Community "G.I. Jeff" Review: Nostalgia With a Side of Nonsense

By Tim Surette

Apr 04, 2014

Community S05E11: "G.I. Jeff" 

If you know anything about Dan Harmon, and this includes his pre-Community Channel 101 days, then you know that he is a crazy person. Like, genuinely deranged. Nutso. It's his cuckoo-clock brain that makes him such a talent and a rare commodity in "the business," the kind of man who fights for his art and gives network executives migraines with his stubbornness and commitment to his vision. But it also produces the creative madness that leads to episodes like "G.I. Jeff," one of the most bizarre outings of a show that routinely redefines bizarre on the network comedy front. 

Opinions on "G.I. Jeff" are going to vary wildly, and here's mine: I liked it! Ta-da! But I also don't think it entirely worked. I always wonder how these types of episodes ("Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas" and "Intro to Felt Surrogacy" are in the same category) are conceived. Do the writers start by deciding on the gimmick—for lack of a better word—or do they come up with the story first and then choose a gimmick that fits? In this case I hope the gimmick came first, because "G.I. Jeff"'s link to Community's reality was the weakest part of the episode. 

Burdened with the fear of turning *gasp* 40, Jeff chugged a ton of scotch and downed a few Korean youth pills, fell into a slumber that required a hospital visit, and then dreamed up an animated world where he and the study group existed inside the G.I. Joe cartoons of the '80s. Compare that setup to, say, "Geotherman Escapism," where the story—Abed's struggle to process Troy's impending exit—clearly preceded the wackiness—a schoolwide game of Hot Lava in the style of Mad Max. I actually found myself hoping that "G.I. Jeff" wouldn't make any attempt to connect to Community's real life; I would've preferred it to have it be an entirely insane, standalone departure from the rest of the series that just said, "Screw it, we're doing G.I. Joe with no explanation!" instead of Jeff tripping balls because he was sad about being on this planet for a fourth decade. I know Community tried to say something about getting older and hanging on to youth, but it felt more like a last-ditch attempt to link the animated world to the real world instead of an organic and emotional explanation for the crazyballs shit we'd just seen. 

But while the ending didn't quite work out for me because I am a heartless bastard, the rest of the episode did—even thought it was basically an extended Robot Chicken sketch. Growing up, I always raced home from school (I walked up a hill, dammit!) to watch G.I. Joe and those other crappy cartoons, so the nostalgia hit me and it hit hard. Big ups to whoever did the animation in "G.I. Jeff"; they did a stellar job of reproducing the era's simple sketching, and the in-jokes cracked me up. I loved the gag about the lip-synching errors and conserving the budget by repeating animations, and the running joke about characters not killing each other never got old. And Destro! He died!

And how about those commercial breaks? They were outstanding, devolving from playful interludes into mayhem that Jeff could lucidly control. I don't know if there was a deeper meaning to them, hough. Abed—err, I mean Fourth Wall—talked about the three layers of reality, with the toy commercial layer separating the cartoon layer from the non-cartoon layer, but unless I missed something, it was all just gobbledygook that gave Community an excuse to make some very funny fake '80s ads.

Anyway, that's about all I have to say about "G.I. Jeff," but that doesn't mean it's all I have to SHOW! Let's salute the episode's characters, so they can live on the internet forever and ever! 

Well, what did you think of "G.I. Jeff"? Who was your favorite character?


– Leave Smash Mouth alone!

– I liked how Jeff figured out Overkill's ninja trick. "It's the one in the middle, right?" *pew pew pew*

– I waited all episode for an "And knowing is half the battle!" PSA and we got one with the end tag. Phew! I would have lost my mind if we didn't get one of those.

  • Comments (124)
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  • numberonecubsfa Apr 25, 2014

    I rather agree it would have worked better as a stand alone crazy. I didn't feel "Jeff has a crisis about turning 40" was enough justification to bring that into the real world. Didn't have the emotional depth of Abed's Christmas fantasy.

  • efonsecajr Apr 16, 2014

    Crap ep.

  • gworden Apr 11, 2014

    Season 5 is really lame. There are so many recycled ideas and themes. I think Dan Harmon needs to be fired again.

  • ILoveTVandDDsBB Apr 10, 2014

    Yo Joe!!!! those commercials were hilarious and I need to get me one of those Tight Ship action figures.

  • Ridnarhtim Apr 08, 2014

    Having never watched GI Joe, I guess I missed out on the nostalgia aspect here, and maybe that's why I thought it was seriously dull. Honestly, I haven't found most of this season better than the last.

  • bluemorphotat Apr 07, 2014

    Well I did enjoy it, rather nostalgic... and did make me remember that nobody died in that cartoon LOL!

    Of course it was definitely not as good as Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas" or "Intro to Felt Surrogacy"

  • ChicoMonster Apr 06, 2014

    Tight ship. Priceless.

  • Romano338 Apr 05, 2014

    I took it for 5 minutes and 39 seconds. Couldn't go further.

  • slayme3 Apr 05, 2014


  • irehawk20 Apr 05, 2014

    Actually, it needs to be renewed in order to get 100 episodes or over and then get renewed for it seventh season and finish its series with the same number of seasons as Parks And Recreation.

  • al2sf Apr 05, 2014

    Hi everyone!
    I have a really problem with the end of the might sound stupid, but still...
    First, I wanna tell you that I love Community. It's my favorite comedy show on TV and I want just as bad as the other fan that we can make it to #SixSeasonsAndAMovie
    I think it's over.
    The end of the show, with Jess on the hospital bed who just told the joke about how old was Hickey's friend and everyone start laughing? EVERYONE START LAUGHING?
    I don't know about you but that moment felt pretty fake to me. Fake up to the point that it felt like Community became one of those sitcom that it usually mocks. I felt like Jeff was going to wake up again, as we might be in another layer of his mind...but no. That was geniune Community.
    I hope that the show will be back and that it would make it up to our dream, but I afraid that it just went "full circle" on us: becoming "A" tv show and not "THE" (meta) tv show that we all know and love...

  • johneberli Apr 11, 2014

    Sorry but you missed the point. They ended it that way on purpose. It was an over-the-top corny joke that makes everyone at the end laugh a little too long. This is a standard trope of 80s shows and particularly GI Joe. I didn't particularly love this episode, but don't give up on the genius that is Community just yet. Dan Harmon's back to set things right! :P

  • Ankh49 Apr 05, 2014

    yeah I miss all the sharp humour from the previous seasons like the 'that's racist' dialogue and 'I see your value now.' I couldn't quite put my finger on what was wrong before - I'm glad Harmon is back, Troy and Pierce were never amongst my favourite characters, I actually like Hickey and I'm glad that we are seeing more of Duncan. I think you nailed it with your point about it becoming a tv show instead of THE meta tv show. It's hard to criticise this show because then it sounds like I've become a hater. I'm not. I love this show. I've recommended it to all my friends. It is (was) one of my favourites. But I think maybe they've done everything they can do, and yes maybe it is over. I would rather see it end on high note then get progressively worse.

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