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Recap: Community S1 E23: Modern Warfare

It's near the end of the semester, and as the other members of the study group discuss how infuriated they are getting at Britta and Jeff's Unresolved Sexual Tension, Dean Pelton walks in to inform everybody about the school's upcoming "Spring Fling", featuring music, food, activities, "what-what!" He also mentions that there will be a game of "Paintball Assassin", with a special prize for the last man standing- what was to be a Blu-ray DVD player, until it was stolen, and is now "TBD".

As Troy ponders whether or not he wants this new "TBD" that Pierce is pretty sure he had for about a month in the seventies, Jeff announces that he will be going to his car for a short nap. When he wakes up, he stumbles out of his car to find the school all but destroyed with paintballs. Interrogating Garrett, whom he finds lying slumped over in the hallway, Jeff discovers that shortly after the paintball game started, the students turned on each other once the Dean announced what the final prize for the winner would be. When Jeff asks what the prize was, he is told that the game has not concluded, and is "still happening! Right now!"

Before Jeff can extract any more information from Garrett, a Laser Sight appears, and Leonard plugs Garrett with paintballs several times before moving on to Jeff. Disregarding Jeff's insistence that he's not playing with the response that "Everyone's playing!", he pursues Jeff down the hallway, where Abed emerges, vaults over Jeff, and saves him by shooting Leonard with a few paintballs of his own. Abed takes Jeff from wandering in the Neutral Zone to the base of operations he has set up with Troy, where they finally reveal to Jeff the prize that has driven student against student: priority registration, the first pick for your schedule of classes next semester.

The Community episode "Modern Warfare" provides examples of:

  • Action Episode Quiet Drama Scene: The remains of the study group around the campfire and Jeff and Britta's After Action Patch Up.
  • Affectionate Parody: The best paintball-based Satire/Parody/Pastiche of Post Apocalyptic and Heroic Bloodshed action movies since Spaced.
  • After the End: The majority of "Modern Warfare" takes place after Dean Pelton announced the prize to the school's paintball competition, causing almost all of the students to turn on each other almost immediately. The school is a paint-soaked wasteland in under an hour
    Jeff: What was the prize?
    Garrett: "Was"?! This is not over! This is still happening! Right now!
  • Almost Kiss: Double Subverted with Jeff and Britta — they do the lean in while mocking the Florence Nightingale Effect, and do a silly smooching act. Then they do it again, and there we go.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: The Chinese song that plays over Chang's big entry is a song sung by Jing Ke (? -227 BC), a Chinese assassin. The song was sang by Jing Ke as he was sent to assassinate the King of Qin, who would later become the Emperor of China after surviving the assassination attempt. Jing Ke sings, "風蕭蕭兮易水寒,壯士一去兮不復還." The lyrics literally translates to: "The winds blow, river freeze. The hero fords, never returns!"
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Jeff, Britta, Abed and Shirley near the end.
  • Badass Crew: The study group as a whole, for surviving as long as they did in such hellish conditions.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Chang puts one on to take out Jeff and Britta.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Shirley's age issues crop up again when she comments on how Jeff and Britta are no Sam and Diane:
    Annie: [Perplexed] Who are Sam and Diane?
    Shirley: [Losing it] Okay, we get it! You're young!
    • Jeff and Britta's Unresolved Sexual Tension and constant bickering is seen to have become this for the Study Group, with two instances of the other members of the group nearly eliminating the two of them from the game because they're just that sick of it.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Black Dude Gets Paint On Him First: Troy is the first of the study group to go down in the paintball game after he "made God mad".
  • Bling Bling Bang: The two gold-painted paintball guns Senor Chang uses in homage to Face/Off.
  • A Bloody Mess: Inverted; "It's blood! I thought it was paint but I'm just bleeding! Thank god for that..."
  • Bodyguard Betrayal: Pierce's defection from Starburns.
  • Bullet Time: In a style similar to John Woo movies, Chang and Britta's shootout. Complete with two paintballs colliding in mid-air.
  • Camping a Crapper: Britta's group's strategy is the Trope Namer.
  • Come with Me If You Want to Live: Spoofed.
    Abed: Come with me if you don't want paint on your clothes.
    • As other episodes show, Jeff getting his clothes ruined would be worse than death for him...
  • Continuity Nod: Abed's bandolier of paintball pellets has a slot for his lip balm.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Pierce finally finds a use for adult diapers.
  • Deader Than Disco: Invoked. The first scene features a guy roller-skating through the hallway in an orange tracksuit and an afro, and Jeff comments that the guy's a tool and isn't going to bring disco back. He does.
  • Defensive Feint Trap: The Chess Club ambushes people by having one member step into a room then immediately run out, where three more wait outside the door. Right before they fall into the trap, Jeff realizes that "He's a pawn..."
  • Disco Dan: "Post-ironic Disco Stu" and his Gang of Hats.
  • The Dragon: Chang, for the Dean. He even has his own El Tigre tiger striped paintball gun. And dual gold handguns. And a room-painting suicide bomb.
  • invoked Dueling Shows: Several more stabs at Glee.
    • When Abed and Troy are explaining to Jeff the Glee club sniper trap:
      Troy: They say the glee club has lured stragglers into sniper traps with cheery renditions of hit songs.
      Jeff: Really? And people fall for that?
      Troy: Yeah.
      Jeff: I mean, I'm all for winning, but let's not resort to cheap ploys! [takes off shirt]
    • Later:
      Jeff: WRITE SOME ORIGINAL SONGS!
  • Epic Hail:
    Jeff: And tell the Drama Club their tears will be real today.
  • Evil Costume Switch: Not that he wasn't already kind of evil to begin with but Senor Chang changes to an outfit similar to that worn by The Killer once the Dean gives him the go-ahead to take out the remaining players.
  • Evil Laugh:
    • Senor Chang, when detonating his paint bomb.
    • He also shares a less cackling one with Dean Pelton earlier.
  • Failed a Spot Check: "Post-Ironic Disco Stu" fails to notice one of the doors to the Study Room in his path. Partially justified, in that the door's glass, aside from the several inch thick black border surrounding it.
  • Florence Nightingale Effect: Mocked by Jeff and Britta. And then played entirely straight.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When the group is voicing their irritation over Jeff and Britta's UST at the start of the episode, Pierce advises them to just do it and move on already. By the end of the episode, they've done just that.
    • Senor Chang becomes a student so that he can finish the game of paintball. Its relevance is revealed in the penultimate episode of the season.
  • Gangsta Style:
    • A continuity goof has Britta holding a gun Gangsta Style whenever the camera's on her and right way up when it's Over the Shoulder.
    • Played straight by Jeff, Troy and Abed when they "execute" the trio of students they sneak up on from behind.
  • Genre Savvy: For once, it's not Abed. Jeff anticipates Britta's sudden, but inevitable betrayal.
  • Gunpoint Banter: Between Jeff and Britta during the Mexican Standoff in the men's room. Lampshaded, the rest of the group gets annoyed at them.
  • Guns Akimbo: Annie, Britta and Shirley. For some reason, none of the other guys do except for Senor Chang, in his role as The Dragon, who pulls out dual gold plated guns after his paintball machine gun runs out.
  • Hidden Depths: When registering for a class in order to be made eligible for the game, Chang requests an arts and crafts class and mentions that he paints watercolours.
  • Homage: Tons.
    • The "ONE HOUR LATER" scene where Jeff wakes up echoes the same scene in 28 Days Later. It also has quite a similar feel to the ending of the first Resident Evil film.
    • The line "Stu-dy grooo-up! Come out and play-y-y!", a paraphrase of Luther's taunt in The Warriors. And it's used by a group of retro disco students who are very reminiscent of some of the film's weirder gangs.
    • Jeff's wardrobe, his anticipation of Britta trying to shoot him ("No paintballs, Hans?")]], and his final retaliatory gesture at the Dean are all taken directly from Die Hard. Also his entry, screaming "Deeeaaan!"
    • Chang's paint bomb plays out like the end of Predator.
    • Chang's entrance to the study room is straight out of a John Woo movie... minus the Disturbed Doves. Word Of God says they didn't have the budget for them.
    • Abed's entrance (see page image) was stolen from a certain leather-clad action girl.
    • Abed also stole his goggles from Riddick.
    • The music cues come from the island.
    • "Come with me if you don't want paint on your clothes."
    • Shirley spouting bible verses while kicking ass? There are a couple of brothers from Southie she should meet.
    • There is a reference to a certain black motherfucker (Pulp Fiction).
    • Troy's football pads referencing allllllll the way back to Mad Max 2.
    • The Britta/Chang scene results in two paintballs colliding, a straight from a scene in the 2009 film Wanted.
    • Jeff firing the paintball gun in the Deans office is very similar to a scene in Rambo.
    • The last player standing will win The Prize.
    • Chang entering as a wild card as the tecnically only non-student in a game of students killing one another is very much like Kiriyama in the film version of Battle Royale.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • Jeff taking off his shirt right after claiming they shouldn't resort to cheap ploys in a Reality Subtext reference to the viewer hook of Glee.
    • This exchange:
      Dean: There will be a prize for last man standing, (sotto voce) or last man in a wheelchair without paint on him.
      Britta: Or last woman.
      Dean: Give it a rest, Britta! Ugh.
    • Britta calls Jeff out on how immature it is that he didn't trust her and removed the clip from his gun in case she betrayed him, only for Jeff to retort that she's wearing Hello Kitty panties and actually has just tried to betray him.
  • I Feel Guilty, You Take It: Jeff ends up giving the prize to Shirley, who has the most need for it of the members of the study group, and remarks that he didn't expect that of himself. Played with in Britta's case; although she's the one who suggests giving the prize to Shirley, Jeff accuses her of just being a hypocritical, self-righteous phoney trying to score points of Shirley's situation, pointing out that she was the only one who hadn't yet revealed what she'd do with the prize and that she'd look like an asshole if she didn't decide to give it to Shirley. Britta later admits that he may have had a point.
  • If We Get Through This: "What are you guys gonna do if you win priority registration?" As soon as Shirley mentions her kids, you know she's out the game.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: The moment when Britta's and Chang's paint bullets hit each other.
  • It Works Better with Bullets: Jeff removes his magazine before sleeping with Britta, predicting her betrayal.
  • I've Heard of That What Is It?:
    Dean: The prize was a Blu-ray DVD player... but it got stolen. So now it's TBD!
    Troy: I want TBD! Is that new?
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Britta protests that Jeff's accusation that she slept with him in order to get him to lower his guard and then betray him is 'gross', but as Jeff points out, her protests ring pretty hollow and self-serving considering that she did sleep with him and then tried to betray him once his guard was down. Britta also admits that Jeff had a point when he accused her of being a self-righteous phony after she insisted that everyone sacrifice the prize to Shirley if they win it.
  • Leap and Fire: Abed's introduction (pictured). Bad Ass.
  • Mexican Standoff: Throughout.
  • Nobody Here But Us Birds:
    • Abed's signal to Troy that he's coming in.
    • Another one is heard right before Troy is shot by the Glee Club.
  • No Honor Among Thieves: Pierce betrays Starburns while they're stealing from the vending machines.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: Said by Abed after Jeff and Britta have sex, though they did not figure out that it had happened.
  • Oh, Crap: Abed's realization at the men's room urinal when he sees fresh green paint roll down, highlighting the paintball outline of the previous users who got trapped there.
  • Only Sane Man: Subverted; when he learns that the prize is priority registration, in line with this trope Jeff's initial reaction is to scoff "is that all?" — then he takes a second to think about it, realizes what it means, and joins in the craziness with everyone else.
  • Out Run The Fireball: Out Run the Paintball. When Senor Chang reveals his contingency plan with a paint bomb. Extra ridiculous when you realize that Jeff had already won the game. He was the last man standing. Jeff was already out when he does the dramatic jump and the paint is stopped by the windows.
  • Paintball Episode: The game is set in the whole school area.
  • Playing the Heart Strings: Abed and Shirley's outro.
  • Post-Apunkalyptic Armor: To increase the post apocalyptic feel of paintball greendale, Troy wears this. Other characters do as well to a varying degree (see Scavenged Punk).
  • The Power Of Trust: Played with; the nature of 'The Prize' means that everyone will eventually turn on each other in order to get it — however, as with the study group, most of the people who make it furthest through the game do so by forming 'packs' with other people they trust to watch their backs. In keeping with this, throughout the episode whenever one of the group tries to betray the others it usually backfires on them (Troy immediately gets shot when he suggests turning on the others to Shirley, and Britta's attempt to betray Jeff is scuttled when he reveals her gun is empty).
  • Pre-Climax Climax: Parodied with Jeff and Britta's hook-up.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: To the Chess Club:
    Jeff: Checkmate, bitches!
  • Redemption Equals Death: Redemption Equals Getting Paint On Your Clothes. Britta makes up for her attempt to double-cross Jeff by sacrificing herself to defeat Chang.
  • Reset Button: All that paint is cleaned up impossibly quickly at the end; the school looks pristine just a few hours after the game ended.
  • Reverse Psychology:
    Jeff: Hey Pierce, don't come over here, okay?
    Pierce: Screw you! I'm comin' over there!
  • Scavenged Punk: The episode contains a nod to the After the End variety of this, specifically referencing Post-Apunkalyptic Armor. Many of the characters outfits are pieced together from random available equipment. In some cases it makes solid sense (Troy, a football player, wearing some modified football pads), other times it is simply amusing (members of the chess club wear plastic bowls with chess pieces attached as helmets).
  • Schmuck Bait: All over the place, with Reverse Psychology and Uriah Gambit.
    • The chess club tries to lure the study group out by sending in a pawn.
    • The glee club's rendition of Pat Benatar's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" is designed to lure people out by being way too on the nose.
  • Screaming Warrior: Jeff, while redecorating the Dean's office.
  • Serious Business:
    • Priority registration. While it's not something people generally turn violent over (at least in any way that could help their ranking), it is a major issue for students further down the chain when vital classes are only offered at a certain time (whole graduation plans can be thrown off by months or years because a required class is only available once a semester or once a year).
    • The paintball tournament itself, which everyone approaches as if it were an actual post-apocalyptic warzone.
  • Shirtless Scene: Jeff spends the episode in his muscle shirt.
  • Slept Through the Apocalypse: Parodied; Jeff naps through the apocalyptic first hour of the paintball game.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Jeff and Britta, as per usual. Lampshaded.
  • Stereotype Flip: Chang takes a break from this to embrace being a John Woo-style Gun Fu badass.
  • There Can Be Only One: Only the last man standing will receive the prize.
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!:
    • Jeff when he finishes off the Chess Club:
      Jeff: Checkmate, bitches!
    • Senor Chang to Jeff:
      Jeff: You're not even a student!
      Senor Chang: Wrong! [Holding up college schedule] "Critical Media Literacies" and "Politics of Gender", biyatch!
  • Trashcan Bonfire: Jeff, Britta, Abed, and Shirley gather around one of these in the cafeteria.
  • Trash the Set: You might think that "Modern Warfare" was made last, as only two more episodes of the 25-episode first season follow it, and the episode features the entire school getting covered in paint and all the furniture getting upended for cover. The episode's production number? 19. That means they filmed six more episodes of the season after ruining their set. Apparently, that Reset Button overnight cleaning at the end was real. Which may explain in part why the Season 2 paintball episode(s) was the finale, complete with tag of the irritated school janitor looking ahead at a long summer of cleaning paint.
  • Unfortunate Implications: Averted and discussed on the DVD commentary. The episode tries very hard to avoid the viewer being reminded of actual school shootings.invoked
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: The study group complains about this getting unbearable.
    Abed: To be blunt, Jeff and Britta is no Ross and Rachel. Your sexual tension and lack of chemistry are putting us all on edge. Which is why, ironically - and hear this on every level - you're keeping us from being Friends.
    Britta: Jeff and I do not have sexual tension. We just argue all the time.
    Shirley: Awww, just like Sam and Diane! I hated Sam and Diane.
  • The Uriah Gambit: Jeff discovers the position of the Glee Club by telling Pierce "not" to come over to him.
  • Wall Jump: Abed's Matrix-style one, taking pride of place as the image at the top of this page.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Britta has the nerve to pull this on Jeff after she tries to betray him, calling him gross after he accuses her of sleeping with him just to get him to lower his guard. Jeff quickly points out the hypocrisy of her position.
  • Whole Plot Reference: The plot of "Modern Warfare" can be construed as a Whole Plot Reference to several movies. Battle Royale: A schoolmaster forces his students into a competition where they have to finish each other off one by one. He also enters a ringer who wishes to enter for fun, and one who has played the game before. At the end, the last man standing breaks into his ivory tower and finishes him off. Which is also a very similar premise to The Condemned, The Running Man, and Death Race, if you replace school students with prisoners... If you focus on Jeff's perspective, he lives out Die Hard almost scene for scene, being caught at the wrong place at the wrong time.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Discussed about Britta and Jeff. The resolution of They Do is sarcastically teased by them, then they play it straight and have sex in their hide-out in their usual study room in the library.

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