• Community recap: Critical Film Studies


    If the prospect of last week’s Chang-focused episode brought annoyance, the idea of this week’s Pulp Fiction–centric installment brought trepidation—if not to the fan in me, then to the recapper. I saw Pulp Fiction once, years ago, and I thought it was like, ok? The truth is I barely remember it. So I worried about my skills as a recapper. I thought about watching the movie again, considered doing some research, and then I thought, Ah, fuck it—does anyone read these things anyway? (Just kidding, I totally know you’re out there, Person!)

    More than that, I knew that newly gained Tarantino knowledge would never pass with true devotees, so I ain’t even gonna try. Just know, as I do, that I will likely miss, oh, 42 Pulp Fiction inside jokes, because if Community is gonna do something, it’s gonna do it. Having said that, on to the recap!

    It’s Abed’s birthday, and a very spiffily clad Jeff is our narrator. He tells us that he loves Abed (awwww), and when his friend asked him to celebrate his birth with dinner at a grown-up restaurant, Jeff complied—albeit hesitantly. Something was up: This place wasn’t Abed’s style at all.

    See, Abed likes chicken fingers, video games, Quentin Tarantino. (You know what else is up? Jeff just freely admitted that he loves Abed. Something’s amiss. Anyone else think we’re already in a Tarantino homage?) When a suspiciously calm and un-Abed-y Abed enters wearing what looks like Chang’s sweater from last week, Jeff really begins to worry. He calls the gang to tell them they’re running late for the surprise costume party they’ve got planned. (Shirley as Samuel L? Nice.) Wrench.

    As the gang waits for the birthday boy, it’s revealed that Jeff’s present for Abed is a briefcase. (“Just like in the movie,” Chang offers. Thank you, Chang! I did not catch this reference!) Jeff’s left explicit instructions that nobody touch it. Troy feels the sting not only of his way lamer birthday (Annie with a Southern accent, Pierce in a wheelchair, Jeff and Britta fighting/making out) but also of having his BFF wooed by Jeff. (Side note: They’re waiting in a diner that Britta apparently works in. Um…what? Is this a reference to the movie? Or are the writers casually throwing it in for the first time ever and hoping we don’t notice? Either way, weird.)

    Pierce, clad in leather (as that thing I vaguely remember having something to do with Ving Rhames?) has never seen the movie and wants to know if he’s the hero or the love interest. Funny, Pierce! (Can someone tell me what movie Shirley actually saw that she thinks is Pulp Fiction? Thirty minutes, friends who love cheeseburgers, dancing and the Bible…. It sounds like something having to do with traveling pants. Sure, let’s go with that.)

    Back at the restaurant, Jeff tries to get to the bottom of why Abed is dressed like Mr. Rogers and talking like Frasier. Well, turns out it all has to do with Cougartown. (OBVIOUSLY.) I’ll spare you some lengthy Cougartown talk and get to the part where Abed decides that his life has been empty and meaningless. And with Abed’s claymation story about being abandoned by his mother still relatively fresh, this new revelation is strangely poignant. So what now? Now he’s on a quest for meaning. He’s done with his life of pop culture obsession and won’t leave the restaurant until Jeff has given him his first real conversation.

    It’s not long before Jeff is spewing realness everydamnwhere, about the fact that real conversations don’t exist, that everyone lies, that he called a phone sex line last week and told the operator he was 400 pounds just to hear her say she was still attracted to him, thereby quelling his fear that if he ever gains weight, he can still find love. (Whoa. Um.) The world is a sick place, full of sick, sick people, Jeff tells Abed. But he has one more thing to get off his chest.

    Only, we’re back in the diner, where, egged on by Chang, Troy is staring increasingly longingly at the briefcase. He simply can’t resist and goes for it. Inside, the light. (Oh! I remember this part now!) But next to the light? A certificate of authenticity. Seems Jeff got Abed the actual briefcase from the movie. (Except not, we find out later. And also except that Abed has gone cold turkey on Tarantino and all things pop culture. Whiiiich…doesn’t matter anyway, because somehow the briefcase has caught on fire.)

    At dinner, Jeff is confessing his last big thing: And it’s about dressing up in a girl’s costume one Halloween. (Really?) The look on Abed’s face says that things have gotten too real. Just then Pierce crashes as the Gimp (oh, right! The Gimp!), followed by everyone else, causing Abed to realize what Jeff’s been up to.

    He asks the waiter for the check, who’s surprised that they’ll be leaving early: They didn’t leave early in My Dinner With Andre. (Annnnd, there it is: This whole dinner has been an homage to My Dinner With Andre. There was no Cougartown. There was no Abed weirdly managing his disorder and speaking in a freakishly seamless way. It was all posturing to re-create fucking My Dinner With Andre. I’ve actually never seen it, so I missed this entire reference. Just stop reading this, you guys. Nothing of value here.)

    Turns out Abed wasn’t suddenly “normal,” he was just doing what he loves, enacting his life-size pop culture dreams. Only, doing what Abed loves doesn’t sit so well with Jeff, who for once is in the position of not being the selfish one, instead calling Abed out on his selfishness. While Jeff and everyone else were scrambling to give him the best birthday ever, Abed was busy doing his weird movie stuff. ISSUES.

    Abed says the reason he chose My Dinner With Andre is because it’s about a guy who has dinner with a weird friend who’s been avoiding him lately. Abed and Jeff hung out more last year, he says, and he gets it: Everyone else is growing and changing all the time and that’s not really his jam. (This felt like the Britta-works-at-a-diner thing. Have Jeff and Abed really not been hanging out? I truly have no idea. And isn’t that sort of on Abed? He and Troy are attached at the hip. Plus, duh: NIPPLE PLAY!!!)

    Abed tricks Jeff into going back to the restaurant to pay the bill, and waiting there is the gang, this time throwing Jeff his own surprise party. (Watching Jeff and Britta dance à la Uma and Travolta? Yeah, I like that.) We end with our usual Troy and Abed two-hander, watching them dine and dash. End scene.

    So what did you guys think? Did I, in fact, miss 42 Pulp Fiction references? I either really, really did, or this episode wasn’t nearly as meta as it could have been. I don’t even want to imagine how many My Dinner With Andre references there were. I feel like this episode was a little wasted on me, which is a shame, because I hate wasting good Community!

    Also, unrelated, does anyone else wish the producers would do more with the opening credits? For an episode like this one especially, just imagine the possibilities of things that could be drawn on that paper game thingy that I sadly never learned to make in school. Ok, well, I can’t imagine any, but maybe some of you who can tell me how many movie references I missed can also think of something clever to do. How about you, Person? You look smart.

    Until next week, you bad motherfuckers.

    Carla Sosenko

    Carla Sosenko is a writer and editor from Brooklyn, N.Y. Her work has appeared in Marie Claire, Self, Jezebel, The Hairpin, The NY International Fringe Festival and some other places. She received her MFA in creative writing from Emerson College, where she majored in choppy sentences. Carla thanks you for reading her words and kindly asks you to read more of them at carlasosenko.com. Follow her @carlasosenko. She thinks you rule.

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