What's anyone's rank? We're all just dressed up as serial killers and strippers!
A Cobra attack force lead by Destro piloting a Cobra Rattler fighter plane attacks Taj Mahal intent on destroying it. Their assault is intercepted by the G.I. Joe team lead by Flint. A part of the military unit is "Tight Ship" and "Buzzkill", who question a U.S. presence in India along with why it's suddenly a terrorist target. The Joe codenamed "Three Kids" is there along with them but is busy talking to her children on her cell phone. "Wingman" arrives to join his squad admonishing them for making him look bad. He decides to show them how it's done and shoots down Destro's plane. After Destro ejects from the cockpit, Wingman refuses to let him get away and shoots holes in his parachute. Flint and the rest of the Joes look on in horror as Destro falls to the ground and dies while Jeff is oblivious to their reaction.
Wingman's squad: Three Kids, Buzzkill, Wingman, Tight Ship and Fourth Wall.
Afterwards at G.I. Joe HQ, Wingman and his squad of Buzzkill, Three Kids and Tight Ship are facing a Disciplinary Committee made up of Duke, Flint and Scarlet. They are charged with mature actions unbecoming of a Joe. Wingman admits to the tribunal that he killed Destro but argues it's sometimes necessary when dealing with an evil organization. He adds that if they don't start killing Cobra they might as well just kill themselves. The committee is unmoved by his speech and sends Wingman and his troops to the brig with other G.I. Joe rejects. In an adjoining cell they meet a Joe codenamed "Fourth Wall". He hints at a higher reality and suggests what they are experiencing now is merely a syndicated children's cartoon show. Fourth Wall tells them about a mission he recently undertook infiltrating a Cobra excavation operation codenamed "Greendale".
A G.I. Joe disciplinary committee is held for Wingman and his squad.
As Fourth Wall continues his explanation, Wingman recognizes the codename from somewhere. Fourth Wall then presents an artifact to the squad that he found during his investigation, a miniature action figure of Duke. Wingman suddenly collapses upon seeing it and while unconscious imagines a kids toy commercial. He wakes up to find himself still in the brig and Fourth Wall suggests he has a connection to the other reality. It's then that Wingman starts to hear through his squad voices unrelated to the G.I. Joe world calling him "Jeff". Over at Cobra headquarters, Cobra Commander is eulogizing Destro when he interrupted by a communique. It's from Vice Cobra Assistant Commander who tells his boss about weird energy readings emanating from the Greendale site. Cobra Commander is too grief stricken to care and vows to make G.I. Joe pay for Destro's death.
Fourth Wall breaks the Fourth Wall.
Back at Joe headquarters, Wingmans squad is still in the brig when Cobra forces attack the base. An explosion blasts a hole in the wall of their prison cell freeing them. Wingman tries to help the Joes but ends up causing the deaths of several Cobra troopers and Lifeline, the Joes medic. They are branded traitors by Duke and Flint and forced to escape aboard the "Submachopter". Wingman piloted the vehicle until Fourth Wall mentioned Greendale. This caused him to pass out and while unconscious he has more visions. He sees another toy commercial and a brief glimpse of himself in a hospital bed surrounded by his friends. He awakens to find Fourth Wall reassuring him everything is okay and that they have set a course for "Greendale". Upon arrival, the squad easily overpowers the Cobra guards and makes their way into the excavation site. Once inside they find an old, yet strangely familiar looking school building.
The Cobra excavation site has a familiar location, the entrance to the library.
In Vice Cobra Assistant Commander's office, Major Dick and XimXam are discussing their health care insurance. Overkill interrupts them and informs them the base has been infiltrated. The Assistant Commander sends the three Cobra officers to deal with the intruders but they are all dispatched by Wingman quickly. The squad makes it to the study room and Wingman's memories as Jeff Winger come back. He recalls who they all are in real life including the Assistant Commander who is overjoyed to see him. Wingman excuses himself and heads to Jeff's office where he finds his driver's license. He returns to the study room and tells his squad that in reality he drank a fifth of scotch and took some youth pills he bought at Koreatown. He did this because it was his birthday and he just turned forty.
Wingman discovers the truth.
Fourth Wall figures out how he can return to the real world but Wingman refuses preferring fantasy over the reality of being a middle aged. They are interrupted by the arrival of the united Cobra and G.I. Joe forces of "Joebra". Wingman is taken into custody but soon freed after convincing them he wants to stay in this world. He quickly changes his mind when he learns cartoons can't indulge in adult pleasures. After a quick brawl back to the study room, he puts on his flight pack and flies to the barrier separating realities. Cobra Commander grabs on to his foot but doesn't survive the trip between worlds. Wingman awakens as Jeff in his hospital bed surrounded by his friends. He admits his true age but they tell him they suspected he was forty already. After handing him his birthday present they have a group hug happy to have him back.
Buzzkill and Fourth Wall appear in a classic G.I. Joe public service announcement. Buzzkill attempts to lecture two teens about the graffiti they are painting but Fourth Wall criticizes her aproach as too preachy. He advises that cartoons should keep any lessons they want to teach simple and direct. He then tells the boys "Graffiti is bad, go play sports". Buzzkill starts defending her methods but Fourth Wall cuts her off by reciting the catchphrase "And knowing is half the battle!".
Replay: This episode has the same basic plot of "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas" with a character refusing to accept reality by imaging himself in a cartoon world. It was also credited as being written by Dino Stamatopoulos who wrote that Holiday episode. However, Stamatopoulos has said that the episode as aired was mainly written by Dan Harmon.
Discontinuity: This episode retcons Jeff's age. It is possible he was lying the entire time, however this revelation conflicts with information in previous episodes as well as statements Community creator himself Dan Harmon had made early in the show's production about Jeff's age. Below are several "Community" episodes which hint at Jeff's age.
"Early 21st Century Romanticism": In 2011, Ben Chang steals Jeff's drivers license which clearly says "November 21, 1971" (this is actor Joel McHale's birthdate). On DVD commentaries for this episode and also in a tweet to a fan, Harmon dismissed this as a production error and suggested that Jeff was several years younger than him or Joel. At the time McHale was 40 and Harmon was 38.
"Intro to Political Science": In 2011, a videotape of Jeff's audition for "The Real World: Seattle" is shown. Jeff says he was "like nineteen" when he recorded that tape. The Real World: Seattle premiered on June 16, 1998 and if it followed the production schedule of other Real World shows then it accepted audition tapes the previous year in 1997. This then suggests that Jeff was born around 1978. That put Jeff's age around 33-34 range back then and should make him 36-37 in Season Five.
"Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism": Jeff claimed he was 10 years old when he met Shirley "Big Cheddar" who was 12 at the time. Either he was lying and he was older, and small for his age (14-15), or Shirley's age gets increased to 42.
"Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations": in 2012, Jeff very specifically tells his father he faked an appendectomy in seventh grade "22 years ago." The average age of a seventh grader is between 11-13, older if Jeff had failed a grade and was held back or younger if he skipped a grade (unlikely as it would probably be something he brag about). This is consistent with previous episodes as it places his age at that time to be around 34-35 which would make him 36-37 in Season Five. Additionally it's unlikely Jeff's could get away without lying about his age to his own father.
School supplies: The fine scotch Pierce bequeathed to Jeff in "Cooperative Polygraphy" can be seen on Jeff's desk. It can be assumed that this is the fifth of scotch he drank when he downed the Korean pills.
Product placement: This episode has live action sequences done in 80's style commercials which features several real G.I. Joe products such as the Duke, Destro, Cobra Commander figures and vehicles like the HISS tank.
Use your allusion:
Abed's cartoon character in the G.I. Joe world is codenamed "Fourth Wall". This references the meta aspect of his character which often uses the narrative device of "breaking the fourth wall". This is where a character in a story directly addresses the audience or acknowledges in some way his awareness that he is just a fictional character.
Shirley's cartoon character is codenamed "Three Kids" referencing her children which she constantly mentions she has. This can be seen as alluding to criticism that her only identity on the show is being a mother.
Ben Chang's cartoon character in the G.I. Joe world is "Overkill". This references actor Ken Jeong's comedic style which has been criticized as over the top and excessive (1, 2).
The G.I. Joe character codenamed "Sleep Apnea" resembles Community creator Dan Harmon who also provides the character's voice.
Buzz Hickey's cartoon character mentions hazard pay to Dean Pelton's cartoon character. This references a Breaking Bad episode "Hazard Pay," in which Jonathan Banks plays character Mike Ehrmantraut.
Up against the wall: Abed mentions that Jeff shouldn't care about his age since he is still in the 18 to 49 range which is still viable. This is a reference to the 18 to 49 demographic for TV shows which appeal to advertisers and sponsors.
Director Rob Schrab and Community creator Dan Harmon are real life friends and long time collaborators. The production of the episode was held up for a time while Harmon finished tweaking the script. As the deadline drew nearer, a friendly twitter feud between Schrab and Harmon began with Rob insisting that Dan complete the script. This feud culminated with Harmon getting Jon Kimmel (the G.I. Joe theme singer for this episode) to sing a parody song about Rob which was originally posted HERE and later put on Youtube with the video on the right (Warning, NSFW lyrics).