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Community S03E13: "Digital Exploration of Interior Design"

The big question from tonight's very funny episode of Community, "Digital Exploration of Interior Design," was "Did I just watch half an hour of egregious product placement?" or "Did I just watch half an hour of a spoof of product placement?" The answer is probably "both"—which as it turns out, is the most perfect way to do it. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Community approached Subway with the idea for the gag.

The space in Greendale's cafeteria vacated by the Hot n' Brown, which Chang made extremely hot and brown by burning it down a few episodes ago, was filled in grandiose fashion tonight by Subway, TV's favorite product-placer. The hoagie pusher has been featured rather innocuously on Cougar Town, trumpeted blatantly on Chuck, and absurdly crammed into your eyeholes on Hawaii Five-0. But in "Digital Exploration of Interior Design," Community poked fun at product placement by making fun of it, and the sandwich shop appeared to be quite willing to be in on the joke.

Community knew it couldn't slyly slip product placement past its incredibly intelligent, handsome, and fantastic-smelling viewers, so it embraced it wholeheartedly and threw it front-and-center, made jokes out of the chain's catch phrase, and managed to say the company's name about a billion times without us hearing the sound of cash registers ringing behind each mention.

But Community also managed to make fun of the whole thing in its own way through Britta's scathing anti-corporate takedowns and the idea that a man could sell himself as a walking advertisement. This was a partnership that left both Subway and Community happy, but most importantly, it left us happy. The trick was simply to make us feel like the product placement was done on Community's terms, rather than leading us to imagine Mr. Worthington B. Subway peeking over the director's camera and asking for tighter zooms on the footlong Chicken & Bacon Ranch Melt. Plus, the Subway executive in the episode got an awkward boner after listening to Subway (the student) and Britta's naughty sex, and any company that allows such a scene is obviously in on the joke.

The Troy vs. Abed story, which started last week, continued as the two built competing pillow and blanket forts. Obviously a sitcom can't go multiple seasons without breaking up its best buds for at least one episode, as is ordained in the big book of comedy tropes, but Community is doing smart stuff here. Your typical American sitcom likes to reset things after each episode, but Community loves multi-episode arcs, and the break-up of Trobed is unfurling slowly and believably—as is necessary, because the duo is so tight. Like any master bad guy in a quality drama, VP Laybourne is stoking the fire that's threatening to burn down the friendship in an effort to draw Troy toward the air-conditioning repair school.

Do you see what Community is doing here? Chang is rising to power. Best friends are finding themselves on opposite sides of the battle field. A wild card (Laybourne) is corrupting Troy for his own benefit. Pierce and Shirley are business partners, but that's clearly about to fall apart. This isn't typical sitcom plotting—this is some Game of Thrones or The Wire shit going on. But instead of war-torn Westeros or the ghetto towers of Baltimore, it's taking place in the wacky world of Greendale Community College. To me, this is one of the most fascinating things Community has done, and Dan Harmon's pre-Season 3 quotes about spending the summer watching The Wire and saying it influenced Community Season 3 are now making sense. It's not what networks like to see (they'd rather have self-contained episodes that can air nicely in syndication), but as an art form it is way more progressive than other network comedies.

Wow, I've gotten this far and I've barely mentioned how funny the episode was. But that's just a sign of how much is actually going on with this show. Add two more things to the list of how Community will influence future sitcoms.



Study Group Notes

– It just occurred to me that NBC must have intentionally rescheduled "Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts" to be the first episode after its hiatus because it was more "normal" comedy. Theory: With all the marketing and campaigning that went into the show's return, NBC was hoping to avoid scaring off potential new viewers with what it deemed a "safe" episode. "Contemporary Impressionists" was clearly the episode intended to be the return from Winter break, as evidenced by the gang's opening chatter, but it was as silly as the show has ever been. What this tells me is that NBC is treating the show like it's the "weird kid," and it hopes Community doesn't embarrass the network when the spotlight is on it. That's a disservice to the series, which thrives when it's weird.

– Ummm... why was the episode called "Digital Exploration of Interior Design"? Did I miss something?

– How long can you go seeing Abed and Troy at odds?



Episode MVP

I'm please to announce that Pierce Hawthorne wins the title of episode MVP this week. He's coming back REALLY strong, even if he's just playing the old bumbling kook. But that's where Chevy Chase excels, and that's who Pierce should be. Mouth full of ink! "Whoreswomanship!" Lipstick in microphones! "Nice knowing you Subway, if that is your real name." Britta, as always, gets a close second.

Comments (67)
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Sweet! $237 for a month's worth of work? I must find out more about this gold mine!
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I work at Subway
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sweet
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sweet
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PS.. if this is what it takes to keep Community on air.. I'm down with it for now. I wonder if the odd title is a stab at what the story was before it became one big advert or a simple reordering cockup.. maybe we'll get an episode: Marketing Studies and Sandwich Shilling .
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I liked the deprecating use of the brand.. or at least Community's kicking back at it, just like they sorta did with KFC. I still, being British, find placement grubby and counter to creativity in most cases but Community rarely fails to point out the grubbiness and uses it to be creative. Having it drive the episode did make things somewhat forced and there could have only been fewer laughs if it was a Chang & Pierce only episode.



My one issue was in an earlier episode where Shirley was forced to hold a bag of Lays at an unnatural angle to force it into shots... that did feel cheap and not in anyway clever or adding to the show.
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I just want to know what deviant sex act Britta and Subway partook in.
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Digital Exploration of Interior Design.
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It took half a season too actually start storylines? we saw john goodman like twice last year. oh and for people wondering with the biology thing. theres a storyline involving a plant the one with law and order. so they havent completely dropped it
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What happened with the biology-class storyline with "Omar" as a teacher? Earlier seasons have followed that main storyline through all the season. This season just left that, did they realize it was not funny? Was it because the hiatus? Did "Omar" get another job? At the moment Community has no main storyline. Or maybe the storyline is there in some form but no classroom scenes, not like the season 1 spanish class or season 2 anthropology, they were always in that classroom for atleast some part of every episode.
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Good point. They've completely dropped the biology-class storyline. And I think your first guess about why they did so is correct. It just wasn't funny. Spanish with Chang was downright hilarious, and Anthropology with John Oliver (and some guest teachers) was also pretty damn humorous. What's weird is I never even noticed until I read your post. It's like Community has evolved to a point where the setting doesn't matter, and there is no longer any need to tie the plot in with the classroom.
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Amazing episode. It redeemed last week.
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First KFC, now Subway. Community once again shows how to do product placement in a television show. I loved the idea of the human Subway ad. To be honest, Britta in the first half of the season was pretty weak IMO, because of how over-the-top her stupidity became, but she's been getting more bearable recently, and this was easily her best episode of the season. The Troy and Abed story was surprisingly sad. I love their frindship, and hate to see them being pulled apart, but at the same time, I feel like it's great story-telling. They could become friends in the next episode, or it could take a few episodes before things get back to normal, but either way I think it will be great to see what the writers have in store. As for the Jeff and Annie story, I agree with some people that it's easily the weakest part of the episode, but I still liked it simply because of the ending. It showed that, even if the fallout from their kiss at the end of season 1 ended pretty quickly, it wasn't forgotten by Annie. She still has feelings for him, and whether or not they become a couple, I want to see how the writers deal with those issues.
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I absolutely LOVED the episode but HATED Abed saying "To be continued.." :| but just cause I really want to know how that war's gonna end LOL! BTW Pierce looks like Danny DeVito's Penguin on that caption up there IMO!
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I loved loved loved that episode. The amount of over-the-top with Subway was sublime without being stupid the way some other shows (CHUCK!) would have been. You are so right that they made it work by taking it both ways at once. I'm almost surprised Subway let them get away with it, the "hand me my coat" joke for their exec towards the end came off as a veiled BONER JOKE!



Britta shined (shone?) in this episode, her falling for Subway, her throwing aside the sandwich when Pierce and Shirley entered the room, her tossing aside of her principles for love, Gillian Jacobs finally got the right script.



Annie got something to do finally, and they reminded us that she's still a kid with her locker, and then she got to be hypocritical which was great. Jeff got to do something without being too over-the-top in either direction, that was awesome. Pierce got to say weirder and weirder things and every time someone worried, that made me laugh. Even Vice-Dean Laybourne got to be different and funny and more than just a one-note manipulator (though he was also that, which worked). And Magnitude got to pop-pop his way into Abed's "Star Trek First Contact self-destruct scenario" scene which was a treat.



In fact, I'd say Abed and Troy's storyline was the only not-really-funny one, and they didn't harp on it too much, and once the situation broke down they had some amusing ways of playing it dramatically. I was glad to be taken by surprise by this episode, it's great Community can still do something that seems the same and make it different.



I assume the interior design is the forts. The digital exploration is the spy pen and lipstick.



I wouldn't mind Troy and Abed easing off on their bromance, it's overtaken Troy as a character altogether and it's too much of a comedic "toy", something to play with over and over.
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The title is the hint to Britta's and Subway's deviant sexual act. lol



It's a reddit link fair warning: http://www.reddit.com/r/community/comments/rkst3/wondering_what_unspeakable_sex_act_britta/
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The interior design is obviously the blanket fort. Digital, I believe, is a play on digit. I.E. Finger Exploration in the pillow fort. I guess it can also refer to toes. The subway guy did say Britta got pretty wild in there!
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I hated this episode. I mean, it was creative, crazy, and all sorts of funny -- that was all great. But the episode implanted a sort of correlation between Subway and sex into my brain that I'm pretty sure I'll get an erection the next time I eat a Subway sub. And I only like to get erections from foods if I'm eating a warm chocolate chip cookie.
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I was about to write something very harsh about how you should digitally explore yourself, but then I realized you are being sardonic . . . Excuse me, I need to go bake some chocolate chip cookies.
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Moments like this I feel sorry 10 is the highest rating.

I loved this episode of Community, and the product placement was not annoying or pathetic. In several minutes it was just part of the plot.
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As for the title, maybe it will make more sense in the 2nd parter.



Though, between "Interior Design" and all of that stuff going on with cushions, pillows, blankets, etc I guess that fits.



Was there something clever about the title? Perhaps related to VP's scheme or SubWay-Man? If so it was over my head, but that's not too hard
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I love that Laybourne is using the old Star Wars technique to drive them apart.
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I will say, this was my favorite product placement bit in a sitcom.



My second favorite was "30 Rock's" bit with Snapple. How Liz & company were refusing to do in-show ads, all-the-while complimenting Snapple and facing the bottle to the camera.



It culminated with glam-shot of the hot secretary saying she only dates guys that drink Snapple.
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I will say, this was my favorite product placement bit in a sitcom.



My second favorite was "30 Rock's" bit with Snapple. How Liz & company were refusing to do in-show ads, all-the-while complimenting Snapple and facing the bottle to the camera.



It culminated with a glamor shot of the hot secretary saying she only dates guys that drink Snapple.
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I think it was a solid episode.



I like the geodesic dome made of triangle-cushions where Abed's "self destruct" cord was located. He REALLY goes for quality over quantity... huh.



Pierce was funny, but it seems he really is starting to go off the rails. Most of the other characters had an "uh oh" moment when he was starting to loose it.



etc



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It was a pretty good episode. I hope they get back on track though to their FULL potential because, let's face it, this is not. I didn't mind all the product placement, actually. My favorite show ever was forced into it and eventually they had something Subway-related in every other episode! (Chuck) But they were smart about it and it was just funny, just like with Community.
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A lot of great moments in this episode, but Jeff and Annie's subplot felt like such a hindrance to it (probably because it was lacking in whimsy and weirdness). I'm not entirely sure what was the point of their story towards the end. And are the writers leaving their story open to be continued next week?
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"Community knew it couldn't slyly slip product placement past its incredibly intelligent, handsome, and fantastic-smelling viewers". Well said, Tim.
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Also...Troy and Abed...it broke my heart, you guys. BROKE IT INTO A GAZILLION LITTLE BITS AND IT HURTS.
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I so badly want to hear on the next episode, "Troy and Abed back together!"
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You might have to skip, say eight episodes.
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I wish I could thumb-down comments. Not because it's not a good point, but because this realisation has made me very upset.
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Of all the shows I watch, I never knew this would be the one to break my heart. Alas. Dany Pudi and Donald Glover were a match made in TV heaven which I guess gives them the right to be so damn loveable.

Dynamic duos should never part ways, Dan Harmon.
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The people behind Community should just advertise everything. It would at least be fun to watch and I wouldn't pity the thing being advertised.
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I think the name is in reference to Pierce and Shirley digitally exploring the interior design, albiet not really exploring the interior design...you know...Britta and Subway were exploring the interior design and Pierce and Shirley were exp- no, I can't say THAT.

Um.

It makes sense, is all I'm saying. Screwed up sense.
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I'm pretty sure the "Interior Design" is referring to the Blanket/Pillow fort Abed and Troy were making it's the "Digital Exploration" part that's got me thinking...
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How good was this episode! I think it's my favourite of the year. Last week had some moments but seriously Jeff going Hulk was a fail. The occasionally absurd style the show has shown for a lot of this season hasn't been totally satisfying for me. But this week all of the subplots were plotted really well. In some of the weaker episodes the lack of plotting stands out when characters rant aimlessly like Shirley about Christianity or Troy and Abed about Inspector Space Time (by the way I'm starting to get sick of that, it's been over-used. In comparison previous seasons' references to Cougar Town were sparse and subtle). Jeff's plot would seem the weakest but it kept me hooked and Annie elevated it with her tantrum. Annie hasn't had much to do of late, I hope that changes.



This is the standard of episode that makes Community mind-blowingingly good. And I love that we can now see the path the show will take to the end of the season. I just hope that The Wire influences won't stop the show having highly stylized themed episodes, that have so far been the pinnacles of the show.
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I thought it was funny how Britta's highschool paper (or whatever it was?) was called Britta Unfiltered.. also, I wonder if they meant to put her in the storyline where she's against people being named after a corporation since her name is too, or if that was just a happy accident.
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I loved Jeff's sneeze comment most! damn that's some rediculous high lvl of ego selfimportance even Cartman of South Park doesn't have and thats saying a lot!
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I don't like it when Trobed fights, it's disruptive to the ecosystem.
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As soon as they introduced Mr. Sub Way (or is it one word, like Madonna?) I knew I was going to love this episode. Heck. I think I knew I was going to love it when Jim Rash attempted to cut that ribbon with his teeth.
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Jeff's story lines have been lame, last week's ego deal was over the top (I really love Joel McHale, like saw him live and have a picture with him love him, but is he that hot? Shirtless, he was even a bit awkward..) His storyline this week wasn't even mentioned in your article...Add a comment...
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I think the "Interior Design" part of the title was referring to the pillow and blanket forts. Thats the most I can guess about the title

Hilarious episode though xD
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Haha I loved the episode it was hilarious, I really do love the darkness that Community is embracing right now. I just can't seem to find anything wrong with the show its just well I love it whatever it is. MVP Pierce for sure that pen bit I was crying it was so funny!
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AMAZING! Simply amazing.



I'm trying to think of a show that has EVER done product placement better than this. Seriously. I've got nothin'.



This episode was almost as good as a gourmet Sweet Onion Teriyaki Sub with a flavorful blend of tender teriyaki glazed chicken strips and a zingy fat-free sweet onion sauce. Served hot & toasted on freshly baked bread. A taste so big, you won't believe it has less than 6g of fat! . . . . SEE?! That is an example of horribly contrived and painfully written product placement. This show is so much better than that. We've all heard Republicans say corporations are people, but Community took it to the next level. I mean, what other show would think to create a character that is the personification of Subway, AND have one of their female leads call out the corporations name while having sex? - "Oh, Subway! Oh, Subway!" - Where in the hell are you going to get better written product placement than that?! I'm sorry but it was streets ahead of anything "Chuck" ever did in terms of blatant marketing "Whorewomanship".



The side-plot with Jeff and Annie seemed detached from the episode, but it was a necessary step in their relationship. It wasn't funny, but it was progression, so I'm cool with it.



The falling out of Abed and Troy is much harder for me to stomach. They have like the greatest TV friendship EVER, so it's hard to watch, you know?



Anyway, really funny episode. . . Hmmm. That's weird. I all of sudden feel like eating a footlong sandwich.
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It's hard for me to read when I'm drunk. Even harder to type.
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Sorry to double post, but I also love what Community is doing with this season, Tim!



It's like Dan and the writers were asked, "How are you guys going to top season two? That was basically perfect. With all your great concept episodes and what not..." They went home, thought about it, and came up with an answer: a concept season! Where from the opening musical scene (go back and watch it, it eerily mentions a bunch of things that happen later in the season, foreshadowing?), that we were in for a season where storylines would weave in an out and set up and play out like we're watching a season of 24 or Breaking Bad or The Wire (like you suggested). AND I CANNOT WAIT.



I just need at least one more season of this show. At least let them graduate, NBC.
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The Interior Design was for the blanket/pillow fort building, and I'm pretty sure (it's been a while since I read it) but I think the "Digital Exploration" part had to do with the FANTASTIC "1984" novel homages with the Britta/Subway relationship. I loved that storyline.



When all the characters are given something interesting to do, whether it be together or separated in groups, it's great. Can't wait for next week where it seems like we'll have an all out war on our hands.
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Save Garrett!
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But we saved him.
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Did we?
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Subway has a history of saving good shows. They did it with Chuck and the product placement was just as blatant and funny. Community gets the win with actually making a person named subway and Brita sleeping with him .That is just genius. As for the rest. I loved every aspect of it aside from Jeff and Kim. That was oddly placed in the episode. I thought it would have ended up to be Annie. But I guess that comes later. Over all great episode. It seemed to go faster than usual though.



However, NBC can kiss my arse. This is what the show does and this is what makes the show superior. Someone from Netflix, or Comedy Central or FX, buy this winner of a show and add it to your lineup and let NBC play it stupidly safe with the likes of Bent, Whitney and Chelsea.
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As far as I'm concerned, if Subway will save Community the way they saved Chuck, they can have all the product placement they want. Subway Community College, home of the Veggie Delights, I don't care. Just give me a season 4!!!
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I'm a big fan of intelligent product placement, it lets the show use it in a way that isn't insulting to them, and I think it gives the viewer a better opinion of the company in question, as they're clearly game for a laugh.

PS I totally called this.
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Nearly everything was great with this episode but the subplot of Jeff and Kim was really lame. Maybe the worse Jeff Winger ep. ever but in whole this was a cool ep.
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Not sure about the "Digital Exploration" but the "Interior Design" has got to refer to the pillow/blanket forts.



Kat
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Maybe the Digital Exploration part is referring to the fact that it's a TV show? I'm not sure, but it's the only thing I could come up with that made any sense.
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Don't think of digits as 0's and 1's, but rather as fingers.
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I actually didn't like this episode of Community. I thought the factions it separated its cast into didn't allow for enough breathing, even though Pierce got more of a workout this week (which I always like). Also, nobody cares about Kim or Subway (although Subway was a funny throw-away joke). Or Vice Dean Laybourne. Everyone knows he's going to die.
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Nobody knows that, because Starburns is going to die.
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Pshh. That's too obvious.
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Chevy Chase is like a great wine, getting better with age
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It was pretty cool of Subway to make fun of itself. Eat Fresh!
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NO WAY! FOR REAL?!!
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Well, the dude did sort of "placed his ad here"
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