Now it's my turn for my pre-comment reading thoughts.
I was really worried about this episode. Just the feeling that it would be a placeholder before some really epic stuff started, a la the lesser season two episodes. Todd's grade really had me frightened. Luckily, I'm on the side of the divide that really enjoyed it. I'd probably put it above Urban Matrimony and Studies in Modern Movement (which I liked much more than most) and about even with Foosball in terms of S3 episodes.
The first half was played broad, but it still did the trick for me because it was broad in a way that reflected the characters (totally disagree with you on that one, Evil Jeff). We know that Abed can have breaks with reality to the point where it is literally shown to us in AUC. We know that Troy is torn between his deep friendship with Abed (the Elf speech) and the knowledge that he is growing up and will soon have to leave that life behind. It is totally in character for Abed to indulge some kind of unrealistic whimsy, just as it is true to Troy to support Abed but realize that he has taken it too far. It seemed to me like Troy reached the point late in the episode where Annie was in the middle of Modern Movement-Abed may be fun to be around, but there is definitely a point where that fun becomes self destructive. I was not expecting the shattered bromance arc to start so soon, but it did and I feel they pulled it off well while still setting the dominoes for later episodes.
I'll spend less time on Jeff, Britta, and Pierce because they seemed more straightforward. Jeff is defined by two opposite facets of his personality-his ego and his crippling insecurity. This episode portrayed them in conflict in a more clear way than we usually see. Jeff would normally struggle with not winning a Most Handsome award. Add in some drugs and the Hulk-out makes total sense. The most surprising fact about Britta tonight (besides the fact that she looks like white Michael Jackson) was the fact that she didn't Britta her diagnosis of Jeff. Maybe this is a sign of her growing up. Pierce, well, we spent an entire season last year learning why Pierce would want to be Fat Burt Reynolds as opposed to Fat Brando.
While watching the episode, and even now, the comparison that keeps coming to mind is Mixology Certification. While this episode didn't get quite as dark or quite as personal, I can't help but see links between the two. Both had some aspects that were played broad and both went to very personal, almost laugh free places in the third act. However, between the two, both had some spot on character moments that were used to illuminate new and growing aspects of who the characters are while playing them for genuine, heartfelt laughs.
The Dean's reaction to the aviators was one of Jim Rash's finest moments on the show
Faux-by? Looks like we know who that second Dean in the promo was
I mentioned this elsewhere, but the bar mitzvah was almost painfully accurate. Anybody who is chirping about anti-Semitism has clearly never been to one. If anything, it didn't go far enough over the top
Chang as Patton almost killed me. This was probably the best use of Chang since pre-pregnancy season 2 and it gives me some serious hope for his coming story arc.
Along those same lines, the bit of the Dreamatorium we saw definitely piqued my interest for that episode as well as where they will go with the Evil Timeline.
Thanks for indulging me. I guess the fact that my expectations were so dramatically blown away led me to being a little long winded. Now into the comments where I expect to be summarily crushed by the people who didn't like the episode.