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FLAVORWIRE: ‘Community’ Season 5 Episode 11 Recap: “G.I. Jeff”

On 04, Apr 2014 | In Press & News | By SBI

The important fact about Community’s gimmick episodes is that the good ones are never just about the gimmick. The paintball episodes, the Ken Burns spoof, “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas”—when the show trots out its tricks, it’s like a particularly good magic show, where the illusionist uses the tool of diversion to smuggle in some of the heftiest intellectual and emotional content of the series. This week’s episode, “G.I. Jeff,” replicates the look and feel of the old G.I. Joe syndicated cartoon show flawlessly: the little specs on the image, the choppiness of the cheap-o animation, the stilted dialogue. The recreations of those ‘80s live-action toy commercials are likewise perfect. And while we’re marveling over the perfection of the nostalgia, we can easily miss that this not only of the most ambitiously melancholy Communitys to date, but one that questions the very essence of reality.

The save that stuff, of course; initially, “G.I. Jeff” is merely an astonishingly trenchant satire of a really minor pop culture blip from about 30 years ago, which is kind of everything you need to know about Community in one sentence. The theme song is the same, but the narration gets real: “Look, I think I’m over-explaining it: the bad guys are snakes and the good guys are army people.” When Britta/Buzzkill notes that Winger/Wingman repeats the same action and calls it “cheap,” Abed’s Fourth Wall quips, “From an animated perspective, verycheap.” Jeff makes mention of the show’s “constant lip sync mistakes”; as he says it, Shirley’s lips move.

But the most accurate jab at the original series—that in spite of the constant warfare at its center and non-stop gunfire, no one ever, evergets killed—provides not only several of the best gags (my favorite: the resetting of the five digit DAYS SINCE LAST CASUALTY board), but the motor for the narrative. By creating a heretofore unseen blunt and horrifying death—and what a great moment of mouth-agape reactions that is—Jeff ruptures the entire artifice of the animated program, traversing the line between this hallucination/fantasy and his real life (with those commercials creating a buffer dimension between).

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