This season of Community has been slowly building to something, and each week I’m further convinced that when Season 3 is complete it will reveal itself as some sort of treatise on the character of Jeff Winger. Multiple episodes have singled him out, showcasing how even when he’s among the group he’s apart from it. That’s why I wasn’t surprised when “Studies in Modern Movement” almost entirely isolated Jeff from the rest of the cast. It’s another storyline that shows how Jeff is having trouble fully committing to these people who have become family. The fact that the rest of the episode is largely concerned with the characters forming even closer bonds through adversity and bickering only further hammers home that Jeff’s trying to take the easy road in his relationships and is suffering for it.
Jeff’s reason for avoiding the group this week is that Annie’s moving in with Troy and Abed after being given the kernel of the idea in “Remedial Chaos Theory.” (This plot will also finally convince all the crazy people who thought that Abed’s timeline was the “true” timeline instead of the final one where he caught the die that they’re wrong.) Jeff simply doesn’t want to be inconvenienced, even if he’s willing to go to absurdly complicated lengths to convince Britta that he’s actually sick and in the hospital. What’s even more telling is when the sales girl who helped him pull off the plan comes onto him he flirts solely by focusing on himself. Yes it’s him joking, but his feigned indifference hides a core that’s actually uninterested in anything as complicated as a relationship with another person.
Jeff pays for this when The Dean shows up, since it’s Saturday we’ll call him Craig though, and blackmails him into hanging out for the afternoon, dragging Jeff along to a Mexican restaurant for lunch and then some Karaoke set to Seal’s “Kiss From A Rose.” All of which is to say that Jeff goes to extreme lengths not to upset the group, but he’s not willing to actually inconvenience himself until he’s forced to do so. He’s a selfish guy and he’s not making any steps to overcome that fact. Annie on the other hand decides that she’s going to try her damnedest to overcome an aspect of her personality that she doesn’t entirely like.
Annie’s always been high strung, but when Britta mentions that living with friends can cause minor personality ticks to become major annoyances, she quickly realizes that living with Troy and Abed might not be the picnic she imagines. Annie doubles down on playing it “loose,” which gives Allison Brie some rather delightful physical comedy to play, and ends up causing her to accept that her room at Troy and Abed’s won’t be a room so much as it will be a standing sheet fort decked out with the apartment’s only TV and a pile of laundry for a bed. Then she discovers “The Dreamatorium,” a bedroom that Troy and Abed have converted into a Tron looking land of imagination, it can double as a court in the blink of an eye too. It breaks Annie’s newfound flexibility and drives her from the apartment and ends any goodwill that Troy and Abed’s adorable puppet show imbued in her.
She returns to Pierce, who’s been involved with a rather strange paint fueled hallucination thanks to his general incompetence in regards to fixing a damaged light socket in Annie’s apartment, and enlists him to help her get her stuff back from Troy and Abed’s place. Pierce’s storyline is a little detached from the rest of the episode, simply because he’s off on his own mostly just doing Pierce like things, but where Jeff is alone in an effort to simplify his life, Pierce is attempting to help a friend, even if he’s terrible at it. Community has frequently compared Jeff and Pierce, and isolating the both of them off in their own little stories nicely highlights both their similarities, they’re self obsessed jerks, and differences, Pierce desperately wants to belong while Jeff thinks he’s above the group.
All the while Britta and Shirley are being sidetracked by a hitchhiker Britta picked up in an effort to prove to Shirley that atheists aren’t immoral after the pair has a fight about Shirley’s consistent attempts to push her faith on the others in the group. Much to Shirley’s liking the hitchhiker ends up being a Christian, and then much to Britta’s pleasure he ends up thinking he’s the reincarnation of Jesus and a major proponent of marijuana. They end up bonding though when the hitchhiker moves from benign crazy to serial killer crazy and the pair promptly kick him out of the car. Their friendship isn’t easy, but they manage to meet in the middle, sure they don’t agree on their beliefs, but they certainly agree that they’re not as crazy as that guy.
Meeting in the middle ends up being what Troy, Abed, and Annie do as well. The Dreamatorium isn’t going anywhere according to Troy and Abed, so they graciously cede the remaining bedroom to Annie and relocate their bunk beds into the sheet fortress. What this episode does best is posit that the conflict and arguments that the group constantly finds itself within isn’t something that needs to be overcome, but a natural part of them growing closer. Community’s returned to the “Study Group Argues” well a few too many times, so it’s nice to see a slight tweak to that formula even if a similar version of it appeared last year in “Paradigms of Human Memory.” They’re a diverse group of people and they’re going to argue about things, and that’s a process that’s frustrating and hard, but it leads to better things in the future. Jeff’s not interested in inconveniences though, he’s constantly looking for the path of least resistance, and before long he may find himself on the outside of the group looking in permanently. Pierce has always been a vision of Jeff’s potential future, we saw Jeff literally transform into Pierce in the season premiere’s homage to 2001, and with each passing episode we see more ways that he’s in danger of following that path. It’s one he dreads, but one he seems incapable of extricating himself from, at least for now.
- I thought this was a really rich thematic episode, and it was also nicely funny if not a home run in that department. It’s a low key episode that has enough laughs and story meat to keep things ticking along even if it’s not an all time classic. It’s a nicely observed half hour and a necessary building block for the larger story that I suspect is being told.
- “Speaking of missing people, how did Jeff miss this bullet… of friendship.”
- “What are you doing after this?” “Probably trying on some boot cuts, but after that… a blazer.”
- “Britta, don’t make jokes, you’re bad at it.”
- “Brought to you by the girl yogurt Jamie Lee Curtis uses to poop.”
- “This is gonna be fun, or else.”
- “All day I’ve been jumping through hoops to fit in, including the literal hoops you put in front of the toilet.”
- “What gets out kool-aid stains?” “We know it’s not the opposite color kool-aid.”