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Recap / Community S2 E16: Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking

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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 derive that Pierce must also be trying to teach her a moral when bequeathing her a tiara, same way as the gifts the other members of the study group received, but Pierce honestly had no hidden intentions with that specific gift. He just gave it to her because she is his favorite.
  • Affectionate Parody: Of mockumentary shows.
    Abed: 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.''
    • "Well... More fish for Kunta!"
  • Bad "Bad Acting": What essentially gave the already suspicious Jeff definitive knowledge about the mysterious person in the limo being Pierce instead of his long-lost father is the latter's terrible acting.
  • 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.
  • Cerebus Retcon: Remember all those times that Pierce was excluded, neglected and disdained by the group? Remember when his forgetfulness and pill addiction was exploited to make him think he'd forgotten things (that never happened)? Remember how funny they were? Yeah, turns out Pierce wasn't fooled and wasn't laughing; many of them come up again in this episode, and are decidedly not played for laughs.
  • 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.
    Britta: 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?!"
    • Pierce genuinely concedes the point that Jeff makes when he angrily points out that it's things like Pierce's mind-games throughout the episode that directly lead to people treating him poorly and not wanting anything to do with him. Unfortunately, Jeff is still on edge and doesn't take it that way, screaming "What did you say?!" and lunging to attack him again.
  • Continuity Nod: Several of the times that Pierce was excluded by the group over the past year are referred to. 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)
  • 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: Jeff's estranged dad is being brought up by Pierce.
  • 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: At Pierce's request.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: In universe. Jeff makes it clear that he's not amused by Pierce's attempt at a Mind Screw:
    Jeff: Oh, I should probably tell you. If you're lying to me, if my father isn't coming, if a car pulls up and anyone other than my father steps out, say an actor, or you in a wig, if you try to pull any Ferris Bueller, Parent Trap, Three's Company, F/X, F/X 2: The Deadly Art Of Illusion bulls@#t; I will beat you. And there will be nothing madcap or wacky about it. [Jeff follows through on his threat.]
  • 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.
  • Eye Take: Troy does a continuous one while LeVar Burton is there with him.
  • 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:
    • Pierce. "I don't hold grudges. My father held grudges, I always hated him for that."
    • Britta.
      Pierce: You're the selfless one in the group, right?
      Britta: Wouldn't know, haven't thought of myself in years.
      • A less lampshaded example comes in the Comic Role Play conversation listed above where Britta, normally the person to proudly espouse progressive values, immediately falls back on making both Jeff and his dad out to be closeted homosexuals as a form of retaliation after Jeff annoys her with his trolling (essentially using "gay" as an insult of some kind).
    • Shirley confessing that she has a problem with manipulating people through guilt... immediately before using guilt to manipulate Abed into letting her continue with her solo confession.
  • I Heard That: At the end when Pierce claims that he and Jeff have become like father and son for the day, Jeff, who we thought was sleeping, announces his disagreement.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Even more heavily than usual, this time; the "docu-drama" format is referenced repeatedly.
    Abed: It's easier tell a complex story when you can just cut to people explaining things to the camera.
    (Cut to Pierce explaining his plan to the camera)
  • Manipulative Bastard: Pierce psychologically screws with the members of the study group (except for Abed) out of revenge for excluding him from their more interesting activities.
  • 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: Deliberately set up by Pierce.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Pierce: In his attempts to Mind Screw the group, he inadvertently teaches each of them a valuable lesson.
  • Not a Game: Jeff makes it absolutely clear that if Pierce is attempting to Mind Screw him, there will be consequences.
    Jeff: ...I will beat you. And there will be nothing madcap or wacky about it.
  • Not Helping Your Case: Lampshaded by Jeff after beating up Pierce for pretending to be his father. He complains about the group excluding him from their fun, but feels that manipulating them on camera will somehow make them more likely to be inclusive.
  • 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.
  • Pet the Dog: The tiara Pierce gave Annie wasn't a mind game, but an actual gift because she's his favorite.
  • Portmanteau: We learn what complisult and explanabrag mean.
  • 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.
  • Rapid-Fire Comedy: Jeff and Britta: see Comic Role Play above.
  • Saying Too Much: "Don't you dare intercut this with footage of me freaking out!" "... Is there footage of you freaking out?"
  • 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. Although Pierce sincerely concedes the point, Jeff is a bit on-edge and doesn't take it that way:
    Pierce: Good point.
    Jeff: What did you say?! [Lunges again]
  • Sound-Effect Bleep: Abed bleeps out a curse word from Jeff.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That: When Annie explains her (wrong) theory about why Pierce gifted her the tiara, the latter decides to go along with it.
  • Take That!:
    Pierce: 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.
  • 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: Abed knows, since he is, after all, One of Us.
    "I'm not knocking it. It works."
  • Turn Off the Camera: After behind-camera Abed talks to Jeff about his dad.
    Jeff: Get this thing out of my face!
  • 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.
  • Wishing for More Wishes: Troy says if he had three wishes, the third would be to have a million wishes.
  • Your Mom: Jeff's role as 'Britta's Dad' includes numerous less-than-flattering implications about Britta's mother.


Example of: