COMMUNITY 3.13 ‘Digital Exploration of Interior Design’

“Everyone wins. Except Abed. But, you know, not everyone can win.”

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "Digital Exploration of Interior Design"

Writer: Chris McKenna

Director: Dan Eckman

Last week's episode of "Community" exposed the cracks in one of the key relationships of the show: the epic friendship between Troy (Donald Glover) and Abed (Danny Pudi). And in "Digital Exploration of Interior Design," their minor rift grew into an all-out war… between the forces of a pillow fort and an army dedicated to blanket fort supremacy.

"Digital Exploration of Interior Design" was a return to the patented Greendale insanity that some fans missed from the previous two episodes. To be fair, the last two installments could have been episodes of any sitcom. But this week's premise was uniquely "Community."

Even with the inherent silliness of the pillow and blanket forts, it's kind of an uncomfortable experience to watch Troy and Abed at odds with each other. Their current conflict may have been fueled by the evil Vice Dean Laybourne (John Goodman), but it feels like it's been building for a while. The Vice Dean seems to have studied Troy well enough to use his own love for Inspector Spacetime against him by using it to suggest that Troy isn't even Abed's sidekick, he's his "underkick." The Vice Dean even encourages Abed to fight for his pillow fort dream as a stand against the mediocrity of the Constable Reggies of the world.

I assume that John Goodman must have added the goatee for another role that he's playing and it's hilariously acknowledged by the Vice Dean when he states that he's "going through some things." It was even funnier when the Vice Dean showed up wearing pajamas in the middle of Abed's pillow fort. And all of this because the Vice Dean wants to destroy Troy and Abed's friendship and enroll Troy in his air-conditioning repair school.

To a certain extent, part of the joy of Troy and Abed's relationship is that they refuse to grow up. Even their conflict here has some inherent childishness over whether a pillow fort or a blanket fort is superior. When Troy says that he wants Abed to destroy his pillow fort to make way for a World Record blanket fort attempt, Abed agrees to destroy his work… but only begrudgingly. And it doesn't take much convincing from the Vice Dean to lead Abed to change his mind.

It doesn't help that both Abed and Troy have each attracted fanatical followers who throw the first pillow in the war between both sides. And in the cliffhanger ending, Troy and Abed seem to reluctantly embrace the idea that the real battle lies ahead in next week's episode. Abed's "to be continued" was also one of my favorite meta-jokes this year.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Greendale 7 was pretty busy this week. Jeff (Joel McHale) followed Annie (Alison Brie) to get in on the campus' sleep study center… and he learned that they've all had lockers for the last two years. And among the many missed messages in his own neglected locker, Jeff finds a hate letter from a girl named Kim who berates Jeff for being an incredibly inconsiderate dick. Fueled by her own lingering issues towards Jeff, Annie urges him to find the girl and apologize for offending her. But when they locate Kim's locker, a male student (Adam Silver) tells them that Kim died two weeks ago.

Ever a self-centered man, Jeff is crushed that he never got to apologize and change Kim's mind about him. As much as Jeff tries to pretend that he doesn't care what other people think about him, he clearly does care about it. Or at least Jeff wants some sort of absolution for his perceived sin against the dead girl. When Annie convinces Jeff to apologize to Kim's locker as a proxy for the girl herself, they learn that the male student who told them Kim was dead is Kim herself… or himself, since he is among the 16% percent of Kims who are male. Male Kim says that he lied about the dead girl because Jeff always forgot who he was… even after their tenth meeting!

Amazingly, Jeff continues his sincere apology and even hugs Kim; much to the open disgust of Annie who thought she was teaching Jeff a lesson on behalf of the "sisterhood" and she hysterically dismisses Kim with barely contained anger. The kicker is that when Annie goes to apologize to Jeff for her behavior, he's already forgotten Kim again.
But the funniest parts of the episode came from a subplot built around Subway… in a not at all disguised example of product placement. As a TV fan, I'm very much against the idea of advertisements being inserted haphazardly into the plot of any show.  At WonderCon, "Community" creator Dan Harmon said that he wasn't afraid of product placement and that he refused Subway's repeated offers until they gave him the freedom to do whatever he wanted with them in the show. Somehow, I don't think that Subway expected to be turned into the episode's defacto villain… and a disturbing example of corporate personhood.

After Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) turned down Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) and Pierce's (Chevy Chase) proposed sandwich shop in favor of opening a Subway, they point out that the Greendale campus bylaws state that any new business on campus must be partially student owned. Although the Dean has apparently never read the bylaws, Subway clearly has. Hence, they introduce Subway (Travis Schuldt); a cheerful young man who has willingly given up his birth identity to become the personification of Subway at Greendale.

Naturally, Britta (Gillian Jacobs) has a problem with corporate personhood and she agrees to go along with Shirley and Pierce's plan to seduce Subway and get him to break his morality clause. But Britta doesn't count on falling for Subway over his apparent kindness towards others, his dream of opening a shelter for handicaped animals and the seductive way that he leaves a Subway napkin for her in one of their favorite books: George Orwell's "1984." It was especially amusing that Subway loved "!984" so much that he believes that people should be forced to read it.

The increasingly insane Pierce congratulates Britta on her "whoresmanship" and he tries to give her pen with a recording device to catch Subway with his pants down… so to speak. Pierce also starts drinking ink from several pens because he's convinced that they're secretly flasks of liquor. Britta refuses to go along with it and she shares an intimate encounter with Subway in the pillow fort… which Pierce secretly tapes anyway.

At first, Subway's rep is sympathetic towards Subway and Britta's affair of the heart… until he hears them actually having what he describes as unacceptable relations. The rep declares that "the bread is stale" and he strips Subway of his corporate identity and has him escorted away as Britta watches helplessly. The Subway rep continues to complain about the "unacceptable" things that he heard, but the other characters are puzzled when he won't get up and retrieve his own jacket… because he's obviously pitching a tent himself.

Soon enough, Britta finds Subway again… but it's a new student who has assumed Subway's identity and he acts as if he knows Britta before describing her tryst with the first Subway as something she initiated against his will. And thus we leave poor, heartbroken Britta as the pillow and blanket fort war breaks out around her.

"Scrubs" veteran, Travis Schuldt was very funny as the first Subway and he actually made "Eat Fresh" into a chuckle worthy recurring catchphrase. There was also a really amusing gag about Garrett's ( Erik Charles Nielsen) ill-health and continuous rallies to save him. Chang (Ken Jeong) and his child army were sidestepped this week, but if Greendale goes to war that could be revisited in next week's episode.

"Digital Exploration of Interior Design" wasn't a high water mark for "Community," but the Troy and Abed rift was affecting and the Subway story gave Britta some of her best material since earlier this season. I'd still call that a winning combination. Eat Fresh, people!