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Recap / Community S 6 E 01 Ladders

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Francesca “Frankie” Dart is hired as CFO of Greendale after a roof collapses from 40 years of Frisbees landing on it. Tasked with fiscal responsibility, Frankie suggests cutting unnecessary classes such as “Ladders” amongst other changes, and Abed helps Frankie. Meanwhile, struggling to keep Shirley’s Sandwiches afloat, Britta, Annie, Jeff and Abed turn it into a speakeasy after Frankie bans alcohol on campus.

The Community episode Ladders provides examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Frankie accuses Jeff of this after she misreads a crack he makes about being unable to get through his working day at Greendale without a stiff drink. Although to be fair to her, the fact that he actually is drinking at work in the first place, and the lengths he goes to to keep drinking at work when she bans alcohol, make this a not entirely unreasonable conclusion to reach.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Jeff almost has a reasonable, responsible idea after getting Frankie to quit and getting alcohol allowed on campus.
    Dean: Frankie hasn't come back to work today.
    Jeff: That's terrible.
    Dean: The insurance company dropped us. We have no insurance!
    Jeff: What was Frankie's salary?
    Dean: A lot.
    Jeff: What were the insurance premiums?
    Dean: A lot.
    Jeff: Add those two numbers together, that's your new school dance budget.
    Dean: Oh! Nice.
  • Bait-and-Switch Tyrant: Frankie. While she does step on some toes in her efforts to improve the school, she's neither as big a jerk nor as unreasonable as the study group assume, her ideas have merit, and their rebellion against her is clearly portrayed as childish and irresponsible.
  • Binge Montage: Lampshaded by Abed, as a Gilligan Cut after he agrees to "one more drink."
  • Call-Back:
    • To "Anthropology 101": Shirley spun-off, but she didn't take Abed with her.
    • To "A Fistful of Paintballs": Vicki performs at the speakeasy, much as she did at Pierce's saloon.
    • To "Curriculum Unavailable": The Ladders Class was originally shown in one of the clip montages of crazy Greendale moments
    • To "Basic Story": A flashback reveals that Leonard has been at Greendale since it first opened as Greendale Computery College.
    • To "Basic Sandwich"
      • Abed refers to Shirley moving to Atlanta as "spinning off" in the same manner he referred to Jeff & Britta's short-lived engagement.
      • The Tag mocks NBC's penchant for green lighting crappy television shows, with the graphics & music playing being the same as the earlier gag.
    • To "Repilot": Abed mentions to Frankie that there's a Pierce hologram on campus, and that Jeff is the only one to have seen it.
  • The Cameo:
  • Cast Speciation: Discussed by the ever-Meta Guy Abed, who comments to new character Frankie that he worries that she isn't distinct enough from longtime cast member Annie (as both are straightlaced and motivated white brunettes). Frankie, of course, proves to be more serious and unused to shenanigans compared to Annie.
  • Censorship by Spelling: Annie spells out C-H-A-N-G-E so Abed would not understand. It doesn't work on Abed, but Chang thinks she's talking about him.
  • The Chanteuse: Vicky at the speakeasy.
  • Comically Missing the Point: When confronted with the legal action facing Greendale over the reckless combination of unrestricted alcohol use and dangerous classes like Ladders, Britta defiantly recommends that they fight the legal proceedings in court. Annie, who is a key plantiff in said legal proceedings and is sitting immediately opposite Britta wearing a head-brace, coldly recommends they settle instead.
  • Control Freak: While Frankie certainly has this in spades (as can be seen in her pompous speech about hierarchy), the study group isn't free of this either. For all their grand talk about preserving Greendale's fundamental nature, a significant part of the reason Jeff, Annie and Britta react so poorly to Frankie's changes is because they feel threatened that her presence is eroding their control over the campus and the way things are done. Witness Jeff's gloating to himself after Frankie has finally quit:
    Jeff: You did it, Jeff Winger. This is your school now.
  • Creator Cameo: A photo of Dan Harmon can be seen pinned up behind the bar in the speakeasy, above the words "DO NOT SERVE THIS MAN." Doubles as a Freeze-Frame Bonus.
  • Convenient Replacement Character: The Dean refers to Frankie as "New Shirley".
  • Deconstruction: Of Greendale's wacky nature. The group resists Frankie's efforts to improve the running of the school, as represented by her banning alcohol on campus and her attempting to scrap redundant classes like Ladders, because they feel it's destroying Greendale's essential character. They initially succeed, but let things go too far the other direction. Without any boundaries whatsoever Greendale's unrestrained wackiness becomes uncontrollable anarchy and people get hurt, as represented when the intoxicated Ladders professor falls off one of his ladders and directly onto Annie. Turns out they need Frankie and her boundaries.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Combining unrestricted alcohol consumption with a class wholly devoted to people climbing up very tall ladders ends, as should have probably been foreseen sooner, with people receiving serious injuries. This, in turn, leads the Save Greendale Committee having to deal with the legal implications that their reckless conduct regarding the running of the school has resulted in.
  • Empty Chair Memorial: Played with. When Frankie is introduced, she attempts to sit in Shirley's old seat, and the group objects loudly. She then moves to Pierce's old seat. Nobody minds.
  • Flair Bartending: Britta tries to show off some moves to Abed but doesn't have even the hint of any skill at it.
  • Freudian Excuse: Frankie's overly-serious nature likely has something to do with eccentric and in at least one case outright insane family members she mentions to Abed.
  • Friendship Moment: Played with; it's obscured both by the group's hostility towards her and Frankie's own blunt, no-nonsense attitude, but in hindsight several of her interactions with the study group throughout the episode suggest that she's trying to make friends with them:
    • After bluntly checking off Annie's suggestions for improvements point-by-point, Frankie makes a comment about Annie's elaborately decorated folder that initially seems quite dismissive and condescending ("This is cute."). At the end, Frankie produces a folder that is decorated in a similar fashion, suggesting that she was in fact being quite sincere and that they are quite similar personality-wise.
    • Her belief that Jeff has alcohol problem is based on a misunderstanding of his typically snarky humor, but she is actually displaying genuine concern for him.
    • She responds to Abed's TV-based quirks bluntly but, initially at least, without being condescending or dismissive of him (as even his friends are guilty of doing).
    • She insightfully notes that Britta doesn't really have much skill or enthusiasm for running a sandwich shop and would probably be happier doing something else, demonstrating clear signs of understanding her character.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: Chang believes he is in one.
  • Happy Ending Override: In a way. The previous season ended with the notion that the Greendale campus is now fine and functional. This episode starts with the roof collapsing and later Annie mentions a number of different issues (like electricity in the swimming pool) still being dealt with.
  • Happy Flashback: Leonard has one of his first day at Greendale, many years ago.
  • Held Gaze:
    • A brief one happens between Jeff and Annie when Jeff is building her up after Frankie made her lose confidence in herself.
    • Jeff and Britta also share an extended held gaze in the speakeasy after the drinking montage. They stare at each with drunken affection while babbling nonsense.
  • Hero of Another Story: Shirley has left the group, or "spun off" as Abed puts it. She's now moved to Atlanta and works to solve crimes with the help of a detective who's lost both his wife and the use of his legs.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: The group think their speakeasy is this. It turns out to be a Neon Sign Hideout.
    Britta: Who tattled?
    Frankie: In what world, Britta, do you see this as covert enough to require 'tattling'? You built a bar in a school. There was lumber involved! I have been letting you hole up in here because it kept you contained and satisfied, because you are all compulsively defiant.
  • Hollywood Geography: Parodied. The makers of "The Butcher and the Baker" seem really insistent that there are "swamps" and "bayous" in the state of Georgia, mistaking it for Louisiana or Arkansas.
  • Hypocrite: The group put off telling Abed about Shirley leaving because they think he can't handle change, but Abed ends up being the Only Sane Man who doesn't overreact to Frankie and the changes she brings.
  • Hypocrite Has a Point: The Save Greendale Committee, particularly Jeff deflect from all blame regarding the roof collapse but it's pretty unfair that the Dean uses it as evidence that they need Frankie to oversee them given when the committee was formed Greendale had so many problems that a single post-it note getting lost under a box was enough to cause a disaster of that magnitude.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • Lampshaded when Abed and the rest of the group are arguing about Frankie:
    Abed: She doesn't seem that bad. She was quite nice to me.
    Annie: [Sweetly condescending] Oh Abed, are you sure she wasn't just being sweetly condescending?
    Abed: No, I've learned to recognise that. [Points at Annie, who looks offended]
    • For all her and Abed talk about how she's the only character who "lives in reality", when Frankie tries to get a job outside of Greendale she quickly finds out that the way she talks doesn't sound anything like people in "reality".
  • I Need to Go Iron My Dog: The Dean's lame excuse to leave the room comes across as this.
  • I'll Pretend I Didn't Hear That: While the Save Greendale Committee think that their speakeasy is operating right under Frankie's nose, it turns out she's known it was there all along but simply chose to turn a blind eye because it was easier than putting up with their childish, knee-jerk tantrums and resistance to everything she was doing.
  • Inadvertent Entrance Cue: Parodied when Jeff & Abed do this when they break into Frankie's interview to plead Greendale's case. It's noted that they've been doing it to every closed office they came to because they didn't know where the interview was; and whilst it's not brought up, Jeff demanding Frankie not be hired doesn't make any sense when she'd already been refused the job. Although this example does still count: The man interviewing her had just advised that she find a company run by insane people.
  • It's All My Fault: Each member of the Save Greendale Committee says "this is my fault" at the same time, to the point of chanting it in unison.
  • Jerkass: The group assume Frankie to be this. She's actually quite pleasant, if a bit pompous and overly-serious, and it's largely their own insecurities and resentments acting out. In fact, they turn out to be the bigger assholes in the whole situation.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: While Frankie turns out to be much less of a jerk than the group assume, even before that it turns out that most of her ideas — which they see as destroying Greendale's soul — are not exactly the worst:
    • Banning alcohol on campus in order to secure favourable insurance premiums turns out to be a much wiser option than allowing unrestricted alcohol consumption at the expense of any insurance whatsoever, as the group eventually end up doing.
    • Getting rid of classes like Ladders — which basically involves a professor climbing a ladder — frees up resources that can be used for more academically credible subjects.
    • She quite accurately pegs that Britta has no skill or enthusiasm for running a sandwich shop, and that the space could be used for something more profitable.
    • She points out how ridiculous and childish the group's speakeasy is, and how laughable it is that they seriously thought they could actually keep a 1920s-themed bar built in the middle of a school secret.
  • Lame Comeback: Frankie made a poor attempt at telling Leonard to shut up, followed by calling everyone a "livid fart from the butt of a lesser god".
  • The Last Straw: After 40-odd years of frisbees piling up on the roof, the one thrown at the beginning of this episode finally collapses it.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Abed, of course.
    • He thoughtfully wrote the Dean's "catching everyone up" PA announcement for the cold open, which tells both the viewers and the characters what the main characters have been up to.
    • In his first conversation with Frankie, he rattles off potential fan concerns about the direction the show has taken.
      Abed: My umbrella concern is that you, as a character, represent the end of what I used to call our show, which was once an unlikely family of misfit students, and is now a pretty loose knit group of students and teachers. None of whom are taking a class together in a school which, as of your arrival, is becoming increasingly grounded, asking questions like, how do any of us get our money? When will we get our degrees, and what happened to that girl I was dating? As opposed to questions I consider more important like, what is real? What is sanity? Is there a god? Where's that Pierce hologram?
  • Long List: Frankie checking off things on Annie's to-do list that she's already resolved:
    Frankie: Done, done, de-loused, appraised, defused, rebuilt, de-peanut buttered, debunked, spayed, neutered, underway, re-sanctified, plunged, deported and exhumed.
  • Montages: 5 of them in the episode, all lampshaded of course
    • Two Binge Montages, one by Abed and the group, and a second of the entire campus.
    • A Hard-Work Montage of Abed scrubbing the floors and changing light bulbs because it was visually more interesting than the actual work (sending E-Mails to Diane), followed by a Time-Passes Montage of Abed sending said E-mails and changing clothes several times while sitting at the same computer. An irritated Frankie tells him if he changes clothes one more time she'll fire him.
    • Finally an Apology Montage from Jeff and Abed to get Frankie to come back to work at Greendale, underscored by sappy music.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Sending work emails is exciting if it's in a montage.
  • Neon Sign Hideout: Much to the study group's surprise the speakeasy, as Frankie rather bluntly points out, is incredibly easy to spot.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Annie has one when the Dean states the Save Greendale Committee resolved 534 different crises threatening the school. Turns out that number 535 had been obscured by a box.
    • Annie has another when she realises that a drunk man is rather unsteadily climbing a ladder right in front of her in the Ladders class.
  • Only Sane Man: Abed, when he points out that Jeff, Annie and Britta are doing what he usually does and over-reacting to change.
    • While it turns out that Frankie herself is not exactly normal (as her post-Greendale job interview demonstrates), she nevertheless displays much more common sense and normality than most of the people at Greendale.
  • Out-of-Genre Experience: If the last scene we see with her in is accurate, apparently Shirley has "spun off" into a slightly overwrought network Police Procedural drama about a Defective Detective who has lost both his wife and the use of his legs.
  • Phoney Call: The Dean tries to do this twice.
  • Pop-Up Texting: When Abed receives a text message from Annie, jet head pops up on screen reading out her message.
  • Put on a Bus:
    • Bye, Shirley.note 
    • On a lesser note, Buzz Hickey and Ian Duncan. The former no longer works at Greendale and, as shown in a blink-and-you-miss-it shot of a computer screen in a later episode, seems to have passed away, and the latter simply doesn't appear without any explanation, but still at least has an office at Greendale with his name on the door.
    • Rachel is namedropped by Abed in this episode, where he notes that he has no idea what became of her. This is because Brie Larson had become much higher in demand since her appearance on Community, and was unable to come back to the show after Season 5 due to other commitments.
  • Reset Button: Chang's diamond teeth are gone.
  • Secret Test of Character: When the study group are arguing over Frankie and the Secret Committee, Abed requests some of their pretzels. He is denied them because "they're Secret Committee pretzels". Abed consequently produces a bag of pretzels for himself from his bag and, at their astonished looks, informs them:
    Abed: Yes, that was a test. You guys are bad friends.
  • Ship Tease: Jeff / Annie is teased quite heavily, including the Held Gaze moment mentioned above. There's also his jumping up to encourage her when Frankie discourages her, and his worried face when Annie gets hurt.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Leonard quotes Roy Batty's 'tears in rain' speech... much to Garrett's confusion.
    • Chang mentions The Slender Man.
    • To Dazed and Confused when Leonard flashes back to the 1970s and Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion" begins playing (which also soundtracks the opening scene of that film).
  • Spin-Off: Parodied with Shirley moving to Atlanta and teaming up with a disabled detective to solve crime.
  • Take That!: The tag parodies NBC's crime shows and refers to how Community's old network now prefers drama to sitcoms. One of the main characters on the crime show is Shirley.
  • Team Hand-Stack: Jeff, Annie and Britta does one, while Abed refuses to join in.
  • Tempting Fate: Jeff is in his office gloating about how he's finally in charge of Greendale and everything is the way he wants it. Cue Abed to inform him that Annie's been injured, and the consequent legal mess the school finds itself in.
  • This Is Reality: Frankie seems to have taken over responsibility for keeping the study group (Abed in particular) grounded. She almost literally says "This is reality" when she points out there is no way the speakeasy could be kept secret. "Lumber was involved!"
  • Third Time's The Charm: Averted. As Abed points out the new rule is "five times the charm" as it took them five offices to find Frankie.
  • Trash the Set: The Greendale cafeteria's roof collapses under the weight of 40 years of frisbees.
  • Trivial Title: The episode is named after a class that Frankie mentions as one of the classes she would cut. The class itself latter appears for a few seconds and ends poorly for Annie.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Lampshaded by Abed, where he wonders what became of his girlfriend Rachel when talking with Frankienote .
  • Written-In Absence: Shirley is absent for most of the show, where it's revealed that she moved to Atlanta to work as a professional chef and help out a handicapped detective. We see them working together in The Tag.