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Recap / Community S1 E21: Contemporary American Poultry

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"As far back as I could remember, I always wanted to be in a Mafia movie."

The most popular — and only edible — food in the Greendale campus cafeteria is the fried chicken fingers. Unfortunately, this means they're also frequently sold out before our heroes can get any to eat, and it doesn't help that Starburns, the cafeteria fry-cook, always holds some back to give to his friends to try to increase his popularity. Jeff has decided that this is unacceptable, and convinces his friends to help him get Starburns fired and Abed hired as his replacement in order to make sure they get some.

Abed, however, has decided to view this scheme through the lens of a mafia movie, and is soon the mastermind of an underground network of chicken finger smuggling, elevating the social status of the study group as everyone desperately tries to curry favor in order to secure the precious food. However, this means that Jeff is gradually becoming dislodged from his position as group leader, and as the other members of the group become increasingly spoiled and arrogant with their newfound status it increasingly looks like the higher they rise, the harder the inevitable fall will be...

The Community episode "Contemporary American Poultry" provides examples of:

  • An Aesop:
    Abed: You know what they'll never make a replacement for? Friends.
  • Affectionate Parody: Of Mafia movies; primarily Goodfellas, but The Godfather also gets a few nods.
  • Almighty Janitor: Turns out that the cafeteria fry-cook could control the entire school by controlling the supply of chicken fingers.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Don't take Godfather Abed for granted. He'll destroy your new backpack, release your monkey, put gum in your hair, disconnect the AV system and feed the guy you like chicken fingers.
  • Big Red Button: Jeff threatens to invoke this when he feels everything's got out of control.
  • Call-Back: Jeff has used the "conductor silencing" gesture on the group before, and the fact that it's suddenly stopped working is a sign that the situation's started to slip out of his control.
  • Clothing Switch: The twist of Abed and Troy's "awesome elevator" trick in The Tag.
  • Comically Missing the Point: This exchange.
    Abed: Unfortunately, the very thing that drove you to this dorm room is what would prevent you from properly running this machine or even being a cog in it. Your ego.
    Jeff: Well. I see. I see. This has been about me the whole time.
  • Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster!: Abed has always wanted to be in a Mafia movie.
  • Didn't Think This Through: After forcing the study group to say "You were right" to Jeff, Jeff then orders them to write that on their bathroom mirror at home. Troy then points out that writing "you were right" on your own bathroom mirror would make it seem like the writer was the one who was correct, not Jeff.
  • Drunk with Power: The study group gets increasingly spoiled and obnoxious the more powerful they get. Curiously enough, however, Abed himself seems more Drunk With Actually Getting To Connect With People For Once.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Britta admits that as much as she dislikes the fried chicken wings, she greatly disapproves of Starburns skimming them and leaving fewer pieces for everyone else.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: Abed's methods of teaching the study group to respect and fear him.
  • Frame-Up
  • Framing Device: The whole episode turns out to be Abed relating the story to Dean Pelton after being asked about missing hairnets.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Jeff's plan (get Starburns fired, get Abed hired as fry cook, get assured supply of chicken fingers) actually goes off flawlessly; however, Abed's Genre Savvy application of Mafia movie tropes ends up making the plan increasingly complicated and spirals out of (Jeff's) control anyway.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Jeff is gradually unseated as group leader by Abed. He is not happy about this.
    Jeff: You want a shot at the Jeff Winger throne? You better bring a powerful ass!
  • Hypocrite:
    • The entire study group in this episode. They put Starburns out of a legitimate job for abusing it and then do exactly what he did, never recognizing their own wrongdoing.
    • Britta proudly proclaims she's a vegetarian while wearing a leather jacket.
  • I Warned You: Naturally, when presented with the opportunity to point this out Jeff milks it, first by pointing out, then by stopping the conversation and forcing everyone to repeat it together while mock-conducting them after Annie hurriedly acknowledges that he was right.
  • It's All About Me: Abed accurately pinpoints that Jeff's main objection to the chicken finger syndicate is that he is feeling overshadowed by it, and notes that ironically Jeff's oversized ego and need to dominate are what will ensure that he will ultimately never profit from his own scheme. Jeff doesn't quite take the right message from this:
    Jeff: Well. I see. I see. This has been about me the whole time.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Although the study group are getting spoiled, obnoxious and blinded with ambition thanks to Abed's control of the chicken wings, they are nevertheless accurate in pointing out that Jeff's opposition to Abed clearly stems more from jealousy over being unseated as group leader than from concern for Abed. Jeff eventually concedes to the point when he admits that he was planning to sabotage the fryer and remove Abed's power.
    • Jeff himself, despite the above, is also accurate in pointing out that Abed turning a scheme simply intended to get the study group some chicken wings into a Mafia-like syndicate bootlegging chicken fingers and exerting corrupt influence over the entire school is clearly taking things a bit too far. He also points out to Abed that his plan to win friends with chicken fingers is going to eventually collapse when people start getting sick of eating nothing but chicken fingers.
  • The Mafia: The study group becomes the community-college-chicken-finger-running equivalent thereof.
  • Mugging the Monster: The study group make the mistake of getting a bit smug, ungrateful and overly-demanding with Abed, failing to recognise that he's the one with all the power in their scheme. Sure enough, he proceeds to demolish the proceeds of their syndicate with ruthless mafia-like efficiency.
  • Only Sane Man: It's partly fuelled by jealousy over being eclipsed by Abed, but Jeff's the only one to realize that the chicken-finger mafia syndicate is going way over the top.
  • Overly Long Gag: Lampshaded:
    Troy: He released Annie's Boobs! Annie's Boobs could be anywhere! Annie's Boobs could be on the side of the road
    Shirley: [Fed up] We get it! The monkey's name is "Annie's Boobs".
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Abed states that Law & Order just started an arc about a lawyer with a fake degree—total ripoff of Jeff.
  • Serious Business: Greendale runs on chicken fingers.
  • Scandalgate: The school newspaper has a headline which reads "Star-Gate!"note  and the subhead, "Headline in reference to Watergate, not the 1994 sci-fi film."
  • Shout-Out: Lots to Goodfellas and other Mafia movies.
    • When Abed says "As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be in a mafia movie." This is quite clearly a parody of the line "As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster" from Goodfellas. The sequence where Abed systematically destroys the things the study group have acquired through the chicken fingers syndicate also parodies a similar sequence in the movie wherein Robert De Niro's character has his confederates in a major heist systematically murdered; both montages are scored to the instrumental solo from Eric Clapton's "Layla".
    • The scene where everyone is kissing Abed's hand is a parody from The Godfather where Michael Corleone's caporegimes are seen kissing his hand. When Troy closes the door on Jeff, it mirrors the moment when All Neri shuts the door on Kay.
    • Lampshaded at the end; when Jeff and Abed decide to make up over a plate of chicken fingers, Abed eagerly asks whether they can eat them in a similar fashion to Sixteen Candles:
    Jeff: Pick one reference, Abed.
    Abed: Sixteen Candles!
    • The scandal involving Starburns is called "Star-Gate". Also lampshaded; the headline of the school newspaper goes on to pedantically note that it's referring to the scandal that brought down Richard Nixon, not the science fiction movie.
    • "He's gone from lovable Johnny Five to evil HAL. (to Pierce) Not Hal Holbrook."
  • Sidetracked by the Analogy
    Annie: You were right, but what can we do?
    Jeff: I'm sorry, you brushed over that first part. Together!
    Everyone: [dully] You... were... right.
    Jeff: Now what you can do is go home and write that on your bathroom mirror.
    Troy: Wouldn't that make it seem like I was right?
    Shirley: Yeah, because it would be my mirror and I see-
    Jeff: [as the group begins to talk] It's not gonna be reversed because you're the one wri- [sighs, makes silencing gesture]
  • Tastes Like Chicken: As Jeff says once the study group's plan pays off: "To victory: it feels unfamiliar, but it tastes like chicken."
  • Through His Stomach: Shirley feeding her new boy friend chicken fingers.
  • Totally Radical: Pierce tries to start "streets ahead." Nobody really knows what it means. But if you don't know what it means, you're streets behind.
  • Unsportsmanlike Gloating: Naturally, Jeff.
  • Very Special Episode: Mentioned by Abed, but averted.