This review contains spoilers.
3.14 Pillows and Blankets
After last week’s potentially explosive, rival faction fort building, Troy and Abed’s fluffy armies finally meet at the battle of Communityburg this week, in a fight that will determine not only whose fort is best, but also the fate of the bromance we know and love; a battle that will surely be re-enacted by war geeks in period pyjamas for centuries to come. Yes, Community: Pillows and Blankets will surely go down in the annals of military history…
With Greendale’s central friendship, the pillar that apparently holds up the entire college – how else could they persuade literally every student to not go home for the better part of three days, while they build and defend pillow forts – hanging in the balance thanks to Starburns’ horrific aim, it falls to Jeff to play mediator and prevent all-out pillow war. Ordinarily, Jeff would revel in the ease with which he can persuade Troy and Abed to do anything he wants, but for some reason this week, he just can’t be bothered, leaving the squabbling pair no choice but to take up pillow arms and defend their territories. To paraphrase the usually not quite so astute Dean: doesn’t anyone go to class?
Over the course of a handful of feather-strewn, bloodless battles, order is of course restored, and the Troy and Abed balance that the college so clearly relies on is back on track. Not through any military victory though – clearly, if you’re the sort that builds pillow forts, fighting really isn’t your thing – but through the liberal application of Magic Hats. Yes, Magic Hats. And just like that, Troy and Abed are back as they should be – clearly inseparable and wearing invisible accessories. As discussed last week, this is sitcom land, so the friendship rift was never going to last long, but this particular storyline wasn’t about the inevitable reconciliation, it was the journey that mattered, and what a beautifully realised journey it was.
A pitch-perfect spoof of the over-earnest civil war reconstructions so beloved by the History Channel, Pillows and Blankets was a joy from start to finish. The photography, the narration, the social media-fuelled communiqués, the comfortably attired armies and feather covered battlefields – every element of the spoof was spot on, and comes as a timely reminder of just how smart this show is. Spoofing TV is one of the many things that Community does well, and Pillows and Blankets may well be the crowning glory of their spoofing efforts. Even Jeff’s journal-based 14-year-old moment of clarity was less annoying under the guise of a war documentary. The only element that struck even a slightly sour chord was the description of Winger as Ferris Bueller-ian – Winger will never meet the heady heights of manipulation achieved by the legendary Bueller, no matter how much lawyering he’s involved in – he’s just not charming enough. Although the Magic Hat retrieval was a pretty nice touch.
Although it was always out of the question that Troy and Abed would stay estranged, it was still surprisingly satisfying once they were back together. The discomfort felt by many at the pair’s falling out essentially proves how central that friendship is – not just to the student body, but to the show’s audience as well. And not in the Joey/Chandler keep-these-two-talking-because-no-one-else-is-funny way. In Troy and Abed lies the show’s geeky, juvenile and almost completely innocent heart – they are the five year olds that we all were, and they’re the 20-somethings we wish all we could have been. Like the Dude, they’re taking her easy for all of us, and they must abide. Without that geeky heart, the show, the characters, everything, becomes devoid of hope, cynical and, in Pierce’s case, prison-level creepy. Not that we wouldn’t watch that show, it just wouldn’t be anywhere near as superb as it is now.
What marks Community out as particularly special is its willingness to be different each week. While the mending of a friendship may not have been particularly groundbreaking, the way the friendship was mended was wholly original. Even knowing that the reconciliation was coming, how many would have predicted that it would be done via a war documentary? The amazing attention to detail, the commitment to the spoof – from titles to soundtrack – leaves the show in a category on its own. Fearless, endlessly creative and always hilarious, Community can never be accused of predictability – and while that’s part of the problem, as far the network is concerned at least – it leaves those of us lucky enough to see it happy, hopeful, and with a strange desire to wear pyjamas and build pillow forts. Isn’t that what TV is supposed to do, after all?