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Saturday, 17 of April of 2021

Community – “Competitive Ecology”

Your love is weird and toxic and it destroys everything it touches!

Community Title CardThis episode isn’t going to help folks who feel that Community needs to move beyond exploring what it means for these seven people to be a group, family, whatever they are.

I haven’t had a problem with this so far. Being funny gets you a long way, and if you’re not grooving on the plot of an episode, you can at least enjoy the episode’s jokes and humor (2001 references, parallel Earths in an absurd model U.N.-off). But even without humor, I think that the group exploring what they are to each other and as a whole, after the events of last season, is valuable.

But it needs to be better than this, fresher and more illuminating. 

I’ve welcomed asides from other members of Greendale as responses to the study group (“Remember when they took that fishing class on St. Patrick’s Day?” “We all came so close to having one class that wasn’t about them.”) as it helps give us an outsider perspective on this group’s appearances to others. But how productive was this episode in saying this in a new way? We already know that the group is high dysfunctional in its functionality, so having Todd (poor poor Todd) have to experience all this seems more abusive to an innocent character than telling us anything new about this group.

When folks started getting paired off, and then wanted to change partners, I had high hopes for the episode, that we would see the characters working together (or not) in amusing ways, brief scenes with each. I was so thrilled when Britta and Troy lit up at the idea of work together (remember how well they danced?), but then it all kind of fell into the tug of war of politics within the group that wasn’t as funny as it could have been.

So now it ends with them isolated from all the other folks in Biology 101, their grades resting with each other. And as they mock poor Todd for ruining their lives, a slightly darker aspect of the show creeps in that I would hope the show would explore, but given their aversion to going too dark (see Chang’s stuff with Shirley’s pregnancy last season), I think it’ll be am muddled result.

This darker aspect is taking the sitcom trope of the ensemble rarely interacting with outsiders and turning it into a sickness. Friends even made an acknowledgement of this in season 1 (SEASON 1!) when Phoebe begins dating a shrink and he storms off after analyzing the group, and how unhealthy it is, and Seinfeld, at its core, is about a “mean clique.” Certainly this episode hints at the possibility of that, but whether the show can commit to it, and more importantly, say something about close knit friends that can be applied broadly to any such group as opposed to just this one remains a question.

The Chang story line was a waste of time. It was pointless, eliminated a neat new character in the head security guard, and wasn’t terribly funny. It likewise never integrated into the other plot in any way, making it seem all the less relevant to the episode. Community is normally good at tying its plots together, even Britta’s protesting tied in nicely to the mock-U.N. stuff, but this just failed.

Unlike some folks, who seem ready to declare Community dead in the water after three episodes, I think this is really premature. While I didn’t really enjoy this episode, I have enjoyed the past two. But even if I hadn’t, I don’t think three episodes is enough to say the show has gone off the rails considering its track record. Patience, folks. Patience.

FINAL THOUGHTS

  • “Who’s Nick Notle?”
  • I LOVED the Dean charging people to use the water fountain as both a revenue generator and an environmental effort.
  • The collective groan as Kane explained what a terrarium was was pretty good, and a nice callback to the extraordinary amounts of dioramas they do at Greendale.
  • “What happened to Legos? They used to be simple.”
  • “You’re just a good grade in a tight sweater.” “And who the hell are you texting? Everyone you know is here!”
  • “Pierce, wake up! Jeff is going to heal us.”
  • “Oh, no! She’s got her marijuana lighter!”
  • “I can’t help but notice a sorry lack of terrarium.” (Probably my favorite line.)
  • “You’re pathological.” “It’s too late for flattery.”

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