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4X7 Changnesia

     Advanced Documentary Filmmaking  
Director: Jay Chandrasekhar — Writer: Hunter Covington — Aired: March 14, 2013 — Season: Four — Number: 6
Summary: Dean Pelton enlists the study group to help secure a grant for medical research into Chang/"Kevin's" "Changnesia". While Jeff investigates Chang's claims, Abed films the activities for a documentary.


PlotEdit

Quote
I first met Chang when I hired him as a Spanish teacher at Greendale. Then he became a disgraced student, a psychopathic music major, a homeless vent dweller, a security guard, keytarist, power-hungry war lord, and, now, Kevin. It's sad to see him like this. Well, it's mixed. He was pretty terrible before
EndQuote
— Dean Pelton


Greendale: a documentary is being filmed by Abed to chronicle the amnesia being suffered by Ben Chang who now wants to be known as "Kevin". Dr. Kedan, a psychiatrist from the Greater Greendale Health Services has dubbed his condition "Changnesia", a complex version of amnesia that needs further research. Dean Pelton is also interviewed and relates Chang's checkered history at school. Chang/Kevin's rehabilitation has put a financial burden on the school, one which he hopes to alleviate by getting financial assistance form the MacGuffin Neurological Institute who is offering a $40,000 grant. Abed then makes an appearance onscreen claiming that although Pelton wants this to be a propaganda film he intends to explore all aspects of this case including Jeff's belief that Chang has been faking his condition.



4X7 Changnesia defined
Seeking a cure for a new mental condition
Jeff is shocked after finding out the rest of the study group are supportive of Chang's recovery and looking to help the school get the funding from the MacGuffin institute. He tries to find an ally in Shirley but discovers she actually employed "Kevin" at her sandwich shop. She explains that regardless if he is faking everyone deserves a second chance. Jeff then strengthens his resolves to prove he is right about Chang. Under the guise he wants to help in the presentation, he delegates jobs to specific study group members to aid in his investigation. Pierce is given the task of hosting the presentation, Shirley and Britta are assigned to document Chang's job at the sandwich shop, and Troy and Annie team up to look into Chang's whereabouts the last few months. Jeff suspicions are raised when Chang shows up and thanks him for his efforts.



4X6 Et tu Shirley
Et tu, Shirley?
At Shirley's shop, Britta takes over the filming and screws up the recording process. Back in the study room, Jeff checks up on Pierce and, as Jeff expected, came up with an offensive bit for his hosting duties at the presentation. Over at Sullivan's Trout Farm, Troy and Annie follow up a lead about Chang's recent whereabouts. Garrett films their confrontation with Mr. Sullivan where they learn that he had been using Chang as unpaid manual labor for the past three months. He also inadvertently reveals where Chang got his new name; "Kevin" is the name of Sullivan's dog. Jeff is annoyed by the footage as it just makes Chang more sympathetic and asks Abed if he can take a close look at what Shirley and Britta filmed. He discovers that Chang had tried to call a specific number on the pay phone several times. Jeff believes that to be the "smoking gun" he was looking for.



4X6 Partner and Hullihan
Annie and Troy investigate the
trout farmer who found Chang months ago
Later, the MacGuffin Group arrives on campus to hear Greendale's proposal at a gathering conducted inside the study room. Among the representatives of the school in attendance are the study group, Dean Pelton and Chang himself. Pelton introduces Jeff who has a special presentation in store. He brings out Chang's ex-wife Alessandra Chang who asks "Kevin" if he remembers her. When he responds that he doesn't, Jeff shows film footage of him dialing her phone number and declares that if he truly had "Changnesia" he wouldn't remember her phone number. "Kevin" claims that he found the number in the air vents but wasn't sure she would want to talk to him. He said she seemed nice and that he wished he could remember their time together. Touched by this Alessandra goes to him but is intercepted by Jeff who kisses her trying to prove Chang is faking by making him jealous.



4X6 My logic I'd flawless
"Look, if he doesn't remember her then
this wouldn't bother him. My logic is flawless!"
The audience is incensed by Jeff's callousness and the study group and Dean Pelton chastise him for his presentation. A representative for the MacGuffin group declares that anyone faced with such hardships and criticisms deserve their support. Greendale is given a grant by the foundation and Chang becomes something of a celebrity on campus while Jeff becomes a pariah. In the cafeteria, Chang later approaches Jeff at his table and offers to bury the hatchet. He proposes a fresh start and offers his hand introducing himself as Kevin. Although he is still skeptical, Jeff accepts his gesture and shakes his hand. Abed filmed the entire exchange for his documentary and presented it to the study group, Chang and Dean Pelton.



4X6 The start of a beautiful friendship
The start of a beautiful friendship...?

End tagEdit

Immediately after viewing Abed's documentary, Chang/Kevin exits the study room. He makes sure he is alone, pulls out a cellphone and calls someone. He tells the person on the other end that everyone has believed him and he is waiting further instructions revealing that Jeff was correct and he had been faking the entire time.

Recurring themesEdit

ContinuityEdit

  • That just happened: This episode picks up after Chang returned to Greendale a few episodes back in "Alternative History of the German Invasion".
  • Replay: This episode is done in the style of a documentary. This is the fourth episode after "Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking", "Documentary Filmmaking: Redux", and "Pillows and Blankets" to be done in this manner.
  • History lesson:
    • Chang's time at school before becoming "Kevin" is gone over by Dean Pelton in the documentary.
    • Shirley reveals that she was dead for three minutes one time.
    • After it's learned that Chang was named "Kevin" after Sullivan's dog, Troy realizes he was named after his family's pets as well.
    • Abed alludes to the fact that he practices smiling and frowning.
    • It is revealed that Abed's middle name starts with a G.
  • Previously: Chang's "relationship" with a mannequin leg from the Season Three episode "Competitive Ecology" is mentioned by Jeff.
  • Familiar face:
  • Returning students: Garrett is shown to be helping Abed again in filming another documentary.
  • All by myself: Jeff finds himself the only one in the group who believes Chang is faking his "Changnesia".
  • Identity crisis : Chang is facing one of these seemingly having lost all of his memories and insisting others call him Kevin. Jeff also questions himself for not believing in Changnesia, although it's a fake realization.
  • A nice gesture:
    • When Jeff asks what the MacGuffin Institute is, the rest of the study group puts a finger on the side of their nose indicating they are not going to be the one to tell him.
    • Troy and Annie do high fives as "Partner and Houlihan".
    • After Britta asks Abed to teach her how to use a camera, Abed points at Britta and says "Pew!"
  • School song: Abed gets Jeff to pay for use of the song "You Get What You Give" to use in his documentary.
  • School uniform: Shirley and Chang are wearing uniforms for Shirley's Sandwiches.
  • This must be the place: Group Study Room F, Dean Pelton's office, Cafeteria, Shirley's Sandwiches.
  • Middle Eastern Magic 8 Ball: Annie finished the Welcome Archie banner for "Economics of Marine Biology "

Running gagsEdit

  • WWBJD: Shirley believes the Lord made Chang the way he is and that being Kevin is a choice.
  • Man Crush: Dean tried to hug Jeff and touch his stomach when Jeff went up to give his speech.
  • Changuage/Kevinese: The pun "Changnesia" is used often in this episode. While working at Shirley's Sandwiches, "Kevin" welcomes Jeff and tells him that the food there is "Kevinly".
  • Biggest laugh of the night: Garrett collapses after using a make shift steady cam.
  • Britta'd it: Britta attempts to film Shirley at her shop fail when she ends up hitting the stop button instead of the record button.

Pop culture referencesEdit

Meta referencesEdit

  • Use your allusion:
    • The foundation looking to finance further research into "Changnesia" is called the MacGuffin Group. "MacGuffin" is a storytelling plot device for a goal or motivation for characters in a story.
    • Abed letting the audience watch him watch the video of an argument is similar to Director Werner Herzog in the documentary "Grizzly Man" in which he listens to the audio from a video of the subject being eaten by a Grizzly bear. He also lets the audience watch him similar to the way Abed did.
    • Chang/Kevin's checking of notes written on his body to remind him of recent memories is similar to that of Guy Pearce's character in Christopher Nolan movie 'Memento'. In this case, however, the character has good long-term memory but no short-term, while Chang claims to have the opposite.
      • This connection is directly alluded to when we see "rent Memento" written on his arm.

ReceptionEdit


Reviews:

Luke Gellineau of TV Equals called last night's episode "a definite step back from last week’s funny Thanksgiving episode." He admits he doesn't like Chang very much; wasn't a big fan of the last Abed-makes-a-documentary episode; and thought Chang's "newfound naiveté and innocence is so obviously fake that it’s hard taking him seriously as a new character." He did think Donald Glover was hilarious.


Matt Carter felt the episode was "the best of the season by a pretty wide margin." However, he doesn't like the way Pierce is being written, and he feels that "the 'aws' from Annie and Shirley are being completely overdone.


Gabrielle Moss of TV Fanatic thought that "Advanced Documentary Filmmaking" was "one of the best episodes of Community Season 4 so far." She attributed this to amnesia and faux documentaries being such familiar sitcom tropes: "When your viewers have all the beats memorized (like the amnesiac not recognizing his former wife, or the documentary crew discovering a hidden scandal), you can find new energy in mixing and matching them--as well as subverting them, which this episode did ably." She also really enjoyed the description of Britta as "basically a therapist," which she said was "a title card worth waiting three-plus seasons for." She gave the episode 4.6 stars out of 5.


Aisha Harris and Anna Husted of Slate wonder how long Chang's amnesia will last and where exactly his plotline is going. Harris hopes it doesn't lead to another multi-episode Chang-tries-to-kill-everyone storyline; Husted just hopes the person on the other end of the phone call reveals him- or herself soon. Harris thought it was obvious Chang was faking, whereas Husted "wanted to believe that Chang was getting a do-over," especially after Jeff became convinced. They both agree they'd like to have mimosas with the Dean.


Processed Media founder Randy Dankievitch was disappointed by the way the tag undermined what he took to be the point of the episode: "Jeff learning a lesson about second chances, and [the show] finally moving past all of the Evil Chang" material. He also didn't think it was funny: "it might be the first time I’ve ever watched a Community episode and not laughed out loud at something once." He gave it a letter grade of C.


John Bowling of Character Grades gave out his grades: Jeff got a B; Annie and Troy both got As, despite Annie not using her feminine wiles to get answers from the trout farmer ("There should always be more of Annie using her feminine wiles."); Britta and Shirley got a B and a C respectively; Abed got a B-plus; Pierce an F ("Is he even a character anymore?"); and Chang a C. As for the episode as a whole, he felt that "the question that hung over the entire episode in the tag was disappointing" and that the show could stand to be as weird as it was in previous seasons, but he enjoyed seeing some fresh pairings and jokes, and liked it well enough to give it a B.


Todd VanDerWerff of the A.V. Club gave the episode a B, calling it "a mostly enjoyable half-hour of television." He goes on to say that "in story terms, 'Advanced Documentary Filmmaking' is likely the best episode of the season," because it "[runs] all seven of the characters through [one] storyline" instead of trying to give equal weight to two entirely separate storylines, as was seen in "Cooperative Escapism In Familial Relations." He thinks "the jokes just aren’t as good as they were" in previous seasons, and suggests that "it’s hitting the whimsy button hard, then hoping that our affection for the characters is enough to carry the day."


Matthew Guerruckey of ScreenSpy gave the episode an F. He hopes that "last night’s disjointed episode of Community will end up being the worst episode in the series’ history," but thinks there's a possibility it won't be. He didn't think the documentary footage was realistic — "[it] begins in a scratchy 8mm style, switches to standard sitcom episode blocking, and ends with a sweeping crane shot and cheery music" — and that it represented a regression in style from his "expertly made Pillow War documentary."


Laura Aguirre of ScreenCrave gave the episode a score of 7.5 out of 10. She thinks "there’s nothing better than an out-of-control Jeff Winger," so she really appreciated that aspect of the episode, and she was also happy to see some good screen time for Annie, who "has been sinfully underused this season." She's not sure what to make of the whole Changnesia thing, though; "We definitely don’t want a repeat of last season, but for now, the mystery behind Kevin’s disease seems to be working."


Meg O'Connell of andPOP said all the stand-offs between Jeff and Chang "delivered in terms of providing hilarious confrontations" and that "everyone from the writers to the cast brought their comedic A-game." She also liked seeing Annie and Troy together: "I don’t know what it is about Troy and Annie, but I like it. … It could be that I’m just willing to see my beloved with anyone but Britta Perry." Wait, her what? I need to go back and check out her old reviews. She's conflicted about Chang's storyline; on the one hand, she's "not sure how crazy I am about this being a central theme for the duration of the season," but on the other hand, she seems to think the episodes featuring Chang have worked better than some others this weekend, "and it’d be far less disappointing to have the show stick to what’s been working recently rather than having the writer’s grasp desperately for episode concepts and end up falling short."


Ryan Schwartz of the Voice of TV suggests that "this was one of the best episodes out of the Port and Guarascio era thus far." And not just because he loves Chang! He thought most of the characters "felt like their old selves," the exception being Abed, whom he thinks the writers "don’t truly grasp as a character." But getting back to Chang, he was glad to see the character return — "I miss him when he’s not present for weeks at a time" — and is intrigued to see how the new producers proceed with the story that was teased in the montage that ended the third season.


Alexis McLaren of TV Overmind declares with this episode that "a Dan Harmon-less Community was [sic] a terrible one," but literally offers no examples of things she didn't like about the episode. She does say that "I thought they would've wrapped up this whole Changnesia plot or at least sprinkle some breadcrumbs about it every episode," but that strikes me as more of a critique of her own predictive capacity than of the episode.


Cory Barker of tv.com received "conflicting signals" from this episode and with the season as a whole. This episode and the last "suggest that the new Community might be building toward something," he still feels the show has "tried too hard to recreate some former version of what it was" and is a bit too willing to "open … that box on the shelf that’s marked 'Things That Work.' " Like Todd VanDerWerff, he liked seeing all the characters "brought everyone into one singular plotline, which is where the show has traditionally done its best work." He also thought it was a solid episode for Jeff, but finds it "interesting to me that the show is so reliant on Jeff this year. … Re-centering on a lead character suggests that the writers are holding on to what’s a little easier to do while they attempt to find the other characters’ voices."


Alan Sepinwall of HitFix "wasn't crazy about all of 'Advanced Documentary Filmmaking,' which like a lot of this season's parody episodes didn't seem fully committed to the bit, … but there were some funny moments." What really bugged him was the tag, which undid Kevin's admission that Chang was a terrible person, a scene he "quite liked," and teased "Chang continuing to play deranged supervillain," which is something he has "no interest in at all."


Jill Mader of Couchtime with Jill "didn’t enjoy this episode at all," because she "didn’t think the jokes in this episode landed" and she doesn't like Chang.


Eric Goldman of IGN "thought this was a great episode," because it "felt 100% 'natural' [and] also was the funniest episode this season by far." He felt "most everything worked," the exception being Pierce's racist sock-puppet bit, which "was just OK." But even there he willing to cut the show some slack because of what the writers have said about "how shaky the situation with Chevy Chase was all season." He gave it a score of 8.8.


Mike Papirmeister of the Filtered Lens, thought the tag helped the episode: "I’m glad this happened because nice-guy Chang is boring, and it gives me some hope for what’s to come." Aside from a few lines, he didn't think it was that funny, he missed "the brilliant confessionals" seen in the previous documentary episodes, and he regretted not seeing the brawl that Abed deemed to shocking to be shown to the audience. He gave the episode a C.


Shannon of the Two Cents Corp. thought calling the institute " MacGuffin" was "a clever piece of writing." She's not 100% convinced she's "really on board with this Chang story line but it’s nice to see it going somewhere instead of just lurking in the background."


Brian Collins of Badass Digest called the episode "lazy filler" that a shortened season doesn't have room for. "Part of the problem is that the episode focuses on Chang, easily the most grating character and also the one that's never felt like a necessary PERMANENT addition to the show." Beyond that, he thought Jeff's efforts to discredit Chang were out of character with the more selfless Jeff we've mostly seen this season, and that Pierce's racist hand puppet bit was "forced and shockingly unfunny." He warmed to the episode a bit on a second viewing, but still considers it "the season's low point by a wide margin."


Abby Koenig of the Houston Press Art Attack blog wrote, "With this week's episode, Community has (pretty much) returned to form." It made her laugh more than any other episode this season, and the characterization seemed spot on. She's glad to be done with "all that Jeff family crap," and she liked the twist at the end, even though "you could see coming a mile away."


Josh Gondelman of Vulture compares "Advanced Documentary Filmmaking" to M. Night Shyamalan's Signs, calling them both "breezy and fun with a vexing conclusion." He says that the episode "attempts to provide just enough of what it promises in order to be worth the viewer’s time" namely enough Community-type jokes to elicit chuckles at appropriate intervals. He felt the ending "undercut the message of the value of second chances and once again broadened the scope of the show beyond just an oddball community college."


Jeremy Sollie of Geek Binge was surprised to find that " 'Advanced Documentary Filmmaking,' while flawed, completely works." He was disappointed by the ending: "It doesn’t ruin everything that came before it, but it ends the episode on a down note" and undercut the scenes of Chang talking about how much he loves his wife and forgiving Jeff. He gave the episode a score of 8.

RatingsEdit

The episode earned a 1.1 rating/4 share in the 18-49 demo, a series low. In the Live+7 DVR Ratings released earlier this week, "Conventions of Space and Time" rose 0.6 percentage points, from a 1.1 Live plus Same Day to a 1.7, a 55% increase. On the Twitter, #AbedsDocumentary trended as the episode aired in the Central and Eastern time zones and continued to do so for a couple of hours after the episode aired.

GalleryEdit

Season Four Episodes

1. "History 101"
2. "Paranormal Parentage"
3. "Conventions of Space and Time"
4. "Alternative History of the German Invasion"
5. "Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations"
6. "Advanced Documentary Filmmaking"
7. "Economics of Marine Biology"

8. "Herstory of Dance"
9. "Intro to Felt Surrogacy"
10. "Intro to Knots"
11. "Basic Human Anatomy"
12. "Heroic Origins"
13. "Advanced Introduction to Finality"

Season 4 DVD xover

Season OneSeason TwoSeason ThreeSeason FourSeason FiveSeason Six

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