Community: Pillows Are the New Paintballs

By Tim Surette

Apr 06, 2012

Community S03E14: "Pillows and Blankets"

Between two groups of people who want to make inconsistent kinds of worlds, I see no remedy but force. —Oliver Wendell Holmes.

If we learned anything from tonight's episode of Community, the post-production masterpiece "Pillows and Blankets," it's that when this show sets out to do something, it does it right. "Pillows and Blankets" was one of the tougher concept episodes the series has attempted, but the show pulled it off thanks to the next-level thinking Dan Harmon and his staff are famous for.

The second installment of the Abeds vs. the Troys saw the BFFs in a T-I-F-F over encroaching forts built of bedstuffs: pillows on Abed's side and blankets on Troy's. What resulted was... PILLLLLOW FIIIIIIIGHT!!!! A silly friendship this strong could only yield a silly fight this big, and as much as we love to see Troy and Abed together, seeing them apart gave us one of the series' best and most ambitious episodes to date.

The Greendale Civil War was modeled after Ken Burns' Civil War, the grand standard for public broadcasting documentaries that run into the double digits in terms of hours of runtime but feature no real footage. Essentially, Burns' epic is a strangely compelling and sneaky combination of photo-slideshow and history lecture with fake sound effects in the background, and it turned out to be the perfect vehicle for Community to break into and joyride.

Normal sitcoms are known for their actors and jokes, and that's about it. "Pillows and Blankets" proved that there's a lot of potential for humor in the editing room and a good graphics department. From the callbacks to last week's episode to the "Dan Harmon Effect" of copying the "Ken Burns Effect" (zooming and sliding still photos) to battleground maps to close-ups of text messages to stills of people texting those text messages, "Pillows and Blankets" was all about realizing a concept that has no business being on television.

Think of the contrast between Community's bottle episode "Cooperative Calligraphy" and the post-production beast that was "Pillows and Blankets." "Cooperative Calligraphy" took place in one setting with only the principal cast. That could practically be shot in an afternoon. "Pillows and Blankets" was an onslaught of scenes and still photos and emails and blueprints for a pillowman with a cast of hundreds of people and pillows involved. The call sheet for this episode must have been immense! If Community can give us something like both of these episodes in its lifetime, I'm thoroughly convinced it can also turn water into wine. Pardon me while I hyperbolize, but this is messiah-like work.

For me the biggest laughs came somewhere near the middle of the episode, when Chang brought in the Changlorious Basterds, a ragtag gang of rugrats he recruited to do his bidding. And the crowning moment was Abed's strategic counter move, unleashing Pillow Man, the fluffy headrest fight version of a top-secret Iron Man suit. Seeing Pierce rumble out onto the battlefield and beat the snot out of those kids just about killed me.

But there was a strong story buried under the piles of feathers. There was enough attention to make sure that every character had a great role in the war even though the bulk of the episode was just presentation. And at the heart of it all, we all wanted Troy and Abed to eventually make amends.

In the end that's exactly what we got as Abed and Troy realized their fight was all about how much they liked each other. And Jeff, for just a moment, stepped out of his own smug world and into Troy and Abed's mobile mental Dreamatorium, even taking the time to actually pick up their friendship hats. It was one of the most vulnerable and honest moments we've ever seen Jeff have. I guess war will do that to a man.

Study Group Notes

– If there's one complaint I can imagine people having about the episode, it's that it was too much of the same thing. But I can also see "more of the same" being an argument for why the episode was so great. I'm in the latter camp. As far as special episodes go, "Pillows and Blankets" was right up there with the best of them.

– "Pillows but no sleep, feathers but no birds. Pajamas without children, violence with no purpose. I saw mommy kissing Exxon Mobile." —Amanda Johnson, poet by choice, lesbian by birth.

– Leonard likes this post!

– That was Harmon as English Memorial, the Portuguese sailor who discovered Greendale.

– I loved seeing Chang surrender to that chick, take a huge whack to her when her back was turned, and then surrender again.

– Have you seen Ken Burns' Civil War? If not, do you think you would have liked this episode more if you had? I'm wondering if it's similar to the My Dinner With Andre spoof, which I knew about and made that episode that much better.

Follow writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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  • omarholy Apr 13, 2012

    This is , by far, the best community episode!

    Like alot of the people viewing this website, I watch alot of TV shows , and it is extremely hard to get impressed by a TV show these days, but this eposide did it and blew my mind!

    I really hope the show stays on for atleast 5-6 seasons so that we can see more of these amazingly creative episodes!

  • Placebo_obecalP Apr 13, 2012

    "Have you seen Ken Burns' Civil War? " I haven't but I realised quickly what the episode was aiming for and "got it" right away and thought it was a simply wonderful episode that completely worked, one of, if not, the best Community episode to date.

  • Maries08 Apr 10, 2012

    They are showing a rerun of the previous blanket fort episode... and Troy and Abed ARE WEARING THE SAME PIJAMAS as in these episodes!!!

    This is just too much, I want to marry this series :P

  • CiaraGlynn Apr 08, 2012

    Is it weird to have cried near the end of this episode? THE TROBED SHOULD NEVER PART WAYS.

  • jdh Apr 08, 2012

    What an amazing episode. Having seen all of Ken Burns' Civil War i really appreciated this episode, and the whole concept. A few people are saying that the episode wasn't funny, but it was funny on a different level. So many inside jokes.

    How many shows can be THAT funny spoofing an old civil war doc. It is so hard to write that stuff and make it interesting and, more importantly, funny. Even the fonts were perfectly realised. I am unsure if it would have been as funny if i hadn't watched Ken Burns' Civil War, but then maybe that is the point why some people loved it and few others didn't?

    Great show.

  • thorthorsen Apr 07, 2012

    This was a clear 10/10 for me.

    The level of creativity in this series is so amazing. You never know what kind of episode you will get, and still (atleast for me) they never disappoint. For me personally the 'worst' Community episodes are still way better than any average episode of The Big Bang Theory.

    I can understand that some people didn't like this episode, but then Community is just not really your thing. Which doesn't say you can't enjoy it, but rather that you probably enjoy series like The Big Bang Theory more. For me TBBT is just a one man show (Sheldon) with the ocassional easy (but nontheless funny) jokes by the other castmembers.

    I like series to be unpredictable, from comedies (Community) to dramas (Game of Thrones). Unfortunately for me, I've seen too much predictable comedies in my life already (Friends etc.). And most series follow this very safe format. HIMYM is somewhere in between for me. They adhere to the usual Friends format, but they give it their own turn. And I especially like their episodes where the storyline changes all the time.

    Back to Community:

    MVP: Jeff for picking up the friendship hats, and actually dusting them off :')

  • BrittaBot Apr 12, 2012

    As a massive Community fan I don't completely get the TBBT hate... I mean I know they ruin the ratings but that's because TBBT is good at what it does... I'm not saying it's half as good as Community as far as Geniusness but really TBBT is a show I'm happy watching... If TBBT and Community were on the same channel and aired together Community would be huge probably and we'd be Team TBBT too even just for the ratings... If we have to bag the City College of all shows let's hate 2 And A Half Men... That show is by the same guy and I LOATHE that show to bits. TBBT is amazing compared to THAT...

  • AhmedNabil1 Apr 07, 2012

    Aaaand we're back. That was more like it :D #SixSeasonsAndAMovie

  • cross_mr Apr 07, 2012

    This was a decent episode, but the paintball episodes were far better in my mind. The interaction by group members was curbed far too much by the documentary style.

  • AyeDub Apr 07, 2012

    Weren't you on The Cape?


    Made my night...#SIXSEASONSANDAMOVIE !!!

  • ClaudioDonat Apr 07, 2012

    This episode was a masterpiece!

    The best one to date! For those that didn't like it, I am sad that you can't see how wonderful this was. In a time that comedy sitcoms are all the same it is so nice to see something different, different and intelligent.

    Thanks, Community, for bringing me so much joy!

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