Last night featured one of Community‘s distinctive parody episodes, this time emulating a PBS documentary style established by Ken Burns (see his award-winning film The Civil War) to depict the epic pillow fight between Troy and Abed. While much of the episode is devoted to following the documentary structure, the heart of the story lies with the conflict between our favorite Greendale pair and whether they can truly overcome this rupture in their friendship.
This is the third documentary-style episode on Community (the first was in season 2 when Pierce enlisted Abed to film his fake impending death; the second was earlier this season when Abed sought to document the Dean’s new commercial), but this time Abed is in front of the cameras as the “socially dysfunctional best friend turned bitter rival” (according to Keith David, the narrator of the episode and same voice behind several Ken Burns films).
The Details of War
The film starts by reviewing “The Cause” of the war when Troy went to build his own blanket fort for the Guinness World Records after Abed decided to continue his pillow fort without consulting Troy, resulting in “The Study Room Kerfluffle” and start of the full-blown war. Sides are established (Abed’s United Forts of Pillowtown vs. Troy’s Legit Republic of Blanketsburg), a map outlining the territories is created, and reinforcements called upon (Troy brings in Chang and his Changlorious Bastards, the preteens from the Bar Mitzvah, and Abed brings out his secret weapon: Pierce as the pillow villain, “part man, part pillow, all carnage”).
A Painful Breaking Point
After two more battles recorded via student cellphone footage, Troy intercepts an email from Abed citing Troy’s greatest weakness as his emotional frailty, including a list of his distractions, including the color red, shiny things and anyone saying “look over there.” Troy retaliates with a text message to Abed harshly stating he was Abed’s first and only friend, because “NOBODY ELSE WILL EVER HAVE MY PATIENCE WITH YOU.” These personal jabs obviously hit deep, giving this thus-far somewhat silly quarrel some serious significance, as we finally believe the possibility that these two will end their friendship. This gets worse when Jeff intercedes with a secret summit meeting between the two, only exacerbating the problem and bringing them to agree the loser of the war must move out of their apartment.
The Power of Imaginary Hats
Finally it’s the closing battle (“The Battle of Greendale,” located in the cafeteria), portrayed through a series of slow-motion pans of fighting images, until the Dean blows the whistle, announcing the Guinness rep who was set to visit and verify their record was fired. Everyone else immediately quits the war, but Troy and Abed continue to feebly hit each other with pillows for hours, neither one willing to give up on the fight because that would mean the end of their friendship. Jeff finally sees this is no ordinary disagreement and that the two childish companions have indeed gained some “grown-up problems” that cannot be erased with nonsensical fun and games.
Yet it’s ultimately a make-believe concoction (Jeff’s sarcastically created “magical friendship hats”) that brings them together again, once Jeff treats the imaginary hats with earnest regard (he left the hats in the Dean’s office, so must leave to retrieve them). While it’s not the perfect resolution, and Troy and Abed may never fully overcome this divergence in their relationship, perhaps their commitment to the childlike folly that bonds them is enough to sustain them for now.
The Rest of the Study Group
The rest of the gang has minor appearances (Shirley is Troy’s second-in-command who recounts the battle scenes with gravity for the film crew, Britta is a failed photographer attempting to capture the war-torn moments), with Annie once again attempting to bring out a compassionate side to Jeff, which seems to work (he comes to the conclusion “I would do anything for my friends” in his journal), albeit with him proclaiming his breakthough to be profound and overtaking the narrator’s voice-over to boast to the audience.
While it wasn’t an entirely a dramatic episode (the mimicry took care of that), “Pillows and Blankets” didn’t carry the same light-hearted tone as a typical Community storyline, which I appreciated, given the subject matter. What did you all think of this week’s departure?
(Image courtesy of NBC)