by Josh Johnson
One of my favorite episodes of “Community” is “Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design,” aka the “Blanket Fort Episode.” The aspect I liked the most about that episode was how we were only given little hints about what was inside the blanket fort, instead of being bombarded with bizarre imagery. When Troy tells Jeff and Annie that they should check out the fort’s civil rights museum, the joke becomes even funnier because the viewer never actually saw the museum in question.
Because of this, I was a little nervous for the show’s most recent episode, “Digital Exploration of Interior Design,” which was advertised as the blanket fort’s return. For a show that has such a creative pair of characters in Troy and Abed, having them basically redo an episode that was already executed perfectly is, as Britta actually points out (meta alert, meta alert!), pretty repetitive. Troy and Abed protest by saying they are actually building a pillow fort, which is different, because, as everyone knows, blankets are different than pillows.
Luckily, the pillow fort is not used to just rehash old ideas. Instead, it is used solely as a plot device. John Goodman’s Vice Dean Laybourne returns with a goatee and a ponytail (he’s going through some stuff right now) to make one more effort to convince Troy to join his air conditioning repair school. He tells Troy that he has become the Reginald to Abed’s Inspector Spacetime–a naive sidekick who only exists to indulge his nerdy friend’s crazy ideas.
The message hits Troy hard, and he decides to test Laybourne’s theory by telling Abed they should make a blanket fort instead, which would give them a better chance of breaking a world record (blanket forts take less time to build than pillow forts, naturally). Abed tells Troy he can build a blanket fort if he wants, but it had better stay out of the way of his pillow fort. Danny Pudi uses such a cold tone here, turning Abed, for the first time, from obliviously anti-social to downright mean.
Inevitably, the forts begin to hamper the progress of each other, so Dean Pelton orders Abed to take down his fort so that Troy’s record breaking fort will bring good publicity to the school (“Legitimacy!”). Before Abed can execute Operation Omega (much to Magnitude’s dismay), Laybourne reappears and convinces Abed to not back down. The result, as one of Laybourne’s lackeys puts hilariously bluntly, is “Troy Barns’ blanket fort may go to war with Abed Nadir’s pillow fort,” and their rift is now cemented.
While Troy and Abed went to war, the rest of the group kept the atmosphere light with some funny side plots. Greendale gets a Subway “sandwichery,” much to the chagrin of Pierce and Shirley, who had plans to build their own sandwich shop. Subway has apparently become the sponsor of much beloved but poorly rated sitcoms (see also: Town, Cougar).
In order to satisfy Greendale’s bylaws (one of which is that all Greendale students are in the army reserve), Subway enrolls a man named Subway in the school so they can legally run the shop. Pierce and Shirley recruit Britta to seduce Subway (the man) in order to take down Subway (the restaurant). Britta and Subway of course fall in love, due to their shared love of “1984” and animals with disabilities, but their romance is cut short when their steamy affair is caught on tape. Gillian Jacobs has great moments throughout the episode, which balances this dark episode with some lightheartedness.
Josh Johnson is music editor. Email him at email@example.com.