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In 2012, a film-crew went to Greendale Community College to record an attempt to make the world's largest blanket fort. Instead, they recorded something very different; a bitter breakdown in relations between two best friends that would spill out into open hostility and which would divide the campus into two teams of violent enemies, resulting in the largest and longest pillow-fight ever seen at a community college -- the conflict between the pillow fortress of Pillowtown, led by Abed Nadir, and the blanket fort of Blanketsburg, led by Troy Barnes. It was a battle that would change the lives of those who fought it while still being just a pillow fight.
The resulting documentary, "Pillows and Blankets", uses the witness testimony, status updates and text messages of those who were there to reconstruct both the conflict, devastation and increasingly hurt feelings on both sides and the difficulties of those split down the middle between the two, from the ministrations of battlefield nurse Annie Edison, to the blurry war photography of Britta Perry, from the divide in loyalties of Pierce Hawthorne and Shirley Bennett to the diplomatic efforts of Jeff Winger, who must decide between helping to patch up the broken friendship between his two friends or seizing an opportunity to avoid having to go to classes.
Tropes appearing in this episode of Community include:
- Accidental Aiming Skills: Britta finally takes a good picture, and of an important moment no less, the truce between Abed and Troy....by accident. She was actually trying to take a picture of the light coming off a stack of waffles, which came out blurry.
- Actor Allusion:
- To Keith David. "Hey, were you in The Cape?" "...No." Doubles as a Call Back.
- It's also a reference to David's work on other Ken Burns documentaries.
- According to Pierce's medical record, his physician is Dr. Rosenrosen. (The same piece of paper gives Pierce's birthdate as Oct. 8, 1943, the same as Chevy Chase.)
- To Keith David. "Hey, were you in The Cape?" "...No." Doubles as a Call Back.
- Affectionate Parody: of Ken Burns' documentaries, specifically The Civil War.
- Amazing Freaking Grace: Starts off as a piano solo but turns into a duet with fiddle.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Shirley is downright vicious on the battlefield.
- Blind Black Guy: One of the talking heads, commenting on Abed and Troy's war.
- Call Back:
- "Daybreak" by Michael Haggins (the song from Abed's story in "Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps") is finally played instead of being hummed or vocalized.
- The Changlorious Basterds, recruited at a bar mitzvah.
- Jeff's knowledge of The Cape comes from "Paradigms of Human Memory", where one of the unseen episodes apparently ended with everyone becoming fans of it.
- Jeff's wariness of the film crew stems from his experiences in "Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking" and "Documentary Filmmaking: Redux".
- The first pillow fight is referred to as a "kerfuffle".
- Shirley's childhood nickname, "Big Cheddar" is brought back as she returns to her vicious alter ego in the pillow fight.
- Jeff's habit of improvising "hot-button patriotic dogma" as a rhetorical technique, including baseless references to 9/11, shows up once again.
- A chaotic campus-wide battle ensues as the result of everyone taking a usually innocent leisure activity way too seriously thanks to a promised reward which causes nothing but trouble.
- Troy knows about "all tomatoes" because Annie gave him and Abed one in "Studies in Modern Movement" regarding the Dreamatorium. One can assume in his burst of maturity, he misheard it.
- Captain's Log: Jeff at the end of the episode.
- Child Soldiers: Played for laughs with the Changlorious Basterds, who make necklaces out of mattress tags.
- College Radio: "Fat Neil" is now a campus radio DJ, "Real Neil". He plays "Daybreak" which reminds both Abed and Troy of happier times.
- Color Coded for Your Convenience: The territories held by the two sides are depicted as blue and red on the map. This then translates to the 'uniforms' the soldiers wear; Abed's troops wear burgundy-red, with pillows for helmets, where Troy's forces wear light blue with bandannas to represent blankets.
- Combat Pragmatist:
- Chang likes to play dead and then get up and start whaling on people when they turn their backs. He also hits a guy after the war's over.
- Shirley explains that while it might be common courtesy to stop hitting enemies who are down, if they get back up, you need to keep hitting them.
- Creator Cameo: Dan Harmon as "English Memorial"
- Crowning Moment of Heartwarming: In-universe. Annie sees Jeff leaving the room and waiting long enough for Troy and Abed to think he got the imaginary "magical friendship hats" from the Dean's office so he can end the conflict and save their friendship as one. She is unaware that he actually DID go all the way there.
- Deliberately Monochrome: Britta takes pictures of the war using black and white film but as the narrator points out:
Narrator: Unfortunately for Britta and millions of photographers like her, just because something is in black and white doesn't mean it's good.
- Diary: Annie keeps one and Jeff starts writing in one.
- Distressed Damsel: The Dean takes on this role in the Study Room Kerfuffle, screaming for Jeff to "Find me!" as the battle rages around him. Cut to Jeff... disinterestedly ignoring him and playing with his phone.
- Doomsday Device: The "unstoppable" pluff juggernaut, mentioned by name.
- Don't Explain the Joke: The narrator explains the name behind the Changlorious Basterds. Not even he gets the joke.
- The Basterds were recruited at a bar mitzwah, so they're likely Jewish, much like the Basterds in the movie. Not that that took a month to figure out or anything.
- Dual-Wielding: Shirley. With pillows.
- Fatal Family Photo: Parodied with a picture of Troy and Abed which has been torn in half.
- Fence Painting: Jeff's social engineering to keep the war going to his benefit.
- Four-Star Badass: Shirley becomes the commanding general of Troy's army while also being one of the top fighters.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus:
- Apparently Leonard fought in the Korean War... on the side of the North Koreans.
- Pierce's schematics have amusing comments highlighted by The Ken Burns Effect, and the others are funny too.
- Next to the Human Being poster of legal and illegal places to hit with a pillow, there's a flyer advertising April 19th-23rd as Dean Appreciation Week.
- There's also a flyer for someone's "Birthday Bash" on [unseen month] 11/12.
- Pierce's medical report references his broken legs from "Aerodynamics of Gender", as well as his full name, Piercenald Cornelius Hawthorne (though his middle name was Anastasia in "Advanced Gay").
- Blooper: When Chang is standing next to the bulletin board, there is a "Fall 2010 Schedule of Classes" posted using the E Pluribus Anus logo which wasn't invented until after Fall 2010 classes had already started.
- Friendship Moment:
- Jeff going back to get the imaginary friendship hats from the Dean's office, despite the fact that no one is around to see him.
- Also, an earlier, more subtle one; throughout the episode Jeff is dismissive and uninterested in the conflict, regarding it as infantile the first time he tries to mediate peace between Troy and Abed and using it only as an excuse not to go to class. Once he learns that Troy and Abed's relationship has deteriorated to the point where they're actively starting to hurt each other's feelings, however, he immediately begins taking it more seriously and genuinely working to try and resolve the conflict.
- General Ripper: Leonard is Abed's top general and advises him to unleash Pierce's Doomsday Device on the Changlourious Basterds.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Apparently, the spellcheck on Jeff's phone changed the spelling of his message so that it read that he heard Chang's crew were really 'ducking' things up.
- Genre Savvy: Jeff has learnt from previous examples that whenever a documentary crew is following these characters around, chaos tends to result.
- Giftedly Bad: Britta as combat photographer.
- Guinness Episode
- Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today?: Troy, in The Tag.
- Hell Is That Noise: Invoked. 12:07am The Pillowtownians are playing Go Fish when Blanketsburg attack, howling/screaming. "Did you hear that?" "What the hell is that?"
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Invoked.
- Hey, It's That Voice!: Keith David narrates the episode in the style of the works he's narrated for historical documentarian Ken Burns.
- Humans Are Bastards: Discussed.
- Hypocritical Humor:
- Shirley claims there were no rules and then describe "common courtesy" rules.
Shirley: There were no rules in that first battle. You hit someone and they went down and ... you stop hitting them. Call that "common courtesy." But then when they get up, you maybe keep hitting them till they learn to stay down. You call that "common sense."
Troy: We're grown-ups now. We have grown-up problems.
Jeff: [Watching Troy and Abed repeatedly hit each other with pillows] That's very clear.
- Incredibly Lame Pun: It's like Inglourious Basterds...but with "Chang". I don't get it either.
- In Medias Res: The episode picks off where the previous one left off.
- Intrepid Reporter: Britta thinks she's this. She's terrible at it.
- I Resemble That Remark:
- Jeff tries to make the conflict go away by giving Troy and Abed "imaginary friendship hats that automatically make you friends again". Troy solemnly states that things are more serious than that...as Troy and Abed remove the imaginary hats.
- Also after the war, when Troy insists that he and Abed have genuine grown-up problems to address... while they're hitting each other with pillows.
- During the war, Jeff would refer to the accusation that he was just improvising fatuous patriotic-sounding dogma as a Ferris Buellerian attempt to distract everyone so they'd keep fighting and enable him to avoid schoolwork as "a slanderous betrayal akin to 9/11." After the war, he would describe the same accusations as "essentially accurate."
- The Ken Burns Effect
- The Laws and Customs of War: The two sides agree on a set of rules governing which parts of the body you are allowed to hit. (GroinAttacks are not allowed, but Annie treats incidental "lightly grazed testicles".)
- The Magazine Rule: Friends Weekly, a magazine that Troy and Abed made up.
- Malaproper: Troy's "All tomato" (for ultimatum).
- Manipulative Bastard: Jeff, although see Friendship Moment.
- The Medic: Annie becomes a combat nurse for both sides becoming "The Angel of the Battlefield". Mostly this involves just feeding soldiers Gatorade and brushing feathers off them.
- Metaphorgotten: The narrator enjoys pushing his metaphors to breaking point:
Troy: I'm giving you an all-tomato. Meaning that you give me the whole tomato, or else.
Abed: Blanketsburg has drawn First Blood; Pillowtown will draw First Blood Part II.
Narrator: [Annie's] text messages with Jeff Winger give us a glimpse beneath the cushions of war to the lost pennies and grody q-tips of war's emotional toll.
- Mockumentary: The entire episode is done in the style of a Ken Burns war documentary like The Civil War or The War.
- My God, What Have I Done?:
- Shirley is clearly experiencing some regrets post-battle, and admits to camera at one point that she suspects she ended up beating down members of her own team in the chaos.
- Jeff is also noticeably uncomfortable when he discusses learning that Abed and Troy's relationship has broken down to the point where they're genuinely hurting each other's feelings; although it's never mentioned, given his role in extending the war so he could avoid schoolwork and his subsequent efforts to mend their friendship it's not hard to imagine this trope was in effect.
- Name Face Mismatch Poster: The start of the episode has still images of the main cast along with billing. Most of them are mismatched.
- New Neo City: New Fluffytown
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Jeff's first attempt at a serious summit between Troy and Abed just ends with the two deciding their friendship is done and that once everything's over the loser will have to move out of their apartment before storming off. Jeff is rather nonplussed:
Jeff: Uhhh... I wanted that to go different.
- Non-Indicative Name: Several buildings on campus have cardinal directions in their names, but the actual basis of these names make little to no sense--for example, being named for people named North or for their relative locations to other buildings as opposed to campus as a whole. Then there's the English Memorial Spanish Center, named for English Memorial, a Portuguese explorer.
Narrator: The North Cafeteria, named after Admiral William North, is located in the western portion of East Hall, gateway to the western half of North Hall, which is named, not after William North, but for its position above the South Wall. It is the most contested and confusing battlefield on Greendale's campus, next to the English Memorial's Spanish Center, named after English Memorial, a Portuguese sailor that discovered Greendale ...
- Nurse with Good Intentions: Played with, in that Annie's nursing skills do sort of come in handy; the joke, however, is that given the nature of the conflict it's either for extremely minor boo-boos or essentially brushing feathers off people, which everyone treats as if she were Florence Nightingale.
- Oddly-Named Sequel 2: Electric Boogaloo: Discussed.
Abed's Facebook status update: The war won't stop with First Blood Part II; it will escalate to Rambo 3. Which should really be called Rambo 2/First Blood Part 3. But the Rambo titles never made sense. And neither does war.
- Also, this episode is a sequel to Digital Exploration Of Interior Design, but its title doesn't reflect that.
- Only Sane Man: Jeff seems to be the only one who realizes that for all the drama flying around, the entire situation was a silly pillow fight. He only gets invested into the war in order to ditch class. He eventually gives up this mantle in order to save Troy and Abed's friendship by playing along with their imaginary friendship hats. He even goes so far as to go to Dean's office, picking them up and cleaning them off, despite the fact that nobody was watching.
- Painting the Fourth Wall: The ending shows us Jeff writing the final monologue he'll deliver about war as he's writing it, before turning around and handing it to the documentary makers -- who reveal that they just got everyone involved in the events of the documentary to voice their own bits, as it would be too expensive to get actors to do it instead. Jeff then reveals he's in the recording booth at the same time as the narrator (who apparently actually is Keith David) to cut costs.
- Playing Both Sides: Once he gives up on trying to mediate the conflict, Jeff starts giving RousingSpeeches to both sides in order to encourage them to keep on fighting. While the conflict is going on classes are suspended and he does not have to do any school work.
- The Rainman: The opening narration describes Abed as "unable to pay parking tickets or know left from right without mouthing the Pledge of Allegiance."
- Red Oni, Blue Oni ...but reversed as far as the actual color-coding goes. Abed, the calmer, more rational of the pair leads the red side, while Troy, the more emotional and excitable heads up the blue forces.
- Rousing Speech: Jeff gives them to both sides just to keep the war going so he can delay class, much to Annie's disgust.
- Sarcasm Mode:
- Lampshaded and subverted; Troy and Abed reveal they're both aware Jeff's suggestion of 'friendship hats' which would make their problems disappear was intended sarcastically. Jeff turns it around by pointing out that just because he's a sarcastic person doesn't mean that they have to take it in the same spirit.
- Even the narrator eventually can't restrain his contempt for Britta's inept photography, although he intones it in the same dramatic tone of voice he uses for the entire documentary ("Yeah, gee, there's a good one.")
- Screaming Warrior: Just about everyone in the Final Battle, especially Shirley.
- Serious Business: Both the participants in the conflict and the documentarians recording it treat the conflict between Blanketsburg and Pillowtown as if it was an undiscovered chapter of the American Civil War. Lampshaded by Annie:
The injured said they were making necklaces out of mattress tags. This is when things get as ugly as they can get... [Sheepish] while still being a pillow fight.
- Shaggy Dog Story: The Guinness Book of Records executive gets fired and isn't coming, thus rendering the entire conflict utterly pointless. As soon as they learn this, everyone sheepishly and dispiritedly gives up and goes home except for Troy and Abed.
- Shaped Like Itself: "Pictured here lying down, Troy does not take Abed's email lying down."
- Jeff deliberately stirring the pot to delay schoolwork is noted as "Ferris Buellerian".
- The Changlorious Basterds, who taunt, "You guys like pillows? How do you like these pillows?"
- Rambo: Abed mentions the phrase First Blood Part II in passing, then discusses the series' numbering scheme.
- Pierce's Doomsday Device looks like a cross between Iron Man Mark I -- with detailed schematics and wielding The Pillow of Thor -- and the Michelin Man.
- Band Of Brothers is imitated with the war veterans being interviewed and the iconic red line separating the episode number and title.
- There's no way that "The Real Neil with Pipes of Steel" ISN'T some sort of shout out to "The Real Deal with Bill McNeal".
- The Students Who Don't Do Anything: Lampshaded; following Troy's 'all tomato', the Dean loudly wonders whether any of the students at Greendale actually go to any classes.
- Suspiciously Similar Song: The fiddle solo playing over the introduction sounds quite a bit like "Ashokan Farewell".
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: After his first, unsuccessful foray into battle, Pierce feels the need to claim that the battle has given him erectile dysfunction, which he's never had before then.
- Telethon: The Tag is a pledge drive for the Greendale campus TV station, with Troy and Abed offering PBS-style rates for DVDs of other documentaries more obscure than Pillows and Blankets (admittedly this would be the only place to get them) and making desperate pleas for funding that get cut off in midsentence.
- Turncoat: Pierce initially supports Troy but switches sides when Shirley is promoted above him.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Played for laughs; most of what we see of Jeff in stills and documentary footage involves him disinterestedly using his phone while chaotic pillow fights rage around him.
- Violence Is the Only Option
- War Is Hell
- We Used to Be Friends
- What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome?: Facebook status updates, text messages and emails from the conflict are intoned with the same gravitas and meaning as if they were letters from the American Civil War, as in this example:
Annie: Jeff. Heard from one of Troy's soldiers about a speech you gave to troops at the blanket fort. Wish this war could be over, but proud of you for taking a stance. Text message: Annie Edison
Jeff: Thank you Annie. Proud of you too, and us all. Also wish the nightmare would end, but using what I'm given to give what I can. Jeff Winger.
Annie: Jeff, just heard from one of Abed's soldiers that you gave an identical speech to troops at Pillowtown. W-T-F, sad face, special icon of a downward thumb.
Jeff: Okay, you caught me. I prefer war to homework. How do you do that little thumb icon? I can't find it on my phone. Jeff Winger.
Annie: Jeff, you're disgusting! Troy and Abed's friendship is at stake. You can buy special icons in packages at the app store. Piece of sushi, birthday cake, stop sign, snowman, umbrella.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Annie is very angry when she finds out that Jeff is Playing Both Sides and sends him a text expressing her disgust.
- What You Are in the Dark: In a Friendship Moment, Jeff actually goes to the Dean's office and picks up and dusts off the imaginary friendship hats, despite no one being around to make him.
- Wimp Fight: Played with; when everyone is pillow-fighting, it's no-holds-barred and vicious. When it's just Troy and Abed, however, they just sort of slap each other's sides with the pillows.