Description: Part 1 of the award winning documentary series which chronicles the heady and perilous time of war at Greendale Community College, waged by Abed Nadir and Troy Barnes, two friends who found themselves at odds with each other and ultimately caused a campus siege.
Pillows and Blankets is another entry in a long string of brilliant themed episodes for Community, one in which takes the format of Ken Burns’s definitive documentary style and runs with it to great effect. In an episode that would have been just fine as a season finale/premiere, “Pillows and Blankets” picks up right where last week’s episode left off, with Abed (Danny Pudi) and Troy’s (Donald Glover) fort armies at war with one another. “There are people who say, ‘I don’t get it. It was just a pillow fight.’ To which I say, ‘You weren’t there,’” says Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) of the hours-long war in a talking head/documentary cut away moment. The episode is chock full of these little moments, a Ken Burns signature, in which real footage is paused or slowed, transitioning to slick motion graphic explanatory sequences as a deep-voiced voice-over runs through the ABC’s of it all. Amazingly, this style runs throughout the episode, never wavering for the easy way out of reverting back to traditional filmmaking.
The main source of footage is that of a documentary crew who is at Greendale to cover the world record that Troy is trying to break. Here, we learn the origins of the rift; the original fort, called New Fluffytown and its amazing potential, “You were surrounded by softness,” says a Very Old Student (literally, that’s his name). We are caught back up to last week’s episode in which Troy secedes from the fort to form Blanketsburg while Abed renames the main fort Pillowtown. The opening shots of the war fire off in what has been come to be known as “The study room kerfuffle”.
“At 12:07, Blanketsburg soldiers attack Pillowtown,” recounts the omnipotent narrator over still images of the fray. From here, the study group’s alignments are explained: Annie stays away from the front, giving aid to “wounded” soldiers by running lint rollers across their clothes; Shirley has sided with Troy, Pierce with Abed; Britta picks up a camera and takes awful war photos; Jeff sees the futility of it all and chooses not to participate…but not for long.
“Even Jeff Winger, who before the war lacked interest in it has now found a new cause,” the VO explains. Of course, his motivations are mostly self-centered, attempting to prolong the war as long as possible to dodge out of class. Meanwhile, Pierce presents a secret weapon of his design to Abed, who approves of its creation, “I hope to god we’ll never have to use it,” he thinks to himself.
“Chang, rumored to be literally psychotic has been kept on the sidelines until now,” continues the VO. Chang has formed a posse of middle school kids he met from the Schwartz barmitzvah and has sanctioned them as “The Changlorious Bastards”, which Troy turns to for help. To retaliate, Abed approves the use of Pierce’s doomsday device: Pierce covered head to toe in pillows.
Jeff finally relents and tries to find an end to the fighting by scheduling a summit meeting where Abed plaintively explains, “Our friendship is dead.” The summit, it seems, was a failure as Abed and Troy agree that the loser of the war has to find a new place to live. This leads to a showdown in the cafeteria, where just after dawn, the end of the war began. After several minutes of pillow-to-blanket violence, Dean Pelton storms the cafeteria and stops the fight. It seems that the Guinness judge has been fired and the entire record commencement has been cancelled.
“The war has no more reason to continue. And yet it does,” the VO muses as Troy and Abed continue fighting after everyone has cleared out. Jeff tries to reason with them that, “The realization that you like each other so much that you’ll hit each other with pillows forever,” is case in point that they don’t hate each other. Jeff suggests that he put some imaginary friendship hats on their heads, which the two agree to do. It doesn’t take long for them to make up because, after all, best friends are forever.
Pillows and Blankets is sure to be a classic episode of Community, one that fans will reference along with the Six Timeline and Paintball episodes as evidence of the show’s intoxicating originality and brilliance. The show may have been on hiatus for three months, but it has come out of the gate with something to prove, as this episode shows through a haze of lint and feathers.
Season 3, Episode 14: “Pillows and Blankets” (original airdate April 5, 2012.)
Community airs Thursdays at 8/7c on NBC.
Images courtesy of Tyler Golden and NBC Universal.