COMMUNITY 3.14 ‘Pillows and Blankets’

“The Rambo titles never made sense, and neither does war.”

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "Pillows and Blankets"

Writer: Andy Bobrow

Director: Tristram Shapeero


Last week's episode of "Community" tore apart the epic friendship of Troy (Donald Glover) and Abed (Danny Pudi) over a pillow fort. Or rather, their argument over whether to create a world record pillow fort or a blanket fort like Troy preferred.

Part of the conflict was instigated by the evil Vice Dean Laybourne (John Goodman), who continues to scheme to get Troy enrolled in his air conditioning repair school by torpedoing his connection with Abed. And while the Vice Dean certainly played his part in setting this up, the rift between Troy and Abed seemed to slowly grow in recent episodes until the advent of an all out pillow war.

Which brings us to "Pillows and Blankets," the second part of a two part episode that jettisons almost all of last week's subplots. Gone are Britta's (Gillian Jacobs) tragic love for the man formerly known as Subway, Pierce's (Chevy Chase) addiction to drinking ink from pens and Shirley's (Yvette Nicole Brown) desire to retake the sandwich shop that should have been hers.

In place of those elements, this episode focuses squarely on the pillow war in a Ken Burns-esque documentary style that parodies "The Civil War" and PBS in general. It was a brilliant storytelling device that TV viewers rewarded with the lowest ratings of "Community's" third season. Unlike a pillow war, some things defy explanations.

The over-the-top "Civil War" editing style played out with several scenes and transitions as well as dramatically staged photographs (some of them very badly shot by Britta herself) complete with voiceovers from the cast and narration from Keith David, a man with a golden voice if ever there was one.

As a premise, "Pillows and Blankets" was inherently silly and ludicrous, yet Troy and Abed still found a way to really hurt each other. Abed struck first blood (part 2?) with an e-mail to his troops laying out all of Troy's weaknesses; which hilariously included the color red, shiny things and people who shout "look over there!" Troy is so stricken by the flagrant betrayal of his friendship and trust that he slams Abed with a simple truth: Troy was Abed's first friend because no one else will ever be as patient with him about his personality quirks. Deep down, Abed knows this to be true as well. And it's a proverbial dagger through his heart as well.

But the war between Blanketsburg and Pillowtown (formerly known as New Fluffytown) was more than just a conflict between Troy and Abed. Shirley and Pierce joined the war on opposite sides, with Shirley exerting her influence on Troy and Pierce becoming one of Abed's most trusted generals. And after Pierce's humliating defeat at the Battle of Big Bulletin Board, he had his Tony Stark moment and became more pillow than man. Pierce was… I don't know… a cross between The Michelin Man and The Staypuff Marshmallow Man? With his newfound pillow powers of mass fluffiness, Pierce was almost unbeatable against Chang (Ken Jeong) and his child army.

Ever the opportunist, Jeff (Joel McHale) became a rousing speaker for both sides to send them into battle just as a way to get out of school work while maintaining text conversations with Annie (Alison Brie); who served as a Florence Nightingale style nurse to the wounded of both sides. But even Annie's infinite patience with Jeff's narcissism runs out when she learns that he's been playing on both sides of the fence and letting two of his mutual friends destroy themselves and Greendale along with them. 
 
Things come to a head in a final battle between Troy and Abed's forces that lasts for hours until Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) informs them that there will be no world record verification and the war is ultimately meaningless. Everyone abandons the conflict except Troy and Abed, who begin hitting each other with much less force to draw out the final thing that they would ever do together. Earlier, both of them made the pact that the loser of the war would have to move out of their shared apartment and leave their friendship and the Dreamatorium behind. Troy and Abed desperately want their friendship to survive, but neither of them has the emotional capacity to heal their wounds without outside interference.

Surprisingly, "Pillows and Blankets" turns out to be Jeff's love story. And not for Annie, whom we learned is in Jeff's heart just a few weeks ago… alongside Annie's boobs, a Golden retriever, Jeff's blackberry, one other girl, a golden retriever and alcohol. We knew Jeff loved those people and things, but his actions in the final moments of this episode show us that he loves his friends more than even he suspected. During Jeff's half-hearted attempts to negotiate peace in our time, he invented imaginary hats for Troy and Abed which were discarded by the duo in the Dean's office.

Before Troy and Abed can become friends again, they insist that Jeff return to the office and get the imaginary hats back for them. Annie is impressed that Jeff took so long to do it as a way to convince the duo that he walked all the across campus. But the footage and Jeff's voiceover tell us that he not only went all the way back to the Dean's office, he straightened out the imaginary hats and treated them as real objects as his way of investing in Troy and Abed's charmingly crazy worldview. And once the imaginary hats were back in place on Troy and Abed's heads, the war was officially over

At this point, we learn that the documentary is real enough in the world of the show that all of the Greendale seven provided their own voiceovers for it and Jeff encounters Keith David in the voice booth long enough to ask him if he was on "The Cape," which he denies.

But if I had been on "The Cape," I'd lie about it too. That show was an embarrassment. Whereas "Community" is something to be proud of, even when the larger TV audience seems to forget it.