Jennifer Stasak Staff Writer
“Community” celebrated its Christmas episode this week. Yes, you read that correctly. Since the show’s premiere had been pushed back, Christmas cheer came to the Greendale students in April this year! All was not well in the episode for the study group, however, and what started out as a fun Christmas dinner between friends turned into a battle to sustain the group dynamic against an external foe.
Jeff opens his apartment to host a Christmas dinner between the study group members. When Annie arrives, Jeff notices that she’s brought a present and is upset: the group had agreed NOT to exchange gifts. Of course, as every other member of the study group arrives, they all too come bearing gifts. Annie, however, comes to the party bearing bad news: she’s heard through sources that the study group has received a failing grade on their History paper. Jeff is upset, but Annie reassures him – she’s invited Professor Cornwallis to their holiday party. Perhaps, she suggests, they can smooth things over with him and maybe, just maybe, they’ll be able to get a passing grade after all.
When Cornwallis arrives at the party, sucking up to him proves much more difficult than anticipated for Jeff. He admits, later in the kitchen, to Britta that he slacked off during the group’s paper and merely copied and pasted the lyrics to “War.” But he promises to make amends for being the one to cause the group to fail. As he does, Professor Cornwallis lets a tidbit of information slip – the group received a C- on their paper. Pulling Annie aside, Jeff confronts her about their grade and the young woman admits that the group did get a C- but that the grade truly IS failing… if you’re on a valedictorian track, like she is. Jeff, aggravated, barks at her: he wouldn’t have made an effort to be nice to Professor Cornwallis all evening had he known that the group had actually passed their paper. Overhearing their conversation, an offended Cornwallis changes their grade to an F.
Frustrated, Jeff calls a meeting with the group, where they decide together that they need to make amends with Cornwallis and attempt to re-attain a passing grade. Unfortunately, in the living room, Kevin (who is still suffering from Changesia) has tied the professor to the chair as a hostage. As Annie moves to untie him, Jeff stops her. Now, the study group has the upper hand, he explains. They can convince Cornwallis to change their grade. But Cornwallis is a history professor, and knowledgeable about how groups – or empires – function. Throughout the remainder of the episode, he attempts to dissolve their empire by noting that at least one member of the group is likely to betray the others for the chance at a good grade on their paper.
But, try as he might, the study group never turns on one another in order to get on Cornwallis’ good side, even though many were tempted. The group worked through their issues together, and that is what allowed them to become stronger as an “empire” of sorts and resist Cornwallis’ deceptive tactics. At the end of the episode, it is revealed that the reason for Cornwallis’ behavior is that he was lonely. The study group takes pity on him, and he ends up conceding to their wishes and changing the group’s grade from an F to a C+ for their paper.
Abed reflects on the events of the day, and wonders what is happening in all of the other timelines (a callback to “Remedial Chaos Theory”). As he ponders, the audience sees that in the darkest timeline, evil!Jeff has just managed to acquit evil!Annie. The two then plot to find their other evil study group members and return to the prime timeline in order to destroy it.
“Intro to Knots” was a great episode that focused on the group’s dynamic and how it has changed, for the better, over the last four years. The seven study group members truly care about one another and made the decision throughout the episode not to turn on each other – not to cave into their own selfish desires and sacrifice the group as a whole. They really stuck together in the face of adversity and overcame their obstacle, proving – to Cornwallis and themselves – that they truly are a strong “empire.”