“I don't know, Annie,” says Abed. “It's a pretty unusual crossover.”
Annie looks up from Troy's laptop, which she's been peering at over his shoulder. “A what?”
“A crossover,” Abed repeats. “A story where our fandom intersects with another fandom.”
Annie sighs. “Abed, are you doing that thing where you think we're in a TV show?”
“We're not in a TV show,” says Abed. “We're in a fanfiction about a TV show. That's why I said 'fandom' instead of—”
“Hold up.” Troy stands up, giving Abed an odd look across the study room table. “If this is a fanfiction, am I supposed to kiss you?”
The pair exchange a long look. Annie reaches for the laptop, sliding it in front of her. “If you do,” she says, “I'm watching the rest of this episode by myself.”
“No!” Troy and Abed shout in unison, jumping into the seats on either side of Annie.
“Later?” asks Abed, leaning behind Annie's head.
“Blanket fort,” Troy agrees, and they tap their chests and slap hands.
Annie presses play.
“Ooh, what are you three watching?” asks Shirley, as she, Jeff, Britta, and Pierce file into the study room. Jeff is fiddling with his phone, Pierce is whistling quietly, and Britta seems absorbed in a book.
Annie slams the lid of the laptop shut. “Nothing.”
“Definitely nothing racist,” adds Troy.
“Well, that's... nice,” Shirley says doubtfully.
“It's called QI,” Abed explains. “Or Quite Interesting. It's a British quiz show where the questions are hard and the panelists score points for being interesting. Annie wants to do a crossover.”
“I don't want to do a crossover,” Annie protests. “Abed thinks we're in a fanfiction.”
Britta looks up from her book and raises her eyebrows at Annie. “If we're in a fanfiction...”
“No,” squeals Annie. “Well, probably not. Maybe.” She smooths her skirt under the table.
“We started watching it this weekend,” Abed explains.
“And we kept watching it,” adds Troy. “And then, bam, out of nowhere, it's totally racist.”
“It's not out of nowhere,” Abed corrects him. “It's a show about a white guy with infinite access to knowledge. Who's smarter than everybody.”
“But only other white people,” Troy counters, holding up a finger. “Because it's basically only white people on the sh— Oh. Huh.”
“That's why a crossover might work,” says Abed. “We don't have a lot of the same audience as QI, but we're pretty good at dealing with racism. Mostly by projecting it onto Pierce.”
Shirley clears her throat with a little squeak. “And Britta.”
“What?” says Britta, lifting her head from her book and looking dazed. “Sorry, I was just reading the new Toni Morrison. Isn't she amazing, Shirley?”
Shirley and Abed look at each other.
“Wait,” says Jeff. “How can a quiz show be racist?”
“Oh, I don't know,” Annie says bitterly. “By going, ha-ha-ha, that East African word sounds like a sex joke if you say it like a stupid English speaker?”
“Or acting like the Greeks invented all of civilization,” adds Troy.
“Or asking a question about indigenous people's religion and using a dead white anthropologist as the expert,” Abed says.
“Oh, that's disrespectful,” says Shirley, making a scolding noise.
Britta closes her book and gives Annie, Troy, and Abed a set of long, soulful looks. “And you're still watching it?” she asks, sounding concerned. “Is this some kind of self-harm thing?”
Troy and Annie exchange a sheepish look. “It's just—” Annie begins.
Troy bursts out, “The good parts are so good!” He grins. “They're all I own you with my knowledge and my clever use of words. No, I own you with my even bigger knowledge and even cleverer use of words. Oh yeah? Yeah!” He shakes himself, suddenly realizing he's been punching the air in emphasis. “You know, in a nerdy white British dude kind of way.”
“They're good at callbacks,” Abed explains. “Making a joke and riffing on it, then bringing it back later. Plus, they have a crowd-pleasing mix of highbrow and lowbrow humor.”
“And,” Annie adds, with a twinkle, “the men are always flirting with each other.”
“I knew this sounded gay,” says Pierce, with a snort.
“We also project our homophobia onto Pierce,” Abed tells whoever it is he tells these things to.
Shirley gives another delicate cough.
“And Shirley,” Abed adds. “Sometimes.”
“Which isn't very Christian of you,” says Shirley, giving Abed and the others a look of guilt-inducing disappointment.
“I'm worried about those three,” says Shirley, as she, Jeff, Britta, and Pierce make their way down the hall to the study room. “I haven't seen them in class once this week.”
Britta shakes her head. “It's that show they keep watching. Which is totally sexist, by the way.”
Shirley clicks her tongue. “They made us watch three episodes, and we only saw one woman the whole time.”
“And all that crap about men and women being fundamentally different.” Britta's voice takes a mocking tone. “Ooh, it's science. Well, who do they think is behind that science?”
“Yeah,” Pierce interjects, “but can you believe that thing about a blue whale's, uh...” He gestures toward his crotch.
“That's the other thing,” says Britta. “The show is basically one big, long penis joke.”
Pierce chuckles. “Heh heh. Big, long—”
“Stop!” shouts Britta.
The others look at her.
“I'm sorry,” Britta says, “but if I have to listen to one more stupid, obvious joke about a stupid, obvious penis, I'm going to start reciting 'Ode to Flow.'”
The others look at each other. After a moment, Britta says huffily, “No one's going to ask me what 'Ode to Flow' is?”
Shirley, Jeff, and Pierce look at each other, carefully avoiding Britta.
“What's 'Ode to Flow'?” It's Leonard, sitting on one of those cheap armchairs that seem to pop up in the hallways here.
“Thank you, Leonard,” says Britta. “It's a poem I wrote when I was nineteen. It's about the power of the menstrual cycle.”
Shirley, Jeff, and Pierce all groan in unison and keep walking.
“That's exactly the problem,” says Britta. “You can't bear to talk about periods, but you'll laugh at any stupid penis joke that comes your way.”
Pierce laughs again. “Heh, heh. Any stupid penis joke that—”
“Stop!” Shirley and Jeff shout together.
In the study room, Troy, Annie, and Abed are huddled over the laptop. The Dean is with them, leaning in attentively.
“Why weren't you three in class?” Shirley asks, as she and the others take seats at the table.
“Why is the Dean here?” asks Britta.
“Why is the Dean drooling?” asks Jeff.
“Why is the Dean wearing that?” asks Pierce. Pelton has on a pink women's suit, a dowdy wig, and white gloves.
The Dean rises to his feet. “Let me answer that question with an entrance.” He walks out.
“That's an exit,” Abed points out.
The Dean leans his head in through the doorway. “I can't make an entrance if I'm already in the room,” he hisses. “Which I'm not.” He withdraws his head.
A moment later, he strides in slowly, waving his hand like someone on a parade float. “Good afternoon, study group. I'm Dean Elizabeth the Second here with a royally important announcement. Greendale has just adopted a sister school, Green Hills University, in England. And to celebrate our new 'foreign relations,'”—he emphasizes the phrase with large, jumpy air quotes—“we're having a British Culture Fair in the cafeteria on Monday.”
“A British Culture Fair?” Britta repeats, sounding disgusted. “Isn't the entire English-speaking world basically a British Culture Fair already?”
“It's better than that Native American Culture Fair from last year,” says Shirley. “Remember the 'Dress up Like a Real Indian' booth?”
“Hey!” says Pierce. “That was my booth.”
The others exchange a meaningful look.
“Your fellow study group members,” the Dean says, indicating Annie, Troy, and Abed, “have gotten a head start by spending the week watching British television. And, in exchange for not having their grades lowered in each class they've missed, they've agreed to help me stage Greendale's very own episode of that interesting show they're so excited about.”
Jeff makes a derisive noise. “You're going to stage an episode of QI here?”
“Can I be on it?” asks Pierce.
“Can I not be on it?” asks Shirley.
The Dean smiles and clasps his gloved hands together. “I'll let you all work that out for yourselves. I just need a panel. And questions. And an outfit. But I can take care of the outfit myself. Toodle-oo!” He prances out the door.
“It's not a true crossover,” Abed observes when he, Troy, and Annie reconvene in the study room the following morning. “No one from their world is coming into ours.”
“Which is too bad,” adds Troy, “because I'd really like to give one of them a kick in the face right now.”
“Not an AU either,” Abed continues. “We don't just happen to be panelists on QI, we're going to be panelists on QI because our dean blackmailed us into it.”
“We're not going to be panelists on QI,” Annie says, “because I'd rather fail all my classes than spend another minute with that stupid garbage.”
“Hallelujah,” says Shirley, walking into the study room. Jeff, Britta, and Pierce come in behind her. “Sounds like you three have finally come to your senses.”
Troy, Abed, and Annie look at each other, then all shudder. “Show crossed a line,” says Abed.
“It was bad,” says Troy.
“Really bad,” says Abed.
“We are never watching it again,” declares Annie.
“Probably never,” Troy amends.
“They're in the first stages of recovery,” Abed explains. “There's still a lot of temptation.”
“What about you?” asks Jeff.
Abed shrugs. “I was never that into it. I just like hanging out with Troy and Annie.”
“So if you're not going to be panelists,” Shirley says, “who is?”
Annie, Troy, and Abed look at each other.
Troy puts on a winning grin. “We were hoping you four would.”
“What!?” Jeff splutters.
“You've been saying all week how you wanted to help us,” says Annie. “If we have to be panelists in the Dean's show, there's no telling how many more episodes we might have to watch.” She lets her lower lip hang forward in a practiced pout.
A moment later, Troy sticks out his own lip, pouting along with her.
Abed's pout is the last straw, and Shirley, Jeff, and Britta all concede at once.
“So, wait,” says Jeff. “You three are just going to sit back and watch while the four of us pretend to be contestants on the Dean's weird Anglophile quiz show?”
“Not exactly,” says Abed. “We still have to write the questions.” He raises his eyebrows at Troy and Annie. “Which I can take care of. I've got a couple of ideas.”
The British Culture Fair turns the Greendale cafeteria into a sea of Union Jacks, posters of London tourist spots, and a map of the British Isles that hangs from the ceiling in a dangling mobile. Lunch is fish and chips, and Abed, Troy, and Annie bring their trays to the back of the room, where rows of folding chairs are lined up in view of the stage. Abed sits by the projector and turns it on as the stage lights come up.
The Dean, sitting at the center of a table, squints into the projector's beam of light.
Someone from the audience waves him to the side. It's Leonard. “You're in the way,” he grunts.
The Dean moves over. On the screen that's no longer behind him, the letters GI are displayed inside a circle.
“GI?” Troy makes a face. “Like a soldier?”
“Or like gastrointestinal,” Abed suggests. One of my cousins is a GI doctor.”
The Dean taps his mic. “Hello, hello, and welcome to the Greendale British Culture Fair's production of GI—that's Greendale Interesting.” He frowns, as if hearing the phrase for the first time. “Well. Please give a warm welcome to our panel.” He applauds daintily in the direction of Shirley, Jeff, Britta, and Pierce, who file onto the stage and take seats around him. “Each of them is equipped with a buzzer, which they will use when they think they know the answer to a question, or if they want to get my attention for any other reason.” He looks hopefully at Jeff, who ignores him.
“Now,” he continues, picking up a stack of index cards. “Here's our first question. What is Greendale College named after?”
Jeff buzzes in. “Uh, the town of Greendale?” he sneers.
The Dean looks down at the card. “Okay, yes. And what is a green dale?”
“A dale that's green?” Jeff answers, enunciating each word with increasing irritation.
The Dean sighs. “And a dale is...”
Pierce hits his buzzer. “A vagina!”
Britta and Shirley groan. “Or a valley,” says Shirley, not bothering to buzz.
“That's it, very good,” says the Dean, moving his card to the back of the stack. “Next question. What is our school motto?”
Pierce buzzes in. “It's that thing about the butt.”
Abed does something to the projector, and the room is plunged into darkness. An obnoxious noise blares, and the words THAT THING ABOUT THE BUTT are displayed on the projection screen.
The noise ends, and a moment later, the Dean calls into the darkness, “Okay, Abed, you can put the lights back on.”
He does. Pelton addresses the audience. “And that was your first example of someone being penalized for an answer that is obvious but untrue. Actually, no one knows our school motto. That butt thing is just something somebody—” He looks pointedly at the panel. “—put on our flag.”
After a moment, the Dean shuffles his cards again. “Next question. What is the primary ingredient in the Greendale cafeteria's chicken fingers?”
Britta hits her buzzer, but Pelton is already reading the card and vigorously shaking his head. “Don't answer that. Next question.” He flips through the cards again, and Abed switches the slide.
The image on the screen changes to a pair of male and female symbols, each with the letters GI inscribed inside. “Okay,” says the Dean. “What's the major difference between men and women on Greendale's campus?”
“Ew, Abed,” says Annie. “Why did you put in sexist questions?”
“We're doing QI,” Abed answers. “It's part of the show.”
“But it doesn't have to be,” Annie protests. “Does it?”
“Watch,” says Abed. “They can handle it. Our show is sexist, but it's not that sexist.”
On stage, Jeff is complaining. “Come on, even I know that's a stupid question. What are we supposed to say, women don't dress up like the Queen and barge into library study rooms?”
“Women don't host sexist quiz shows?” Shirley suggests.
“I know,” says Britta. “Women don't think penis jokes are the pinnacle of hilarity.”
“Heh heh,” says Pierce. “Pinnacle of—”
“Stop!” Shirley and Jeff shout in unison, then look at each other. “Wait, what?”
“You're all wrong,” the Dean announces, looking down at his card. “The actual answer is—” he reads over the card in puzzlement, then flips it hastily to the back of the stack. “Well, that's definitely not true. Never mind. Next question.”
He brings a new card to the front. “Enough about gender. How about some interesting facts about our student body? What do Greendale's 'French-speaking' students”—he puts the phrase “French-speaking” in audible quotation marks—“think is meant by the word... uh... foke?”
Abed changes the slide so that the word PHOQUE is clearly displayed.
“I took intro French last semester,” says Shirley. “That word is pronounced fu—Oop!” She claps a hand over her mouth, and Pierce chortles.
“What do you mean, what do they think it means?” Britta asks, narrowing her eyes at the Dean. “They think it means something because it does. It's a word in their language, just like word and language are words in our language.”
"Why's she gotta say us and them?” Troy whispers to Annie and Abed.
Abed tilts his head. “I'm glad I changed it to French. I had it with Navajo at first, but that would have been even more uncomfortable.” He glances back up at the stage. “Ooh. Here comes a good one.”
The Dean has moved to a new card, and Abed switches the slide. The picture that appears is of Abed himself, standing in the Dreamatorium.
“Next question,” announces the Dean. “What does Greendale student Abed Nadir do in his 'Dreamatorium'?”
Pierce buzzes in immediately. “Masturbates!”
Britta glares at him. The Dean gets a faraway expression. “Nooo,” he says slowly, “though that is a very nice idea. Any other thoughts?”
Shirley, Britta, and Jeff look at each other uncomfortably. Finally, Britta speaks. “We're not going to answer that question. It's totally invasive.”
“Okaaaaay,” says Pelton, tapping his fingers on the table in front of him. “Anyone else?”
“We really can't answer that,” says Shirley. “No one understands what Abed does in there except Abed. And maybe Troy.”
The Dean wags his finger at both of them. “That's not what it says on my card,” he singsongs.
“It's just a card,” says Jeff, with exasperation. “It doesn't make you the expert.”
Pelton clasps his hands together and gives the group a beatific smile. “I think you'll find that my sitting at the center of the stage does make me the expert.”
“You're not sitting at the center of the stage,” Shirley says. “You moved to the side because of the projector.”
The Dean gives a huffy sigh. “Fine. Do you want to hear what's on the card or not?”
“No,” says Britta.
“What Abed gets up to in that Dreamatorium of his is none of our business,” Shirley chimes in.
“And none of theirs either,” adds Britta, indicating the audience.
“I don't care if it is Greendale interesting,” Shirley continues. “Whatever that even means.”
Dean Pelton gives Shirley, Britta, and Jeff a long, calculating look. “Are you three refusing to participate? Because I know three of your friends whose grades will suffer.”
The three of them look at each other, then look uneasily back at the Dean.
“Oh, let them suffer!” It's Annie, from the back of the cafeteria. She stands up to make herself heard.
“Abed is our friend,” Troy says, standing up too. “You can't just turn his life into some spectacle for everyone to laugh at or think is weird.”
“Or interesting,” Shirley interjects. “Troy's right, some things are just not your business.”
“Okay, fine,” says the Dean. “You all get zeroes for the week.”
“Wait,” says Jeff. He stands, clearly priming himself for a speech. “You can give us all zeroes. But I think you know we deserve better.”
Shirley stands too. “Let me handle this,” she tells Jeff, then looks straight at the Dean. “You owe us better. First you turn this cafeteria into some kind of rah-rah-England parade. Then you imply there's something in those chicken fingers we all really ought to know about. And if that's not bad enough, you try to act like you're the ultimate authority on everything just because you're sitting up on stage with some index cards. You want to penalize us for standing up against this nonsense? Go ahead, but as far as I'm concerned, the only one who deserves to be penalized is you.”
Pierce chuckles. “Heh heh. Penalized. Sounds like—”
Britta stands up. “Unfurling like a ribbon from the womb...”
But the audience is already in an uproar, yelling, hissing, and throwing leftover fish and chips in the direction of the Dean. Pelton holds up a hand to stop them, and something hits him in the chest, leaving a greasy outline on his dress shirt. “Okay, okay,” he says into the mic, “A's for everybody. Happy?”
The crowd keeps booing, and finally the Dean runs offstage.
* * *
In the blanket fort, Troy watches Abed, licking his lips nervously.
Abed looks back at him, daring briefly to meet Troy's eyes before looking away. Eventually, he speaks. “Are you thinking what I'm thinking?”
Slowly, Troy nods, then rises to his feet. “I'll go get Annie.”
“Hey, Annie,” Troy calls, across the closed door of Annie's bedroom. “Abed and I are gonna watch another episode. You can join us if you want. Or not. We won't tell anyone.”
There's no response. “Annie?” Troy calls again.
A moment later, the door creaks open. Britta emerges, her hair mussed.
“Oh,” says Troy. “Hey, Britta.”
“Oh, hey,” Troy says with a start. “We weren't, uh, actually going to watch more QI.”
“Okay,” Britta says slowly. “But you know, I wouldn't judge you if you did.”
Troy looks at her. “You wouldn't?”
“Okay, maybe a little,” says Britta. “I'm judgmental. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't... I mean...” She starts again. “After everything that's happened this week, if you three still want to watch this show, then maybe there's something in it that I don't see.”
“Or,” says Britta, “Maybe it'll just make you angry again like last time.”
“It might,” says Troy. A moment later, he adds, “Hey, Britta.”
“If you wanted to read us the rest of your poem sometime, that'd be okay.”
“Really?” says Britta.
Troy smiles at her. “Yeah.”
Abed emerges from the blanket fort. “Is Annie watching with us?” he asks Troy.
“Five minutes,” Annie calls from inside her room. Britta turns to look at her, and Annie corrects herself. “Well, maybe more like twenty.”
Troy and Abed look at each other and shrug.
“Cool,” says Troy.
“Cool,” says Abed. “Cool cool cool.”