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