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Recap: Community S2 E23: A Fistful of Paintballs
He's paid to shoot paintballs, not the breeze!

This year's western-themed Spring Fling takes a turn when Dean Pelton announces a "short" game of last-man-standing paintball assassin, and the ice cream company sponsoring their party announces the prize: $100,000 cash. The group splinters, reforming 5 hours later to find a cache of ammo that could help them win the game. In the meantime, the Black Rider, a mysterious "network television handsome" shooter is taking out the competition.


The Community episode "A Fistful of Paintballs" provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Who knew sweet little Annie was capable of being such a badass?
  • Actor Allusion: The Black Rider, played by Josh Holloway, gives Annie the nickname "Bean Allergy" and addresses Jeff as "Mr. Insecure".
    • Abed also refers to the Black Rider as 'network television handsome'.
    • He also exclaims "son of a bitch!" when he falls for Pierce's Wounded Gazelle Gambit.
  • Adrenaline Makeover: Annie even though it's only been a couple of hours.
  • Aesop Amnesia: The group clearly doesn't remember what happened the last time they tried to kick Pierce out.
  • Affectionate Parody: To The Western and Spaghetti Western of all kinds.
  • Always Someone More Handsome: Jeff really develops a complex over how good-looking the Black Rider is. Lampshaded by the Rider himself, referring to Jeff as "Mr. Insecure".
    Jeff: Okay, Black Rider, now let's see who's attractive!
    Troy: ...Dude, you have a problem.
  • Asian and Nerdy: Math Club.
  • Bad Ass Bandolier: The Black Rider.
  • Bad Ass Decay: Chang's changed a lot from the John Woo style badass at paintball he was before.
  • Bad Ass Longcoat: The Black Rider again.
  • Bad Ass Preacher: Shirley fills this role in the game even if she's only dressed as a priest.
  • Batman Cold Open: Annie versus the bullies.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Having spent the entire episode (and much of the previous season) defending Pierce to the other members of the group to the point where she's the only one who votes to keep him around, upon learning that Pierce has given Jeff blank paint cartridges expecting him to get shot Annie does not react well when she learns that Pierce has once again betrayed their trust.
  • Big Bad: Pistol Patty.
  • Blatant Lies
    Chang: Hello? Anybody? Does anyone have an alliance I can join? I'm really loyal!
  • Call Back: The cabinet the group finds the Dean hiding in contains both a dalmatian (running gag about the Dean's apparent fetish) and a bee costume from "Celebrity Pharmacology."
    • Chang's El Tigre paintball gun from last year's paintball game makes a reappearance.
    • Jeff's cowboy costume from "Introduction to Statistics" makes a comeback as well.
    • "You raped the Duquesne family."
    • Annie's still Pierce's favorite.
    • Troy pops up out of a garbage can, mimicking Annie from back in "Modern Warfare".
    • Annie's rousing speech to Pierce in Advanced Criminal Law contains references to her mother "encouraging" her to continue cheerleading. When she shoots the cheerleading squad that are about to execute Chang, she mentions that she tried out the previous year.
  • The Cameo:
    • Anthony Michael Hall returns as Mike, the bully from "Comparative Religion".
    • Dominik Musiol returns as Abed's old roommate Pavel, in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance as the Black Rider's first (On-screen) victim.
    • Hilary Duff returns as Heather, the Alpha Bitch from "Aerodynamics of Gender".
  • Camping a Crapper: Fort Hawthorne started with Pierce doing this.
  • Cattle Baron: Pierce plays this role, except he isn't the Big Bad.
  • The Cheerleader: Greendale's cheerleading squad are about to sentence Chang to "pretendsies-death" for betraying them until Annie shoots them first. She tried out for the team last year and was rejected.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Chang betrays Jeff to the Math Team, the Math Team to the Cheerleaders, and attempts to betray the Cheerleaders. It ends badly for him.
  • Cliff Hanger
  • Clothing Damage: Annie's floor length skirt she wears when the paintball game starts is missing by the time she's hiding out alone in the chemistry lab hours later. It could be an off camera Action Dress Rip but considering Annie's not too pleased about it and wants pants, it's doubtful it was intentional.
  • Cowboy Episode
  • Dark Is Evil: The Black Rider.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms
    Shirley: I hope we find this cache of ammo soon. I need to pump [breast milk].
    Troy: Yeah, me too. You're talking about peeing, right?
    Shirley: No.
    Troy: Me neither.
  • Death Glare: Accompanied by hellfire and an eagle's scream. The recipient does the sensible thing, and runs in terror.
  • Don't Explain the Joke: "Because you're gay."
  • Dramatic Chase Opening
  • Drop What You Are Doing: Troy and Abed drop their ice cream when the Dean announces a game of Paintball Assassin.
  • Dynamic Entry: Abed saving Jeff from the Math Club.
  • The Dragon: The Black Rider to Pistol Patty.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: He may be The Dragon sent by the real Big Bad, but the Black Rider expresses genuine concern when Pierce seems to be suffering a heart-attack, and calls the study group out for not helping him. Unfortunately for him, it turns out Pierce was faking the whole time.
  • Famous Last Words:
    • "There's only one rule, Fat Neil! The prize goes to the last man standing!" Mike the Bully.
    • "We're friends remember? We played Dungeons & Dragons together." Neil
    • "Buddy, you okay? You want me to call an ambulance?" Black Rider
    • "Is there an alliance I can join? I'm really loyal!". Chang
  • Fan Disservice: Bare Your Midriff + Who Wears Short Shorts? = Dean Pelton
  • Fanservice: This episode features at least three shots of Annie running in slow motion. In a corset.
    Abed: Jeff wants to talk to you.
    Annie: Yeah, and I want pants. We all want a lot of things.
  • Firing Squad: The Cheerleaders prepare to shoot a blindfolded Chang this way for betraying them.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • "Red Five, standing by."
    • How about during the intro? When they played Chevy's opening tile, it was a standoff between two gunmen.
    • As each member of the Study Group reappears, they're accompanied by a title card giving them a nickname taken from a playing card. Annie's being the only red card & Pierce not receiving a title card set-up foreshadow the true purpose of the card motif.
    • Pierce faking a heart attack & someone outside of the Study Group falling for it.
  • Fridge Logic: Annie points out that there's no reason to call him the Black Rider if he hasn't been riding anything. invoked
    • When she first encounters the Black Rider, Annie asks, "Who wears spurs to paintball?" Spurs are worn for riding horses, hence, the Black Rider's name.
  • Gatling Good
  • Genre Blind: Oh, Dean. He does not learn from past mistakes.
    "Why does this keep happening?!"
  • Girlish Pigtails: Britta wears these that offset with her masculine Western outfit.
  • Great Offscreen War: The destruction of Fort Hawthorne happens off screen.
  • Groin Attack: Don't try to use Annie as a Human Shield.
  • Guns Akimbo: Several characters dual wield. Including Annie, Jeff and the Black Rider.
  • Hijacked by Ganon: Played with. First with Pierce shooting the apparent Big Bad, the Black Rider, in an attempt to usurp the game. Little did he know he'd just uncorked a Bigger Bad in the form of Pistol Patty.
  • Human Shield: The Black Rider uses Annie as one against Jeff and Abed. Annie gets free by elbowing him in the gut.
    • Abed uses a member of the Math Club as one.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: This is one of the few episode titles that doesn't take the form of a class name.
  • In Medias Res
  • It Works Better with Bullets: Pierce pulls this on Jeff, and inadvertently allows Annie to escape from the Black Rider.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Let's face it, while Pierce has often been a Jerkass he's right to call out Troy when he claims "We're always nice to you, Pierce!"
  • Male Gaze: The camera spends plenty of time fixated on Annie.
  • Mexican Standoff: Between Annie, Pierce, the rest of the study group, and the Black Rider.
  • Meaningful Name: The card "nicknames" given for each member of the study group are actually the cards they threw in when voting on whether or not to keep Pierce in the group.
  • Missing Trailer Scene - The preview for the season finale features Starburns doing a Crucified Hero Shot.
  • More Dakka: The mysterious storm troopers who invade the campus at the end of the episode bring with them a paintball mini-gun.
  • No Man of Woman Born: Referenced.
    Mike: There's only one rule Fat Neil. The prize goes to the last man standing.
    Annie: So to speak.
  • No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: During their time in Fort Hawthorne, Pierce has the group sit down to a meal of vending machine snacks.
  • Oh Crap: Abed and Troy's reaction to the Dean's announcement of another game of paintball. Also a case of Dramatic Drop/Jaw Drop.
  • Ominous Music Box Tune: Played during flashbacks to when the study group appears to play cards without Pierce. It turns out they were actually voting on whether to kick Pierce out of the group.
  • Paintball Episode: The Dean thinks he has learned from past mistakes.
  • The Piano Player: Leonard fills this role at "Fort Hawthorne", playing Western saloon music on a keyboard.
  • Playing Possum: Pierce pretends to have a heart attack so he can shoot the Black Rider.
  • Punch Clock Villain: The Black Rider. He's hired to play a suave, bad-boy player-killer, but immediately "breaks character" when Pierce apparently has a heart attack.
    "Screw this, I've got Coldplay tickets."
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Subverted; Jeff's attempt to pull this on the Black Rider just reveals his poorly-hidden insecurities:
    "You think you're good looking but you're not. You're average. You're just an average looking guy with a big chin."
  • Red Baron: The Black Rider.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better
  • Sacrificial Lion: Chang, whose 'execution' coincides with the reveal of the Stormtroopers.
  • Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: The final shot of Cold Open does this with Annie, at which point it segues into the opening credits.
  • Self-Serving Memory: Troy declaring "We're always nice to you, Pierce!" after a year of the Study Group constantly excluding Pierce from activities.
  • Serious Business:
    Fat Neil: We're friends Annie. Remember, we played Dungeons & Dragons together.
    Annie: That was a game. This is Paintball!
  • Sequel Episode: This is a follow-up to last year's "Modern Warfare".
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: Chang is eliminated from the game at the end of the episode, shortly after the revelation that the Black Rider was hired to stop any Greendale students winning & the two-parter takes a turn for the serious. Relatively speaking, that is; it is still a two-part episode of a comedy series focused on a game of paintball at a Community College.
  • Shot Guns Are Just Better: The Black Rider wields a pair of paintball shotguns.
  • Shout-Out: All over the place, including stylistic nods to Sergio Leone, Quentin Tarantino, and the Resident Evil series.
    • The title is referencing the first of Leone's Dollars Trilogy, A Fistful of Dollars. The opening is just like those of Leone-era westerns, and the Mexican Standoff near the end is very similar to the climax of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
    • The music, especially in the flashbacks, with the music-box tune, is a shoutout to For a Few Dollars More.
    • Troy's costume is an exact replica of the one worn by Cleavon Little in Blazing Saddles, and Abed's is channeling The Man with No Name.
    • At the end: "Red Five, standing by."
    • The scene with the 'soldiers' at the end is a shout out to Die Hard 2's scene with rogue commandos ready to take over the airport. Fitting, since the first season's paintball episode referenced the first Die Hard movie.
    • The scene where Annie provokes Pierce into picking up the gun to duel is also a sort of morally inverted example of a common scene in westerns where a bad guy is introduced or shown picking on some innocent bystander to provoke them into pistol-duelling so the bad guy can 'justifiably' shoot them down in cold blood, such as Jack Palance's hitman character taunting the farmer in Shane. It also shares similarity to a famous Bill Hicks routine wherein he compares American foreign policy to such a scene in westerns, specifically (and inaccurately) referencing Shane ("Pick it up.").
  • Sixth Ranger Traitor: Chang immediately sells out Jeff when they're at a disadvantage, and then proceeds to do the same thing to several groups for the rest of the episode.
  • Special Edition Title
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Abed pulls this off on Annie.
    • When he's not letting everyone know he's coming by the sound of his distinctive spurs, the Black Rider also seems adept at this; he too pulls one on Annie.
  • Stripperiffic: Annie's costume.
    Abed: Jeff wants to see you.
    Annie: Yeah? And I want pants. A lot of people want a lot of things.
  • Theme Naming: All the study group members (except for Pierce) are given nicknames related to playing cards. These turn out to stand for their votes on whether Pierce could stay in the group.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: The Black Rider kept shooting at a guy even though he was already 'dead'. Later on Chang is taken out by a minigun going full-auto for about ten seconds straight.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Annie, especially in comparison to her weak showing in last year's paintball fight.
    Abed: She's pretty awesome today.
  • Took a Level in Dumbass: Chang's considerably less impressive than in the last paintball episode. Perhaps this is because he didn't enter towards the end and couldn't get his special equipment.
    • Although considering that he spends most of the episode unarmed and running around blindfolded with his hands tied behind his back without getting shot until a Mook with a paintball mini-gun takes him out, he arguably doesn't do too badly.
  • Trash the Set
  • Unkempt Beauty: Annie's hair's a mess, and she's never looked better.
  • Unknown Rival: Jeff.
    Jeff: Black Rider! It's Jeff Winger. I'm sure you've heard of me by now.
    Black Rider: No.
    Jeff: He's lying.
  • Wanted Poster: "Wanted: Gay and Alive"
  • The Western
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • The Black Rider calls the study group awful people when they refuse to help Pierce during his apparent heart attack. They were right not to; it just gets the Black Rider shot in the gut. Lest the study group look too heartless as a result of this, however, it should be noted that it's implied Pierce does this a lot:
      Abed: Last week, he did it to get out of letting me have a stick of gum.
    • Pierce also calls the study group out on their often-quite-poor treatment of him, particularly after Troy hypocritically insists that "we're always nice to you, Pierce!"
  • Why Don't You Marry Him?: Abed describes the Black Rider, prompting Jeff to use the phrase. "He's really good-looking. Like network-TV good-looking. And did you see how big his guns were?"
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: After Annie takes out Mike the Bully:
    "If you were a dude, you would have my fist up your balls!"
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