Director: Joe Russo — Writer: Andrew Guest — Aired: May 5, 2011 —Season: Two — Number: Twenty-Three Summary: Greendale's annual paintball competition begins as a mysterious new player debuts. However, before the study group can compete for the prize they must first deal with a more personal conflict.
At Greendale, Neil is being chased through the hallways by Mike and his gang who are armed with paintball pistols. He finds himself at a dead end as his pursuers catch up to him. Mike taunts him but fails to notice Annie sneak up behind him. Armed with paintball weapons of her own, she quickly shoots Mike and his gang. After they leave she collects all their ammunition. Neil reaches for one of the guns but Annie tells him to back away from it. After he pleading with her, Annie allows him to keep it and turns to leave. However, Neil attempts to shoot her in the back and Annie ends up eliminating him as well. Returning to her hideout in the science lab, Annie cooks herself some beans and recalls how this year's paintball contest started.
Annie's got her guns.
It all began with the western themed end of the school year picnic. Dean Pelton announced that a quick game of Paintball Assassin would take place, assuring everyone that it would not spiral out of control like last year's. A mascot from "Pistol Patty's Cowboy Creamery", the sponsor of the event, announced the prize: one hundred thousand dollars. Chaos soon breaks out as the contest begins. Annie's thoughts are interrupted when the perimeter alarm she had set up is triggered. Unexpectedly, Abed appears with an invitation; he tells her that Jeff wants her to join them as he has a plan which could be mutually beneficial.
The study group at the end of the year picnic.
Meanwhile, Jeff and Chang are being hunted by the math club in the library. Finding themselves cornered, Chang decides to betray Jeff, letting the other side know he is out of ammo. Abed then arrives along with Annie and rescues Jeff. Chang is able to get away during the brief battle. Jeff tells Annie his plan, hearing a rumor that Pierce has a stockpile of paintball ammo. Jeff wants to team up, so they can take it from him. They begin to argue about Pierce as Annie defends his behavior over the past year. Jeff counters that she's the only one who sees the good in him. The discussion is interrupted by the dramatic appearance of a new player who attacks them.
The Black Rider attacks.
They barely manage to escape only to stumble onto an ambush set up by the rest of the study group led by Britta. They are now working for Pierce who has put a bounty on Jeff's head. They escort them to Fort Hawthorne, a safe haven from the paintball competition set up by Pierce inside the cafeteria. The trio learns that the new player is nicknamed "The Black Rider" and has been racking up an impressive elimination count. They are all greeted warmly by Pierce, although Jeff and the others still question his sincerity. He tells the group that Dean Pelton has more paintball ammunition in his office and wants them to recover it. He trusts only them for the job and says that he wants to win this game as a team and split the prize evenly.
"My forehead's not that big, right?"
The study group goes on the mission, and Jeff apologizes to Annie for his attitude towards Pierce. Annie confides that she thinks of the study group as her family and doesn't want to see it broken up. After Jeff reassures her, she hears voices in a nearby room and goes to investigate. She finds Chang about to be eliminated execution style by a Greendale cheerleader squad. Apparently, he had formed an alliance with them and then betrayed them as well. Annie uses up the last of her ammo to dispose of the spirit squad. She then borrows Jeff's gun to pursue Chang who had fled the scene.
The study group arrives at Fort Hawthorne.
She loses Chang's trail after entering the Anthropology classroom and ends up having The Black Rider sneak up behind her. He relieves her of her weapon, and after a bit of flirting, he tells her he'll make her elimination as painless as possible. Using Jeff's gun, he tries to shoot her in the foot, but it turns out to be empty. Abed and Jeff show up, and The Black Rider attempts to use Annie as a shield. She escapes, and a brief gun battle ensues with Jeff and Abed managing to chase off The Black Rider. Meanwhile, Annie takes a closer look at Jeff's gun and discovers that it's been loaded with blanks. The trio then leave to catch up with the rest of the study group.
The Black Rider gets the drop on Annie.
When the study group reaches the Dean's office, they find various paintball paraphernalia from the previous competition. Annie seizes Chang's paintball gun from last year's game and storms off. Arriving at a deserted Camp Hawthorne, they learn from Vicki that The Black Rider was just there and had eliminated most of the players. Annie finds Pierce survived the onslaught and calls him out over his actions. He angrily responds that the group makes him out to be a villain since they constantly exclude him from their activities. He points out how they didn't invite him to a card game they were playing three days ago.
The study group confronts Pierce.
Annie sadly explains to Pierce that it wasn't a card game: it was a vote. They were voting on whether or not Pierce would be allowed to return to the study group next year. It had to be unanimous though, and Annie was the lone holdout. She tosses Pierce a paintball gun and challenges him to a duel to settle the matter once and for all. Realizing he's just lost the only ally he had within the group, Pierce resignedly picks up the weapon. The two face off as the rest of the study group watches on. The intense atmosphere is broken when The Black Rider makes his presence known and disrupts the confrontation.
The group takes a vote using playing cards.
Jeff asks that he let them resolve this conflict before he does anything else. The Black Rider agrees but warns that as soon as it is over, he'll eliminate everyone in the room starting with Jeff. The showdown becomes a four way contest after Jeff challenges The Black Rider to a duel as well. During the standoff, Pierce suddenly collapses, claiming he is having a heart attack. Despite being warned by the study group that he is faking, The Black Rider goes to help him only to get shot by Pierce. Pierce grabs the riders shot gun and exits, announcing to everyone that he has officially quit the study group. The Black Rider then calls someone on his cell phone and tells them he's been eliminated. As he leaves, he hints there are sinister forces behind this year's paintball tournament.
Four way duel.
Meanwhile, Chang is outside on the quad trying to find a new alliance to join. Behind him, a window on the parked "Pistol Patty's Cowboy Creamery" ice cream truck opens up. A paintball gatling gun emerges, and Chang is shot repeatedly. The back of the van opens up, and a commando team armed with paintball guns exits. The "Pistol Patty" mascot is the last to leave. The commandos turn and kneel as Patty addresses them. Pistol Patty then declares "Initiate Plan B, Operation:Total Invasion!".
The end tag for this episode was a sneak preview of next week's episode which continues the story. In it, we see that it's Dean Spreck and City College invading the Greendale campus as the study group along with the rest of the student body try to fight back.
Recurring or debuting plot points in this episode:
That just happened:
Fat Neil mentions how he and Annie played Dungeons and Dragons together recently. Later in the episode, when the group first confronts Pierce, Abed says, "You raped the Duquesne family" which Pierce did in the D&D episode.
Replay: When the study group meets at the Fort Hawthorne to hear Pierce's proposal, they mirror the usual arrangement they sit in the Study Room with the exception that Jeff and Pierce have switched places. This shows that Pierce is in control instead of Jeff who normally leads.
Fan service/Annie's boobs: Annie's modified saloon girl outfit. Annie runs in slow motion down a hallway in the low cut outfit. The Black Rider also makes a reference to Annie's chest when she gets flustered with him.
Fivehead: Jeff objects to the slightly exaggerated forehead on his Wanted poster.
Gay, he's so gay!: Pierce puts a bounty on Jeff, and the Wanted poster reads "GAY AND ALIVE". He also suggests that Jeff may enjoy watching the male dancer at Fort Hawthorne, rather than the female one.
Man crush: Dean Pelton tries to get Jeff to get the key to the storage closet out of the front pocket of his shorts.
Current events: When Pierce quits the study group, he yells out "I'm winning!", a reference to Charlie Sheen who at the time had made those words popular with an infamous rant he posted online in reaction to his firing from "Two and a Half Men".
The fire appearing behind Abed when he takes out the Math Club members.
The duel between Pierce, Annie, Jeff, and The Black Rider which is very similar to the duel between the three main characters at the end of "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly".
The Black Rider calls Annie "Bean Allergy". This is a possible reference to the fact that Josh Holloway's character Sawyer would frequently call other characters by a nickname on "Lost."
Abed calls the Black Rider "network TV good-looking", a reference to Holloway's many acting roles on network TV.
On the Community The Complete Second Season DVD commentaries, director Joe Russo mentions that the flaming fire cans outside "Fort Hawthorne" emitted noxious gases which resulted in stoppages in filming so the studio roof could be opened to allow fresh air to enter.
The title of this episode is sometimes written as A Fist Full of Paintballs, such as on Netflix.
“My forehead's not that big, right?”— Jeff
“It's not small.”— Troy
“You think you're good-looking, but you're not. You're average. You're just an average-looking guy with a big chin.”— Jeff to The Black Rider'