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Community: Pillows vs. Blankets

So this week I find myself in the unusual position of having mostly hated the episode of Community I just watched. Were I not your trusty recapper, I’d just shrug and say “Meh, Harmon & Co. had a bit of an off week,” but due to my position, I have had to examine what I didn’t like about this week’s episode.

We open to learn that we have somewhat abruptly reached the climax of the Troy and Abed pillow/blanket fort feud from last week. From the very moment I hit “play” on my DVR, I groaned a little inside to learn that we were in for another break from format. In this case, the second half of the pillows vs. blankets struggle is being told documentary style, a setup which is explained when the Dean tells Jeff that the Guinness Book of Records people are there to document whichever fort ends up being the world’s largest. I should have been excited about this, but instead, I felt a little tired. And the tone and pace of the narrative did little to wake me up.

What is important to remember, now that Community has become better-known, is that the game-changing, unquestionably awesome paintball episode that put Community on the map and started the tradition of genre-based episodes was a one-parter. It was a single, tight, incredibly well-executed episode in which they set up, climaxed (heh) and resolved the outlandish paintball plot with gusto. It makes me feel that stretching a not-terribly-funny joke, like the pillow fort, over two episodes should not be necessary.

The whole episode was done in kind of a dry, serious, PBS or History Channel-style war program, and perhaps I’m alone in thinking that wasn’t a genre that was really crying out for homage or parody. There were a lot of still photographs depicting the drama, and there were some talking heads from characters such as Annie, Shirley, and Leonard, but they never really clicked. And after the first time an earnest message was read aloud and then appended with something silly like “”¦Annie Edison, text message” or “Abed Nadir, Facebook status update,” the already weak joke started to wear thin.

The story’s silly premise seemed to be anchored by taking Abed and Troy’s conflict seriously. Maybe we are supposed to see that this episode wasn’t about the ridiculous pillow fight; it was about the struggle between two friends whose bond we, as the audience, are rather invested in. In the past few weeks we’ve seen their friendship take on the strain of adult struggles. As they both begin to realize that they have more time at Greendale behind them than ahead of them, the imaginative magic that powers their strong bond is not going to be enough to maintain their friendship.

I see their struggle more as Troy’s struggle; he has changed to be more like Abed rather than the other way around. Since Abed hasn’t given up much in his friendship with Troy, and in fact has gained his only true friend, he has more to lose than Troy but also may not know how to compromise. He seemed fundamentally incapable of Troy’s serious pleas for Abed to trust him when he knows what’s best for him. I’m not sure he’d be capable of changing anything about how he lives his life in order to keep Troy in it beyond the confines of Greendale.

And the climax, in which Jeff gently leads the guys to seeing that they want to stay friends, the episode concludes on a fairly earnest note. While the Magic Friendship Hats seemed a bit too easy, it also seemed a fitting way to bring the two back together, even if only temporarily. The fact that Jeff played along, even when no one else was watching, was a nice detail. But the post-credit telethon scene with Troy and Abed was strange. They so frequently star in those little bonus scenes, but right after the soft resolution of this big conflict it was weird to see their quirky smiles all lit up again like nothing was wrong.

So was I the only one who hated this episode? Am I way off? Oh, and did anyone else notice that Britta’s whole purpose was to be bad at photography and not speak any lines? Grumble, grumble, I say!

9 replies on “Community: Pillows vs. Blankets”

Ack, I had a lot of family stuff this weekend so I’m sorry I’m just getting to this now! The response throughout the internet was that fans loved this episode, so I am willing to concede there might just be something about it that didn’t click with me, personally. Now I wish I hadn’t deleted it from my DVR but there’s always Hulu!

I loved this episode. I think they did a great job at executing the Ken Burns style documentary. It actually made me go look up some of his real documentaries afterwards! I agree that dragging the pillow fort story line into 2 episodes was unnecessary, but this episode has me laughing out loud throughout.

I thought it was a really solid episode and probably one of my favourites. They parodied Ken Burn’s style documentaries (The Civil War, Jazz). Maybe because I study how the media/gov’t represent history and this utter mockery of iconic “history” documentaries KILLED me!

I thought Britta’s role was awesome. I like her character and I was perfectly satisfied with lines like “Just because a photo is black and white doesn’t make it artistic” I thought it was a great rip on the instagramming “artists” out there :)

I thought this episode was OK.  I am not a Britta fan, but I’m also not a Jeff&Annie fan, so while I’m fine with not seeing much of B, I’m not thrilled that they’re still beating the J&A dead horse.  Troy and Abed’s relationship is probably one of the most important things to me in the show, and so it give me tv-level stress for them to be at odds.  I love them both, but you’re totally right about Troy having given up more to be Abed’s friend.  I wonder if it will actually end with him going for the air conditioning repair…

Huh. I thought this was by far the best episode since the hiatus. But I’m kind of a sucker for the genre episodes, and I grew up with my dad always watching/talking about the Ken Burns PBS documentaries, so it was a parody that struck me as really funny and accurate. Though I definitely agree that there was not enough Britta, because there is never enough Britta. They should have given her some lines instead of circling around more Annie/Jeff flirting.

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