Clearly Pierce is trying to lure us into a labyrinth of emotional manipulation and strategic instigation. And I think we're all smart enough to know we should quit while we are not ahead.
The study group arrives in Group Study Room F having just attended Pierce's Reformed Neo Buddhist funeral. In their possession is an Energon pod supposedly containing Pierce's "life vapor." Ben Chang shows up and mocks everyone's somber attitude by pointing out how much they disliked Pierce. A man identifying himself as "Mr. Stone" then appears, claiming to be carrying out a private inquest at the behest of Pierce's will. As two technicians set up a polygraph device, Stone invites the study group and Chang to submit to a lie detector test investigation to determine if any of them were responsible for Pierce's death.
"Aw shnizzle! You guys are in trouble!
To honor Pierce's last wishes they agree, but Stone's opening questions uncovers secrets: Britta is angry to learn Shirley is a platinum level donor to a Pro-Life organization; Jeff's finds out Troy and Abed are using his Netflix account; and Annie is overcharging her roommates for rent money. Chang departs after admitting he masturbated in the study room as the remaining test subjects argue. Stone quiets them by announcing the equipment is calibrated and the actual inquest is about to start. When Jeff suggests they should quit before it gets worse, Stone reveals if they do they won't receive bequeathments from Pierce's $20 million estate.
Everyone agrees to continue, resulting in more revelations: Shirley once served Britta non-vegan food; Britta was high on marijuana during the baptism of Shirley's child; Jeff kept souvenirs of his sexual conquests, including Britta's panties; Abed learns Troy did not create their signature handshake; Abed implanted geo-trafficking devices in all of them; Annie once dosed the group with amphetamines to keep them studying; and Abed is revealed to have been "cat fishing" Annie. Jeff pleads with the group to stop letting Pierce manipulate them. Stone points out that he stopped asking questions a while ago and these responses were volunteered.
Abed literally keeps track of the group -even a buried Pierce.
Jeff then realizes the "lesson" this activity was meant to teach them: They are all as flawed as Pierce was, but he was just more honest about it. Jeff suggests they embrace their imperfections. A series of confessions then ensues: Jeff prefers to look at himself naked rather than the women he sleeps with, Annie hit Jeff's Lexus with her car in the parking lot, Britta only gives to the homeless if she is with someone, Troy never went to Legoland, Shirley admits she is passive aggressive, and Abed says he hates the sound of chewing gum. With all their secrets now out in the open, Jeff defiantly tells Mr. Stone to continue his inquest.
The polygraph technicians monitor the groups vitals.
The final round of questions begins with Stone telling Britta Pierce believed she should stop hating herself and that her passion inspired him. Britta is bequeathed a used iPod Nano along with a cylinder of Pierce's sperm. Shirley is next and Stone tells her Pierce always respected her strength of character and business acumen. She is bequeathed Pierce's timeshare in Florida and a cylinder of his sperm. Annie is told by Stone she was Pierce's favorite and is given a tiara he tried bequeathing her years ago along with sperm. Stone then questions Jeff's sexuality before bequeathing him a bottle of fine scotch and his own canister of Pierce's sperm.
The gift that keeps on giving.
Stone tells Abed Pierce believed he was crazy before handing him a canister of sperm. Troy is then told Pierce believed he had untapped potential. Along with sperm, Troy is bequeathed $14.3 million worth of Pierce's shares in Hawthorne Wipes. The only condition is that Troy sail Pierce's boat, "The Childish Tycoon," around the world by himself. It was a task Pierce's father gave Pierce to earn his fortune, which he didn't complete. Jeff argues the condition can be contested, but Troy states he will do it. Abed says he is okay with this, but one of the polygraph technicians monitoring his vitals confirms he is lying.
Mr. Stone and the study group are at a restaurant having a drink. Stone is inebriated and has dropped the dour façade he was using at the inquest. He reveals to the group that the cause of Pierce's death was dehydration from filling up all the sperm cylinders he bequeathed to the group.
Recurring or debuting plot points in this episode:
As a gift from Pierce, Britta receives an iPod Nano. The captions at the end of the Season One episode "The Art of Discourse" predict that Britta will be become the proud owner of a used iPod Nano in the year 2014.
School uniform: In keeping with Pierce's beliefs, the study group wears teal ceremonial Laser Lotus outfits. A similar outfit was last seen being worn by Pierce himself in the Season Two "The Psychology of Letting Go."
Awww!: Annie is touched when a question Mr. Stone asks her is full of compliments from Pierce about her intelligence and organizational skills.
Bon Appetit!: Mr. Stone gives Britta a cylinder of Pierce's sperm in case she gives up her lesbian lifestyle and wants to have his kids.
Butt stuff: When Kobayashi asks Troy his name, he says "Troy Barnes", and follows with, "I meant to say Butts Carlton". He really did.
Double entendre: The the end scene, Kobayashi says he wants to die the way Pierce did, disclaiming, "Hey, I'm a little nutty."
Come sail away!: Troy cries when Abed learns that Troy copied the idea for their special handshake from a video blog.
Gay, he's so gay!: From beyond the grave, Pierce gets the executor of his estate Mr. Stone to interrogate Jeff in order to prove he is gay. Chang puts his hand to his mouth and mouths "Gaaaaay!", as he did in Anthropology 101.
Mad or hungry?: Abed doesn't understand the expression on his friends' faces when they're told he planted tracking devices on them.
NOOOOOO!: Chang claims he didn't just masturbate in the study room - he masturbated everywhere. EVERYWHERE!!!
Raging against the machine: Britta vociferously expresses her opinions about multiple topics.
Sexy voice: Shirley's voice changes from sassy to pleasant after accusing one the polygraph technicians of adding snark to her answers.
Résumé: In his bequeathal to Troy, Pierce encourages Troy to become his own man. As a condition to receive his bequeathment, Troy must sail Pierce's boat "The Childish Tycoon" around the world. Donald Glover, who plays Troy, is leaving the show in order to be in control of his own career. He was set to "write, executive produce, and play the lead in a half-hour comedy," which became "Atlanta." In addition, Glover records and performs as a rap artist under the name Childish Gambino and began an international tour in the spring of 2014.
Up against the wall: The episode is another "bottle episode" in the series. The title "Cooperative Polygraphy" is a reference to the first bottle episode, Season Two's Cooperative Calligraphy.
In a November 25 interview with Entertainment Weekly, actor Walton Goggins discussed his role as "Mr. Stone" on Community. He mentioned he is a fan of the show and was eager to guest star:
“I’m always looking to not only challenge myself, but to put myself in situations where I’m not just intimidated but outright insecure.”
In the episode everyone but Abed is shown to receive a personal bequeathal from Pierce along with their complimentary canisters of his sperm. In one of the original drafts of the episode's script, Abed is actually about to be bequeathed something but refuses before he could be told what it is. He instead decides to forego his bequeathment in exchange for the phone number of Mara the female polygraph technician. This is done on his part as a homage to the 1992 film "Sneakers" which a flattered Mara immediately picks up on. After she accepts his proposal, Abed is told by Mr. Stone that his bequeathment was a limited edition caricature of Muhammad (any images of the Muslim prophet are strictly forbidden by most followers of the religion). Writer Alex Ruebens posted a picture of the script page for this unfilmed scene on his Twitter account. In this version, Mr. Stone is named Mr. Kobayashi
A deleted scene from the original script.
A livestream youtube table reading of this episode, which the actors did over video conferencing due to the covid-19 pandemic, was done on May 18, 2020 as a charity event to raise money for the World Central Kitchen and Frontline Foods. Dan Harmon was the narrator and the main cast reprised their roles. Guest star Walton Goggins was unable to attend and so his role as Mr. Stone was recast with actor Pedro Pascal taking over the part. Jim Rash took over for the role of Mara and the Fun for Friends guy who demonstrates the handshake Troy based his and Abed's handshake on, and later participated in the Q&A. During the reading, Gillian Jacobs revealed she still had one of the sperm cylinder props from the episode.
“Mrs. Bennett, is true you are a Platinum-level donor for the Pro-Life organization prenatalpatriots.org?”— Mr. Stone
“Keep it cool, girls.”— Jeff
“It's my money and my choice.”— Shirley
“Yeah, well, if I wanted the government in my uterus I would fill it with oil and Hispanic voters!”— Britta
“Mr. Winger, your name please.”— Mr. Stone
“Jeffrey Winger.”— Jeff
“Are you gay?”— Mr. Stone
“Are you sure?”— Mr. Stone
“Gay murderer says what?”— Mr. Stone
“I have been instructed to inform you that that means you're gay.”— Mr. Stone
“SILENCE, WENCH!”— Troy
“I didn't just masturbate in the study room... I masturbated everywhere. EVERYWHERE!!!”— Ben Chang
“Do you care about people at all, Abed? Answer on the polygraph!”— Annie
“(after a pause) Jeff made me apply for handicapped parking so he can get a better spot.”— Abed
“Britta's the one that invited Garrett to Annie's birthday party!”— Jeff
“Troy won't sit on a toilet seat after Jeff!”— Britta
“When we're alone Shirley refers to you guys as 'those people'!”— Troy
“Oh! When Annie's with other females she calls Jeff her uncle!”— Shirley