Recap: Community S2 E11: Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas
"Fair warning, guys. A journey through Winter Wonderland tends to test your commitment to Christmas. So when I say test, I mean Wonka-style. I'm talking dark. My advice: Stay honest, stay alert, and for the love of God, stay between the gumdrops."It's Christmas time again for the study group when Abed announces that everything's in Stop Motion animation. The group, suitably worried, take Abed to Professor Duncan for therapy. Though Abed at first rejects this, he's tricked into going to the study room for a group therapy session... which he immediately turns into a magical trip through the mind, Willy Wonka-style.To accomplish this, he turns his friends into variations of toys from the Island of Misfit Toys (see image). Now they have to trek through the Winter Wonderland wilderness, avoiding the perils along the way, going through the Cave of Frozen Memories, all to reach the North Pole and find the true meaning of Christmas.Has a YMMV page.
The Community episode "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas" contains examples of:
- Affectionate Parody: Of the Rankin/Bass stop-motion Christmas specials, but especially Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
- All There in the Manual: This interview with Dan Harmon (warning: spoilers for episodes after this one) explains the reasons why Abed chose those toys to represent his friends:"Abed sees Jeff as a big talking head with limited practical functionality, and he sees Pierce as maybe deserving of more love than he gets, and sees Troy as a soldier, and sees Britta as a malfunctioning device, and sees Annie as a creature of grace, and sees Shirley as a big baby who feels entitled to the Christmas of her choosing."
Shirley: [Wheedling] Abed, did you say my Christmas self was a baby? Are you sure you didn't say I was a Christmas angel? [Petulant and threatening] I think that must be what you said, right, because you respect me too much to imagine me as a baby.
- Some dialogue does hint at this, including the Britta-bot song (which basically suggests that Britta's lonely and broken because her cynicism and sarcastic attitude towards everything keep her from forming meaningful connections with anyone) and this exchange:
Britta: Geez, maybe if you cry enough, he'll change you.
Shirley: Uh, you do know why he said you were a robot, right?
Britta: [Smugly] Because I'm progressive and kick-ass?
Shirley: How about 'heartless' and 'Godless'?
- An Ass-Kicking Christmas: The group beats the snot out of Duncan.
- Big Red Button: It summons the Christmas pterodactyl! Also initiates the self-destruct.
- Break the Haughty: Abed does this to Duncan, making him relive his tenth Christmas with his dad nowhere to be found.
- Break the Cutie: Duncan later does it to Abed, using his mother's absence to reduce Abed to actual catatonia.
- Call Back:
- This episode isn't the first time that Abed has managed to turn one of Professor Duncan's rather self-serving psychological experiments back on him.
- The Dean using a boombox to make announcements references the pilot
- Abed being tasered after jumping on a car references Chang and Jeff after Chang gets fired
- Duncan's wizard robes look awfully familiar...
- The Cast Showoff: Somewhat averted; Alison Brie, who sings a bit in real life, was asked to tone down her performances because people would find it unrealistic that Annie is a good singer. Played straight with Yvette Nicole Brown, who belts her section of the song.
- Christmas Episode: A Deconstruction, even of parodies of Christmas episodes - here, the parody Stop Motion is in fact a result of Abed's mental breakdown.
- Cool Train: The Planet Abed train. Going at the "speed" (actually emotional detachment) of Björk.
- Darker and Edgier: While the previous episode had ended on a somewhat somber note, this episode is deals not only with Abed's serious emotional problems, but casts his distancing of himself from reality in an extremely frightening light.
- Deadpan Snarker: Jeff gets eaten by "hum-bugs" because he is one.Britta-Bot: If only he could find the power to not be a smug douche.
- Deconstructs Abed's Genre Savviness and Leaning on the Fourth Wall. In this episode, he breaks the fourth wall... and all his friends worry about his sanity.
- It also deconstructs the "true meaning of Christmas" by saying that the true meaning is that Christmas has whatever meaning we impose on it - thus meaning there is no "true" meaning.
- Disappeared Dad: Apparently, Professor Duncan had one.
- The Ditherer: Shirley calls Jeff and Britta out on being this when they balk at having to drop their aloof and cooler-than-thou personas and sing in order to help Abed: "Will you two commit to something for a change?!"
- Dr. Jerk: Duncan is the psychological variation; he's less interested in helping Abed than publishing a paper based on his delusions, and then when Abed brings up the memory of his own painful Christmases drives Abed into catatonia out of little more than spite. The fact that he's not a very good psychologist is also frequently lampshaded.
- Dwindling Party: Only Pierce manages to make the trip with Abed to the North Pole. Everyone comes back in the end though.
- Troy and Annie remain with him, but sacrifice themselves to help Abed by stopping Duncan.
- Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: Christmas pterodactyl! And even better, an exploding Christmas pterodactyl.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: "Sad quick Christmas song..."
- Fake Brit: Duncan's not technically a Fake Brit but you wouldn't know it from the way he talks about "52nd Street in Islington".
- Fatal Flaw - Jeff just can't be sincere.
- Food Porn: The Tag involves Troy imposing stop-motion on reality again for the sake of delicious-looking fake food.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus:
- Funny Background Event: As the Dean and Duncan drink together, the gang breaks into the holiday-zone and steals the tree. Then Shirley comes back and takes the menorah.
- A snowman peering at the group behind the tree is highly likely to be Chang in real life.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: After Abed walks off from the Snow-Chang, Chang says that he could've spent more time on the third button... which is approximately located at Chang's crotch.
- The Grinch:
- Duncan's not a fan of Christmas, most likely because of his Disappeared Dad.Duncan: Hey, this is not my fault! This is what Christmas does to people. We put too much meaning into it and it lets us down!
- Britta, with her outspoken dismissals of Christmas and many of the holiday trimmings, also comes off as a bit of a killjoy as well. This is, however, not why Abed ends up excluding her from his Christmas journey.
- Jeff is also pretty snide about the Christmas wonderland Abed is describing, although in his case it's less a hatred of Christmas and more him being typically smug and aloof as always.
- At the end, Shirley calls out both Jeff and Britta when they start to waver in their resolve to help Abed simply because they'll have to sing.
- Duncan's not a fan of Christmas, most likely because of his Disappeared Dad.
- Heroic BSOD: Abed goes into one right after The Reveal that his mother has another family.
- Hypocritical Humor: Annie plans to spend her holidays getting all the reading done for her relaxation course.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: This is the first episode since the pilot not to have a title in the form of a class name.
- Jerkass: Duncan is less interested in helping Abed than in getting a paper published on his delusions, making the enabling of Abed's delusions less worrisome and more heartening instead. And towards the end of the episode, even these self-interested-yet-mildly-benevolent intentions appear to be replaced by simple spite towards Abed for reminding Duncan how crummy his own Christmases were as a kid.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Pierce claims he's there for the cookies, but he's really just lonely this time of year - likely moreso with his mother's recent death.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Duncan is correct to point out that Abed's friends are enabling his delusion at the end, but considering that his efforts to help Abed have been openly self-serving and he ultimately ends up reducing Abed to catatonia out of little more than spite, it's not hard to view him as a jerk despite this.
- Matryoshka Object: A gift labeled "Meaning of Christmas" has two nested boxes inside. Inside the last one is a DVD of Lost, which represents "lack of payoff".
- Meaningful Look: Annie and Troy share one when Abed reveals that he and his mother meet up to watch Christmas specials every year on December 9th, having instantly figured out what's behind Abed's issues in this episode... because the date is December 9th.
- Medium Awareness: Abed sees that they are all in stop motion. Nobody else does - until the end credits, when Troy goes into it.
- Medium Shift Gag: The episode is Stop Motion animation to reflect Abed's breakdown.
- Meta Guy: Deconstructed, almost painfully; Abed's ability to see reality as a fiction and himself as an aloof observer has serious consequences for his mental health.
- Missing Mom: The reason that Abed's trying to find the meaning of Christmas. His mother would visit him every year on December 9th and they would watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer together. This year she hasn't visited him, since she's remarried into another family, and Abed is having a breakdown as a result.
- Musical Episode: Abed breaks into song several times. The entire gang gets in on it by the end. Reluctantly, in the case of Jeff and Britta.
- New Powers as the Plot Demands: Or rather, as Duncan's controlling of Abed's hypnotherapy session demands:Abed: I'm on the roof of the train!
Duncan: Oh, great! Well... I'm teleporting there! Because I can do that! I'm a wizard!
- Odd Name Out: The first episode whose title doesn't follow the series' Idiosyncratic Episode Naming.
- Offing the Mouth: Planet Christmas has the "humbugs," a swarm of Christmas insects that devour anyone who's sarcastic. Jeff, who is incapable of not being snarky, is quickly eaten up by the bugs leaving behind only a skeleton.
- Out-of-Character Moment: This entire episode was one for Pierce, who spent the rest of the season as either the Butt Monkey or the Big Bad. Here, he's Abed's lovable sidekick, and even calls out Duncan for his treatment of Abed
- Palette Swap: Duncan's wizard outfit becomes darker when he's revealed as the Christmas Warlock.
- Political Correctness Gone Mad: "It's that very special time of year, Greendale! A time for me to remind you that your school acknowledges no specialness to this time of year. You do, of course, have a constitutional right to lend this season the significance of your choosing in any of our designated 'holiday zones'." Said 'holiday zone' is a taped-off corner of the cafeteria with a miserable looking tree and a menorah.
- Subverted when the Dean gives in to the urge to just wish everyone a Merry Christmas.
- Psycho Psychologist: Duncan is rather easily provoked into a breakdown.
- Self-Destruct Mechanism: The Cave of Frozen Memories & Christmas Pterodactyl each have one.
- Ship Tease: At one point Annie kisses Abed on the cheek, and at another she sings the line "saying 'I love you'" in unison with Jeff.
- Shower of Angst: Snowman Chang claims Abed's molestation of him is the reason Chang will be crying in the shower tonight.
- Shout-Out: Professor Duncan and Troy's method of teleporting by holding their breath and pinching their noses is similar to the way it's done by the ghosts in Rentaghost.
- Snowlems: Snowman Chang.
- Something Completely Different
- Special Edition Title: Abed sings a revised version of the theme song before being tased:Give me the snow,
Light up the trees,
Deck every hall,
And wall you can see.
Roast every nut
Mistle the toe
This needs to be the best Christmas
Since the original
20,000 years from now
The most successful Christmas was todaaaaay!
- Stop Motion: Abed even points out that they aren't clay, but rather silicone over ball-and-socket figures.
- Take That: A DVD of Lost Season 1 is a metaphor for "lack of payoff." (Surprisingly, Damon Lindelof found that hilarious, and even sent the writers a Lost Set Blu-ray. It is worth noting that after coming out of his catatonic state and delivering his heartfelt message, Abed does whisper "Thanks Lost" as well)
- Abed expected to find the True Meaning of Christmas wrapped up and ready for him, but he was really supposed to figure it out himself based on everything he'd seen and heard on the journey. Very Lost-like and all the more heartwarming for it.
- Before being eaten alive by Humbugs, Jeff mutters that "Somewhere out there Tim Burton's gotten a boner."
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Duncan, normally abrasive and lazy but not cruel, takes several levels in this episode. Even Pierce calls him out on it.
- Traintop Battle: Christmas Warlock Duncan chases Abed atop the train.
- True Meaning of Christmas: Of course. It turns out to be that the meaning of Christmas is the idea that Christmas has no inherent meaning, and it means different things to everybody. Although in one of her portions of the study group's Christmas song of this nature, Shirley can't quite resist doing a bit of sermonising:Shirley: For a huge percentage of this God-fearing planet it's about the birth of JESUS CHRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIST!
- But at the end of the episode, when the gang "borrows" Christmas decorations from the cafeteria's designated holiday zone, Shirley is the one who goes back to grab a menorah for Annie.
- What Could Have Been: This episode could've been much darker. From this AV Club article:Dan Harmon: I remember there was this little elf girl. There was a visit to Duncan’s office where you actually meet all the broken toys outside the hallway. Christmas is a booming time for Duncan because of all the suicide attempts and thoughts and things, and there’s this little redhead elf girl out in the hallway who Abed befriends, and he indoctrinates her into the ability to willfully deny reality and just engage in this fascination. It just got too fucking dark. [Laughs.] Because she ended up killing herself again or attempting it. And it was like, “Oh my God, there was no way. I can’t even watch this.”