Community, Season 3, Episode 3: “Competitive Ecology″
Airs Thursdays, 8pm ET on NBC
A common theme in sitcom television is that the characters within the world of the television show only interact with each other and never make any friends outside of their group. If they do, they are only pushed away by other members of the group, or fazed out, never to return again. Just look at the cast of Friends. Very rarely was someone allowed into their group for very long. Perhaps the longest recurring character allowed to be a part of them was Mike but that was only because the show was coming to an end anyway.
Community mocks this notion in this latest episode, in which the group are assigned lab partners by Professor Kane based on who they are sitting opposite. Unfortunately for them, they are all facing people they do not know. People don’t like the unfamiliar. I will admit that I immediately thought to myself that a season with them having other lab partners wouldn’t be as good because it is within the dynamic of the group stories that the show thrives. They obviously knew that, and went to the Professor to ask to work together in pairs because they work best that way. He doesn’t care anymore, he finds the whole school weird and doesn’t get why people there are so strange. This is great for them except for on thing, there are 7 of them which doesn’t work out evenly. One of them will have to get another partner. Obviously it ends up being Pierce because why would any of them want to partner with him?
The new guy he has to work with is Todd. He seems nice and well-meaning, but Pierce finds him strange: “look at his weird face!” The groups go off and begin working together, only to discover that due to them being the same pairings as always, they are beginning to annoy each other. This leads to a group decision for Abed to use his “computer brain” as Jeff puts it, to pair the groups fairly. He does so but Jeff still has a problem. He didn’t get the pairing he wanted, he got Todd. Demanding to know how Abed worked it out, he answers that they were ranked based on the shows popularity with highest and lowest being paired together and so on down the list. Another reference to Abed’s idea that he is in a television show but also a nice wink at the audience when we find out the rankings. Turns out Jeff is 5th, with Annie at number 1 and Shirley bottom. The rest are never said directly but you can work them out easily.
Since Jeff can’t have his way, nobody can and so they spend the whole night trying to figure out the best way to pair them. By the morning Todd cracks and screams at them saying that they are supposed to be friends and asks why they can’t get along. He leaves and they realise that it is time for class. They show up with no work done, excluding Annie who somehow managed to find a turtle in that time. Professor Kane doesn’t care and decides that the 7 of them are all being graded together from now on. Their dysfunction causes comedy but also shows the dynamic of the group. They have never been able to get along and yet they work so well together. Any one of them missing from the group would be significant and so the writers need to keep finding ways of keeping them together. It’s easy enough now, but what if it were to get passed season 4 in which they would be graduating? That’s thinking way too far ahead though and hoping that they get a season 4.
The B plot wasn’t one of my favourites if I’m honest. Chang, taking his security guard position too seriously once again, formed some kind of dark detective story in his head and searched the school for clues, only causing destruction wherever he went. It was too similar to something like The Naked Gun for me to find it hilarious, although it had its moments.
Overall this was a solid episode, though not a great one. I feel as though this season has significantly dropped in quality from the previous two and that makes me sad to see. If this is indeed its last season, as is looking likely, I want them to go out with a bang. I know that Showrunner Dan Harmon said that it would be a darker season, but so far it’s not really working. I hear next week however that there is something he calls a “prEaster Egg” which come mid season will blow our minds. Let’s hope that he’s telling the truth.