On this week’s episode of Community, the show hilariously uses the PBS Civil War documentaries as the storytelling inspiration and I can’t think of a more serious way to tell a more ridiculous battle than that. With panning shots of still images, strong narration, personal interviews, and read-aloud letters in the form of text messages, the high fidelity in recreating the war documentary style and the resultant juxtaposition created a truly classic sitcom episode and one of Community‘s best efforts.
The episode begins by revealing all the players in the story and their roles in the largest and longest pillow fight in community college history: Annie (Alison Brie) plays nurse to all victims of this war; Britta (Gillian Jacobs) tries her hand at wartime photography but was (of course) terrible at it; Jeff (Joel McHale), the great orator, encourages many to fight to delay any classes; Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) combats valiantly on the battlefield; Pierce (Chevy Chase) remains the dried-up heir to a moist toilette empire; Troy (Donald Glover) becomes the commander and chief of his own army; and Abed (Danny Pudi) transforms into an uncompromising tactical mastermind.
The episode chronicles the genesis of Troy and Abed’s feud, thus recapping the events that unfolded in the previous episode, Digital Exploration Of Interior Design, the “Part I” of this two-part tale. Troy and Abed attempted to make a massive pillow fort they deemed “New Fluffytown” but when Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) informed the duo that Guinness World Records was coming to verify if it was largest one in existence, it created a crack in their foundation. Troy wanted to secure the record by switching to malleable blankets to ensure a more rapid expansion while Abed wanted to continue to use pillows, thus sacrificing speed and risking their chance at the record entirely. This split the best friends apart and subsequently split all of Greendale in two with Troy in charge of “The Legit Republic of Blanketsberg” and Abed leading “The United Forts of Pillowtown.”
When both sides expanded to capacity thus engulfing all of the Greendale campus, the two factions came to heads in the study room. An uncontrolled pillow swing sparked the “Study Room Kerfuffle” and the battle over Greendale territory was on.
Like I said before, the episode plays out like a PBS wartime documentary and like always, Community really went the whole nine yards. Keith David‘s straight-laced narration provides unnecessary legitimacy to this ridiculous plot as does the “found footage” in the forms of cell phone recordings and text messages all of which parallels the photos and letters-home you see in those PBS documentaries. It’s would think that an episode consisting of mainly still images would not make good TV but here it was done to perfection. The maps and charts presented also provided gratuitous detail and with it the Narrator brings one of the episode’s funniest jokes:
“The North Cafeteria, named after Admiral William North, is located in the western portion of East Hall, gateway to the western half of North Hall, which is named, not after William North, but for its position about the South Wall. It is the most contested and confusing battlefield on Greendale’s campus, next to the English Memorial Spanish Center, named after English Memorial, a Portuguese sailor that discovered Greendale while looking for a fountain that cured syphilis”
Other great laughs came in the forms of Troy and Abed’s escalating offense. Chang’s (Ken Jeong) personal pre-teen tactical security team, otherwise known as the “Chang-glourious Basterds,” and Pierce’s Pillowman juggernaut were great additions to the story. It’s great to see Chang’s group being used and you know this isn’t the last you’ve seen of them.
The most gripping part of the episode is that it continued and (maybe) concluded the story arc analyzing Troy and Abed’s friendship. Since the returning from the show’s hiatus, Troy and Abed’s relationship has been under strain with the pressures of becoming adults and properly adjusting to the real world. The fact that Community continued to pursue this story through this high-concept episode was amazing.
‘Pillows And Blankets’ played out as epic as the largest and longest pillow fight in community college history would be. The PBS-style documentary was the perfect way to tell this story and a pillow fight was the perfect device for Troy and Abed to work out their difficulties with maturity.
Hands down this was one the best episodes of Community that we’ve ever seen.