There was a period of time when the Greendale Seven were absent from Greendale: right after their graduation. Life in the school continued as normal with the student body largely neither noticing nor caring about this seven-sized hole in the heart of Greendale. But one person, when he’s not busy inspiring the student body to greater heights, feels the absence left by the study group.
In his truly good-natured, though equally misguided, love of the group, he feels Greendale has suffered a great loss, and it must be remedied. Being the busy little guy that he is, he’s just the guy to fix it. The Dean, doing what he thinks is best for the school, must draw upon the student body to fill those roles because nature can’t be trusted to fill this particular vacuum: it’s much too precious.
But before we get started:
A little bit of writing about this writing: in the words of the Dean, the original study group represented so much diversity (“hispanics notwithstanding”). However, the supporting cast is overwhelmingly white, especially when you count only the students. And there are two girls. But, the Dean does the best with what he’s given.
Also, as far as I’m concerned, season 4 never happened.
The role of Jeff is the most precious. The replacement captain of the group must be in the most capable hands as possible since this is the position that determines the direction of the entire group. So obviously, the Dean must step into that tailored shirt.
Well, as I said, Dean (is it OK if I call you Dean? I’ll just call you Dean, OK Craig?) can’t trust any of these positions to fate, but this one least of all. Jeff, after all, is the beating heart of the group that controls its direction, cohesion, mood and flow. And really, isn’t that just the Dean of the study group?
In the study group, Britta forms the often overbearing moral center of the group. As Jeff tells her in Science of Illusion, “You are the heart of this group.” However, the Dean being the gentle narcissist that he is interprets these roles through his need to feel liked. Moreover, some of the Dean’s biggest fears are to be seen as racist or sexist, and his own hard to decipher sexuality, makes his dedication to the genders of the people he’s trying to replace not so firm.
After a failed attempt to get Britta’s one time beef snack, Vaughn, back into the group, Dean has to consider who he might put in this role that would help feed his need for approval. As we’ve seen, Magnitude and the Dean have some effective chemistry, and the Dean loves setting him up. Dean might be disappointed there won’t be a chance for romance, but Magnitude will be an easy ally.
In the group dynamics, Abed’s the catalyst: it’s because of him the group exists, and it’s because of him many of their wacky hijinks ensue. Without him we wouldn’t have learned what to do when the goldmine of looking kind of like Stuart French dries up, or the meaning of multiple Christmases. For the audience, he’s the guy just slightly to the left of the show’s internal reality commenting and documenting it, going so far as to make eye contact and break the fourth wall more than once in season 5’s two part finale. Filling his role is difficult, However…
To the Dean, Abed’s a weird guy perhaps not quite capable of taking himself. Sometimes he’s fun to baby, and sometimes he makes life difficult.
Leonard Rodriguez certainly has the catalyzing features of Abed: he leads his own band of insane hipsters (Youth! Scatter!); pranks Dean; but maybe more importantly, he’s the only other character with such an interest in film.
“I’m thinking about breaking into the TV game since it’s apparently sticking around.”
Despite Abed’s treasured status, the Dean might look and Leonard and think, “He’s weird, likes film, and is difficult to get along with. Close Deanough.”
Troy is the one person Dean seems to love most next to Jeff. Hell, I personally want to hug Troy more than any other character (for the record, the list of people I want to hug is Troy, Abed, then Pierce). To the group, Troy is the innocence: if Britta stops the group from becoming too judgmental and caustic, he’s the one that keeps them from becoming too curious or self-serious. He kind of is the human anti-AT&T-of-people.
There’s no other student for whom the Dean feels this level of affection. Instead, the Dean would take the opposite track and try to find the person he think would feel the most honored being placed in such an honored position (too many honoreds for one sentence? Honored. Now it is).
“Ooooh. Neil.” – Troy
Neil is pretty likeable. Even after he was found guilty of sabotaging an entire class’ sweet potato project, he still somehow manages to land the gig as school DJ. Plus, after what the group did for him in his darkest hour, the Dean might figure this is the least he could do. Also, this is probably the least racist decision the Dean could make (while being the most unintentionally racist, a la season 6 trailer).
In the group’s dynamic, Pierce acts as the original group’s ego. Sometimes an ego is good: sometimes an ego can make you one of the world’s most successful moist towelette companies; sometimes ego can stand up to a corrupt and racist father. But sometimes ego is bad: ego easily classifies anything as other veering close (or directly into) racist or homophobic thinking; sometimes ego fails to accurately grasp its reality. But lest we forget: Pierce was forced, throughout his tenure, to confront and conquer each of those things that make us cringe allowing him to, ultimately, will a vial of semen to every one of his group mates.
The Dean, however, might just focus on the fact that Pierce (despite helping birth the Human Being) was kind of a gross, slightly sexist, slightly racist old guy. Which is why Starburns would be the Dean’s choice to step in.
Starburns is the closest the show comes to outright having a real life scum bag: he sexualizes Britta and Annie in ways that even Pierce would find excessive; he stole Magnitude’s back pack; he even built a mobile meth lab in his car. In fact, the only scum bag thing he’s guaranteed not to have done is put quarters down people’s butt cracks. Plus, the Dean might figure, Starburns owes him.
Shirley’s blessing and her curse is her religious mother hen persona. Sometimes it guarantees she’s cut out of the fun (i.e. Jeff’s fight, Troy’s 21st birthday, or the dinner she couldn’t make that led to the events of MeowMeowBeenz) or cutting others out of their fun, preventing what the group has admitted might be sporadic and frequent hooking up if not for a judging eye. Sometimes, it allows her to transform into a bear and protect the troop when they need it most (i.e. Jeff’s fight, Pillows and Blankets, A Few Paintballs More).
The Dean doesn’t really want anyone else pulling mother hen on him. Dean-as-Jeff can’t feel like he’s doing his job, can’t feel happy, if he’s relying on anyone else (or fearing that anyone else) might assume a position of authority. Dean might be compelled to, instead, focus on Shirley’s other qualities: her dynamic vocal register; the fact that when she isn’t making you feel welcome, she’s making you feel self conscious; her instigator status.
It’s an odd choice. But Garrett’s what you get when you strip Shirley of everything that makes you love her. It’s like God spilled a person.
Oh. I also made this.
Annie is the group’s headcase: she keeps them on track and singlehandedly keeps them from failing or veering too far onto the easy path. As you can see from her many freakouts, she’s a constant redline on the verge of overheating. To the Dean, she might just be the kind-of bossy girl who’s yet another distraction for Jeff.
Hardly anyone knows anything about Vicki, but Dean doesn’t have too many choices (simply choosing Other Annie isn’t clever enough for him). Ultimately, Dean would be banking on the fact that their mutual placement in the group would allow Neil and Vicki to finally hook up after some exhausting shenanigans, and that would be enough to endear him to them.
Ultimately, Dean’s attempt at this replacement group would result in him having a nervous breakdown as no one takes their roles as seriously as he is convinced they should. And since this group isn’t really composed of anyone who could be described as a good person, they leave him in a self destructive spiral similar to when he tried to make a commercial.