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Recap / Community S2 E23: A Fistful of Paintballs

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He's paid to shoot paintballs, not the breeze!

This year's western-themed Spring Fling takes a turn when Dean Pelton announces a "short" game of last-man-standing paintball assassin, and the ice cream company sponsoring their party announces the prize: $100,000 cash. The group splinters, reforming 5 hours later to find a cache of ammo that could help them win the game. In the meantime, the Black Rider, a mysterious "network television handsome" shooter is taking out the competition.



  • Beware the Nice Ones: Annie has spent the entire episode (and much of the season) defending Pierce to the other members of the group to the point where she's the only one who votes to keep him around. Upon learning that Pierce has once again betrayed their trust by giving Jeff blank paint cartridges, expecting him to get shot, she does not react well.
  • Blatant Lies
    • Chang claiming he's loyal.
      Chang: Hello? Anybody? Does anyone have an alliance I can join? I'm really loyal!
    • Troy's attempt to claim that the study group is "always nice" to Pierce is a particularly shameless and hypocritical example.
  • Call-Back: The cabinet the group finds the Dean hiding in contains both a dalmatian (running gag about the Dean's apparent fetish) and a bee costume from "Celebrity Pharmacology."
    • Chang's El Tigre paintball gun from last year's paintball game makes a reappearance.
    • Jeff's cowboy costume from "Introduction to Statistics" makes a comeback as well.
    • "You raped the Duquesne family."
    • Annie's still Pierce's favorite.
    • Troy pops up out of a garbage can, mimicking Annie from back in "Modern Warfare".
    • Annie's rousing speech to Pierce in Advanced Criminal Law contains references to her mother "encouraging" her to continue cheerleading. When she shoots the cheerleading squad that are about to execute Chang, she mentions that she tried out the previous year.
  • The Cameo:
    • Anthony Michael Hall returns as Mike, the bully from "Comparative Religion".
    • Dominik Musiol returns as Abed's old roommate Pavel, in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance as the Black Rider's first (On-screen) victim.
  • Cattle Baron: Pierce plays this role, essentially acting as the leader of a makeshift "western town", except he isn't the Big Bad.
  • Celebrity Paradox: The Black Rider is played by Josh Holloway, better known as Sawyer on Lost, despite "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas" having established that Lost exists in the show's universe.
  • The Cheerleader: Greendale's cheerleading squad are about to sentence Chang to "pretendsies-death" for betraying them until Annie shoots them first. She tried out for the team last year and was rejected.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Chang betrays Jeff to the Math Team, the Math Team to the Cheerleaders, and attempts to betray the Cheerleaders. It ends badly for him.
  • Cliffhanger: The episode ends with the introduction of Operation: Total Invasion.
  • Clothing Damage: Annie's floor-length skirt she wears when the paintball game starts is missing by the time she's hiding out alone in the chemistry lab hours later. It could be an off-camera Action Dress Rip but considering Annie's not too pleased about it and wants pants, it's doubtful it was intentional.
  • Cowboy Episode: In this episode, everyone acts as though they're in a Western as they fight to win the cash prize and use paintball guns that look like revolvers and shotguns.
  • Damsel out of Distress: Don't try to use Annie as a Human Shield. She will kick you in the balls.
  • Death Glare: Accompanied by hellfire and an eagle's scream. The recipient does the sensible thing, and runs in terror.
  • Don't Explain the Joke: "Because you're gay."
  • The Dragon: The Black Rider to Pistol Patty.
  • Dramatic Chase Opening: The episode opens with Fat Neil being chased across the corridors by Mike and his goons.
  • Dramatic Drop: Troy and Abed drop their ice cream and their jaws when the Dean announces a game of Paintball Assassin.
  • Dynamic Entry: Abed saving Jeff from the Math Club.
  • Emerging from the Shadows: We don't know for sure that it's Annie in the opening scene until she steps into the light.
  • Enemy Eats Your Lunch: Abed eats Annie's lunch during their initial confrontation after which they team up.
  • Enemy Rising Behind: In the opening scene Annie is emerging behind Mike and his men.
  • Evil Wears Black: A mysterious shooter called only the Black Rider appears in this episode, a "network television handsome" guy played by Josh Holloway. He's dressed in all black with badass stuff like a black cowboy hat or bandolier with paintball bullets who takes one student after another. He was hired by the City College, Greendale's nemesis.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: He may be The Dragon sent by the real Big Bad, but the Black Rider expresses genuine concern when Pierce seems to be suffering a heart-attack, and calls the study group out for not helping him. Unfortunately for him, it turns out Pierce was faking the whole time.
  • Failed Attempt at Drama: Troy emerging from the trash bin may have sounded good as an idea but the delivery was just pathetic.
  • Fan Disservice: Bare Your Midriff + Who Wears Short Shorts? = Dean Pelton
  • Fanservice: This episode features at least three shots of Annie running in slow motion. In a corset.
    Abed: Jeff wants to talk to you.
    Annie: Yeah, and I want pants. We all want a lot of things.
  • Feet-First Introduction: We first hear the sound of his spurs, then we see his boots... then his face: The Black Rider!
  • Firing Squad: The Cheerleaders prepare to shoot a blindfolded Chang this way for betraying them.
  • Flashback Effects: The first flashback of the announcement of the paintball competition has a soft glow style, later flashbacks to the study room, where they voted on Pierce's future, show in desaturated colors.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • "Red Five, standing by."
    • How about during the intro? When they played Chevy's opening tile, it was a standoff between two gunmen.
    • As each member of the Study Group reappears, they're accompanied by a title card giving them a nickname taken from a playing card. Annie's being the only red card & Pierce not receiving a title card set-up foreshadow the true purpose of the card motif. The group took a vote on whether to invite Pierce back to the study group next year and Annie was the only holdout.
    • Pierce faking a heart attack & someone outside of the Study Group falling for it.
  • Gatling Good: The mysterious storm troopers who invade the campus at the end of the episode bring with them a paintball mini-gun.
  • Genre Blind: Oh, Dean. He does not learn from past mistakes.
    "Why does this keep happening?!"
  • Girlish Pigtails: Britta wears these that offset with her masculine Western outfit.
  • Great Offscreen War: The destruction of Fort Hawthorne happens off screen.
  • Guns Akimbo: Several characters dual wield. Including Annie, Jeff, Shirley, and the Black Rider.
  • The Heavy: The Black Rider may have just been hired by Pistol Patty, but he's the one that actually moves the plot forward and poses an actual threat to the group. When Pierce shoots him, Patty takes things into his own hands.
  • Hijacked by Ganon: Played with. First with Pierce shooting the apparent Big Bad, the Black Rider, in an attempt to usurp the game. Little did he know he'd just uncorked a Man Behind the Man in the form of Pistol Patty.
  • Human Shield:
    • The Black Rider uses Annie as one against Jeff and Abed. Annie gets free by elbowing him in the gut.
    • Abed uses a member of the Math Club as one.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: This is one of the few episode titles that doesn't take the form of a class name.
  • In Medias Res: Unlike the previous paintball episode, this one starts after the game began several hours earlier.
  • It Works Better with Bullets: Pierce pulls this on Jeff, and inadvertently allows Annie to escape from the Black Rider.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Let's face it, while Pierce has often been a Jerkass he's right to call out Troy when he claims "We're always nice to you, Pierce!"
  • Meaningful Name: The card "nicknames" given for each member of the study group are actually the cards they threw in when voting on whether or not to keep Pierce in the group.
  • Mexican Standoff: Between Annie, Pierce, the rest of the study group, and the Black Rider.
  • Missing Trailer Scene: The preview for the season finale features Starburns doing a Crucified Hero Shot.
  • Multi-Part Episode: This is the first part of the season finale.
  • No Man of Woman Born: Referenced.
    Mike: There's only one rule Fat Neil. The prize goes to the last man standing.
    Annie: So to speak.
  • No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: During their time in Fort Hawthorne, Pierce has the group sit down to a meal of vending machine snacks.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Annie points out that The Black Rider doesn't actually ride anything.
  • Ominous Music Box Tune: Played during flashbacks to when the study group appears to play cards without Pierce. It turns out they were actually voting on whether to kick Pierce out of the group.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: The flashback to the study room takes on a different meaning once we learn what the playing cards were for.
  • Paintball Episode: The Dean thinks he has learned from past mistakes.
  • The Piano Player: Leonard fills this role at "Fort Hawthorne", playing Western saloon music on a keyboard.
  • Pre-Asskicking One-Liner:
    Jeff: Who the hell are you?
    The Black Rider: The guy that's gonna win.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: The Black Rider. He's hired to play a suave, bad-boy player-killer, but immediately "breaks character" when Pierce apparently has a heart attack.
    "I'm outta here, I've got Coldplay tickets."
  • Put Down Your Gun and Step Away: Genre Savvy Annie demands this of Fat Neil.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Subverted; Jeff's attempt to pull this on the Black Rider just reveals his poorly-hidden insecurities:
    "You think you're good looking but you're not. You're average. You're just an average looking guy with a big chin."
  • Red Baron: The Black Rider. Named for the spurs on his boots.
    Annie: Who wears spurs to paintball?
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated:
    Abed: I thought you were dead.
    Troy: I thought you were dead.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: It's a Cowboy Episode so the paintball guns come in the form of revolvers.
  • Running Gag: Jeff's forehead is topic again.
  • Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: The final shot of Cold Open does this with Annie, at which point it segues into the opening credits.
  • Self-Serving Memory: Troy declaring "We're always nice to you, Pierce!" after a year of the Study Group constantly excluding Pierce from activities.
  • Sequel Episode: This is a follow-up to last year's "Modern Warfare".
  • Serious Business: Once again, a game of paintball is taken very seriously by everyone playing it. Justified by the prize money of $100,000 cash, but still no less hilarious.
    Fat Neil: We're friends Annie. Remember, we played Dungeons & Dragons together.
    Annie: That was a game. This is Paintball!
  • Ship Tease: Jeff and Annie get teased again with Jeff calling her "Milady" (leading her to rebuff him soundly, not replying with the customary "Milord" as is their wont), the "repressing sexual desires" head-pat from Debate 109 makes its last appearance, and Jeff is also the only one to remain on Annie's side when the showdown against Pierce comes. Annie's protectiveness about Jeff in regards to Pierce's treatment of him should be noted too.
    • Jeff's ever-growing list of insecurities when comparing himself to the Black Rider seems to be spurred on by the fact that Annie and the Black Rider develop heaps of UST in a very small amount of time.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: Chang is eliminated from the game at the end of the episode, shortly after the revelation that the Black Rider was hired to stop any Greendale students winning & the two-parter takes a turn for the serious. Relatively speaking, that is; it is still a two-part episode of a comedy series focused on a game of paintball at a Community College.
  • Shot Guns Are Just Better: The Black Rider wields a pair of paintball shotguns.
  • Shout-Out: All over the place, including stylistic nods to Sergio Leone, Quentin Tarantino, and the Resident Evil series.
    • The title is referencing the first of Leone's Dollars Trilogy, A Fistful of Dollars. The opening is just like those of Leone-era westerns, and the Mexican Standoff near the end is very similar to the climax of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
    • The head cheerleader's name is Heather.
    • The music, especially in the flashbacks, with the music-box tune, is a shoutout to For a Few Dollars More.
    • Troy's costume is an exact replica of the one worn by Cleavon Little in Blazing Saddles, and Abed's is channeling The Man with No Name.
    • At the end: "Red Five, standing by."
    • The scene with the 'soldiers' at the end is a shout out to Die Hard 2's scene with rogue commandos ready to take over the airport. Fitting, since the first season's paintball episode referenced the first Die Hard movie.
    • The scene where Annie provokes Pierce into picking up the gun to duel is also a sort of morally inverted example of a common scene in westerns where a bad guy is introduced or shown picking on some innocent bystander to provoke them into pistol-dueling so the bad guy can "justifiably" shoot them down in cold blood, such as Jack Palance's hitman character taunting the farmer in Shane. It also shares similarity to a famous Bill Hicks routine wherein he compares American foreign policy to such a scene in westerns, specifically (and inaccurately) referencing Shane ("Pick it up.").
    • Annie calls Fat Neil Christina "Reach-y".
    • Abed eating Annie's beans from a can might be one.
  • Showdown at High Noon: An interesting duel with Annie versus Pierce and Jeff versus The Black Rider.
  • Sixth Ranger Traitor: Chang immediately sells out Jeff when they're at a disadvantage, and then proceeds to do the same thing to several groups for the rest of the episode.
  • Special Edition Title: The Animated Credits Opening is done In the Style of... Western movies. This is the second time the chatterbox/fortune teller was not featured in its opening titles.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Abed pulls this off on Annie.
    • When he's not letting everyone know he's coming by the sound of his distinctive spurs, the Black Rider also seems adept at this; he too pulls one on Annie.
  • Stripperiffic: Annie's costume.
    Abed: Jeff wants to see you.
    Annie: Yeah? And I want pants. A lot of people want a lot of things.
  • A Taste of Their Own Medicine: Chang gets brought down by a paintball machine gun, the same weapon he used in the last paintball game.
  • Theme Naming / Playing Card Motifs: All the study group members (except for Pierce) are given nicknames related to playing cards. These turn out to stand for their votes on whether Pierce could stay in the group.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: The Black Rider kept shooting at a guy even though he was already 'dead'. Later on Chang is taken out by a minigun going full-auto for about ten seconds straight.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Annie, especially in comparison to her weak showing in last year's paintball fight.
    Abed: She's pretty awesome today.
  • Took a Level in Dumbass: Chang's considerably less impressive than in the last paintball episode. Perhaps this is because he didn't enter towards the end and couldn't get his special equipment.
    • Although considering that he spends most of the episode unarmed and running around blindfolded with his hands tied behind his back without getting shot until a Mook with a paintball mini-gun takes him out, he arguably doesn't do too badly.
  • Trash the Set
  • Turncoat: Chang will change to any side if it means better chances of survival. In the end, he gets Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves by a gattling gun.
  • Unkempt Beauty: Annie's hair's a mess, and she's never looked better.
  • Unknown Rival: Jeff.
    Jeff: Black Rider! It's Jeff Winger. I'm sure you've heard of me by now.
    Black Rider: No.
    Jeff: He's lying.
  • Unnecessary Combat Roll: We're introduced to Jeff by him once again diving into cover with a front flip roll.
  • "Wanted!" Poster: Turns out Pierce has put one up of Jeff. "Wanted: Gay and Alive".
    Jeff: (genuinely worried) My forehead is not that big, right?
    (Britta shrugs a bit hesitantly)
    Troy: It is not small.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • The Black Rider calls the study group awful people when they refuse to help Pierce during his apparent heart attack. They were right not to; it just gets the Black Rider shot in the gut. Lest the study group look too heartless as a result of this, however, it should be noted that it's implied Pierce does this a lot:
      Abed: Last week, he did it to get out of letting me have a stick of gum.
    • Pierce also calls the study group out on their often-quite-poor treatment of him, particularly after Troy hypocritically insists that "we're always nice to you, Pierce!"
  • White Flag: Pierce waves one at Annie.
  • Who Wears Short Shorts?: Annie does, which makes her look suspiciously like Lara Croft.
  • Why Don't You Marry Him?: Abed describes the Black Rider, prompting Jeff to use the phrase. "He's really good-looking. Like network-TV good-looking. And did you see how big his guns were?"
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: After Annie takes out Mike the Bully:
    "If you were a dude, you would have my fist up your balls!"
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Pierce pretends to have a heart attack so he can shoot the Black Rider.


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