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You have got to be kidding me! What in the Scooby-Doo is happening to you people?!
In the study room, the gang meet up in costume so they can all go together to Vicki's Halloween party. Pierce is the only one not invited and before they could leave he calls Troy from his mansion. He locked himself in his panic room and asked for his friends' assistance in getting him out. Jeff immediately suspects that he is trying to stop the group from attending the party without him. He refuses to go until the Dean shows up. Scantily clad in a ring girl outfit that coordinates with Jeff's boxer costume, Pelton implies he is going to Vicki's party as well. A disturbed Jeff changes his mind and decides to go help Pierce out. The group arrives at Pierce's mansion and are amused by the tacky 80's style decor. Troy, having lived there previously, directs them to the panic room. He activates the communication system and they are able to talk to Pierce via a telescreen. Pierce informs them he hasn't been trapped long but can't remember the code that opens the door.

Study group Halloween costumes 2012
The Study Group arrives in costume to rescue Pierce from his mansion's panic room.
He tells them they need to find a red notebook he misplaced which contains the code. Pierce then admits the reason he is in the panic room is because he thought he saw the ghost of his dead father. Jeff resignedly joins the study group when they decide to stay to help Pierce. After splitting up to cover more ground, Jeff and Britta discover Pierce's bedroom. Britta starts to get upset when Jeff begins mocking a photo of Pierce dead father. She suggests that Pierce may be haunted not by an actual ghost but by unresolved daddy issues he had. Jeff then starts to rant against Cornelius Hawthorne which turns into a rant about his own father. He then clams up when he realizes that Britta set him up so he could open up about his own problems.

Mansion Pierces room
Jeff and Britta find Pierce's room.
Over in the mansion's library, Annie and Abed are carefully searching the room for the notebook. Annie gets distracted when she discovers a chapter entitled "Pierce Hawthorne's ideas for ladies". As she reads it, Abed examines a nearby bookshelf containing various Norwegian troll dolls. He pulls one and the shelf spins sideways to reveal a secret chamber. Annie realizes that this isn't the notebook they are looking for and then notices that Abed has disappeared. Uneasy being alone, she hesitatingly walks out into the hallway to find him. She gets spooked when she looks into the hallway mirror and sees what appears to be Cornelius Hawthorne standing behind her. Meanwhile, Troy and Shirley are trying to find the library. Troy points out a private room that Pierce refused to let him go into.

Abed finds a secret room
Abed finds a secret room while Annie is distracted by Pierce's journal.
Shirley enters in believing it's the library but it turns out to be Pierce's special playroom. Shirley quickly ushers Troy outside and tells him to forget about what was in there and also that she knew what it was. They then notice the rattling of a doorknob at the end of the hallway. Troy opens up the door and finds Annie on the other side. Annie tells them she lost Abed and the three resolve to find him. Unbeknownst to them, Abed made his way to the mansions security room and has been watching "Cougar Town" on TV while also keeping an eye in the group's activities. He turns his attention to the surveillance camera in Pierce's bedroom and watches Britta and Jeff. Still being pressured by Britta about confronting his daddy issues, Jeff reveals he has his dad's phone number for three weeks now and hasn't had the slightest urge to call him.

Mansion activities room
"It's Pierce's special gym. He never let me use it because he thinks I'm a child."
Abed switches his attention to old surveillance footage of Pierce's bedroom. It shows someone watching Pierce as he slept. Abed continues to examine the footage unaware that a shadowy figure is behind him. Elsewhere, Jeff is chased by Britta who is still nagging him about his father. He finds his way to Cornelius Hawthorne's bedroom and locks himself inside. After drinking from the bar, he discovers the red notebook which has the code. In the hallways, Annie, Troy and Shirley continue their search for Abed. Back in Cornelius' room, Jeff is annoyed by incessant knocking at the door. He opens the door to find no one there. The room then shakes violently as a portrait of Cornelius warps and give off a sinister glowing glare. He leaves the room, finds Britta and they both quickly leave the area.

Who watches the watchman?
Abed watches from the surveillance room unaware that he is being watched as well.
Meanwhile, Troy, Shirley and Annie notice a wall seemingly coming to life and flee in terror. They run into Jeff and Britta and they all head towards Pierce's panic room. Via the telescreen they see an unconscious Pierce inside. Jeff enters the code he found but when they enter the room is empty. Pierce suddenly appears behind them and reveals it was all a prank. Abed shows up as well with videotape footage showing how Pierce accomplished this. After seeing footage of a shadowy figure watching him sleep, Pierce seals the panic room shut. He claims the figure must really be the ghost of his dead father. The door to the panic room starts to open from the outside revealing Gilbert Lawson. He explains that six weeks ago he had come to the mansion to give Pierce the deed to the place. After noticing unpaid bills he took care of it and decided to stick around secretly.

Pierce dead in the panic room
The Study Group sees Pierce unconscious in the Panic room.
He admits that he was trying to fill a void in his life left by the death of Cornelius by taking care of Pierce the same way he took care of their father. He apologizes for his actions and is about to leave when Pierce offers that he can stay as his roommate. He accepts and they both embrace in a hug. Afterwards, Pierce says goodbye to the group as they leave for the Halloween party. Shirley asks if he wants to come but he elects to stay at home with Gilbert. Britta suggests to Troy that they ditch the party so they can watch an episode of "Inspector Spacetime" together. Annie asks Jeff if he is coming wants but he passes as he has some unfinished business to take care of. Later at his apartment, Jeff regards the boxing gloves he was using as part of his costume which were once owned by his father. He pulls out his cell phone and dials his father's phone number.

Jeff contacts his father
Jeff decides to finally contact his father.

End tag[]

Troy and Abed are playing around with the revolving bookcase secret entrance much to Pierce's annoyance.

Recurring themes[]


  • Previously:
  • Replay:
    • The Paper fortune teller sequence in the opening credits is the same one used in the Season Two episode "Epidemiology" with the new addition of Jim Rash's credit which features a man in an electric chair.
    • When Annie recaps Pierce's familial history and when she realizes how ridiculous it sounds she says: "I guess I never said it out loud". This is exactly what Jeff had said in the Season Three episode "Remedial Chaos Theory" after reading aloud the ridiculous name Abed gave for a fake Billiards club he was supposedly invited to.
    • Pierce says: "Ghosts can't go through doors, stupid! They're not fire!" which is a reworking of a similar quote from Ben Chang in the Season Three episode "First Chang Dynasty": "Fire can't go through doors stupid! It's not a ghost.".
  • Catchphrase: Shirley says "That's nice!" after hearing that Pierce has decided to not go to the Halloween party and instead wants to stay at the mansion with Gilbert.
  • School supplies:
    • Jeff's cell phone makes an appearance when inside Pierce's bedroom he checks his messages instead of looking for the panic room code (which is 1989, the same year the panic room was installed).
    • The Norwegian troll doll, revealed to be named "Torg", is referenced when Abed sees an empty spot where it used to reside next to other troll dolls including one that looks exactly like it named "Grot".
    • The boxing gloves Jeff had as part of his costume turns out to be gloves used by his father William Winger.
  • School song: "Daybreak" is heard in the episode, it's Troy's ring tone.
  • Familiar faces: Gilbert Lawson makes a surprise return at the end of the episode. In one scene, a small portrait of Gilbert seems to have been taped to a family portrait of the Hawthornes, possibly added by Pierce after he realized Gilbert was his half-brother.

Running gags[]

  • Awww!:
    • Troy and Britta coo when Shirley mentions that her family is going with a Star Wars theme for their costumes this year: Her husband Andre is going as Han Solo, Elijah and Jordan are going as Stormtroopers and baby Ben is going as an Ewok. Abed does a courtesy "Aww!" and mentions that Shirley doesn't have enough children.
    • The group, sans Jeff, coo when Pierce apologizes to them for being such a burden.
    • The study group coos a third time when Pierce offers Gilbert to be his roommate and they both hug each other.
  • It's a mixer, it's a mixer!: Abed instantly memorizes the date that Pierce's panic room was purchased (June 30, 1989), and points out that it was the date of the theatrical release of Do The Right Thing.
  • Like an evil genie: The Dean enters the room and freaks Jeff out with his costume right after Jeff tells the group they shouldn't let a "lonely ridiculous person" derail their plans.
  • My other half: After Britta mentions that matching Halloween costumes are worn by couples, Jeff warns her about "her boyfriend's boyfriend", since Troy and Abed's costumes are much more matching than those of Troy and Britta...
  • Man crush: ... and later bails when he sees Dean Pelton wear a costume that complements his own.
  • Nice outfit: Jeff is dressed as a boxer, Britta is dressed as a ham referencing (by chance) the character of "Scout" from the movie "To Kill A Mockingbird", Troy and Abed are dressed as Calvin and Hobbes, Shirley is dressed like Princess Leia and Annie is dressed as "Samara" from the horror movie "The Ring". Dean Pelton shows up dressed in the outfit that Jeff had intended Annie to wear, that of a boxing ring girl.
  • Rhyme time: Troy tells Pierce "No sweat, Boba Fett!"

Pop culture references[]

  • Shout out:
    • Jeff mentions David Lee Roth.
    • The room Jeff ends up alone in that features a bar is a reproduction of the country club/snob "bar room" from Caddyshack, starring Chevy Chase.
  • TV Guide: "Cougar Town" is mentioned by Abed, Jeff mentions "Miami Vice". Jeff mentions the Hannah Barbera cartoon "Scooby-Doo".
  • Well read: Jeff mentions "Peter Pan" when describing how Pierce has never allowed himself to grow up.

Meta references[]

  • Everyone's a critic:
    • Abed states, " I remember when this show used to be about community college," after watching Britta and Jeff argue on the monitor in the surveillance room.
    • Annie says she hates referential humor. In various interviews such as this one, and on DVD commentaries with creator Dan Harmon it's mentioned that actor Chevy Chase has been very critical of "Community"'s type of referential humor stating it's not his type of comedy.
  • Résumé: Abed notices that the panic room was installed the same date in 1989 as the release of Do the Right ThingGiancarlo Esposito, the actor who plays Gilbert Lawson, had the break-out role of Buggin' Out in "Do the Right Thing".


Critical reaction[]

  • Britt Hayes of Screencrush wants to see one or two more episodes before she decides if Dan Harmon's absence from the writer's room made that big a difference, but she does think "it’s clear that the number of jokes-per-minute have decreased since the previous season." She also was not impressed with Chevy Chase's performance: "his voice was slurring … and the delivery was stilted and flat." She concludes, "It’s not a bad episode by any stretch, but it definitely seems to be lacking … something."
  • Jon Bowling of Character Grades agrees that things feel different — "It feels broader, the characters slightly more formulaic" — and was overall somewhat disappointed with the episode, giving it a letter grade of C. He also, of course, grades the characters, and also their costumes: Britta, C for the character/F for the costume; Jeff, B/F; Troy, B/A-double plus; Shirley, C/C; Annie, F/B-minus; Abed, incomplete/A-double plus; Pierce, B/F; Dean Pelton, A/B.
  • In a review of both this episode and the season premiere, Rowan Kaiser of IndieWire said "Paranormal Parentage" was "continuously funny and structurally clever," not to mention "a massive improvement" over last week's episode. He particularly enjoyed the costumes, calling them "possibly the best of any of Community's Halloween episodes." But despite that, he thought "the episode didn't quite succeed," partly because it felt like the character developments of the first three seasons were overlooked in favor of reverting the study group "back to their initial type."
  • The Head Geek Furious of GeekFurious thought the characters seemed more like themselves this week, making it "an improvement over last week's" but adding, "unfortunately, it's just not that funny." He goes on to talk about how "laugh-out-loud hilarious" Troy and Shirley's scenes were, and concludes, "it's funny. It's just not epic funny."
  • Over at TV Equals, a reviewer (Luke Gelineau?) called the episode "slightly improved" over the season premiere, but not up to the standard set by previous Halloween episodes. Overall, though, he thought the episode was "definitely entertaining" and hopes that the show soon returns to "level of hilarity we’ve enjoyed over these last three seasons."
  • Todd VanDerWerff of the A.V. Club is feeling better about Community now than last week, in part because he's realized that this transitional period in effect makes it a new show and that it therefore deserves the same chance to find its feet as any other new sitcom, and partly because he just thought this episode was better than the season premiere. " 'Paranormal Parentage' is a strong episode of the show, one that packs in lots of gags and ends on a couple of well-earned emotional beats." But he also thought it was uneven funny-wise, and that it's "weird … that we haven’t had a 'regular' study room scene yet this season." He gave it a letter grade of B-plus.
  • Jeremy Sollie of Geek Binge enjoyed last week's episode but thought this one was better, and that more importantly felt like Community in a way the premiere did not. "Maybe [it didn't feel like] the boundary-pushing season two – which took any concept and drove it to its fullest extreme – but more like season one, in which the show was just beginning to test the waters of craziness. It may seem like a criticism that the show isn’t going full-throttle with a concept, but sometimes a relatively normal Community episode can be refreshing." He wasn't particularly thrilled by having to watch a Halloween episode in February, but understands it couldn't be helped.
  • Laura Aguirre of ScreenCrave also disliked the Halloween setting — "the episode felt odd … because it was disconnected from the current climate" — and thought the episode lacked any memorable laughs. But she liked Annie's costume, was excited to explore Pierce's mansion, and continues to find Troy's purity and cluelessness funny. She also considered Jeff's decision to call his father was "advancement in the right direction." She gave it a numeric rating of 6.5 out of 10.
  • Jennifer Marie of A Still and Quite Conscience says the episode "may have cracked my top ten, depending on how the remainder of the season goes." She particularly liked the character interactions, particularly between Shirley and Troy, Annie and Troy, and Britta and Jeff. Of the last, she says, "[their] storyline this week was perhaps my favorite out of all of the arcs they have had together."
  • Like Jeremy Sollie, Jill Mader of Couchtime With Jill thought "Paranormal Parentage" felt like a first-season episode — only she doesn't think that's a good thing. "This episode played all the same old character beats … and just felt repetitive." But she thought Shirley was particularly funny this week.
  • Gabrielle Moss of TV Fanatic, speaking as a fan, thought the episode "was a bit of a miss;" she didn't think Jeff and Britta's banter was up to past standards, and called Annie's joke about The Ring "Scary Movie-level cheesy and … wildly out of place." But she does think it was well-constructed in terms of introducing potential new viewers to the show, by toning down its insularity and pop-culture references and trying to reintroduce the characters even while continuing to advance their stories. She gave the episode 3.7 stars out of 5.
  • For Sean Gandert of Paste Magazine, "the humor of 'Paranormal Parentage' misfired horribly. … It was just one joke after another that seemed predictable or lazy." But while he didn't like the humor, he also didn't like the characterization. "The cast seems stuck in the same place they were last season (or even season two), and it feels like we’ve already seen most of these discussions before." He thought it was nice to see Giancarlo Esposito, though.
  • Alan Sepinwall of HitFix thought that of the three 4th season episodes he's seen, last night's episode "felt the most 'right,' in that the characters felt like themselves rather than a very well-studied imitation." He thought the emotional moments worked — "Pierce reaching out to Gilbert to solve their mutual loneliness … was a lovely moment, as was Jeff looking at the stitching of the boxing glove." — but he didn't think it was that funny: "other than a few moments where the script calls upon the actors' go-to moves … plus a few stray gags … the jokes didn't really click for me."
  • Shannon of The Two Cents Corp. was saddened to see a Halloween episode in February, as it served to remind her of the shabby way NBC has treated the show. She was also a little sad that Fred Willard didn't return as Pierce.
  • Cory Barker of, who didn't do last week's review, opens with the obligatory mention of Dan Harmon's firing: "Yes, it's a real, big bummer that Community creator Dan Harmon is no longer employed as the showrunner of the NBC sitcom. And yes, the show is going to miss him and might not ever remotely reach the insane, yet moving heights we saw in Seasons 2 and 3." But he goes on to say, "I love these characters and I love these actors and I can imagine a world where they make a good version of the show happen, so I'm just going to let this play out." Having gotten that out of the way, he gets into the details of this week's episode, saying it "suggests … Community still has some life left, especially when it concentrates on the characters' fundamental fears and hang-ups instead of shouting and half-baked meta-baiting." He also mentions that it feels somewhat like a first season episode, and goes so far as to say that seems perfectly appropriate: "It sort of mirrors college in that way: You start slow, go HAM for a couple of years, and then (hopefully) realize it's time grow up." But that has downsides, as well: "We're getting girly sneeze Troy. Don't do that anymore, show."
  • Andrea Speed of cxPulp gave the episode three cxPlus logos out of five. She said, "There was much to like in this episode," citing Britta's ham costume and the Dean's abs specifically. But she also noted "the strange resetting of the characters," particularly the way "Troy and Annie have both embraced their inner naifs again, even though they’d shown signs of growing beyond that." That said, she did appreciate that it gave Shirley good material to work against in her scenes with Troy.
  • Mike Papirmeister of the Filtered Lens found the episode's plot "very engaging" and thought it was great that the study group was "separated off so they can deal with their individual issues." Unlike many, he doesn't notice any particular difference in the way the show feels under the new showrunners, but he does think "its humor doesn’t seem to be as sharp." Nevertheless, "the character development made it worth while." He gave the episode a letter grade of B-plus.
  • The Houston Press's Abby Koenig thinks that Community's Halloween episodes tend to be corny and are never as funny as their non-Halloween episodes, and "Paranormal Parentage" was not an exception to that. And while she thought the episode was well constructed, the lack of big laffs left her worried that the writing staff might not be up to the job. All that said, she still thinks "Community at its worst is still 8,000 times better than The Big Bang Theory at its best."
  • Eric Goldman of IGN TV saw "a lot of back and forth in 'Paranormal Parentage' between the strong moments and the weak ones." Examples of the former included much of what Donald Glover and Gillian Jacobs said and did, and the surprise appearance by Giancarlo Esposito; Annie and Shirley trying to warn Troy about hands coming out of the wall and everyone yelling Gilbert's name in unison were cited as examples of the latter. He didn't like the "forced hashtag" #ghostdad.
  • Matt Carter of does not question that Community "is hardly the show that it was for the past two seasons so far," but concedes that "it would be horribly cynical if we were to not point out that 'Paranormal Parentage' did have its moments worth smiling about." For example, he liked the Calvin and Hobbes homage, and Giancarlo Esposito's guest appearance, and the "pretty great panic attacks from some of the characters." He also liked that it took place almost entirely off-campus, proving that "these characters can exist in an environment beyond a community college, which could be important given that we are in the characters’ senior year." On the list of things he didn't like: Troy and Britta, whom he felt "had more chemistry when they weren’t dating."
  • At, Aisha Harris chatted with Gene Demby about the episode. They both thought it improved on last week's episode, but still thought it felt a bit off. Demby admits that it could be partly in his head: "does it seem broader because it's actually broader, or because we think of Harmon's sense of humor as quirky and prickly and we're just imposing his absence onto the way we experience it?" Good question! (Oh, and speaking of last week's episode discussion, there was a follow-up post you may have missed.)
  • Henry Hanks of CNN's Marquee Blog was thrice surprised by the episode: first, by Pierce's sexual adventureness; second, by Giancarlo Esposito's appearance; and third, that Jeff's boxing gloves had belonged to his dad.
  • Matthew Guerruckey of Screen Spy called the episode "a welcome improvement from the riddle wrapped in a riddle wrapped in a laugh-track premiere episode." He liked Britta's storyline, and especially what Gillian Jacobs brought to it, but worries that "the writers seem to have lost their grip on Troy." Overall, he found it "very entertaining, and improves on repeat viewing." He gave it a letter grade of A-minus.
  • Brian Collins of Badass Digest says, "While not the funniest episode they've ever done by any measure, the characters seem like themselves again ... and the emotional bits land a lot more smoothly than in 'History 101.' " He liked the rare pairings of Shirley/Troy, Abed/Annie, and even Britta/Jeff, which may not seem that rare, but he points out they haven't had a solo scene together since "Contemporary Impressionists". He concludes, "In short: certainly not deserving of the show's all time lowest rating."
  • Josh Gondelman of Vulture observes that "Community, as a series, is obsessed with the idea that it is being watched, and perhaps no episode highlights this theme more than 'Paranormal Parentage,' " and spends the vast bulk of the post expounding on that in a very interesting way. He gave the episode 3 stars out of 5.


After a 42% drop in Week 2, it's back to Deathwatch for 'Community.' Sigh. Emotional rollercoaster, that one is.Daniel Feinberg,

"Paranormal Parentage" drew 2.76 million viewers, earning a 1.2 rating/4 share among adults 18-49, down 33% from "History 101" on February 7, 2013("[]]"). Initial reports placed the rating at 1.1("[]]"), leading Andy Bobrow to post a pair of self-deprecating Tweets: 

I'm afraid I killed Community.
I know it's not all about me, but 43% of the people who watched my episode decided not to watch another one.

On Twitter, there were two known Community-related trending topics during the initial broadcast: #HappyValoween and #GhostDad.


A photo of the shooting script for "Paranormal Parentage" was tweeted by the writer Megan Ganz. It is the second episode of Season Four of Community but originally was intended to be the third episode. The scheduled was shifted to accommodate a closer air date to Halloween, but the entire season was put on hold from its October 19 premiere and eventually pushed back to next year. After being promoted as airing on October 26, it eventually debuted on February 14 (Valentine's Day). NBC decided to promote the episode and acknowledge the weird discrepancy by by coining the term "Valloween" and using the word in the official commercial for the episode seen below.

Paranormal parentage


The only thing spooky about this place is the tacky decor. It's like David Lee Roth threw up Miami Vice. Ugh. So tacky.Jeff
I’m gonna set my shrink ray to “daddy issues” and blast that sucker full of closure!Britta
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