Recap: Community S2 E16: Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking
Continuing from the previous episode,
Pierce is in hospital after collapsing from an overdose of painkillers. Convincing the others that he doesn't have long left to live, he bequeaths
upon them a special inheritance, something which they will all come to regret; Shirley receives a CD which purportedly contains the others talking about her behind her back, Troy an arranged meeting with his childhood hero LeVar Burton, Britta gets a blank check to donate to a charity of her choice (or herself), Annie a priceless tiara, and Jeff an arranged meeting with the deadbeat father who walked on him years before. And Abed gets to film the resulting meltdown all for a documentary.
The Community episode "Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking" provides examples of:
- An Aesop: Inverted. Annie derives a moral from Pierce bequeathing her a tiara, but it turns out she was just his favourite.
- Affectionate Parody: Of mockumentary shows.
Fortunately, if in the end your documentary is turning out just as messy as real life, you can always wrap it up with a series of random shots which when cut together under a generic voice-over, suggest a profound thematic connection. I'm not knocking it. It works.
- As Himself: LeVar Burton. ''Butterfly in the sky. I can go twice as high.''
- Batman Gambit: Most of the "bequeathments" are straightforward acts of poking at the receiver's sore spots, but Pierce seems to have accurately predicted that Shirley would eventually listen to the tape he gave her, but only after passive-aggressively "forgiving" the others for what she assumed was on it.
- Bottle Episode: Takes place mostly in Pierce's hospital room and the waiting room outside.
- Blatant Lies: Jeff Winger is not bothered at all by the prospect of meeting his dad. Nuh-uh. Not bothered at all. No sir.
Jeff: And don't you dare intercut this with footage of me freaking out!
Abed: Is there footage of you freaking out? (cut to said footage)
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: The documentary format for most of the episode means the group are breaking an in-universe fourth wall - they know they're really talking to Abed behind the camera, and Abed does director-style to-camera pieces and voiceover.
- Broken Pedestal: Inverted; Troy's fear of meeting LeVar Burton stems not from worry that he'll be disappointed by his hero but by worry that he will disappoint his hero. This ends up becoming a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy when Burton, upon meeting Troy, attempts to make pleasant small-talk only for Troy to completely freeze up.
- Callback/Cerebus Retcon: All the times that Pierce was excluded by the group over the past year and was played for laughs. Specifically: they forgot his birthday, and didn't invite him to Dungeons & Dragons or the trampoline.
- Jeff and Britta are the first to arrive because they are Pierce's emergency contacts, as of Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples.
- When complaining about being a buzzkill in The Science of Illusion, Britta tearfully tells a knock-knock joke:
Britta: Knock-knock! Who's there? Cancer! Oh, good, I thought it was Britta!
- This episode, Pierce greets her with this:
Pierce: Is that you, death?
Britta: No, it's me, Britta!
(Pierce looks disappointed.)
- Camera Abuse: After behind-camera Abed talks to Jeff about his dad.
Jeff: Get this thing out of my face
- Comic Role Play: Britta suggests that, to prepare Jeff for the possibility of meeting his dad, they role-play the situation with Britta taking the part of Jeff's Dad. Jeff is reluctant. What follows is comic gold which deserves to be transcribed in full:
Britta: [Hugging Jeff]
: Hi, hey, hi, I'm Jeff's Dad. Jeff:
Hi Jeff's Dad, I'm Britta's Dad. Britta:
What?! Why? Jeff:
I dunno, got drunk, didn't have a condom and her mom
gets freaky when she hears Oingo Boingo
Oh God, I wish I could relate, but much like my son I'm a closet homosexual. Jeff:
Don't apologize for that; you're talking to the guy that banged Britta's mom
. I have no standards. Britta:
Well what do you say we take a tumble? I'll put on a wig. Jeff:
That's it; you're under arrest. I'm an undercover cop. Britta:
It's not illegal to be gay. Jeff:
It is here in Iran. Britta:
Not when we're in the Green Zone. Jeff:
That's Iraq, stupid. Britta: [Petulant]
Well what do I know? I'm Jeff Winger's dumb gay dad!
- Comically Missing the Point: When Pierce reveals that he's brought everyone there to say his final farewells from his hospital bed, Troy blurts out "You're gonna kill us?!"
- Deconstruction / Reconstruction: Of documentaries and the Documentary Episode: having followed the difficult and painful events of the day with his cameras, Abed is left to conclude that any narratives, conclusions, meanings or thematic connections that might be reached are entirely arbitrary, the result of random and unlinked events being manipulated by the filmmaker to suit an ulterior purpose. The Reconstruction comes into play when he notes this is not necessarily a bad thing, and is partly what makes them so effective.
Abed: I'm not knocking it; it works.
- Disappeared Dad
- Disproportionate Retribution: While the group may not treat Pierce very well at times, his mind games — particularly those on Jeff — are arguably over the top. Particularly since, as Jeff points out, Pierce often brings it on himself.
- Documentary Episode
- Dude, Not Funny!: In universe. Jeff makes it clear that he's not amused by Pierce's attempt at a Mind Screw:
- Even Evil Has Standards: 'Evil' might be a bit of an exaggeration, but while Pierce might be cruelly manipulating and playing horrible mind-games on his friends to take petty revenge, he's genuinely shocked when Annie suggests that the tiara he's bequeathed her might have Holocaust diamonds in it.
- Funny Background Event: In the scene where Troy is having a little meltdown in the empty cafeteria about meeting LeVar Burton, you can clearly see reflected in the cafeteria window a couple of hospital employees who start watching Troy's tantrum in bewilderment.
- Gilligan Cut: "Don't you dare intercut this with footage of me freaking out!"
- Lampshaded when Abed notes that the documentary format enables the creator to tell complex narratives by providing an easy mechanism to allow people to explain themselves directly to the camera. He then demonstrates this by cutting from Pierce's dramatic explanation that he's dying to the study group to a scene where Pierce cheerfully admits his hoax in a 'talking head' to the camera.
Abed: [To camera] See? Fish in a barrel.
- Global Ignorance: Britta fall afoul of this.
- Holier Than Thou: Shirley spends most of the episode piously forgiving everyone for the "awful awful things" they said about her on the CD she's been given... without even listening to it. Her self-righteousness is completely deflated and exposed when Britta finally snaps and plays the CD, revealing that the actual recorded conversation on there contains nothing of the kind.
- Hypocritical Humor:
- Incredibly Obvious Bug: The CD Pierce made for Shirley was recorded using one.
- Inherently Funny Words: Bequeath. (Bequeathal, bequeatheth, re-queath...)
- I Resemble That Remark:
Nurse: Mr. Hawthorne is requesting Sour Face.
(Britta makes a sour face)
- Bonus points in how Britta automatically knew that she was Sour Face.
- In-Universe Camera: Most of the show.
- Jerkass Has a Point:
- Pierce's actions are unquestionably cruel, but he nevertheless does raise the valid point that the group's treatment of him has not been much better at times.
- Pierce is also forced to concede that Jeff, himself a big Jerkass (especially to Pierce), also has a valid point in that it's things like Pierce's current actions which directly lead to him being treated poorly.
- To clarify, in "Advanced Dungeons and Dragons" he is left out for being insensitive and dickish, and his actions upon discovering the game validate his exclusion completely. The same is true in "Aerodynamics of Gender" when he discovers the trampoline and breaks the rules.
- Jerkass Woobie: Pierce. For all his cruel antics in this episode, he points out that he mainly does it because the group excludes him and considers him a joke.
- Jeff is also one in this episode. He is the member who probably treats Pierce the worst and is quite angry in this episode. But when the car first pulls up, you can just look at his face and see that this may be the most emotionally vulnerable he has been during the entire show. Part of him thinks that it may not be a joke, and that the driver really could be his father.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Of a sort; the cruelty of Pierce's 'bequeathments' reflects how he views the recipient's general treatment of him.
- Annie, who is generally benevolent towards him, receives a genuine gift.
- Abed, similarly, is generally an observer and so receives no gift, but is permitted to observe.
- Troy, Britta and Shirley receive Mind Screwy gifts that, while intended maliciously, could also be interpreted as some kind of warped kindness (Troy gets to meet his hero, Britta gets reaffirmation of her self-proclaimed generous nature or — if she's so inclined — a $10,000 gift, Shirley gets confirmation that the group like and respect her) in line with the fact that they, while often mean to him, can also be nice to him as well.
- Jeff, who is usually the most snide, callous and actively cruel to Pierce, receives an actively cruel and malicious 'gift' in return.
- Troy's gift of meeting his hero also adds mind screwy elements to Jeff's gift (making him seriously wonder if, since Pierce can get LeVar Burton to show up, he can get his father to as well).
- Laughing Mad: At one point during the montage of Jeff freaking out, he is laughing hysterically for no adequately revealed reason, only to suddenly yelp in terror.
- Manly Tears: Troy. "Set phasers to love me."
- Oh, Crap: Pierce's reaction upon hearing Jeff's promise that if his father doesn't show and it turns out this is a Mind Screw, that Pierce will receive a beatdown.
- Mistaken for Dying
- Paper-Thin Disguise: It's not hard to tell who "Jeff's Dad" really is.
- The Peeping Tom: The summing-up montage at the end features an attempt at a covert shot of Annie exiting the ladies room taken by an unknown member of Abed's documentary team. She spots the camera and is, naturally, is a bit creeped out.
- Precision F-Strike: The "bullsh*t" near the end of Jeff's threat to Pierce; making it the first bleeped curse word on the show.
- Saying Too Much: "Don't you dare intercut this with footage of me freaking out!" "... Is there footage of you freaking out?"
- Ship Tease: The way that Jeff and Annie sit together in the waiting room is usually enough to convince new viewers of the show that they're a couple (even though they're not).
- Shout-Out: Troy and Abed have a standing agreement where when one dies, the other will make it look like a suicide over Firefly's cancellation.
- Shut Up, Hannibal!: After Pierce tries to justify his actions by citing all the times the group excluded him, Jeff correctly points out that his crazy revenge scheme is a perfect example of why they exclude him.
Pierce: Good point.
Jeff: What did you say?! [Lunges again]
- Take That: "It was the pills, they just took me over... I saw awful, horrible things... demons, aliens, Critters 3, something called Bruce Willis' Surrogates..."
- Tempting Fate: "Money can't just make people appear!" Cue LeVar Burton.
- Thanatos Gambit: Although Pierce wasn't actually dying, he claimed he was as an excuse to bequeath various Mind Screwy gifts to the group.
- And as mentioned above, Troy and Abed plan to set one of these in motion to bring back Firefly.
- Throw It In: According to the commentary, during filming, they weren't sure if they wanted to make any Roots jokes, but LeVar Burton added "More fish for Kunta!" at the end.
- Torture Chamber Episode: An odd variation, but still applies. Pierce as the antagonist spends an episode dealing Psychological Torture on the rest of the gang. By the end everyone seems better for it though.
- Tropes Are Tools: "I'm not knocking it. It works."
- What You Are in the Dark: Played with. Pierce gives Britta a check for a large sum of money to be donated to the charity of her choice but offhandedly suggests that she could spend it on herself and no one would know. As it happens, Abed is making a documentary of the events of the episode, and Britta, in an odd cross between responses one and two, donates the money to the Red Cross and, without prompting, tearfully admits that she would've kept the money if she wasn't being filmed and that she's very ashamed of herself. LeVar Burton then helps her to the realization she's not selfish - she's just stupid with money.
- What Do You Mean, It's Not Symbolic?: In universe example occurs with Annie and the tiara.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Pierce calls the group out on their treatment of him, then Jeff calls out Pierce on the particularly heinous method he uses to get back at Jeff.
- Your Mom: Jeff's role as 'Britta's Dad' includes numerous less-than-flattering implications about Britta's mother.