The title of Wesley Snipes's vampire franchise is also the name of Britta's carnival-worker ex-boyfriend. Yes, her self-esteem is that low.

By Christian Blauvelt
April 13, 2012 at 03:14 PM EDT
Michael Desmond/NBC
S3 E15
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There was no way Community could top “Pillows & Blankets.” That was one of the most vividly realized high-concept half-hours you could see anywhere. So as a follow-up Community—wisely—went in the opposite direction. Instead of another epic, campus-spanning installment involving even many of Greendale’s more peripheral students, “Origins of Vampire Mythology” had a tight focus on our core characters—and revealed some thorny, counter-intuitive truths about relationships: even if you’re not in love with someone you can be jealous when they’re with someone else, and indifference only makes the heart grow fonder. These are the kind of insights that you’d have to watch an August Strindberg play or Ingmar Bergman film to get elsewhere.

“Origins of Vampire Mythology” opened with an image that shows order is restored to the universe. That is to say, Greendale.Troy and Abed playing Patty Cake with one another. It was cute enough to make Pierce begin his own quest for a best friend. And if you didn’t think order was restored, just look at what the Dean was wearing! After a couple episodes of relatively sedate attire—all the better to go after a Guinness World Record—Dean Pelton emerged in his idea of a train engineer’s get-up with high-cut overalls and a red handkerchief. Apparently, it was his clothing of choice to play with a model train set and prepare for the arrival of the carnival that would be passing through town: Red Beard’s Amusements. Apparently, whatever Carnie-in-Chief runs Red Beard’s Amusements is a huge a Akira Kurosawa fan, because that carnival is a reference, I’m sure, to the Emperor’s 1965 masterpiece.

Sadly, Britta wasn’t hung up on the late Toshiro Mifune, but rather a carnie named, yes, Blade. Really, what is worse? Dating a carnival barker or dating somebody named Blade? Admittedly, I and most men under the age of 35 probably do secretly wish they were named Blade, having grown up in the era before Wesley Snipes’ misdemeanor tax evasion, but you just have to let go of some dreams. And, of course, if you were named Blade there’d be the ever-present worry that New Line Cinema would sue you for adopting your nom de trademark, since they produced the titular kickboxing vampire movie and its two sequels. Check that…fantastic kickboxing vampire movie.

NEXT: It’s an episode of Greendale Intervention, either the best or worst new A&E docuseries. I can’t decide which. 

Britta hates Blade, but like a moth to flame she’d be back in his carnie embrace in five minutes if he called. Sometimes women get stuck on men who are absolutely terrible for them. (See also Terence Davies’ The Deep Blue Sea, now in theaters, for a more tragic articulation of this theme, though Troy and Abed would probably be devastated it doesn’t have sharks.) That’s why Annie manipulated Jeff to take off his shirt by his locker—not that it would have taken much prompting either way.

When Britta learned that Blade had gotten that promotion to become the new barker of the BB gun duck-shooting gallery, she recruited Annie to go into full Blade detox mode, or else she’d do him like a “crossword puzzle.” If only Subway were still around to cater to Britta’s sexual whims, but I have to imagine he’s been transported away to some “Eat Fresh!” gulag where he’s forced to slice salami all day. Unfortunately, this meant that Britta needed to stay over at Casa Trobed with Annie. And Troy and Abed not only wanted to watch Blade but keep saying the word “blade” six times per minute. Okay, so she needs to check her phone to see if her mom is dying…that’s reasonable, right? Blade was put on pause, with the film junkie duo watching the DVD screensaver cube until they could once again witness Wesley Snipes slash his way through all manner of undead scum. Seriously, I wonder how many hours I myself have watched that cube, just waiting for it to land perfectly Tetris-like in a corner. I may have only seen that once. It’s a rare and precious thing, like the flash of green at sunset.

How hilarious was the imaginary soundtrack of Blade, though? It was just an interminable, unmodulated mix of screams, metal-on-metal clanks, and punches connecting. And yet, yes, I would totally find myself watching that. Hey, the second Blade installment was directed by Guillermo del Toro so this franchise totally has artistic integrity!

NEXT: We investigate the seismic vampire shift in fiction from Blade to Twilight.

My question is: what seismic cultural shift occurred that replaced Blade’s undead demon-spawn, considered worthy only of untold slaughter at the tip of Wesley Snipes’ pointy weaponry, with the sexy vampires of Twilight/The Vampire Diaries/True Blood? The odd thing, too, is that, with the exception of True Blood, which is really just an ongoing excuse to watch hot people simulate sex while one partner’s head is spinning around Linda Blair-style, none of these franchises really feature sex, even if they reduce vampirism to an ongoing metaphor for it. If the sucking of blood is symbolic for plucking the forbidden fruit, why did we decide that mixed martial-arts-based carnage is not an effective way to sublimate one’s sexual urges? Is that not the American way? I’d be okay with Twilight or The Vampire Diaries if they actually did follow through on their respective premises and supplant the violence of a Blade with sex, but instead they’re just interminable candle-lit mood-pieces about emotionally constipated girls who can’t decide “will he or won’t he” be allowed to suck their blood. Somehow between the release of the last Blade film in December 2004 and the initial publication of Twilight on Oct. 5, 2005 vampire fiction went from cathartic to an ongoing, stultifying c—block.

Anyway, Annie led Britta to her DVD drawer, which contained a banana. The banana in question had the words “You are a lying junkie” printed on it, as a deterrent to Britta wanting to get her phone back. But she started kicking and yelling as Troy and Abed shut her in Annie’s bedroom and screamed, in Line of the Night # 7, “You’re racist pedophiles! You’re the opposite of Batman!” Clearly not just the worst things Trobed could be, but the worst things any of us could be.

NEXT: Foosball pals Jeff and Shirley go to the carnival!

The Blade viewing party was down a member. But luckily the Dean showed up in his pajamas and toted a sixpack for a “Boys’ Night.” Really though, Pelton had finally been pushed into a corner by Vice Dean Laybourne, still with a pony tail (possibly from another reality/timeline?), who was opting for a more direct approach to have Troy Barnes enroll in Air Conditioning Repair after his efforts to ruin Trobed’s friendship and plunge the campus into civil war failed. Dean Pelton would recruit Troy for him. Or else.

Meanwhile, Jeff wanted Shirley, possibly his closest friend in the study group after their Foosball showdown, to go with him to spy on Blade and see what exactly made him so attractive to Britta. I mean, if he went by himself it’d be weird, right? At the carnival, they found Pierce with his new best friend, Chang. And he’d just won Chang a stuffed pony! When they arrived at Blade’s booth, Shirley said that he wasn’t nearly as handsome as Jeff, who after all is more handsome than Ryan Seacrest, the man who’s famous for being handsome. (Line of the Night #6, Courtesy of Jeff Winger: “I wasn’t fishing for that.”)

Britta tried another tactic to get her phone back. She declared Annie to be “like a sister” to her, so Annie returned the compliment by giving it back to her. But she switched Blade’s number with her own so if Britta tried to call him, she’d know. I feel like we’re entering full-on Dr. Drew territory here, or as Dean Pelton put it in Line of the Night # 5, “Yeah, you’re just like Blade, man. Straight up!” Immediately, Annie started receiving a string of desperate, codependent, poorly spelled texts.

Back at the carnival, Jeff started dropping a few hundred on the duck-shooting gallery to get to know Blade a bit better. Was Blade just his nom de corndog? Does he know anything about carpentry? Aquariums, freshwater or seawater? Is he hung? And he was going to win himself—and Shirley—a veritable menagerie of stuffed animals. (Line of the Night #4, Courtesy of Jeff Winger, “There’s room in our bed for three bears, right, honey?”) Since $300 didn’t seem to be working, he even tried to get Blade to open up by talking about how he cheated on the LSAT. Because this guy who looked like a cousin of Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel was such a threat, right? Shirley was starting to think this means Jeff is in love with Britta. Jeff said he’s most definitely not in love with her, but he’s every bit as jealous nonetheless and has to learn Blade’s secret. Why? “Why do we want to know how to blow up the earth or grow an ear on a mouse? In case we have to, Shirley. In case we have to.” Count that as Line of the Night #3.

NEXT: Whatever you think you’re supposed to do or say to Britta, do or say the opposite.

Britta kept texting her one-time flame, her messages finally devolving to “Fine, I guess you don’t want to know our two-year-old.” Annie, like any sensible human being, thought that if she texted “Leave me alone,” that’d end it. Or maybe if she’s really, really mean. But what she failed to understand is that Britta was only attracted to Blade because of his indifference and blatant disregard for her feelings. Malice only made her heart grow fonder, as it were. So when Annie texted “Leave me alone,” that meant Britta stopped texting. Instead, she called. (Line of the Night #2, Courtesy of Troy Barnes: “She was born in the ’80s and she still uses her phone as a phone!”) And Annie hadn’t even used her Christian Bale Batman voice to record a voicemail greeting. Luckily Troy was there to record one that was appropriately Wesley Snipes badass: “Blade, ‘sup, message.” And the Dean and Abed were on-hand to provide carnival-appropriate background sounds like “Get your popcorn he-ah!”

Troy finally got ahold of Annie’s phone and did the cruelest thing of all. He, as Blade, was nice to Britta in a text. And almost immediately she popped out of Annie’s bedroom having put a stake in her feelings for this loser who treats her well. Just like why would she want to be a member of any club who’d have her for a member, why would she want to be with any guy who’s nice to her?

Finally, Jeff leveled with Blade. Line of the Night #1: “Are you just a human mirror? Do we all see what we want to see in you?” So Blade leveled with him. He had brain damage from a freak Ferris wheel accident that prevents him from ever feeling shame. He doesn’t do anything to try to win people’s respect, and that is exactly why people like him. “He’s basically irresistible to people for the same reason that he can pretty much only work at a carnival.” No, woman, you shan’t go to him. Why Britta would be attracted to Blade because of his lack of shame, but be turned off by Jeff when his anti-anxiety meds killed his sense of shame, is one of the great mysteries of modern relationships. Then again, he did rip off his shirt Hulk-style and steal an award from a kid at a bar mitzvah.

Finally, “Origins of Vampire Mythology” ended with Abed doing stand-up in the study room against a portable brick wall. The jokes were so specific, about toaster ovens, his apartment ventilation, and toothbrushing habits, that Troy could be his only possible audience. As much as I like fake stand-up in any context, I’d still prefer to see Rainer Wolfcastle’s $80 million action-comedy epic, McBain: Let’s Get Silly!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rIlpYLIiZLE

What did you think of “Origins of Vampire Mythology”? Are you as surprised as me it didn’t focus on a Twilight-style undead romance like Annie’s vampire fantasy in “Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps”? And what’s better? Blade or Kickpuncher?

Episode Recaps

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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