Here’s where things get interesting: the group sets out to throw a D&D game so that Fat Neil can “feel like a winner” and hopefully cheer up. They have no inkling what the real problem is, and therefore have no hope of addressing it. Luckily, they save the day by accident, thanks to the invasion of one Pierce Hawthorne.
Pierce is old, and frequently feels ostracized. This is because… he’s ostracized. He’s out of date, forgetful, humorously racist, and has trouble relating with the rest of the gang, most of which are less than half his age. When Pierce isn’t invited to the game, he sets out to ruin it as payback.
His first and favorite volley of attack is to pick on Fat Neil—and his weight. This does a very effective job of masking the real issue. The gang believes Fat Neil is suicidal because he’s depressed because of his obesity, and the nickname it earned him. The truth is, Fat Neil is suicidal because he thinks he’s alone… due to his obesity.
The gang lies to Fat Neil to try to make him feel better. Apart from Abed, none of them knows a thing about D&D, and Fat Neil can smell the forced enthusiasm. Bless their hearts, they just do a very awkward job of lulling him out of his shell by playing his favorite game and trying to enjoy it. However: their efforts wouldn’t have worked on their own.
What finally saves him is Pierce’s last tirade—also the episode’s clearest moment of honesty—when he complains about feeling left behind and left out of the group. Fat Neil sees that he’s not alone in feeling alone. This single, utterly new experience turns things around for him. Is he still Fat Neil? Yes. Does he have more work to do? You betcha. But the refreshing truth that he’s not actually alone is enough to save the day.
Now, I have no idea what to make of the fact that the gang entirely missed the point. Even the narrator knows this: “And so it was that Pierce Hawthorne saved the life of Fat Neil… while learning very, very little.” They can’t see the real problem, they don’t know that they can’t see it. All I can do is shrug.
Which brings me back to my earlier point: depression and loneliness are two different things. They have a lot in common, but they areseparate fuckin’ creatures. Depression is anger pointed at yourself. Loneliness… man, that’s just despair. Certainty that things are never gonna get better.
I’m gonna remind myself I’m writing about a sitcom and try to wrap this up. I guess what I’m trying to say that if Fat Neil can find some clarity from someone else’s experience and save himself… then maybe any of us can. Not a bad lesson from a TV show.
If you ever feel the need, help is ready and waiting at www.suicidehotlines.com.