff continues the speech. Jeff’s speech elaborates on the idea that the Community of the title is not the type of college the group is attending, but the group itself and our relationship with the group. Throughout our experiences in the laugh track world, fake show banners have been appearing in the lower third, advertising spin off series featuring the characters from the group in various roles. These were all created by Abed as viable alternatives to experiencing the group. They are a litmus test for the viewer as well: were they funny? would you have liked to see one of those shows? if so, was it because it still had the characters you know and love, not just the actors?

In the real world, Abed tells Jeff that he delivered a killer speech. Jeff dismisses the praise, saying that he “literally just walked up”, and Abed says “I know, I made the speech for you. It hit all the right notes.” Abed then delivers the real wrap up speech. He states that he was afraid of letting go of the status quo of the show in the school because he was so afraid of the future, but then he realized “all of this was once the future, and it was completely different from what I’d known before… but in the end —or in the now, I guess— it turned out great.” Jeff tries to deliver his speech that he mentioned earlier about ice cream, but Abed cuts him off. In the end of Inception, Cobb spins the top which many see as his totem. He watches it for a second to see if it conforms to his rules or not, but whether or not it falls (or even if it is or is not his totem) is an unimportant question, because ultimately he ignores it and walks away, accepting the world he is currently in. Abed has rejected one of the rules of the show by ignoring Jeff’s wrap up and has accepted the current reality of the show. However, whether or not the viewer can ignore the changes and will accept this new reality is unknown. Leonard absconds with all of the balls while the group was listening to Abed, so they have all lost their chance to be in the ice cream class. Annie talks about what she will take instead of history, suggesting advanced claims denial, but Abed suggests that she take forensics, as she had wanted to in the laugh track world. If Annie is an old writer, Abed is saying that she should delve into the past and see how it works and how its current state can be deciphered, offering her an alternative road to history. Abed is also building the current world to make people happier. Just as in Inception, there is no real world aside from that of the viewer who is watching the show. Many viewers will decry a piece of entertainment in which everything turns out to be a dream, because “what is the point?”, but none of this scripted fiction is real anyway, so the posited question can be applied to any episode of the show past, present, or future.

The dean greets Jeff outside of his condo, and reveals that he has reinstated the original history class for the group to take. This history class will require more work from the group, because, as Abed implied, the group’s present will one day be a new history for the viewer. The producer dean has given the show a season in which to make their own new history. The dean reveals that he is also now living next door to Jeff.

In the final scene before the credits, we hear what sounds like rushing water, and a drenched, naked Chang approaching a postman with a note that says his name is Kevin and he has Changnesia. The sound of waves and the wet presentation of Chang are both indicators found in Inception that someone has washed up on the shore of limbo, a shared space of raw subconscious which anyone can change and build within. It is the lowest level of the dream rungs. On one level, this is implying what was stated before: that there was never a real world. On another level, this is stating that in its relationship to the viewer, the show is still in a state of limbo. Will the changes the new people have made to the world everyone shares be accepted by the viewer or rejected? Will the show retain and/or grow its viewer base?

The final tag returns us to the laugh track world, and shows Troy and Abed dressed in drag to obtain entrance to the antics class. After they are accepted, Britta is refused entrance by the dean, and Shirley sticks her head out to say the same thing she said earlier in the real world, now with the inflection of a catch phrase “Oh lord, no.” This is another clue that the real world was never a real world.

Season 1
Episode 1 Analysis
Episode 2 Analysis
Episode 3 Analysis
Episode 4 Analysis
Episode 5 Analysis
Episode 6 Analysis
Episode 7 Analysis

Community 4x01: “History 101”


Troy and Abed enter with a modified catchphrase, and they are greeted by a laugh track. The laugh track continues to regurgitate over every other word that is said as the rest of the group enters, wearing the same hipster glasses as Troy. Jeff is the only one not wearing the glasses besides Abed. Pierce enters, played by Fred Willard instead of Chevy Chase; he is wearing the same glasses as everyone else, not because they are cool, but because they are his old backup pair. We hear Britta’s voice over the incessant laugh track and a Big Bang Theory-like transition pulls us out of Abed’s head and into a laugh track free environment. This episode is the first episode without Dan Harmon. The show had quite a public dysfunction last season, and this opening voices what many fans may have feared: that the show may be infused with popular sitcom trappings and become indistinguishable from the wasteland of broadcast television sitcoms, and Chevy would be replaced or removed for being part of the public dysfunction. The audience will hopefully breathe a sigh of relief when it is revealed that the scene was all manufactured in Abed’s head and everyone is pulled back into the reality that has come to be expected of the show. This episode uses the film Inception as its framework. In that film, people travel through multilayered dreams within dreams to plant the seed of an idea into the mark’s mind, so that when the dreams are all ended, the idea germinates and the mark feels that they have conceived of the idea on their own without any outside influence. A popular reading of the film is that each person is a personification of a particular role in the filmmaking process, and that the film itself is a commentary on how films work on the viewer. The ending is somewhat ambiguous so that the viewer may read into it what they will, and feel like they have come up with the meaning themselves from whichever clues they decide to use from the rest of the film. This episode of Community casts its characters in the roles of the Television production process. The idea that the viewer is being incepted with is that the show is still the show they love even though Harmon is gone and it may grow outside of the school. The title of this episode is History 101, and as with previous seasons, the first episode introduces the concept the episodes will be exploring for the rest of the semester. Here we will study the viewer’s personal history with the show and adherence to traditions.

In the real world, we learn that Britta (still wearing the hipster glasses from the laugh track world) has used her amateur psychology to instruct Abed that whenever he feels stressed, he should retreat into a happy place that he has constructed inside his head. She gave him the instruction to start with a babbling brook, and Abed says “I started out with a babbling brook, but then I layered in elements from our world. I’m sure fans of the babbling brook will complain, but I felt it was limiting.” The babbling brook is the typical laugh-track-a-second sitcom, into which Abed layered in elements from what he calls the real world. The real world is the show we are used to and the elements layered in are the characters therein. Britta asks Abed if he is ready for the “last first day of school” we see that this is the stress trigger that prompts Abed to retreat into his fantasy world. This is our stress trigger as well: the fear that the show will be canceled now that Harmon is gone and it may be homogenizing into bland background noise. Abed retreats into his head and we see the opening credits with new lyrics sung by Abed. The new lyrics open with “this is my show, it’s about me, and all my friends”, describing the personal connection a devoted viewer has with the characters of any show with which they connect. Fred Willard is listed as Pierce in these credits, and we see Chang here even though he does not appear anywhere else in the laugh track world.

In the real world, we find the study group reuniting (now including Chevy as Pierce), excited to begin a class called The History of Ice Cream. Annie says that she is going to do senioritis which she defines as “hangin’ out, blowin’ off classes, pullin’ pranks, not sayin’ my G’s.” Shirley lights up at this idea, and says that she will pull some pranks with Annie. Annie nonchalantly says she would rather pull them with Jeff, but will do so with whomever. Troy confirms his date with Abed to make wishes in the fountain, as is their first of the year tradition. Pierce tells them that “wishes aren’t real. If you want something bad, you have to work for it or use a spell.” The group sees a long line outside the ice cream class, as Jeff sticks his head outside the classroom to beckon them forward. We see world bleed as Jeff is wearing the hipster glasses from the laugh track world. He notices Britta is wearing the glasses too, and he takes his off, shoving them at Neil. We learn that Jeff showed up to the ice cream class early to save the rest of the group seats. Britta and Annie comment on Jeff’s behavior, calling him “a whole new Jeff Winger.” As the group sits down, Leonard complains that he has been “pissing in jars for an hour trying to keep this seat” while the group got in right away because of Jeff’s antics. During commentaries for season 1, we learned that Leonard’s original purpose was to act as an embodiment for the heard but not seen studio audience reactions in classic sitcoms. Leonard here is the audience, angry that a new production team waltzes into the show to pick up the history with a simplified view towards pleasing everyone, and turning the show into ice cream, while he has put in so much work with the last three seasons of the show. (The pissing in jars is a reference to DiCaprio’s character in the Aviator which will also come up later). The group yells at Leonard to stifle his cries and the dean comes in to quiet everyone down. The dean announces that the admission slips to the ice cream class have been counterfeited and the student pool has been flooded, negating the old way of accepting people into the ice cream class.

The dean leads everyone to the gym where he has set up an obstacle course which he calls The Hunger Deans. He expects the students to perform antics and jump through hoops in the post apocalyptic wasteland of sitcom television so that they may make it into the easy history class. Upon seeing the obstacle course, Shirley says “Oh, Lord, no.” and the rest of the group shares her sentiment as they reject the idea of competing in favor of taking history class next semester. Jeff reveals that ice cream is the only history class offered this semester and that it is the last class he needs to graduate. Jeff had hidden from the group that he took classes all summer and history is all he needs to graduate one semester early. The group feels betrayed that Jeff planned to leave them early, and Annie calls him selfish. Jeff is the spirit of the show here, fluctuating between old and new Jeff/old and new showrunner. Harmon is leaving early, and the restrictions placed on him by the producers (embodied by the dean) are turning him into a different Jeff, a new showrunner. The group represents different aspects of the writers, viewers, and the show itself, and they all feel betrayed and uncertain about their future after learning the truth about Jeff. Jeff says that he has been working on a speech to tie everything together and give closure to what he was planning. He offers a little bit of the speech, but not all of it. One of the show’s rules has been that Jeff will deliver a speech to tell us the lesson of the episode at the end. Abed tells Troy to fulfill the wish tradition without him so that he may stay in the gym to watch Jeff. As Annie leaves, she says “see you around, old Jeff.”, and Jeff protests that he is new Jeff and will win 7 red balls to enter the ice cream class because he is “not going to take that class unless you guys are with me.” As everyone has turned away, Jeff delivers part of his planned speech: “we’re gonna have to leave this place sometime. Like an ice cream cone melting in the sun, our time here can’t last forever.” This triggers Abed’s anxiety which pushes him back into the laugh track world.

Inside Abed’s head, we see the group reading generic pamphlets labeled JOBS as Jeff tells Abed they are making plans for the future because they “can’t stay at Greendale forever.” Now we have world bleed in the other direction, as Jeff’s words from the gym have corrupted Abed’s happy place. The dean comes in dressed as Leonardo DiCaprio from The Aviator and announces: “just as his character lost his mind, so have I lost your student records.” Shirley comments on how Amelia Earhart would have been a more straightforward demonstration of the dean’s news. The dean mentions DiCaprio, however, to ground us further in the referencing of Inception. The dean says that the group will have to repeat the last 3 years and Troy says dejectedly “we’re gonna be here forever.” This idea echoes in Abed’s head, making him happy, as we are pulled back to the real world.

In the gym, the dean starts the competition and Jeff tells Leonard to give up his pursuit of the first red ball. He assaults Leonard and climbs over him to capture the ball. Chevy sits with an unresponsive Abed, struggling to come up with a joke about Jeff acquiring balls. Jeff brings him the first ball, and we are pushed back into Abed’s head. In the laugh track world, Annie says that she would like to begin a major in forensics if she must start over. Troy mentions that you can major in antics, and Abed spouts off a lot of information about  it as if he has researched it seriously. Jeff protests the idea that they have to start over as freshmen, but a group of girls comes in and invites the study group to a freshman mixer and Jeff accepts the role of freshman to chase after the girls. This is the opposite of new Jeff who sent girls away in order to take the final history class needed in the real world. Abed smiles and shakes his head seemingly thinking “classic Jeff” as we are pulled into the real world.

Annie and Shirley are breaking into the dean’s office to pull their senior prank. Annie keeps thinking small, and Shirley has to prod her to think bigger and actually pull off a prank. Annie gets excited about Shirley’s ideas and decides to move everything around the stapler, calling it a prank on a prank and mentions that “there are so many levels to this” —again referencing Inception. Shirley comes up with the idea of filling the dean’s car with popcorn instead. Annie misunderstands the reasoning at first, but grows to accept it. Annie begins to pretend she is the dean to figure out where his keys are. She does an impression of him and has the insight that the character wears heels, so the keys would be in a higher drawer than she first thought. Annie is the old writer, having been left by Jeff, the old show runner, she is treading water and coming up with trite ideas, but Shirley is a new writing partner who can use Annie’s expertise about the characters to prod her into new directions and come up with their own show to create a new history. Jeff comes in to show Annie that he has acquired a red ball for her. Shirley asks if that is blood on Jeff’s shirt, and he says that it is cool because the blood is Leonard’s.

Britta goes to the fountain with Troy to make wishes using the jar of pennies. Troy says that he and Abed always make the first wish together, so they each grab a penny and throw it into the fountain. Britta wishes for a great school year, while Troy wishes for a thousand wishes. He tells Britta that she is not following the rules, because the first wish is always a thousand wishes. Britta acquiesces as Troy wishes that she have half of his remaining wishes. With her next wish, Britta wishes to end all wars, which breaks Abed’s rule about wishes containing the word all because they yield guaranteed ironic consequences. Britta gets into the fountain to take the penny and the wish back, but Troy tells her that this is also against the rules of how the fountain works and that the pennies are not the wishes. They get into a fight and end up spilling the remaining pennies and breaking the jar. Troy is an old fan of the show and Britta is a new fan of the show. In Inception, a character would use a totem to test whether or not the possessor was in their own dream or someone else’s. The show is our dream and our totem as the viewer, and it must conform to the rules we have defined for it or else it is not our show, but someone else’s. Britta is accepting of anything at first, but Troy’s insistence on following the rules to maintain the old status quo is draining all of her pleasure.

Annie and Shirley have lined the inside of the dean’s car with tin foil and are filling it with popcorn which they will pop with magnifying glasses. Annie is complaining to Shirley about Jeff leaving early and what will become of everyone else. She is running future scenarios of everyone outside of school, seeing no fun in any of it. She calls the imagined future a “sad, slow march towards death.” Shirley tries to make her see the bright side, but Annie ignores her. Harmon has said in the past that the Community of the title is not the college, but the study group and that the show could extend outside of the school easily, as long as the group is together. The viewer is also part of that Community. Annie cannot see any of this, however, she only sees that the old, comfortable formula she was writing in is disappearing. 

Jeff is still competing for and winning red balls. He wins each one, bringing his total to 5. The sixth competition is revealed to be a tango contest, which the dean says “requires complete emotional commitment.” Jeff surprises everyone by saying he chooses the dean as his partner. The dean gasps and whispers “the fountain works.” They begin to dance as Chevy still struggles for a joke about balls and we are sucked inside Abed’s head. The freshman mixer from the previous laugh track scene has turned into a food fight. Abed looks happy amidst the chaos, but Annie comes in and says that after only one forensics class she has found a way to retrieve the missing student records. She holds up a giant red ball safe and says that all their student records are backed up inside.

The dean made an undisclosed wish in the fountain, but we know that it was answered when he requested complete emotional commitment from the dancers and Jeff chose the dean to be his partner. Jeff accuses the dean of not wanting him to graduate, and the dean says “I want success for all Greendale students.” The wish seems to have the ironic consequences involving “all” which Troy warned about earlier, because Jeff has identified with the dean enough to know that he is the only one who could have counterfeited the admission slips for the ice cream class. The dean finally admits that he did erase the second history class, and he had hoped Jeff would walk away from the challenges like the rest of the group. If the wish of the producers is that the show will find success with all Greendale viewers so that it may make money, the consequence of this happening is that the viewer will begin to become emotionally invested in the characters and will recognize when the showrunner’s voice behind them changes and that old history between character and viewer is negated. Jeff delivers the sixth ball to Abed and Pierce, and we are pulled into Abed’s head again.

Annie is getting close to cracking the red ball safe, but Abed grabs it from her and holds it close, saying that he does not want her to open it, but that he wishes to stay in the laugh track world forever. Britta coaxes the safe from him, handing it back to Annie as she tells him about going to his happy place. We are now going another layer deeper. In the film Inception, the mark would construct a safe where the idea they most wanted to guard was kept, and the team of extractors would have to crack the safe to find the information they needed. For Fischer, they planted the notion of the safe and then planted the idea with which they wanted to incept him inside the safe. Fischer then journeyed with the team to open the safe, believing what was inside was true. Here, the idea of the red balls being what will release the group from the confines of the school has been planted in Abed’s mind, and he has turned it into a safe which houses the realization about the group which he does not want to face. His subconscious is breaking that idea outward though, thanks to the rules of his totem. The idea of the importance of the red balls and the red safe has also been implanted in the viewer’s mind, and whatever comes out of the safe will be considered more important. However, the safe has not been cracked yet, so Abed retreats further away from it before it can be opened.

In the third world, we see the group as a parody of the Muppet Babies cartoon series. The idea the viewer is being incepted with first was that though the show may be different, at least it has the characters you know and love and not some typical sitcom laugh track fodder. This new idea is that it could be even worse than laugh track fodder though and be an inane cartoon abstraction of all the beloved characters from the original show. In the real world, Pierce finally finds his joke about the balls, but it is weak and anti-climactic. Britta reveals to the rest of the group that she told Abed to go to his happy place in his mind, and the group deliberates about what to do as Jeff pulls himself away to win the last red ball. Troy has everyone else join hands, as he tries to bring them into Abed’s head. Troy says that it is not working though, and no progress is made into waking Abed up from his fantasies. In Inception, a person outside of the dream would deliver what was called “the kick” to the dreamer, as a signal that it was time for them to wake up. This kick could cause the world they were in to crumble, and as seen in the final action sequence, a sequence of kicks can pull the dreamer from one dream to another all the way up until they are back in the real world.

In the cartoon world, baby Jeff announces that he has something to say and the rest of the group cheers “Yay, like always!” As mentioned before, one of the rules of the show is that Jeff delivers a wrap up speech at the end, to tell us the lesson we were supposed to have learned during the episode. This speech serves as Abed’s kick, and the opening of his safe. As cartoon Jeff unlocks the realization Abed had been storing in the safe, Abed is brought out of the cartoon world, back to the laugh track world, where Jeff continues the speech. Jeff’s speech elaborates on the idea that the Community of the title is not the type of college the group is attending, but the group itself and our relationship with the group. Throughout our experiences in the laugh track world, fake show banners have been appearing in the lower third, advertising spin off series featuring the characters from the group in various roles. These were all created by Abed as viable alternatives to experiencing the group. They are a litmus test for the viewer as well: were they funny? would you have liked to see one of those shows? if so, was it because it still had the characters you know and love, not just the actors?

In the real world, Abed tells Jeff that he delivered a killer speech. Jeff dismisses the praise, saying that he “literally just walked up”, and Abed says “I know, I made the speech for you. It hit all the right notes.” Abed then delivers the real wrap up speech. He states that he was afraid of letting go of the status quo of the show in the school because he was so afraid of the future, but then he realized “all of this was once the future, and it was completely different from what I’d known before… but in the end —or in the now, I guess— it turned out great.” Jeff tries to deliver his speech that he mentioned earlier about ice cream, but Abed cuts him off. In the end of Inception, Cobb spins the top which many see as his totem. He watches it for a second to see if it conforms to his rules or not, but whether or not it falls (or even if it is or is not his totem) is an unimportant question, because ultimately he ignores it and walks away, accepting the world he is currently in. Abed has rejected one of the rules of the show by ignoring Jeff’s wrap up and has accepted the current reality of the show. However, whether or not the viewer can ignore the changes and will accept this new reality is unknown. Leonard absconds with all of the balls while the group was listening to Abed, so they have all lost their chance to be in the ice cream class. Annie talks about what she will take instead of history, suggesting advanced claims denial, but Abed suggests that she take forensics, as she had wanted to in the laugh track world. If Annie is an old writer, Abed is saying that she should delve into the past and see how it works and how its current state can be deciphered, offering her an alternative road to history. Abed is also building the current world to make people happier. Just as in Inception, there is no real world aside from that of the viewer who is watching the show. Many viewers will decry a piece of entertainment in which everything turns out to be a dream, because “what is the point?”, but none of this scripted fiction is real anyway, so the posited question can be applied to any episode of the show past, present, or future.

The dean greets Jeff outside of his condo, and reveals that he has reinstated the original history class for the group to take. This history class will require more work from the group, because, as Abed implied, the group’s present will one day be a new history for the viewer. The producer dean has given the show a season in which to make their own new history. The dean reveals that he is also now living next door to Jeff.

In the final scene before the credits, we hear what sounds like rushing water, and a drenched, naked Chang approaching a postman with a note that says his name is Kevin and he has Changnesia. The sound of waves and the wet presentation of Chang are both indicators found in Inception that someone has washed up on the shore of limbo, a shared space of raw subconscious which anyone can change and build within. It is the lowest level of the dream rungs. On one level, this is implying what was stated before: that there was never a real world. On another level, this is stating that in its relationship to the viewer, the show is still in a state of limbo. Will the changes the new people have made to the world everyone shares be accepted by the viewer or rejected? Will the show retain and/or grow its viewer base?

The final tag returns us to the laugh track world, and shows Troy and Abed dressed in drag to obtain entrance to the antics class. After they are accepted, Britta is refused entrance by the dean, and Shirley sticks her head out to say the same thing she said earlier in the real world, now with the inflection of a catch phrase “Oh lord, no.” This is another clue that the real world was never a real world.

Season 1

Community 1x07: “Introduction to Statistics”
Chang introduces Annie by telling the class that all faculty are required to give extra credit to a student who organizes academically related events outside of class. Annie has planned a Dia de los Muertos party which she calls “Mexican Halloween.” She invites the class to the party and asks for RSVPs from the members of her study group. Shirley replies with a yes, citing her new lack of a wedding ring as her reason for going out. Pierce says he already replied, and tries to reconcile with his technology to find his answer. Britta speaks to Jeff in an aside and Jeff states that his answer regarding the party is no. Jeff asks Britta if she is certain that they will never be non-platonic, and she says they will not. Jeff claims that he is happy about this because he actually wishes to pursue one of his professors instead. Having lost control of his phone, Pierce interrupts every one as he exits the room by trying to cover the ramblings of his mother, who is revealing secrets about him. This is not a Halloween episode about fear, but a Dia de los Muertos episode about not being afraid of death and celebrating life as a result.

Prof. Slater wraps up Statistics 101 by describing the Bernoulli Distribution as “the number of successes in a series of independent yes/no experiments.” A Bernoulli Trial is considered fair if the probability of success is 50%. So if you let heads be a success and tails be a failure —or a yes and a no respectively—, and toss the coin, if the probability that it lands on heads is the same as the probability that it lands on tails, the coin toss is fair. Annie conducted a Bernoulli trial earlier to see if people were coming to her party, and Jeff is about to conduct an experiment of his own to see if Prof. Slater will agree to go out with him. Jeff asks 4 times and receives all No answers. Prof. Slater tells him that she has a personal rule against dating students, revealing that Jeff’s experiment is unfair. Britta and Shirley are walking down the hall as Jeff continues to ask Prof. Slater for a date. Shirley is offended on Britta’s behalf for the way Jeff has replaced his advances on Britta with advances on Prof. Slater. Britta maintains that she does not care what Jeff does, however. Jeff’s last tactic in the hallway is to convince Prof. Slater that he is older than her and is no longer a student. As Prof. Slater rejects him once more, Annie appears and accosts Jeff for an answer about attending her party. Jeff is evasive and will not give a yes or no response until Annie begins to cry. Through her tears, Annie says that Jeff is “the cool guy” and will make the party a success, and that the success or failure of the party is her second chance to make herself be “hip, cool, laid back” in the eyes of her peers.

Pierce and Troy are studying silently. As Pierce attempts to take a pill in secret, Abed appears behind him and draws attention to his actions. Abed compares his own grandfather to Pierce and warns about the dangers of taking medications. He gives the anecdote of his grandfather’s memory failing due to age, and taking the wrong pills together, causing him to run down the street with no pants on which is “a real party foul.” Pierce says that he does not need Abed’s advise, and he is not a “pantsless grandpa.” However, Abed’s story will be mirrored in Pierce’s actions before the night is through. Abed is behind Pierce in this scene. Here and for the rest of the episode Abed will symbolize the fear of the character behind whom he appears. Pierce is still afraid of being seen as old, and he will be fighting this image to seem hip, cool, and laid back.

Dressed as a skeleton, Annie welcomes her guests to her party. She removes her mask and greets Britta who is dressed as a squirrel. Britta talks about how she hates “when women use Halloween as an excuse to dress like sluts.” Annie agrees dismissively as she takes off her cape to reveal that her skeleton costume is skin tight. Britta looks at Annie and then down at her own costume sadly. Annie introduces the cookie tombstones “por tradicion” and announces that “la danza de los muertos” will start in a few minutes. Frustrated, Chang yells that she does not have to keep translating everything. Jeff walks in without a costume and Britta teases him about not being out on a date with Prof. Slater. Jeff says that she is grading papers, and Chang yells from across the room to correct him, telling them that Prof. Slater is at the faculty party. We never saw Prof. Slater tell Jeff that she would be grading papers, and based on what she did say earlier, it is more likely that Jeff made up that story to save face in front of Britta. Abed, dressed as Batman, appears behind Jeff, personifying Jeff’s fear that others will find out he was rejected by Prof. Slater. Pierce enters dressed as The Beastmaster from the 1982 film of the same name. No one gets his out of date reference, and he must explain himself to them. Shirley shows up behind Britta, offering drinks with a bad English accent. Jeff thanks her and calls her costume Urkel, but she corrects him saying that she is Harry Potter. Chang makes the same mistake. In fact, no one can see the guise Shirley is presenting for what it means to her.

In the bathroom, Pierce is once again attempting to sneak his medication. Star Burns interrupts him though and offers to trade his own illicit substances for what he thinks are comparable drugs. Pierce refers to his drugs by out of date street names he thinks are cool, but he declines a trade until Star Burns makes a disparaging remark about his coolness by saying that he is not quite the Beastmaster he claims to be. Pierce relents and offers to trade his medication to Star Burns for some ecstasy.


Chang leaves Annie’s party and hands Jeff the clipboard of extra credit. Jeff asks Chang to bring him along to the faculty party so he can talk to Prof. Slater. Chang refuses until Jeff offers him a bribe. Jeff gives the extra credit sheet to someone else and leaves Annie’s party. We were told earlier that Jeff would be the life of Annie’s party, and, with the life absent, Annie’s party starts to die. Abed is behind Annie and their frame tightens as she calls for Jeff and slowly realizes that he is gone. Her fear builds as Abed shares more of her frame. Pierce asks Star Burns what the drug he took was because he keeps grinding his teeth and wants to kiss everybody. Star Burns does not answer, but reveals his own symptoms from the drugs he took off Pierce. They are both artificially trying to change their stage of development and encountering problems. Star Burns is encountering problems taking drugs that will make him old before his time and Pierce is trying to be young again, finding his body cannot handle it. Britta consoles Annie, saying that Jeff will be right back. She pulls Shirley aside saying they have to go bring him back for Annie. Shirley agrees, but keeps making it a vendetta against Prof. Slater. Pierce seems to be doing better with his drugs now, massaging Annie’s shoulders and saying that he loves her.


At the faculty party Jeff is dressed as a cowboy and approaches Prof. Slater, offering her a beer. Jeff continues his Bernoulli Trial of asking her for a date. He says that he hates everyone at the school except for her just as Britta interrupts them. Prof. Slater asks if Britta is a classmate of Jeff’s, and Jeff rejects the term classmate as juvenile saying that “what’s great about community college is that a lot of the students are just as mature as the teachers.” Abed appears now in front of Jeff, saying that Annie is feeling unpopular and needs Jeff to return to the party. Troy entreats Jeff to come help take care of Pierce and his worsening trip. Jeff rejects them all and says that he is at a “grown up Halloween party” calling them all unseemly. Just as Britta asks how exactly they are being unseemly, the dean draws attention to Shirley ripping the antennae off of Prof. Slater’s car. The dean still calls her Urkel, even though Shirley brandishes the antennae like a wand as she rebukes Prof. Slater for “stealing Jeff from a good woman”. Pierce draws attention away from her as he enters, meowing and knocking things over. Jeff rebukes each member of the group in turn, finally telling Pierce that he is “too old to be tripping.” Pierce scoffs at this information, but, as he sees his hands before himself, he does not recognize his own body. Calling himself a zombie, he runs out of the party and the rest of the group follows him. Jeff stays and tries to entice Prof. Slater once again, but she stops him with his own word “unseemly.”

Britta is walking down the hall as she encounters Shirley attempting to fill Prof. Slater’s office with water. When Britta asks why, Shirley states “to teach that long necked, weave having bank teller she can’t steal another woman’s man!” Shirley realizes that she has spoken the truth behind the facade no one could see through before and she tells Britta the whole story. The reason her wedding ring is gone, was not by her own choice, but because her husband wants a divorce and has moved on to someone else whom he wants wearing that ring. Shirley’s reason for coming to the party was not a choice of removing the ring and moving on, but a cover up of the fear of being rejected by her husband. She states that she never wanted him back, but she just wanted to be the one to reject him. Britta listens mostly silent as Shirley talks out her own problem. Shirley concludes: “It’s like I was too proud to admit that I was hurt, so I had to pretend that you were.” Britta responds: “I totally get that.” and says they should go check on Annie. When Shirley is out of the office, Britta shows that she holds some animosity towards Prof. Slater as she calls her pretentious and breaks the head off of one of the trophies. The root of Shirley’s issue is also found in Britta, and just as Shirley was projecting onto Britta, Britta has been projecting onto Annie.

Back at Annie’s party, Pierce is not a pantsless grandpa, but he is committing a party foul by wandering around horrified with a “full on erection.” Pierce sees everyone as a frightening apparition, and he alternates between sobbing and primal roaring. In The Beastmaster, there are zombie like enemies called Death Guards. A Death Guard is just a regular person who has had a leech put into their brain. This leech eats anything it meets and as the movie states “[this] extreme torture transforms the man into a wild beast.” Chevy has allowed the leech of old age equaling death or a wasted life to eat away at his brain, and now he is torturing himself, soon to be running around as even more of a mindless beast if he does not stop this leech of an idea. In his vision, Annie has become Catrina, the depiction of death who taunts the living.

Back at the grown up party, Chang taunts Jeff about striking out with Prof. Slater. Jeff says the campus has fed on his coolness and he no longer has any moves. Chang ridicules Jeff for treating everything like a game with “moves”, and he offers Jeff  ”one move I bet you’ve never tried in your life.” Jeff walks to Prof. Slater with Chang’s new move, and we discover that it is unabashed, childish begging for sex. Prof. Slater accepts, and offers to take Jeff with her only if he stays three steps behind her and never tells anybody. He promises to comply, and they leave together.

As Jeff and Prof. Slater walk past the library together, they see that everyone is gathered outside and inviting Pierce to come out and join them. Pierce refuses, saying that he is not ready to die. Troy beseeches Jeff to help and Jeff stops to consider. Jeff says goodnight to Prof. Slater, and she asks if he has been appointed guardian of the group. He says: “they’re my classmates.” Jeff has accepted the role he refused so vehemently earlier. Jeff’s goal was to be a sexual hero to an ideal he held for himself, and also to be graded on his life thus far and be found as an adult. Instead, he goes back to being a student and accumulating successes in the experiment of his life. Had he gone with Prof. Slater, Jeff would have had to stay three steps behind her. He would be stuck developmentally. Jung discovered that many of his patients were stuck at some earlier phase in their childhood which then defined the type of adult that they were. Dia de los Muertos takes place over three nights, the gates to the afterlife open on Halloween night, the dead children come first, then the adults come two days later. Deceased adults are depicted as maintaining into the afterlife the same station they had at the time of their death. By going to die on this Halloween night, Jeff would leave his classmates (whom he deemed juvenile) behind, and return stuck in his role of hero to no one forever. He would be choosing to halt his learning in life, and forcibly end his Bernoulli Trial. Pierce feels that he has lived beyond the point of achieving anymore successes in his own life’s Bernoulli Trial and that this same halting was chosen for him because of his age.

From within a large desk fort, Pierce says that he will crush himself to death with desks and tables. Like Star Burns, Jeff appeals to Pierce’s costume identity and asks if that is a death befitting a Beastmaster. Pierce now admits that he never saw the film, but that he just wanted to be cool. Jeff removes his hat, seizing an opportunity to be a different kind of hero, and crawls into the desk fort in which Pierce is cowering. Pierce admits finally: “I’m old Jeff.” Jeff rejoins: “I don’t know how you spent the first sixty years, but I know in the last two months you’ve probably doubled the national average for amount of life lived per lifetime.” Pierce accepts this, and Jeff adds “if life is just a series of ridiculous attempts to be alive, you’re a hero to everything that’s ever lived.” Just as with Annie and Shirley earlier, everything Jeff is saying applies to both Jeff and Pierce. Jeff is saying that life is just a Bernoulli Trial and that though it is unfair (as everyone always says), you can make it unfair in your favor by gaining extra credit (like doubling the amount of life lived per lifetime). In the past two months that Jeff mentions Pierce has joined the study group, and this then is how you gain extra credit: by studying with other people, by taking on other people’s life experiences through empathy or through actual shared experience. Jeff said that Pierce is a hero to everything that has ever lived, now making him The Beastmaster he is dressed as. The others who have not figured out their lives, who are becoming Death Guards via some nagging thought that is making them into mindless beasts can be helped by Pierce’s experience, and he by theirs. The Beastmaster described his own powers in the film as empathy and shared experience saying: “I see through their eyes. They know my thoughts; I know theirs.” By delivering this speech, Jeff is also taking his own advice and staying back as a student rather than an “adult”, and empathizing with Pierce because their problems are similar. In fact, all of the main character’s problems stem from a similar fear of rejection. Pierce accepts Jeff’s assessment of his life triumphantly, and accidentally destroys the equilibrium of the desk fort, causing it to tremble and begin to fall on top of them. Abed appears from nowhere and grabs them both, pulling them out of the fort as it crumbles. They are situated such that Abed is behind both of them as they are dragged from the wreckage. Abed is now fear as a motivator. They are afraid of death or afraid of a wasted life, and that is good because it is motivating them to move forward and not to sit passively waiting for death to come tally their successes and failures. Jeff asks if Abed is staying for the party, and Abed says that if he stays “there can be no party.” The party thus far has been a failure because it is filled with fear. Dia de los Muertos is not about fear, but about embracing death as an equalizer and celebrating the lives of the deceased. This is why Chang wanted Annie to stop translating everything earlier, because at that time the party was a Halloween party driven by fear. Once Abed removes himself from the library and the party, we see everyone enjoying themselves and enjoying the company of each other. They are now all gaining extra credit by sharing and incorporating the lives of others into their own, no longer fearing death but reveling in life, adding to the successes column of their Bernoulli Trials.


we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life’s not a paragraph
And death i think is no parenthesis
- e. e. cummings

 
Episode 1 Analysis
Episode 2 Analysis
Episode 3 Analysis
Episode 4 Analysis
Episode 5 Analysis
Episode 6 Analysis
Episode 7 Analysis

Community 1x07: “Introduction to Statistics”

Chang introduces Annie by telling the class that all faculty are required to give extra credit to a student who organizes academically related events outside of class. Annie has planned a Dia de los Muertos party which she calls “Mexican Halloween.” She invites the class to the party and asks for RSVPs from the members of her study group. Shirley replies with a yes, citing her new lack of a wedding ring as her reason for going out. Pierce says he already replied, and tries to reconcile with his technology to find his answer. Britta speaks to Jeff in an aside and Jeff states that his answer regarding the party is no. Jeff asks Britta if she is certain that they will never be non-platonic, and she says they will not. Jeff claims that he is happy about this because he actually wishes to pursue one of his professors instead. Having lost control of his phone, Pierce interrupts every one as he exits the room by trying to cover the ramblings of his mother, who is revealing secrets about him. This is not a Halloween episode about fear, but a Dia de los Muertos episode about not being afraid of death and celebrating life as a result.

Prof. Slater wraps up Statistics 101 by describing the Bernoulli Distribution as “the number of successes in a series of independent yes/no experiments.” A Bernoulli Trial is considered fair if the probability of success is 50%. So if you let heads be a success and tails be a failure —or a yes and a no respectively—, and toss the coin, if the probability that it lands on heads is the same as the probability that it lands on tails, the coin toss is fair. Annie conducted a Bernoulli trial earlier to see if people were coming to her party, and Jeff is about to conduct an experiment of his own to see if Prof. Slater will agree to go out with him. Jeff asks 4 times and receives all No answers. Prof. Slater tells him that she has a personal rule against dating students, revealing that Jeff’s experiment is unfair. Britta and Shirley are walking down the hall as Jeff continues to ask Prof. Slater for a date. Shirley is offended on Britta’s behalf for the way Jeff has replaced his advances on Britta with advances on Prof. Slater. Britta maintains that she does not care what Jeff does, however. Jeff’s last tactic in the hallway is to convince Prof. Slater that he is older than her and is no longer a student. As Prof. Slater rejects him once more, Annie appears and accosts Jeff for an answer about attending her party. Jeff is evasive and will not give a yes or no response until Annie begins to cry. Through her tears, Annie says that Jeff is “the cool guy” and will make the party a success, and that the success or failure of the party is her second chance to make herself be “hip, cool, laid back” in the eyes of her peers.

Pierce and Troy are studying silently. As Pierce attempts to take a pill in secret, Abed appears behind him and draws attention to his actions. Abed compares his own grandfather to Pierce and warns about the dangers of taking medications. He gives the anecdote of his grandfather’s memory failing due to age, and taking the wrong pills together, causing him to run down the street with no pants on which is “a real party foul.” Pierce says that he does not need Abed’s advise, and he is not a “pantsless grandpa.” However, Abed’s story will be mirrored in Pierce’s actions before the night is through. Abed is behind Pierce in this scene. Here and for the rest of the episode Abed will symbolize the fear of the character behind whom he appears. Pierce is still afraid of being seen as old, and he will be fighting this image to seem hip, cool, and laid back.

Dressed as a skeleton, Annie welcomes her guests to her party. She removes her mask and greets Britta who is dressed as a squirrel. Britta talks about how she hates “when women use Halloween as an excuse to dress like sluts.” Annie agrees dismissively as she takes off her cape to reveal that her skeleton costume is skin tight. Britta looks at Annie and then down at her own costume sadly. Annie introduces the cookie tombstones “por tradicion” and announces that “la danza de los muertos” will start in a few minutes. Frustrated, Chang yells that she does not have to keep translating everything. Jeff walks in without a costume and Britta teases him about not being out on a date with Prof. Slater. Jeff says that she is grading papers, and Chang yells from across the room to correct him, telling them that Prof. Slater is at the faculty party. We never saw Prof. Slater tell Jeff that she would be grading papers, and based on what she did say earlier, it is more likely that Jeff made up that story to save face in front of Britta. Abed, dressed as Batman, appears behind Jeff, personifying Jeff’s fear that others will find out he was rejected by Prof. Slater. Pierce enters dressed as The Beastmaster from the 1982 film of the same name. No one gets his out of date reference, and he must explain himself to them. Shirley shows up behind Britta, offering drinks with a bad English accent. Jeff thanks her and calls her costume Urkel, but she corrects him saying that she is Harry Potter. Chang makes the same mistake. In fact, no one can see the guise Shirley is presenting for what it means to her.

In the bathroom, Pierce is once again attempting to sneak his medication. Star Burns interrupts him though and offers to trade his own illicit substances for what he thinks are comparable drugs. Pierce refers to his drugs by out of date street names he thinks are cool, but he declines a trade until Star Burns makes a disparaging remark about his coolness by saying that he is not quite the Beastmaster he claims to be. Pierce relents and offers to trade his medication to Star Burns for some ecstasy.

Chang leaves Annie’s party and hands Jeff the clipboard of extra credit. Jeff asks Chang to bring him along to the faculty party so he can talk to Prof. Slater. Chang refuses until Jeff offers him a bribe. Jeff gives the extra credit sheet to someone else and leaves Annie’s party. We were told earlier that Jeff would be the life of Annie’s party, and, with the life absent, Annie’s party starts to die. Abed is behind Annie and their frame tightens as she calls for Jeff and slowly realizes that he is gone. Her fear builds as Abed shares more of her frame. Pierce asks Star Burns what the drug he took was because he keeps grinding his teeth and wants to kiss everybody. Star Burns does not answer, but reveals his own symptoms from the drugs he took off Pierce. They are both artificially trying to change their stage of development and encountering problems. Star Burns is encountering problems taking drugs that will make him old before his time and Pierce is trying to be young again, finding his body cannot handle it. Britta consoles Annie, saying that Jeff will be right back. She pulls Shirley aside saying they have to go bring him back for Annie. Shirley agrees, but keeps making it a vendetta against Prof. Slater. Pierce seems to be doing better with his drugs now, massaging Annie’s shoulders and saying that he loves her.

At the faculty party Jeff is dressed as a cowboy and approaches Prof. Slater, offering her a beer. Jeff continues his Bernoulli Trial of asking her for a date. He says that he hates everyone at the school except for her just as Britta interrupts them. Prof. Slater asks if Britta is a classmate of Jeff’s, and Jeff rejects the term classmate as juvenile saying that “what’s great about community college is that a lot of the students are just as mature as the teachers.” Abed appears now in front of Jeff, saying that Annie is feeling unpopular and needs Jeff to return to the party. Troy entreats Jeff to come help take care of Pierce and his worsening trip. Jeff rejects them all and says that he is at a “grown up Halloween party” calling them all unseemly. Just as Britta asks how exactly they are being unseemly, the dean draws attention to Shirley ripping the antennae off of Prof. Slater’s car. The dean still calls her Urkel, even though Shirley brandishes the antennae like a wand as she rebukes Prof. Slater for “stealing Jeff from a good woman”. Pierce draws attention away from her as he enters, meowing and knocking things over. Jeff rebukes each member of the group in turn, finally telling Pierce that he is “too old to be tripping.” Pierce scoffs at this information, but, as he sees his hands before himself, he does not recognize his own body. Calling himself a zombie, he runs out of the party and the rest of the group follows him. Jeff stays and tries to entice Prof. Slater once again, but she stops him with his own word “unseemly.”

Britta is walking down the hall as she encounters Shirley attempting to fill Prof. Slater’s office with water. When Britta asks why, Shirley states “to teach that long necked, weave having bank teller she can’t steal another woman’s man!” Shirley realizes that she has spoken the truth behind the facade no one could see through before and she tells Britta the whole story. The reason her wedding ring is gone, was not by her own choice, but because her husband wants a divorce and has moved on to someone else whom he wants wearing that ring. Shirley’s reason for coming to the party was not a choice of removing the ring and moving on, but a cover up of the fear of being rejected by her husband. She states that she never wanted him back, but she just wanted to be the one to reject him. Britta listens mostly silent as Shirley talks out her own problem. Shirley concludes: “It’s like I was too proud to admit that I was hurt, so I had to pretend that you were.” Britta responds: “I totally get that.” and says they should go check on Annie. When Shirley is out of the office, Britta shows that she holds some animosity towards Prof. Slater as she calls her pretentious and breaks the head off of one of the trophies. The root of Shirley’s issue is also found in Britta, and just as Shirley was projecting onto Britta, Britta has been projecting onto Annie.

Back at Annie’s party, Pierce is not a pantsless grandpa, but he is committing a party foul by wandering around horrified with a “full on erection.” Pierce sees everyone as a frightening apparition, and he alternates between sobbing and primal roaring. In The Beastmaster, there are zombie like enemies called Death Guards. A Death Guard is just a regular person who has had a leech put into their brain. This leech eats anything it meets and as the movie states “[this] extreme torture transforms the man into a wild beast.” Chevy has allowed the leech of old age equaling death or a wasted life to eat away at his brain, and now he is torturing himself, soon to be running around as even more of a mindless beast if he does not stop this leech of an idea. In his vision, Annie has become Catrina, the depiction of death who taunts the living.

Back at the grown up party, Chang taunts Jeff about striking out with Prof. Slater. Jeff says the campus has fed on his coolness and he no longer has any moves. Chang ridicules Jeff for treating everything like a game with “moves”, and he offers Jeff  ”one move I bet you’ve never tried in your life.” Jeff walks to Prof. Slater with Chang’s new move, and we discover that it is unabashed, childish begging for sex. Prof. Slater accepts, and offers to take Jeff with her only if he stays three steps behind her and never tells anybody. He promises to comply, and they leave together.

As Jeff and Prof. Slater walk past the library together, they see that everyone is gathered outside and inviting Pierce to come out and join them. Pierce refuses, saying that he is not ready to die. Troy beseeches Jeff to help and Jeff stops to consider. Jeff says goodnight to Prof. Slater, and she asks if he has been appointed guardian of the group. He says: “they’re my classmates.” Jeff has accepted the role he refused so vehemently earlier. Jeff’s goal was to be a sexual hero to an ideal he held for himself, and also to be graded on his life thus far and be found as an adult. Instead, he goes back to being a student and accumulating successes in the experiment of his life. Had he gone with Prof. Slater, Jeff would have had to stay three steps behind her. He would be stuck developmentally. Jung discovered that many of his patients were stuck at some earlier phase in their childhood which then defined the type of adult that they were. Dia de los Muertos takes place over three nights, the gates to the afterlife open on Halloween night, the dead children come first, then the adults come two days later. Deceased adults are depicted as maintaining into the afterlife the same station they had at the time of their death. By going to die on this Halloween night, Jeff would leave his classmates (whom he deemed juvenile) behind, and return stuck in his role of hero to no one forever. He would be choosing to halt his learning in life, and forcibly end his Bernoulli Trial. Pierce feels that he has lived beyond the point of achieving anymore successes in his own life’s Bernoulli Trial and that this same halting was chosen for him because of his age.

From within a large desk fort, Pierce says that he will crush himself to death with desks and tables. Like Star Burns, Jeff appeals to Pierce’s costume identity and asks if that is a death befitting a Beastmaster. Pierce now admits that he never saw the film, but that he just wanted to be cool. Jeff removes his hat, seizing an opportunity to be a different kind of hero, and crawls into the desk fort in which Pierce is cowering. Pierce admits finally: “I’m old Jeff.” Jeff rejoins: “I don’t know how you spent the first sixty years, but I know in the last two months you’ve probably doubled the national average for amount of life lived per lifetime.” Pierce accepts this, and Jeff adds “if life is just a series of ridiculous attempts to be alive, you’re a hero to everything that’s ever lived.” Just as with Annie and Shirley earlier, everything Jeff is saying applies to both Jeff and Pierce. Jeff is saying that life is just a Bernoulli Trial and that though it is unfair (as everyone always says), you can make it unfair in your favor by gaining extra credit (like doubling the amount of life lived per lifetime). In the past two months that Jeff mentions Pierce has joined the study group, and this then is how you gain extra credit: by studying with other people, by taking on other people’s life experiences through empathy or through actual shared experience. Jeff said that Pierce is a hero to everything that has ever lived, now making him The Beastmaster he is dressed as. The others who have not figured out their lives, who are becoming Death Guards via some nagging thought that is making them into mindless beasts can be helped by Pierce’s experience, and he by theirs. The Beastmaster described his own powers in the film as empathy and shared experience saying: “I see through their eyes. They know my thoughts; I know theirs.” By delivering this speech, Jeff is also taking his own advice and staying back as a student rather than an “adult”, and empathizing with Pierce because their problems are similar. In fact, all of the main character’s problems stem from a similar fear of rejection. Pierce accepts Jeff’s assessment of his life triumphantly, and accidentally destroys the equilibrium of the desk fort, causing it to tremble and begin to fall on top of them. Abed appears from nowhere and grabs them both, pulling them out of the fort as it crumbles. They are situated such that Abed is behind both of them as they are dragged from the wreckage. Abed is now fear as a motivator. They are afraid of death or afraid of a wasted life, and that is good because it is motivating them to move forward and not to sit passively waiting for death to come tally their successes and failures. Jeff asks if Abed is staying for the party, and Abed says that if he stays “there can be no party.” The party thus far has been a failure because it is filled with fear. Dia de los Muertos is not about fear, but about embracing death as an equalizer and celebrating the lives of the deceased. This is why Chang wanted Annie to stop translating everything earlier, because at that time the party was a Halloween party driven by fear. Once Abed removes himself from the library and the party, we see everyone enjoying themselves and enjoying the company of each other. They are now all gaining extra credit by sharing and incorporating the lives of others into their own, no longer fearing death but reveling in life, adding to the successes column of their Bernoulli Trials.

we are for each other: then

laugh, leaning back in my arms

for life’s not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis

- e. e. cummings

 

Louie 3x13: ”New Year’s Eve”
This episode plays in 4 distinct parts, each turning the character of Louie inward upon himself, deeper and deeper, to examine the happiness and relationships of the character. In the Mandukya Upanishad, the sound of Om is described as having 4 distinct syllables. Each of these syllables has an allegory that accompanies it, and traveling along that allegory deeper into yourself is the goal of meditation at that level. This episode is framed around such a meditation. 

The episode starts in silence. Louie is tightly framed with an animal print blanket draped across his shoulders, and he is holding a mug of some undisclosed beverage. After the credits are complete, we hear the white noise krinkle of wrapping paper, and we are pulled out along with the camera to survey Christmas morning. Louie looks at his children, and his face momentarily lights up after seeing the joy his gifts have brought to them, but we are soon brought into his head where he flashes back to the troubles he had with the presents, quashing the joy he momentarily may have gleaned from them. He recounts his troubles wrapping presents, acquiring a blue monkey in a shopping frenzy, and repairing a doll for one of his children. It is hard to tell how much of the doll sequence actually happened and how much of it is a piling on of emotion in the reminiscing. The last we see of the doll in the flashback is a crayon-faced, decapitated mess, but it is presented as beautiful and whole in the scenes of the present. Regardless, the doll represents Louie at this stage. The eyes are turned inward, but he wants to have them facing out again and present the normal facade. He tries a few implements (notice the first implement is Oriental in origin) and attempts to make facsimile eyes, but none of this works, so he must open the doll’s head. He removes the hair, making the doll bald, and cuts the top of the head off. Inside, he finds both eyes and a third eye. He cannot think of what use a third eye could be, so he rejects it and begins to assemble the facade of normalcy. The more he attempts this, the more of a mess the doll’s outward appearance becomes each solution seems to lead to a new problem. This process leads him to tears, to anger, and to curse the fact that he was born. Before we see him able to complete the building of the facade, we are brought to the next gift which is a book entitled The Story About Ping. Louie takes credit away from Santa for having given this present. The story we are told about Ping is that he lives with a large family on a boat that has two wise eyes and sits on the Yangtze River. His daughter says that “it looks like it’s so nice to live on that river” to which Louie replies “yeah, it does, doesn’t it?” his expression looks somewhat considered but belies a bit of condescension. Louie’s ex-wife Janet and her boyfriend (new husband?) Patrick come to pick up the girls and take them on a vacation overseas. Louie talks to Janet and asks for communication and pictures from the girls’ trip to stay connected to them. He observes Patrick examining the doll and worries that he will see through the facade. The family leaves together and stands in a Christmas card pose on the elevator as Louie looks on, apart from them. The doors close them off from him and he returns inside. He tears down the decorations of the Christmas tree and throws the bare beast out the window, erasing all evidence of the holiday and retreats to an artificially darkened bedroom and to bed. His sister awakens him with a phone call before he can get all the way to sleep. She asks “are you all by yourself?” and Louie questions why she needs to say “all”, she points out that he has no family around him, then she invites him to come with their family to Mexico for New Year’s so that he will not be by himself. He refuses, and her husband breaks into the conversation, insisting that Louie come to “Mejico”. He tells his sister once more that he cannot come, and she hangs up the phone after saying “I love you, Louie. You know that.” Louie says he knows, but does not reciprocate the sentiment. This is the end of the reality segment. The O of Om is broken into the “ah” sound and the “oo” sound (A-U) and treated as two separate syllables. The allegory for the A syllable is that of waking life in reality which we have just left.

The second syllable U represents the dream state of the unconscious. This is where we are with the newscasters and as we dive into Louie’s dream of a possible future. Oriental music plays, and we pan across a severed white rabbit head in the window of a cafe. Louie’s daughters have met here to talk about Louie’s future self. They see him as depressing and alone, “so alone”. There is a mirrored version of each daughter in the background. We do not know what those others are talking about, possibly it is an alternate Louie, but he cannot yet grasp this future. He seems to wake up, but we are still in the realm of the dream. We see that the female newscaster’s name Fanny Chapcranter is a juxtaposition of crap chanter, describing what the news is chanting when both anchors begin to repeat that he is one of many “all by themselves” and that he should “go ahead and put that gun in your mouth”. It is evident that this is a dream, because earlier Fanny called Flappy Jeff and in the second sequence she calls him Trisha. Louie gets out of bed, and into the shower, this is when we leave the unconscious.

The third syllable M represents a deep sleep where consciousness is gathered in on itself, and here it is interpreted as pure subconscious. The dream realm is sometimes said to link your subconscious to your waking life, working out through metaphor what is going on beneath the surface, here Louie is diving deeper to find his archetypes. He begins by packing his baggage and taking it with him onto the bus. As Brian Menegus pointed out in his review of the episode, the framing on the bus would seem to show that Louie is using his baggage as a crutch or an old man’s cane. Louie looks neutral. It is revealed that his girlfriend from a previous episode, Liz, is traveling on the same bus with him. His face lights up as he sees her, but before they embrace, she begins hemorrhaging blood from her nose and she collapses in his arms as ominous music plays. Liz represents all of his previous attempts at happiness through romantic relationships. He talks to her at her bedside. She asks panicked and angry, “am I dying?” to which he answers that he does not know. In this meditation, Louie is traveling ever deeper inward, and he is trying to find happiness within himself, all alone, instead of depending on others for happiness. He is about to reach the fourth syllable of transcendence, and this structure he has built in himself based on what other people have told him he needs, is dying. It says “I’m not ready for this, this is crazy”, and Louie says “You’re going to be ok.” Liz lays back, looks at Louie and says with a crack in her voice “bye?”, stretching the word into two syllables. The nurses pronounce her dead at 11:59 PM as Louie stumbles out into the hallway just as the New Year begins. Auld Lang Syne plays as the hospital staff celebrate and laugh in pairs or groups. Louie walks past a hospital calendar that says 2012, and we cut to the airport where he still has his baggage in tow. He spreads out on the chairs and falls asleep.

We are now in the fourth syllable of Om. The fourth syllable is the silence that surrounds Om. If you are repeating Om in meditation, each utterance comes out of a silence and recedes into a silence that then gives way to the next utterance that recedes into a silence and so on. Anahata is the fourth chakra in Hindu Yoga; it means un-struck. It is the sound that is not made by two things hitting one another. It is this sound we are in now, and that is what Louie has been trying to do this whole time. The sound he is striving for is happiness, but he is not finding a lasting happiness by striking against something else, be it his family or his romantic relationships. He stands with his baggage in the airport, sees Beijing on the flight board in the airport, identifies with Ping in his mind’s eye, and is transported without baggage to Beijing, China where he believes the Yangtze River is located. If you listen to this sequence and you do not understand Mandarin, it sounds as if Louie is chanting Yangtze River over and over. In this sequence, there is no other dialogue of any substance. He finds someone who will take him to the Yangtze River, but he must ride with a family of ducks. He is brought to a bog and wanders off continuing to search, not happy with the Yangtze River he has been given. Just as Heaven is not a place and Nirvana is not a place (they are states of mind) the Yangtze River here is also not a place, but a state of happiness as referenced earlier while reading about Ping. Louie comes across his Yangtze River in a small house from which much laughter and joy is emanating. He is welcomed inside with happiness and joy from all present. He, like many of his viewers, has no idea what is being said, but after spending some time in the presence of this joy, he begins to repeat what is being said phonetically, and while doing this his expression changes from one of confusion to one of happiness. In his lecture series on the Masks of God entitled “Interpreting Symbolic Forms”, Joseph Campbell speaks of this level Louie is now at, having heard the Om in all 4 syllables: “now we get to the realm of mythological symbols telling you that things are radiant of a mystery which hides behind their masks, and which you, if you can bring your own spiritual experience up to that center in yourself, will by resonance recognize.” Louie is symbolically resonating through this mask of a language barrier and is discovering the happiness of his Yangtze Nirvana. Auld Lang Syne plays once again, this is how he will begin his new year: his new life.

If the AV Club comment section is a reliable source of Mandarin translation, then the words Louie is repeating at the end of the episode translate to “come to Beijing often, and come be a guest at my house”. Here Louie is being invited to meditate and achieve this place within often. His third eye has been opened. The third eye is a metaphor for having your consciousness raised to a level where you see things differently. You saw these things before with your two eyes, but now they are different so a third eye must have been opened. Louie did not understand what the purpose of a third eye was earlier when he was examining himself as the doll, whether or not he keeps this eye open remains to be seen.
Much has been made in online reviews about how this episode breaks the usual formula by removing the theme song, removing the stand-up, and to some extent removing the realism. In addition to these points, Louie has not brought up a subject like meditation before or played with a structural metaphor so closely. However, David Lynch is very much into meditation and for three episodes prior to this one, Louis C.K. has been working closely with Lynch (who played a character who seemed to be sucking away Louie’s reality), and that relationship may have carried over into this episode.
I will return to the usual Community analysis soon.

Louie 3x13: ”New Year’s Eve”

This episode plays in 4 distinct parts, each turning the character of Louie inward upon himself, deeper and deeper, to examine the happiness and relationships of the character. In the Mandukya Upanishad, the sound of Om is described as having 4 distinct syllables. Each of these syllables has an allegory that accompanies it, and traveling along that allegory deeper into yourself is the goal of meditation at that level. This episode is framed around such a meditation. 

image

The episode starts in silence. Louie is tightly framed with an animal print blanket draped across his shoulders, and he is holding a mug of some undisclosed beverage. After the credits are complete, we hear the white noise krinkle of wrapping paper, and we are pulled out along with the camera to survey Christmas morning. Louie looks at his children, and his face momentarily lights up after seeing the joy his gifts have brought to them, but we are soon brought into his head where he flashes back to the troubles he had with the presents, quashing the joy he momentarily may have gleaned from them. He recounts his troubles wrapping presents, acquiring a blue monkey in a shopping frenzy, and repairing a doll for one of his children. It is hard to tell how much of the doll sequence actually happened and how much of it is a piling on of emotion in the reminiscing. The last we see of the doll in the flashback is a crayon-faced, decapitated mess, but it is presented as beautiful and whole in the scenes of the present. Regardless, the doll represents Louie at this stage. The eyes are turned inward, but he wants to have them facing out again and present the normal facade. He tries a few implements (notice the first implement is Oriental in origin) and attempts to make facsimile eyes, but none of this works, so he must open the doll’s head. He removes the hair, making the doll bald, and cuts the top of the head off. Inside, he finds both eyes and a third eye. He cannot think of what use a third eye could be, so he rejects it and begins to assemble the facade of normalcy. The more he attempts this, the more of a mess the doll’s outward appearance becomes each solution seems to lead to a new problem. This process leads him to tears, to anger, and to curse the fact that he was born. Before we see him able to complete the building of the facade, we are brought to the next gift which is a book entitled The Story About Ping. Louie takes credit away from Santa for having given this present. The story we are told about Ping is that he lives with a large family on a boat that has two wise eyes and sits on the Yangtze River. His daughter says that “it looks like it’s so nice to live on that river” to which Louie replies “yeah, it does, doesn’t it?” his expression looks somewhat considered but belies a bit of condescension. Louie’s ex-wife Janet and her boyfriend (new husband?) Patrick come to pick up the girls and take them on a vacation overseas. Louie talks to Janet and asks for communication and pictures from the girls’ trip to stay connected to them. He observes Patrick examining the doll and worries that he will see through the facade. The family leaves together and stands in a Christmas card pose on the elevator as Louie looks on, apart from them. The doors close them off from him and he returns inside. He tears down the decorations of the Christmas tree and throws the bare beast out the window, erasing all evidence of the holiday and retreats to an artificially darkened bedroom and to bed. His sister awakens him with a phone call before he can get all the way to sleep. She asks “are you all by yourself?” and Louie questions why she needs to say “all”, she points out that he has no family around him, then she invites him to come with their family to Mexico for New Year’s so that he will not be by himself. He refuses, and her husband breaks into the conversation, insisting that Louie come to “Mejico”. He tells his sister once more that he cannot come, and she hangs up the phone after saying “I love you, Louie. You know that.” Louie says he knows, but does not reciprocate the sentiment. This is the end of the reality segment. The O of Om is broken into the “ah” sound and the “oo” sound (A-U) and treated as two separate syllables. The allegory for the A syllable is that of waking life in reality which we have just left.

image

The second syllable U represents the dream state of the unconscious. This is where we are with the newscasters and as we dive into Louie’s dream of a possible future. Oriental music plays, and we pan across a severed white rabbit head in the window of a cafe. Louie’s daughters have met here to talk about Louie’s future self. They see him as depressing and alone, “so alone”. There is a mirrored version of each daughter in the background. We do not know what those others are talking about, possibly it is an alternate Louie, but he cannot yet grasp this future. He seems to wake up, but we are still in the realm of the dream. We see that the female newscaster’s name Fanny Chapcranter is a juxtaposition of crap chanter, describing what the news is chanting when both anchors begin to repeat that he is one of many “all by themselves” and that he should “go ahead and put that gun in your mouth”. It is evident that this is a dream, because earlier Fanny called Flappy Jeff and in the second sequence she calls him Trisha. Louie gets out of bed, and into the shower, this is when we leave the unconscious.

image

The third syllable M represents a deep sleep where consciousness is gathered in on itself, and here it is interpreted as pure subconscious. The dream realm is sometimes said to link your subconscious to your waking life, working out through metaphor what is going on beneath the surface, here Louie is diving deeper to find his archetypes. He begins by packing his baggage and taking it with him onto the bus. As Brian Menegus pointed out in his review of the episode, the framing on the bus would seem to show that Louie is using his baggage as a crutch or an old man’s cane. Louie looks neutral. It is revealed that his girlfriend from a previous episode, Liz, is traveling on the same bus with him. His face lights up as he sees her, but before they embrace, she begins hemorrhaging blood from her nose and she collapses in his arms as ominous music plays. Liz represents all of his previous attempts at happiness through romantic relationships. He talks to her at her bedside. She asks panicked and angry, “am I dying?” to which he answers that he does not know. In this meditation, Louie is traveling ever deeper inward, and he is trying to find happiness within himself, all alone, instead of depending on others for happiness. He is about to reach the fourth syllable of transcendence, and this structure he has built in himself based on what other people have told him he needs, is dying. It says “I’m not ready for this, this is crazy”, and Louie says “You’re going to be ok.” Liz lays back, looks at Louie and says with a crack in her voice “bye?”, stretching the word into two syllables. The nurses pronounce her dead at 11:59 PM as Louie stumbles out into the hallway just as the New Year begins. Auld Lang Syne plays as the hospital staff celebrate and laugh in pairs or groups. Louie walks past a hospital calendar that says 2012, and we cut to the airport where he still has his baggage in tow. He spreads out on the chairs and falls asleep.

image

We are now in the fourth syllable of Om. The fourth syllable is the silence that surrounds Om. If you are repeating Om in meditation, each utterance comes out of a silence and recedes into a silence that then gives way to the next utterance that recedes into a silence and so on. Anahata is the fourth chakra in Hindu Yoga; it means un-struck. It is the sound that is not made by two things hitting one another. It is this sound we are in now, and that is what Louie has been trying to do this whole time. The sound he is striving for is happiness, but he is not finding a lasting happiness by striking against something else, be it his family or his romantic relationships. He stands with his baggage in the airport, sees Beijing on the flight board in the airport, identifies with Ping in his mind’s eye, and is transported without baggage to Beijing, China where he believes the Yangtze River is located. If you listen to this sequence and you do not understand Mandarin, it sounds as if Louie is chanting Yangtze River over and over. In this sequence, there is no other dialogue of any substance. He finds someone who will take him to the Yangtze River, but he must ride with a family of ducks. He is brought to a bog and wanders off continuing to search, not happy with the Yangtze River he has been given. Just as Heaven is not a place and Nirvana is not a place (they are states of mind) the Yangtze River here is also not a place, but a state of happiness as referenced earlier while reading about Ping. Louie comes across his Yangtze River in a small house from which much laughter and joy is emanating. He is welcomed inside with happiness and joy from all present. He, like many of his viewers, has no idea what is being said, but after spending some time in the presence of this joy, he begins to repeat what is being said phonetically, and while doing this his expression changes from one of confusion to one of happiness. In his lecture series on the Masks of God entitled “Interpreting Symbolic Forms”, Joseph Campbell speaks of this level Louie is now at, having heard the Om in all 4 syllables: “now we get to the realm of mythological symbols telling you that things are radiant of a mystery which hides behind their masks, and which you, if you can bring your own spiritual experience up to that center in yourself, will by resonance recognize.” Louie is symbolically resonating through this mask of a language barrier and is discovering the happiness of his Yangtze Nirvana. Auld Lang Syne plays once again, this is how he will begin his new year: his new life.

image

If the AV Club comment section is a reliable source of Mandarin translation, then the words Louie is repeating at the end of the episode translate to “come to Beijing often, and come be a guest at my house”. Here Louie is being invited to meditate and achieve this place within often. His third eye has been opened. The third eye is a metaphor for having your consciousness raised to a level where you see things differently. You saw these things before with your two eyes, but now they are different so a third eye must have been opened. Louie did not understand what the purpose of a third eye was earlier when he was examining himself as the doll, whether or not he keeps this eye open remains to be seen.

Much has been made in online reviews about how this episode breaks the usual formula by removing the theme song, removing the stand-up, and to some extent removing the realism. In addition to these points, Louie has not brought up a subject like meditation before or played with a structural metaphor so closely. However, David Lynch is very much into meditation and for three episodes prior to this one, Louis C.K. has been working closely with Lynch (who played a character who seemed to be sucking away Louie’s reality), and that relationship may have carried over into this episode.

I will return to the usual Community analysis soon.

Community 1x06: “Football, Feminism and You”
The episode opens with Annie quizzing Troy on Astronomy. Troy gets the answer correct and reveals he used a memory technique that is grounded in non pc language. Annie does not address the slur and proceeds to continue the quiz on the topic of black holes, and Pierce begins what sounds like an inappropriately sexual joke about black holes. However, as the group braces for disgust, Pierce speaks eruditely about a particular black hole and its specifications. The group relaxes except for Jeff who remains ready for Pierce’s crude side, and Pierce does not disappoint as he compares the size of the black hole to his weiner. Troy appreciates the childish language and Abed blankly states that Troy and Pierce have started bonding over the use of adolescent humor. They both rejoin with first grade insults. The dean enters and comments on the diversity of the group. Pierce insults the dean, but becomes contrite when he is told of the dean’s station at the school. The dean forgives Pierce dismissively and uses a poor segue to reveal his true purpose of seducing Troy to join the Human Beings (the Greendale football team). The dean reveals that the team was going to be called The Greendale Grizzlies, but many of the students “have been called animals their whole lives.” He admits, however, that presenting the grizzly now as a human being has left him at a loss as to what the public face of the mascot will be. Pierce happily offers his services which, while sounding applicable, are quickly discounted by his addition of “Y2K preparedness” as a useful skill. The dean is not off-put by this and seems to file away Pierce’s offer as useful as he returns to his quest to make Troy part of the Human Beings. Annie answers for Troy saying that he is no longer interested in football and the dean dismisses her by saying “Yoko Ono much?” and “Bros before hoes, Troy.” Troy states that he means no offense, but he was the best when he left football behind and Greendale is beneath him. Jeff dismisses the dean and the group prepares to study Spanish. Shirley gets up to go to the bathroom and invites Britta to go with her. Britta declines and Shirley looks perplexed, taking Annie with her as she leaves. Britta questions Shirley’s offended reaction and Jeff reminds her that “girls go in groups”, as he learned from standup comedy in the ’90s. She says she will go next time to please Shirley, and Jeff proceeds to hit on her. Abed comments on the sexual tension between them as if he is reviewing the show from a fan site. Jeff chastises him and Abed agrees to leave for the remainder of the episode. This episode is about the Jungian idea of persona building and a look at archetypes as seen in TV character stereotypes. As Jung said “The persona is a complicated system of relations between individual consciousness and society, fittingly enough a kind of mask, designed on the one hand to make a definite impression upon others, and, on the other, to conceal the true nature of the individual.” Troy has been presented with two masks he can wear (jock or astronomer), and though we do not know it yet, he has shown us a third mask. Pierce has shown us two masks, and Jeff has presented one to Britta, who has also shown us her mask (though we do not yet know it). Abed can see through the masks and is therefore dismissed from the episode.

Jeff mocks the football team in front of Troy, and Annie attempts to get Troy to talk about science more, but he misses the point. As they walk down the hall, Jeff sees a poster of his face proclaiming that he is a student at Greendale, and he mutters “that’s not good.”

Britta invites Shirley to the bathroom with her instead of waiting for a second invitation from Shirley. Shirley accepts, and she begins venting about an earlier slight against her once they are inside. Britta takes the side of the stranger and shuts down Shirley’s complaint without seeking a connection. Shirley then attempts to bond with Britta over family, but Britta dismisses Shirley and her mother as programmed by the makeup industry and launches into a tirade that is stifled by Shirley’s activation of the hand dryer. Shirley later tells us that the purpose of the bathroom is “a place where ladies go to share, listen, support each other, and discreetly eliminate waste.” Instead, Britta is wearing a mask that completely blocks any connection Shirley tries to make in this place of sharing.

Pierce and the dean are discussing the public face of the Greendale Human Beings. Pierce is seeing things as black and white (racially) and the dean is trying to get him to think more about diversity by listing ethnicities to ignore. Jeff walks in holding the poster of his face and asks to speak to the dean away from Pierce. Jeff complains that this mask was made for him by the dean without his permission, and proceeds to ask “where’s the heart, where’s the soul, where’s the different poster design?” This is Jeff’s current face. He is a student at Greendale, but to him this does not convey the image he wishes to show. It does not have the personality (heart and soul) that he wishes to impress upon others. The dean shows him a full body mailer which clearly depicts Jeff at school. Jeff rejects this mirror and rips the mailer in half. The dean informs Jeff that if he can persuade Troy to play for the Human Beings, the mailers and posters will be suppressed. Before Jeff can agree or decline, Pierce interrupts them with the first draft of the public face of the Human Beings. Jeff sees it as a falcon with a gun, Pierce turns it and it becomes a falcon with an erection to Jeff. The viewer never gets to see the image. Is this a Rorschach test for Jeff? Does he see humans as either powerful/forceful or sexual only?

Shirley, Britta, Annie, and Troy are eating in the cafeteria. Shirley announces her need to use the bathroom and Britta volunteers to go with her. Shirley forcefully rejects her offer and leaves Britta hurt and defensive. She exits as well and Annie attempts to bring Troy back into astronomy. Troy answers her question incorrectly, but she laughs it off. Jeff enters and pulls Troy away from Annie. Jeff begins to talk to Troy about football, but Troy’s answers are just as silly and off topic as they were with Annie and the Astronomy conversations. Here, the viewer is faced with their perception of TV stereotypes. All of Troy’s dumb answers thus far have served to enforce the idea of the dumb jock and depending on the viewer’s investment in stereotypes, they may root for Troy to enforce the type and become a dumb jock, or they may wish for Troy and Annie to be together and break the type. Regardless of the mask you choose for Troy, there has been no evidence that Troy wants either of these. Both masks are manipulations, and as we will see shortly, they are both projections of the characters offering the masks. To simplify the subject, the Jungian shadow is that element of the psyche that the bearer ignores and pushes underneath their consciousness. As Jung said “Projection makes the whole world a replica of our own unknown face.” This unknown shadow face has, among other things, that which we do not like about ourselves and that which outside forces (parents, teachers, etc.) have repressed during early development. 

On the football field, Jeff reveals to Troy that he drives by the courthouse every day on his way to school, in order to “get a glimpse of what I once ruled.” He compares Troy’s options to his own, saying that he is locked out of his old life, but Troy is not. They quickly run through a psychological Abbot and Costello routine, listing off cliches and pointing out the biases underneath each. Jeff quickly paints a picture of how great football can be, as he hands Troy a football and tells him that it is the only important thing in his life. Jeff continues painting the picture of success in football, projecting into it everything he would want from his old life as a lawyer (within football’s terminology). Troy seems to be persuaded.

Britta has clearly been waiting outside the bathroom for Shirley to emerge, and when she does, Britta attempts to guilt trip Shirley about now excluding her from a shared bathroom experience. Shirley apologizes, but Britta deflects this again with her mask that she will reveal in a moment. Shirley now explains what the purpose of the bathroom is and breaks through Britta’s mask by telling her that if she cannot learn to be soft, she needs to pee alone. Britta reveals what she has been repressing beneath her mask, that she has peed alone her entire life because “women have always hated me”, perhaps because she “got boobs before everyone.” Shirley quiets her and invites her to continue tearing down her mask inside the bathroom.

Troy enters, playing to the TV stereotype of the jock with an inflated sense of self and an aversion to learning. He rejects Annie’s attempts to present the mask she wants for him, and we see her shadow start to emerge as she explains that she had a crush on him in high school but was not “allowed to say anything because [her] parents are bigots.” She tells him football is bad for him, and he responds “Jeff said you’d say that” as he walks away.

Jeff walks in on Pierce and the dean continuing their work on the face of the Greendale Human Being. He discovers that they have created charts and representations of all aspects of race to consciously ignore as they define a Human Being. Pierce and the dean are misunderstanding what a mask is. They are attempting to get under a mask of physical features instead of the psyche. By focusing so much on the outward, they are never able to go inward. This also works as a metaphor for Jung’s warning against being all persona. Being overly focused on the persona leads to being non-reflective and turning into a conformist. Jung termed the possible end result of this “Enantiodromia” which is a five dollar word for balance. If much effort is put into your persona and nothing else, eventually the ignored subconscious personality that is being suppressed will balance out that effort by exerting the same amount of energy to break forth and become your new persona. It is also possible that you inflate a persona so much that it crushes your subconscious individuality. In the commentary, Harmon states that Jeff’s response to Pierce and the dean’s racial charts “I think not being racist is the new racism” is his idea of the dean’s administration at Greendale, that the dean is trying to create a perfect world through an inflated persona. The students within this world then are to be watched for whether they collapse under the persona or emerge as their unique personality.

Annie confronts Jeff about steering Troy toward football. Jeff admits he is being blackmailed and Annie calls him selfish. Jeff responds by telling Annie the same thing. They have both been told now that they are projecting, and they will either reflect on the reasons for their projections internally and make a breakthrough, or continue projecting.

Annie flees the confrontation with Jeff and heads for the bathroom. She invites Shirley to go with her, but Shirley suggests that Britta try lowering her mask and connecting with Annie instead. Britta comes in behind Annie and Annie is dismayed at first, assuming that she will not be able to make a connection through Britta’s usual mask. Britta puts on the mask she thinks Annie needs and parrots Annie’s sentiment, but still does not make a connection until she allows herself to make a non-masked response. Annie has a breakthrough and will stop projecting.

Jeff has apparently had his own breakthrough off screen, and he has come to the gymnasium to stop Troy from pursuing the dream of football into which he was manipulated by Jeff. Troy is chanting with the rest of the team “Human Beings! Human Beings!” and is quieted by Jeff. Troy interrupts Jeff’s speech and reveals that he too has been wearing a mask this whole time. Troy hurt himself on purpose to get out of football in high school, because he could not take the pressure of what would come after. He reveals his realization to Jeff by telling Jeff what he should do “you should try accepting where you’re at, man. Take a pottery class or something.” Throughout the scene, Jeff has been standing next to the poster of himself which he had been tearing down through the rest of the episode, but he leaves the poster untouched, now accepting where he is at as a student of Greendale.

Having both had breakthroughs, Jeff and Annie rejoin to apologize to one another. The finished product of Pierce and the dean’s work shows up. It is a human being who is all persona and can neither talk nor hear. It must be led around based on the whims of others, just as Jung warned. Jeff and Annie embrace out of aversion to this type of human being.

When I first saw this episode, I got hung up on the racism aspect and tried to apply that to everything else, and I did not see it for the metaphor it is. Another aspect of the episode I enjoyed was that it has its own anima and animus in its two main stories, and the episode allows the viewer to find the balance between the two in their reactions to them.
Episode 1 Analysis
Episode 2 Analysis
Episode 3 Analysis
Episode 4 Analysis
Episode 5 Analysis
Episode 6 Analysis
Episode 7 Analysis

Community 1x06: “Football, Feminism and You”

The episode opens with Annie quizzing Troy on Astronomy. Troy gets the answer correct and reveals he used a memory technique that is grounded in non pc language. Annie does not address the slur and proceeds to continue the quiz on the topic of black holes, and Pierce begins what sounds like an inappropriately sexual joke about black holes. However, as the group braces for disgust, Pierce speaks eruditely about a particular black hole and its specifications. The group relaxes except for Jeff who remains ready for Pierce’s crude side, and Pierce does not disappoint as he compares the size of the black hole to his weiner. Troy appreciates the childish language and Abed blankly states that Troy and Pierce have started bonding over the use of adolescent humor. They both rejoin with first grade insults. The dean enters and comments on the diversity of the group. Pierce insults the dean, but becomes contrite when he is told of the dean’s station at the school. The dean forgives Pierce dismissively and uses a poor segue to reveal his true purpose of seducing Troy to join the Human Beings (the Greendale football team). The dean reveals that the team was going to be called The Greendale Grizzlies, but many of the students “have been called animals their whole lives.” He admits, however, that presenting the grizzly now as a human being has left him at a loss as to what the public face of the mascot will be. Pierce happily offers his services which, while sounding applicable, are quickly discounted by his addition of “Y2K preparedness” as a useful skill. The dean is not off-put by this and seems to file away Pierce’s offer as useful as he returns to his quest to make Troy part of the Human Beings. Annie answers for Troy saying that he is no longer interested in football and the dean dismisses her by saying “Yoko Ono much?” and “Bros before hoes, Troy.” Troy states that he means no offense, but he was the best when he left football behind and Greendale is beneath him. Jeff dismisses the dean and the group prepares to study Spanish. Shirley gets up to go to the bathroom and invites Britta to go with her. Britta declines and Shirley looks perplexed, taking Annie with her as she leaves. Britta questions Shirley’s offended reaction and Jeff reminds her that “girls go in groups”, as he learned from standup comedy in the ’90s. She says she will go next time to please Shirley, and Jeff proceeds to hit on her. Abed comments on the sexual tension between them as if he is reviewing the show from a fan site. Jeff chastises him and Abed agrees to leave for the remainder of the episode. This episode is about the Jungian idea of persona building and a look at archetypes as seen in TV character stereotypes. As Jung said “The persona is a complicated system of relations between individual consciousness and society, fittingly enough a kind of mask, designed on the one hand to make a definite impression upon others, and, on the other, to conceal the true nature of the individual.” Troy has been presented with two masks he can wear (jock or astronomer), and though we do not know it yet, he has shown us a third mask. Pierce has shown us two masks, and Jeff has presented one to Britta, who has also shown us her mask (though we do not yet know it). Abed can see through the masks and is therefore dismissed from the episode.

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Jeff mocks the football team in front of Troy, and Annie attempts to get Troy to talk about science more, but he misses the point. As they walk down the hall, Jeff sees a poster of his face proclaiming that he is a student at Greendale, and he mutters “that’s not good.”

image

Britta invites Shirley to the bathroom with her instead of waiting for a second invitation from Shirley. Shirley accepts, and she begins venting about an earlier slight against her once they are inside. Britta takes the side of the stranger and shuts down Shirley’s complaint without seeking a connection. Shirley then attempts to bond with Britta over family, but Britta dismisses Shirley and her mother as programmed by the makeup industry and launches into a tirade that is stifled by Shirley’s activation of the hand dryer. Shirley later tells us that the purpose of the bathroom is “a place where ladies go to share, listen, support each other, and discreetly eliminate waste.” Instead, Britta is wearing a mask that completely blocks any connection Shirley tries to make in this place of sharing.

image

Pierce and the dean are discussing the public face of the Greendale Human Beings. Pierce is seeing things as black and white (racially) and the dean is trying to get him to think more about diversity by listing ethnicities to ignore. Jeff walks in holding the poster of his face and asks to speak to the dean away from Pierce. Jeff complains that this mask was made for him by the dean without his permission, and proceeds to ask “where’s the heart, where’s the soul, where’s the different poster design?” This is Jeff’s current face. He is a student at Greendale, but to him this does not convey the image he wishes to show. It does not have the personality (heart and soul) that he wishes to impress upon others. The dean shows him a full body mailer which clearly depicts Jeff at school. Jeff rejects this mirror and rips the mailer in half. The dean informs Jeff that if he can persuade Troy to play for the Human Beings, the mailers and posters will be suppressed. Before Jeff can agree or decline, Pierce interrupts them with the first draft of the public face of the Human Beings. Jeff sees it as a falcon with a gun, Pierce turns it and it becomes a falcon with an erection to Jeff. The viewer never gets to see the image. Is this a Rorschach test for Jeff? Does he see humans as either powerful/forceful or sexual only?

image

Shirley, Britta, Annie, and Troy are eating in the cafeteria. Shirley announces her need to use the bathroom and Britta volunteers to go with her. Shirley forcefully rejects her offer and leaves Britta hurt and defensive. She exits as well and Annie attempts to bring Troy back into astronomy. Troy answers her question incorrectly, but she laughs it off. Jeff enters and pulls Troy away from Annie. Jeff begins to talk to Troy about football, but Troy’s answers are just as silly and off topic as they were with Annie and the Astronomy conversations. Here, the viewer is faced with their perception of TV stereotypes. All of Troy’s dumb answers thus far have served to enforce the idea of the dumb jock and depending on the viewer’s investment in stereotypes, they may root for Troy to enforce the type and become a dumb jock, or they may wish for Troy and Annie to be together and break the type. Regardless of the mask you choose for Troy, there has been no evidence that Troy wants either of these. Both masks are manipulations, and as we will see shortly, they are both projections of the characters offering the masks. To simplify the subject, the Jungian shadow is that element of the psyche that the bearer ignores and pushes underneath their consciousness. As Jung said “Projection makes the whole world a replica of our own unknown face.” This unknown shadow face has, among other things, that which we do not like about ourselves and that which outside forces (parents, teachers, etc.) have repressed during early development. 

image

On the football field, Jeff reveals to Troy that he drives by the courthouse every day on his way to school, in order to “get a glimpse of what I once ruled.” He compares Troy’s options to his own, saying that he is locked out of his old life, but Troy is not. They quickly run through a psychological Abbot and Costello routine, listing off cliches and pointing out the biases underneath each. Jeff quickly paints a picture of how great football can be, as he hands Troy a football and tells him that it is the only important thing in his life. Jeff continues painting the picture of success in football, projecting into it everything he would want from his old life as a lawyer (within football’s terminology). Troy seems to be persuaded.

image

Britta has clearly been waiting outside the bathroom for Shirley to emerge, and when she does, Britta attempts to guilt trip Shirley about now excluding her from a shared bathroom experience. Shirley apologizes, but Britta deflects this again with her mask that she will reveal in a moment. Shirley now explains what the purpose of the bathroom is and breaks through Britta’s mask by telling her that if she cannot learn to be soft, she needs to pee alone. Britta reveals what she has been repressing beneath her mask, that she has peed alone her entire life because “women have always hated me”, perhaps because she “got boobs before everyone.” Shirley quiets her and invites her to continue tearing down her mask inside the bathroom.

image

Troy enters, playing to the TV stereotype of the jock with an inflated sense of self and an aversion to learning. He rejects Annie’s attempts to present the mask she wants for him, and we see her shadow start to emerge as she explains that she had a crush on him in high school but was not “allowed to say anything because [her] parents are bigots.” She tells him football is bad for him, and he responds “Jeff said you’d say that” as he walks away.

image

Jeff walks in on Pierce and the dean continuing their work on the face of the Greendale Human Being. He discovers that they have created charts and representations of all aspects of race to consciously ignore as they define a Human Being. Pierce and the dean are misunderstanding what a mask is. They are attempting to get under a mask of physical features instead of the psyche. By focusing so much on the outward, they are never able to go inward. This also works as a metaphor for Jung’s warning against being all persona. Being overly focused on the persona leads to being non-reflective and turning into a conformist. Jung termed the possible end result of this “Enantiodromia” which is a five dollar word for balance. If much effort is put into your persona and nothing else, eventually the ignored subconscious personality that is being suppressed will balance out that effort by exerting the same amount of energy to break forth and become your new persona. It is also possible that you inflate a persona so much that it crushes your subconscious individuality. In the commentary, Harmon states that Jeff’s response to Pierce and the dean’s racial charts “I think not being racist is the new racism” is his idea of the dean’s administration at Greendale, that the dean is trying to create a perfect world through an inflated persona. The students within this world then are to be watched for whether they collapse under the persona or emerge as their unique personality.

image

Annie confronts Jeff about steering Troy toward football. Jeff admits he is being blackmailed and Annie calls him selfish. Jeff responds by telling Annie the same thing. They have both been told now that they are projecting, and they will either reflect on the reasons for their projections internally and make a breakthrough, or continue projecting.

image

Annie flees the confrontation with Jeff and heads for the bathroom. She invites Shirley to go with her, but Shirley suggests that Britta try lowering her mask and connecting with Annie instead. Britta comes in behind Annie and Annie is dismayed at first, assuming that she will not be able to make a connection through Britta’s usual mask. Britta puts on the mask she thinks Annie needs and parrots Annie’s sentiment, but still does not make a connection until she allows herself to make a non-masked response. Annie has a breakthrough and will stop projecting.

image

Jeff has apparently had his own breakthrough off screen, and he has come to the gymnasium to stop Troy from pursuing the dream of football into which he was manipulated by Jeff. Troy is chanting with the rest of the team “Human Beings! Human Beings!” and is quieted by Jeff. Troy interrupts Jeff’s speech and reveals that he too has been wearing a mask this whole time. Troy hurt himself on purpose to get out of football in high school, because he could not take the pressure of what would come after. He reveals his realization to Jeff by telling Jeff what he should do “you should try accepting where you’re at, man. Take a pottery class or something.” Throughout the scene, Jeff has been standing next to the poster of himself which he had been tearing down through the rest of the episode, but he leaves the poster untouched, now accepting where he is at as a student of Greendale.

image

Having both had breakthroughs, Jeff and Annie rejoin to apologize to one another. The finished product of Pierce and the dean’s work shows up. It is a human being who is all persona and can neither talk nor hear. It must be led around based on the whims of others, just as Jung warned. Jeff and Annie embrace out of aversion to this type of human being.

image

When I first saw this episode, I got hung up on the racism aspect and tried to apply that to everything else, and I did not see it for the metaphor it is. Another aspect of the episode I enjoyed was that it has its own anima and animus in its two main stories, and the episode allows the viewer to find the balance between the two in their reactions to them.

Episode 1 Analysis

Episode 2 Analysis

Episode 3 Analysis

Episode 4 Analysis

Episode 5 Analysis

Episode 6 Analysis

Episode 7 Analysis

The clip show episodes of Dinosaurs reveal quite a bit about what the creators thought of their show. Both episodes open with a paleontologist who is talking about the past lives of the long dead Dinosaurs, then a series of clips plays sometimes refuting and sometimes enforcing whatever he claims is known about their lives. Most of the clips on these episodes are short and very banal, and the key message of the original episode is gone. The paleontologist is the viewing public who misunderstand or misremember the past. The Dinosaurs of the title then are not the people in the rubber suits, but the same tired tropes and sitcom morals that have always been on the television screens of the viewing public. The creators of Dinosaurs are retreading the same material as their sitcom predecessors, hoping that what the viewer will remember this time will be the moral and not the catch phrases and pratfalls. But alas, a cry of “not the mama” and a swift smack with a  frying pan is how history will remember the show, and so that is what they include in the clip show to have the paleontologists of the future analyze. What the pitchman is selling between clips is a home study archaeology course, and when this sale ramps up, the clips begin to center around the seventh and most prominent member of the Dinosaur family: the family television set. The TV is the home study kit by which the viewer may learn from the moral tales of the past so that they won’t have to keep being repeated in every future television series. However, all of this talk about edification soon turns into promises of riches and a flashy grab for cash, which is how the creators perceive network syndication and commercialization, the only way for an old Dinosaur to rear its head again, but still no one listens to the message and the Dinosaurs will appear in the next series to come along.

We have talked about Married With Children before, about how Al is grudgingly playing along with the game of Life that someone has roped him into. Unhappily Ever After was co-created and written by Ron Leavitt, who also co-created and wrote much of Married With Children. Unhappily appears to be a continuation of the themes of Married, but it soon becomes self-aware and begins commenting on its relationship with the viewer.
Unhappily starts up where Married may have left off: a couple, married with 3 children and just as many dogs, splits up and the husband moves into a ramshackle apartment. Finally on his own, Jack begins to talk to a stuffed animal which talks back to him. Many times Jack refers to the fact that he is crazy and knows that Mr. Floppy is actually a part of himself, but he has more fun with the bunny than he ever had in his family life (it is also hinted at many times that Mr. Floppy is Jack’s sexual drive). In the second season, Jack moves back into the house and is cast into the abyss of the basement while the rest of the family lives on the second floor. They meet as a group together on the ground floor each descending or ascending to be together as a familial unit.
Just as in Married With Children, the show is filmed before a live audience, but Unhappily uses the audience at times better than any show I have seen (except maybe the Gary Shandling Show). The characters begin to break the fourth wall and refer to the viewer at home and the audience in the studio —sometimes relying on a solicited response to complete the written joke. Not all characters can see through the fourth wall, and some can only see through it at certain times. This setup mirrors the setup of Jack and the Bunny, and here is where the show points the finger at the viewer, asking how much vicarious enjoyment are we getting from the fantasy we are diving into each week. The show is Mr. Floppy and the viewer is Jack. In the first few seasons, Unhappily drags the viewer down from upstairs into the family room and makes us sit amidst cheers from the audience at inane jokes and activities. In its fourth season, the show makes a big deal of producer involvement dictating which characters will survive, as the family unit is torn down and the mother is killed, eaten, turned into an apparition, revived, and ultimately flees into exile in season 5. After the family unit is dissolved, the show devolves into a parade of low cut tops and asinine ramblings set to cat calls and ever louder cheers from the studio audience. The viewer has now been dragged into the abyss and the show spends more and more time in the basement with Jack and Mr. Floppy.
It is clear that the show was only kept around for a fifth season so that it could reach the magic 100 episode mark which allows a series to be sold into syndication. In the final episode, the writers show that once Jack begins to move out of the basement, show initiative in his life, and try to be a success, Mr. Floppy dies. The show is about to die on its own, and if the viewer can rise above the vacuous nature the show extolls, they can find success in life. However, just before the series can come to an end, Jack expresses unhappiness in his success, drinks himself into a stupor, and Mr. Floppy returns to life. The show has hit 100 and will live in syndication forever. The majority of the viewing public wants escapist television that they do not have to think about, and they can return to the basement now whenever they want so that they may live unhappily ever after.

We have talked about Married With Children before, about how Al is grudgingly playing along with the game of Life that someone has roped him into. Unhappily Ever After was co-created and written by Ron Leavitt, who also co-created and wrote much of Married With Children. Unhappily appears to be a continuation of the themes of Married, but it soon becomes self-aware and begins commenting on its relationship with the viewer.

Unhappily starts up where Married may have left off: a couple, married with 3 children and just as many dogs, splits up and the husband moves into a ramshackle apartment. Finally on his own, Jack begins to talk to a stuffed animal which talks back to him. Many times Jack refers to the fact that he is crazy and knows that Mr. Floppy is actually a part of himself, but he has more fun with the bunny than he ever had in his family life (it is also hinted at many times that Mr. Floppy is Jack’s sexual drive). In the second season, Jack moves back into the house and is cast into the abyss of the basement while the rest of the family lives on the second floor. They meet as a group together on the ground floor each descending or ascending to be together as a familial unit.

Just as in Married With Children, the show is filmed before a live audience, but Unhappily uses the audience at times better than any show I have seen (except maybe the Gary Shandling Show). The characters begin to break the fourth wall and refer to the viewer at home and the audience in the studio —sometimes relying on a solicited response to complete the written joke. Not all characters can see through the fourth wall, and some can only see through it at certain times. This setup mirrors the setup of Jack and the Bunny, and here is where the show points the finger at the viewer, asking how much vicarious enjoyment are we getting from the fantasy we are diving into each week. The show is Mr. Floppy and the viewer is Jack. In the first few seasons, Unhappily drags the viewer down from upstairs into the family room and makes us sit amidst cheers from the audience at inane jokes and activities. In its fourth season, the show makes a big deal of producer involvement dictating which characters will survive, as the family unit is torn down and the mother is killed, eaten, turned into an apparition, revived, and ultimately flees into exile in season 5. After the family unit is dissolved, the show devolves into a parade of low cut tops and asinine ramblings set to cat calls and ever louder cheers from the studio audience. The viewer has now been dragged into the abyss and the show spends more and more time in the basement with Jack and Mr. Floppy.

It is clear that the show was only kept around for a fifth season so that it could reach the magic 100 episode mark which allows a series to be sold into syndication. In the final episode, the writers show that once Jack begins to move out of the basement, show initiative in his life, and try to be a success, Mr. Floppy dies. The show is about to die on its own, and if the viewer can rise above the vacuous nature the show extolls, they can find success in life. However, just before the series can come to an end, Jack expresses unhappiness in his success, drinks himself into a stupor, and Mr. Floppy returns to life. The show has hit 100 and will live in syndication forever. The majority of the viewing public wants escapist television that they do not have to think about, and they can return to the basement now whenever they want so that they may live unhappily ever after.

Community 3x01: “Biology 101” mini analysis

When you leave the air conditioner you will have learned how to evolve. The dean has attempted to lift himself up and “will not tolerate monkeys living on campus.” The vice dean of the air conditioning repair annex must teach him that his path of evolution needs repair as he tears him down and shows him “the life of the mind” (Barton Fink reference not in episode). The dean is a self exalted common man and while he may wish everyone to look upon him, he has evolved incorrectly.

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Pierce has accepted the magic of the table and has evolved. Jeff feels that he is more important than Pierce and attempts to keep him away from the table. The table is the monolith in 2001. Every time a being encounters the monolith and accepts it, they evolve.

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Jeff enters the air conditioning ducts on his way to evolution and is hit by a gas that only has an effect on monkeys. It has an effect on Jeff and he sees himself consuming his phone in an homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey. The biology professor kicked Jeff out of class because Jeff was consumed by his phone, which was his personal monolith of his current state of evolution and a representation of his self involvement. Here he is consuming his monolith and is offered the chance to accept the monolith of the table. He sees himself as Pierce, but we do not know if it is Pierce the outcast as Jeff wishes to see Pierce, or the Pierce who has accepted the table and evolved. Jeff has become outcast from the group and from the table, self absorbed in his own monolith.

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Jeff as Pierce is given the option to accept the monolith and evolve, we know that if he did accept it he will become a space fetus and watch the Earth from within an amniotic sack. We can see the space fetus as a man who has traveled so far outside himself that when he looks back, he sees his insignificance in the grand scheme. The fetus also mirrors the Earth to some degree and has become a companion to the entire world. A self absorbed individual reborn apart from self and coinciding with the group.

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Regardless of what the next stage of Jeff’s evolution would be, he refuses to accept the magic of the table and instead becomes a later Kubrick character, that of Jack in The Shining. Jack isolates himself by becoming consumed by the hotel, which can be seen as his own psyche, each room containing a different part of himself for him to explore a la Last Year at Marienbad. Jack leaves his family to find the dark recesses of his mind, and as they retreat from his self absorbed darkness into the bathroom and out of the hotel, Jack forces himself through the door with an axe to try to rejoin with them (and slaughter them, but that is unimportant here). Jeff swings an axe at the table and attempts to forcefully rejoin the group, from which he has cast himself out by being self absorbed in his own monolith.

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In the end we see that Jeff has destroyed his monolith and will be allowed back into the group and to the monolithic table to evolve and join with the others.

*I have a fever and I did not really read over this. I hope it makes sense the way it did in my head.

Season 1:

Episode 1 Analysis

Episode 2 Analysis

Episode 3 Analysis

Episode 4 Analysis

Episode 5 Analysis

Community 1x05: “Advanced Criminal Law”The Dean opens by attempting to convince everyone publicly over the PA system that Greendale is a real college simply because they will have their own song and a statue of prestigious alumnus Luis Guzman by the end of the week. He is projecting a lie that he believes, in an attempt to get others to believe it. Professor Duncan scoffs at his attempt at conveying respectability and meets with Jeff to discuss Britta’s relationship status. Duncan is interested in pursuing Britta, but he is not sure if Jeff is involved with her. Jeff is noncommittal and dismissive in his response, and we are not sure how he currently views his relationship with Britta. We must draw our own conclusions at this point. This episode is about self-deception and its external consequences.

Abed walks into class with Troy and asks if he thinks Luis Guzman will come visit the statue. Troy responds with sarcasm, and we are given visual cues in his facial features to see that he is lying and wants us to know because it is a joke. Abed does not pick up on the visual cues and Troy begins to lie straight faced, bringing Abed into a wildly concocted fantasy. Jeff sits down in front of them and tells Britta that he has discovered that she lied to him about her phone number. She says that she will give him the real number if he promises not to use it in a context other than friendship. He declines the number, and we are led to believe that it is because he does not wish for friendship, but he has still not revealed his intentions yet. Chang confronts the class about a tiny cheat sheet he has found lying on the floor of the classroom after their last test. He threatens punishment for everybody, unless the person who cheated confesses. He is showing how a tiny personal lie can harm others around an individual if it begins to show itself.

In the study group, Shirley complains about Chang’s stereotype of her during class and follows that up with an affirmation of the type. She is lying to herself about what she is living up to, and we can see Annie react knowingly to Shirley’s straight faced inner lie. Blame for cheating is passed around the table between the members of the group, and each offer terse perceptions of the person they think cheated, all of the accused accept their perceived character flaws except Pierce, who lies to himself and mishears the character flaw they gave him as a compliment (he turns the word stupid into genius). Jeff says that whoever cheated “wasn’t a real cheater, just insecure and naive,” and we are left not knowing for sure who has cheated. We can only read the visual cues the character’s give and draw our own conclusions. Annie changes the subject to her work on the school song, and Pierce tells her that he is a great songwriter and will work on it for free. He tells her this with confident visual cues. Troy reveals to Abed that the things he said earlier were lies, and Abed attempts to explore the foreign concept of lying by questioning the nature of concrete objects (“This isn’t a table, haha”).

Annie tells Pierce he is allowed to write the song and he now looks visibly worried, implying that his earlier brag was a lie. In class, Chang offers the cheater one last chance to confess. Everyone looks tense and Britta stands up to confess saying that it is not fair for Chang to punish the whole class. At this point, from her visual cues and speech, it would appear that she is lying to everyone to seem like a hero. Outside the classroom Jeff confronts Britta about being a cheat. At this point, we do not know what Jeff believes, but he is reaching out to Britta even though her lie has been revealed. She asks if he really wants to be her friend or is just hitting on her again, and he says he can neither confirm nor deny. His motive is hidden, and we are again left to draw our own conclusions.

Abed meets Troy and attempts to lie by questioning the nature of accepted reality again. He says “All dogs are blue now, every single dog in the world is blue.” Troy tells Abed that his visual cues give away his lies “you are not good at this, because you are not believable in your face, ok? Your face, it’s bad.” Abed begins writing in a notebook using a foreign language, and he says “it’s probably Arabic” when Troy questions him about it. Abed runs away making warbling spaceship noises. Abed is all the time giving us slight tells that he does not believe the lie he is acting out. He is pretending that he is alien and not of this world, which is a criticism many others have of him, and in pretending to be foreign he is embodying the way he saw lying earlier as a foreign concept. He has begun to act out how he thinks Troy wants him to act to be his friend, but he does not yet fully believe the lie judging by his cues.

The tribunal that will judge Britta convenes with a $6,000 table next to the pool area. The entire tribunal setup is a self-deception about its place and importance. Professor Duncan argues with Señor Chang over whether or not Chang is allowed to call himself Professor. Chang is lying to himself about his status, and Professor Duncan is lying to himself about his status mattering here (recall the opening scene in which he discounts the dean’s proclamation that Greendale is a real college). The dean makes a double entendre when he says that he “goes both ways” in his partiality in the case, but he asks to have that stricken from the record and clarifies that he is impartial. Regarding the tribunal, we know there is one side that likes Britta and wants to believe her (remember Duncan’s discussion with Jeff earlier), and an opposing side that does not like her and does not believe her (Chang believes she is a cheat). At present, we still do not know the truth and must also choose a side and draw our own conclusions.

Pierce is still lying to Annie and himself about being able to write a song, and she is starting not to believe the lie. He gets defensive when she picks the lie apart and dismisses her. In the commentary, Harmon reveals that “Pierce is a sort of mockery of me. My writing workflow is to shut myself in procrastinate and yell at everyone who comes near me. Tell them I’m a genius even though I’m not.”

Chang lies in his testimony to the tribunal. Britta is brought to the stand and says that she did not make the cheat sheet and that when she said so earlier, she was lying. The dean calls her a hero and she admits that she has just lied and she actually did cheat. The tribunal can be seen as Britta’s psyche choosing what to do about the revealed lie. She can either renew the old lie that she cheated or adopt the new lie that she is a hero. She rejects the new lie, and begins to renew the old lie of being a cheat.

Troy finds Abed talking to himself as if he is an alien again and Abed is now using visual cues about his lying to actually endorse the lie, by having his face lie about the fact that he is lying in pretending to be an alien. One school of thought says that self-deception has emerged as a survival mechanism because deceiving others while not believing in your lie costs more mental energy than conveying a lie that you believe. If Abed knows that he is not an alien, he recalls that first and then must act contrary to that to convey that he is an alien, but if he begins to believe that he is an alien, he can go right to that facade he has built within and project it outward with ease.

Jeff confronts Britta about her flip flopping testimony. She says “you know I have a problem with dishonesty” and Jeff reminds her that she is on trial for cheating. Jeff proposes that he will present her as a good person and she remonstrates him, saying “You don’t know that! You’re just doing all of this ‘cus you wanna sleep with me. I mean, you said it yourself, you don’t even want to be my friend.” Jeff never said that. Jeff did not reveal his motivations and left us and Britta to draw our own conclusions, and we now see the lie that Britta has projected onto Jeff which further enforces the lie she believes about herself. He tells her that her lie about him is wrong and that he does still want to be her friend, even as the lie she has been presenting to everyone is crumbling. Britta says she believes him and reveals the foundation of the lie she has built in herself “I have more experience being worthless, I think I left that crib sheet on the floor because I wanted to get caught. Im so used to screwing everything up i just wanted to get it over with.” The fact that she cheated is not the lie. Cheating is lying about personal ability and knowledge, and Britta has just revealed that that is her actual insecurity. The cheating is how it manifested. Having presented her rationalization for believing and acting on her lie about herself to Jeff, he deems her insane. He presents to the tribunal that they are all insane and the the whole school is insane. Everyone lies to themselves and rationalizes things beneath the surface (we have seen almost every character prove this so far). Britta is not anomalous.

Troy finds Abed talking to a pre-filmed version of himself. Abed is still acting out the lie, but now he is telling the lie to himself. The static paradox of self-deception says that at some point if you are deceiving yourself, there is a transitionary moment where you have to both believe and deny the lie. Abed on the screen is wholly into the lie because he does not exist outside of the lie, Abed talking to the screen is at that transitional moment, but Troy stops him before he crosses the threshold. Abed confesses that it was a lie and he was concocting the lie for Troy, because Troy told him that is what friends do. Troy tells him that it would be creepy if the lie were true and that “from now on, Abed friends don’t mess with each other.” Just as Jeff saw Britta’s lie crumble and revealed his desire for friendship, Troy wants to be Abed’s friend outside of the lie, and is there for Abed before he can begin to believe the lie himself.

Pierce has begin lying to himself in the quest to write the song. He steals “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” but rejects it once he realizes the lie. Annie comes to him as he  realized this lie, and he admits to Annie that he is a fraud. She asks about his past success with the Hawthorne Wipes jingle and he reveals that it was stolen as well (from “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain”). Annie, having seen through Pierce’s lie, offers a personal story for him to relate to and says that she believes in him. Whether or not this is a lie on Annie’s part is unknown, but Pierce takes her parting words of inspiration and completes the song with them.

The statue is unveiled, and Pierce is allowed to play his song. We hear that Pierce’s song is a stolen Bruce Hornsby song, rewritten around Annie’s words, but Pierce does not know that and feels good about himself for completing his assignment and internalizing Annie’s (possible lie of) encouragement. He has believed the lie Annie gave him, but it was a lie that helped him succeed. While self-deception can be used to hinder yourself, Pierce demonstrates that you can believe a lie to help yourself overcome something, now whether or not this is good is brought into question when Abed asks if they can be sued for Pierce’s song and Jeff says that they can be.
Episode 1 Analysis
Episode 2 Analysis
Episode 3 Analysis
Episode 4 Analysis
Episode 5 Analysis
Episode 6 Analysis
Episode 7 Analysis

Community 1x05: “Advanced Criminal Law”

The Dean opens by attempting to convince everyone publicly over the PA system that Greendale is a real college simply because they will have their own song and a statue of prestigious alumnus Luis Guzman by the end of the week. He is projecting a lie that he believes, in an attempt to get others to believe it. Professor Duncan scoffs at his attempt at conveying respectability and meets with Jeff to discuss Britta’s relationship status. Duncan is interested in pursuing Britta, but he is not sure if Jeff is involved with her. Jeff is noncommittal and dismissive in his response, and we are not sure how he currently views his relationship with Britta. We must draw our own conclusions at this point. This episode is about self-deception and its external consequences.

image

Abed walks into class with Troy and asks if he thinks Luis Guzman will come visit the statue. Troy responds with sarcasm, and we are given visual cues in his facial features to see that he is lying and wants us to know because it is a joke. Abed does not pick up on the visual cues and Troy begins to lie straight faced, bringing Abed into a wildly concocted fantasy. Jeff sits down in front of them and tells Britta that he has discovered that she lied to him about her phone number. She says that she will give him the real number if he promises not to use it in a context other than friendship. He declines the number, and we are led to believe that it is because he does not wish for friendship, but he has still not revealed his intentions yet. Chang confronts the class about a tiny cheat sheet he has found lying on the floor of the classroom after their last test. He threatens punishment for everybody, unless the person who cheated confesses. He is showing how a tiny personal lie can harm others around an individual if it begins to show itself.

image

In the study group, Shirley complains about Chang’s stereotype of her during class and follows that up with an affirmation of the type. She is lying to herself about what she is living up to, and we can see Annie react knowingly to Shirley’s straight faced inner lie. Blame for cheating is passed around the table between the members of the group, and each offer terse perceptions of the person they think cheated, all of the accused accept their perceived character flaws except Pierce, who lies to himself and mishears the character flaw they gave him as a compliment (he turns the word stupid into genius). Jeff says that whoever cheated “wasn’t a real cheater, just insecure and naive,” and we are left not knowing for sure who has cheated. We can only read the visual cues the character’s give and draw our own conclusions. Annie changes the subject to her work on the school song, and Pierce tells her that he is a great songwriter and will work on it for free. He tells her this with confident visual cues. Troy reveals to Abed that the things he said earlier were lies, and Abed attempts to explore the foreign concept of lying by questioning the nature of concrete objects (“This isn’t a table, haha”).

image

Annie tells Pierce he is allowed to write the song and he now looks visibly worried, implying that his earlier brag was a lie. In class, Chang offers the cheater one last chance to confess. Everyone looks tense and Britta stands up to confess saying that it is not fair for Chang to punish the whole class. At this point, from her visual cues and speech, it would appear that she is lying to everyone to seem like a hero. Outside the classroom Jeff confronts Britta about being a cheat. At this point, we do not know what Jeff believes, but he is reaching out to Britta even though her lie has been revealed. She asks if he really wants to be her friend or is just hitting on her again, and he says he can neither confirm nor deny. His motive is hidden, and we are again left to draw our own conclusions.

image

Abed meets Troy and attempts to lie by questioning the nature of accepted reality again. He says “All dogs are blue now, every single dog in the world is blue.” Troy tells Abed that his visual cues give away his lies “you are not good at this, because you are not believable in your face, ok? Your face, it’s bad.” Abed begins writing in a notebook using a foreign language, and he says “it’s probably Arabic” when Troy questions him about it. Abed runs away making warbling spaceship noises. Abed is all the time giving us slight tells that he does not believe the lie he is acting out. He is pretending that he is alien and not of this world, which is a criticism many others have of him, and in pretending to be foreign he is embodying the way he saw lying earlier as a foreign concept. He has begun to act out how he thinks Troy wants him to act to be his friend, but he does not yet fully believe the lie judging by his cues.

image

The tribunal that will judge Britta convenes with a $6,000 table next to the pool area. The entire tribunal setup is a self-deception about its place and importance. Professor Duncan argues with Señor Chang over whether or not Chang is allowed to call himself Professor. Chang is lying to himself about his status, and Professor Duncan is lying to himself about his status mattering here (recall the opening scene in which he discounts the dean’s proclamation that Greendale is a real college). The dean makes a double entendre when he says that he “goes both ways” in his partiality in the case, but he asks to have that stricken from the record and clarifies that he is impartial. Regarding the tribunal, we know there is one side that likes Britta and wants to believe her (remember Duncan’s discussion with Jeff earlier), and an opposing side that does not like her and does not believe her (Chang believes she is a cheat). At present, we still do not know the truth and must also choose a side and draw our own conclusions.

image

Pierce is still lying to Annie and himself about being able to write a song, and she is starting not to believe the lie. He gets defensive when she picks the lie apart and dismisses her. In the commentary, Harmon reveals that “Pierce is a sort of mockery of me. My writing workflow is to shut myself in procrastinate and yell at everyone who comes near me. Tell them I’m a genius even though I’m not.”

image

Chang lies in his testimony to the tribunal. Britta is brought to the stand and says that she did not make the cheat sheet and that when she said so earlier, she was lying. The dean calls her a hero and she admits that she has just lied and she actually did cheat. The tribunal can be seen as Britta’s psyche choosing what to do about the revealed lie. She can either renew the old lie that she cheated or adopt the new lie that she is a hero. She rejects the new lie, and begins to renew the old lie of being a cheat.

image

Troy finds Abed talking to himself as if he is an alien again and Abed is now using visual cues about his lying to actually endorse the lie, by having his face lie about the fact that he is lying in pretending to be an alien. One school of thought says that self-deception has emerged as a survival mechanism because deceiving others while not believing in your lie costs more mental energy than conveying a lie that you believe. If Abed knows that he is not an alien, he recalls that first and then must act contrary to that to convey that he is an alien, but if he begins to believe that he is an alien, he can go right to that facade he has built within and project it outward with ease.

image

Jeff confronts Britta about her flip flopping testimony. She says “you know I have a problem with dishonesty” and Jeff reminds her that she is on trial for cheating. Jeff proposes that he will present her as a good person and she remonstrates him, saying “You don’t know that! You’re just doing all of this ‘cus you wanna sleep with me. I mean, you said it yourself, you don’t even want to be my friend.” Jeff never said that. Jeff did not reveal his motivations and left us and Britta to draw our own conclusions, and we now see the lie that Britta has projected onto Jeff which further enforces the lie she believes about herself. He tells her that her lie about him is wrong and that he does still want to be her friend, even as the lie she has been presenting to everyone is crumbling. Britta says she believes him and reveals the foundation of the lie she has built in herself “I have more experience being worthless, I think I left that crib sheet on the floor because I wanted to get caught. Im so used to screwing everything up i just wanted to get it over with.” The fact that she cheated is not the lie. Cheating is lying about personal ability and knowledge, and Britta has just revealed that that is her actual insecurity. The cheating is how it manifested. Having presented her rationalization for believing and acting on her lie about herself to Jeff, he deems her insane. He presents to the tribunal that they are all insane and the the whole school is insane. Everyone lies to themselves and rationalizes things beneath the surface (we have seen almost every character prove this so far). Britta is not anomalous.

image

Troy finds Abed talking to a pre-filmed version of himself. Abed is still acting out the lie, but now he is telling the lie to himself. The static paradox of self-deception says that at some point if you are deceiving yourself, there is a transitionary moment where you have to both believe and deny the lie. Abed on the screen is wholly into the lie because he does not exist outside of the lie, Abed talking to the screen is at that transitional moment, but Troy stops him before he crosses the threshold. Abed confesses that it was a lie and he was concocting the lie for Troy, because Troy told him that is what friends do. Troy tells him that it would be creepy if the lie were true and that “from now on, Abed friends don’t mess with each other.” Just as Jeff saw Britta’s lie crumble and revealed his desire for friendship, Troy wants to be Abed’s friend outside of the lie, and is there for Abed before he can begin to believe the lie himself.

image

Pierce has begin lying to himself in the quest to write the song. He steals “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” but rejects it once he realizes the lie. Annie comes to him as he  realized this lie, and he admits to Annie that he is a fraud. She asks about his past success with the Hawthorne Wipes jingle and he reveals that it was stolen as well (from “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain”). Annie, having seen through Pierce’s lie, offers a personal story for him to relate to and says that she believes in him. Whether or not this is a lie on Annie’s part is unknown, but Pierce takes her parting words of inspiration and completes the song with them.

image

The statue is unveiled, and Pierce is allowed to play his song. We hear that Pierce’s song is a stolen Bruce Hornsby song, rewritten around Annie’s words, but Pierce does not know that and feels good about himself for completing his assignment and internalizing Annie’s (possible lie of) encouragement. He has believed the lie Annie gave him, but it was a lie that helped him succeed. While self-deception can be used to hinder yourself, Pierce demonstrates that you can believe a lie to help yourself overcome something, now whether or not this is good is brought into question when Abed asks if they can be sued for Pierce’s song and Jeff says that they can be.

Episode 1 Analysis

Episode 2 Analysis

Episode 3 Analysis

Episode 4 Analysis

Episode 5 Analysis

Episode 6 Analysis

Episode 7 Analysis

Community 1x04: “Social Psychology”Chang is in the classroom leading the class in Spanish recitation. He has them say “we speak” and “to speak” in Spanish, while he writes the words on the board unintelligibly. Everyone hears what he is saying, but they are unable to read it or make further sense of it. In the scene, Chang never reveals the translations of these words. Everyone is parroting what he says, but we are not sure if anyone knows what anyone else is actually saying.

Outside, Shirley attempts to connect with Jeff, but Jeff dodges her and joins Britta. Jeff says he can not bear to hear her say “ooh, that’s nice” while they walk across campus. Jeff has shown that he has been hearing what she says, but he has not been listening, engaging, or understanding. Jeff walks and talks with Britta across campus, and they talk about friendship. Jeff says that the sign of a true friend is talking with no awkward pauses and that he and Britta have just done so for 100 yards. She points out that it is great he is not hitting on her anymore, and an awkward pause emerges as they part ways. But before they parted, the two encounter Vaughan, whom Britta is in a relationship with for this episode. Jeff follows his first impulse to make fun of Vaughan and thus begins to push Britta away from himself. Vaughan represents the super ego and Shirley represents the id in this episode. At present, Jeff is taking in information from both of them but not consciously listening to either, and Britta is gravitating toward the super ego. This will be expanded on by other characters later.

Annie begs Professor Duncan to allow her to be in his Duncan Principle experiment before she is ready, and he agrees (it is usually open to second year students only). Pierce arrives with a package containing “ear-noculars” which he wears along with his bluetooth so that he can hear things other people are not supposed to hear, however he is overextending his hearing and begins to misunderstand which conversations are public and which are private, and begins to interpret everything on a higher level of revealing secrets in others. Annie approaches the group about being in the Duncan Principle experiment. Troy talks himself into it, while Abed declines because he wants to watch the Indiana Jones trilogy. Annie tells him that they are really good friends and he accepts both this statement and the request to be in the experiment. Jeff sees that Vaughan is talking to Britta and connecting with her, so he interrupts their conversation, hears what Vaughan says about coffee versus green tea, and contradicts what he says openly.

We join Annie with Professor Duncan and the other observers, watching the subjects in the Duncan Principle experiment. Professor Duncan explains the Duncan Principle as “The more control lost by the ego, the more gained by the id, resulting in a surprisingly predictable emotional eruption or breaking point.” In the classic Looney Tunes model of psychoanalysis, the devil on Daffy Duck’s shoulder represents the id and the angel on Daffy Duck’s other shoulder represents the super ego, while Daffy in the middle represents the ego, deciding which to listen to or to weigh their inputs equally and follow a median path. What Professor Duncan has not accounted for in his principle is the super ego. Here Annie and the observers are the id and the room full of subjects is the ego, but lying in the subconscious is the super ego played by Abed. The id may overtake the ego and drive it to a tantrum, but the super ego still remains present. Addressing our pop culture reference, Abed is Indy and we join him mid adventure (mid experiment) as in the beginning of all the films. Indy is always betrayed by someone he trusted or chose to work with in the films, here Indy is betrayed by his friend Annie when she misrepresents the experiment and their friendship. When Troy leaves, Abed is the only one left and the observes now become the ego, consumed by id examining but not listening to or engaging the super ego and eventually being driven mad as a result of this communication imbalance.

Jeff rejoins Shirley, but is trying to accept Vaughan and disengages her when she beings to make fun of Vaughan. He says that he is “trying to be a good friend to Britta…. I’m gonna show her that I am not the jerk she thinks I am and friend the hell out of that green tea drinking drum circler.” He is attempting to force himself to befriend Vaughan and disengage Shirley as a result. He is also trying to use friendship as an action rather than actually listening to Vaughan and letting a relationship grow.

The new ego of the observers consumed by id begins to attack itself and disbands in an emotional break. Annie allows Abed to leave the experiment finally, when she is told by Professor Duncan that she has ruined the Duncan Principle (she has exposed that the super ego exists).

Jeff thinks that he is truly trying to connect with and examine the super ego in Vaughan, but he is not listening still, only hearing the talk. Shirley shows up and attempts to incite Jeff to make fun of and dismiss Vaughan again, she succeeds to an extent and Jeff proclaims “you’re the devil,” naming her as the id that she represents.

Jeff practices Spanish with Britta, they are talking but they are not communicating because one is not understanding the other. Britta asks Jeff to examine Vaughan further and reveals that she has become intimate with him, but that she worries he is over thinking things more than she is (her super ego is outweighing her id, manifesting here as sexual desire). She reveals Vaughan’s poetry and Jeff copies it to make fun of it with Shirley in private. They tear apart his words without looking at the underlying sentiment. Pierce hears them with his augmented hearing and misinterprets what they are talking about.

Troy apologizes to Annie for ruining the experiment, and Annie reveals that the waiting was the experiment. She confronts Abed about ruining the experiment, and he reveals in a dead pan manner that he was livid for the 26 hours he sat in the room. She asks why he did not just leave and complete the experiment (super ego surrendering to the id), and he says it was because she asked him to stay and had said that they are friends (because they need to be in balance, not one over the other, but they are not communicating properly). This defeats Annie’s rage. Jeff and Shirley enter, still making fun of Vaughan. Pierce reveals to the group his misconceptions about Jeff and Shirley’s subject, he extrapolates their mockery of the super ego onto the group (he takes personally Jeff’s inner struggle). Shirley mocks Vaughan’s speech patterns and then passes his poem around for everyone to mock. They mock Vaughan openly as he enters and drive Vaughan away. Outside, Shirley reveals herself to Jeff as the id “I have a gossip problem, I stir the pot, Jeff, I’m a pot stirrer.” Jeff tells Shirley that they can not make fun of people anymore, but that they can still hang out. Jeff is starting to seek a balance in his subconscious. Shirley brings up dream analysis, mentioning that Britta has had a sex dream about Jeff. Britta after engaging with her super ego is attempting to reconnect with her id, but still only subconsciously.

Annie comes to Abed and apologizes by giving him the Indiana Jones trilogy, she is saying she understands what he is about and is giving him what he represents so that they may be in balance. Jeff finds out Britta is no longer with Vaughan and asks if he can remain her friend but not need to hear about her id (guys she dates) anymore. He mentions the sexy dream though and Britta expresses a frustration with Shirley (the id).

Outside, we see Vaughan who is now out of sync and tells the rest of the hacky sack group that there are “some worries, man, some worries” as we see Shirley and Britta giggling together, Britta is now falling out of sync and following her id closer than her super ego, she has no balance once again.

Jeff asks Pierce for his ear-noculars so that he may spy on Britta and her id, but Pierce says that he has gotten rid of it and explains “see, Jeff, there’s certain things man was not meant to hear. We were designed by whatever entity you choose, to hear whatever’s in this range, and really this range alone. ‘Cus you know who’s talking to us in this range? The people we love.” Pierce explains that the id/super ego balance in the ego is the responsibility of the individual and that we need to talk on the surface level with and listen to the people we love. Pierce has become Jeff’s super ego and his former actions of spying on and misinterpreting everything had been showing Jeff’s actions of attempting to analyze Britta’s super ego rather than his own. The way to link the seemingly subconscious ephemera to the conscious is through speech, this is the goal of the talking treatment and word association of Freud and his school of psychoanalysis. Britta brings up Jeff’s silver tongue at the beginning and Jeff says “I’m at my best during high speed bursts of wit,” he also talked about filling all of the silences with talk. He is leaving no room for introspection or listening and is not taking the time to weigh the id and the super ego’s input before speaking, he is out of balance. But he hears Pierce’s words and contemplates them before dismissing them with a quip to no one but himself.
Episode 1 Analysis
Episode 2 Analysis
Episode 3 Analysis
Episode 4 Analysis
Episode 5 Analysis
Episode 6 Analysis
Episode 7 Analysis

Community 1x04: “Social Psychology”

Chang is in the classroom leading the class in Spanish recitation. He has them say “we speak” and “to speak” in Spanish, while he writes the words on the board unintelligibly. Everyone hears what he is saying, but they are unable to read it or make further sense of it. In the scene, Chang never reveals the translations of these words. Everyone is parroting what he says, but we are not sure if anyone knows what anyone else is actually saying.

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Outside, Shirley attempts to connect with Jeff, but Jeff dodges her and joins Britta. Jeff says he can not bear to hear her say “ooh, that’s nice” while they walk across campus. Jeff has shown that he has been hearing what she says, but he has not been listening, engaging, or understanding. Jeff walks and talks with Britta across campus, and they talk about friendship. Jeff says that the sign of a true friend is talking with no awkward pauses and that he and Britta have just done so for 100 yards. She points out that it is great he is not hitting on her anymore, and an awkward pause emerges as they part ways. But before they parted, the two encounter Vaughan, whom Britta is in a relationship with for this episode. Jeff follows his first impulse to make fun of Vaughan and thus begins to push Britta away from himself. Vaughan represents the super ego and Shirley represents the id in this episode. At present, Jeff is taking in information from both of them but not consciously listening to either, and Britta is gravitating toward the super ego. This will be expanded on by other characters later.

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Annie begs Professor Duncan to allow her to be in his Duncan Principle experiment before she is ready, and he agrees (it is usually open to second year students only). Pierce arrives with a package containing “ear-noculars” which he wears along with his bluetooth so that he can hear things other people are not supposed to hear, however he is overextending his hearing and begins to misunderstand which conversations are public and which are private, and begins to interpret everything on a higher level of revealing secrets in others. Annie approaches the group about being in the Duncan Principle experiment. Troy talks himself into it, while Abed declines because he wants to watch the Indiana Jones trilogy. Annie tells him that they are really good friends and he accepts both this statement and the request to be in the experiment. Jeff sees that Vaughan is talking to Britta and connecting with her, so he interrupts their conversation, hears what Vaughan says about coffee versus green tea, and contradicts what he says openly.

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We join Annie with Professor Duncan and the other observers, watching the subjects in the Duncan Principle experiment. Professor Duncan explains the Duncan Principle as “The more control lost by the ego, the more gained by the id, resulting in a surprisingly predictable emotional eruption or breaking point.” In the classic Looney Tunes model of psychoanalysis, the devil on Daffy Duck’s shoulder represents the id and the angel on Daffy Duck’s other shoulder represents the super ego, while Daffy in the middle represents the ego, deciding which to listen to or to weigh their inputs equally and follow a median path. What Professor Duncan has not accounted for in his principle is the super ego. Here Annie and the observers are the id and the room full of subjects is the ego, but lying in the subconscious is the super ego played by Abed. The id may overtake the ego and drive it to a tantrum, but the super ego still remains present. Addressing our pop culture reference, Abed is Indy and we join him mid adventure (mid experiment) as in the beginning of all the films. Indy is always betrayed by someone he trusted or chose to work with in the films, here Indy is betrayed by his friend Annie when she misrepresents the experiment and their friendship. When Troy leaves, Abed is the only one left and the observes now become the ego, consumed by id examining but not listening to or engaging the super ego and eventually being driven mad as a result of this communication imbalance.

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Jeff rejoins Shirley, but is trying to accept Vaughan and disengages her when she beings to make fun of Vaughan. He says that he is “trying to be a good friend to Britta…. I’m gonna show her that I am not the jerk she thinks I am and friend the hell out of that green tea drinking drum circler.” He is attempting to force himself to befriend Vaughan and disengage Shirley as a result. He is also trying to use friendship as an action rather than actually listening to Vaughan and letting a relationship grow.

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The new ego of the observers consumed by id begins to attack itself and disbands in an emotional break. Annie allows Abed to leave the experiment finally, when she is told by Professor Duncan that she has ruined the Duncan Principle (she has exposed that the super ego exists).

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Jeff thinks that he is truly trying to connect with and examine the super ego in Vaughan, but he is not listening still, only hearing the talk. Shirley shows up and attempts to incite Jeff to make fun of and dismiss Vaughan again, she succeeds to an extent and Jeff proclaims “you’re the devil,” naming her as the id that she represents.

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Jeff practices Spanish with Britta, they are talking but they are not communicating because one is not understanding the other. Britta asks Jeff to examine Vaughan further and reveals that she has become intimate with him, but that she worries he is over thinking things more than she is (her super ego is outweighing her id, manifesting here as sexual desire). She reveals Vaughan’s poetry and Jeff copies it to make fun of it with Shirley in private. They tear apart his words without looking at the underlying sentiment. Pierce hears them with his augmented hearing and misinterprets what they are talking about.

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Troy apologizes to Annie for ruining the experiment, and Annie reveals that the waiting was the experiment. She confronts Abed about ruining the experiment, and he reveals in a dead pan manner that he was livid for the 26 hours he sat in the room. She asks why he did not just leave and complete the experiment (super ego surrendering to the id), and he says it was because she asked him to stay and had said that they are friends (because they need to be in balance, not one over the other, but they are not communicating properly). This defeats Annie’s rage. Jeff and Shirley enter, still making fun of Vaughan. Pierce reveals to the group his misconceptions about Jeff and Shirley’s subject, he extrapolates their mockery of the super ego onto the group (he takes personally Jeff’s inner struggle). Shirley mocks Vaughan’s speech patterns and then passes his poem around for everyone to mock. They mock Vaughan openly as he enters and drive Vaughan away. Outside, Shirley reveals herself to Jeff as the id “I have a gossip problem, I stir the pot, Jeff, I’m a pot stirrer.” Jeff tells Shirley that they can not make fun of people anymore, but that they can still hang out. Jeff is starting to seek a balance in his subconscious. Shirley brings up dream analysis, mentioning that Britta has had a sex dream about Jeff. Britta after engaging with her super ego is attempting to reconnect with her id, but still only subconsciously.

image

Annie comes to Abed and apologizes by giving him the Indiana Jones trilogy, she is saying she understands what he is about and is giving him what he represents so that they may be in balance. Jeff finds out Britta is no longer with Vaughan and asks if he can remain her friend but not need to hear about her id (guys she dates) anymore. He mentions the sexy dream though and Britta expresses a frustration with Shirley (the id).

image

Outside, we see Vaughan who is now out of sync and tells the rest of the hacky sack group that there are “some worries, man, some worries” as we see Shirley and Britta giggling together, Britta is now falling out of sync and following her id closer than her super ego, she has no balance once again.

image

Jeff asks Pierce for his ear-noculars so that he may spy on Britta and her id, but Pierce says that he has gotten rid of it and explains “see, Jeff, there’s certain things man was not meant to hear. We were designed by whatever entity you choose, to hear whatever’s in this range, and really this range alone. ‘Cus you know who’s talking to us in this range? The people we love.” Pierce explains that the id/super ego balance in the ego is the responsibility of the individual and that we need to talk on the surface level with and listen to the people we love. Pierce has become Jeff’s super ego and his former actions of spying on and misinterpreting everything had been showing Jeff’s actions of attempting to analyze Britta’s super ego rather than his own. The way to link the seemingly subconscious ephemera to the conscious is through speech, this is the goal of the talking treatment and word association of Freud and his school of psychoanalysis. Britta brings up Jeff’s silver tongue at the beginning and Jeff says “I’m at my best during high speed bursts of wit,” he also talked about filling all of the silences with talk. He is leaving no room for introspection or listening and is not taking the time to weigh the id and the super ego’s input before speaking, he is out of balance. But he hears Pierce’s words and contemplates them before dismissing them with a quip to no one but himself.

Episode 1 Analysis

Episode 2 Analysis

Episode 3 Analysis

Episode 4 Analysis

Episode 5 Analysis

Episode 6 Analysis

Episode 7 Analysis