Paradigms of Human Memory

"Paradigms of Human Memory" is the 21st episode of the second season of Community. It was originally broadcast on April 21, 2011 on NBC.

"Paradigms of Human Memory"
Community episode
Episode no.Season 2
Episode 21
Directed byTristram Shapeero
Written byChris McKenna
Production code220
Original air dateApril 21, 2011 (2011-04-21)
Guest appearance(s)

Though it contained no material from previous episodes, the episode had the format of a clip show, parodying the genre and self-parodying many aspects of the show itself as the characters took a memory lane down the school year. In it, they point out each member's transgressions in the past year that have affected the group's stability. Jeff ends up giving one of his trademark speeches, and the group realizes that, having been through so much together, they can get through anything, despite their petty differences.

The episode was written by Chris McKenna and directed by Tristram Shapeero. It premiered to acclaim from television critics.


The study group are working on their final anthropology project of the semester in the library. Troy's (Donald Glover) monkey (Annie's Boobs) steals a paintbrush and escapes into an air conditioning vent. Chang (Ken Jeong) goes into the vent and retrieves a treasure trove of the group's lost items stolen by the monkey, including Annie's (Alison Brie) pen that caused the group to get into a heated argument in "Cooperative Calligraphy". Some of the items remind them of their adventures throughout the year.

They realize that the year hasn't been exactly a good one, with many unfortunate events occurring. Abed (Danny Pudi) then deduces that Jeff (Joel McHale) and Britta (Gillian Jacobs) have been hooking up secretly (since season one’s "Modern Warfare"), which angers the group, who point out various events where the two acted selfishly to the rest of the group. The two retaliate by recalling other events where each of the rest of the group behaved unscrupulously.

While they are arguing, Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) enters in a samba costume, at which Jeff points out the number of times he has walked in on the group in ridiculous costumes bearing irrelevant news. The Dean gets upset and leaves. Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) begs the group to stop fighting before they hurt themselves. Troy disagrees, saying that they should let it all out and never fight again. They then recall several identical instances within instances where the group argued among themselves to let it all out so that they would never fight again. Annie then concludes that the group is always fighting and will always be fighting.

As the group prepares to leave after completing the project, Jeff delivers another of his speeches, which is a montage of all the speeches he gave in the clips recalled by the group in the episode, saying that although the members of the group constantly hurt each other, "it's just the universe's way of molding us into some kind of super group." Everyone hugs and makes up. The group agrees that Jeff and Britta no longer have to keep their sexual relationship a secret, causing those two to immediately decide that they aren’t interested anymore.


"Paradigms of Human Memory" was written by Chris McKenna, his fifth writing credit for the series. It was directed by Tristram Shapeero, his fourth directing credit for the series.

Although the episode parodied clip shows, most of the clips were not actually flashbacks of the series' previous episodes, but new material. The episode featured a total of 75 scenes,[1] with 72 brand new "clips".[2] Apart from the claymation scene (which flashes back to "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas"), all the flashback clips were written and shot for the episode.[3] The clip featuring Jeff, Britta and Abed at the Halloween party (a flashback to "Epidemiology") was not filmed together with the original episode, and the set had to be recreated.[3]

Cultural references

The group's anthropology project, building a diorama of themselves building their previous diorama, was a dig at the show's own meta jokes.[2] Jeff also makes fun of Abed's constant meta-referencing, shouting "Why do you always have to take everything we do and shove it up its own ass?"[4] One section of the episode mocked Dean Pelton's over-the-top costumed entrances, and featured clips of him dressed as Catwoman, a Baroque artist, Tina Turner, as Julius Caesar promoting Caesar salad, and uttering "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a dean" from Gone with the Wind.[4]

In a clip, Britta interrupts Abed and Troy watching the premiere of The Cape by switching the television channel to the news broadcast of the Tunisian revolution.[2] Abed himself impersonated the series' lead character, Vince Faraday. Jeff's speech at the end noted Abed's disappointment at The Cape's cancellation.[4] The episode parodied Glee in another clip, although they performed a song which was lyric-less.[3][4] The multilayered flashbacks by Troy of the group arguing among each other resembled Inception's multilayered dream sequences.[5]

The episode also parodied fan-made "shipping" videos that used musical montages which use slow motion and sentimental music to make the scenes feel romantic.[3][4] The song "Gravity" by Sara Bareilles was used for the Jeff/Annie and Abed/Pierce montage scenes, and was based on an actual video creator Dan Harmon saw on YouTube.[6] Harmon spent $35,000 of his own money to purchase the rights to use the song.[6]

At the end of Jeff's speech, Troy interjects to compare the group to The Traveling Wilburys, a former rock supergroup composed of Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, and Roy Orbison.

Abed's T-shirt design worn throughout this episode is 'The Madness of Mission 6' by Travis Pitts.[7]



In its original broadcast on April 21, 2011, "Paradigms of Human Memory" was viewed by an estimated 3.17 million people, with a Nielsen rating of 1.4 in the 18–49 demographic.[8] It was the lowest rated episode of the first two seasons.


The episode received positive reviews from critics.

Jeffrey Kirkpatrick of TV Fanatic said "they can't really go wrong when they stick the dysfunctional seven in a room together and just let the cameras roll. Amping it up a notch with another parody only makes it that much stronger."[4] He praised the episode's self-deprecating parodies and gave it a 4.8/5 rating.[4] Kelsea Stahler of called the episode "especially hilarious" and that the clips "remind us of the characters' quirky, hilarious characteristics and put the trajectory of the show's season on display."[2] She added, "It was smart, it was pointed, it was well-written, and you know what? It was damn funny and that's really all you can ask for from a comedy."[2] Alan Sepinwall of HitFix said the episode was "an incredibly clever riff on the tradition of sitcom flashback episodes, but it also features some of the biggest laughs I've had at the show in quite some time, and it told an actual story about the study group in general and Jeff and Britta in particular. And it did so while commenting on how often the show tells these specific kinds of stories. Meta on top of meta on top of meta, with many gut-busting jokes piled high on top of that."[3] Emily VanDerWerff gave the episode a full "A" grade, and stated the episode "might be one of the funniest episodes Community has ever done... For an episode that spends a lot of time taking the piss out of other things... the ultimate joke is on the show itself, with a conclusion that is very consciously assembled to be the ultimate conclusion to the show's usual formula..."[5] Eric Goldman of IGN gave the episode 9.5 out of 10, lauding the episode's satirical resemblance to clip shows.


  1. "Season 2 Episode Guide". TV Fanatic. Retrieved June 22, 2010.
  2. Stahler, Kelsea (April 21, 2011). "'Community' Recap: Paradigms of Human Memory". Archived from the original on January 26, 2013. Retrieved June 22, 2011.
  3. Sepinwall, Alan (April 21, 2011). "Review: 'Community' - 'Paradigms of Human Memory': Remember the time?". HitFix. Retrieved June 22, 2011.
  4. Kirkpatrick, Jeffrey (April 21, 2011). "Community Review: The Mother of All Parodies". TV Fanatic. Retrieved June 22, 2011.
  5. VanDerWerff, Emily (April 21, 2011). "Paradigms Of Human Memory". The A.V. Club. Retrieved June 22, 2011.
  6. Harmon, Dan (2011). Community: The Complete Second Season Commentary for the Episode "Paradigms of Human Memory" (DVD).
  7. "The Madness of Mission 6". The Madness of Mission 6. Retrieved Feb 20, 2013.
  8. Seidman, Robert (April 22, 2011). "Thursday Final Ratings: 'Vampire Diaries,' 'American Idol' Adjusted Up; 'Community,' 'Parks & Recreation' Down". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved June 22, 2011.
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