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Revisited: 1.16 “Communication Studies” Review

1.16 'Communication Studies'

Communication Studies has grown on me more and more each time I watch it. This is definitely one of my favourites from season one and contains every element of a Community episode that I like. The most important trait of this episode is that every character has their part to play; everyone has some type of value. This is something rarely seen in more recent episodes where the scope of the story has a much smaller focus. The two plots in the episode are of equal importance, more so than the usual A-B plot where one is more for comedic display.

The episode takes place on Valentines day at Greendale. The writers have chosen not to do a classic type Valentines Day scenario where all the characters either have relationship problems or sob about being lonely. They do take a very similar approach to these but in a new refreshing way. Instead of sobbing about not having ladies in their lives, Pierce and Troy simply pretend to have women to be cool.  This story lends itself more to the sense of belonging within the study group with the Jeff/Slater relationship as a minor speed bump on this journey.

The central plot involves Jeff and Britta, a very familiar pairing. Abed later joins this pair to serve as Jeff’s guide through unknown territory. After a drunk phone call puts a strain on Jeff and Britta’s friendship, Abed steps in to mend the relationship in fear of Britta leaving the group. Of course, Abed does this in style by joining Jeff in an overnight drinking session in an attempt to get Jeff believably drunk enough to make an equally embarrassing drunk call to Britta. This sort of mentoring from Abed was largely unseen up until this point. We had a bit of a glimpse of it in “Investigative Journalism” but this time Abed decides to take matters almost directly into his own hands.

The drinking session ends up having consequences for both Jeff and Abed, with Jeff accidentally phoning his girlfriend and statistics professor Michelle Slater and hanging up when he realizes he had called the wrong person. Abed on the other hand, temporarily lost a bit of himself. He lost the ability to recall movie and pop culture references.

Soon after at the dance, Jeff is blown off by Michelle. Jeff then confesses the true nature of the situation but it wasn’t enough for Slater’s satisfaction. Then comes a moment we have not yet seen in Jeff Winger. At this particular moment Jeff is out of ideas and at a loss for words. For a guy who always has the right thing to say, this came across as worrying. If Jeff doesn’t know what to do, who does? Then, along came Britta. Much like how Jeff came to her aid in “Advanced Criminal Law”, Britta comes to the rescue out of friendship.  This is the first time that I believed as a viewer that Jeff and Britta were truly friends beyond belief. I was however, left with a little hint of “there’s still something else between them”.

It had seemed unusual to me at the time that Britta would go through the trouble of dressing up and go to the dance all for the sake of rattling Jeff’s cage a bit. Even as I re-watch this episode now after a year and a half since it’s original release, I get the same feeling. I still don’t know if I was right or not. At the finale, I got a sense that I was right in my first guessing, but in season two my Jeff/Britta shipper theory is seemingly smashed into smithereens in “Anthropology 101?. This door was re-opened in “Paradigms of Human Memory” later that season. Now, in the third season I still see a chance, although a much smaller one, of this still happening. These characters know a lot more about each other now, making it even more difficult for any of them to get together. I do believe that if any pair on the show has a chance at a relationship it is Jeff and Britta since they have the most in common, personality wise.

The other half of this episode featured Annie, Shirley, Pierce and Troy opposite Senor  Chang. A lot of times the B-Plot carries the episode in terms of comedy, but I feel like both stories within this episode shined in their own right. If it wasn’t for the whole drunken night montage in Abed’s dorm room, this would be true. Troy and Pierce begin to evaluate their love lives when they don’t receive any gifts from the Cupid Being (the Greendale Human Being with wings) on Valentines Day. The following day the pair send themselves Valentines gifts and are heavily scrutinized by Senor Chang for being lonely. This, of course, comes only a few months after we learn that Senor Chang was kicked out of his house by his own wife and cried on Jeff’s shoulder at the thought of missing her. Having regained his wife, Senor Chang is now cockier than ever, and pounces on the opportunity to make Troy and Pierce get a taste of what he had just a few months prior. This issue was not at all talked about in this episode, I just thought it’d be funny to point out that Senor Chang used to be the lonely one, and he was even worse than either of the two in this story.

Chang’s anger and abuse of power come into effect as always, but the real comedic anchor in this plot was Chang’s behaviour at the dance. He is seen dancing on his own in the middle of the floor with a serious groove going, and what appears to be a bottle of liquor in his hand. This shot is shown while Troy and Pierce are having a sort of pep-talk with Annie and Shirley about honesty, and ironically enough, what a monster senor Chang is. Once Troy and Pierce hit the dance floor, Community fans are introduced to something that will be seen many many more times in the future: Troy crying while doing a task against his will. That was golden. Well done, Donald Glover.

Each story has it’s own moral triumph. For the Pierce/Troy story, they discover that they don’t need girlfriends in their lives to be cool because they are already in a group that accepts them for who they are. In the Jeff/Britta story, it’s hard to say what has become of the two. I feel like Jeff has learned he can rely on Britta as a friend and no longer needs to worry about defining their relationship, but what’s to say about Britta? We certainly learn more about her character from this episode, but what has she learned? I think if anything, she has learned that she can take the higher moral ground. She could have easily not have said anything to Michelle about the contents of her voicemail, but she did. She chose to make Jeff happy instead of trying to keep Jeff for herself, which, judging from the season one finale, is what she really wanted.

Final Grade: A

– Jeff switching clothes with the pizza guy
– Jeff waking up with two masks on (was the first mask the one from pulp fiction?)
– Britta saying “WASSSUP” on the phone, much like the season 3 premiere
–  Chang’s dancing is awesome
– Troy’s reluctance to dance with Chang
– Abed: “You broke me”
– Laaaaadies, get in my mercedes

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