‘Community’ Breakdown: ‘G.I. Jeff’

SPOILERS AHEAD, so study up cautiously, Community buffs…

Season Five, Episode Ten: “G.I. Jeff”

Written by Dino Stamatopoulos; Directed by Rob Schrab

This week’s episode continues the Community tradition of the animated parody episode. Jeff’s mind has created a world inspired by the classic G.I. Joe cartoons. It’s one of the more fun episodes this season has offered.

Quick Breakdown

Cobra is attacking the Taj Mahal, and the GI Joes are there to defend it. When they are unable to take down Destro’s fighter jet, Wingman (Jeff) shoots it down with some well-placed shots. Destro shouts out a parting quip as he escapes in his parachute. And everyone would live to fight each other another day, until Wingman pulls a Man of Steel and shoots up Destro’s parachute, thereby killing him.

Because the Joes are anti-death, Wingman and his wing-women — Buzzkill (Britta), Tight Ship (Annie) and Three Kids (Shirley) — are put on trial. Wingman gives a call to arms to the Joes, saying that if they won’t kill their enemy Cobra then they might as well start killing themselves. They all get thrown in jail. The girls are pissed about their situation, but they are all distracted when a fellow prisoner, Fourth Wall (Abed), speaks up. He tells them of a land of three dimensions, one very different from this cartoon world they’re in. He also informs them of a Cobra dig site where they’ve discovered the ruins of a place called Greendale. Wingman’s head begins throbbing (with hospital sound effects) as he slips out of reality every time Fourth Wall says “Greendale.” The word clearly means something to him.

Suddenly a dated kid’s commercial plays, showing little children playing with GI Joe figures. The commercial finishes, and Wingman wakes up. But suddenly the women are calling him “Jeff.” Before he can ask them why they are calling him that, they’ve forgotten what they said, brought back into the present, cartoonish moment.

At Destro’s funeral, the Commander is eulogizing the man he loved (platonicly, of course). He gets a call from the Assistant Commander (the Dean) about some activity at the Greendale site. The Commander is still too worked up over Destro’s death to care about Greendale, and he swears revenge on GI Joe.

Cobra attacks the GI Joe headquarters. When one of the prison walls is destroyed, the gang escapes. They try to stop the Cobra soldiers with some firepower, but Wingman merely succeeds in killing all of them.  This incurs the Joes’ wrath, and the gang flees in a Submachopter to avoid more trouble.

Fourth wall says “Greendale” again, and Wingman is incapacitated once more. This time, a new kid’s commercial shows them playing with action figure versions of the gang, labeled The Mutineers. There is a very quick flash of the actors huddled around something, but it immediately returns to the cartoon world. They’ve arrived at the dig site and manage to take out Cobra’s security team just as efficiently as they did when escaping the prison. They find the Greendale Library, and Wingman has memories of a life there.

Inside, the Assistant Commander is talking to Major Dick (Buzz) and Xim-Xam (Duncan), who are complaining about their poor wages. Overkill (Chang) pops in and warns them of the Joe infestation. They attempt to stop the Joes, but Wingman deftly shoots them in the leg (and Major Dick throws out his own back).

When they reach the infamous study room, Wingman remembers his life as Jeff. The other characters suddenly remember their lives as well (through Jeff’s memory). Fourth Wall gets Tight Ship’s wing-pack, and he has a plan: “My fourth wall-penetrating powers combined with this medium’s lack of internal logic should allow me to come up with an oversimplified solution.”

While Fourth Wall works on his plan, Wingman goes into Jeff’s office to try to figure out what happened. He finds a note from Pierce saying “Jeff — Welcome to the club!!” and an empty bottle of 40-year-old Scotch on his desk (along with some GI Joe action figures). Wingman tells them that he’s here because he drank a fifth of Scotch and took some pills, leaving him unconscious in the real world. The pills were shady Korean “youth” pills that Jeff took because today was his birthday and he had been lying about his age.

Fourth Wall shows him how to escape his psychotic break. He must travel through this cartoon layer of reality, through the children’s toy commercial layer and into non-cartoon reality with his modified wing-pack. But Wingman doesn’t want to leave — he wants to stay and be a GI Joe. Fourth Wall warns him that, in reality, Jeff is in medical danger and that staying here could lead to his death. Wingman believes that if he stays here he could never die.

Just then, Jobra infiltrates. The Joes and Cobra have teamed up to fight off Wingman and his Mutineers. They capture Wingman, but he convinces them to let him go free because he doesn’t want to hurt them. He wants to hang out with them and blow stuff up. They then ask him some questions about real life, like “What do boobies look like?” Suddenly, Wingman realizes he doesn’t want to be trapped here and escapes.

He grabs the wing-pack and takes off. The Cobra Commander tries to hang onto Wingman’s ankle as he flies through worlds, but he disintegrates as Wingman reaches the children’s toy commercial layer. As a toy, he flies into the children’s head and wakes up in the hospital in the real world.

Jeff confesses to everyone that he’s 40. He tells them about his animated dream (and Abed references his holiday delusion). They present him with his birthday gift — a gift shop coffee mug that says, “He’s a (old) boy.” (The “old” has been written on by them.)

Rating

A-

If you’ve seen the G.I. Joe cartoons then this episode has extra layers of humor for you. They handled the content perfectly while adding their own Community-ness to that world. However, the added layer of the children’s toy commercials felt too distracting from the rest of the story and took up time that could have been used to further the cartoon world. Otherwise, another solid parody episode that even had the briefest of applications for the real world characters.

Now for some random thoughts and my favorite moments of the night…

There are a lot of sight gags that are hard to translate into a recap — including a sight gag about sight gags — but know that this was a visually funny episode, too.

Announcer during the opening credit sequence: “The bad guys are snakes, the good guys are army people.”

Buzzkill to the Joes while on trial: “What’s anyone’s rank? We’re just dressed like serial killers and strippers.”

Fourth Wall: “I believe that what we perceive as life is actually a syndicated children’s cartoon.”

Assistant Cobra Commander over the Library intercoms: “And please don’t forget that this Saturday is the Cobra Fun Run. If you miss it, you’re letting the anti-terrorists win.”

Fourth Wall after Buzzkill makes an apt psychological comment about Wingman: “Imaginary Britta is right. And onlyimaginary Britta.”

Abed after Jeff confesses his age: “What’s important are ranges of numbers. You’re still 18-49 for almost a decade, and that’s valuable to society.”

In the tag, Buzzkill catches some kids defacing a playground with spray paint (writing things like “Harmon sucks”). She lectures them about their actions until Fourth Wall arrives saying, “Is church over yet?” “A good syndicated cartoon has a lesson at the end,” he says, “but getting heavy-handed or preachy could turn an entire generation into jaded sarcastic babies.” The kids say to be “friendly and direct” and “keep the message simple.” Fourth Wall tells them, “Graffiti is bad. Go play sports.”

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