As Community starts returning to form and moves beyond the latest Dan Harmon/Chevy Chase imbroglio, we're starting to harvest the crop of seeds planted in past episodes (Vice Dean Laybourne, Chang's "security interns"), culminating in last night's quasi-epic battle.
But while there was a great deal of humor in the episode, using Ken Burns's Civil War as a parody framing device felt tired. Which is probably because it's been done at least two times before (by Mr. Show in 1998 and Jimmy Kimmel in 2010).
Admittedly, getting Keith David to narrate was a nice touch: "In 2012, Greendale Community College was the site of the largest and longest pillow fight in community college history." Sounds ominous.
Things get started when Dean Pelton asks Jeff to intervene in the dispute between Troy and Abed that started last week. The attendant film crew is there to document Greendale's Guinness attempt at a pillow fort record. The fort, named "New Fluffytown" (not necessarily canny viewers will recall "Fluffy Town," the blanket fort from season 2), comes under dispute when Troy, sensing a chance at greatness, wants to incorporate blankets to increase the fort's size. Abed disagrees. Troy secedes from New Fluffytown and creates "Blanketsburg," while Abed renames his "Pillowtown."
Battle is joined and through interviews with the likes of Shirley "Big Cheddar" Bennett (commander of the Blanketsburg ArmY) and Leonard "Bucket of Guts" Rodriguez (*North* Korean war veteran), we piece together the subsequent events. Pierce suffers broken glasses and erectile dysfunction (which he assures us was completely absent before the war). While Jeff, initially bored with the goings-on, sees an opportunity for further academic delays and stokes the fires of the combatants -- on both sides -- with patriotic speeches.
As the war continues, reports that Pillowtown is developing a "doomsday weapon" lead Troy to recruit Chang and his underage squad of "Changlorious Basterds," who soon swing the tide in Blanketsburg's favor. Left with little choice, Abed unleashes Pierce, now wrapped in pillows like goose down Michelin Man. I felt this cushion golem resembled a more cuddly Sauron, while another friend described him as a "pillownaut." In any event, his devastating attack brings the sides back into stalemate.
The frustrating thing is, there were some really great touches this week: "Nurse" Annie using a lint brush to clean feathers from the "wounded" and administering IV Gatorade; the use of text messages as a substitute for soldiers' letters home (and the emoticon app subplot); invisible friendship hats...but every time they returned to the documentary motif, I groaned. And the extensive battle scenes felt like filler more than anything else. There's plenty of fuel for further episodes (Troy and Abed's problems don't look like they've been resolved), but I wasn't as taken with "Pillows and Blankets" as Harmon and company intended.
"If there's one thing I've learned in this place, it's that a film crew means disaster."
"Do people go to classes?"
"Winger's critics suggest he merely improvised hot-button patriotic dogma in a Ferris Bueller-ian attempt to delay schoolwork."
"Leonard likes this post."