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It's puppet therapy. The psychology world has recently embraced it after seeing it on "Law & Order."
At the latest study group meeting in Group Study Room F, everyone isn't speaking and can barely look at each other. Dean Pelton enters the room determined to get to the bottom of what's been bothering the group for the last few days. To that end, he brings with him hand puppets in the form of each study group member. He explains it's a way for them to both distance themselves from the trauma and also to feel more comfortable communicating to each other by proxy. The Dean notices Pierce's absence, and Troy reveals they might have left him back in the forest. After that minor breakthrough, Dean and Britta plead with the group to give puppet therapy a chance, and they all reluctantly give in.

4X9 The Study group can barely look at each other
The Study group can barely look at each other.
Abed explains it started last Friday when the study group was listening to Britta discuss her latest causes. As she droned on, he and Troy were playing a bingo game marking their cards based on the predictable banter of the study group. Realizing they've been stuck in a rut, Jeff decides they all need to have an adventure outside of Greendale. After seeing a poster of a hot air balloon ride in the study room, Annie suggests they all take one together. Later, they meet up with a guide, who helps them into the basket of the hot air balloon and prepares it for their trip. However, Pierce and Troy accidentally cause the balloon to take off before the guide can join them, and the group doesn't notice until it's too late. Chang arrives on the scene only to look on with the balloon guide as the balloon drifts away.
The hot air balloon eventually crash lands into a nearby wooded area. As the study group struggles to get their bearings, they are startled by the sudden appearance of mysterious mountain man. He quickly put them at ease when he identifies himself as a fellow alumnus of Greendale. He explains that he left the craziness of the school to live out a quieter existence in the forest. He goes on about how carefree his life is and hands the group special berries to eat. The berries turn out to be psychotropic, and after the group starts to hallucinate, the mountain man wishes them well and departs. That night, the group sets up a campfire while still feeling the effects of the berries. Feeling completely uninhibited, Shirley decides to tell the group a dark secret.

4X9 Listen to the Mountain man
The mountain man shares the advantages
of living away from the modern world.
One night she thought she saw Andre with another woman while at the grocery store and ended up following the couple out of town. After realizing it wasn't him, she remembered that she forgot her kids at the store. Shirley says that she knows that's the reason for them being so awkward around each other. However, the group tells her they don't remember what she had told them. They soon realize that although they all remember sharing secrets about themselves to each other, they don't recall what anyone else's particular secret was. No longer having any reason to be awkward around each other, the group starts to celebrate until Annie points out how humiliated Shirley is. Jeff tells her and the others that in order to restore the balance, everyone has to tell their darkest secret again. To make it easier, he adds that they can use the puppets.

4X9 Shiley's confession
Shirley reveals her most shameful secret.
As the group reveals their individual secrets, they all flashback to the night in question, recalling how it originally went down. Jeff starts off with his secret: he found the perfect woman for him and learned she had a kid. Although he said it didn't bother him, he panicked and bailed on them both and never called her again. Britta reveals that despite touting herself as an activist, she has never voted in an election. Annie reveals she was struggling in history, and allowed Professor Cornwallis to rub her feet in order to pass a test. Troy reveals he started the Greendale Fire of '03 which consumed fifty acres when he set an ant hill on fire. At that point, the balloon guide shows up having spent the night searching for them.

4X9 Pierce's confession
"I never slept with the great Eartha Kitt.
We dry humped inside of her tour bus!"
Back in real time, Shirley silently thanks Jeff for making things right while Dean Pelton congratulates the group for a successful therapy session. Pelton is about to reveal his darkest secret when Britta realizes Abed didn't reveal his. Abed says he didn't share anyhting that night; when he saw how everyone was acting weird around each other, he decided to mimic them to fit in. The group comforts each other over their secrets, assuring themselves that they don't think any less of each other. With everything resolved, they leave the study room to go to Skeepers to celebrate. Dean Pelton is left behind, disappointed that he wasn't invited along even though he helped facilitate closure over the group's latest conflict. He then imagines the puppet version of Jeff telling him that he doesn't have to go home alone.

4X9 Puppet Jeff working out
The Dean won't be going home alone.

End tag[]

The original broadcast version had a behind-the-scenes clip with the cast interacting with their puppet counterparts. The streaming and online version contained the preview from last week's episode where the study group puppets hum the song Daybreak while seated at the study table.

Recurring themes[]


  • Returning students: Garrett makes an appearance warning the study group and Dean Pelton that a fire has broken out at school.
  • History lesson: The study group reveals several shameful secrets from their past:
    • Jeff fell in love with a woman who had a kid but left them both, just like how his dad left his mother and him.
    • Shirley abandoned her kids at a supermarket when she followed a man she misidentified as her husband after witnessing him canoodling with another woman.
    • Annie let Professor Cornwallis rub her feet to pass a test.
    • Troy started the Greendale Fire of 2003 by burning an anthill. He would have been 13 years old at the time.
    • Britta has never voted except during The Voice.
    • Pierce didn't really have sex with Eartha Kitt, merely "dry-humping". (It's not clear how his dark secret was revealed, given that he wasn't actually in the study room.)
  • Familiar faces:
    • Sara Bareilles, original singer of "Gravity," appears as a balloon guide.
    • Jason Alexander appears as a friendly mountain man who was a former Greendale student.
  • School song: The original episode end tag featured the puppets humming the song "Daybreak." The tag was used in the previous episode to promote this one.
  • That just happened: Annie let Professor Cornwallis, the teacher from "Alternative History of the German Invasion", rub her feet.
  • This must be the place: Group Study Room F and the often referred to but never seen bar "Skeepers" is mentioned again.

Running gags[]

  • Awww!: Annie and Shirley "Awww!" when Abed reveals he mirrored the study group's actions to fit in. Abed then mimics their "Awww!" in response.
  • Deanotation:
    • The Dean refers to his costume as "Dean-occhio."
    • After the therapy seems to be working, Pelton declares himself a "Dean-ius."
  • Man crush: Dean's obsession with Jeff is shown when he reveals he had a puppet made of him who was carrying a whip. He also imagines a puppet version of Jeff propositioning him at the end of the episode.
  • Nice outfit: The Dean dresses up as Pinocchio.
  • Pansexual imp: The Dean's "dark secret" would be the extremely-poorly kept secret of his sexual proclivities: "I am not what you would call 'traditionally'..." before being cut off.
  • Fitting Ends: Britta proclaims "I had a dream it would end this way" when the hot air balloon floats away, a reference to Troy's final moments in "For a Few Paintballs More."

Pop culture references[]

Meta references[]

  • IRL:
    • Chevy Chase quit the show around the time this episode was in production, hence his absence from the live-action sequences.
    • Annie's most shameful secret is a reference to a story Alison Brie told in an interview on the David Letterman show. She related how a stranger was obsessed with her feet and wanted to give her what he claimed to be a strictly platonic foot massage.
    • Whilst in the hot air balloon, Troy asks whether anybody has noticed Professor Duncan's absence. This acknowledges the actual unexplained disappearance of the character since the end of the show's second season. This is due to actor John Oliver's commitment to The Daily Show, which films in New York.


Guys, are we just gonna avoid making eye contact forever? Who are we, Jeff during sex? Let's just give it a shot and move on.Britta
Fine. If we're gonna play this game, then, unlike sex with Britta, we're gonna do it quickly and with a small shred of dignity.Jeff
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