Concepts of cell-cell interactions in adaptive immunity have alternated between the simple and the complex. The notion that one population of small, circulating lymphocytes is responsible for adaptive immunity was sequentially supplanted by the concept of separate T and B lymphocyte populations that cooperate to produce IgG antibody responses, by a three-cell model in which a myeloid APC initiates these cooperative lymphoid responses, by the recognition of T cell subsets, and by the idea that CD8+ T cell subset responses to graft antigens depend on CD4+ T cell subset activity. Simplicity was reintroduced with the revelation that CD8+ T cells can act independently of CD4+ T cells against acute viral infections. The pendulum has swung again toward complexity with recognition of the distinct and conjoint contributions of innate stimuli, APCs, NK and NKT cells, Tregs, and CD4+ helper T cells to CD8+ T cell behavior during acute and chronic infections or as memory cells. The renewed appreciation that multiple, sometimes rare cell types must communicate during cell-mediated immune responses has led to questions about how such interactions are orchestrated within organized lymphoid tissues. We review recent advances in deciphering the specific contribution of CD4+ T cells to physiologically useful CD8+ T cell responses, the signals involved in producing acute effectors versus long-lived memory cells, and the mechanisms underlying the cell-cell associations involved in delivery of such signals. We propose a model based on these new findings that may serve as a general paradigm for cellular interactions that occur in an inflamed lymph node during the initiation of immune responses.