‘Twas the night before Friday, and on NBC
Was a fantastic show called Community.
This episode should cause quite the commotion;
It wasn’t live-action, but rather: stop-motion!
…And we’ve reached the limits of my poetical prowess.
I’ve been waiting for this episode since it was announced. Being a child reared on the Rankin/Bass TV classics Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman, as well as other holiday staples like How The Grinch Stole Christmas and A Charlie Brown Christmas, I had high hopes that this would be the defining TV holiday special of my young adulthood.
Now, some may argue that given my unnatural affection for this show, I would gladly lap up any slop Dan Harmon and Co. would lay before me and declare it a masterpiece. I feel differently. To really knock my socks off, and earn a place on my own little Holiday TV Special Mt. Rushmore, Community would have to be a heart-warming special with mass-appeal, while still remaining a faithful installment to what makes the show so great to begin with. It’s a lot to juggle in a 22-minute span.
And guess what? It was everything I was hoping for.
The episode is entirely animated in stop-motion, complete with musical numbers, exaggerated physical features and doe-eyed expressions to match the classics from my childhood. And better yet, it retains the show’s trademark razor-sharp wit, and it fits contextually into the series as a whole. This episode even made me, for the second straight week, coo like an infant during its touching character moments. Keep in mind that I’m a 20-something cynical pop-culture blogger – I generally don’t coo for crap.
To start the show, Abed joins the group in the cafeteria, apparently seeing the world in stop-motion animation. When he causally mentions this to the group, their first reaction is to think that he’s finally broken away from reality. Which he has. To get into the animated mood, Abed leaps from the table and begins singing a Yuletide-variant of the Community theme song… before he’s tased by campus security.
The group brings Abed to the most respected psychology scholar at Greendale, which is unfortunately Prof. Duncan. Duncan, out of concern for Abed (and for publication into various medical journals and book deals), asks Abed to recite the traumatic experience that occurred that morning to cause Abed to break from reality. Abed, however, decides that his vision means that he needs to find the true meaning of Christmas.
Abed leaves the office, but is later called into the study room by Britta, who claims to have found Christmas’ true meaning. However, this is a trap set by Duncan and the rest of the study group, who want to have a group therapy session for Abed. Duncan believes that the best way to figure out Abed’s underlying emotional trauma is to indulge his wild fantasies. And with that, away we go to Planet Abed – the most Christmas-y planet in the universe! (It’s atmosphere is 7% cinnamon.)
On Planet Abed, the group has turned into more Christmas-y versions of themselves: Jeff-in-the-Box, BrittaBot, Troy Soldier, Teddy Pierce, BallerAnnie, and Baby Doll Shirley! Duncan, meanwhile, has previously declared himself to be a Christmas Wizard, and wants to lead Abed to the Cave of Frozen Memories.
Not all of our favorite Study Buddies make it to the Cave. Shirley is ejected by Duncan the Christmas Wizard for breaking Abed’s immersion and reminding him he is in group therapy. Meanwhile, Jeff is quite happy to leave the Winter Wonderland behind when he is “consumed alive” by sarcasm-seeking humbugs.
Once the group reaches the Cave, Duncan tries to get Abed to look into the ice and relive the traumatic moment that led to his delusions. However, Abed tricks Duncan and by causing him to look back on traumatic holiday moments in his own life -- when his Daddy wasn’t there to see him read Paddington books on Christmas mornings. Duncan, emasculated, leaves the group behind. Abed sets the Cave in self-destruct mode and leads the group toward the North Pole, where he thinks he will find the meaning of Christmas. However, BrittaBot is left behind as a punishment for her earlier deception with the text message.
As the train carries Teddy Pierce, Troy Soldier, BallerAnnie and Abed toward the North Pole, we learn more about past Christmases with the Greendale Gang. Annie, it seems, is only half-Jewish, and suffered through overlapping holiday rituals every year. Abed, whose parents are also divorced and from different religious backgrounds, grew up cherishing the day that he and his mom watched Rudolph every year: December 9th. When Troy and Annie remind Abed that it is December 9th, he shrugs it off, refusing to believe his mom wouldn’t show up on their special day. And everyone’s heart breaks a little.
Duncan, fed up with the delusions he’s helped to create, shows up again to stop all the Christmas shenanigans. However, Troy and Annie intervene to help Abed and Pierce escape to the North Pole. When they reach Santa’s Workshop, they find… nothing. They only find a solitary present remaining, with “the meaning of Christmas” written on it… but it’s the first season Blu-ray of Lost, symbolizing “lack of pay-off”.
Duncan arrives on the scene to drive the last ounce of Christmas cheer from Abed. He shows Abed something he found in his dorm room that day: a postcard from his mother, saying how she won’t be coming for Christmas this year, and how she has a new family. Abed, dejected, becomes encased in a block of ice. However, Abed is saved by a Christmas ex machina! His friends, once more united, arrive in Santa’s Workshop and shoot Duncan with Magic Christmas Weapons (all while warming Abed’s heart with a holiday song).
Duncan is banished by a self-destructing Christmas Pterodactyl, and Abed is thawed. He comes to realize that the meaning of Christmas is that Christmas has meaning, and it’s whatever we want it to be. While it used to be about spending time with his family, it now means he can spend time with his friends.
What a splendid way to send us into the holidays. But my only Christmas wish would be for more Community over the holidays… but that’s a wish even the Christmas Wizard can’t grant. Oh well… I’ll try to enjoy my break until next semester.
- Funniest moment this week? Plenty to choose from, but the one that hit home the hardest for me was the aforementioned Lost reference. I’ve laughed myself to tears plenty of times while watching this show, but this may be the first time I’ve laughed and cried simultaneously for different reasons.
- This one came close, too. Upon hearing that Humbugs are attracted to sarcasm, Jeff responds, “Wow. Somewhere out there, Tim Burton just got a boner.”
- Abed’s craziness can now be measured by the helpful chart shown in this episode: Aloof, Detached, Distant, and Bjork.
-I also learned, though the magic that is Wikipedia, that Jay Chandrasekhar of Broken Lizard fame (Super Troopers, Club Dredd, Beerfest) directed last week's awesome episode, Mixology Certification. Just want to give credit where credit is due. Great job, Jay.
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