Community - "Competitive Ecology" Recap

Eh, they can’t all be winners. Even by sitcom standards, this week’s episode of Community was a slight affair, split into two plots that both didn’t make much of an impact. Weirdly, the stranger, what should have been B-Plot makes far more impact on the overarching plot, but even that was one idea stretched for a little too long.

It’s also disappointing that this episode followed after a rather sharply written opening scene, which found the Dean charging for water fountain usage (“Only two per student!”) in order to save money. But after that, it was all – mostly – downhill. After the study group gets assigned random extras as lab partners for the semester, they pester Professor Omar to let them partner with each other. Since there’s seven people in the cast, though, Pierce gets left with the affable, agreeable Todd, who I swear I know from the NYC comedy scene, but can’t prove it.

Anyway, predictably, the group can’t stand being with each other: Annie gets fed up with Jeff doing no work; Britta can’t deal with Shirley talking about her kids all the time; and Abed and Troy find they don’t actually like spending ALL their time together. Unable to switch partners without insulting each other, naturally, they turn on Todd.

To solve the Todd Problem, they institute a vote – sorted into pairing the most popular people with the least popular people, due to an algorithm created by Abed. Eventually, Todd freaks out because he just wants to go back to his wife and child (and needs his insulin shot), and the whole group heads to biology… Since they’ve been arguing for twenty-four hours.

In biology, Omar sentences them to be one giant lab partner for the semester, with one microscope and limited resources between them. They realize this is the way it should have been all along, and realize that the problem all along was, of course, Todd. Cue Todd in the foreground hearing them slag him off, and zoom in on his lone tear. Wah, wah.

In the B-Plot, meanwhile, Chang wants to be a detective, and since he’s insane, ends up burning down part of the cafeteria. The Dean, who let him sleep there to save money, has to buy into Chang’s craziness so that the police won’t come and shut him down – leading to the Head of Security quitting, and Chang being made the new Head of Security for Greendale. Given the maniacal laughter in his head, there’s no way that can go wrong, right?

Look: I’m not a fan of Chang anyway, he’s better in small doses. But there’s an apt sentence late in the episode, before the HoS quits where he says, “This isn’t even funny, I think this man is mentally ill.” That, to me, is the writer coming out and saying what he (or she) feels – and they were right. This subplot is weird, not particularly funny, and waaaay too long for the running time. I’m also not looking forward to more of Chang wielding his power over the study group.

On the same token though, do we have to have the group fight, break up, and get back together every week? This show works so well when it focuses on one or two characters, or breaks them into smaller groups before bringing them back together. The “fighting in the study room” episodes are getting a little, well, repetitive and boring.

That said, I could watch Professor Omar all day long. Spin-off?

BEST BITS:

- Speaking of which, Michael K. Williams speech asking why Legos have gotten so complicated was brilliant.

- “Dean, what are you doing?” “Nothing after lunch. And I can skip lunch—Oh.”

- The end-tag, with Britta giving the gang psych exams, but thinking all their answers were penises was similarly hilarious… I wonder if her journey to becoming (or not) a therapist will be confined to the closing tags this season? That would be kind of interesting.

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