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Recap / Community S1 E20: The Science of Illusion

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An April Fools Day prank goes wrong, and newly deputized campus security officers Shirley and Annie are on the case. Meanwhile, Jeff and Troy take advantage of Pierce's idiosyncratic beliefs about becoming a "level six laser lotus" in his "Buddhist" chapter to play a prank of their own.

The Community episode "The Science of Illusion" provides examples of:

  • April Fools' Plot: Britta's attempt at a prank, in order to escape the label of "buzzkill".
  • Backhanded Compliment: Jeff's initial attempts to try and make Britta feel better during her meltdown at the end fall squarely into this trope.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Annie and Shirley compete for the role of the Bad Cop. It doesn't end well.
    • Up to Eleven when Annie starts slamming Jeff's head into the study hall table.
  • By-the-Book Cop/Cowboy Cop: Both Shirley and Annie compete to be recognized as the latter, despite both usually being closer to the former in temperament.
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  • Buddy Cop Show: Parodied with Annie and Shirley, campus security guards. Abed, who is following them around, ends up invoking a whole load of tropes surrounding this.
  • Call-Back
    • In the opening scene, an "Enviro-dale" flyer can be seen on the wall as Leonard sneaks up on the Dean.
    • "Abed, how fast can you run to the theater department?"
    • "I am now a level 6 laser lotus."
  • Catchphrase: First appearance of "Troy and Abed in the morrrning" in the tag
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Two elderly students vandalizing the Dean's secretary's desk bear resemblance to the "Hipsters" of "Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples".
  • Church of Happyology: Yet more confirmation in this episode that Pierce's "Buddhist" church is somewhere between this, a Cult and a Dungeons & Dragons character build:
    Annie: So, what happens at level six?
    Pierce: Well, no one in my hive has ever seen a Six, but from what I hear I have immunity to germs, heightened psychic ability, increased night vision...
    Troy: Any bonuses to your combat score?
    Pierce: I assume I'll fight better if I can see more. Dumbass.
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  • Compliment Backfire: Britta clearly isn't very impressed when Jeff's initial attempts to make her feel better during the meltdown at the end lead him to describe her as "the anti-Winger" and "the dark cloud that unites us".
  • Continuity Nod: Pierce's napkin drawing of the Greendale Human Being can be seen hanging up behind Dean Pelton's desk.
  • Covert Pervert: Shirley takes the opportunity while "frisking" Jeff to cop a feel of his chest.
  • Da Chief: Abed performs a pitch perfect demonstration for the dean, who is technically the actual chief.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Shirley and Annie's attempts to one-up each other see them occasionally do this.
    Annie: Looks like we've got enough tiny items to equip an amphibious mariachi band!
    Shirley: Of frogs!
  • Frameup: Britta frames up Jeff as the one who tried to make the prank.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: Annie and Shirley can't quite keep this straight between them.
  • Group Hug
  • It's All About Me: Very subtly done; when trying to make Britta feel better at the end, Jeff's very first thought is to raise an unflattering comparison with himself ("You're the Anti-Winger!").
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Annie slams Jeff's head down onto a table in an attempt to do this, but given the context of the show (and the general cuteness of her character), it comes off more as Torture for Fun and Information (at least to the audience).
    • Shirley then provides a straighter example as she threatens to cut Jeff up with a pizza slicer.
  • Jerkass: It's subtle, but clearly noted that Jeff's "trademark gift for levity" seems to primarily revolve around either snide comments about other people or making fun of them by making them look stupid.
    Britta: Oh wait — I forgot. It's not your kind of joke; it's not at anyone's expense.
  • "Kick Me" Prank: Leonard does this to the Dean.
  • Morality Pet: Invoked. The cadaver accidentally tossed out a window had a mother. She's brought in by the Dean to read from his journal.
  • Odd Couple: She's a seriously cute recovering teen drug addict. She's a newly-single, single-mindedly Christian housewife and mother. They Fight Crime (sort of)!
  • Only Sane Man: Jeff starts to mention that he and Abed are this before Abed cuts him off.
  • Pass the Popcorn: Abed tags along Annie and Shirley's buddy cop escapades with a box of Raisinettes chocolate raisins in a non-descript yellow box. (He ends up giving the rest to a stranger to save his seat... which is the back seat of Shirley and Annie's mobile security guard cart.)
    • Abed is usually eating something in every scene of this episode, and in fact it's likely you'll see him doing it in prior episodes as well.
    • When he steps up to an active role, Abed passes the popcorn off to the Dean.
    • Right at the end he can be seen feeding some to (a handcuffed) Jeff as they watch the rest of the group together.
  • Red Baron: Annie has several (Annie Adderall being one) and attempts to use them as an intimidating introduction:
    Annie: Morning boys, I’m Annie Edison but people call me Psycho because I had a nervous breakdown in high school.
  • Shout-Out: Jeff, to Shirley and Annie. "Cagney... Lacey."
    • Thanks to Abed: "I'm too old for this!"
    • In-universe, when Jeff and co. dress Pierce as the Cookie Crisp Wizard, complete with wand.
  • Stop, or I Will Shoot!: Parodied; Annie learns the hard way that this doesn't work when all you have is a pepper spray... and that when you try 'shooting' the fleeing suspect, all you end up doing is running straight into a cloud of pepper spray.
  • Turn in Your Badge: Invoked by Abed, and totally deserved.
  • Unwanted Assistance: The Dean has a moment of this when even he realizes how overboard Abed invoking Buddy Cop Show tropes is getting after Abed feeds him the line "I just got off the phone with the Mayor!" as he's dressing down Annie & Shirley over failing to catch the culprit.
  • Villainous Breakdown: For a given value of 'villain', at least (she's the one behind the prank that ends up causing all the trouble, and thus the 'criminal' to Annie and Shirley's 'cops' in this episode), when Britta reveals that she was the one behind the prank her Motive Rant ends up with her bursting into tears over being a killjoy. It then leads to a chain reaction of weepy confessions of inadequacy from Annie, Shirley, Pierce and Troy.
  • Where Everybody Knows Your Flame: When Pierce tries to read Jeff's mind, he sees a "dark nightclub" with "throbbing music".
    • And "Penises!"
  • You Are Not Alone: Played for (slightly bittersweet) laughs; when Britta starts crying about how insecure she feels over being the group killjoy, Annie tries to comfort her by saying that she feels insecure because no one takes her seriously due to her age... only to then start crying herself, which then prompts a chain reaction of weepy confessions from Shirley over her insecurity over her age, Pierce over not becoming a level six Laser Lotus at his "Buddhist" church and Troy crying because he doesn't know who the Cookie Crisp Wizard is.
  • Your Makeup Is Running: After Annie pepper sprays herself, the scene eventually jump cuts to her picking up her hat with her mascara running down her eyes.
  • Your Mom: Jeff's response to interrogation is that he was at a bar. With Shirley's Mom. Shirley's not happy, but it backfires big-time on Jeff when Annie takes it as a prompt to slam his head into the study room table.


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