Pillows are the new paintballs as the great battle for control of Greendale begins.
Credit: Michael Desmond/NBC
McHale is the king of snark, which made him the perfect choice for prickly, self-obsessed Jeff Winger. But here's the surprise: As Jeff continued to…

And so we come to it at last: The Great Battle of Our Time.

Pillows are the new paintballs, it seems, in the conflict that has sundered not only Greendale Community College but the friendship of Abed and Troy. I suppose we should have seen this coming when Abed wanted to play in the Dreamatorium by himself. (I’m not going to lie. That still makes me want to cry a little bit.) But the one hope for the future of their friendship lies in the fact that it’s not just Abed’s Randian refusal to compromise his pillow fort, or Troy’s desire to be fitted with a beard of bees by the Guinness Book of World Records people, that has split them apart. Like SPECTRE, Vice Dean Laybourne has set these two great powers against each other while he waits on the sideline to determine the victor. He’s the third Siamese fighting fish, if you will, hovering while the other two battle, until they’ve so exhausted each other that he himself can swoop in and claim the spoils.

“Digital Exploration of Interior Design” opened with a historic moment for Greendale: the opening of the new Subway sandwichery in the cafetorium that’s taking the place of Shirley’s proposed sandwich shop. Yes, it seems Subway has decided to take Community’s fortunes upon its shoulders and save it like it did Chuck. Oh…wait. Regardless of how successful they’ve been in this endeavor in the past, they seem to be the meat-pushers who most believe in the masochistic #SixSeasonsAndAMovie mantra, having also figured last night in an episode of Adult Swim’s Delocated and in a season two episode of Cougar Town—which is probably why Abed was the only one willing to give the corpohumanoid Subway a fist-bump and “Eat Fresh!” Until last night I’d have said that nothing could top the meta product placement of Burger King as Carl Weathers’ restaurant of choice on Arrested Development. (Tobias: “It’s a wonderful restaurant!” Ron Howard’s narrator: “It sure is.”) But Community has a knack for shattering your expectations—in a good way. I wonder how the PR/advertising team at Subway really feels about being painted as a dehumanizing corporate monolith willing to indenture young college students, rename them, and deny them true love?

NEXT: Behold a new species: the corpohumanoid.

Well, we were introduced to the concept of corpo-humanization when it was revealed in the Greendale bylaws that a student would have to own at least 51% of whatever business is opened on campus. And Britta hadn’t seen any student named “Subway” in her Pre-menopausal/Post-feminist experiential marketing class. Well, it turns out that’s just because Subway—a blond hunk of Wonder Bread who’d given up his birth identity to represent the collective humanity of Subway for three years in order to fund a shelter for disabled animals—was just on the wait list. He was insistent, though, that he was as human as the rest of them and would party as hearty as his morality clause allowed. I can just hear Mitt Romney saying somewhere as I write this, “Corporations are people too!”

Shirley and Pierce sensed an opportunity to undermine their enemy. They would have Britta, loose of virtue and fiercely anti-corporation—even predicting corpohumanization in her high-school newspaper column “Britta Unfiltered”—seduce this Subway and learn secrets that could destroy the new sandwich shop. (Line of the Night #7, Courtesy of Britta: “I am not a whore! But if I were, I’d be the super classy kind that gets flown to Dubai to stay in an underwater hotel.”)

Meanwhile, Abed, Troy, and Annie had been kicked out of their apartment for fumigation. Annie had now taken up residence in the sleep study lab, where her slumber could earn her college credits. And Trobed had decided they’d build a pillow fort on campus. Way more difficult than a blanket fort. Way better. Because the things that are difficult are always better. While Jeff was brainstorming ways to join Annie in the sleep study center (Line of the Night #6, Courtesy of Jeff Winger: “I can’t think of a better use of my time here than being unconscious”), he discovered that he had a locker. And apparently had one since his orientation and diversity fire circle in 2009. He and Annie opened it up and discovered a hate letter from a Kim who called him an “inconsiderate jerk.” Who was this Kim and what could explain her antipathy for Jeff? Could he have made out with her and then forgotten? Nah, Jeff doesn’t make out with forgettable women. When they tracked down Kim’s locker, a nerdy, bespectacled dude who was off to save Garrett said that Kim had just died. That means Jeff doesn’t get to change her mind about him being a d—. He’ll be a d— forever. Devastating.

NEXT: In the age of Victor Hugo, people would build barricades in the street. In the age of Community, they build pillow and/or blanket forts.

Actually, it turns out, once Jeff decided to apologize to Kim’s locker, said nerdy bespectacled guy revealed himself to be Kim. Apparently, 16% of all people named Kim are males, and he was upset that Jeff never remembered him. Just the fact that he has a girl’s name meant that Jeff couldn’t take him seriously. Interesting the sexism this revealed in Annie. She thought she was “representing the Sisterhood,” by making Jeff feel guilty about the poor lost girl he wronged, then couldn’t even remember. But once she learned it was really some “weird, cloying, hypersensitive stalker with a girl’s name” her concern turned to contempt.

Meanwhile, Troy really didn’t need to bribe Dean Pelton with a 20%-off coupon to Bed, Bath & Beyond because the Dean had already become besotted with the idea of setting a Guinness World Record for the biggest ever pillow or blanket fort. Abed didn’t want to sacrifice quality for square footage, though. And a blanket fort would be much easier to construct than a pillow fort. But Troy really wanted to meet that dude with the disgustingly long finger-nails that curl around. He shouldn’t, though. That guy is totally pretentious.

In swooped Vice Dean Laybourne to widen the rift with the greatest weapon in his arsenal: an Inspector Spacetime metaphor. He suggested that Abed and Troy were indeed like the Inspector and Constable Reggie, but that didn’t mean they were equals. It meant that one was a “self-centered nerd and the other, his naïve, obedient lapdog.”

Troy started building a rival blanket fort to go after the record, but Abed’s pillow fort stood in the way. The Dean thought the solution was simple. Just connect the blanket fort to the pillow fort, right? Apparently, he’s never read The Fountainhead because he’d know that it’s better to just destroy your work than compromise its artistic integrity. Abed gave the self-destruct order to a shocked Magnitude, whose only reply was “Pop pop, Captain.” Protocol Omega had been initiated.

NEXT: Where does Vice Dean Laybourne fall on the John Goodman Spectrum of Villainy?

But as Abed prepared to bring the pillows down, a deep, jowly voice sounded behind him: Vice Dean Laybourne. “Don’t corrupt the host to pacify the parasites,” he said. “What if it fell to the Reggies of the world to keep up with the Inspectors…or perish?” Yes, it is that zero-sum of a game. The battle lines were drawn.

Of course, film geek that I am, I just keep trying to place the Vice Dean on the John Goodman Spectrum of Villainy. Which I now realize consists primarily of Coen brothers movies.

Is he as bad as Mad Man Mundt from Barton Fink? I don’t know about you, but I might very well be convinced that ruining Troy and Abed’s relationship is as evil as being a serial killer who keeps the heads of women in a box. Of course, I don’t think that Laybourne is a pyromaniac who will burn down Greendale while screaming “I’ll show you life of the mind!” But those Jack Oakie pictures Mundt likes are pretty much the early 1940s equivalent of Kickpuncher.

Nah, I mean how could anyone be, right? But maybe he’s more along the lines of his escaped convict in Raising Arizona.

Yeah, I’m thinking more the latter. But if nothing else, Troy really needs to break down and tell Abed the following, if they are ever to have a more equitable relationship:

NEXT: At Starburns’ mark, unleash hell.

Now back to the other Machiavellian puppet master: Pierce. His mission to get Britta close to Subway was paying off. Britta, though, was actually starting to fall for this corporate tool of Big Sandwich. The fact that Subway just wanted to stand next to her because she makes him feel warm inside, melted Britta’s heart. Not to mention his desire to build a shelter for disabled animals—dogs with wheels for hind-legs and all that—and their mutual love of 1984. (Line of the Night #5, Courtesy of Subway: “I think kids should be forced to read it.”) When she checked out a copy of Orwell’s classic from the library, she found a page bookmarked by a Subway sandwich napkin and a passage that had been underlined about forbidden love. Even though she had lived in New York, Britta was a goner. (Line of the Night #4, Courtesy of Pierce Hawthorne: “Nice knowing you, Subway, if that is your real name.”)

Pierce tried to get Britta to plant a bug on Subway, so they could follow his movements. But, really, he had bugged her. Deciding that Subway had become “a physical necessity,” Britta seduced him in the pillow fort. And Pierce got the whole thing on tape. So long, morality clause! And so long, Subway sandwichery! (Line of the Night #3, Courtesy of Pierce Hawthorne: “Excellent whoresmanship, Britta.”) To Pierce’s shock, though, the Subway suit who they brought in to listen to the sex tape wasn’t that shocked. These were two healthy, consenting adults and, well, as he mentioned in Line of the Night #2, “At this point in time we can’t stop them from having hearts.”

But then, clutching those headphones like Werner Herzog listening to a man being eaten by bears, the exec heard a sex act that “got unhealthy real fast.” He was raised in the Bay Area and all, but he’s a father now, and Subway can’t stand for this. There was only one thing to do, and it’s Line of the Night #1: “The bread is stale!” (FYI, as a native son of St. Petersburg, FL it took me till I was about 21 to realize that when people say “The Bay Area” they’re not referring to the Tampa Bay area.) Subway was hauled off, never to be seen again, while his corporate rep, obviously turned on by what he had heard, refused to get up from his seat. Hmm, I wonder why? All the better to sit there and focus on how unacceptable today was.

Britta was heartbroken. But it seemed like this tale might have a happy ending, after all. She caught sight of a blond, preppy-looking lad rounding a hallway corner. Subway!? No, it wasn’t. But wait! This doppelgänger, this golem, this poseur, said, “Britta, you silly! It is me. Subway! I had a great time with you in the pillow fort last night. The one exception being the deviant sex act you initiated without my consent. Eat fresh!” Yes, the collective humanity of Subway can be downloaded into a fresh new body when a previous host becomes unacceptable. That way the corporation endures, regardless of the people who make up that corporation. In short, this is the most sophisticated critique of corporate personhood ever to grace the small screen. Or any screen, for that matter.

Back to the simmering blanket/pillow conflict in the study room. Neither side would back down. But when the Dean called Alek “Starburns” he tossed his pillow in anger at the other side, collapsing part of the blanket fort. And that was the opening salvo of the Great Pillow War of 2012. As some Alexandre Desplat-style mandolins played, Troy and Abed took one last look at each other, then prepared for battle.

What did you think of “Digital Exploration of Interior Design”? Was that critique of corporate personhood genius or what? Do you think kids should be forced to read 1984? What was Garrett saved from exactly? And who do you think will win this ultimate battle for control of Greendale? Troy, Abed, or the Vice Dean himself?

Episode Recaps

McHale is the king of snark, which made him the perfect choice for prickly, self-obsessed Jeff Winger. But here's the surprise: As Jeff continued to…
Joel McHale and Alison Brie star in this comedy about a community college study group that turns into a surrogate family.
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