Recap / Community S3 E05: Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps

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Magnum and his girls.

Britta is throwing a Halloween pre-party party before the study group goes to the actual party. Abed and Troy show up as the Inspector and the Constable and Jeff shows up as one of those Fast and Furious guys. When he goes to leave, however, Britta stops him and reveals the truth.

Remember those psychological evaluations Britta made everyone do? Well, she ran the numbers, and it turns out someone in the study group has homicidal tendencies. She claims that it's her directive as a psychology student to figure out this person and get them the treatment they need. The problem is that the tests were anonymous, so Britta devises a way to figure out the sociopath: tell scary stories, and see how everyone reacts.

One hour later, Britta has redone all the tests...and all of them except one reveal that the test taker is mentally disturbed. The group decides not to know which one is the sane one so they can all think it is them and leave for the party. Afterwards, it's revealed the sane test belonged to Abed.

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The Community episode "Horror Fiction In Seven Spooky Steps" provides examples of:

  • Ace Pilot: Troy and Abed are mentioned to be these at the beginning of Troy's story.
  • Always a Bigger Fish/Food Chain of Evil: Annie's story ends with Vampire!Jeff being eaten alive by Werewolf!Annie.
  • And I Must Scream: In Annie's story, vampire!Jeff gets eaten and is alive to experience all of it. The entire group is horrified.
  • Anvilicious: In-universe examples. Shirley's story where the bad people are all hurt. Jeff's story has the lesson that killers are just misunderstood people who need a hug.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Being buried to the neck in scorpions is followed by a lava enema, which is followed by Pilates. Subverted when The Devil explains that Pilates is the name of the demon who will eat your genitals.
  • Art Shift: Annie's story is shot in Victorian style.
  • Audible Sharpness: The knife in Troy's story when being pulled out of the block.
  • Author Tract: Shirley's story is an in-universe example.
    Devil-Dean: *Swings around a chainsaw* GAY MARRIAGE!!
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Britta and Abed in Abed's story. Deconstructed because Abed finishes the story right there and Annie gets angry because it implies nothing of any kind happens to the characters afterwards (she phrases it as them getting killed, but it's obvious she wanted to see the slasher do something).
  • Beast and Beauty: This is what Annie's story appears to be going for until the twist.
  • Big NO: In Troy's story.
  • Brainy Specs: Britta wears some while reading Warren Piece.
  • Brick Joke: Combined with Funny Background Event and Shout-Out. As Annie complains that there's nothing on Britta's playlist but Spooky Party, the Beetlejuice soundtrack, and NPR podcasts, a student dressed as Beetlejuice walks by the window. This is the third time someone has said "Beetlejuice" in the course of the entire series.
  • Bridal Carry: Occurs in both Annie's and Troy's stories.
  • Brown Bag Mask: The sack-masked killer in Britta's and Jeff's story.
  • Buffy Speak: Britta's story is filled with it, including the killer having a "hook thingy."
  • Call-Back:
    • Abed and (maybe) Jeff are likely the only two sane people in the group, as noted in The Science of Illusion.
    • Competitive Ecology ends with the group filling in psych profile tests for Britta. This episode focusses on the aftermath of Britta getting the results for those tests back.
  • Cardboard Prison: Justified in Abed's story. Given the recent economic downturn, the nearby asylum cut corners and a patient escaped.
  • The Casanova: Pierce in his story.
  • Caught Up in the Rapture: Shirley's story.
  • Cell Phones Are Useless: Defied in Abed's story. He made sure his cell phone was fully charged before heading up to the mountain cabin and calls the police the very second he thinks the slasher is nearby, which is answered immediately.
  • Chainsaw Good: The Dean in Shirley's story.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: Played straight in Britta's story, lampshaded in Abed's story — much to the annoyance of everyone except Troy (who bops along with the muzak Abed has playing until the broadcast proper).
  • Comically Missing the Point:
    • When Britta, very concerned, discusses how borderline-sociopathic Annie's story came across, Troy takes it as Britta "pinning ribbons on her" and comes up with a story of his own in an attempt to top Annie's.
    • Pierce doesn't even try to make his story scary and instead uses it to glorify himself and lash out at Troy and Abed over his treatment in Troy's story. He also assumes the cool hedonist leader in Shirley's story (a stand-in for Jeff) to be his own stand-in character, and wonders why Jeff wasn't in the story.
    • Britta misunderstands the meaning of "britta-ing" (it's something along the lines of 'fucking up') as "making a small and understandable mistake."
  • Continuity Nod: Troy mentions that the Dean got taco meat from the army for the Halloween party.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: The fate that befalls Mad Scientist!Pierce in Troy's story.
  • Creator Breakdown: In-Universe, each narrator's story is more than a little informed by their personal issues and relationships to the rest of the group:
    • Britta's has her and Jeff's Friends with Benefits relationship from the previous season as a subtext, as well as her Straw Feminist tendencies, with her being "smart" and staying in the car and Jeff getting out and dying (after Britta badgered him), all while she screams that "she told him so".
    • Abed's demonstrates his difficulty connecting with people in general and the other members of the group specifically, as represented by Britta; he's more interested in the practical details of the story and shuts down any attempt her character makes to try and bond with him, romantically or otherwise. His story also fails to engage the other members of the group other than Troy.
    • Annie's reveals both her desire to change Jeff for the better coupled with a bit of insecurity over how reliable a potential partner he may be and a hint of jealousy over Britta and Jeff's hookups masked as disdain for Britta's character.
    • Troy's is about his and Abed's ability to overcome Pierce's attempts to drive a wedge between them out of jealousy in the previous episode, along with the suggestion that Troy might be more than a little codependent in his friendship with Abed.
    • Pierce is not-so-subtly lashing out at Troy and Abed over the previous story, coupled with his leching over the female members of the group.
    • Shirley is basically a polemic of her religious beliefs coupled with a bit of insecurity / vengeance over what she sees as the ways the other members of the group exclude her.
    • Jeff basically wants to resolve the conflicts that have arisen between the other members of the group without actually putting the work required in to resolve them.
  • Critical Research Failure:
    • In-Universe; Shirley seems to think that you can snort marijuana. Also, that NPR is a music station that partying kids would be listening to Death Metal on. Also, Britta seems to think that War and Peace is actually called Warren Piece.
  • Death by Sex: Defied in Abed's story. Britta's attempt to kindle romance is quickly shushed to avoid dropping their guard.
  • Deconstruction of Genre Savvy and Rational Fiction as the characters in-verse point out how Abed's story is just boring and lack suspense in this regard.
  • Decoy Damsel: Annie in her story.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: In Britta's narration:
    Radio announcer: ... an escaped convict from the asylum has escaped...
  • Digging Yourself Deeper: In attempting to persuade everyone that there could be a psychopathic individual in the study group, Britta's graphic description of what could happen if they were allowed to go unidentified and untreated only serves to freak everyone out and convince them — and herself — that she's the psychopath in question.
  • Don't Go in the Woods: Mentioned in Annie's story where she is thrown off her horse and Jeff had to save her from the vile creatures of the woods.
  • Dramatic Thunder: All over the place.
  • Dramatic Unmask: Britta removing her Brown Bag Mask.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: When Britta is revealing her motives for the Halloween stories Pierce points out that if one of them was a murderous psychopath, in over two years of friendship and hanging out they'd have probably picked up on something before now.
  • Ear Worm: (In-Universe)invoked "Daybreak" by Michael Haggins, the song from Abed's story. It has received numerous call backs being hummed or vocalized by Troy, Annie, and Abed. It was finally referred to by name and played in "Pillows And Blankets".
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Deconstructed with Abed's story. From what he says afterwards, he seems to think that "earning" it would be the characters following a number of logical steps to not get killed by the book. Annie fires back disgust at not seeing the characters actually having any obstacles to fight off to go along with the logical decisions.
  • Eight Deadly Words: In-Universe, Abed's feelings towards the characters in Britta's story, and all Too Dumb to Live characters in general. Shot back at Abed when Annie's reaction at his story being a strictly logical defiance of all horror tropes (and absolutely nothing else) is clear disgust and asking Abed whether or not he's actually planning to kill his characters.
  • Einstein Hair: Pierce in Troy's story.
  • Epic Fail:
    • The group refers to this as "Britta." It doesn't help that she graded the tests upside down, failed to notice even after double checking, and set the whole episode's plot in motion because of the misunderstanding.
    • Troy invokes this after Shirley's Author Tract story.
    "You ruined a Britta party. That's like letting poop spoil."
  • Even Better Sequel: In-universe. Troy expresses this opinion for Super Monkey Ball 2 right before being attacked in Britta's story.
  • Evil Gloating: Lampshaded in Jeff's story when Jeff asks Evil Chang to explain himself.
    Jeff: Wait. Before you do anything, tell us why you kill people.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Annie when she turns into a werewolf. She also gets Supernatural Gold Eyes.
  • A Fate Worse Than Death: In Shirley's story, the cool hedonists are chainsawed into pieces by Devil-Dean, only for him to put them back together and chainsaw them into pieces again, forever.
  • Flaming Devil: The Dean in Shirley's story.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Troy and Abed reveal that they were already in their Inspector Spacetime and Constable Reggie costumes when Britta called to invite them to her Halloween Party. Chances are, they were dressed this way because they were playing in the Dreamatorium, which will be revealed in two episodes and which they spend a lot of time over the season rendering imaginated dreamscapes.
    • Annie's story involves her trying to change Jeff for the better (with the subtext of him becoming a more suitable romantic partner for her), only for it all to go south when he reverts to his old ways. In "Virtual Systems Analysis" later in the season, she ends up admitting to herself and Abed that she keeps trying to push Jeff into fitting various roles he's possibly not suited for because she's "in love with the idea of being loved" and afraid of being lonely.
    • The murderer in Jeff's story is played by Chang. "The First Chang Dynasty" has Chang trying to murder the study group.
  • Framing Device: The results for the tests Britta had the group fill out a couple episodes ago have come back, and someone is potentially homicidally insane. Britta feels the best way to detect who it could be is to tell scary stories and observe the results.
  • Frying Pan of Doom: In Troy's story, he and Abed use one to whack Pierce via telekinesis.
  • Funny Background Event: This one takes it to a whole different level.
  • Fur Against Fang: Annie's story.
  • Gag Penis: Pierce has one in his story.
  • Gangsta Style: Abed and Troy hold their guns this way in Pierce's story.
  • Genre Blindness / Genre Savvy: Parodied and deconstructed; Abed objects to the Genre Blindness displayed by the characters in Britta's story, explaining that character's making decisions the audience never would makes us lose sympathy for them. His innate Genre Savviness leads him to construct a perfectly logical horror story where the protagonists avoid every single cliche, mistake and convention present in the genre... even the ones necessary for telling a story (ok, sure, the victims do smart decisions, but does the slasher? Abed finishes off the tale with the couple not encountering the killer anyway, so he doesn't seems to think showing any kind of consequences to the couples' decisions, even a potential Curb-Stomp Battle, is worth continuing). This almost completely robs his story of suspense, tension and horror, and just serves to bore and irritate his audience.
    Annie: Ugh! Do these people ever die or what?!
    Abed: [`Spooky` voice] Eventually... once it had been... earrrrrrrrned!!
  • Glurge: Invoked in-universe; Shirley's tale is a perfect, Jack Chick-like mix of treacly moralizing and horrendous damnation, and most find it annoying rather than scary or uplifting.
  • Gold Tooth: Troy sports them in Pierce's story.
  • Gorn: Annie doesn't spare any details about Vampire!Jeff's rather gruesome fate.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: Shirley's Improvised Weapon.
  • Group Hug: Jeff's story ends with one, even including hook-handed killer Chang.
  • Halloween Episode
  • Heartwarming Moments: Invoked, parodied and subverted: Jeff is clearly trying to invoke one of these through his story in his usual style, and clearly expects everyone to react as if it was one, but they instead consider it, in the words of Pierce, "the gayest crap I've ever heard in my life."
  • Held Gaze: The vampire and the schoolteacher is Annie's horror story when he enters carrying her and they're both staring at each other, referencing the "googly eyes" phenonomen between Jeff and Annie in real life.
  • Her Codename Was Mary Sue: All of the stories play with this to some degree, but Pierce (irresistible sex-stud with a full head of hair capable of beating up Gangbangers!Troy and Abed with his Gag Penis) and Shirley (angelic messiah-figure who nobly forgives her friends their sins before being raptured into Heaven) really go to town with it. Shirley's contains a particularly lame attempt to pretend this isn't the case:
    Britta: Thank you for saving us Shirley! I mean, your name's not Shirley, this is a story about strangers!
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Pierce in Troy's story. His Mad Scientist self sews Troy and Abed together, but ends up being experimented on himself.
  • Hook Hand: The killer in Britta and Jeff's stories features one.
  • Hourglass Plot: Troy's story has Pierce swap power positions with Troy/Abed.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • During the stand-off at the end, Annie can be heard yelling "Stay back, psychos, or I'll slit your throats and bathe in your blood!"
    • Jeff doesn't know which of The Fast and the Furious guys he's dressed as because "I don't watch that shallow crap. I just pick a costume girls'll like."
    • As Jeff explains that he isn't a sociopath, he actually displays several traits of sociopathy such as remorselessness, egocentricity and amorality. See the Fridge Brilliance page for more details.
    • Shirley's self-description of herself (via her perfecter-than-perfect Author Avatar) as a human embodiment of forgiveness, compassion and mercy is undercut when she blissfully abandons her friends to get horribly tortured for all eternity, thus hinting at the vindictive streak lurking underneath her self-righteousness.
  • I Am a Monster: Jeff in Annie's story.
  • Idiot Ball: Abed's story is devoted to completely defy this.
  • Improvised Weapon: Despite being in a college library, most of the study group is able to come up with a weapon at a moments notice. Shirley wields a broken bottle, Pierce a fire extinguisher, Annie a pair of scissors, Troy uses pens for Wolverine Claws and Abed becomes the Chairman of the Brawl. Averted by Britta, who wields a Sinister Switchblade.
  • Inadvertent Entrance Cue: in Shirley's story.
    Hedonist leader (Jeff): Oh man! End of days! Could anything suck harder than this!
    Devil!Dean appears
  • Instant Sedation: Spoofed in Troy's story when Troy and Abed go out in no time.
  • I Told You So: In Britta's story, "Britta" feels the need to point this out to "Jeff". While he's being stabbed to death by a serial killer.
  • Jaw Drop: Britta response to Pierce's story is slack-jawed horrified astonishment.
  • Jive Turkey: Troy and Abed in Pierce's story.
  • The Killer in Me: The ending to Britta's story. Even the real Britta didn't see it coming.
  • Kubrick Stare: Jeff in Annie's story after declaring I Am a Monster.
  • Little "No": Abed in his own story, when Britta asks him if he would like to kiss her again.
  • Mad Scientist: Pierce in Troy's story.
  • Messianic Archetype: Parodied by Shirley's story, in which Shirley — "I mean, your name's not Shirley, this is a story about strangers." — shows up in a heavenly cloud to defeat Satan!Dean Pelton with a single breath before nobly forgiving her friends for "making fun of her Christianity." And then she gets raptured... conveniently leaving her friends there to get tortured by Satan.
  • Mind over Matter: In Troy's story, getting sewn together gives you this power.
  • Mood Whiplash: In-universe, Annie instantly switches from dramatically describing the death of a vampire in horrifically precise gory detail to innocently chirping "See? There was a twist!"
  • Mugging the Monster: Vampire!Jeff in Annie's story.
  • Mundane Utility: Troy and Abed use their kinetic powers to fix themselves a sandwich.
  • Necessary Weasel: Not so much used as played with in order to demonstrate why they are necessary. Abed tells a horror story that is consumed with being realistic and avoid cliches or implausible actions, and removes any trope which might result in this... which results in his story being a boring description of two people standing in the middle of a room on full alert conspicuously not being murdered by a serial killer.
  • Nightmare Fetishist. Annie is quite happy in describing her gory ending, to the entire group's shock.
  • Noodle Incident: Judging from Jeff's reaction when Britta comes to him with her problem, apparently Britta dropped her psych tests in a puddle at one point, and presumably called on Jeff to help her fix them up.
  • Of Corsets Sexy: Annie in her story.
  • Only Sane Man:
    • When Britta runs the test sheets again, apparently only one member of the group isn't violently insane, and it's Abed.
    • Jeff might be sane, as he randomly filled out the test. But then again, considering the rest of the season as a whole is largely devoted to how screwed up he is, it's unlikely.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Of a sort; Britta is trying to secretly psychoanalyze her friends to determine which one of them may be a psychopath, but almost everything she says on the subject sounds like she's quoting it verbatim from a psychology textbook chapter on how to secretly analyse your friends. Probably the only reason they don't suspect what's up is that she tends to over-analyse them anyway.
  • Person as Verb: Becomes a Running Gag that's taken Up to Eleven at the end.
    • "You Britta'd"
      Jeff: You probably just Britta'd it.
      Britta: Are people using my name to mean "make a small mistake"?
      long pause
      Jeff: Yes.
    • "Pulling an Abed" (to be meta)
      Jeff: Wow, you Britta'd Britta'd.
      Abed: Yeah, way to pull an Abed.
    • "To Pierce" (to not get it)
      Shirley: I don't get it.
      Jeff: Shirley, don't Pierce.
      Pierce: I don't get it!
    • "To Shirley" (to protest/ to lecture at)
      After the gang leaves the study room, Jeff and Shirley start arguing. Most of it is hard to hear, but Jeff distinctly says "Well, now you're Shirleying" at the end.
  • Police Are Useless: Defied in Abed's story. The moment Story!Abed calls with his cell phone, the call is picked up and officers are sent immediately. He ends his story with the "victims" waiting for the cops while armed and standing back-to-back in a defensible part of the cabin, just in case.
  • Psychic Powers: Abed and Troy obtain Mind over Matter powers from being stitched together on Troy's story.
  • Punny Name: Warren Piece.
  • Purple Prose: Annie's story is dripping with it.
    "Stifle your slackened maw, you drained and tainted bitch dog!"
  • Rational Fic: Deconstructed Trope with Abed's story: Defying any and all Tropes that would make a story exciting because of the author's desire to follow rationality instead makes the audience bored and even disgusted. There is a reason why the Necessary Weasel exists, after all.
  • Rotten Rock & Roll: In Shirley's story, the group dances to rock music. One more nail in their coffins.
  • Rule of Cool: In Troy's story, he and Abed gain multiple Psychic Powers after being sewn together. Why? Probably because of this.
  • Running Gag: Yet another appearance of the show's own Affectionate Parody of a certain wildly popular British sci-fi franchise occurs in this episode when Abed and Troy show up to the pre-party dressed as Inspector Spacetime and Constable Wigglesworth.
    Britta: I told you guys, you didn't have to dress up.
    Troy: We know. We were wearing this anyway.
    Abed: Yeah, when we're dressed up, you'll know.
  • Screaming Woman: Annie in Jeff's story when Evil Chang appears.
  • Ship Tease: Britta/Jeff in Britta's story, Abed/Britta and Abed's story, Annie/Jeff in Annie's story.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Annie and Shirley's stories appear to have been a little influenced by Twilight and Left Behind respectively. Britta's story is a version of the popular "hookman" urban legend. Troy's story is reminiscent of The Human Centipede.
    • The final story about how the sack-masked anonymous killer would slay the study group references Triangle, especially with The Reveal.
    • When the group turns on each other after the lights go out, Troy has Wolverine claws made out of pencils.
    • In Shirley's story Annie is dressed like Velma from Scooby-Doo.
  • Special Edition Title: The Halloween version used last season is back, this time adding in Jim Rash (Dean Pelton) with a drawing of a man in an electric chair.
  • Stylistic Suck: Each story is deliberately and humorously subpar in a different way depending on who's telling it:
    • Britta's first story jumbles details and is told in a rushed, awkward fashion as would be told by someone who isn't really that good at telling stories half-remembering something — additionally, the scant characterization is influenced by her Straw Feminist-esque views on intergender relationships (the man is horny and idiotic, while the woman is sensible and proven ultimately correct);
    • Abed's story is overly logical and lacks emotional resonance, more concerned with filling plot-holes and avoiding cliches, unrealistic actions, Genre Blindness and Contrived Coincidences than actually telling the story;
    • Annie's story is melodramatic and filled with overblown dialogue and Purple Prose;
    • Troy's story over-relies on Rule of Cool at the expense of making sense and all the characters — no matter who they are — talk like he (and Abed) would;
    • Pierce's story is sexist, racist, filled with Totally Radical attempts to remain relevant and turns Pierce into a Marty Stu sex-god, and also completely misses the point of what a Halloween scary story is supposed to be in the first place;
    • Shirley's story is a poorly researched bad Christian P.S.A version of a horror story which turns Shirley herself into a self-righteous Mary Sue Messiah figure who saves the day with a Deus ex Machina before delivering a poorly-disguised sermon to her friends.
    • Jeff's story Tastes Like Diabetes.invoked He also doesn't bother to construct a narrative and just skips to the end.
  • Terror at Make-Out Point:
    • The setting of Britta's story.
    • Averted in Abed's story. He explains that it's no longer the '50s, so it makes sense to rent a cabin rather than park at a make-out point.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Jeff in Britta's story. Abed calls Britta out on it while telling his own story.
  • Totally Radical: The characters in Shirley's story have a bit of this going on:
    "Annie": Yo, Jango! Check it out!
  • Tropes Are Tools: Abed's story demonstrates this; he's so fixated on avoiding plotholes and (what he thinks are) bad tropes that he doesn't take into account that some of these are actually needed for the story to work, meaning that his story doesn't go anywhere and he just bores his audience.
  • Twist Ending: Annie is particularly proud that her story has one.
  • Vignette Episode: Consisting of six short stories.
  • Voluntary Vampire Victim: In Annie's story Britta is Vampire Jeff's casual blood donor. He keeps her in a closet for when his Horror Hunger comes. She looks all pale and covered in bite wounds. But she claims she is fine with that treatment.
  • We're Still Relevant, Dammit!: What Pierce desperately wants to believe in his story. invoked
    Gangsta-Troy: *Being punched by Magnum* YOU... ARE... STILL... RELEVANT!
  • Wild Teen Party: In Shirley's story.
  • Wolverine Claws: Troy's Improvised Weapon, wooden pencils held between his fingers.
  • Woman in White: Annie in her story; Shirley in hers.
  • Women Are Wiser: Parodied; in her story, Britta's Author Avatar feels the need to point out that she was right about the situation to Jeff while he's being stabbed to death by a psycho with a hook for a hand.
  • Write Who You Know: In-universe, perpetrated by everyone for increasingly petty reasons.
  • You Do NOT Want To Know:
    • When it's revealed that all but one member of the study group is, according to their psych profiles, completely insane, they collectively decide it's better that they can keep ahold of the comforting delusion that any one of them may be sane rather than knowing who is or isn't. Turns out it's Abed.
    • To be fair, it's technically possible that Jeff is also sane - he states that he filled in his evaluation randomly, so the results of it are presumably inaccurate. The rest of the series as a whole, however, would seem to suggest that even with this taken into account he's still probably not as sane as he would like to think...

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Recap/CommunityS3E05HorrorFictionInSevenSpookySteps