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This year's western-themed Spring Fling takes a turn when Dean Pelton announces a "short" game of last-man-standing paintball assassin, and the ice cream company sponsoring their party announces the prize: $100,000 cash. The group splinters, reforming 5 hours later to find a cache of ammo that could help them win the game. In the meantime, the Black Rider, a mysterious "network television handsome" shooter is taking out the competition.
The Community episode "A Fistful of Paintballs" provides examples of:
- Action Girl: Who knew sweet little Annie was capable of being such a Badass?
- Actor Allusion:
- The Black Rider, played by Josh Holloway, gives Annie the nickname "Bean Allergy".
- He also addresses Jeff as "Mr. Insecure".
- Abed also refers to the Black Rider as 'network television handsome'.
- The Black Rider, played by Josh Holloway, gives Annie the nickname "Bean Allergy".
- Adrenaline Makeover: Annie even though it's only been a couple of hours.
- Affectionate Parody: To The Western and Spaghetti Western of all kinds.
- Always Someone More Handsome: Jeff really develops a complex over how good-looking the Black Rider is. It's lampshaded by the Rider himself, who refers to Jeff as "Mr. Insecure".
Jeff: Okay, Black Rider, now let's see who's attractive!
- Anticlimax Boss: The Black Rider takes out dozens of students and the study group barely survives two encounters with him...but in the end, Pierce takes him out in one shot after faking a heart attack.
- Asian and Nerdy: Math Club.
- Badass Bandolier: The Black Rider.
- Badass Decay: Chang's changed a lot from the John Woo style badass at paintball he was before.
- Badass Longcoat: The Black Rider again.
- Badass Preacher: Shirley fills this role in the game even if she's only dressed as a priest.
- Batman Cold Open: Annie versus the bullies.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Having spent the entire episode (and much of the previous season) defending Pierce to the other members of the group to the point where she's the only one who votes to keep him around, upon learning that Pierce has given Jeff blank paint cartridges expecting him to get shot Annie does not react well when she learns that Pierce has once again betrayed their trust.
- Big Bad: The Ice Cream Man.
- Blatant Lies
Chang: Hello? Anybody? Does anyone have an alliance I can join? I'm really loyal!
- Call Back:
- The cabinet the group finds the Dean hiding in contains both a dalmatian (from the running gag about the Dean's apparent fetish) and a bee costume from "Celebrity Pharmacology."
- Chang's El Tigre paintball gun from last year's paintball game makes a reappearance.
- Jeff's cowboy costume from "Introduction to Statistics" makes a comeback as well.
- "You raped the Duquesne family."
- Annie's still Pierce's favorite.
- Troy pops up out of a garbage can, mimicking Annie from back in "Modern Warfare".
- Annie's rousing speech to Pierce in Advanced Criminal Law contains references to her mother "encouraging" her to continue cheerleading. When she shoots the cheerleading squad that are about to execute Chang, she mentions that she tried out the previous year.
- The Cameo: Anthony Michael Hall returns as Mike the bully, one of the students that Annie shoots in the cold open.
- Camping a Crapper: Fort Hawthorne started with Pierce doing this.
- Cattle Baron: Pierce plays this role, except he isn't the Big Bad.
- The Cheerleader: Greendale's cheerleading squad are about to sentence Chang to "pretendsies-death" for betraying them until Annie shoots them first. She tried out for the team last year and was rejected.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Chang betrays Jeff to the Math Team, the Math Team to the Cheerleaders, and attempts to betray the Cheerleaders. It ends badly for him.
- Cliff Hanger
- Clothing Damage: Annie's floor length skirt she wears when the paintball game starts is missing by the time she's hiding out alone in the chemistry lab hours later. It could be an off camera Action Dress Rip but considering Annie's not too pleased about it and wants pants, it's doubtful it was intentional.
- Cowboy Episode
- Dark Is Evil: The Black Rider.
- A Date with Rosie Palms
Shirley: I hope we find this cache of ammo soon. I need to pump [breast milk].
- Death Glare: Accompanied by hellfire and an eagle's scream. The recipient does the sensible thing, and runs in terror.
- Don't Explain the Joke: "Because you're gay."
- Dramatic Chase Opening:
- Dynamic Entry: Abed saving Jeff from the Math Club.
- The Dragon: The Black Rider to the Ice Cream Man.
- Famous Last Words
- Fan Disservice: Bare Your Midriff + Who Wears Short Shorts? = Dean
- Fan Service: This episode features at least three shots of Annie running in slow motion. In a corset.
- Firing Squad: The Cheerleaders prepare to shoot a blindfolded Chang this way for betraying them.
- Foreshadowing: "Red Five, standing by."
- How about during the intro? When they played Chevy's opening tile, it was a standoff between two gunners.
- Fridge Logic: Annie points out that there's no reason to call him the Black Rider if he hasn't been riding anything.
- Further Fridge Logic: When she first encounters the Black Rider, Annie asks, "Who wears spurs to paintball?" Spurs are worn for riding horses, hence, the Black Rider's name.
- Gatling Good
- Girlish Pigtails: Britta wears these that offset with her masculine Western outfit.
- Great Offscreen War: The destruction of Fort Hawthorne happens off screen.
- Groin Attack: Don't try to use Annie as a Human Shield.
- Guns Akimbo: Several characters dual wield. Including Annie, Jeff and The Black Rider.
- Hijacked by Ganon: Played with. First with Pierce shooting the apparent Big Bad, the Black Rider, in an attempt to usurp the game. Little does he know that he just uncorked a Bigger Bad in the form of the Ice Cream Man.
- Human Shield: The Black Rider uses Annie as one against Jeff and Abed. Annie gets free by elbowing him in the gut.
- Abed uses a member of the Math Club as one.
- In Medias Res
- It Works Better with Bullets: Pierce pulls this on Jeff, and inadvertently allows Annie to escape from the Black Rider.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Let's face it, while Pierce has often been a Jerkass he's right to call out Troy when he claims "We're always nice to you, Pierce!"
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He may be The Dragon sent by the real Big Bad, but the Black Rider expresses genuine concern when Pierce seems to be suffering a heart-attack. Unfortunately for him, it turns out Pierce was faking the whole time.
- Male Gaze: The camera spends plenty of time fixated on Annie.
- Mexican Standoff: Between Annie, Pierce, the rest of the study group, and the Black Rider.
- Meaningful Name: The card "nicknames" given for each member of the study group are actually the cards they threw in when voting on whether or not to keep Pierce in the group.
- More Dakka: The mysterious storm troopers who invade the campus at the end of the episode bring with them a paintball mini-gun.
- No Man of Woman Born: Referenced.
Mike: There's only one rule Fat Neil. The prize goes to the last man standing.
- No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine
- Oh Crap: Abed and Troy's reaction to the Dean's announcement of another game of paintball. Also a case of Drop What You Are Doing/Jaw Drop.
- Ominous Music Box Tune: Played during flashbacks to when the study group appears to play cards without Pierce. It turns out they were actually voting on whether to kick Pierce out of the group.
- This is, of course, a reference to the flashbacks (and music) in For a Few Dollars More
- Paintball Episode: The Dean thinks he has learned from past mistakes.
- The Piano Player: Leonard fills this role at "Fort Hawthorne", playing Western saloon music on a keyboard.
- Playing Possum: Pierce pretends to have a heart attack so he can shoot the Black Rider.
- Punch Clock Villain: The Black Rider.
"Screw this, I've got Coldplay tickets."
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Subverted; Jeff's attempt to pull this on the Black Rider just reveals his poorly-hidden insecurities:
"You think you're good looking but you're not. You're average. You're just an average looking guy with a big chin."
- Red Baron: The Black Rider.
- Revolvers Are Just Better
- Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: Annie Edison is about to shoot you!
- Segues into the opening credits.
- Serious Business:
Fat Neil: We're friends Annie. Remember, we played Dungeons and Dragons together.
- Sequel Episode: This is a follow-up to last year's "Modern Warfare".
- Shotguns Are Just Better: The Black Rider wields a pair of paintball shotguns.
- Shout-Out: All over the place, including stylistic nods to Sergio Leone, Quentin Tarantino, and the Resident Evil series.
- The title is referencing the first of Leone's Dollars Trilogy, A Fistful of Dollars. The opening is just like those of Leone-era westerns, and the Mexican Standoff near the end is very similar to the climax of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
- The music, especially in the flashbacks, with the music-box tune, is a shoutout to For a Few Dollars More.
- Troy's costume is an exact replica of the one worn by Cleavon Little in Blazing Saddles, and Abed's is channeling The Man with No Name.
- At the end: "Red Five, standing by."
- The scene with the 'soldiers' at the end is a shout out to Die Hard 2's scene with rogue commandos ready to take over the airport. Fitting, since the first season's paintball episode referenced the first Die Hard movie.
- The scene where Annie provokes Pierce into picking up the gun to duel is also a sort of morally inverted example of a common scene in westerns where a bad guy is introduced or shown picking on some innocent bystander to provoke them into pistol-duelling so the bad guy can 'justifiably' shoot them down in cold blood, such as Jack Palance's hitman character taunting the farmer in Shane. It also shares similarity to a famous Bill Hicks routine wherein he compares American foreign policy to such a scene in westerns, specifically (and inaccurately) referencing Shane ("Pick it up.").
- Special Edition Title
- Stealth Hi Bye: Abed pulls this off on Annie.
- When he's not letting everyone know he's coming by the sound of his distinctive spurs, the Black Rider also seems adept at this; he too pulls one on Annie.
- Stripperiffic: Annie's costume. Not that anyone's complaining...
Abed: Jeff wants to see you.
- Theme Naming: All the study group members are given nicknames related to playing cards. These turn out to stand for their votes on whether Pierce could stay in the group.
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill: The Black Rider kept shooting at a guy even though he was already 'dead'. Later on Chang is taken out by a minigun going full-auto for about ten seconds straight.
- Took a Level In Badass: Annie, especially in comparison to her weak showing in last year's paintball fight.
Abed: She's pretty awesome today.
- Took a Level In Dumbass: Chang's considerably less impressive than in the last paintball episode. Perhaps this is because he didn't enter towards the end and couldn't get his special equipment.
- Trash the Set
- Unknown Rival: Jeff.
Jeff: Black Rider! It's Jeff Winger. I'm sure you've heard of me by now.
- Wanted Poster: "Wanted: Gay and Alive"
- The Western
- What the Hell, Hero?: The Black Rider calls the study group awful people when they refuse to help Pierce during his apparent heart attack. They were right not to; it just gets the Black Rider shot in the gut. Lest the study group look too heartless as a result of this, however, it should be noted that it's implied Pierce does this a lot:
Abed: Yesterday, he did it to get out of giving me a stick of gum.
- Why Don't You Marry Him?: Abed describes the Black Rider, prompting Jeff to use the phrase. "He's really good-looking. Like network-TV good-looking. And did you see how big his guns were?"