|Episode no.||Season 1|
|Directed by||Justin Lin|
|Written by||Emily Cutler|
|Original air date||May 6, 2010|
"Modern Warfare" is the twenty-third episode of the first season of Community and originally premiered on May 6, 2010, on NBC. In the episode, after the Dean announces the prize for a friendly game of paintball, Greendale sinks into a state of all-out paintball war, with every student battling for supremacy. During the chaos, Jeff's study group teams up in order to last longer in the game. Meanwhile, Jeff and Britta confront their unresolved sexual tension.
The episode was written by Emily Cutler and directed by Justin Lin. The episode's plot is a pastiche of multiple action movies, such as Battle Royale, Pitch Black, The Matrix, Die Hard, Terminator, 28 Days Later, The Warriors, Rambo, Predator, and the films of John Carpenter and John Woo. The episode came third in its timeslot and received universal critical acclaim from critics praising its writing, direction, and performances; it is often ranked among the show's greatest episodes. Two paintball sequels followed this episode: the two-part season 2 finale ("A Fistful of Paintballs" and "For a Few Paintballs More"), and season 6's "Modern Espionage".
Jeff (Joel McHale) and Britta (Gillian Jacobs) enter the study room arguing. The rest of the study group complains, and Abed (Danny Pudi) explains that Jeff and Britta's sexual tension is dividing the group. Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) announces a game of "Paintball Assassin" with a prize to be determined. Jeff leaves to nap in his car. An hour later, he awakens to a seemingly abandoned campus with paint everywhere. Inside, Leonard (Richard Erdman) attacks Jeff with paintballs. Jeff flees and runs into Abed, who shoots Leonard.
Abed takes Jeff to the base he shares with Troy (Donald Glover). Abed and Troy explain that the prize—priority registration for classes next semester—caused the game to escalate. While they realize only one person can ultimately win, they convince Jeff to join them. After eliminating the chess team, the three run into Pierce (Chevy Chase) and Star-Burns (Dino Stamatopoulos). Pierce eagerly betrays Star-Burns and joins them. Jeff, Troy and Abed take a bathroom break but find themselves in a trap set by Britta, Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown), and Annie (Alison Brie), who have joined forces. Caught in a Mexican stand-off, Abed insists that all seven of them should work together. The group, newly unified, heads outside, where the glee club attacks and shoots Troy, Annie, and Pierce before the other group members shoot them. The four survivors return to the cafeteria. Shirley says she would use priority registration to take morning classes and spend more time with her sons. Britta proposes that the winner should give the prize to Shirley. Jeff calls Britta phony for her proposal, but before they can keep arguing, the four are attacked by disco-themed roller skaters. The study group wins, but Shirley and Abed are eliminated and Jeff is injured.
In the study room, Britta bandages Jeff's injury, and they each acknowledge the other's good sides. In the heat of the moment (and to serve the rest of the group right), they have sex there, relieving their tension. Afterwards, Britta unsuccessfully tries to betray Jeff before Señor Chang (Ken Jeong)—employed by the Dean to take out any remaining students—barges into the room. Britta sacrifices herself to eliminate Chang, who reveals there is no priority registration and triggers several paint bombs strapped to his chest. Jeff narrowly escapes the blast and heads for the Dean's office. Outraged, he forces the Dean to give him priority registration. Later, Britta and Jeff agree to pretend they didn't hook up, which is almost foiled by Abed's insistence that something has changed. Jeff gives the priority registration form to Shirley, surprising Britta.
The episode was written by Emily Cutler and directed by Justin Lin, his third directing credit for the season and series.
In addition, Abed comments that Jeff and Britta's relationship lacks the heart and soul of Ross Geller and Rachel Green's relationship from the television series Friends, and that of Sam Malone and Diane Chambers from Cheers.
Chang's entry into the fight is reminiscent of Scarface, and his "self-destruct" is similar to the Predator's demise at the end of the film Predator. The opening scene refers to 28 Days Later.
When the roller-skating-disco-junkies come and attack the group, Shirley makes a little speech, inspired by Eli's quote just before a fight scene from The Book of Eli. She is shot by a girl from behind before finishing it. Jeff refers to the first disco fan as Disco Stu, a character from The Simpsons. Disco Stu's chant of "Come out to play-yay" is a reference to the final scene from The Warriors, when Luther taunts the Warriors at Coney Island.
Jeff's line "Uh-oh. No paintballs, Hans? What do you think, I’m stupid?" is a direct reference to Die Hard, when John McClane says "Ooops, no bullets. What do you think, I’m fucking stupid, Hans?"
"Modern Warfare" first aired on NBC on May 6, 2010. In its original American broadcast, the episode was viewed by an estimated 4.35 million viewers, and it scored a 2.0 rating in the 18- to 49-year-old demographic according to Nielsen (Nielsen ratings are audience measurement systems that determine the audience size and composition of television programming in the United States); this means that 2.0 percent of all households with viewers aged 18 to 49 years old were watching television at the time of the episodes' airing.
The episode received much acclaim from critics. Jonah Krakow of IGN gave the episode a 9.7 out 10, calling it "Incredible," and also stated: "Most sitcoms don't have as many water-cooler moments as serialized adventure shows like Lost or 24, but I know this episode of Community will be an exception." Emily VanDerWerff of The A.V. Club gave the episode an A and called it "one of the best episodes of TV of the season", praising it for feeling "both very funny and very serious" and for including strong character moments. Jason Hughes gave the episode a positive review, noting that "like most action movies, there isn't a whole lot more to say about the plot. But, like action movies, it was a hell of a lot of fun to watch it all go down." Sean Gandert of Paste gave the episode a 9.1/10, calling it "phenomenal" and describing it as within "spitting distance" of being the best episode of the season.
TIME critic James Poniewozik named "Modern Warfare" the third best TV episode of 2010, writing "A lot of sitcoms can make you laugh. It's a rare one that can so fully share the sense of joy its cast, writers and crew have in making the show." For his work on the episode, Lin was nominated for a NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series.
In TV.com's ranking of all 110 episodes of the series, they placed the episode third overall, and wrote "one of the purest expressions of genre appreciation and compact sitcom storytelling that we've seen on broadcast TV in the 21st century." Chancellor Agard of Entertainment Weekly also ranked it as the show's third-best episode, noting it "set the bar for all the great Community genre parodies that followed", while Jordan Moreau of Variety included it in his list of the show's 12 best episodes.
"Modern Warfare" was the first of several Community episodes centered around paintball.
The second season features paintball in "A Fistful of Paintballs" and "For a Few Paintballs More", which served as the two-part finale of the season. The first part paid homage Western films, particularly Spaghetti Westerns, and the second was an homage to Star Wars. Both were well received by critics.
The finale of the fourth season, "Advanced Introduction to Finality", sees the study group face off against the evil versions of themselves in a paintball match.
The third and fifth seasons do not feature paintball episodes, but the third-season episode "Curriculum Unavailable" features a fake flashback to a paintball match with a gangster film theme. Some critics noted that the fifth-season episode "Geothermal Escapism", which features a school-wide match of "Hot Lava", had a similar spirit to the paintball episodes.
- Lee 2014, p. 7.
- Lee 2014, p. 141.
- Lee 2014, p. 144.
- Jonah Krakow (May 7, 2010). "Community: "Modern Warfare" Review". IGN.com. Archived from the original on May 9, 2010. Retrieved May 28, 2020.
- Ponto, Arya (March 19, 2012). ""The Hunger Games" and the Bloody Legacy of "Battle Royale"". Just Press Play. Retrieved 3 April 2012.
- Jason Hughes (May 6, 2010). "'Community' - 'Modern Warfare' Recap". TVSquad.com. Archived from the original on May 10, 2010. Retrieved May 28, 2020.
- Lee 2014, p. 145.
- Lee 2014, p. 140.
- Seidman, Robert (May 7, 2010). "Thursday Finals: "Survivor," "Bones," Adjusted Up; "30 Rock" Adjusted Down". TV by the Numbers. Zap2it. Archived from the original on May 9, 2010. Retrieved May 28, 2020.
- VanDerWerff, Emily (May 7, 2010). "Community: "Modern Warfare"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved May 13, 2020.
- Gandert, Sean (May 7, 2010). "Community Review: Modern Warfare (1.23)". Paste. Retrieved August 16, 2010.
- Poniewozik, James (December 9, 2010). "The Top 10 Everything of 2010". TIME. Archived from the original on December 12, 2010. Retrieved December 15, 2010.
- Finke, Nikki (January 12, 2011). "2011 NAACP Image Award Film/TV Noms". Deadline. Retrieved May 13, 2020.
- Barker, Cory (June 11, 2015). "Greendale Forever: Ranking ALL The Episodes of Community (TIER 1: The Best of the Best)". TV.com. Retrieved October 9, 2018.
- Agard, Chancellor (April 3, 2020). "The 15 best episodes of Community". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved May 13, 2020.
- Moreau, Jordan (April 22, 2020). "The 12 Best Episodes of 'Community' to Watch on Netflix and Hulu". Variety. Retrieved May 13, 2020.
- Hedash, Kara (June 10, 2020). "Community: Every Paintball Episode & Game In The Show". Screen Rant. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
- Snierson, Dan (April 29, 2011). "'Community': Guest star Josh Holloway talks paintball season finale". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
- For more on "A Fistful of Paintballs", see:
- Goldman, Eric (May 6, 2011). "Community: "A Fistful of Paintballs" Review". IGN. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
- VanDerWerff, Emily (May 6, 2011). "Community: "A Fistful of Paintballs"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
- Kurp, Joshua (May 6, 2011). "Community Recap: 'A Fistful of Paintballs'". Vulture. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
- For more on "For a Few Paintballs More", see:
- VanDerWerff, Emily (May 12, 2011). "Community: "For A Few Paintballs More"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
- Kurp, Joshua (May 13, 2011). "Community Recap: 'For a Few Paintballs More'". Vulture. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
- Matthews, Emma (May 16, 2011). "Community season 2 episode 24 review: For A Few Paintballs More: season finale". Den of Geek. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
- Snierson, Dan (April 30, 2015). "'Arrested Development' creator Mitchell Hurwitz returns to 'Community' in paintball episode". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
- For more on "Modern Espionage", see:
- Gandert, Sean (May 21, 2015). "Community Review: "Modern Espionage"". Paste. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
- Alston, Joshua (May 19, 2015). "Community: "Modern Espionage"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
- Goldman, Eric (May 20, 2015). "Community: "Modern Espionage" Review". IGN. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
- Canning, Robert (May 11, 2012). "Community: "Curriculum Unavailable" Review". IGN. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
- Franich, Darren (March 17, 2015). "'Community': 10 essential episodes". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
- Van Winkle, Dan (January 24, 2014). "Community Report Season 5 Episode 5 "Geothermal Escapism"". The Mary Sue. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
- O'Malley, Nick (January 24, 2014). "TV review: 'Community' puts together one of its greatest episodes in final episode for Donald Glover, 'Geothermal Escapism'". Mass Live. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
- Lee, Ann-Gee, ed. (2014). A Sense of Community: Essays on the Television Series and Its Fandom. McFarland & Company. ISBN 9781476615714.