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Recap / Community S 3 E 21 The First Chang Dynasty

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They're just plumbers. Really. In case of doubt, look at their mustaches.
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Chang has kidnapped The Dean and replaced him with a Doppeldeaner. The study group attempts to free him on the night of Chang's "25th" Birthday Party, but the school has become a near-impregnable fortress, and in order to save the day Troy might have to make a great sacrifice.


Tropes appearing in this episode of Community include:

  • Actor Allusion: J.P. Manoux, who plays the fake Dean says "It's hard out there for a fake Moby." In How I Met Your Mother episode "The Limo", Manoux plays a character that is mistaken for Moby.
  • Affectionate Parody: The heist is planned, acted out, and shot like Soderbergh's Ocean's Eleven and Pierce even mentions it by name.
  • The Alcoholic: One of the board members excuses his inability to see the very obvious fact that Chang was nuts with his drinking problem.
  • Answer Cut:
    Murray: And where is that key?
    [zoom in on the key on a string around Chang's neck]
    Troy: Well, where is it?
    Murray: Oh, sorry; that was clearer in my head.
    • Also here:
    Annie: We need somebody on the inside.
    Troy: I may know a guy.
    Cut to Troy talking to Murray at a restaurant.
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  • Anti-Advice: It's pretty clear Jeff considers anything Pierce might have to say on any subject this (not, it has to be said, without reason), as demonstrated when the two give farewell advice to Troy:
    Pierce: Never wear a rubber.
    Jeff: Never listen to Pierce.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: If Troy joins the AC Repair School, he will be forced to move out of the apartment, cut off from his friends, be unable to have a relationship and, for some unknown reason, will not be permitted to use the word 'sensational'.
  • Bait-and-Switch: It initially seems like Pierce's racist impersonation was not intended to be part of the plan and ended up foiling it right as it was about to succeed until Pierce gives a Meaningful Look to Jeff. Jeff in turn gives one back, revealing to the audience that Pierce actually was incorporated into the plan as a distraction to get Chang out of the throne room and heading to the wrong side of the building while the team successfully extracted.
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  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Plumber Abed pulls this trick on one of Chang's guards, threatening him about a flooding that will happen if they are not granted access to the toilets.
  • Binocular Shot: "They're like telephones for your eyes."
  • Bittersweet Ending: The study group expose Chang, rescue the Dean and get themselves readmitted back into the school, but Troy made a deal with the AC Repair Annex to help them do so, and so must move out of the apartment and leave the group to join the AC Repair School.
  • Blackface: Well, more like "tan face". Pierce uses either make-up or a lot of bronzer to darken his face for the swami costume.
  • Blatant Lies:
  • Callback:
    • Chang's evil scheme is tied to his mad keytar skillz.
    • Britta is once again involved in the seduction of a middle schooler, albeit with her knowledge this time.
    • At the end of the episode the board members go out for yard-margs.
    • Chang is stroking a stuffed tiger, also known as El Tigre.
    • "Elaborate heist? Elaborate heist?"
      • And later:
      Jeff: We're done, right? Done? Done? Done? Done?
    • Yet again, the study group's season two-developed skills in making dioramas comes in handy as they build a replica of Greendale. Although Shirley objects to some uneven levels of detailing:
      Shirley: You had time to make a working water fountain, and I'm a pine-cone?
    • Quite a hard one to catch, but this isn't the first time someone in the study group likened Chang to Stalin.
      Troy (in season 1): The only difference between Stalin and Señor Chang is that I know who Señor Chang is.
      Britta (in season 3, on Chang): This is just like Stalin back in Russia times!
    • Chang's reference to Connie, the twin sister he ate in the womb, is a sort of Call-Back-that-could-have-been; a proposed subplot for Season Two was that Chang would be increasingly haunted by visions of Connie, but it was quietly dropped.
  • Cassandra Truth: Officer Cackowski is skeptical when the study group tells him of the "doppeldeaner" and makes it clear he will arrest them if they trespass at Greendale.
  • Catch Phrase: "Oof baboof!"
  • Character Development: Another glimpse of how far Jeff has come; when presented with an option that would easily enable them to enter Greendale to stop Chang but would mean forcing Troy to join the Air Conditioning Repair Annex, Jeff immediately rejects the easy option (something that would have been unthinkable a few years ago) and agrees with everyone to plan an elaborate heist and possibly risk jail if they get caught rather than risk losing Troy.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Early on, Troy mentions the agreement with AC Repair School as an option to get to the Dean but it's voted against. Fast forward to the group being trapped in the basement where Troy remembers the deal and decides to take it.
  • Comically Missing the Point
    Troy: (after Chang tells his entire Evil Plan) Chang, you're insane. You're still into keytar?!
    • Also, earlier, when Officer Cackowski scoffs at their claim that the Dean has been replaced by a 'Deanelganger'.
      Jeff: Well, when you say it that way, it sounds ridiculous.
      Troy: Yeah, the word we used was doppeldeaner.
  • Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like: Dean Pelton had his hopes up that Jeff would be the one to personally rescue him, and is disappointed when he sees that it's Britta.
  • Could Say It, But...: Murray at the restaurant helps Troy this way.
  • Deadly Rotary Fan: AC Repair School makes it stop so the group can escape.
  • Derailed Train of Thought: The Dean gets overly digressive when talking about his plan for a distraction.
    Dean Pelton: I've been renting the school out for raves on the weekend... they call it "Academania"! It's mostly hard house — mm, some dubstep — but it's totally danceab—
    Jeff: Perfect.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Chang's method of ruling the school is very Stalinist dictatorship-inspired, with more than a hint of North Korea in particular.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Annie's disguised as one of Chang's child army.
  • Drunk with Power: This should go without saying, but Chang.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Lampshaded.
    Abed: Chang's started his solo. Knowing him, that only gives us 9 minutes.
  • Evil Laugh: A very disturbing and crazy one when Chang brings up the twin sister he ate in-utero: "This one's for you, Connie!"
  • Failed a Spot Check: The Board Members end up admitting that they really probably should have noticed that Chang was a psychotic power-mad nutcase running the school into the ground sooner than they did.
  • Fakeout Escape: The Dean hides in the basement while Chang's henchmen believe he has escaped.
  • Fanservice: Britta's Goth outfit as an assistant to Jeff, who is disguised as a Criss Angel-esque magician. Also, Jeff as said Criss Angel-esque magician. Especially the eyeliner and leather pants.
  • Fiery Coverup: Chang's plan is to burn down the records, eliminating all evidence of his misdeeds. Annie points out this would get him and everyone else in the school killed.
  • For Want of a Nail: If Chang hadn't caught the study group, he would have successfully blown up the school.
  • Gambit Pileup: Chang foils the group's Plan A, but then Jeff reveals Plan B, which is also foiled by Chang.
  • The Generalissimo: Chang dresses in a Napoleonic General's uniform.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar:
    Board member Carl: Only a matter of time until everyone finds out what happened here. Nobody can sit on something this big.
    Dean Pelton: I'll sit on it! When I became dean, I made a pledge to swallow this school's failures and spit out degrees, because that's. What. Deans. Do.
  • Guy Liner: Jeff wears it as part of his cover.
  • Heist Episode: The study group plot an elaborate heist Ocean's Eleven-style to rescue the Dean after Chang replaced him with a doppelgänger and took over the school.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Troy completes his bargain with the AC Repair School despite the personal cost in order save the school from burning down.
  • Heroes With Bad Publicity: The study group.
  • Hidden Depths: The Doppeldeaner has a wife, turns out.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Even if he was charming (which is something Chang only ever manages in very, very short bursts), the Board Members should have still picked up on the several warning signs that Chang was insane.
  • Hypocritical Humour:
    Pierce: Is that me in my swami disguise?
    Jeff: No, Pierce. For the last time, you're in the getaway van because your swami act is notoriously horrible.
    Pierce: A. That is racist! B. Swamis can't drive; they're Indians.
    • Jeff gets in on the act as well:
      Jeff: Don't get so dramatic, Troy. The answer is simple; [Dramatically] we just have to plan an elaborate heist!
  • I Can Explain: Of course, when he's finally caught Chang can't explain. So he just legs it out the door instead.
  • Insistent Terminology:
    • It's a prescription throne. Chang has back-mumps.note 
    • When Officer Cackowski scoffs at the idea of Chang replacing the Dean with a 'Deanelganger', Troy immediately lambasts him... because the term the study group used was doppeldeaner.
  • Jail Bake: Shirley plants a note in the sandwich for the Dean to notify him about the Fakeout Escape.
  • Janitor Impersonation Infiltration: Troy and Abed gain access to Chang's room by pretending to be plumbers.
  • Jumping Out of a Cake: Well, more like crawling out of it in secret.
  • Just Between You and Me: Chang can't resist telling the group about his Evil Plan after capturing them.
  • Just in Time: Abed defuses the bomb just in time before Chang's Musical Trigger could activate it.
  • Kansas City Shuffle: The study group intentionally make things look like the plan has derailed in order to obscure the real plan. Unfortunately, they didn't count on a further derailment.
    • Arguably a Deconstruction as it turns out to be a needless complication that actually threatens a plan that was running smoothly up until that point.
  • Karma Houdini: Chang and the Dean impersonator ran out of the school when they were busted.
  • The Lady's Favor: Britta gives Troy a lock of her hair when he leaves to join the AC Repair School. He calls it creepy, but fawns over it nevertheless.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The Changlourious Bastards suffer this when the study group gets the upper-hand against them, as they're subjected to various indignities common to childhood pranking (stuck in a room suddenly plunged into the dark, menaced by bigger people, getting Stuffed into a Locker, etc). Considering that in their appearances to this point they've basically been acting like insufferable power-mad little brats, it's rather fitting.
  • Master Actor: Jeff pulls off a convincing stage musician. Chang and the kids are fooled.
  • Musical Trigger: Chang has the documents incriminating him in his brutal takeover of the school rigged to be set on fire when he hits the high note in his awesome keytar solo. The plan is foiled by the heroes.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Jeff is disguised as Ricky Nightshade, a rock 'n' roll magician with obvious overtones of Criss Angel.
  • Non-Fatal Explosions: Annie tries to warn Chang, but apparently, he has no idea how fire works.
    Annie: You're going to burn down the school and kill everyone!
    Chang: Fire can't go through doors; it's not a ghost!
  • No One Gets Left Behind: Jeff refuses to consider the option of Troy surrendering himself to the AC Repair school, even though they'd have powerful allies and a one-way ticket to the Dean. He says that Troy shouldn't be sacrificed in such a way and is saddened when Troy chooses to take the deal.
  • Not So Stoic: Lampshaded. After Troy's goodbye, Abed apologizes for "getting so emotional." His facial expression has not changed at all. Not that that makes it any less of a Tear Jerker.
  • Obstacle Exposition: Murray at the restaurant provides one, explaining to Troy all the obstacles they have to overcome to free the Dean.
  • On Second Thought: Jeff vetoes Abed going for a heist plan, because it is dangerous. Then Troy points out the only other solution is him joining the AC Repair school. Jeff announces they're doing a heist.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: The beards on Abed, Troy and Shirley look fake but nobody takes notice.
  • Perky Goth: Britta's magician assistant persona.
  • Police Are Useless: The study group goes to the police first to try to report Chang kidnapping the Dean and taking over the school. Not only does the cop refuse to believe it, but warns them that he'd arrest them if they went anywhere near the campus. Although in his defense, the scenario was pretty difficult to believe. One look at the disturbing commercial or heck, just one look at the campus and it should have been obvious that something was wrong; on the other hand, the Dean signed off on that before he was kidnapped.
  • Portmanteau: Doppeldeaner, Deanelganger, copera and policical. Chang manages to go even further with Dean-el-Chang-er.
  • Power Walk: The study group does this down a hallway after they rescued the real Dean from the basement. It was a bit premature; they should have done it once they were off-campus.
  • Propaganda Machine: Chang's posters and TV ads.
  • Pun-Based Title
  • Race Against the Clock: The group marks time at the beginning of Chang's big solo: they have only nine minutes left.
  • Reality Ensues: Something pointed out by Annie; she says that if Chang launches fireworks in the records room, he'll burn down the school and kill everyone inside, including himself.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Office Cackowski tells the group he doesn't believe them because the story is ridiculous; plus, he caught Abed sneaking around campus a few episodes earlier. With that said, he gives them fair warning they can't just appear on campus because he'd be obligated to arrest them for trespassing. All in all, he's quite reasonable and even talks about his cop opera.
  • Running Away to Cry: Abed at the end when he gets emotional over Troy's parting words.
  • Sarcastic Clapping: Chang, when he captures the group, which he lampshades.
  • Ship Tease: Troy/Britta gets teased a few times.
    Britta: Troy, we are not losing you to save the Dean or Greendale. [Meaningfully] Or anything. Ever.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Show Your Boobs: Pierce immediately suggests Britta and Annie do this to divert the guards when Shirley points out that We Need a Distraction, much to their disgust. Although considering the guards they're trying to distract are twelve-year-old boys...
  • Silent Whisper: Subverted, Abed immediately tells everyone that Troy whispered, "I know you hate when people do this in movies."
  • Skewed Priorities: The AC Repair school would rather watch Chang blow everything up in a bid to recruit Troy. If they were playing poker, they were bluffing with a bad hand.
  • Spies in a Van: The study group operates out of a van during the rescue operation.
  • Spinning Paper: Effect during the Opening Monologue, a spinning sheet of the Greendale 7.
  • Spy Speak: One of Chang's guards announces the Dean's escape with "The pixie has left the toadstool!"
  • Strange Minds Think Alike:
    • Troy and Britta agree that binoculars are "like telephones for your eyes."
    • Upon learning that Officer Cackowski is writing a 'cop opera', seconds later every member of the study group except Pierce yells out "Copera!" as a possible title.
    • Cackowski's "Deanelganger" and Chang's "Deanelchanger"
  • Stuffed into a Locker: One of Chang's guards suffers this fate when the study group gains the upper hand over them.
  • Sudden Downer Ending: The goodbye scene with the whole group.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Annie disguises herself as one of Chang's boy guards.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Subverted. During the argument with Officer Cackowski at the beginning, Britta at one point interjects "Look, I hate cops..." There's no 'but'.
  • Too Dumb to Live: As Annie points out, Chang would get himself killed in his plot to set off fireworks in the records room because it would blow up the school. Chang believes fire can't go through doors so he dismisses her.
  • Unfolding Plan Montage: We see the heist unfold as Jeff explains it.
  • Villain: Exit, Stage Left: The last we see of Chang is him legging it after his scheme has been exposed and ruined.
  • We Need a Distraction: Used word-for-word by Shirley. Pierce being Pierce, he immediately suggests Annie and Britta employ Show Some Leg on the guards.
  • Wham Episode: Chang's season-long subplot is finally resolved, and as a result of the Heroic Sacrifice, Troy completes his deal with the AC Repair group and has to leave the group to go the AC Repair School.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Subverted. Pierce's appearance foils the caper but then it's revealed it was part of the plan.
  • Where It All Began: Chang's hammy line "It ends as it began," puzzling Jeff.
    Jeff: It didn't begin like this!
  • Wimp Fight: The Dean versus Faux-by.
  • Wire Dilemma: Parodied with a single wire.
    Abed: Which wire do I cut?
    Troy: There's only one.
    Abed: I hope to God I'm right.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Jeff agrees with Abed to create a heist so as to extract the dean and prove to the cops that Chang has taken over the school. It almost goes off perfectly...except they celebrate too early rather than hightailing it out of the school or calling Officer Cackowski with the Dean on his phone.
  • Zettai Ryouiki: Britta's magician assistant disguise which is a rank B.

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