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Recap / Community S2 E17: Intro to Political Science

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Dean Pelton announces that as part of a national tour of community colleges, Vice President Joe Biden will be visiting Greendale Community College, and will be greeted by the dean and the president of the student council. There's only one problem: Greendale has no student council.

Not to be undone, the dean announces that over the next seven hours Greendale will be holding elections for student president. Naturally, Annie announces her candidacy in a flurry of idealistic over-eagerness; annoyed, Jeff too decides to run, and his style-over-substance campaign ensures that heads will be butted before long.

Meanwhile, Troy and Abed cover the proceedings for the school television channel — and Abed finds himself drawn to Special Agent Vohlers of the Secret Service.


The Community episode "Intro to Political Science" provides examples of:

  • '80s Hair: In a video set in 1993, but nevertheless, it's there.
  • Absentee Actor: Ken Jeong (Chang) does not appear in this episode.
  • Actor Allusion: One of Troy's comments about Starburns is that he "seems Greek." Starburns' actor, Dino Stamatopoulos, is Greek-American.
    • And Jeff's campaign fails when the school sees his Real World: Seattle audition tape from 1997. Joel McHale, who portrays Jeff, grew up in Greater Seattle.
  • All Elections Are Serious Business: Both Annie and Jeff suffer this.
    • Annie believes she is entitled to win and is willing to destroy a friendship if it means she doesn't lose.
    • Jeff is unwilling to help Annie because he would rather be proven right about his cynical political views than pitch in to help a friend.
    • Though somewhat subverted as even though Annie and Jeff take the election deathly serious, the rest of the school doesn't give a shit about it. The election ends up getting eleven votes total and South Park (yes, the cartoon) ends up winning with seven of those votes, causing Dean Pelton to remember that this was why they abolished student government in the first place and to do so again.
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  • Ambiguous Disorder: One of the things that helps a bond develop between them is that Special Agent Vohlers appears to have the same non-specified disorder as Abed.
    Vohlers: Mind if I ask you a few questions, Mr. Nadir? Is there a specific reason you had to repeat the first grade?
    Abed: Well, from what I've been told I didn't know how to use scissors, I sat in the middle of the see-saw, and I always found the distinction between duck and goose to be very arbitrary.
    Vohlers: Couldn't you just pick the sixth kid every time? That's what I ... would have done.
  • Ambition Is Evil: Annie's ambitions in running for student government are benevolent in and of themselves. But she considers herself entitled to win and, when faced with Jeff's superficial and glib campaign becoming more successful than her merit-based argument, becomes increasingly unethical in pursuit of victory until the point that she almost ends up destroying their friendship.
  • Anti-Climax: At the end of the episode, the winner of the election is ... no one. Well, South Park, but it's ineligible.
  • Beneath Notice: One of the government agents surveilling the campus is disguised as a cleaner.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: Vicki doesn't say much, and leaves the elections before she can. Pierce drops out to harangue her more about not lending him a pencil. She delivers it to him — straight through the cheek.
  • Birds of a Feather: Abed and Special Agent Vohlers.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Special Agent Vohlers:
    Vohlers: You smell like nice soap. I have to go. I'm sorry you weren't a more obvious potential threat to the country.
  • Cassandra Truth:
    Abed: The Vice President is coming? That explains the people I've noticed covertly surveilling the campus this week. Must be Secret Service.
    Jeff: [Patronising] Oh, Abed. Will your reality ever come out on Blu-Ray so we can enjoy it?
    Undercover Secret Service Agent: [Unnoticed outside the room, sotto voce] We've been made.
  • Catchphrase: Magnitude is given many opportunities to use his throughout the debate scenes.
    Dean Pelton: Magnitude, a response?
    Magnitude: I think you know, Dean! [In unison with audience] "Pop Pop"!!
    Dean Pelton: [Chuckling affectionately] Ahhh ... I set him up.
  • The Chew Toy: Britta is the only presidential entrant who doesn't get any applause; could be that her stated platform, in its entirety, is that "humankind need not be governed."
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: In the news ticker during Abed and Troy's political commentary, Professor Slater is noted as "still missing."
  • Continuity Nod: This episode, like "Aerodynamics of Gender" before it, contains a couple Freeze-Frame Bonus hints at future plots, such as the western theme of the next paintball episodes.
    • Annie punctuates her speeches with the same stilted hand gestures she used during the debate championships.
    • Jeff chooses not to hide in the men's room as he knows that doesn't work. Instead, he lies in a closet behind a "weather forecast" greenboard from one Troy and Abed in the Morning segment.
    • The Air Vent Monster in the news crawl for Troy and Abed in the Morning is Troy's monkey, Annie's Boobs.
    • A bit of a stretch, but Annie wants to make Greendale the best community college in the western three-quarters of the county. In "Basic Rocket Science", when we see the graphic of City College's expanding parking lot, Greendale is indeed to the west of City College, acknowledging their rival.
    • Pierce's age is listed as "66, dick."
    • Chicken finger shortage continues says the ticker underneath Troy and Abed's political show.
    • In "Comparative Religion", Jeff mentioned he "keeps his guitar in its case". We see him playing guitar in his Real World audition tape.
  • Crawl: Troy and Abed's election coverage has a cable news-style ticker on the bottom of the screen with items like "Human Being mascot: Offensive to animals?" and "No paintball this spring claims Dean."
  • Creepy Crossdresser: The Dean is a little too insistent that he has no choice but to wear his 'sister's' (rather unflattering) Uncle Sam costume.
    Dean Pelton: It's tailored for ladies, but what else could I do on such short notice?
    Jeff: Well, you could not dress up as Uncle Sam. Or admit you don't have a sister.
  • Dark Horse Victory: Out of eight potential candidates, a write-in vote, South Park (not any of the characters or anything, the TV show itself), ended up winning in the end.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Pierce joins the student council election solely to bully and torment Vicki, a fellow candidate — who refused to lend him a pencil. This backfires on him when she eventually does 'lend' him one — through his cheek.
  • Easily Forgiven: Annie and Jeff to each other for their pettiness. Jeff admits he was being a jerk to Annie for no reason about her desire to improve the school. What Annie did to Jeff ensures that he'll be hearing the embarrassing song he recorded for a few weeks. They still make up.
  • Exact Words:
    • Jeff did hang all Annie's campaign fliers up.
    • Vicki finally lends Pierce a pencil: she stabs him in the face with it.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Abed will watch bad movies to mock them. Even he thinks The Last Airbender was just too terrible.
  • The Faceless: All we see of Vice President Biden is the back of his head and his voice ("I had a dream that I was a regular president").
  • Flat Character: Vicky is so nondescript that Troy and Abed can't think of a single thing to say about her. Possibly averted at the end, when we learn that she's got at least one definite character trait: she responds quite forcefully to people harassing her over pencils.
  • Friendship-Straining Competition: Jeff and Annie run against each other in an election for class president. After Jeff attacks Annie's idealism at several turns, she retaliates by showing everyone an embarrassing video Jeff made a long time ago. He drops out of the election as a result and she follows suit out of guilt. They patch things up afterwards.
  • Foreshadowing: The Crawl: "Dean announces end-of-year picnic, implies 'Western Theme'."
  • Funny Background Event:
    • After you rewind, you'll note the agent who says "we've been made" after Abed makes his comment about the campus being watched was there at least since the dean walked in, wiping the same pane of glass repeatedly.
    • During one of Jeff and Annie's conversations behind the podiums, whenever the camera faces Jeff we can see Magnitude dancing ridiculously for no reason, because that's just how he rolls.
  • Get a Room!: Troy says this to the Birds of a Feather.
  • Heel Realization: Both Jeff and Annie — Jeff in that he's trying to poison an idealistic attempt to make the world a better place for no better reason than to justify and feel better about his own cynicism, and Annie when she realizes that her own ruthlessness and entitlement almost lead her to destroy a friendship rather than lose an election. Both end up dropping out of the race because they realize that they don't deserve to win.
  • Held Gaze: Jeff and Annie have two in this episode. One when they're talking up on the stage and Annie's telling Jeff that the gloves are coming off and he gives her his "Annie smile" and then another one in the storage room when they make up. And then Pierce interrupts...
  • Hopeless Auditionees: Britta during the debate nominations, Jeff in his Real World audition.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: In the Show Within a Show when Abed is watching Kickpuncher in the tag:
    Grateful citizen: You've done so much for our city, Kickpuncher; is there anything we can give you?
    Kickpuncher: Don't call me Kickpuncher ... call me ... David.
  • Ignored Epiphany: Pierce notices that the rest of the group is awkward around him for his cruel pranks from the previous episode. His mind is also clearer from going to rehab. He decides the best course of action is to hassle someone from outside the group since they aren't friends. Vicki reveals she's not a pushover and stabs him in the cheek with a pencil.
  • I'm Standing Right Here: In the debate, Annie promises to balance the school's budget by "eliminating administrative redundancies."
    Dean Pelton: Okay. I'm in the room.
  • I Regret Nothing: Used as Jeff's quotation in his political profile.
  • Is This Thing Still On?: Pierce's attempt to psych out Vicki is unwittingly caught by the microphone, which is switched on. Pierce is not at all bothered by this.
  • Jerkass Ball: Jeff grabs it when mocking Annie about how her becoming president won't actually change anything. Later, Annie grabs it from Jeff when he manages to sway the crowd with only a few choice words.
  • Kill It with Fire:
    Annie: I have so many ideas for improving the school.
    Jeff: Improving Greendale take more than ideas, Annie. It takes time, gasoline, matches ...
  • Last-Second Word Swap: Agent Robin Vohlers corrects herself in the nick of time before revealing embarrassing details from her childhood.
    "Couldn't you just pick the sixth kid every time? That's what I ... [Beat] would have done."
  • The Men in Black: The government agents.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Annie clearly feels rather ashamed of herself when her exposure of Jeff's Real World audition tape causes him to storm off upset.
  • Nice Character, Mean Actor: Troy is mean when the camera isn't rolling.
    "Can I have an apple juice, please? Freshly squeezed this time or so help me God, Maurice!"
  • Noodle Incident: The Ass-Crack Bandit, in this episode at least. It gets elaborated on in a later episode.
  • Obligatory Earpiece Touch: Troy touches his ear repeatedly in the scenes where he plays a commentator. He isn't actually wearing an earpiece.
  • Old Shame: In-Universe, Jeff's audition tape for the 1997 series of Real World Seattle is this to him.
  • Once for Yes, Twice for No: Abed uses this with Special Agent Vohlers.
  • Overly Narrow Superlative: Annie promises "to make Greendale the signature community college of the entire western three-quarters of the Greendale area."
  • Pandering to the Base: In-Universe. Leonard changes his last name to Rodriguez to "court the Hispanic vote."
  • Paranoia Gambit: Abed to the Secret Service so that Robin Vohlers has an excuse to spy on him.
    Abed: For GCTV this is Abed Nadir saying: Did you know you can make napalm out of common dish soap and cat food?
  • Passive-Aggressive Kombat: Jeff and Annie slash out at each other on stage while keeping up a Stepford Smiler façade, just like real politicians do.
  • Political Correctness Gone Mad: The GCTV ticker informs us that Greendale's mascot may be offensive to animals.
  • Ransacked Room: The Men in Black mess up Abed's room pretty well.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Parodied with Vicki, the only student entering the election who we've never seen or heard from before this episode. We learn absolutely nothing about her except for the fact that she's wearing a yellow shirt and once refused to lend Pierce a pencil.
  • Running Away to Cry: Annie says that Jeff did this when the video of his Real World audition was screened. Jeff does do this.
  • Russian Reversal: Lampshaded by Jeff, who notes that the audience loves him switching phrases around.
  • Sad Clown: Pierce muses on conflict:
    Pierce: When we seek to destroy others, we often hurt ourselves. Because it is the self that wants to be destroyed.
    Jeff: Pierce, you're not usually so poignant.
    Pierce: Yeah, well, Vicki finally lent me her pencil. [[Turns to reveal a pencil stabbed through his cheek.]
  • Scandalgate: The title of Troy and Abed's show is DecisionGate: Gateway to Election Road.
  • Shaped Like Itself: Troy counting notches.
  • Ship Tease: For Jeff and Annie. Their "Resolved" conversation is quite shippy and comes with another Held Gaze and a potential Almost Kiss.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Annie gives a pretty scathing one to Jeff right before he begins his campaign against her.
    Jeff: Face it, Annie: Politics are all about ego, popularity, and parlor tricks. Don't kid a lawyer.
    Annie: Well, if I see one, I won't.
  • Smoking Barrel Blowout: Annie does a shooting and blow-out gesture with her remote when the Old Shameinvoked video of Jeff is playing.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Abed acquires one. She's a Secret Service agent. Not that he minds.
  • Stock Scream: The Wilhelm scream shows up in the cheesy movie Abed takes the Secret Service agent to on their date.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: Along with five other people, both Troy and Abed vote for South Park as school council president.
  • Stumbled Into the Plot: Garrett ends up as one of the candidates for student council president because he thought he was getting in line for ice cream.
  • Take That!:
    Secret Service agent: [After searching Abed's bag] He's clean. Although I could issue a warning for this bootleg of The Last Airbender.
    Abed: Where were you a week ago? You can keep it.
  • Technicolor Eyes: Magnitude ("POP, POP!") purportedly has ultraviolet eyes.
  • Thing-O-Meter: When selecting candidates for the presidential elections, the Dean elects to act as a human "applause-o-meter" to let how much applause each candidate receives decide whether they make it through to the debate process. Since every candidate receives a smattering of polite applause, he ends up letting them all in — and then begins to wonder why so many people seem to be getting nominated.invoked Then, Britta takes the stage with her anarchist views on the situation:
    Britta: I believe humankind need not be governed!
    [No applause whatsoever]
    Britta: [Petulantly] I don't care.
    Dean: Well, it's good to know there's a floor on this thing...
  • Van in Black: In the last scene the female agent is seen spying on Abed from a flower service truck.
  • Vice President Who?: Joe Biden makes an appearance (sort of) while on a vice-presidential tour that was going to stop at Greendale. This trope is referenced when he wakes up from a nap and says, "I had a dream about being a real president."