Community – Introduction to Statistics [1.7]

Around Halloween, Jeff begins to pursue one of his teachers romantically.  This causes Shirley to target the teacher for mean-spirited revenge on behalf of Britta, who is not offended.  Shirley realizes that she is doing this because in truth she is upset about her ex-husband moving on with a new girlfriend.  At Annie’s party, Pierce takes some illicit drugs and freaks out, causing Jeff to give up an opportunity to be with his teacher in order to help him.  Jeff helps Pierce settle down, but they are almost crushed by some falling desks before they are rescued by Batman (Abed in costume). 

Written by Jon Pollack & Tim Hobart • Directed by  Justin Lin
Previous Episode:  Football, Feminism, and You • Next Episode: Home Economics

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Cast Notes
Lauren Stamille appears for the first time as Professor Slater.  Meanwhile, Giancarlo Molina appears uncredited as “Drummer”, a part he’ll reprise twice.

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Comments
Okay, Introduction to Statistics is maybe the first great episode of Community to come along.  Others have been funny, and were enough to keep me watching the next episode, but this was the one that really sold me on the series.  A lot of that at the time had to do with Abed taking up the role of Batman, and the fact that the main part of the episode concludes with him doing that faux-Batman speech.  It’s not necessarily “character development” as we usually think of it, but it does show the whole “fantasy-life” aspect of Abed’s personality in a way we haven’t up to this point.

However, on reflection, there is a lot other stuff going on in the episode as well.

First of all, this is the first time that the series has moved Jeff beyond his “hung up on Britta” shtick, which in retrospect is a huge step forward for the show.  The potential of a relationship between them is still present (and in fact still to be dealt with) but the show really needed to open up the character to other storylines.  It helps to highlight the fact that the real Jeff story here is not that he falls for Britta, but that his life at Greendale affords him something ultimately more meaningful than what he knew as a slick attorney.

Another great part of the episode is the role that Shirley plays.  It’s her best episode to date, and the development sneaks into the episode effectively as a little side-story to Jeff’s pursuit of his attractive professor.  The scene in Professor Slater’s office, where Shirley confesses that her obsession with getting revenge on behalf of Britta is really about her own disappointment over her marriage is a really nice piece of character drama, effectively told without derailing the humor of the episode.

Introduction to Statistics is also perhaps Annie’s best episode so far, and features good stuff for both Chang and Pierce as well.  Britta also has some good stuff, including her ridiculous squirrel costume and some moments which actually reveal her potential interest in Jeff.  Only Troy is in the background this time around, but even he gets to be part of the show’s best closing tag so far (see below).

Incidentally, this episode is the first one not directed by one of the Russo brothers, the most recent golden boys of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Captain America.  Instead, it’s directed by Justin Lin, who helmed several Fast & Furious films and also the upcoming third Star Trek reboot movie.  That’s some pretty mainstream resumes that this show’s directors have had so far!

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Pop-Culture Connection
Lots, as usual, including to Ghostbusters, Beastmaster, Urkel, Harry Potter, Grumpy Old Men, Cookie Monster, Pink Floyd, and of course, Batman.

Shirley talks about a film featuring Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler, which is presumably The Ugly Truth, which Yvette Nicole Brown actually appeared in.

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Meta-Qualities
Primarily just getting into Abed’s head at the end with his inner-Batman monologue, which is brilliant.

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Getting to know Greendale
Greendale has both a Statistics class and a Women’s Studies department.

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Familiar Faces
There are several recurring characters who show up this time around, including the Dean, Starburns (in his most important role to date), and Leonard, who just gets to laugh at Jeff when he strikes out with Professor Slater.

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Key Developments
Professor Slater appears for the first time, along with Jeff’s attraction to her.  She’ll reappear four more times.

Pierce’s Mom’s voice will be heard again in the series, played by a different actress, and her death will be an important story point in a coming episode.

For the first time, I think, Pierce accuses Jeff of being gay.

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Cry Racism!
After being accused of eavesdropping, Chang retorts, “Are you saying my people are sneaky?”

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Observations
• There’s lots of funny dialog in this episode.  Jeff says about Annie’s party:  “I have a conflict.  It conflicts with the enjoyment of my life.”

• Pierce’s mother says that she saw Pierce’s father’s ghost again!

• When Annie is trying to get Jeff to go to his party, she starts to cry.  Jeff says, “This won’t work.  The last time you did this, I saved a vial of your tears and have been slowly building up an immunity.”

• Abed talks about  his uncle who started hallucinating and running down the street with no pants on, “which in the Gaza Strip is considered a real party foul, so you should probably be careful.”

• Chang’s itrritation at the party is pretty funny

• Of course, there’s all this hilarious Abed as Batman dialog.  For example:

Abed:  There’s a storm building on the horizon, but you and I will save the night.  Chex mix, pretzels, baby carrots, predictable but appetizing.

and

Troy:  Can I ask you something I always wanted to ask the real Batman?
Abed:  Yeah.
Troy:  Am I good looking?
Abed:  You’re a very attractive young man:
Troy:  I knew it!

• “Married Asians…?”  Wait a minute, is Chang married?

• Jeff riding on the back of Chang’s moped is pretty funny.

• In response to Jeff’s cowboy outfit, Britta says, “I think the words that you’re looking for are ‘I own a cowboy outfit, and it is tight too.’  Did you buy it like that? Your toy gun to my head, I’d say yes.”

• Even the Dean, who is only in this episode briefly, gets a good line:  “Why is Urkel ripping the antenna off professor Slater’s car?”

• Pierce cries, in his drug-induced craziness, “Whose hands are these?!”

• Abed tells Jeff off:  “I know I’m not Batman.  You could try not being a jerk.”

• As mentioned, Shirley’s confession scene to Britta is a great one.  “My ex-husband came by this morning, and he, uh, he asked for his ring back.  It was his mother’s, and he wants to give it to his new girlfriend….Don’t get me wrong.  Best thing ever happened to me was him leaving.  I just I always thought he’d come crawling back, and I’d get to tell him, ‘Go to hell’.  He couldn’t even give me that.”

• And then…

Shirley:  You know what the crazy thing is, Britta?
Britta:  Everything you’ve done tonight?

• Pierce’s hallucinations are a bit over-the-top

• Jeff says, “It’s this campus.  It feeds on my coolness!  I got no moves anymore!”

• Chang gives Jeff successful romance advice, and then follows it up by riding by on his moped and yelling, “Loser!”

• I also like the conversation between Jeff and Pierce when Pierce has lost the will to live:

Pierce:  I’m gonna crush myself to death with desks and tables, Jeff!
Jeff:  Is that a death befitting a Beastmaster?
Pierce:  I never saw Beastmaster.  I just wanted to be cool.

And then…

Pierce:  Those floating Mexican skeletons were right.  My life is over.
Jeff:  Well, when we go to floating skeletons with our problems, we get what we pay for, don’t we?
Pierce:  I’m old, Jeff.
Jeff:  Pierce, I don’t know how you spent the first 60 years, but I know in the last two months you’ve probably doubled the national average for amount of life lived per lifetime.
Pierce:  Well, I do have a young, African-American friend.
Jeff:  Yeah.And, more importantly, you’re dressed like a gladiator in a desk fort that you built during a bad trip.  If life is just a series of ridiculous attempts to be alive, you’re a hero to everything that’s ever lived.

• Batman saves Jeff and Pierce!  This leads us to the already mentioned awesome Abed-as-Batman inner monologue.  Jeff asks “Batman” if he is staying for the party…

If I stay, there can be no party.  I must be out there in the night, staying vigilant.  Wherever a party needs to be saved, I’m there.  Wherever there are masks, wherever there’s tomfoolery and joy, I’m there.  But sometimes I’m not, ’cause I’m out in the night, staying vigilant, watching, lurking, running, jumping, hurtling, sleeping…No, I can’t sleep.  You sleep.  I’m awake.  I don’t sleep.  I don’t blink.  Am I a bird?  No.  I’m a bat.  I am Batman.  Or am I?  Yes, I am Batman.  Happy Halloween.

• Jeff dances with Annie, again a small bit of foreshadowing to their eventual pseudo-relationship.

Closing Tag:
Abed and Troy sit around, after the party, talking in Batman voices about how they might eat themselves if they were made of sweet food.

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Most Inspired Moment
Well, you’d think it’d be the Batman monologue I keep going on about, and in most other episodes that would be true.  But in this one, it’s the conversation between Troy and Abed during the closing tag, the moment that in my mind truly solidifies their friendship.  Here’s their conversation.  You have to remember that most of it is done in “Batman” voices.

Troy:  Candy corn looks like tiny traffic cones.
Abed: Yeah, it sure does.
Troy:  At, like, a candy traffic school.  Like, a little gingerbread man at the wheel, and he’s drunk.
Abed:  Look out.
Troy:  You’d be driving, But you keep wanting to eat yourself.
Abed:  All day.
Troy:  That’s one of my biggest fears.
Abed:  What is?Troy:  If I ever, like, woke up as a donut.
Abed:  You would eat yourself?
Troy:  I wouldn’t even question it.
Abed:  That’d be tasty.
Troy:  It’s cool to know other people think about this stuff too.
Abed:  Yeah.

Their friendship is already established, but to me it’s absolutely clear that this is the moment when its solidified forever.

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Previous Episode:  Football, Feminism, and You • Next Episode: Home Economics

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