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Month – November 2010
I liked this episode. I also think I may end up being in the minority on that when all is said and done. After “Cooperative Calligraphy“, anything that didn’t reach it’s same level of amazing may be seen as a let-down, but I thought it did well in answering a lingering plot issue. That, and the typical levels of absurdity we are use to at Greendale, made for an enjoyable time.
“Conspiracy Theories” started with Annie showing off her latest diorama she made for her Environmental Club, in preparation for the Bio-Diorama-Rama. Troy & Abed then took off to build a blanket fort, and Dean Pelton introduced the A story for this episode. It appears Jeff has been taking a class with the only problem being…well it doesn’t exist. Jeff, not one to back down, decides he is going to prove to the Dean this class is real. Annie decides to tag along, and thus our story kicks off. Make no mistake about it, this is a Jeff/Annie (/Dean Pelton) episode the entire way through. Shirley & Pierce, aren’t seen again until the end of the episode, and it was almost the same for Britta except for a brief cameo midway through the episode.
Jeff goes to show the Dean the classroom (which is, woops, a supply closet), but to everyone’s surprise Professor Professorson shows up announcing he has indeed been teaching the class to Jeff. Jeff has no clue who this man is, but he is willing to let it go by because he just managed to score a free credit here! Dean Pelton seems to be happy with his findings, and goes back to writing his novel “Time Desk”. This is where Annie takes hold of the situation, wanting Jeff to not be lazy, and instead find out who this man is. The episode really feeds off the Jeff/Annie dynamic that they’ve shown in any story arc they’ve had together. Jeff has no interest in investigating this further, but like usual if Annie presses hard enough Jeff will go at it anyway.
Jeff, like he has mentioned before, cannot seem to say no to Annie. Annie has found out that the Professor isn’t who he says he is, and this leads to: Annie/Jeff finding this man (who’s really Drama Professor Sean Garrety), a chase scene throughout the huge blanket fort, then Prof. Garrety’s capture where Jeff finds out that the Dean is behind all of this. The even worse part about it? He’s obviously trying to teach Jeff a lesson, which we know Jeff is none to thrilled about at all.
Few quick notes on the B Story, the blanket fort. It was huge, and spread out through most of the hallways and rooms closest to Abed’s dorm. I think it would be a blast to actually go through something like that. It featured thing’s such as: Pierce’s Mom Memorial Tunnel, Civil Rights Museum, and a Turkish District. This is where Britta shows up (despite her earlier pleas that it was too childish) for a cameo, in what I’m assuming to be the High Art Room. The entire thing was over the top, but fun to see. In the end, when the fort became too mainstream (Greendale Journal Mirror reporting the blanket fort craze was sweeping campuses everywhere!) Troy & Abed determined it had to be shut down. This only means doing other things, such as making cardboard submarines!
The episode ends with everyone shooting each other with fake guns, as this was originally a lesson by Annie/Dean Pelton too teach Jeff a lesson about the slippery slope of academic fraud. That turned into a lesson teaching Annie about friendship. It all ended with the local police teaching all of them a lesson about using fake guns to…well…teach each other lessons. The lead up and actions during the entire gun fight scene were the important issues faced here. We know at the end of last season Jeff and Annie kissed. As we learned in the first episode of the season, and had re-enforced this episode, Jeff then didn’t bother to talk about it anymore the rest of the summer.
Despite acting cool about it beforehand, she really wasn’t. It isn’t fun for anything to share that moment, then basically be completely ignored. Not only that, but we got the confession from Annie that she loves Jeff. Is this loving him as a friend? Is she in love? These are questions to be answered later, as in the end all we get is Jeff admitting Annie was impressive in going off the cuff during their little charade (After which Britta gives a look that let’s us know she’s not sure what’s going on, but also that if it’s what she thinks it is, she doesn’t seem to happy about it.)
What we do know for sure is that Annie has grown up immensely since the beginning of the series. A Jeff/Annie relationship works now, because we’ve been able to see her grow more into being a woman. She may only be 19, but she has been through stuff (with her addiction), and this season has seen her take steps to show her independence more She is showing she can’t just be ignored or stepped on, but that she may also make some mistakes along the way. Annie confessing her feelings out in the open is showing her vulnerability as well. This may not be the best episode of the entire series, but it was fun, and was important to the progression of Annie. That and the fact Jeff, despite his best efforts, cannot get away with *anything*.
Episode Grade: B+
Best Lines & Other Random Thoughts
- I just would like to say in last week’s review that I called the Jeff/Annie thing. Alright, done gloating. I don’t think we are done with Jeff/Britta, though. Not, only because of Britta’s look at those two at the end, but also the writer’s have said they like to keep their options open with the relationships. I do think however that Jeff/Annie will be end up being the main couple of Community. Jeff/Britta have chemistry, but as I’ve heard Dan Harmon mention on DVD commentary, that doesn’t automatically mean it’s sexual chemistry. They both are of course very similar, and sometimes it’s more fun to see them get into mischievous games together. Jeff/Annie do have that certain relationship-y chemistry, part of it is being opposites, part of it may be sexual chemistry. Whatever it is, it just works.
- “You notice all the animals are wearing sunglasses?…Because the future is so bright!…Yeah.” (I loved the reaction by Annie when she said that.)
- “I hear one kid made a diorama about a world without dioramas.” (Pierce’s absolutely confused facial reaction after this statement, was priceless as well.)
- “Enjoy eating fiber, and watching “The Mentalist””.
- “Who wants to hang out in a blanket fort, with grown men, in tiny underroos?” Like clockwork, the Dean enters the room. One of my favorite running jokes.
- “Com you globen…bluh…”
- Speaking of Troy, I think an episode with him and Britta is up next. This season Abed/Shirley, Jeff/Annie, Pierce have all had eps basically built around just those characters, and I think those two are next. Don’t be surprised too if it involves romance.
- “Yes, you made that clear in your 11th “I can do this myself.” text.”
- “…figments. Thoughts of hot air. From the lips of a ghost, in the shadow of a unicorn’s dream.”
- “Did you just mispronounce et cetera?”
- “Well guess what? Annie’s got a gun!”
- Is there anyone on Community who isn’t hilarious to watch cry?
- “Fact: In 100% of all fake gun related shootings, the victim is always the one with a fake gun.”
- Of course, you’ve started looting Leonard. Of course you have.
One of the best parts about following a TV show is seeing the characters change and grow over time. I find it pulls me into the experience more, as it’s much easier to track specific developments and process them. Unfortunately, it seems shows can lose track of all the events and produce a less-than-satisfying resolution to previous conflicts. Cooperative Calligraphy is one of these make-or-break episodes that can contextualize the episodes before it and determine where the show will continue to. And what it does to comment on these characters over the season so far is magnificent.
The premise of the episode is simple: Annie’s pen is gone. It had to have been someone in the study group. No one leaves until it’s found. But the compelling element is the investigation. Through the episode, we go through cycles of watching the characters question each other over and over. Each study group member reveals why they have a reason to mistrust another. And the reasons all have to do with flaws the characters had in the very beginning of the show. Jeff’s still a persuasive manipulator. Pierce is still racist. Annie’s still childish. It’s in this way that Cooperative Calligraphy is an episode about the lack of change. By having all of these recurring character flaws brought to the surface and by seeing the study group interrogate each other, the audience and the characters begin to question why they’re all friends.
It’s excellent up to that point, but it only gets better with the resolution. After a ridiculously thorough search of the room, no one has the pen. Our group is sad and confused. Can they really not trust each other? And then it all comes together. Jeff gives a suggestion to comfort them, Abed analyzes it and they think it’s funny, Britta (being worldly) can validate it, and Troy can cheer them up with an explanation. It one moment the study group shows that their dissimilarities are what make them such great friends, and the only true change that’s happened throughout the series is the characters care for one another. That’s all that really matters. The lack of development in the character flaws and abundance of devotion is what’s truly keeping this group together, and this episode makes us proud to be a part of that. We’ve come to love these people, no matter the faults they have.
Grade: A+. Best episode of the season and one of my favorites of the series.
- The way this review came out, it didn’t focus on the comedy much. I think the other two reviews by ThatDrewGuy and Starburnsfanboy show just how packed with jokes this episode was, and almost ever single one of them hit hard. Go read those reviews for the awesome lines and some great analysis.
- The Puppy Parade was a perfect foil to the episode. It was quintessential Greendale in the way it was sort of wacky, yet believable. And having such a cute and comforting “outside” really did raise the tension of the bottle episode.
- It was funny seeing all of the little things from past episodes that Annie’s Boobs has stolen. Also, was Annie’s Boobs face always that scary?
I’m going to start with a confession. I haven’t been totally enamored with Community this season, as much as I was by end of last season. I felt “Modern Warfare” was one of the best things to ever be put on a TV screen, and as a Jeff/Annie shipper, I loved the season finale almost as much. Don’t get me wrong, I liked “Basic Rocket Science”, and I liked “Epidemiology 206”, but I also wondered if the show was doing too many of their own takes on other genres.
Maybe in too much of an effort to recreate the magic from “Modern Warfare”. I thought “Accounting for Lawyers” was one of the best episodes of the entire series, but some episodes like “Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples” took a couple viewings for me to appreciate them more. I know why I’ve felt this way, though. I had absurdly high expectations, and worse yet, I had no idea what would qualify in meeting those expectations.
I operated under the absurd premise of “I’ll know it when I see it!”. I hadn’t been this excited for a show since the early seasons of The Office, but unlike The Office, Community had a full season under it’s belt. For the 2nd season of The Office, it was just a good feeling that the show was even still going on in the first place. For me, I not only wanted Community to explode into a huge hit in it’s 2nd season that everyone watched, I wanted it to reach impossible levels of hilarity, and I wanted I to re-define the television medium altogether.
Again, absurd and unreasonable expectations. I wanted it to be the show I wanted it to be, yet I didn’t know what I wanted…until this episode. I will dare say that “Cooperative Calligraphy” can stand up to near any episode in the entire series, and also taught me how to take care of my problem — Sit Back, Relax, and Shut Up.
There is an episode in every great series where we realize what we knew all along: The people who are in charge of this show (Writers/Directors/Producers/etc…) know exactly what they are doing, are amazing at it, and we were probably foolish if we ever doubted them in the first place. On The Office, for me, that was “The Coup”. For Community, though? That’s easily “Cooperative Calligraphy”.
Tonight, there was only one story the entire time, and that was Annie has lost her pen, and she is determined to get it back. What I enjoyed in the cold open was that we got possibly a glimpse into what “Psycho” Annie was like, all with a scream that really made it seem like Annie just snapped. The reactions of the group were priceless, and it set the tone of the rest of the episode. The problem is this isn’t the first time it has happened, and to her it’s not even about the pen anymore, it’s about the principle of it. The pen isn’t that big a deal in itself of course, it’s that idea that someone in the group could actually take it. The idea that one of the people she has befriended, and grown to trust, has stolen from her and doesn’t have the decency to admit it.
The episode takes it from there, and gives us parts that remind us why we like each character. For instance, Pierce needs to get around now that he has two broken legs, so he has a new chair that allows him to move simply by blowing into a device. What makes it Pierce-like though: It’s one of the most expensive chairs he could get, AND he outbid 3 other hospitals to get the chair. The fact he thinks the chair makes him seem more than human, and not at all handicap, shows the lack of self-awareness that is part of what makes the Pierce character so funny.
Donald Glover also has an ability to make most lines seem even funnier then they already are. “Do they find thoughts in our butts?” is a funny line by itself, but with how the Troy character has been shaped up until now and it’s delivery, is a perfect example of how Donald takes those lines and makes them laugh out loud funny. Of course, this is only after Britta is the first to have her things gone through, with the worst item being a small amount of condoms. (“Big weekend?” “Can’t complain.”)
Britta, though, takes this as an invasion of her personal rights (which in a great moment drew a collective “Ughhh” from the group), but once it has happened to her she is just as determined as anyone to find out who took it. Little did Britta know she would later feel more violated after finding out that Abed has been keeping track of the menstrual cycles of all the women in the group. The show gave a chance for Abed to explain himself as to why he did it, which reminded us this still is a character who was to work through a lot to get where he wants to be socially, but still the women were understandably upset since he didn’t stop once he figured out what he was doing.
Shirley, the whole time thinking she would for some reason be passed over (or “I thought the Muslim had it!”), then had it revealed she may indeed be pregnant after the group discovered a pregnancy test in her purse. (“Are they seriously marketing pregnancy tests to black women?”) At this point, Jeff himself snaps and tears up the entire Study Room. Then we have a moment, where Annie realizes that she may have taken it too far to begin with, doesn’t like where it’s now gone, and after all “It’s a pen!”.
The episode ends on a warm note, and really it was never about who took the pen. It was about all of them realizing how far they have come, how much trust they have in each other, and that with all they’ve gone through together no one would try take something from any other for any malicious reasons at all. All that matters, really, is that they trust and have each other. This is the episode we show our friends when we try to get them hooked on the series. This is the episode that shows why we love Community.
Episode Grade: A+
Best Lines & Other Random Thoughts
- I definitely think we are heading back to the route of Jeff/Annie. It wasn’t just the look at the end, it was also just the overall idea of Annie expecting Jeff to take care of this, and of course in the end Jeff was there for her. Although….what *did* Britta mean when she commented on the kind of underwear Jeff usually wears? Hmm…
- Can we just give the Emmy for Best Actress in a Comedy Series to Gillian Jacobs now? Britta is one of the most complex/most important characters on television right now, and each episode only seems to re-enforce that. She’s liberal, she’s full of passion, and that’s why we love her. And while we are at it, mark Donald Glover down for Best Supporting Actor.
- Troy’s reactions to Britta’s “1984” speech, makes me think even more so that a Troy/Britta pairing could be a lot of fun. They are in a way Ying & Yang to each other, but in a way that’s different than Jeff/Annie. Britta, in part just by virtue of being older and from her own studies on the world, has a lot of knowledge and opinions about the goings on of the world. Troy is much more relaxed, but also can be impressionable at times. Just seems like it could provide some hilarious moments.
- “Awww, I wanna lick it.”
- “Oh, like you’re famous for your wit…”
- The facial reactions were great, but Troy’s told the most of a possible future storyline with him/Shirley since he knows what happened on Halloween.
- “Hasta la later.”
- “Are the thought police gonna make love to us?”
- “Do they find thoughts in our butts?”
- “Razzulz, Pazzazzuz!”
- “Yes, we were all just thinking that…in 1856.”
- “Ok…You just became my hero.”
- “Everyone stay within each other’s eye lines please one of you is a monster.”
- “I can explain…Oh, I thought you’d keep yelling over me.”
- “I wanna say thank you for doing this to me, I prefer being entombed in a mausoleum of feelings I can neither understand nor reciprocate…Can I get you anything? Ice cream? Best friend medal?”
- “What’s going on, and how can I help?”
- “They look luxurious.”
- “The Coup” was episode No. 31 overall for The Office, while “Cooperative Calligraphy” is episode No.34 of Community. Is it fair to say around episode #30-35 is when a show really gets it’s footing set?
- For those wanting to see when the pen got stolen, check when Troy says “Aww, I wanna lick it.”, and watch the table.
Community: Episode 208 “Cooperative Calligraphy”
9.5/10 — If you didn’t like this episode, you don’t like this show.
I don’t remember the internet ever being this excited about watching clothed (for the most part) community college students hang out together in a room together for twenty two minutes. 208 is the long awaited “bottle episode,” taking place entirely in the beloved study room. Annie can’t find her pen, which has apparently happened before. She believes a member of the study group is taking them, and hilarity ensues.
Season two, so far, has included several narrowly focused parody episodes. Ones on things like indie filmmaking, the space race/Apollo 13, and a (canonical) zombie apocalypse. While these have all been fun and well received on the danharmonsucks.com forums, many fans have been longing for an episode that reminds us why we fell in love with this show in the first place. Community is not special because it makes jokes about popular culture; Joel McHale does that better at his other job. Community is special because we love the characters that Harmon and Co. developed over a magnificent first season, and those characters are often at their best when they are sitting around the study room table and interacting with one another.
Cold Open: Annie Screaming, Troy being weird, Pierce depriving hospitals of expensive equipment. What else could you want? Plus, I love the idea that Greendale is having a puppy parade, and that the dean is so pumped about it.
Best line: Troy — “I wanna see if those wiener dogs are born that way, or if they start off normal and then get wiener.”
Act 1: These are the characters we fell in love with. Annie is uptight and pretty adorable throughout. It was nice to see Britta make a return to taking a ridiculous stance on something. It always seems to me that she knows that her position is ridiculous, but she feels that she needs to be “all or nothing” politically to have respect for herself. Plus, she gets props for the Pink Floyd lyrics. Some people might be put off by Abed and Jeff referring to their situation as a “bottle episode,” but the rapid fire, back and forth interaction among everyone should make up for any “they’re-over-using-meta-comedy” sentiments. Shirley starts off super nice, but her temper flares quickly. I love it when she is so clearly trying to take the high road, but can’t maintain her “turn the other cheek” demeanor when someone pushes back.
Best line(s) (tie): Shirley — “Britta, we’re sorry we embarrassed you and looked at your prophylactic equipment. Your lifestyle mistakes are none of our business.” And then: “I’ll make your ass sense.”
Act 2: Troy’s backpack contains nothing but a pillow. He should be everyone’s hero. The girls discovering Abed’s charts might be the funniest moment of the season for me. I especially loved it when Abed handed Annie a tissue and a chocolate, proving that, even though he was super creepy, he was also right. I don’t believe they are going to go where they’re implying they could go with Shirley/Chang, but it’s nice that they show a continuation of that story line. Everyone ultimately going insane is fantastic: Jeff ripping up the carpet, Annie stripping, everyone actually following, and finally cutting off the casts? The study group seems completely broken at this point, and we get maybe the saddest act 2 ending in Community ever. That last shot before the break really says everything about how much these people want to be able to trust each other completely, and how sad they are that they might not be able to any longer.
Best line: Abed — “For a while I thought I’d have to suffer through a puppy parade, but I much prefer being entombed alive in a mausoleum of feelings I can neither understand nor reciprocate.” Honorable mention: Troy — “What’s going on and how can I help?”
Act 3: It’s nice to see everyone so willing to blame something irrational rather than lose faith in each other, and then enjoying Troy’s story. This group being happy together makes me happy. The resolution is great because it shows us that the group is right. It’s fun to finally figure out what Annie’s Boobs has been up to since “Contemporary American Poultry.” Most importantly, it shows the audience (who might not be as willing to believe that this group was right in trusting each other) that the group should, in fact, be trusting each other.
Best line: Dean Pelton — “Non-miraculous? Wait… Abed.”
End tag: Puppy parade floats. I’m disappointed that it wasn’t Troy and Abed, but then again, I’m a cat person.
Best line: Dean Pelton booing “Equality + Togetherness”.
Final thoughts: The only complaint that I have about this episode is that the balance is off. Act 2 is too long, and act 3 is too short. This leaves the resolution feeling forced (time-wise), even though I think that the group deciding that they would rather believe in something unbelievable than not trust each other is the perfect ending. Other than that, this episode is everything fans who have been asking for a character-driven episode could have hoped for.
edit: it’s over now.
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Community: Season One DVD
Regular price: $85.95
“Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the very best bottle episode ever produced.”
I want an A-bed and Pierce episode.
Someone uploaded videos of the Community Q&A at UCLA
Saw it at Community 101