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Elementary Murder Mystery Analysis

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"It's come to my attention," says Pierce, "that Jeff is dead."

"What!" Annie says. Her arm flies out and knocks over a cup full of pencils. The pencils start rolling everywhere, but this time Annie's Boobs are not there to catch them.

"What do you mean, Jeff is dead?" Britta demands.

"I mean that's he's dead, finished, kaput, gone from the hood yo," Pierce says. He points at Troy and Shirley. "See, I even added some of your people's language, so you can understand me better."

"Thanks," Troy says flatly.

"H-how can Jeff be dead?" Shirley asks, her voice rising. "We saw him just this..." She trails off, and everybody actually tries to remember the last time they saw Jeff.

Britta smacks her fist into her palm in triumph. "I saw him by the water fountain on Tuesday!" she declares.

"Britta, it's Friday today," Shirley says.

"Wait," says Troy. "Are you seriously saying that we haven't seen Jeff for three days, and none of us even noticed?"

"It makes sense if you think about it," Abed points out. "Examining the narrative convention, we can see that Jeff's role as our de facto leader is slowly being challenged, so his character figure is becoming more and more obsolete." He pauses. "Plus we had that fire alarm and that poison gas alert. A lot of class got canceled."

"Jeff is dead," Pierce says gleefully. "He was murdered!"

"How can you say that!" Annie says.

"Because none of us can find him, and his car is in the parking lot covered in blood," Pierce says. "I thought you were supposed to be smart."

"I'm going to call him right now," Britta says. She takes out her cell phone and scrolls through the contact list furiously. She brings it up to her ear as it rings, and she waits. They all wait. They wait and they wait, and finally Britta lowers the phone, looking at it like it's betrayed her. "He's probably off destroying some woman's self-esteem by having smug, over-controlling, degrading sex," she says.

"Why will none of you believe me when I say that Jeff is dead?" Pierce asks loudly. "Come on, I'll even show you the car."

They troop grimly to the parking lot. Jeff's car is parked in the left quadrant, and when they look at it, they realize one inescapable fact. Pierce being right is an experience to be ranked somewhere alongside herpes, nuclear disaster, and Dean Pelton declaring Mariah Carey Dressup Day, but all of them feel the cold chill of inevitable glitter as they stare at Jeff's car. Through the perfectly washed windows, which Jeff probably uses to check the reflection of his teeth, they can see both of the front seats splattered with blood.

"Oh my God!" Shirley cries.

"I think I'm going to faint," Annie says.

Troy launches himself at the window, banging it with his fists. "Jeff! Jeff! Can your spirit hear me? Tell us who did this to you!"

"See?" Pierce crows. "None of you wanted to believe me. I bet you thought I was lying. That'll teach you to doubt Pierce Hawthorne ever again!"

"Pierce, how can you care so much about being right when Jeff's car is covered in blood?" Britta asks angrily.

Abed stands a little apart from the rest of them, but he steps forward and nudges a wailing Troy aside. "I think this is quite interesting."

"Abed! This is not a science project!" Shirley says. "This is our friend!"

"This is also an untouched crime scene," Abed says calmly. "Unexamined. Pure. We can't let this opportunity pass us by. We need to do it. For Jeff. We need to solve this mystery." He looks at the car. "But first we need to break inside."

"Dude, Pierce, if you're looking at me because I'm black..." Troy says.

"I'll do it," says Annie. She reaches into her purse and pulls out a set of lockpicks. "What?" she says. "I live in a dangerous neighbourhood!" She kneels down by the car door so that she's eye level and starts working. A few minutes later, they hear a click, and the door swings open.

"You realize we could have just smashed the windows," Britta says.

"Jeff would kill us," Troy says automatically. Then his eyes go wide in realization. Britta pats him awkwardly on the shoulder.

Abed slides into the car like an otter.

"What do you see?" Shirley asks tentatively.

"Well, first of all, there's no way to verify this is blood," Abed says. He takes out a pair of plastic gloves from his pocket that he keeps just in case he'll ever run into a crime scene. It never hurts to be prepared. He snaps them on, and runs his fingers along the dried red substance.

They all breathe in relief.

"But there's no way to verify it isn't blood either," Abed adds.

Troy wheezes.

Abed wriggles around and starts poking into the glove compartment. "There's a pair of women's underwear inside, probably belonging to his new girlfriend. There's also a knife, covered in blood," he announces.

"That's the knife that was used to kill Jeff!" Troy says. "That's the knife that slid into his muscular chest, resting in the meadows of his luxurious chest hair!"

They all stare at him.

"Anyhow," Abed says, "the knife is accompanied by a note, and the note says: Dear Jeffrey, you have crossed the line of no return, either you do what I tell you to do or you will see your life dramatically shortened." He blinks. "It's unsigned."

"Dear Jeffrey, aww, that's sweet," says Shirley. "At least this murderer had good manners."

"We have our three pieces of evidence," Abed says. "The blood, the knife, and the note. From this we can establish a preliminary murder mystery investigation, which we can use, along with deductive reasoning, to figure out what actually happened in this parking lot, and what actually happened to Jeff."

"Abed, you're like Sherlock Holmes," Annie exclaims.

"I guess I am," Abed says, and smiles very slightly. "Jeremy Brett version, of course. I enjoy Downey and Cumberbatch as modern incarnations, but I do prefer the classics."

"Can I be Watson?" Troy asks.

"You may."

"Can I smoke a pipe?"


"Awesome," says Troy. "I've got a bubble blower just waiting to be used."



"The first step," says Abed, after they get Troy to stop choking on the bubbles, "is motive. Who sent this note? Who would have a good reason to want Jeff dead?"

"Should I make a spreadsheet?" Annie asks.

"Good idea," Abed says.

"I think Starburns is the most obvious candidate," Britta says. "I saw Jeff taking the last macadamia nut cookie in the cafeteria line yesterday. He yanked it right out of Starburns' hand."

"Murder motive as inspired by baked goods," Abed says. "I like it." He opens his notebook and writes it down. Annie types into the spreadsheet.

"What about Magnitude?" Pierce asks. "He looks—"

"Don't say it," Troy warns.

"What, do you all think I'm some kind of racist?" Pierce demands. "I was going to say that he's shifty because he's an artist, and all artists are crazy. It has nothing to do with the fact that he's black. Plus I saw him and Jeff arguing last week."

"Fascinating," says Abed. Annie types faster.

"Don't forget Duncan!" Shirley says. "He and Jeff have history."

"And he's an alcoholic!" Troy adds.

Shirley looks at him coldly. "What do you have against alcoholics?"

"Nothing," Troy says quickly.

"He's foreign," Pierce says. "We would have stopped him at the airport already."

"All right," Abed says, snapping the covers of his notebook shut. "We have three potential suspects to begin with. We should commence the interview process. Annie, you track down Starburns and bring him here. Troy, you find Magnitude. Shirley, can we trust you to bring in Duncan?"

Shirley hoists her purse over her shoulder. "I'll do it or I'll die trying."

"Cool," Abed says. "Cool, cool, cool."

"What should I do?" Pierce asks.

"You and Britta can find some snacks," Abed suggests. Then he sits back in his chair and waits. This is the crucial moment, the era of ignorance before the truth begins coming into light. He turns the facts over in his head: the violent scene in Jeff's car, Jeff's disappearance, the threatening note. When Annie returns with Starburns, Abed is deep in thought, fingers steepled together underneath his chin.

"We have a few questions for you," he tells Starburns without opening his eyes. "The first question is: how passionately do you feel on the subject of macademia nut cookies? On a scale from one to ten, approximately?"

"Uh, seven?" Starburns says.

"Aha!" says Annie. "Seven, for suspicious."

"Why do you think I killed Jeff Winger?" Starburns asks. He pets his lizard.

"Do you feel intense, overwhelming dislike for him?" Abed asks.

"," Starburns says, unconvincingly.

Abed stands up abruptly. He leaves his side of the table and comes around to circle Starburns, who looks up at him, uncertain. Abed bares his teeth in a feral grin and lunges for Starburns' lizard. Starburns shrieks and starts flailing at him. "What are you doing? Get off me, get off me! Someone help!" He slaps Abed across the face, but Abed shakes him off. And then, just as suddenly as he started attacking Starburns, he leans back. He adjusts his collar and walks to his side of the table again.

"You may go," he tells Starburns, and Starburns can't run out of the study room fast enough.

"What was that about?" Annie asks.

"I wanted to test his physical capabilities," Abed says evenly. "I wanted to see what he would be like in a moment of adrenaline. After seeing the strength in his arms, or lack thereof, I highly doubt he was the one who killed Jeff."

Next up is Magnitude. Troy hauls him in and tosses him into the hot seat. Abed looks Magnitude in the eye, unblinking, and starts grilling him.

"Pop pop," says Magnitude.

"What were you and Jeff arguing about?"

"Pop pop."

"What was his reaction?"

"Pop pop!"

"He's clearly guilty!" Pierce says. "The 'pop pop' is obviously code for gun shots!"

"Yeah, except you're telling me Jeff was stabbed, not shot," Magnitude says. He spreads his arms. "Can I leave now? I have an audience to get to."

"There's still Duncan," Annie says.

"No, there's not," Shirley answers, lurching into the study room. "I tried to get him, I really did! But he started... he started psychoanalyzing me. That was cruel and unusual torture right there, I tell you. Then he climbed out of his window."

"He's our killer!" Pierce says. "I knew it! I knew he drank too much girly tea to be an honest, red-blooded American male!"

But Abed shakes his head. "My intuition is telling me that Duncan isn't our killer. His history with Jeff makes him the most obvious suspect, and in murder mysteries, it's never the most obvious suspect that's the killer." He pauses and stares at the wall before jerking back to attention. "Unless it's a double bluff, but this is Greendale we're talking about. We need to pursue another avenue of investigation."



"I knew being a detective's sidekick would be hard. I've got to be the brawn while you're the brains," says Troy, "but I didn't know it would be this hard." He leans his weight down on a screeching Chang, who's clawing the linoleum tiles, trying to get out from under.

"NO WAY AM I GIVING YOU THE SECURITY TAPE FOR THE PARKING LOT," Chang yells. He tries to bite Troy, but Troy slams him back down.

"This is for Jeff," Annie pleads. "Jeff is your friend! He let you live with him!"

"Jeff is a cruel, nasty man who wouldn't let me borrow his enema!" Chang says.

"Oh, that's disgusting," Shirley says. "Let a dead man have his peace."

"Give us the security footage," Troy grunts.

"NO NO NO NO," Chang says, and then he manages to throw Troy off and scramble halfway up the walls like a squirrel with velcro attached to his feet.

Britta grabs him by the ankle and yanks him back down. "Listen to yourself! You're the head of security for this entire campus. A student was murdered on your watch, and you're not interested in bringing the murderer to justice?"

"Unless you killed Jeff!" Pierce accuses.

"You're obviously deranged enough," says Annie.

"It's highly unlikely that Chang is our killer," Abed says, watching the entire spectacle. "The blood patterns on the seats of Jeff's car indicates a pooling effect, possibly one or two stabs, and then Jeff bled out slowly. Chang's M.O strikes me as being more frantic, involving multiple stabs. I don't think he would have the self-control to stop."

"That's so grisly," shudders Shirley.

"You slept with him," Annie says.

Shirley sniffs. "And I've prayed to be cleansed ever since."

"YOU CAN'T DO THIS," Chang yells, struggling against Britta, who has a surprisingly heavy tackle. "I'M THE DETECTIVE HERE. I'M THE NOIR P.I. THIS IS MY LITERARY DEVICE, NOT YOURS."

"Get... off... the... wall," Britta pants.


There's no success to be found here. Abed snaps his fingers and indicates game over. They leave Chang in a writhing, convulsing mess on the floor, and they return to the study room. Abed leans back in his chair and closes his eyes again. "We need to think more deeply. Does anybody have a violin on them?" he asks. "No? What a shame. Does anybody have cocaine? Britta?"

Britta scowls.

"I have some packets of sugar from the caf," Troy offers.

"That'll do," Abed says. He shakes out the grains of sugar onto his tongue.

"I've been thinking," Shirley speaks up. "I think there's an important lesson to be learned from all of this. We never know when any of us might die, so we should all repent and accept the Lord into our hearts. Because otherwise — we're going to hell."

"Jeff is not in hell," Britta says.

She pauses.

"Okay, maybe he is," she says. "But it's not because he didn't love Jesus. It's because he's a selfish, egotistical, horndog who doesn't even—"

"It's okay," Annie says, reaching over to take her hand. "We're all sad. We can let it out."

"His penis is disproportionately small to the rest of his body," Britta sobs. "I can't believe I miss it already."



The great detective Abed considers his options. Hours pass as he sits, still as a parked TARDIS, and thinks. People leave the room. People enter it. Someone, possibly Troy, hands him orange soda. Abed does not drink it. Abed needs to keep his mind clear now, because he feels like he's on the edge of a breakthrough, but there are pieces that still don't make sense.

He examines the facts: Starburns didn't do it, Magnitude didn't do it, Duncan didn't do it, Chang didn't do it. There was the knife, and there was the note.

Where is the clue that will tie all of these disparate facts together?

Where is the mastermind's one critical mistake?

"Oh shoot," Shirley finally says, looking at the clock. "I need to go home soon. My son is grounded, and my kids need somebody to watch over them or they'll make a huge mess in the house."

"Why is he grounded?" Annie asks.

Shirley's face pulls into an expression of displeasure. "My boy tried to forge my signature on a permission slip. Can you believe it?"

"I used to do that all the time when I was a kid," Britta says.

"Yes, well, that's because you didn't have parents who loved you enough to care about going to the zoo," Shirley retorts.


"I just don't understand why he would do such a thing!" Shirley says. "I would have signed it! All he had to do was wait for me to get home! Why couldn't he wait?"

Abed's eyes snap open. "That's it!"

"What?" Troy asks.

"I know what happened," Abed says. "I know who killed Jeff."



"So why can't you tell us?" Britta asks. "Why did you make us wait for an hour while you went and got things ready? Got what ready?"

"The grand reveal at the end of a detective novel is always the most important part," Abed informs her. "It has to be perfect. Otherwise you won't appreciate the genius of my discovery. Now, sit here. In this semicircle. That's right." He arranges everybody to his liking, and then he stands in front of them.

"At first, I felt like this case had hit a dead end," he begins. "There were plenty of suspects with motive, but no one who fit into the details of the crime. There was a victim but there was no obvious killer, no matter which way I looked at it."

He paces, to the left and then to the right. He makes eye contact with every member of the group.

"Then it occurred to me. Everything seemed so perfectly positioned. Why did the killer leave the murder weapon in the glove compartment? Why did they leave an incriminating note? It was as if the killer wanted to be found. Or that the killer had forgotten to remove these items."

"That doesn't make sense," Troy said. "Why would the killer forget to clean up the crime?"

"Because the killer was the crime," Abed says. He's standing in front of the door, but he steps aside. "Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, the murderer: Jeff Winger."

"Hey guys," says Jeff. "What's up?"

"Jeff!" Annie says.

"Jeff!" Britta says.

"Jeff!" Pierce says.

"Can we make this quick? I've got an appointment in half an hour," Jeff says. He leans against the doorway and smirks at all of them.

"We thought you were dead!" Shirley cries.

"I can explain," Abed says. "It was your remark, Shirley, that put all the pieces of the puzzle together for me. You mentioned your son forging your signature, and I thought: what if the note was forged? And if so, who forged it? So I examined the note more carefully, and I realized that the handwriting was exaggeratedly feminine—"

"Gay," coughs Pierce.

"Jeff is more in touch with his feminine side than most guys," Troy observes.

"—and it was the same handwriting Jeff used to write that fake love letter from Annie to the Dean," Abed says.

"You what?" Annie says.

"That was in first semester," Jeff says. "It was ages ago. Only Abed with his freakish memory would remember something like that."

"But I did remember," Abed says. "And so I understood: Jeff had killed Jeff. Jeff had staged the entire scene to make us think that he was dead. But why? That continued to puzzle me, and then I realized: he didn't do it to fool us. He did it to fool someone else."

"Livy," Jeff supplies.

"Your girlfriend?" Britta says.

"I was trying to think of an easy way to get out of that relationship," Jeff says. "It's a win-win situation. She leaves thinking that I was madly in love with her, and I get to sleep with someone who doesn't insist on using Mickey Mouse ears as erotic toys every time."

"That is low," Britta says. "That is so low, it's geologic."

"Does Livy go to this school?" Troy asks. "How would that work? Wouldn't she, you know, see you in class?"

"She doesn't go to this school," Jeff says. "The only reason all that crap was in the car was because I drove directly from her apartment to class. I stuck the knife and the note in the glove compartment, but there wasn't much I could do about the fake blood. I didn't figure anyone would be peeping into my car to notice." He looks at his watch. "Seriously, are we finished with this yet?"

"One thing still doesn't make sense," Pierce says. "You love that car. Why would you ruin it with fake blood?"

"That's right!" Annie says. "You're so vain about it!"

"I was going to get the car reupholstered next week," Jeff says. "Okay, now I'm gone for real. You know I'm alive, we're all happy, yadda yadda, this place is cramping my style." He leaves without a further goodbye.

"Wow," Britta says dryly, "my joy at seeing him alive is rapidly diminishing. How is he so good at that every time?"

"I'm pleased," Abed says. "The case was solved to great success."

"Troy, why do you look so sad still?" Shirley asks.

"Because it's not fair!" Troy says. "If this is a murder mystery, there should have been a clue from the very beginning! It shouldn't have come out of left field like this! I don't want to be Stupid Watson!"

Abed holds up a finger. "But there was a clue in the very beginning. If you'll remember, I mentioned Jeff's girlfriend in the very first scene. You all thought it was a red herring, but it wasn't."

"That doesn't count!" Troy says. "It was such a small clue!"

"I'm afraid I can't do much about that," Abed says. "I didn't write this mystery."


"Don't you blaspheme the Lord!" says Shirley.

"I don't feel anything anymore," Troy mourns.

"It's all right," Abed says. "While statistically unlikely that a deity is involved in any of this, it's natural to feel some frustration at the end of a mystery. But think about it this way, Troy. We can always find another mystery to solve, one with better clues. Or," he adds, "we could make another pillow fort and watch Inspector Spacetime."

"We can?" Troy asks.

"Yes," says Abed.

"Okay then," says Troy. "Let's do that."