Everyone is already sitting at their usual booth at MacLarens when Barney stumbles into the bar. Feet tripping one over the other, he falls into the padded seating, knocking hips and shoulders with Ted, who glares, but for the glare is neither manly nor mighty, it's ignored.
"Oh my god," Barney gasps, "it's the worst thing ever!"
Normally that would be cause for some serious concern, but since Barney's declarations of 'the worst thing ever' range in the ballpark from an unattractive bartender to Tim Gunn being unavailable for a suit fitting to one of the Olsen twins having a boyfriend, the reaction he currently receives is mild. Borderline nonplussed, even.
Almost like he is validating their non-response, Ted tells the group, "Barney just found out The Hills isn't real."
"Ahhh," says Robin, nodding solemnly. This is a woman who has felt such heartbreak firsthand. You don't tour the more tourable parts of Canada as a pop star with a robot companion and not learn a few life lessons along the way, people.
"The pain of reality TV turning on you," Marshall, bitter, mutters into his mug of beer.
Lily tenderly pats him on the forearm. "He still hasn't recovered from being rejected by Survivor and The Real World and Hell's Kitchen, have you, sweetie?"
"Rejected?" Marshall parrots, this crazy edge to his voice, and at once Lily knows she had unleashed something bad.
"Here we go," she sighs, but it's too late.
"They spat on my face! A kick to my groin! A cigarette to my eye! They--! No," he lets out a deep, cleansing breath, and sets down his beer with a serious, calming intent, like he's channeling flute music and clear, blue skies. Whatever can invoke peace the quickest. "I'm over it. It's totally not a big deal. I mean, the entertainment industry can't always be right."
"Tell me about it," Robin agrees, while Lily continues to soothe away Marshall's reality rejection by patting him on the hand. "Just look at Canadian Idol, am I right?" In return, she gets nothing. Just a whole lot of resounding silence. "My Dad The Rock Star? The Listener?"
It's Lily who gives off the most severe Honey, that joke's just not identifiable vibe, apologetically shaking her head. Marshall has the decency to look embarrassed for his thoughts, which are obviously along the lines of: American TV kicks Canadian TV's ass any day of the week, bring it!
Robin throws her hands up in the air, once again the delegated outcast. "Oh, come on!"
"Uh, okay, yeah, thank you for the sidebar of non-awesome," Barney snarks, which gets him a lot of How are you so devoid of human emotion? looks, particularly from the ever critical Ted. "Let's rewind, shall we?" Here Barney makes the universal rewinding noises, resulting in him sliding out of the booth, only to jump back in wearing his initial face of horror.
"Oh my god," he gasps for a repeat performance, "it's the worst thing ever!"
(Once, Barney pulled a stunt like this for a solid four hours. Everyone was determined to ignore him at first, but it just kept going and going and going.)
Monotone, Ted offers up the vocal equivalent of an eye roll: "No, not that, nooo."
Lily and Marshall smile at him, but Barney gives him the death-to-you-and-your-non-suit eyes.
"Oh, c'mon, guys!" yells Robin. "He's just going to keep doing this!" All patronizingly, she asks, "Barney, what's wrong?"
"I've been," he says, and then derails for the obligatory, "--wait for it--" Groans ring out, this collective response of everyone's impatience, and Barney, knowing when his audience is losing interest, dramatically cries, "--disbarred!"
"Oh--" Lily's eyes jump from Barney's to Ted's, a whole lot of confusion picked up along the way, and back, "--kay?"
"Oh my god," says Ted, "Barney, what happened?"
On another, more shaky breath, Barney says, "Something terrible, Ted, something--" A wracking, super dramatic inhale and exhale, "How can one man handle such injustice?"
Marshall, however, seemed to be connecting some pretty well-groomed dots. "Hang on a sec. You can't be disbarred. I'm not even sure that makes sense, legally."
Just like that, while the group's reactions are still mid-shift from confused and worried, to accusatory, Barney drops the act. "Mmm, yeah. Those are the perks of... well, they're the perks. But the point is, you suckers bought it. Ted, you should've seen your face! Lame, bro, but heartfelt."
"I was being a good friend! I thought you'd been disbanded! Or," Ted says, a roll of his shoulders, "whatever."
"Yeah, can't happen."
As a Kindergarten teacher, Lily is naturally a skeptic when it comes to grand, attention-grabbing statements. Please, you don't think she hasn't sussed out the inner-workings of her classroom? The system within, where 5-year olds are prone to tell tall blunders, and where the weaker ones willingly bought the lies, like, really, Charlie, you own a pet dinosaur? How is that possible when, oh yeah, dinosaurs are extinct?
"Wait a minute," Lily says, shifting her weight around. "You can't be fired?"
"Not ever," says Barney.
"But what if--" starts Robin, but Marshall cuts her off.
"No, guys, I've seen documents. It's true. Anarchy as we know it could rain down, and Barney would still have a job. The only job."
Barney readjusts the knot on his tie. The smile on his face is more like a boastful smirk. "Sweet."
Robin asks, "Do I even want to know why the Masterpiece Theater reenactment, then?"
"Oh, yeah," Barney sniffs. "That."
Everyone waits, but Barney, being Barney, squints his eyes and stares off at the other bar patrons, divulging a whole lot of nada in favor of silence. He winks at a girl in the corner, puckers his lips together and makes actual kissing noises.
Ted exchanges a why do we still put up with this? look with Marshall. "Well?" He manages to drag out its lone syllable so that it has the vocal hang-time of a much bigger word.
"Ah, right," Barney shakes loose his shoulders. "The break-down. So, little known fact about me. I like younger women."
"Noooo," gasps Ted.
"Get outta here!" cries Lily.
"What?" Robin is the very picture of feigned shock. "You? The classiest of all?"
"No, it's true," assures Barney, missing the smiles passed between his friends. Voice growing darker, and thus creepier, he says, "The forbidden fruit. The unresolved 'daddy issues'. The perky business of their perkies."
Ted is the first to protest, though Lily has that I'm a girl, but I pack a mean punch stare. "Alright, line drawn. Trust me, you're starting to paint a too-clear word collage."
"Ted," tsks Barney. "Ted-o. Teddy. Keep your wrinkled pants on. Last thing we need, am I right, guys," he laughs, "is for you to Ted-out over, frankly, man's natural plight."
Ted stares back a heaping facial dose of judgment. "Uh, no. Because it's disTURBING."
"Or," wonders Barney, "awesome?"
"Pretty sure disturbing."
"So, okay," Lily brings them back on point before an "awesome or disturbing?" tangent can take hold of the group's momentum, "I can't believe I'm asking this, but. What's that have to do with, you know? The 'before' part of this conversation?"
"Oh, right. I enrolled in a community college."
They respond as one: "What?"
It's a comedic reaction of dropped jaws and offended sensibilities, with this trickle effect of disbelief rippling from one person to the next, until it lands back at Barney, who snatches a tall, frothy glass of beer off the tray of a passing waitress with both a smile and a leer.
While the group is still reeling, he takes a long, dramatic sip. Then, "In Greendale, Colorado."
Naturally that gets a louder reaction of, "WHAT?" Barney relishes in their antics, unmoved because he, as the puppet master, played them into his hand. That's right. What up.
"Barney," says Ted, genuinely at a loss for words, "that's--" Nothing is coming out.
"I know," Barney laughs, "isn't it?" He fills in the blank with an assortment of flattering things. Lots of praise. Good friend, that Mosby.
Robin asks the obvious question. "Why Colorado?"
"Where else, Robin, the land of Canucks and make-believe? Please. C'mon now, try to keep up with the big kids."
"But," says Lily, "that... it doesn't... a'ha! What about your work?"
Barney makes a face. "Ehh."
"Referencing back to the aforementioned documents," rattles off Marshall, "he's in the clear." Off the group's responding looks, one's that speak of mistrust, like maybe they suspect his answers are a little too breezy, too bureaucratic, he defends with a dry mouth, "It's a very thorough document."
Barney slings back the rest of his drink, guzzles it down like its water, then exhales his satisfaction. "It's been fun, kids, but Uncle Barney's got to go away on a very special trip now."
"Everything about that," Robin drawls, "is gross."
Poor Ted is still a few conversation points behind. "So, what, you're just going? Now? To, please hear the way I stress these words, a community college in Colorado?"
Barney blinks. "Yeah."
Honestly, they'd done weirder.
Arguing against this would be entirely meaningless by now, so Ted throws back an easy, "See you in five to ten," while Barney slaps his tab's worth of cash on the table, gets up with a fare-thee-well nod, and saunters back from whence he came.
(He'd be back four days later.)
Fresh on the heels of having their open membership rejected, the small Spanish study group at Greendale Community College isn't looking for another body to add to the count so soon. Not after Buddy abandoned them for greener, hipper, way cooler pastures.
"Unless," says Pierce, who always seems to have an unless, "we out-sausage the meat factory."
Annie, ever oblivious, asks, "What's that supposed to--" Doesn't take long, but she gets it, and a taste of bile probably. At least that's what's riding up Jeff's throat. "Ohhhh," she says, innocent no more.
Aaaaand click the stopwatch. Two minutes in and already Annie has been defiled.
Pierce rambles on, "We could use another gal. Another chica. What'dya say, who's with me on it? T-Bone? Jeffrey? Ay-bed?"
Various mumbled 'No's and 'Not me's and 'Never in this lifetime's are spoken, making Pierce toss his hands up in the air, petulantly proclaiming, "You're all a bunch of squares!"
Like this is an actual, legit observation Pierce has reached, instead of, say, the theatrics of a man who has no social life past 3pm, Abed tilts his head and studies Jeff.
His findings are expressed as such: "I prefer to think of Jeff as a triangle."
"Ha," Britta is quick to laugh, a little too into the insult. She thrusts a conclusive finger at Jeff. "Pointy face rears his triangular head once again!"
"One," says Jeff, aiming an angled dip of his non-triangular head towards his old roomie, "sincerest thanks, Abed." Abed gives him a noncommittal nod back. "Two--" This has Jeff glaring at Britta, "--just so you know, every time you insult me, you might as well be chipping a piece off the ice-block that surrounds your heart. Because you like me."
"Britta likes Jeff, Britta likes Jeff," Shirley sweetly sings, but a fierce glare from Britta has her coming to a dead stop.
"What?" Britta's face is pulled into an 'affronted' version of her usual scowl. "Please, that doesn't even make sense."
"School yard antics," Abed easily explains. After all, he is their well of trusty knowledge. "Like kicking him in the leg, or pulling his pig tails."
Jeff's victory smirk slides into a worried, semi-offended frown. "Minus the effeminizing part of that otherwise very strong truth."
"Guys," Britta haughtily defends, all stirred up with the wrongness of it all, "insulting Jeff is part of our repertoire. It's practically on the itinerary."
Jeff's there to call out her bullshit. "What itinerary?"
"Metaphorical,," she comes up with after a brief, yet still time to be awkward struggle. "You know. It's like Annie flipping out over homework--"
Everyone but Britta herself realizes the disaster that gets torn open with that.
"Wait," cuts in Annie, who is outraged and offended and already a little on the crazy side. "Who have you been talking to? I don't flip out over homework!"
"Uh-oh," sings out Jeff, who is unsurprisingly way too pleased at this turn of conversation. Annie has her hands folded across her chest, frown on display. She's one of those girls who looks adorable when she's mad, but that's the thing. It's part of her trap. She lures you into a false sense of bravado, then reveals her arsenal of weapons: manipulative tears, a nearly unbreakable pep, and the ability to stir up one hell of a guilt trip.
"Sweetie," tries Britta, opting the more favorable, condescending route, "you know I didn't mean it in a bad way."
"How did you mean the words 'flip out'?" wonders Jeff. "I ask," he adds, all solemn and noble, "on behalf of Annie, of course."
"Thank you, Jeff," Annie says, giving him a sweet smile chock full of gratitude. You know, the kind usually reserved for Troy whenever Troy manages to do something not entirely clueless. Jeff returns it back, only briefly wondering how soulless it might come across that he is playing into Annie's crazy for his own diabolical gain.
Meanwhile, Britta's like a struggling swimmer, sucked under the current of her own badly worded example. For someone so indifferent to how she's perceived, she's trying pretty hard to make sure she and Annie remain on good terms.
"I only meant," she says, "that you, you know, get enthusiastic about it."
Troy shakes his head. "Nope, that's way worse."
Flat out gaping, Britta says, "How is 'enthusiastic' worse?"
"Crazy people get enthusiastic."
"Or," Britta says, throwing a pathetically hopeful look Annie's way, "really smart people get enthusiastic, hm?"
Troy seems to think it over, but he decides, "Naaah. It's crazy people. I saw Swimfan once and that girl was all sorts of enthusiastic. Then she was crazy."
"We're talking about Annie, right?" pipes up Pierce, and everyone gives him the for the love of everything, don't say something offensive face while Annie smiles on obliviously. "'Cause I've seen Swimfan, naturally, as the young-in-body are apt to do, and I gotta say. If I had to pick one of us to go all nutso--"
"Luckily, that choice is up to statistics, not you," Jeff tries, but it's pointless.
"--with the, what's the word? Enthusiasm? Annie's my gal."
Expecting fury to be unleashed, at least in the form of guilt-rendering tears that wielded nuclear bomb-type power, the group tenses and buckles down and waits and... nothing.
"Excuse me," Annie says instead, wholly on the calm side, and stands up. Robotic, she pivots and walks away, head held high, kicking half the group's conscience into overdrive with the non-flare up of it all. God, she's good.
"Way to go, smooth talk," Jeff dryly notes.
Shirley tsks. "You should be ashamed of yourself, Pierce."
"Not cool," Britta lays on. "Now she's out there, all alone, and what if something horrible happens to her, like she falls victim to some wayward stoner with an ulterior agenda!"
Pierce waves a couldn't-care-less hand. "Ahh, she'll be fine. Annie's got her wits about her."
All it takes is three full seconds for the weight of Pierce's habitually backfiring declaration to sink in, and then:
Jeff jumps fast to his feet. "I'll go get Annie."
"Before she's lured out to a van of strangers!" Britta calls after him, like this threat isn't just theoretical, but entirely plausible.
"With candy!" adds Shirley, nodding big with rounded, the trouble I've seen! eyes.
Troy sighs and lays his head upon the table. "Wish I had some candy right now..."
Annie's glorious storm off fades more into a leisurely walk by the time she makes it to the "R-Th" non-fiction part of the library, way in the back. Far enough from the assembled group to make her feel good about the effect her dramatic exit will have had, but still close enough that she can see when they all leave, so she can retrieve her left behind belongings before any delinquent has the chance to steal them.
And! Britta is such a b-word! True, not all the time, because she really is one of Annie's closet friends, not that Annie has a whole bunch of those, but of the ones she does have, Britta is her best first or second female confidant.
And, well. Pierce is a senseless, senile old man! So there!
Feeling better, at least on the swirling superficial surface, Annie turns the corner of one aisle into the other when --
"Ooomf!" she cries, walking straight into someone.
"Sorry!" she manages, holding a hand to her chest. That's when she realizes that it's--oh my god, it's a guy. A cute guy! "Sorry," she adds, "I'm such a klutz, I should've been watching where I was going."
"And if so, to have missed the chance for the run-in?" the guy answers back, and Annie's smile automatically grows three sizes. "I'll take the off-road collision--" He tugs at his left sleeve, where it'd ridden up with their brief physical contact, "--any day."
Annie ducks her head down, hides the pinkness of her blush. The guy is cute, in a political, sophisticated, indie band kind of way. Like he either has intense world views, or he simply watches a lot of MTV. Either way!
"Wow, I'm so sorry," the guy says after a beat, "that sounded like the world's lamest come-on."
Her head snaps back up, this time with a frown. If she's being honest here, she kind of likes that it sounded like a lame, cheesy come-on. It was nice. Complimentary, even. But it's cool if it wasn't, too. Really, it's okay. Guys just don't see her as the kind of girl worth picking up.
"What I meant to say was--" Here, he leans closer and says, "Have I died and gone to Heaven? Because you look like an angel," and Annie feels this released rush of feelings weirdly unrelated to Troy.
Jeff had wandered upon Annie just in time to hear that sad, sorry line.
"It's true," he sarcastically agrees, and is thoroughly pleased when Annie responds to his voice with a guilty, shocked squeak of noise, hand ridiculously flying over her mouth. "She's our very own Roma Downey."
Jeff doesn't even give the line-dropping douchebag a second glance, just grabs Annie by the shoulders and starts to lead her away. "Annie, study group. Say goodbye to the well-dressed man luring you into debauchery."
"But," she says, "wait!" Somehow pulling out of his grasp with a freakish amount of strength, she twists and spins around, staring up at Jeff with angry eyes. Jeff, for his part, is aware that this is par for the course. Annie isn't about to be manhandled away without a little unleashed fury.
"Dude," the guy says, like he has a right say anything, "deflecting? Bro, so not cool."
Jeff whips around with an annoyed glare. "Dude," he throws back, "quit talking. Seriously."
Breaking all kinds of man codes, the guy bypasses Jeff, doesn't even look at him, just locks eyes with Annie and says, "Boyfriend?" like there is something there worth commiserating over, like they should break out the sparkling cider, grab a fruit basket, a blanket, maybe have themselves a picnic on the quad where Annie can tell him all about her man problems.
Jeff lets that 'boyfriend' title sit there, though, because it's kind of awesome, watching Annie's reaction. Waiting to hear her explanation. He figures it'll go something like: Noooo, Jeff? My boyfriend? Not him! See, I'm hung up on this guy named Troy who doesn't notice me and never will, not because I'm not beautiful, but because unfortunately I'm not a walking mirror. And Jeff? Sure, he's tall, muscular, and handsome, but we've only kissed the one time, and yeahhhh, it was mind-blowing, but technically we've never talked about that since, and he's also sleeping pretty regularly with this hot professor, soooo.
What happens instead is Annie dons her Incredulous Face. It's the same look she wore when Jeff called her 'El Ace-o' one boring afternoon of required journalism and invited her into his office for a drink. Said drink never came to be, because she started lecturing him about power trips and elitism and blah blah blah imperialistic whatever-isms. He hit her with an insult ("Whatever, Britta.") and she'd stormed off, and... later he apologized. But never mind that part.
"Jeff?" Annie scoffs. "My boyfriend? No!" That turns into a laugh. "No way."
Hang on a minute, here. It's not exactly something worth laughing over. Jeff Winger is a catch! That's part of the Winger guarantee. You manage to reel him in, congratulations, lucky lady, you just landed yourself a winner! Guaranteed!
"Jeff is..." Annie's still saying, grimacing like it's a terrible, painful process, thinking up what exactly he is to her, and what the hell? Seriously? It takes him no brain power what-so-ever to know what Annie means to him: lovable loser. Bam. That's how it's done.
Because she's still floundering, Jeff, a little pointedly on the offended side, rolls out, "A friend. Who happens to own a license to carry concealed."
"Friend, hmm?" Like Jeff had instead lifted a "UNDATEABLE" veil off of Annie, the guy, the douchebag, sticks his hand out towards her and introduces himself. "Name's Barney. Barney Stinson."
She offers her own hand, and though it has an awkward four seconds of hang time, Barney soon catches on to her expectations. Dumb ass. He takes it in his, kisses her across the soft part of her knuckles in a slow, polite, insanely perverse way--
Jeff quickly has Annie gripped by the shoulders once more, and he none-too-delicately shoves her forward. Her hand slips away from Barney's, and Jeff says, "We're going now. Okay," he then laughs, all hollow and fake and I'm going to punch this dude in the face. "Bye-bye now."
Annie's attempts to protest are valiant, but Jeff has strength. Jeff has a full foot of height on her. Jeff also has his stewing emotions, which have him blindly leading Annie back to the study room, where her entrance gets a two-part sarcastic/sincere round of applause.
Because she has something anew to be worked up over, she sits down with a childishness, heavy and loose-limbed.
Troy leans over the table, towards Britta. "Now she looks enthusiastic."
Britta's eyebrow quirk (I don't think you know what that word means) but before anyone can delve into that spiel, Barney slips into the empty seat beside Jeff, totally and completely throwing off the group.
Besides Annie, who's face lights up. "Hi!" she says, waving big.
"Cool, what is this?" Barney says, giving Annie a quick, acknowledging nod. "Study group? Cool. I study. What're we studying?"
"Wait just a minute," says Pierce, "I thought we weren't adding anyone else to the group?"
"Annie," Shirley says through a clenched jaw, this combination of Mom Voice and Concerned Christian, "you, a-hem, know this young man?"
Jeff's eyes are locked menacingly on Barney. His entire demeanor screams 'overprotective hard ass,' like he's sitting there trying to decide whether or not punching Barney in the face would be worth the follow-up bad karma. On the plus side of that, though, he'd probably be hoisted to the top of the Dean's 'Hottest Violent Offenders' list.
Without taking his eyes off the newcomer, he tells Shirley, "Annie picked up a new friend outside."
Britta adopts Jeff's stance, gaze full of mistrust. "What kind of friend?"
"Any kind you ladies want," says Barney, this time honed in on Britta. He looks all suave and idiotic, and while Britta is more than capable of handling herself (her eyes are like DAGGERS), Annie looks like she'd just been handed a basket full of sick puppies.
Jeff pushes his chair back and stands up. "Alright, that's it. Get out."
Barney looks up at him, miserable and putting on a show. "What? Me? Out? Out where? Out there?"
Annie leans forward, crumbly kicked-puppy face gone, and tells their annoying group cling-on, "Don't listen to him," in this formidable, authoritative voice. Jeff lifts his head towards the ceiling, squeezes his eyes shut and sighs. These people will be the death of him.
"You're allowed to stay," Annie says. "Why not, it's public property. But don't take my word for it, because it's not like I flip out for legal technicalities or anything."
Britta drops her defensive stance to pitch herself forward. "Oh, c'mon, really?! You know I didn't mean it like that!"
Jeff reminds everyone, "Guys, ball. Eyes back on it."
Six gazes dutifully land on Barney.
Barney watches with a detached kind of fascination as the group of stereotypes he'd sat with have a Mosby-type melt down. And all because he followed the hot brunette back, rewarded for his patience with a just as hot but in a more aggressive way blonde. Awesome, right? Like positive reaffirmation.
There's a problem, though, and it's the 6'4" watch dog currently hovering over him, the one saying, "See, I don't think you're getting it. We're a Spanish study group."
"Closed, Jeffrey," says Gramps across the table. "Make sure to really emphasize the 'closed' part."
Jeffrey pinches his eyes shut, forces out a mockingly grateful but on the whole frustrated, "Okay, Pierce!"
Old Dude, in return, offers up two thumbs of approval.
Barney has no real interest in joining any kind of assembled group. Obviously. Yeah, here's the thing. Him and groups? Not a good match. Like flannel and... actually, flannel is bad enough on its own. And yet. There is a challenge here. A challenge he feels he must rise to.
Also, he's been in Greendale for almost two days, and oh dear God the amount of plain-looking girls. He thought there would be a higher ratio of hot girls willing to put out + alcohol + insecurities, but instead it turns out this place is like a school for the ugly.
And then there was brunette girl. And blondie. And suddenly, like a beacon of light on a gray, misty morning, it becomes clear:
"I want to join your group!" Barney announces, and then laughs, because it's so refreshing, realizing his slot in life. Glorified role-player. Jealous?
Jeff, still a looming figure to his right, clamps his hand onto the back of Barney's chair. Low, almost growling, he tells Barney, "You're going to get up, you're going to walk out, and we're never going to see you again."
The brunette he'd followed pushes her chair back. Feisty! Barney appreciates that quality in a fully willing sexual partner. "That's not fair!" she shouts.
Thus Barney levels Jeffrey with a stare, one eyebrow quirked high: you heard the lady.
Jeff feels his normally cool restraint spiraling out of control, and it only tailspins further when Annie stands all stiff and menacing, like she thinks her soaring height and 90 pounds are an intimidating sight.
Addressing the others, she says, in full-on debate mode, "Who are we to deny someone the right to join our group? I think we're all forgetting what's important here."
Pierce's eyebrows take a comical leap. "Jeff's the boss?"
"No!" Annie says, while Jeff smirks his approval and Britta breathes out her disgust. "No. School. School is important!"
"That was my second guess," Pierce informs everyone, and for the reassuring way he's nodding, catching the eyes of them all, chances are his second guess was more likely 'moist toilette' or 'library'.
Abed says, "I would've guessed the overall arch. Sometimes it gets lost in the plot."
"Of what?" calls out Jeff, and Abed shrugs.
"Yeah, well I would've said jokes," Troy tells them, "'cause I've been thinking about it, and, yeah. That's my slot."
"Heh," snickers Barney, reminding everyone he's still around, and he, not the school or a missing plot or life, is what they're supposed to be talking about. "Slots."
Taking her seat again, Annie mutters, half-marveling to herself, "It's supposed to be school."
Britta stares the stare of the super judgmental, aiming it at Barney. "Yeah, man. Slots. Innuendo, man. Cool." It's all said in this low, pissed, clearly mocking frat-voice that sounds to Jeff's non-assuming ears like her ex-boy toy Tiny Nipples, but Pierce, as a surprise to no one, takes her serious.
"My god, Britta," he says. "You sound like a lounge lizard."
Troy's still waiting for his affirmation, tossing glances around like an eager puppy. "I'm the joker! That's what I do. I bring in the jokes!"
Sensing that he isn't going to intimidate this Barney guy out of leaving with the strength of his physical presence alone, at least not with the group's attention span being ZERO, Jeff sinks back down into his seat.
"So." Pierce clears his throat. "He's in? Willy-nilly, just like that?"
"Willy-nilly," laughs Barney. Then, because it isn't immature enough, he snickers, "Willy."
And Jeff is having to staunchly defend this guy not joining the group, why? Because, seriously, doesn't behavior like that sort of speak for its overly-styled, Ryan Seacrest-sized self?
"There was a vigorous and intense and intrusive interview process I had to go through," Pierce complains, "just to get in, and this guy gets a free pass?"
"What are you talking about? You showed up. That's it. That was the extent of you joining the group."
"Come on, guys," says Barney, all smooth and apologetic, like some kind of mediator. "Don't fight."
"We're not," Jeff, Annie, and Britta defend as one, while Pierce yells, "Jeff's bossy!"
"I'm here," Barney adds, "for the same reason all of you are. For a higher purpose: mid-level education."
Annie clasps her hands to her heart, like the guy just announced himself Official World Baby/Kitten/Puppy/Duckling-Saver.
"Awww," she pretty much coos. "See!"
"And I'm here to make the world a better place using only the magic of my smile," Jeff employs his own made-up excuse, then snarks, "Not. See how easy that works?"
Face screwed into a steely determination, Annie says, "Loosen up, Winger!"
All he can do is stare, wide-eyed, slack-jawed, because holy crap, how is he not being hit in the head with a real anvil that says IRONY on it right now?
Shirley does her hem-ing and hum-ing thing, where she has a disagreeing opinion to share, but she has to tune her voice just right so that it comes out all sugary and sweet despite its carried offense. "I don't know, Jeff. Annie's right," she says, shifting back and forth in her chair, not looking at Jeff.
And doesn't that just make Annie's entire argument valid? "Thanks, Shirley!" she chirps, like this is, what, some Honor Society meeting in high school and Shirley delegated Annie the group's Treasurer? Crazy people. Jeff is surrounded by crazy people.
"All I want," Barney says, like he's leading into a monologue, "is all I've ever wanted. To be loved. By a group of--" he does a quick head count, "--seven lovable misfits."
"Like Snow White," notes Abed.
"Exactly," Barney easily agrees, then catches the ridiculousness of it. "Or, what?"
Nodding at each person in a clockwise fashion, Abed sounds off, "Cynical," (Britta, who goes, "Hey!") "Grumpy," (Jeff, who's been called worse) "Jumpy," (Annie, who jumps at the attention) "Happy," (Shirley, who giggles) "Old," (Pierce, who thinks Abed's talking about Jeff) "Cool," (Troy, who hangs up a fist for Abed to pound) "--and Batman." (Himself.)
"You realize," Jeff says, "you just reduced us to sidekicks in an animated movie that, frankly, Disney really jumped the shark on."
A gasp from Annie, who, by the sound of it, must've interpreted Jeff's words as 'I have no soul, let me show you how!'
Barney hmm's, then says, "I see what you mean. Grumpy's kind of a sourpuss, isn't he?"
Jeff turns on the guy. "Why are you here again?"
Winking at Annie, Barney says, "Uh, duh. School." He drops the obvious-smarmy act for a more subtle one. "But specifically, it's because I was disbarred."
Jeff feels this shift, like someone's gone and tugged the ground out from beneath him. "Disbarred?"
"I know. Terrible, isn't it?" says Barney, like Jeff's sympathy was implied. "As a pro bono lawyer raising awareness about orphanages in all regions of third world countries while simultaneously speaking out against animal cruelty and the Right Wing propaganda--" (The girls of the group melt as one; even Britta drops the Angry Cat, Will Claw Out Eyes stance.) "--I realized I needed to go back to school, the right way, and earn my degree. Who else is going to make sure Jimmy gets his vegetables? Or Mary her typhoid shot? Hmm?"
Pierce tries to start up a slow clap, but it doesn't go beyond him. Troy wipes away something from his eye, then coughs and attempts to look tough while saying, "My eyes get sweaty, okay." Annie has this look about her that means she's making up wedding invitations in her head that say 'Mr. and Mrs. Library Dwelling Douchebag'.
"Okay," Jeff says, slow and stretched out, "why are you really here?"
"Maybe," chuckles Barney, "he should be called Overly Skeptic, am I right?" It's like the verbal equivalent of a really patronizing slap on the back.
Everyone laughs, because hah-hah, it's so funny, Jeff getting put in his place, whatever.
"But seriously," says Barney, with a narrow-eyed seriousness. "I'm just a man lookin' to change the world."
"From the hallow, sacred halls of Greendale Community College," is Jeff's sarcastic add-on.
In some crazy swift move, Barney turns the table on Jeff. "What about you? Wait, no, let me guess. The wardrobe says 'I try too hard, but deep inside, I'm nothing but a slacker.'" He makes a hissing sound through his teeth. "Track pants and a blazer? Really?" Then, "The hair's giving off the same vibe. It wants to say 'bedhead,' but what it really reeks of is American Crew Styling Gel. Nice product. Cheap, but effective."
Apparently she's a defender for all, because Annie stiffens, says, "Jeff's not a slacker." Even though it's the complete opposite of true, nobody argues against it. Actually, they all start to rally together, hive-minded in their simple thinking: insult one, you insult us all.
"Yeah," Britta joins in, a little less convincingly, "Jeff hates to slack. He has an allergy to... slacking. A slackergy!"
Abed just shrugs and tells it like it is: "Sometimes Jeff slacks, but by the end of the episode, he usually makes up for it."
Barney echoes, "Episode?"
"I like to think of our interaction in terms of a sitcom. At first I thought we'd end up an hour-long, but we're not ready for that yet."
Everyone's nodding like this makes an incredible amount of sense (weirdly, it does. Jeff doesn't think too hard about that, because it means he's become one of them), but Jeff realizes herein lies victory. Freaking out the new guy enough to get him to bail.
He says, with as much seriousness as one person can say such a thing, "I'm lobbying to turn us into a procedural."
Barney laughs. It's fake, hollow. The noise of the totally weirded out. "What kind of group is this again?" He's looking back and forth at the posters on the wall, like he expects there to be some CRAZY PEOPLE ANONYMOUS flier tacked up.
Annie's face draws into a frown. "We study Spanish."
"Normally families only have one dad," Pierce says, and from the way he bursts out with it, it's clear this is a thought that's been building. "But I think we can make an exception. You seem like a 'dad'."
It's like the word 'dad' carries with it the power to unravel Barney. He pushes back in his chair, stands up.
"Oh, hey! What d'ya know, I need to go. Do things. Not here." To himself, he cries, "I feel the draft of crazy."
Annie gets all fidgety. "You're going? But! I thought you wanted to--"
"Any chance you're going to sleep with me?"
Jeff's almost impressed with the way Barney cuts straight to the chase. The guy is so dead, but still. Damn. That's awesome.
The glower that takes over Annie's face speaks for itself, so Barney ducks out of there, turns towards Britta. He only gets as far as opening his mouth and letting out the sound, "Whu--" before Britta says, "Say something like that to me, and I can guarantee a future vocal cord disability."
Wisely, Barney says nothing else. Just gets in one last glimpse at the group, then shuffles off.
"And that," Pierce says into the open silence Barney's departure leaves, "is why we don't talk to strangers."
"Yes," drawls Jeff, "if there is any lesson to be learned here, it's that."
Annie's staring at the table, wearing this lost expression, like she can't believe it all turned out so less-than-Disney Princess-ish. "He seemed so nice..."
"Sweetie," Britta reaches her hand across the table, "they all do. Trust me."
Jeff clears his throat to catch the ladies attention, then eyeballs the ceiling, all innocently counting cobwebs in the dusty corners when Annie and Britta look his way, both wearing matching Guys! Ugh! faces.
"And some of them," says Britta, "are completely and totally obvious in their intention, even in the face of constant rejection."
"Changed my mind," Abed decides all of a sudden. He's talking to Jeff, but everyone's paying attention. "You'd be Pointy."
As the group unravels into conversation (Annie leaps in to propose that, if they're switching, she'd like a nickname more suitable than Jumpy, and Pierce suggests Double D's, then clarifies when people get noisy and offended that, no, oh no, he wasn't talking about her grades, that was a play on her bust-size; things further in that downhill snowball trend), Jeff leans back, props his hands behind his head and watches with a smile on his face.
(They may be crazy, but they're his group of crazies.)
"So," Ted says, standing at the bar with Barney. "How was the vacation, Uncle Barney?"
Barney gives him a wry, how dare you mock me? glance. He says, "Awesome," but it comes out hollow.
"Soooo. Not worth it?"
"Oh, god." Barney crumbles against the counter. A pile of napkins gets pushed to the floor with his theatrics. "It was the worst!"
"Worst like... being disbarred?"
Barney's glare is vengeful, but it fades quick. "The girls, Ted. The girls. It was like--imagine with me, if you will, a world with no hot people. Can you? Can you even do that, Ted? Because that was the HELL I lived through!"
"Not a good idea, then?" Ted is smirking, trying hard to hold back his amusement, but pretty clearly failing. When Barney straightens with a disgusted, woe-is-misunderstood-me sigh, Ted goes, "Oh, come on! You left to go to Wherever, Colorado to pick up girls. I'm sorry! But it's funny."
Barney waves this fact away. "Just promise me something."
Grabbing Ted by the cheap collar of his button-down JCPenney's shirt, he demands, "Never let that happen again."
Ted laughs and tries to shake free, promising up a mostly empty, "Okay, Barney."
More crazy, Barney goes, "Promise me!"
Carefully prying himself out of the death-grip, Ted eyes Barney with a new respect for the trauma Barney must've clearly been put through. "What happened to you while you were there?"
So Barney sat and told Ted of all the awful things he saw, including his run-in with the school's dean who was dressed for the occasion as a giant dalmatian, the group of certifiably nuts people he met in a library, the unjust ratio of good-looking girls to fuglies, the lazy and casual dress code, etc.
(And that, kids, is why Uncle Barney rattles his fist and glowers whenever 'community college' comes up.)