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Cooperative Calligraphy

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2X8 Main photo

     Cooperative Calligraphy  
Director: Joe RussoWriter: Megan GanzAired: November 11, 2010 — Season: Two — Number: Eight
Summary: When Annie's pen goes missing, a lockdown is imposed in Group Study Room F to find the alleged thief.

PlotEdit

Quote
I hate bottle episodes. They're wall to wall facial expressions and emotional nuance. I might as well sit in a corner with a bucket on my head.
EndQuote
Abed
In the study room, the study group puts the finishing touches on their latest Anthropology diorama. Jeff brags about a hot date he has when the Dean shows and up announcing a puppy parade happening in the quad later. Shirley offers to assist a recently injured Pierce but he declines as he has a new expensive wheelchair to aid in his mobility. The group starts to leave but are stopped by Annie who is missing her pen. Abed sympathetically offers Annie chocolate while the others assure her they don't have it. Unappeased, Annie again demands to know the pen's whereabouts. Shirley tries to placate her by saying next time everyone will be more respecting of each others property. They all turn to go but stop again when Annie lets out a piercing scream. The group reluctantly conducts a search of the study room but fails to find it.


  • ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
  • HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
  • HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
  • !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Annie insists one of them has to have it, offering a photo she had taken ten minutes earlier of the pen as proof. It had been on the table and no one had entered or exited the room since. Jeff points out how trivial this is but Annie insists there's a higher principle of trust at stake between beyond just the object in question. Britta attempts to leave causing Annie to demand Britta show what's in her bag to prove her innocence. Britta refuses stating that such an act is a violation of her civil liberties. The other study group members apply peer pressure until she caves and angrily dumps the contents of her bag onto the table. When a look at the scattered items reveals no pen, Britta berates the others for their mob mentality. At that moment, Dean Pelton then chimes in on the PA that the puppy parade has started. Troy and Abed turn to go, joined by Shirley and Pierce but Britta demands they all empty their bags too.



2X8 Britta Guatanamo'd
Britta getting Guantanamo'd
As accusations fly amidst the group as to who the guilty party is, Abed bemoans that the situation is becoming a "bottle episode". At Annie's insistence, Jeff tries to bring an end to the matter by offering absolution for the pen thief as long as he/she comes forward and apologizes after the count of three. As he counts down, Pierce suggests that Jeff is guilty and the others quickly agree. Incensed at the accusation, Jeff angrily cancels his date over his phone and orders a lockdown on the study room. A search of the rest of the study group members' bags is then conducted by Jeff and Annie, starting with Troy's. His backpack only has a pillow; Jeff, amused, makes a sarcastic note of it. They group moves on to Abed's bag and is shocked to discover a notebook charting the menstrual cycles of the women in the group. Abed explains that he was originally noting which days they were easier to talk to, but soon realized what his notes actually charted.



2X8 I'm doing a bottle episode
"Tell your disappointment to suck it!
I'm doing a bottle episode!"
When Annie shows visible outrage at the notebook, Abed offers a chocolate and she accepts, but throws it away after realizing what he was doing. Abed then asks Shirley to dump her bag, as it was the only bag that wasn't searched yet. When she refuses, Pierce tricks her, snatches her purse and throws it over. Jeff finds a pregnancy test among the contents, and Shirley confesses that she "reconnected" with her ex-husband over Labor Day weekend. Abed consults his chart and points out she was ovulating on Halloween, not on Labor Day weekend, causing Troy to have an epiphany. Shirley tries to leave but is blocked by Pierce, who reminds her that nobody goes until the pen is found.


  • Charting the women's menstrual cycles
Jeff snaps and begins to tear the room apart, snarling he would find the pen no matter what. Frightened, Annie pleads him to stop, saying "It's just a pen." Jeff turns on her, heatedly noting her sudden change of heart from her resolve to find the pen. Jeff accuses her again, and Britta agrees. Furious at the insinuation, Annie begins to strip to show her innocence. Jeff's shock turns to anger when Annie taunts him, and he begins stripping too. The resulting chaos forces Abed to step in and propose they divide by gender and search each other behind overturned tables. Even after ending up in their underwear, the study group still fails to find the pen. They believe every possibility has been exhausted until they remember the casts on Pierce's legs


  • "Annie, relax."
  • "No, you relax Jeff or are you afraid if you do...
  • "...my pen will fall out!"
  • "Precocious little bitch!"
  • "You guys are being illogical."
Jeff and Abed hold Pierce while Troy cuts through the casts. The only significant thing they find, however, is a horrible smell. After everyone gets dressed, the group laments that the trust between them is gone for good. Jeff suggests that something impossible is more likely than anyone in the group being guilty. He turns to Troy to elaborate on his earlier theory about a ghost being the culprit; the heartwarming story he spins brings about a satisfactory resolution. The group happily leaves the room together just as Dean Pelton walks by and reacts to the devastation they left in their wake. Back inside, Annie's Boobs scampers out of the air vent and picks up a spoon. She retreats back into the vents and adds the utensil to her collection of study group related knick-knacks that includes the missing pens.


  • Troy explains how ghosts took the pen.
  • The guilty party emerges.

End tagEdit

The much talked about Puppy Parade is shown with Dean Pelton emceeing the event. He praises every float except for the last one which has a puppy and cat together and calls for "Equality and Togetherness". He finds it to be too preachy and starts loudly booing it.



Greendale puppy parade00:31

Greendale puppy parade

Recurring themesEdit

ContinuityEdit

  • That just happened:
    • Pierce is still recovering from injuries he sustained in the previous episode "Aerodynamics of Gender".
    • Troy remembers Chang's voicemail to him in "Epidemiology" when Abed mentions when Shirley could have conceived a baby according to a notebook he kept which charted her menstrual cycle.
  • Previously: When Britta objects to the possibility that Abed is the thief, other group members remind her of what he did to them in "Contemporary American Poultry".
  • School supplies:
  • School uniform: Jeff's striped underwear makes another appearance.
  • Googly eyes: Jeff and Annie have a very heated exchange and stare-down before they start stripping down to their underwear. Dan Harmon on DVD commentaries for this episode commented that they were probably hot for each other in the scene.
  • Middle Eastern Magic 8 Ball:
    • Shirley's pregnancy test hints at an upcoming storyline with her ex-husband Andre and Ben Chang.
    • After Troy and Jeff have cut open Pierce's leg casts, Abed states "I'm worried we've gone too far, this is how super villians are created.", foreshadowing Pierce's role in future episodes, especially "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons".
  • This must be the place: Excepting the end tag, the entire episode takes place inside of Group Study Room F.
  • Winger speech: Subverted when Jeff merely supposes, "What if a ghost took the pen?" Troy's ghost story serves the purpose of the usual Winger Speech.

Running gagsEdit

*Special Note: The episode features the second utterance of the word "Beetlejuice". The 1988 Tim Burton film is about a ghost that is summoned after having his name spoken three times. The movie was first mentioned in the Season One episode "Communication Studies" and later in the Season Three episode "Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps" which takes advantage of the previous mentions and gives a brief payoff for the unexpected two year setup.

  • Deanotation: The Dean says he is "Drive-by-Deaning".
  • Awww!: The whole study group responds to Dean Pelton's announcement of a Puppy Parade.
  • NOOOOOO!: Annie loses it when the group tries to walk away before she is able to find her pen.
  • Raging against the machine: Britta goes off on the police-state conditions Annie has created in the study room.
  • Annie's Boobs:
    • The monkey steals Annie's pen to set off the entire chain of events and is revealed to the audience as the culprit at the end of the episode.
    • Annie shows some cleavage when she takes off her sweater and minutes later when wearing just a bra.
    • Annie is initially topless behind the study table.
  • Gasp: Several characters gasp multiple times throughout the episode.
  • Attention students!: Dean Pelton makes a couple announcements about the Puppy Parade.
  • Butt stuff:
    • Troy worries that the thought police will search his butt.
    • Annie suggests that Jeff has the pen in a certain area of his anatomy and not to relax or it will fall out.
  • Rhyme time: This is the first instance of intentionally rhyming words with celebrities' names.
  • Raging against the machine: Britta makes a speech about civil liberties and privacy when the group asks to search her bag.
Well, well, well, Harvey Keitel.Annie
Well what do you know, Henry David Thoreau?Troy
My oh my, Mike Ty-son..."Britta
Nice try, Stephen Fry.Pierce
  • Fan service: The entire group strips down to their underwear.
  • WWBJD: Shirley questions the morals of the other group members several times. However, her own morality is questioned by Britta when it's revealed that Shirley slept with Andre who is now married to someone else.

Pop culture referencesEdit

Meta referencesEdit

  • Use your allusion: Troy's ghost theory is inspired by Paranormal Activity.
  • IRL: During Season One and the beginning of Season Two, Dan Harmon had been exchanging a war of words on his twitter account with a user named "Gwynnifer" over her criticisms of the show. He ended up using her account name in this episode as the name of Jeff's date. In the Community The Complete Second Season DVD commentaries for this episode he mentions this bit of trivia and also suggests that within the story "Gwynnifer" is Jeff's code name for Britta.
  • Up against the wall:
    • Jeff directly states that the study group is doing a bottle episode.
    • Abed wonders why Jeff can't "just make an inspiring Winger Speech about trust, throw in a few digs at an easy celebrity target and put a ribbon on this thing."
  • Homage: The entire episode follows the convention of a bottle episode and/or locked room mystery.

ReceptionEdit

Critical reactionEdit


Reviews:

Andy Greenwald of Vulture wrote: "Thanks to the very clever, possibly purple, and definitely not missing pen of writer Megan Ganz, 'Cooperative Calligraphy' was fantastic, a wholly human and constantly creative delight that accomplished a ton without ever leaving the study room."

Todd VanDerWerff from A.V. Club called it "my favorite episode of Community in the series' run so far" and gave it an A. "What makes Community a show I love is that it doesn't forget that it needs to do episodes like 'Cooperative Calligraphy,' episodes where the plot is more of an excuse for the characters to hang out and toss jokes at each other or where the ultimate resolution (a monkey did it!) is almost incidental to the true point of the episode, which is about how the family you choose is sometimes more important than the one you were born into."

Drew Stewart of Television Blend says that despite being set entirely in the study room, the episode was "still as funny and captivating as ever ... thanks in whole to an excellent cast and probably the best comedy writers in TV today." He was also liked the amount of continuity it kept with previous episodes and, despite Dean Pelton's disapprobation, the controversial puppy parade float.

Kona Gallagher of CliqueClack was unfamiliar with the term "bottle episode" before this week. "Even though I missed Senor Chang, Starburns, and all of the other ridiculous characters on this show, it’s the core interactions between the study group that really make Community great, and we had that in spades." She also makes the point that while she understands why the women would feel violated by Abed's charting of their menstrual cycles, she enthusiastically endorses the idea of someone having chocolate available for her whenever she might need it. "If that was in the Patriot Act, I totally would have supported it."

Alan Sepinwall of HitFix writes, "I absolutely, 100 percent love the way Community both celebrates the last 30 years of popular culture and uses it to comment on the lives of the members of the study group. ... But it wasn't until I watched 'Cooperative Calligraphy' that I quite realized how much I missed the flip side of Community - the part of the show that's about how these seven people relate to each other, rather than them re-enacting moments from my favorite movies while Abed comments on them. And I'm glad we got back to that kind of humor."

Daniel Carson of the Houston Press Art Attack blog wrote: "'Cooperative Calligraphy' is destined to rank with the best episodes of Community's entire run, as well as one of the funniest half-hours of television this year." "Aside from the pure joy of seeing this ensemble work together so tightly on their own -- and it was a total joy, Mozart the way it was meant to be heard -- the episode's glorious commitment to pushing the TV envelope is what set it apart and made it a thing of beauty."

Rohan Ramakrishnan of ScreenCrave is not a fan of bottle shows: he finds them, "as a rule, pretty boring," and dislikes the "more and more outlandish reasons" such episodes must resort to to keep everyone around. But he concedes that "Cooperative Calligraphy" was "pretty much as good as a bottle episode ever gets." He liked Abed's menses charts, the subtleness of the call back to Shirley and Chang's dalliance in "Epidemiology," and the sweetness of Troy's ghost story.

Alison Dingeldein of the L.A. Times Show Tracker blog also seems not to be a fan of bottle episodes, but says "this one was pretty good." She was delighted to see the guys in their undies.

Noel Kirkpatrick of Monsters of Television, on the other hand, says in the very first line of his review, "I love bottle episodes." He thinks "Cooperative Calligraphy" was "one of Community‘s best episodes so far," adding that while Community is "brilliant" at "episodes of homages and meta and references ... in a way that I think no other show is, I love this kind of character-centric episode more." He provides a helpful link explaining the Gwynnifer joke.

Christopher Rosen of Movieline wrote: "after a season of outlandish stunts, it’s nice that Community finally dialed things down to a more personal level." He makes the point that what made the episode great was not just its focus on character, but that it brought all seven main characters together for the entire episode. "If there has been a flaw with Community during season two, it’s that too often the cast is isolated from one another. Community is best when the entire group is batting around their stereotypes together."

Jace Lacob of Televisionary thought the episode was so nice he reviewed it twice, once before the episode aired and again after. In the former, he called it "a reminder that Community can find the comedy in both the high-concept and the seemingly quotidian. In the hands of this inventive and imaginative series' talented cast and crew, zombie attacks and "space" travel can sit side by side with an entire episode about a missing pen. Heart and humor can co-exist quite nicely, thank you very much, as can pain and a puppy parade," and added in the latter that it was "not just a hilarious and accomplished installment but the very best bottle episode ever to air on television."

Time's James Poniewozik also reviewed the show twice. In his preview review, he says the episode "engages in a lot of the things I like least about the show—the constant calling attention to the TV-showness of it—but also shows off what I like most about Community: the interaction of well-drawn characters, acting out believably in an absurd situation." In his later review, he's more effusive, praising "amazing level of craft" the cast and crew bring to the show: "Dan Harmon and company just make the hell out of this show." He uses the on-camera theft of Annie's pen as a case in point, pointing out that not only did they go to the trouble of showing it, they actually had the monkey steal it.

Michelle St. James of Daemon's TV makes the same point: "whatever theme Community goes with, it goes all out." She also says, "as much as I love the special event episodes, and I so do, it’s episodes like this that demonstrate why Community is such a great show."

Zach Handlen of TV Squad writes that the episode was "beautifully constructed. It didn't reinvent the wheel, like other episodes have tried to, and there was very little homage or parody here. Instead, the ep was full of terrific character work and sharp gags, strengthening the relationships these people share. He also says that episodes like this are vital to the success of the episodes that rely more heavily on self-referential humor and pop culture references, because without "a strongly defined ensemble to provide an inherent reality to their universe", those episodes end up with "sort of a hollow feeling at the core."

The X-Files Reviews at The TV Obsessed gives the episode a 9.5 out of 10. The reviewer, while never coming right out and saying so, seems to prefer "the intense focus on the characters" in episodes such as this to the spaceship and zombie episodes, which were funny but failed to explore the "depth of the characters" and in which "some of the lines could have been interchangeable."

SooperpowerTV of TV Fanatic says it was "a treat to have the group back together in the study room for an entire episode." He or she observed that the group's decision to accept Troy's theory that a ghost took the pen could be "a hint from creator Dan Harmon and Co. that where the often 'out there' comedy of Community is concerned, sometimes the best thing to do is just relax, embrace the absurd and enjoy the ride."


RatingsEdit

Ratingswise, the episode pulled in 4.89 million total viewers in the fast overnights, with a 2.1 rating/6 share in the 18-49 demo.

GalleryEdit

Promotional photosEdit



QuotesEdit

I want to see if those wiener dogs are born that way, or if they start off normal, and then get wiener.Troy
If anything, this chair makes me more than human. You move it by blowing into this tube here. It's the most expensive one. I outbid three hospitals for this baby and it was worth every penny.Pierce
Accidents don't just happen over and over and over again, okay? This isn't budget daycare.Annie
Attention students, the Puppy Parade is starting on the quad. Better come quick, with every passing moment these puppies grow older and less deserving of our attention.Dean Pelton
Side effects: Verbal dysphasia and octopus loss. I don't see anything on this about memory, Troy.Pierce
Gwynnifer. Hi. Yeah, it's me. I can't make it. Well, tell your disappointment to suck it. I'm doing a bottle episode!Jeff, on the phone with "Gwynnifer"
Okay if I could just take this time to share a few words of sarcasm with whoever it is that took this pen. I want to say thank you for doing this to me, for awhile I thought I'd have to suffer through a puppy parade but I much prefer being entombed alive in a mausoleum of emotions I can neither understand nor reciprocate. So whoever you are can I get you anything? Ice cream, best friend medal, anything? Okay, sarcasm over. You're last up Shirley. Dump your comedically huge bag and end this.Abed
Season Two Episodes

1. "Anthropology 101"
2. "Accounting for Lawyers"
3. "The Psychology of Letting Go"
4. "Basic Rocket Science"
5. "Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples"
6. "Epidemiology"
7. "Aerodynamics of Gender"
8. "Cooperative Calligraphy"
9. "Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design"
10. "Mixology Certification"
11. "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas"
12. "Asian Population Studies"

13. "Celebrity Pharmacology 212"
14. "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons"
15. "Early 21st Century Romanticism"
16. "Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking"
17. "Intro to Political Science"
18. "Custody Law and Eastern European Diplomacy"
19. "Critical Film Studies"
20. "Competitive Wine Tasting"
21. "Paradigms of Human Memory"
22. "Applied Anthropology and Culinary Arts"
23. "A Fistful of Paintballs"
24. "For A Few Paintballs More"

Community Season Two DVD

Season OneSeason TwoSeason ThreeSeason FourSeason Five

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