Featuring: Dudes Whose Faces I Am Genuinely Not Even A Little Bit Attracted To, No Really, This Is Not Like That Time I Told You I Only Appreciated Billy Burke As Half Of A Ship
Since my heart & soul are officially dead and closed off to fictional love that matters, I've thrown my lot in with comedies. Comedies that have ended and done all the things they are going to do and can't hurt me any more. And to my pleasant surprise, without even looking for it, I have been really charmed by some relationships I see.
I eventually got past my grudge against Andy Torres and have recently come to really admire his & Ellie's marriage, which is pretty much how I envision my ideal marriage with a realism filter: my husband is a sunshiney pushover whom I can never genuinely hurt because he adores me and is sufficiently secure in my love for him, whilst I am bossy, acerbic and judgmental except on rare occasions in private, and it's all just part of my charm. (lazing about being a stay at home mom with a nanny until I get bored enough to go back to work also seems like a good deal)
Jules & Grayson
However, lately I have found myself fascinated by the opposite demeanors of Grayson and Jules. I love how controlling and assertive and kinda crazy she is, and how he has this immense well of patience for it, which often manifests in sighing and resignation to riding out whatever wave of over-enthusiasm she's on, just trying not to get caught in the middle of it. But I also like that it is not a limitless well, and there are times he genuinely gets upset. I am really fond of her face when she realizes she's gone too far and needs to either compromise or make up for a genuine misstep.
What I like even more is when she's genuinely upset (ideally from outside sources, like Travis growing up and abandoning her), and he is her rock. Because he's a pretty amazing rock. For someone who is so thoroughly Typical Dude, a great candidate for any random sitcom "husband" character who would never say sweepingly romantic things like Jim Halpert or McDreamy...he is really good at just Being There.
(And then sometimes, out of nowhere, he pulls off Halpert moves anyway. How does that happen? Like that time he found a way to grant her wish of hearing what people would say about her at her own funeral.)
The Former Mr. & Mrs
I really admire this show's ability to make me handwave divorce after nearly 20 years of marriage. Like, nowhere in the history of the universe have I believed couples, real or fictional, who say they split on good terms/are still great friends. Either I literally don't believe them, or I cannot for the life of me understand why they got divorced. But here, it totally makes sense. I can see what attracted Jules to Bobby AND why she'd marry him, and yet also think divorce was the right decision because you can see when she's met the great love of her life. It's almost like that lesson HIMYM tried to teach me about having more than one great love in a lifetime, but successful.
Jeff & Annie
I've been talking about shipping them since season 1, but the truth is I have always only ever been as invested in them as the show was, which means in the latter half of said series I forgot they were even a thing and when earlier seasons reference it, it tends to feel weird and uncomfortable. I like the idea as a passing fancy, but it's hard for me to believe people in the fandom genuinely ship them as much as I would ship a canon couple on any other show.
However, there are two episodes so far in my Random Order Rewatch where their chemistry really stands out to me:
1. the moment where the blankets fall on them in the pillow fort episode and they subconsciously lean toward each other while ducking down. I think it's literally just the pattern of the sheets, but it's like watching an artistic graphic come to life. That is a terrible way to describe it, but the beauty of those few seconds defies words.
2. The timeline in "Remedial Chaos Theory" where they end up kissing and it's just AMAZINGLY organic and right in a way that no other timeline has really captured. I have not seen such a pretty kiss in some time, and frankly did not know either one of them had it in them to accomplish such. I mean, the Darkest Timeline kissing is hilarious and thoroughly enjoyable, but is also pure show and zero percent emotion (unless "evil" is an emotion).
I'm told I have something to look forward to in the series finale, and I'm curious to see how I will react to it now that I've been reminded I can in fact ship them in ways that are not just for show.
And now, in a departure from the romantic stuff...
The Abed Paradox
I have come a long way from my original "stay on the fringes before I'm tempted to attack you, aggravating weirdo" feelings about him. I haven't really grown as a person, I've just calibrated him down to "possible woobie in need of protecting," but as long as it keeps my mood on an even keel I figure it's OK. This feeling brought to you by:
Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas: Britta's heart-punching emotional plea about trying to help him ("They will kick you out of school") + "She comes every year. December 9th." (BRB CRYING FOREVER) (to this day that is like the saddest abandonment story I have ever seen written. I'm still trying to wrap my head around the idea of someone actually writing "I have a new family now" to their own kid)
6x04, Queer Studies and Advanced Waxing: four years later, "The mother won't come back." (CRYING FOREVER x2)
3x12, Contemporary Impressionists: Troy going from a gung-ho supporter of "he's in a world of imagination and it's beautiful, don't you take that away from him!" to being genuinely frustrated at Abed's casual dismissal of the fact that his friends just went all out to pay off a sizable debt for him, apparently oblivious to the seriousness of it. There are so many episodes where, TV references aside, you forget that there's anything different about Abed, but I really like whenever he references something about what they've told him friendship is. When Abed leaves the conversation, he's upset but it's in such a subtle, quiet, controlled way that...I lack sufficient words to continue explaining it, but my brain wants to chew on that for a while.
3x14, Pillows and Blankets: Troy's wartime cut to the quick: what I know, but you don't know, because you have mental issues, is that you're never going to have another friend.
And the detailed story behind it:
Troy: What about your email?
Abed: You weren't supposed to see that.
Troy: You weren't supposed to think those things.
Gosh, it's almost more painful when Abed hurts people. (discounting that season 2 episode where the girls weaponize his power of observational insult, which I maintain was a national treasure)
3x16 (wow, this was a real theme this season huh?), Virtual Systems Analysis: Abed mentally placing himself in a locker, to Annie's heartbroken dismay. Per the Community Wiki: Abed explains this is where he spent a lot of time in junior high. He says that this is where people like him get put when everyone is fed up with them.
3x20, Introduction to Finality: Since I'm pretty sure Evil Abed does not actually appear as a separate entity in this timeline...man, Abed goes dark here, and it's kind of terrifying that no one ever realizes how much.
Lava World: "It's not a game for me." Still one of the most heartbreakingly vulnerable scenes in series history.
[edit: in retrospect, having come this far there is probably more to unpack in seasons 4 & 5 at the very least -- like, I have not even touched on the tiny forays the show has made into romantic interests for him -- but I'm running out of steam, so perhaps another day]
6x10, Basic RV Repair and Palmistry: I have yet to ~officially~ review this episode, but when I was rewatching it last night, I realized that he looks genuinely scared after Jeff gets all slap-happy in telling him to SNAP OUT OF IT. "I don't know how, I'm oversaturated with the gimmick, I don't know what's real." (bt-dubs LET ME LOVE YOU.gif; and remind me to talk about this in more detail when I do the review because holy cow do I want to unpack this moment)
And a bonus moment: in the first Christmas episode, Abed's hero-worship mode after Jeff defends him against a pornstached meathead*. I had totally forgotten it because I hadn't seen that episode in years, and then probably only once. Y'all know I can never resist a good Protector of the Small trope! (if that is not an official TV Trope, by the way, IT SHOULD BE. Origins: Tamora Pierce quartet)
*this makes the multiple season 6 episodes where Jeff gets violent toward Abed that much more soul-punchy. (HAS TUMBLR GIFFED THIS COMPARISON YET??)
In Sum: Despite the flippant way I started this section, I've talked myself into a serious place. I think Abed is working far harder than I ever give him credit for in maintaining his friendship with people other than Troy, and I've developed a keen new interest in how he processes & expresses emotions. Someone once took offense to my rhetorical question about Abed showing "genuine emotion" in a season 4 episode, pointing out that this was an inaccurate analysis of his character. I did not feel inclined to concede at the time, but I will now. This was a really great, complex, important character to introduce to the television landscape, and I'm quite impressed he exists.
In related news, I found this thread on Reddit: Which TV/Film Moments Make You Cry Like A Little Girl? (warning: unmarked spoilers for everything everywhere), and now I am just awash in happy memories of the good kind of emotional anguish that TV apparently no longer is in the business of producing, having instead chosen the path of "emotionally destructive havoc that makes you rage."