Like every other self-respecting Community fan, I’ve been excited about this paintball episode since I first heard about it. What may seem like a cheap ploy to recapture the magic of season one’s game-changingly awesome episode is actually pretty consistent for the series. They’re very big on continuity, and annual Greendale events are becoming a regular occurrence.
This year, instead of seeing things through Jeff’s point of view, we start off with Fat Neil being chased by the perpetually-on-his-way-to-the-gym bully played by Anthony Michael Hall (see? another reference to last season). The bully and his gang are quickly dispatched by Annie, the Ace of Hearts. Apparently this year is all about westerns. I am fairly confident that there were many western movie references that I missed, which may have been why I didn’t enjoy this episode as much as I did last year’s. For example, was the playing card naming device for the characters an allusion to some classic western? What about Shirley’s priest outfit? Inquiring, non-western-watching minds want to know.
They also decided to make this a two-parter, and while it’s true that will allow them to fit in more plot in the long run, this episode’s pacing suffered as a result. I can see that they’re building to something great for next week, and that episode will probably be awesome, but I can’t help but wonder why they didn’t just make this an hour-long episode and air it all at once. (There has been a rash of those lately, probably because shows are ending their seasons at different times.)
Anyway, through Annie’s spork-sparked flashback, we learn that this year’s game was kicked off at an ice cream social/hoedown sponsored by Pistol Patty’s Cowboy Creamery, which at least explains everyone’s western wear. The intentionally creepy-looking ice cream cone mascot reveals an arsenal of paintballs to the crowd and declares that the prize is $100,000 cash.
It looks like they decided that this time around Annie will be the hot badass instead of Britta. Annie actually did a good job with it, although it was a bit out of place with her character, as evidenced by her shifting between ruthless paintball playing and whining, wide-eyed, “You guuuuuuys! Be nice to Pierce!” Also, are we still supposed to be surprised that Annie’s hot? Did we really need a slow-motion shot of her running in a low-cut outfit? (Oh, and if you’re wondering whether sex-starved losers across the Internet were going to salivate over it, wonder no more. Warming Glow has posted a disgustingly excessive 11-part slideshow of gifs of that five-second scene. Because OMG boobs! Bouncing! Ugh.)
Annie reluctantly joins up with Jeff and Abed, who are heading to the cafeteria to talk to Pierce. Pierce has set up a well-guarded fort (Fort Hawthorne!) in the cafeteria and has a protective agreement with his employees. I actually like when they show you the things Pierce is good at; after all, he’s a millionaire businessman and probably knows how to manage/manipulate people. Pierce wants the study group to go find an alleged store of ammo that’s somewhere in the school. While the rest of the gang doubts Pierce’s motives, Annie persuades them to trust him and they head off in search of the ammo.
When Annie runs off to shoot Chang, who’d betrayed Jeff to the Math Team, she learns that Pierce had reloaded their guns with blanks. She also has a second, super-sexy encounter with The Black Rider, played by Josh Holloway from Lost. I actually had to look that up because while he’s fairly well-known, he’s kind of generic-looking and mostly hidden under his cowboy hat. Kind of a strange choice for a cameo.
The gang then finds the Dean hiding in his little “country” outfit covered in paintballs. He lets the gang into the closet where he’d hidden all the leftover gear from last year, but not before offering one of them to pull the keys to the locker out of the pocket of his cutoff shorts.
All that’s left is the showdown with Pierce back at Fort Hawthorne, which has been decimated by The Black Rider in their absence. I won’t go into too much detail about this scene, because it was tiresome. Pierce says he feels left out, and that’s why he’s a jerk to them. They leave him out because he’s a jerk. Look, we all know this is just setting Pierce up for third-act redemption so we can start next season not hating him anymore.
So! The Black Rider comes in, and Pierce fools him (but not the rest of the group!) with a fake heart attack. That’s when we learn that he only participated because of a loophole; he takes a class online, and the ice cream company hired him to win so they wouldn’t have to pay any money to a Greendale student. We end with the destruction of a still-blindfolded and handcuffed Chang at the hands of some alarmingly well-armed people in an ice cream truck. I am actually pretty excited to see next week’s, in the words of the ice cream cone, Plan B: Invasion!