Sunday, June 13, 2010

Community 1.23: "Modern Warfare"

“Come with me if you don’t want paint on your clothes”


“Community” trades heavily on pop culture humor, rarely more so than in “Modern Warfare.” This episode was an homage to the great action movies of the last several decades, all wrapped in the skin of a Greendale paintball game. The set-up was kind of ridiculous, really, but the result was good fun. I suppose what makes “Community” work in spite of its heavy use of pop culture humor is that the pop culture referenced isn’t up-to-the minute, only know it if you watch E! News religiously pop culture humor. The references used in the show have been around for quite a while and have stood the test of time, at least among the generation many of the show’s writers and viewers belong to. Sad to say, there weren’t a whole lot of references that I actually picked up on in this episode. I clearly knew that the Quote of the Episode was a twist on the famous line from “Terminator” (“Come with me if you want to live”) and Abed had some “Matrix”-style moves, and although I’ve never seen it, I have a feeling there was a scene inspired by “Bladerunner.” I suppose the fact that I enjoyed the episode despite my geek cred not being quite up to where I’d like it to be shows that the pop culture reliance of the show’s humor isn’t really a handicap at all.

The episode opens with Jeff and Britta encountering a very strange student on rollerskates who seems to be trying to bring back Disco. The Disco dude was really just there to set up the later, aforementioned “Bladerunner” parody, but he also has a hand in setting up the emotional conflict of the episode. Jeff and Britta start bickering because Jeff is horribly annoyed by Disco dude, and Jeff thinks Disco dude is amusing. The rest of the study group had been having a nice conversation about Mother’s Day until Jeff and Britta walked into the room still continuing their bickering. The group is fed up with Jeff and Britta’s bickering, and Abed says this is classic unresolved sexual tension, and Jeff and Britta need to hook up already just so the rest of the group can have some peace.

The Dean interrupts this conversation to announce that “Spring Fling” will be held outside, and the main event will be a massive paintball game. The prize for last man standing was going to be a Blu-ray player, but that was stolen, so the prize is now TBD. Jeff is less than impressed, and he announces that he is going to go take a nap in his car. Jeff wakes up to a rather colorful (thanks to the paintballs, naturally) post-apocalyptic scene. Essentially, Greendale has been completely trashed. Jeff, understandably, is confused about what’s going on, and he’s saved from a paintball ambush by Abed exhibiting some smooth “Matrix” moves. Safe (for now) in a classroom, Abed and Troy explain what happened. The Dean announced that the prize for winning the paintball tournament would be “priority registration.” Jeff now understands the craziness- he’s seduced by the idea of scheduling all his classes on Monday and having a six day weekend, or maybe graduating in three years instead of four.

Gradually, the study group reunites to form an alliance. Jeff, Troy, and Abed find Pierce looting the vending machines with Starburns, and the guys are almost ambushed by Shirley, Annie, and Britta in the rest room. Eventually, though, the members of the study group start to be picked off by their opponents. Troy and Annie are taken down during an outdoor battle with the glee club (which was pretty darn hilarious- Annie was hit when she was telling the glee club how lame it was that they were singing “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”). Shirley and Abed are taken out after what is probably my favorite scene in the episode. The remaining study group members are chatting by a fire about what they would do with priority registration. Shirley says she would try to take more morning classes so she could spend more time with her boys, and Britta is so touched by that she offers to give Shirley the prize if she wins it.

Jeff is starting to go on a rant about how Britta’s offer is insincere when the whole scene is interrupted by the Disco skating boy from the opening scene and a bunch of his Disco skating friends. With paintball guns. After this encounter, Britta and Jeff are the only members of the study group still left in the game. They have quite the uphill battle ahead of them, as the Dean and Señor Chang have a rather nefarious plan. The Dean is going to enroll Chang in a class so he can be put into the competition as a ringer. The game has gone on for a lot longer than the Dean anticipated, and he’s afraid the police we’ll be called and will “say [he’s] a bad Dean.” Chang has quite a lot of experience at paintball, so they’re confident their plan will work to end the game swiftly.

Jeff and Britta find themselves in the study room talking about how funny it would be if they took the group’s suggestion and hooked up. Their words say it’s a bad idea, but the protesting doesn’t last long. Jeff and Britta just barely have time to get dressed again before Chang invades the study room with the mother of all paintball guns. He pretty much sprays the entire room with paint, but Britta and Jeff remain sheltered under the table. Something has to be done to end the standoff, and Britta decides to take the fall. She and Chang shoot at each other at the same instant, and they both wind up covered in paint. Jeff goes over to Chang to gloat, and Chang reveals he has a paint bomb strapped to his chest and that there is no such thing as “priority registration.” Jeff runs out of the room and barely has time to close the door before all we can see on the windows is green paint.

Jeff, now victorious, confronts the Dean. Jeff is still a bit dazed from the ordeal, and he manages to be menacing enough that the Dean gives in and gives him a priority registration form. Later when Jeff and Britta walk into the study room, Abed can sense a change in the air. Luckily for Jeff and Britta, he can’t quite tell what that change is. Jeff and Britta are smiling instead of bickering, which I suppose proves Abed’s theory right. Most surprisingly, to both Britta and myself as a viewer, Jeff gives his priority registration form to Shirley as a Mother’s Day gift. Jeff Winger does have a heart after all- sometimes.

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