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Worldly Distractions: Community 5.11 - GI Jeff





This time, we delve back into childhood. Like that doesn't happen every week on this show. Time for an epic adventure!

We start the episode, and right away we've got serious 80's-style animation. You know, the kind that occupied Saturday mornings throughout your childhood? I have to say, it's absolutely perfectly done. Soldiers storm the Taj Mahal, and Cobra orders it destroyed. Of course, GI Joe fends them off, because WE'RE AMURICAH, EAGLES AND APPLE PIE AND POOR ECONOMIC DECISIONS. Annie and Britta, sexily animated, are revealed to be fighting alongside them. Annie questions the location's tactical value, while Britta is her usual buzzkilling self. Shirley fires a machine gun in between calling her kids. GI Jeff shows up to save the day, but is mostly concerned with looking cool. He manages to shoot Destro's plane down, but the villain escapes. This doesn't bother Jeff, who machine-guns him out of the sky. Rather than celebrating, however, the rest of the squad stares in horror.

The animated opening credits are just plain spectacular. Jeff is "Wingman", Britta "Buzzkill", Abed "Fourth Wall", Shirley "Three Kids", Annie "Tight Ship", and the Dean is Cobra's assistant. Chang, of course, is "Overkill". I'm disappointed they didn't manage a terrible Chang pun out of it. Thus everyone is wrapped into nice little packages. I wonder what Troy's nickname would have been. Still not over it, guys. We see a title labeled "Community: A Show Set in a Community College". The lyrics and narration are also pretty clever if you take a lesson. All in all, we're off to a great start.

The episode is called "Government Issue Jeff". Our four heroes are on trial for "violence, suggestive language and mature situations". See, it's the first time anyone's actually killed a villain, and Murica's delicate offspring can't handle it. The group's response is to criticize the militia's organization vociferously. Jeff makes a Winger speech to try to get out of it, but winds up getting them all in jail. And oh, hey, Starburns wrote this episode.

So the gang languishes in prison with a whole bunch of side characters. Shirley is apparently incapable of saying anything other than "I have three kids!" They encounter Fourth Wall (Abed), who is in the next cell and has deduced that they're living in a syndicated children's cartoon. He promises to bring them all to a "higher reality", which can be achieved through a secret Cobra dig site - the ruins of Greendale. The minute Jeff hears the name, his veins throb and he feels his brain working overtime. Abed holds up a toy, which keeps changing back and forth between live-action and animated. This is too much for Jeff, and he faints.

This is the perfect point for a beautifully meta toy commercial, in which two kids play with the Community/GI Joe characters, giving them perfectly in-character lines. If you didn't pay attention, you would swear it was real. I would honestly watch this thing a couple of times, it's so clever. And I have to know - how the hell did they get all the licensing for this?

Jeff wakes up and denies all connection to the other reality, but the reality continues to intrude, as the characters address him as "Jeff" and make references to him having "another attack". However, Jeff refuses to believe that his world is anything other than what he sees. Abed knows better.

Over at Cobra headquarters, the villains are gathered for Destro's funeral. The Cobra Commander gets interrupted in the middle of his eulogy. It's the Assistant (the Dean), alerting him to Jeff and Co.'s movements. In response, Cobra launches a strike at the prison. A prisoner alerts them to a hidden escape tunnel he dug with a spoon, Shawshank Redemption-style, but it's a cartoon, so the gang simply breaks through the wall. Once outside, Jeff cautions them not to kill anyone, then promptly massacres a whole bunch of soldiers. To be fair, though, it was an accident. Cartoon rules still appear to apply to them, however, so they survive, take over a plane and escape. Jeff laments that all he wanted was to be a good GI Joe.

We get another commercial, also hilarious, this time representing the characters as "mutineers", the worst villains imaginable. The story then skips to after the flight, where Jeff wakes up after an unseen struggle. Lots of our favourite Community-style banter ensues. Jeff wants to go to Greendale, so they head to the excavation site. They smash the guards' heads with rocks (which they've done twice this episodes) and enter the site, which looks oddly familiar. Jeff in particular has a lot of memories stirred.

The Dean is confronted by two other villains, played by Hickey and Duncan, who are demanding outrageous concessions well out of budget, like a livable salary and a decent health plan. Chang joins them, pulling out some cool karate moves in the process. I expect meta-commentary on racism in approximately seven lines. Hearing that GI Joe has breached the perimeter, The Dean reacts as usual - he makes an announcement, even remembering to include that weekend's Fun Run. Meanwhile, the gang strides calmly through the hallways. Chang attacks, surrounding them with holograms of himself, but Jeff calmly zaps the correct one. Duncan also tries to destroy them, telling them about a twin brother who feels all his pain in an effort to keep from being zapped, but is unsuccessful. It's all up to Hickey, but he puts out his back trying to do flips.

They get to the study room, where Jeff suddenly realizes where he came from. The memories come flooding back, as he identifies all of his friends. He concludes that GI Joe is in his imagination just as the Dean comes barrelling in with a zapper. However, his love for Jeff wins out and he lowers his suspiciously phallic weapon. While Abed tries to create a way out of the delusion, Jeff goes to "find the truth". He comes across a desk with his Greendale ID and some scattered GI Joe toys. He returns to the study room, where Abed has found a solution. Jeff explains what happened - he drank a fifth of scotch and took some "youth pills", and this is his subsequent hallucination.

The gang is terribly concerned. He admits that it's his birthday, and he's lied about his age for years. Abed diagnoses a psychotic break and explains the various levels of reality - the cartoon, live-action, and a middle ground called "children's toy commercials". However, Jeff refuses to go back, saying he prefers being in GI Joe to a life as a middle-aged community college professor. Britta tells him to stop living as his ten-year-old self, while Abed sadly informs him that the real Jeff is in serious medical danger. The beep of hospital machinery is heard. Annie pleads with him not to die. He says he prefers to live in a world with her cartoon rack. Just as things look very dire, Joebra bursts in. Yep, that's right - GI Joe and Cobra have decided that the mutineers are the greater threat and have teamed up. Jeff protests that he commands them, as the creator of the reality. Their response is to whack him with a gun.

Another toy commercial happens, portraying the union of Cobra and GI Joe. Once again, how the hell did they get the rights?

Jeff wakes up chained to a table. The villains debate what to do with him. He pleads that he just wants to do what they're doing, so they let him go, then bombard him with questions about real life. Mostly to do with genitalia. When Jeff realizes that there's no sex, alcohol or fun in this universe, he quickly realizes that real life is worth it after all. He pretends he's going to the bathroom, but they see through this (no need for the bathroom in this universe) and he's forced to make a run for it. Jeff steals a jet pack and flies off, though the Commander clings to him, begging to be taken to a place where he can see boobs. However, he's killed while transitioning to reality, since fictional characters can't survive. A total Ass Pull, but hey, it's in the spirit of the show. He ends up in a commercial, where the narrator begs the kids to keep him there with their "inner child". Fortunately, Jeff manages to break free.

He wakes up in a hospital room, where the Save Greendale Committee and the Dean surround him. Everyone takes turns slapping him awake. They're relieved about his recovery, but upset with him for not being honest. He admits he's forty. Everyone accepts this, but are stunned when Abed admits he's thirty-eight. Er, he's kidding. Jeff recounts his dream. Abed mentions his own animated dream, that one magical years Christmas ago. They give Jeff a birthday present - a mug with "It's a boy" on it, "old" drawn hastily before "boy" - and have a group hug. We fade out on a nice moment.

Tag scene: back in the cartoon, Britta "Buzzkill" goes after people for petty crimes, boring them all with her lectures in the process. Abed delivers the cartoon's message - "don't get ridiculously preachy with the cartoon's message". Solid advice, but isn't he contradicting himself? My brain hurts.

Honestly? This episode rocked. Pitch-perfect parody, great commentary on the characters, little reference to the tangled continuity fans have grown to despise. Everything about it worked, from beginning to end. Maybe before Community ends its run (still holding out for six seasons and a movie), they can do it again. I would love to see a Scooby-Doo episode, for example. Regardless of what happens next, though, we've got a real treasure here.

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