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“Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations” is the Thanksgiving episode in this season of Community. This episode is split into two story lines.
One features Jeff and Britta meet Jeff’s estranged father. In the other, the rest of the study group goes to Shirley’s house for Thanksgiving dinner.
Jeff and Britta’s story is a continuation of the Halloween episode where Britta’s psychobabble convinced him to call his dad at the end of the episode. When the group meets up right before break, Jeff reveals that he is planning to spend Thanksgiving with his father and half-brother and Britta says she needs to go along. All of the emotions that will be welling up will need someone to guide them, after all. On Thanksgiving, Jeff arrives at his father’s house but panics before he can ring the doorbell. On his way home, Britta calls him and reveals that she is already at Jeff’s father’s house. Jeff decides to return and meets his father. He also meets his half-brother who is clearly freaking out because he believes that Jeff will replace him.
Jeff’s dad is giving him his side of the medical history and Jeff is asking questions about his health. While this is going on, Britta tries to help Jeff’s half-brother by role playing with a dinner roll. This is when Jeff learned that his dad did not stay with the half-brother because he wanted to, but because the second wife died and he got stuck. Jeff’s dad then tries to take credit for Jeff’s strength, saying that if he had not left then Jeff would have ended up weak like his half-brother. Jeff disagrees and leaves, but his brother has snuck into the back seat of his car and asks Jeff to teach him how to be like him. Jeff realizes he wants to tell his father all the ways that his father made him emotionally crippled and turns around. Jeff then gives his father that episode’s Winger speech listing all the ways he is damaged because of his father.
As for the rest of the group, Shirley invited everyone to her house for Thanksgiving. Everyone except for Jeff and Britta decide to go. They show up at her house with a puffy seven layer dip that Abed has been saving for a special occasion for two years. Not long after arriving, everyone is hiding in the garage. Abed decides that this is like a prison movie and decides to come up with an appropriate break out plan, casting Shirley as the warden.
Shirley finds them in the garage and guilts them into coming back in. This leads to Annie trying to feign menstrual problems, but Shirley’s sister-in-law is a gynecologist so this backfires terribly. They decide that the only way to survive is to tag team Turkey Day. They each take turns braving Shirley’s in-laws. Eventually Pierce loses it and decides he is going to fake breaking a hip, but everyone laughs and Pierce gets into the performance. Abed, Annie and Troy get desperate and decide they are going to eat the seven layer dip so they can get sick and leave. Shirley catches them and apologizes. She had invited them to be a buffer between her and her in-laws. Without her husband present, she is even more the butt of the family jokes than usual. They decide they have to stay in order to help Shirley deal with her family. At the end of the episode, the group returns to the study room and Jeff has set up a gorgeous Thanksgiving meal. He decided that to make up for their crappy Thanksgivings, they should have a nice one with their chosen family.