Welcome to Looking Streets Behind, a weekly Community retrospective column! Each week, we’ll dive into a Community episode that has reached the 10th anniversary milestone. Ten years ago today, “Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design” conspired against our very minds. Wherein Dean Pelton learned a valuable lesson regarding conspiracies. Annie learned a valuable lesson regarding friendship and trust. Jeff learned a valuable lesson regarding the perils of academic fraud. Sean Garrity learned that he should stick to teaching drama. But what did our crew really glean from the night’s double-crossing shenanigans and conspiracy laden debauchery?
That prop guns belong backstage. And never, ever allow your expansive pillow fort to go mainstream. Keep it as indie as possible.
So, without further ado, let’s delve into the biggest Greendale conspiracy that goes all the way to slightly below the middle.
Annie (Alison Brie) just finished crafting her latest diorama and is presenting it to the study group. It’s a shoo-in for the Bio Diorama-Rama! Troy (Donald Glover) and Abed (Danny Pudi) decide to construct a pillow fort. This is the introduction of Fluffy Town, which is a precursor to the most devastating (and cushiony) civil war Greendale has ever seen. A bloodbath of goose down feathers, fleece blankets and satin pillows. Well, maybe not satin. That’s too opulent for the best community college in the western three quarters of the Greendale area.
Next, Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) barges into the study room and accuses Jeff (Joel McHale) of creating a fake class in night school for credit. Jeff insists that “Conspiracy Theories in US History” is a real course, and Professor Professorson is a legitimate teacher. Initially, Jeff leads Annie and the Dean to a supply closet under the guise that it was the classroom he reported to for night school. However, Professor Professorson (Kevin Corrigan) approaches from the shadows and corroborates Jeff’s claim. It’s real! It’s legit! And, quite frankly, it’s only a course that Professor P. Professorson has the stomach to teach.
Then, Jeff tells Annie that he fabricated the class. Oh, and he’s never seen Professorson before in his life. We’ve got a real conspiracy on our hands! A Community conspiracy that most definitely goes all the way to slightly below the middle!
Annie does some digging and uncovers yet another revelation: Professorson’s real name is actually Woolley. Woolley does teach night school though. They confront Woolley, but the professor makes a break for it. Annie and Jeff embark on a wild goose chase through a fully constructed Fluffy Town, complete with a Latvian Independence Day parade and some strange psychedelic room where Britta (Gillian Jacobs) is a willing occupant.
Jeff discovers that Woolley has been doing the Dean’s dirty work. But that’s not all — he’s actually drama professor Sean Garrity! We’re just getting incepted left and right, folks! Take that, Christopher Nolan!
Anyway, the Dean hired Garrity to teach Jeff a lesson. Also, night school doesn’t exist at Greendale. But now, it’s time to teach the Dean a lesson — Jeff Winger never learns and he never will.
Annie, Jeff and Garrity stage an elaborate double-crossing to scare the Dean. They utilize prop guns Garrity sourced from the drama department. Annie shoots Garrity. Then, the Dean shoots Annie (also with a prop gun). Jeff shoots the Dean with a prop gun. Finally, Annie whips out a “real gun” and shoots Jeff for manipulating her feelings. This time there’s fake blood, but the Dean is thoroughly convinced that Jeff is dead.
However, Jeff and Annie reveal that they teamed up to teach the Dean a lesson. Conspiracies and double-crossings are both slippery slopes. The Dean really just wanted to connect with the group, y’all! But wait — there’s more! Jeff and the Dean joined forces to impart Annie with a vital lesson about friendship and trust. But wait — there’s more upon more!
Suddenly, Officer Cackowski (Craig Cackowski) bursts into the room and shoots Garrity. Jeff, Annie and the Dean are bewildered by the act, but it was yet another lesson freely given. Garrity emerges unscathed. Cackowski reminds the crew that prop guns are not toys. They belong backstage, not onstage. Or something like that.
Later, Troy and Abed are upset that Fluffy Town has made it mainstream. Thus, the pair enact a protocol that ultimately destroys the pillow fort. Some things are just too good for widespread public knowledge.
The end credit scene features Troy and Abed playing a game wherein they each say one word to create a story. It’s adorable. The end credit scenes with Troy and Abed are my favorites. Side note: I don’t know about you, but I’ve been waiting with baited breath for Time Desk: The Chronicles of Dean Dangerous for a decade now. Would that this year were a … time year?
The one-liners and gags!
My favorite line from this episode, bar none, is: “Would that this hoodie were a time hoodie!” Rash is an international treasure and his performance in this episode is top-shelf. I sincerely cannot imagine anyone else playing Dean Pelton. Another favorite line of mine is from Cackowski: “Fact: in 100 percent of all fake gun shootings, the victim is always the one with the fake gun.” Although “love is not admissible evidence” from Cackowski’s unfinished “copera” (different episode) will always take the gold. Garrity’s “would that this desk were a time desk” is also perfect.
Here’s a good Troy line: “Enjoy eating fiber and watching The Mentalist.” I chuckled at that. That does sound like something a stuffy adult would enjoy doing on a Friday night … in 2010. Admittedly, there weren’t as many zingy one-liners in this episode as per Community‘s usual. “Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design” focuses more on delivering the plot and doling out fast-paced conspiracy team-ups from the gang. The Community Fandom page for this episode has a fantastic breakdown of the conspiracies as they unravel.
This isn’t a “gag” per se, but it is pervasive throughout the show. There are a handful of moments where the sexual tension between Annie and Jeff is so palpable you could probably cut it with a knife. Notably, when Jeff saves Annie from an “exploding” toy car in her diorama. Jeff collapses on top of Annie and an electrifying glance is shared. Annie brings up their kiss from Season One before she “shoots” Jeff while teaching the Dean a lesson. How Jeff essentially discarded her after the fact.
Then, by the episode’s end when Fluffy Town is crumbling around them, the pair share a charged stare. It’s brief but quite juicy for us Jeff and Annie fans. Their slow burn rivals Jim and Pam’s “will-they-won’t-they” from The Office, despite Jeff and Annie eventually parting ways.
Also worth noting: this is Garrity’s first appearance on the show! If you’ll recall, he later teaches an acting class that Troy and Britta join.
The time hoodie of it all!
“Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design” is one of Community‘s strongest outings. It’s easily in the top five for me. It’s rife with double-crossings upon double-crossings. There’s nothing more titillating than a good double-cross. The episode pokes fun at conspiracy theories and the folks who place their faith in them. Not to mention, Rash gives one of his best performances on the show with McHale and Brie right on his heels. It’s also unusual in that the majority of the cast is sidelined for most of the episode, which would normally be a non-starter for me. Especially since Community thrives when it actively utilizes its ensemble.
However, “Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design” works well with only a few core cast members involved. I loved the pillow fort B-story and how it intertwined with the A-story. Oftentimes shows like to keep their storylines separate, but it’s the Community-verse. Everything is connected!
This episode is Greendale zaniness at its best. Time hoodies, time desks, fake course listings and all. Oh, I signed up for “Learning!” but the teacher never showed. Do I still get a credit for it?
What do you love most about Community‘s “Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design”? Sound off in the comments below! Be sure to join me next week for another installment of Looking Streets Behind, where we’ll be temporarily deviating from the episodic deep dives. I won’t tell you what’s happening because duh-doy — spoilers!
Until then, stay streets ahead.
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