Community Wiki
Community Wiki


You said he wasn't going to replace me. He's the Schwarzenegger, I'm a De Vito I get it!
Willy Jr.
After another study session is over, the study group discuss their plans for Thanksgiving. Shirley invites everyone to her house for dinner with her in laws and Annie, Pierce, Troy and Abed are eager to attend. Jeff says he already has plans just as Dean Pelton arrives with his own invitation for the group to a "Thanks Living Day potluck dinner" at school. Pelton then lets slip some information he obtained after having read Jeff's e-mails. He reveals to the study group that Jeff plans on having Thanksgiving dinner with his father, William Winger and his half-brother Willy junior. Everyone is shocked while Britta is ecstatic believing their conversation on Halloween was responsible for this. When she offers her services as a therapist to assist him in the reunion, Jeff adamantly refuses.

4X5 Britta gloats
Britta celebrates that she helped Jeff
deal with his daddy issues.
On Thanksgiving Day, Jeff arrives at his father's place, but cannot bring himself to knock on the door and instead jumps back into his Lexus and drives away. Over at Shirley's house, Troy, Annie, Abed and Pierce show up for the dinner. They briefly meet Shirley's father-in-law and Abed gives her a seven layer bean dip he got two years ago from Señor Kevin's. Meanwhile, Jeff calls Britta while driving and lies about having gotten closure with his father. He then fesses up about running away only to discover that she is there at William's place. Back at Shirley's house, the rest of the study group is having a hard time dealing with all of Shirley's in-laws. They gather in the garage to discuss their options and Abed suggests they need to do a prison break.

4X5 Wingingit
Jeff arrives at his father's house.
Meanwhile, Jeff returns to William's house greeted by Britta. She apologizes for meddling in his affairs but says she sincerely wants to help him through this. Jeff again walks to the entrance of the house but this time knocks. The door opens and he finally comes face to face with his father William. The two quickly determine ground rules for the reunion not wanting this to turn into an overly emotional affair. Jeff then meets his half-brother Willy Junior who is intimidated by his presence and leaves the room upset. Britta offers to go see to him so that Jeff and William can spend time together. Back at Shirley's house, the other study group members are trying to figure out a way to escape. Annie tries to fake being sick due to being on her period but her ruse is foiled when Shirley takes her to see a relative who is a doctor.

4X5 William Winger finally appears
Introducing William Winger.
At William Winger's home, Britta and Willy Jr. are setting the table for Thanksgiving dinner while William and Jeff talk. Willy becomes upset by their bonding and storms off. At the same time, the other study group members are holed up in the garage taking turns to go interact with Shirley's relatives. Although they manage to entertain themselves the captivity starts to get to them and Pierce attempts to fake an injury so he can go. Instead, he ends up entertaining everyone and elects to stay. In desperation, Troy proposes to Annie and Abed that they eat the Señor Kevin's bean dip to get legitimately sick so they can leave. Meanwhile, William suggests to Jeff that abandoning him was actually a good thing considering how well-adjusted he turned out. Jeff is angered by his comment and leaves.

4X5 Jeff and William
Jeff and William have an after dinner chat.
Elsewhere, Troy, Annie and Abed are about to eat the bean dip when they are stopped by Shirley. She earns their sympathy after revealing that she invited them as a buffer since she is a target of her in-laws ridicule. Meanwhile, Jeff is driving away in his Lexus and is shocked when Willy Jr. pops out from the backseat. He begs Jeff to teach him how to be more uncaring like he is. Jeff tells him he shouldn't pretend not to not care because it just lets their father off the hook for being a terrible parent. He then realizes that's what he is doing himself and resolves to confront his father again. Meanwhile, Troy, Annie and Abed come up with a plan to help Shirley sneak out of the house. She appreciates the thought but tells them that despite how they treat her they are still her family. She gives them an out to leave but they all decide to stay and support her.

4X5 Jeff stops running
Willy Jr. helps Jeff realize that he
needs to go back and face his father again.
At the Winger residence, Jeff returns with Willy Jr. and confronts William. He finally unloads all his anger and bitterness he has towards his father explaining how his absence negatively affected him all these years. Having finally gotten closure, he and Brita leave and once outside in his Lexus he sincerely thanks her for the help. Willy Jr. then shows up and thanks Jeff too, entering through the car window and embracing him in a hug. Sometime later at school, the study group returns to the study room and find that Jeff has a surprise for them. Having heard their holiday sucked too, he set up a special Thanksgiving dinner for them inside. Dean Pelton is invited as well and everyone digs in enjoying the dinner and celebrating the family they've all chosen to be a part of.

4X5 Study group Thanksgiving
Jeff celebrates Thanksgiving with his real family.

End tag[]

Shirley is doing laundry in her garage and humming the song "Daybreak" when she notices a slight breeze coming from behind the "Shirley's Sandwiches" poster. She looks behind it and discovers a hole in the wall that Abed made to escape from her Thanksgiving dinner. Instead of being angry she states she'll have to remember that the escape route is there when Thanksgiving rolls around next year.

Recurring themes[]


  • Previously:
  • Climax: This episode is the end of Jeff's story arc with his father that has been hinted at since Season One.
  • That just happened:
    • In "Paranormal Parentage" it's revealed Jeff located his dad and Britta tries to convince him to get closure with his father.
    • The Dean mentions listening through Jeff's walls; he became Jeff's neighbor in "History 101."
  • First appearance: Jeff's often mentioned father William Winger is finally introduced in this episode as is his half-brother Willy Jr.
  • History lesson:
    • Jeff fills in his father about his past as a fake lawyer while William tries to regale him with a tale about how he impersonated Ralph Lauren before he is interrupted by Willy. He then tells Jeff how his half-brother's mom died twenty years ago and that despite his best efforts Willy Jr. hasn't matured.
    • Pictures of the study group can be seen at Shirley's including one of them (minus Pierce) in Halloween costumes from "Introduction to Statistics" on her fridge in the garage.
  • Replay:
    • Shirley's response to Pierce agreeing to go to her Thanksgiving dinner echoes Annie's response to Shirley when she volunteered to do Senior pranks with her in "History 101." Both had actually intended for Jeff to join them and were disappointed when someone else volunteered. Dean Pelton then repeats the same response when inviting everyone to the "Thanks Living" pot luck.
    • William Winger decides to fake a heart attack just like Pierce had done before in "A Fistful of Paintballs" and "Advanced Gay."
  • A sweet ride: Jeff's Lexus returns in this episode.
  • Discontinuity:
    • Abed is shown having difficulty moving the light weight Troy had been curling. In "The Politics of Human Sexuality," Abed has been shown to be surprisingly athletic and Troy's superior in a number of different athletic contests, including arm wrestling. 
    • Pierce for some reason never considers spending Thanksgiving with his newly-discovered half-brother Gilbert Lawson.
  • School song:
  • School supplies:
  • School uniform: Shirley's apron that she used in the Season Three episode "Remedial Chaos Theory" is seen again in this episode.
  • This must be the place: Shirley's house, William Winger's house, and Group Study Room F are all seen in this episode.
  • Winger speech:
    • William attempts a classic Winger speech after saying he did good by abandoning Jeff. After Jeff tells him to stop, he cuts right to the chase.
    • Jeff's later speech lets his father know how much his absence has really affected him.

Running gags[]

  • Annie's Boobs: Apparently Annie's aunt's boyfriend asks her if her breasts are real.
  • Awww!: Annie and Shirley coo when they see that Jeff has set up a special Thanksgiving dinner for the study group in the study room.
  • Britta'd it: Jeff greets Britta after learning she had forced herself into his reunion with his father by saying she really "you'd" this one.
  • Deanotation: The Dean greets the study group in his cowboy outfit by saying "How-Dean!"
  • Gasp: Everybody gasps when Dean Pelton reveals that Jeff will spend Thanksgiving with his father, and again later when Jeffrey mentions that he has a half-brother.
  • Gay, he's so gay!: Pierce suggests that Jeff is looking to come out of the closet to his father.
  • Like an evil genie: When Jeff refuses to attend Shirley's Thanksgiving party, Shirley says she "can't think of anyone who would enjoy having [him] more." Cue the Dean.
  • Mancrush: Dean Pelton touches Jeff inappropriately again on the shoulder and on the stomach in this episode. Jeff also invited Dean along to the special Thanksgiving dinner.
  • Nice outfit: The Dean's John Wayne costume looks exactly like Jeff's cowboy outfit from "Introduction to Statistics," "A Fistful of Paintballs," and "For A Few Paintballs More."
  • Sexy voice: Shirley does it a number of time during the episode, such as when Pierce mentions carving the turkey, and later when she first finds the group hiding in the garage.
  • That's you: Troy imitates Annie after she complains about normal Thanksgiving dinners with her family.
  • Turning it into a snake: Britta celebrates her part in getting Jeff to resolve his daddy issues by playing a loud boom box and trying to rap.
  • WWBJD?: Shirley asks that her friends browse the available literature she has about taking Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.
  • Whoops: Troy says too much when he says that they were about to eat the bad dip to escape Shirley's dinner.
  • You're the worst!:
    • Annie calls Shirley's Thanksgiving dinner the Jonestown of dinners.
    • Jeff calls Britta the worst after realizing she was right about confronting his father.

Pop culture references[]

  • IMDb: Abed mentions "The Shawshank Redemption," "Borat," and "Die Hard."
  • Product placement:
    • Abed mentions the restaurant Bennigan's in his narration.
    • Pierce mentions Skeepers when he gets tired of waiting in the garage.
  • Shout out:
    • Troy is forced to agree with one of Shirley's relatives that Batman is gay.
    • Pierce asks a family member if she is Tyler Perry in drag.
    • Abed starts narrating the dinner à la Morgan Freeman.
    • When Britta says that Psychology states there are no accidents, Jeff offers up Tara Reid.
  • TV Guide:
  • Use your allusion:
    • Willy Jr. compares Jeff and himself to Schwarzenegger and DeVito. This is a reference to the 1988 movie "Twins" where Arnold Schwarzenegger was the genetically superior brother and Danny DeVito played his inferior twin.
    • When Jeff is surprised by the appearance of his half brother in his Lexus he proclaims, "What in the cat's cradle is going on?" which is a reference to the 1974 song "Cat's in the Cradle" about a father who was too busy to spend time with his son.
    • When she learns that Jeff plans to spend Thanksgiving with his father, Britta does a victory dance to a song later used as the intro theme from "Brooklyn Nine-Nine."


Critical reaction[]


Jennifer Marrie of A Still and Quiet Conscience gave a positive review: "I very rarely let actual tears flow during episodes of sitcoms. My eyes may well up but they never usually spill over. This episode was the exception." She praised Joel McHale's performance, not just in this episode but throughout the course of the series, for making her care so much about a character she's "never been able to relate to, really."

Alan Sepinwall at HitFix has yet to see an episode this season that has made him laugh much, including this one, but nevertheless he thought this episode worked by telling an emotional story well, and he praised it for being both "a satisfying next step in [Jeff's] emotional journey, and a strong episode for Joel McHale." He was less enamored of the part of the episode taking place at Shirley's house, but he did admit that "Danny Pudi's Morgan Freeman voice was amusing ... and there were some good stray gags along the way."

The TV King's Jerome Wetzel was also a fan of McHale's performance: "This is McHale's masterpiece in the series, and he handles it with brilliance and a huge amount of talent that seems to come effortlessly." He was also impressed that the episode was able to paint such a "complex portrait" of William Winger and portray it such that "we see the similarities and differences between the Winger men, as well as the cause of them, all in a single episode of a sitcom. It's quite a feat."

Jill Mader of Couchtime with Jill thought Jeff's meeting his dad "needed more laughs and more unpredictability than we got" and that the other storyline "just didn't deliver."

Luke Gelineau of TV Equals called the episode "very funny" and "one of the best episodes of the season so far, if not the flat-out best." He thought James Brolin was great as William Winger, and Adam Devine even better as William Winger, Jr. But the end of the episode "got a little bit too heavy towards the end of the evening ... finding out the that the lead character of a TV show is this psychologically damaged is pretty alarming." The other storyline didn't work quite as well for him: "The only thing that kinda bugged me about this was that we never saw any of what was driving everybody so crazy."

Mike Papirmeister of the Filtered Lens said, "After last week's mishmash German invasion story, this week offered some much needed improvement." Jeff's reunion with his dad "was the highlight of the night" for him, especially Brolin's performance. He thought the Shawshank Redemption homage was "a nice idea" but "kind of a wasted opportunity." He gave the episode a letter grade of B-plus.

Todd VanDerWerff of the A.V. Club also gave it a B-plus. He laughed a few times, making him "feel a touch more hopeful" about this series' future as a comedy show," but what he really liked was how well the episode handled the dramatic moments: "this was primarily an episode about nailing the dramatic moments, and when the show needed to make those moments count, it did." He also liked that the episode "didn't lean too heavily on the stuff that fans liked in previous seasons and tried to strike out for its own comedy territory. ... I don't mind a callback now and again, but I have an instinctive aversion to when an episode seems to be doing just callbacks, and it often felt to me like the last two episodes tipped the balance on the joke scale far too much toward the latter."

Eric Goldman of IGN thought the episode "pretty successfully deliver[ed] on a whole lot of build up," but also that "it was marred by an unnecessary B-story." He believes it would have been better if Jeff's dad had come to Jeff to spend Thanksgiving with him and the rest of the study group, rather than Jeff going to him and having "the rest of the characters ... stuck in a half-baked prison parody storyline." He gave it a score of 7.0.

Gabrielle Moss of TV Fanatic was of two minds about the episode. On the one hand, she found it quite quotable, liked the Shawshank references, and was impressed by the "stand-out performances from the entire cast, especially from Joel McHale." But on the other, she was unsatisfied by what they had to perform. "For such a highly anticipated moment, Jeff's meeting with his dad just did not measure up. ... William wasn't enough of a sharply drawn character--not enough of a contemptible villain or pathetic lost soul--to make his appearance have much of an impact. His meeting with Jeff had the feeling of simply tying up loose plot holes." She gave the episode 3.8 stars out of 5.

Brian Collins of Badass Digest was happy to see the episode begin with "good ol' fashioned study room scene," giving him a feeling "right off the bat ... it'd be a winner." He "found it to be the most successful [of the season] in terms of the emotional beats, and funny enough to compete with the others." He also liked the storyline at Shirley, at least in part because it contained a Prison Break reference, gave Chevy Chase something to do, revealed that Annie's gynecologist is named Dr. Collins, leaving it "an Armageddon joke away from seemingly [having been written] specifically for me."

Shannon of the Two Cents Corp. was pleased to "finally [get] some closure with Jeff and his dad," but otherwise found the episode "rather forgettable" and the show "still off-kilter."

The Head Geek Furious at GeekFurious thought the episode was very uneven. "Jeff and Britta were excellent in this one," he wrote, and "Jeff's meeting with his dad, their interaction, and even his half-brother all worked and didn't feel forced." He didn't care for the other storyline: "About 90% of Shirley's party felt like tired writing [and] The Shawshank Redemption bit bombed. Minus the later, he would have scored the episode in the 90s, but with it, it earned only a 77 out of 100.

Sean Gandert of Paste doesn't think the episode will "be on anyone's list of best episodes, half of it was solid and genuinely felt like a part of Community's overall story." The half that was solid was Jeff's reunion with his dad, which "did a good job honoring the complexity of this relationship" and portrayed "a surprisingly three-dimensional relationship between the two characters." The other half was "a by-the-numbers lame pop culture parody" with "characters acting in a way that facilitates it rather than in a way that makes sense" and "a lame Abed speech ... about their true family being their friends."

Laura Aguirre of ScreenCrave liked seeing Jeff open up emotionally — "none of it came off as melodramatic or fake" — and that the episode "lot of heart" and was "sweet and emotional." The Prison Break/Shawshank Redemption parody was only so-so; she though "the whole thing didn't really pay off," but she liked Danny Pudi's Morgan Freeman impression and that he drew a map of Shirley's house on his stomach. She gave it a 7 out of 10.

Abby Koenig of Houston Press's Art Attack blog is not a fan of the "Jeff meets his dad" arc in general nor the way it concluded. "[Jeff's] speech is too much and too dramatic, but I feel that about this entire plot line. I just want Jeff to be nasty and sarcastic; that's who he is." She was more complimentary towards the Shawshank Redemption plot feeling that is what Community is "a tight-knit puzzle that starts with the joke and builds a ridiculous plot around. Other television shows build in the opposite direction.

Josh Gondelman of Vulture also seems to believe that Community is at its best when it fully commits to a reference and runs with it, and also he loves The Shawshank Redemption so he was upset that last night's episode split its attention between that and Jeff's storyline, and that it switched gears and became a Prison Break parody instead.

Jeremy Sollie of Geek Binge wasn't expecting much from last night's episode, because it was a Thanksgiving episode airing in March, and also because he thought Jeff's storyline was "doomed to fail," and also also because he's found the 4th season to be "hit-or-miss." So he was surprised that it turned out to be great. "'Cooperative Escapism In Familial Relations' managed to show Jeff's self-loathing and anger towards his father without coming off as melodramatic or overdone." He thought Brolin "blend[ed] in well with the show," giving a performance that felt "less ... a guest role and more of a supporting one." He didn't like Adam Devine's performance as much, but didn't feel it took away from the episode. As for the other storyline, "it may not have been as successful as the rest of the episode, but it was consistently funny and continued the Community trend of not just being a movie parody." He gave it a 9.

Slate's Aisha Harris and Rachael Larimore both thought the episode was more intense that anything the show had attempted before, as it lacked a gimmick to offset the intensity, such as in "Pillows and Blankets". Harris observed a parallel between Jeff's fake appendectomy as an adolescent and William's fake heart attack as an adult and labeled it "poignant". Both thought the second storyline was a bit disappointing, Lattimore because it seemed to show that "the group had already reverted to pretty selfish ways" after the lessons of the previous episode, and Harris because we didn't see more of Shirley's inlaws.

Alexis McLaren of TV Overmind was not a fan of Jeff and Britta's storyline. She's tired of the "Britta pretending to be a psychologist" jokes, and feels Jeff's ongoing daddy issues have been a "useless plot point that we've had to suffer through." But she did like seeing Adam Devine — "I wish there was more of him and less of Britta" — and hearing Shirley humming "Daybreak."

Cory Barker of is "happy to report that this episode's treatment of that event worked very well, resulting in clear, effective, and measured storytelling capped off by one of Joel McHale's best performances in the show's run." He wasn't sure what to make of the other storyline; he thought there were some good bits, but that "overall the plotline felt rushed and underdeveloped" and that conclusion, "despite its good intentions, didn't pack much of a punch".


Community's ratings rose 25% from the previous week's episode,and it recieved a 1.5/5 according to tvbythenumbers . This placed it third in its timeslot (but fourth in total viewers) and making it by a pretty wide margin the most watched show on NBC that night. On the Twitter, #HappyThanksgiving trended in the US for at least ten minutes after the episode ended in the Central and Eastern time zones.


On September 17, 2012, Community writer Steve Basilone tweeted a picture of the front of the script. On September 18, 2012, online entertainment news sites Entertainment Weekly and TV Line both reported that this episode was to introduce Jeff's father to be portrayed by actor James Brolin. Joel McHale would later tweet a photo of himself and Brolin on set during filiming of the episode. At the same time, Brolin had also been cast as the father of Richard Castle on the ABC crime drama "Castle".


Yeah, well, look, I don't have to tell you, I'm not a natural caretaker, but with Willy, you know, I checked all the boxes and he still turned out softer than wet cheese.William Winger

External links[]

Entertainment Weekly article on Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations

Season Four Episodes

1. "History 101"
2. "Paranormal Parentage"
3. "Conventions of Space and Time"
4. "Alternative History of the German Invasion"
5. "Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations"
6. "Advanced Documentary Filmmaking"
7. "Economics of Marine Biology"

8. "Herstory of Dance"
9. "Intro to Felt Surrogacy"
10. "Intro to Knots"
11. "Basic Human Anatomy"
12. "Heroic Origins"
13. "Advanced Introduction to Finality"

Season 4 DVD xover

Season OneSeason TwoSeason ThreeSeason FourSeason FiveSeason Six