Pilot► Director: Joe Russo — Writer: Dan Harmon — Aired: September 17, 2009 — Season: One — Number: One Summary: An ex- lawyer is forced to attend an eccentric community college to earn a legitimate degree.
It's part way through the first week of classes for Greendale Community College's 2009 fall semester. The dean, Craig Pelton, is trying to give an inspirational speech while welcoming the new students but ends up failing miserably. In the distance, Jeff Winger watches the train wreck while trying to ignore another student named Abed Nadir. Abed is in the middle of telling Jeff his life story when he cuts him off. Jeff asks him for information on a female student he saw in the Spanish class they both take. Abed informs him that her name is Britta and immediately begins to rattle off numerous facts about her. Impressed, Jeff thanks Abed before going off to meet an old friend of his, Professor Ian Duncan.
In Duncan's office, Jeff tells Ian why he's at the school: the bar association learned that he faked his law degree, and now he's at Greendale to earn a legitimate one. He asks that Duncan get him the answers to all his class exams for the entire semester. Ian is reluctant at first but agrees to look into it when he's reminded that Jeff saved him from a D.U.I. charge in 2002. Later, Jeff locates Britta in the cafeteria and tries to lay on the charm but is shot down. Switching to another tactic, he insists that his intentions are sincere. Jeff lies about being a board certified Spanish tutor and that he only approached her to invite her to a study group he is forming. She accepts his invitation and meets him later in the library's study room.
Jeff introduces himself to Britta.
He makes a little progress, but his efforts end up being hampered with the arrival of Abed whom Britta had invited. Jeff is unable to get rid of Abed who doesn't understand the hint Jeff sends in a text message. Jeff soon gets a text message himself from Duncan to meet him at the football field. Once there, Ian says it might be possible to get the test answers but questions whether Jeff knows the difference between right and wrong. Jeff smugly says that he learned a long time ago that such concepts are subjective especially when he learned he has the ability to convincingly argue for either side. After a heated exchange, Ian gives in and agrees to help despite being exasperated by Jeff's arrogance.
Abed arrives and spoils the mood.
Jeff returns to the library only to find that Britta is missing, and four more students are seated at the study table, having been invited by Abed. Attempting to sneak away, he leaves the library only to run into Britta who was outside taking a cigarette break. She suggests that they go back and start studying, hinting that they can sneak out and have dinner if the new arrivals prove to be unteachable. When they return, the oldest of the new arrivals, Pierce, attempts to introduce everyone but manages to get most of their names wrong. After Troy, Annie, and Shirley correct him, Jeff decides to exploit the obvious tension between them. He continues to stir the pot until the group members are arguing amongst themselves.
The rest of the study group arrives.
Jeff's manipulation of the group is interrupted by another call from Duncan, who wants to meet up with him in the parking lot. He finds Ian waiting in his tiny smart car with the answers to the exams. Ian extorts Jeff's Lexus as payment, and a desperate Jeff reluctantly agrees. Returning to the study room, he finds Britta waiting for him. She demands that he calm down the still-arguing study group. He says he'll do so only if she agrees to go out with him. She agrees and with a passionate speech, Jeff manages to pacify the study group. He praises each of them by listing their various strengths, and explains that by coming together and putting aside their differences, they are no longer a mere study group but a Community. He then announces he is going to have dinner with Britta.
Jeff tries to calm down the study group.
She responds that she lied and never intended to go out with him. Jeff then takes back what he just said and boasts that he doesn't need them as he now has the test answers. Leaving the library, he opens the packet Duncan gave him but finds that he's been tricked again. He storms back to Duncan's office and gets his car keys back. As he passes by the library, Pierce calls out to him from the front steps. As they talk, the rest of the study group comes outside and admits that studying is boring without him. The group silently convince Britta to invite him to study with them again and everyone returns to the library except Jeff. He hesitates but then decides to follow them back inside.
"What's going on? Can you guys hear me, am I deaf? CAN YOU GUYS HEAR ME NOW?''
Middle Eastern Magic 8 Ball: The basic outline of the show is laid out with Jeff learning to be a better person through his interaction with the study group. The first major story arc is also introduced in the form of the possible budding romance between Jeff and Britta.
History lesson: We get a brief synopsis of all the main characters' pasts before they came to Greendale and why they are there now:
While talking with Jeff, Abed goes into great detail about his life including hints he may suffer from a mental disorder. He further hints at being a lonely person, positively replying to Jeff's dismissive remark about "seeing his value now" and rejoicing when he receives a text message for the first time.
Jeff tells Professor Duncan that his law credentials were falsified, he was disbarred and now needs to earn a legitimate degree at Greendale.
Britta's biography is recounted by Abed who informs Jeff she has brothers, is 28, and her birthday is in October. She herself tells more of her life story to Jeff when they meet in the study room later on.
Annie mentions how Troy injured himself in a keg incident which cost him his football scholarship.
Pierce introduces himself as moist towelette tycoon and C.E.O. Of Hawthorne Wipes.
Shirley is shown reacting to Dean Pelton's speech when he mentions the cliché of "middle age divorcees" attending the school hinting that she is one of those.
Mad skillz: Jeff's ability to talk his way into and out of situations is demonstrated.
Winger speech: Jeff gives the first of his many Winger speeches to the group.
Catchphrase: Several of the study groups signature catchphrases are introduced in this episode:
"Cool, cool cool cool." — Abed
"That's nice." — Shirley
"You just wrinkled my brain." — Troy
In this episode it is stated that Jeff has to replace his Bachelors degree to practice Law again. However in the Season Four finale "Advanced Introduction to Finality", he graduates with an Associates degree in Education instead.
In this episode the Study Room is shown to be upstairs, for the rest of the series onwards it is ground level.
In this episode, Abed says to Jeff that his Mother is American but in the Season Two episode "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas" he states that his mother is Polish. It's possible he was simply talking about her U.S. citizenship and not her ethnic background.
Dean Pelton is shown wearing a wedding ring, it is unknown if this is a costume or a change in character from the pilot. This is later explained in "Basic Story" when Pelton mentions that it was his mother's and he had lost it a week after arriving at Greendale.
Troy's keg flip injury was clearly stated by Annie to have been two dislocated shoulders yet when a flashback to the incident is shown in the Season Four episode "Heroic Origins" Troy is shown injuring his knee instead.
Abed is the first one to point out that Britta looks like actress Elisabeth Shue . In later episodes he states he is face blind and unable to recognize specific features.
Screw you guys!: Jeff is kicked out of the study group but is later asked to rejoin.
Attention Students!: The series begins with Dean Pelton welcoming all to Greendale over a portable Public address system.
It's a mixer, it's a mixer!: Abed recounts, word for word, everything Britta said when they met first met.
A dollop of whipped irony: When Shirley tells Pierce he has been sexually harassing her, Pierce replies he wouldn't do that to someone that turns him on and Troy points out to the irony of his statement.
Disney Face: Annie uses her sad eyes to help convince Britta to let Jeff study with them.
Board certified tutor:
Jeff pretends to be a board certified Spanish tutor.
Pierce butchers the group introductions despite claiming to be a Toastmaster.
“And finally, this beautiful creature is named Shirley.”— Pierce
“Is that even close?”— Jeff
“You have been sexually harassing me since the very first day of class.”— Shirley
“'Sexually harassing'? What? That makes no sense to me. Why would I harass someone who turns me on?”— Pierce
“Saying she turns you on is the harassment, dude.”— Troy
“You know what I got for Christmas? It was a banner year at the Bender family. I got a carton of cigarettes. The old man grabbed me and he said, "Heeeey, smoke up Johnny!" No dad, what about you!”— Abed
“Well, that actually was from the Breakfast Club.”— Jeff
“Nobody puts Baby in the corner.”— Abed
“Dirty Dancing.”— Jeff
“You know what makes humans different from other animals?”— Jeff
“No, no, come on. Bears have feet.”— Pierce
“We can sympathize with a pencil. We can forgive a shark, and we can give Ben Affleck an Academy Award for screenwriting.”— Jeff
“Big mistake.”— Pierce
“You've just stopped being a study group. You've become something unstoppable. I hereby pronounce you a community.”— Jeff
“I like you, Jeffrey. You remind me of myself at your age.”— Pierce
“I deserve that.”— Jeff
“Well, the funny thing about being smart is that you can get through most of life without ever having to do any work.”— Jeff
The original script for the pilot had a number of differences from the broadcast version including dialogue, extended scenes and most notably a different last name for Jeff, "Crocker". Also the lunch lady make recurring appearances throughout the episode but all the scenes with the exception of her meeting Jeff were cut. The original script can be read here.
When giving the "Look Left" speech, Jeff says that instead of giving you salt you asked for, Abed would give you soup, because soup is better. Joel McHale , who plays Jeff, is the host of The Soup .