Sunday, December 25, 2011

Holiday "Classic" Recap: Community: "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas"

“The meaning of Christmas is that we give it meaning. To me, it used to mean being with my mom. Now, I guess it means being with you guys. Thanks, ‘Lost.’”

It’s been a while since I covered the clever sitcom that is “Community” here at MTVP, so for Christmas, I thought I’d to a write-up of last season’s holiday episode, “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas.” The episode is memorable because the whole thing is stop-motion animated, in the tradition of classic Christmas specials like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” What makes this even more clever is that there’s actually an explanation within the episode’s plot for why everything looks this way. Of course, since it’s “Community,” the reason behind the strangeness is Abed. The stop-motion-ness of everything is actually inside his head. And for Abed, who will commit to a fantasy like nobody’s business, this makes perfect sense. Besides having a clever plot, the episode has plenty of the warm fuzzies that should come with any good holiday episode of television. The warm fuzzies are also well-distributed amongst lots of the pop-culture realted allusions and jokes for which “Community” is known.

The episode is stop-motion animated fright from the beginning. The study group is sitting in the cafeteria eating lunch and discussing winter break plans when Abed suddenly mentions that he’s been seeing everything in stop-motion since that morning. The group is a little worried because, even for Abed, this is strange. Even Abed himself admits to being a little worried. Abed decides to sing a song to stick with the stop-motion theme. This seemed like a good idea, and singing a Christmas version of the “Community” theme song while jumping across cars was cool, but in “real” life, Abed gets tasered by campus police and winds up in Professor Duncan’s office for a therapy session. Duncan mentions wanting to get at the real meaning behind Abed’s delusion, and for some reason, this makes Abed think that if he can somehow find the real meaning of Christmas, everything will go back to “normal.”

We next see Abed making a snowman, which actually turns out to be Chang (how creepy and gross is that!). Britta tells Abed he’s needed in the study room. The gathering in the study room turns out to be a group therapy session, led by Professor Duncan. I’m wondering why Duncan hasn’t really been on the show that much this past season. I’m a big fan of John Oliver, so his absence makes me sad. Duncan wants to do hypnosis on Abed (mostly because he thinks he could publish a journal article about it), so he says he’s the “Christmas Wizard,” and he’s going to take Abed and the rest of the study group to Winter Wonderland to find the true meaning of Christmas. The group goes with it, I guess because they don’t want to see Abed get expelled from school (and Pierce wants the cookies that are in the study room). When they “arrive” on Planet Abed (aka the most Christmassy planet), everyone but Abed transforms into Christmas toy versions of themselves. For instance, Britta is a robot, and Annie is a wind-up ballerina. Duncan wants to go to the “Cave of Frozen Memories,” and Abed agrees as long as it’s just a stop on the way to the North Pole.

As they walk, things start getting very “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Abed warns the group that the journey will test their commitment to Christmas. Shirley gets too sanctimonious about being the only one to know the “true” meaning of Christmas (because she’s the only devout Christian in the group) and says they’re actually in a therapy session, so Abed ejects her from Winter Wonderland. He also sings her out, Oompa-Loompa style. Next on their journey, the gang encounters a swarm of “humbugs.” Jeff is eaten by them for being too sarcastic (they’re attracted by sarcasm), and Annie takes care of his Oompa-Loompa sing-out.

The remaining members of the group arrive at the Cave of Frozen Memories, and Duncan attempts to demonstrate how to access a frozen memory. It’s a memory of his tenth Christmas, his last in England before he had to move to the United States. He gets a little too emotional and leaves out of embarrassment. Abed sets the Cave to self-destruct, and he says that to actually find the meaning of Christmas, the gang needs to catch a train to the North Pole. He lets everyone left join him except for Britta. He ejects her from Winter Wonderland for tricking him into therapy. Abed thinks Britta should have more faith in herself and her friends. Normally, I’d think he has a good point, but I think Britta had the more defensible position here. She didn’t want Abed to get expelled, and he’s freaking seeing everything in stop-motion!

On the train to the North Pole, Pierce decides to leave because the cookies are gone. Annie starts talking about how before her parents divorced, the holiday season was a “minefield of rituals” because her mom is Jewish and her dad is Episcopalian. Abed mentions that his family was similar before his parents divorced, because his dad is Muslim and his mom is Polish. He and his mom have a tradition of watching “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” together every December 9. Annie points out that today is December 9, but Abed says that since his mom isn’t there, it can’t be. It must be December 8. Duncan reappears, informing the group that he’s been to Abed’s doom room and has figured out what happened. Abed is pissed about this and calls Duncan a “Christmas Warlock.” Then Abed climbs out the train window and on to the roof of the train (I can only imagine what this must have looked like to the rest of the study group). Abed starts jumping along the train to the first car. Annie unhitches the first car from the rest of the train while Troy holds Duncan back. Abed isn’t going to be alone for the rest of his journey, though. Pierce returns because it was too depressing to go home.

Pierce and Abed arrive at Santa’s Workshop, and it looks abandoned. Then Pierce points out a sparkly box with a tag that says “Meaning of Christmas.” Abed excitedly opens the box, but it just turns out to be “Lost” season 1 on DVD. Abed says this is a “metaphor for lack of payoff,” which cracked me up, even though I didn’t think the “Lost” series finale was all that bad. Professor Duncan reappears, and he reads from a Christmas card Abed received from his mom that morning. The card says that she has a new family now and won’t be seeing Abed for Christmas this year. Suddenly, Abed is frozen. The rest of the gang then reappears, and they shoot Duncan with Christmas weapons (like Nerf guns and such, I presume), while singing about the meaning of Christmas. As they sing, Abed starts to thaw. After Duncan is vanquished, Abed says that he realizes now that Christmas can mean whatever you want. He used to think it meant being with his mom, but now it means being with his friends. Abed is better now, but the group decides to keep the stop-motion thing going through Christmas just for fun. They all cozy up together and watch “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Happy holidays everyone!

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