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It's near the end of the semester, and as the other members of the study group discuss how infuriated they are getting at Britta and Jeff's Unresolved Sexual Tension, Dean Pelton walks in to inform everybody about the school's upcoming "Spring Fling", featuring music, food, activities, "what-what!" He also mentions that there will be a game of "Paintball Assassin", with a special prize for last man standing- what was to be a Blu-ray DVD player, until it was stolen, and is now "TBD".

As Troy ponders whether or not he wants this new "TBD" that Pierce is pretty sure he had for about a month in the seventies, Jeff announces that he will be going to his car for a short nap. When he wakes up, he stumbles out of his car to find the school all but destroyed with paintballs. Interrogating Garrett, who he finds lying slumped over in the hallway, Jeff discovers that shortly after the paintball game started, the students turned on each other once the Dean announced what the final prize for the winner would be. When Jeff asks what the prize was, he is told that the game has not concluded, and is "still happening! Right now!"

Before Jeff can extract any more information from Garrett, a Laser Sight appears, and Leonard plugs Garrett with paintballs several times before moving on to Jeff. Disregarding Jeff's insistence that he's not playing with the response that "Everyone's playing!", he pursues Jeff down the hallway, where Abed emerges, vaults over Jeff, and saves him by shooting Leonard with a few paintballs of his own. Abed takes Jeff from wandering in the Neutral Zone to the base of operations he has set up with Troy, where they finally reveal to Jeff the prize that has driven student against student: priority registration, the first pick for your schedule of classes next semester.


The Community episode "Modern Warfare" provides examples of:

 Garrett: "Over"?! This is not over! This is still happening! Right now!

 Abed: Come with me if you don't want paint on your clothes.

    • As other episodes show, Jeff getting his clothes ruined would be worse than death for him...
  • Continuity Nod: Abed's bandolier of paintball pellets has a slot for his lip balm.
  • Deader Than Disco: The first scene features a guy roller-skating through the hallway in an orange tracksuit and an afro. Jeff references this trope.
  • Defensive Feint Trap: The Chess Club ambushes people by having one member step into a room then immediately run out, where three more wait outside the door. Right before they fall into the trap, Jeff realizes that "He's a pawn..."
  • Disco Dan: "Post-ironic Disco Stu" and his Gang of Hats.
  • The Dragon: Chang, for the Dean. He even has his own El Tigre tiger striped paintball gun. And dual gold handguns. And room-painting suicide bomb.
  • Dueling Shows: Several more stabs at Glee.
    • When Abed and Troy are explaining to Jeff the Glee club sniper trap:

 Troy: They say the glee club has lured stragglers into sniper traps with cheery renditions of hit songs.

Jeff: Really? And people fall for that?

Troy: Yeah.

Jeff: I mean, I'm all for winning, but let's not resort to cheap ploys! [ takes off shirt]

    • Later:

 Jeff: WRITE SOME ORIGINAL SONGS!

 Jeff: And tell the Drama Club their tears will be real today.

  • Evil Costume Switch: Not that he wasn't already kind of evil to begin with but Senor Chang changes to an outfit similar to that worn by The Killer once the Dean gives him the go-ahead to take out the remaining players.
  • Evil Laugh:
    • Senor Chang, when detonating his paint bomb.
    • He also shares a less cackling one with Dean Pelton earlier.
  • Florence Nightingale Effect: Mocked by Jeff and Britta... then played entirely straight
  • Foreshadowing: Chang becoming a student, which would happen officially at the end of the season.
  • Gangsta Style: A continuity goof has Britta holding a gun Gangsta Style whenever the camera's on her and right way up when it's Over the Shoulder.
  • Genre Savvy: For once, it's not Abed. Jeff anticipates Britta's sudden, but inevitable betrayal.
  • Gunpoint Banter: Between Jeff and Britta during the Mexican Standoff in the men's room. Lampshaded, the rest of the group gets annoyed at them.
  • Guns Akimbo: Annie, Britta and Shirley. For some reason, none of the other guys do except for Senor Chang, in his role as The Dragon, who pulls out dual gold plated guns after his paintball machine gun runs out.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: The study group encounters the glee club, an Expy for the cast of Glee. After the study group defeats them, Jeff tells them "Write some original songs!" In February of 2011, it was announced that Glee would be doing an episode with original songs.
  • Homage: Tons.
    • The "ONE HOUR LATER" scene where Jeff wakes up echoes the same scene in 28 Days Later. It also has quite a similar feel to the ending of the first Resident Evil film.
    • The line "Stu-dy grooo-up! Come out and play-y-y!", a paraphrase of Luther's taunt in The Warriors. And it's used by a group of retro disco students who are very reminiscent of some of the film's weirder gangs.
    • Jeff's wardrobe, his anticipation of Britta trying to shoot him ("No paintballs, Hans?"), and his final retaliatory gesture at the Dean are all taken directly from Die Hard. Also his entry, screaming "Deeeaaan!"
    • Chang's paint bomb plays out like the end of Predator.
    • Chang's entrance to the study room is straight out of a John Woo movie... minus the Disturbed Doves. Word of God says they didn't have the budget for them.
    • Abed's entrance (see page image) was stolen from a certain leather-clad action girl.
      • He also stole his goggles from Riddick.
    • The music cues come from the island.
    • "Come with me if you don't want paint on your clothes."
    • Shirley spouting bible verses while kicking ass? There are a couple of brothers from Southie she should meet.
    • Troy's football pads referencing allllllll the way back to Mad Max 2.
    • The Britta/Chang scene results in two paintballs colliding, a straight from a scene in the 2009 film Wanted.
    • Jeff firing the paintball gun in the Deans office is very similar to a scene in Rambo.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • Jeff taking off his shirt right after claiming they shouldn't resort to cheap ploys in a Reality Subtext reference to the viewer hook of Glee.
    • This exchange:

 Dean: There will be a prize for last man standing, (sotto voice) or last man in a wheelchair without paint on him.

Britta: Or last woman.

Dean: Give it a rest, Britta! Ug.

 Dean: The prize was a Blu-ray DVD player... but it got stolen. So now it's TBD!

Troy: I want TBD! Is that new?

  • Leap and Fire: Abed's introduction (pictured). Badass.
  • Mexican Standoff: Throughout.
  • Nobody Here But Us Birds:
    • Abed's signal to Troy that he's coming in.
    • Another one is heard right before Troy is shot by the Glee Club.
  • No Honor Among Thieves: Pierce betrays Starburns while they're stealing from the vending machines.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: Said by Abed after Jeff and Britta have sex.
  • Oh Crap: Abed's realization at the men's room urinal when he sees fresh green paint roll down, highlighting the paintball outline of the previous users who got trapped there.
  • Only Sane Man: Subverted; when he learns that the prize is priority registration, in line with this trope Jeff's initial reaction is to scoff "is that all?" -- then he takes a second to think about it, realizes what it means, and joins in the craziness with everyone else.
  • Out Run The Paintball: When Senor Chang reveals his contingency plan.
  • Paintball Episode
  • Playing the Heart Strings: Abed and Shirley's outro.
  • The Power of Trust: Played with; the nature of 'The Prize' means that everyone will eventually turn on each other in order to get it -- however, as with the study group, most of the people who make it furthest through the game do so by forming 'packs' with other people they trust to watch their backs. In keeping with this, throughout the episode whenever one of the group tries to betray the others it usually backfires on them (Troy immediately gets shot when he suggests turning on the others to Shirley, and Britta's attempt to betray Jeff is scuttled when he reveals her gun is empty).
  • Pre-Climax Climax: Parodied with Jeff and Britta's hook-up.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: To the Chess Club:

 Jeff: Checkmate, bitches!

  • Redemption Equals 'Death': Britta makes up for her attempt to double-cross Jeff by sacrificing herself to defeat Chang.
  • Reset Button: All that paint is cleaned up impossibly quickly at the end; the school looks pristine just a few hours after the game ended.
    • Somewhat Truth in Television. This was only the 19th episode produced, so they had to clean up the entire set in order to shoot the remaining episodes.
  • Reverse Psychology:

 Jeff: Hey Pierce, don't come over here, okay?

Pierce: Screw you! I'm comin' over there!

 Jeff: You're not even a student!

Senor Chang: Wrong! [Holding up college schedule] "Critical Media Literacies" and "Politics of Gender", biyatch!

  • Trashcan Bonfire: Jeff, Britta, Abed, and Shirley gather around one of these in the cafeteria.
  • Trash the Set: You might think that "Modern Warfare" was made last, as only two more episodes of the 25-episode first season follow it, and the episode features the entire school getting covered in paint and all the furniture getting upended for cover. The episode's production number? 19. That means they filmed six more episodes of the season after ruining their set. Apparently, that Reset Button overnight cleaning at the end was real.
    • Which may explain in part why the Season 2 paintball episode(s) was the finale, complete with tag of the irritated school janitor looking ahead at a long summer of cleaning paint.
  • Unfortunate Implications: Averted and discussed on the DVD commentary. The episode tries very hard to avoid the viewer being reminded of actual school shootings.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: The study group complains about this getting unbearable.

 Abed: To be blunt, Jeff and Britta is no Ross and Rachel. Your sexual tension and lack of chemistry are putting us all on edge. Which is why, ironically - and hear this on every level - you're keeping us from being Friends.

Britta: Jeff and I do not have sexual tension. We just argue all the time.

Shirley: Awww, just like Sam and Diane! I hated Sam and Diane.

  • The Uriah Gambit: Jeff discovers the position of the Glee Club by telling Pierce "not" to come over to him.
  • Wall Jump: Abed's Matrix-style one, taking pride of place as the image at the top of this page.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: The plot of "Modern Warfare" can be construed as a Whole-Plot Reference to at least one movie:
    • Battle Royale: A schoolmaster forces his students into a competition where they have to finish each other off one by one. He also enters a ringer who wishes to enter for fun, and one who has played the game before. At the end, the last man standing breaks into his ivory tower and finishes him off.
    • Which is also a very similar premise to The Condemned, The Running Man, and Death Race, if you replace school students with prisoners...
  • Will They or Won't They?: Discussed.
    • They Do: Sarcastically teased, then played straight.
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