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Community Premiere Recap: Bigger, Self-Contained Escapades

In September, as the temperature dips and the days get shorter it can mean only one thing: National Cholesterol Education Month! What’s that? It means two things? Oh, yes! How could we forget: back to school. So grab your Trapper Keepers and pack your Lunchables: It’s time to return to Greendale Community College for sophomore year.

When last we left Community’s community there was a bit of a cliffhanger (or, if you’re a stickler for the school analogy: an “incomplete”). After impressively avoiding the standard sitcom pitfall of a “will they or won’t they” couple, creator Dan Harmon and Co. steered their short bus of a show directly into the ditch: Britta, who was suddenly interesting precisely because she didn’t need Jeff, even more suddenly confessed her love for him. Jeff — our jerky, often shirtless leading man — responded to this news by promptly marching out the door and making out with the delightfully teenage — er, delightful but teenaged Annie. It was, in all, a fairly startlingly soap-operatic turn for a show that had spent much of its first year wobbling between being a sitcom or just being a joke-packed meta commentary on what it means to be a sitcom. (Also, most of us were too busy still just buzzing on a paintball high to notice.) So what to do in season two? Ha-has or hugs? Meta or mush? “Anthropology 101” attempts, in truly greedy fashion, to have it both ways.

After an opening montage set to Vampire Weekend’s “Campus” that gets in some awfully good character beats (of course Troy sleeps in Spider-Man pajamas; of course Pierce has a water bed — not to mention a rather fetching portrait of Clark Griswold hanging above it), we return to Greendale where everyone is tweeting about Britta. Sorry, everyone one is tittering about Britta. (Everyone is tweeting about Pierce thanks to his roommate Troy’s popular new account “Old White Man Says” — a clever joke and an easy dig at Community’s new Thursday-night competition.) But the gossip isn’t, like she fears, about “psycho Britta, the walking freak show.” Rather, all the young ladies on the campus are impressed with her for being so “fearless and honest.” This is pretty funny, mainly because it allows Gillian Jacobs to do what she does best: play Britta as an overly self-confident dork. We’re not quite sure how she goes from flattery to doing the electric worm, but we’ll take it.

Jeff, meanwhile, is stewing (although he did, like everyone else, really enjoy Toy Story 3). His idea of revenge is to flip the pressure back to Britta by confessing his love for her in a public space. She takes the bait, resulting in a furious round of hate-kissing that sort of resembles two sandworms fighting each other. Annie, of course, is heartbroken. Despite their unseen post-kiss conversation about how “this shouldn’t happen” (a hoary sitcom contrivance that should be added to “hillbilly cousins” and “old drinking buddy who may or may not have had a sex change” in Abed’s book of TV clichés), Annie is mooning over Winger like the romantic young National Review reader she is. And all of this is before Abed carts in an entire wedding party replete with an Irish singer riffing on the Cranberries and a George Clooney impersonator for needed “razzle-dazzle.” How will Community claw itself out from under this increasingly silly emotional load?

When last we left Community’s community there was a bit of a cliffhanger (or, if you’re a stickler for the school analogy: an “incomplete”). After impressively avoiding the standard sitcom pitfall of a “will they or won’t they” couple, creator Dan Harmon and Co. steered their short bus of a show directly into the ditch: Britta, who was suddenly interesting precisely because she didn’t need Jeff, even more suddenly confessed her love for him. Jeff — our jerky, often shirtless leading man — responded to this news by promptly marching out the door and making out with the delightfully teenage — er, delightful but teenaged Annie. It was, in all, a fairly startlingly soap-operatic turn for a show that had spent much of its first year wobbling between being a sitcom or just being a joke-packed meta commentary on what it means to be a sitcom. (Also, most of us were too busy still just buzzing on a paintball high to notice.) So what to do in season two? Ha-has or hugs? Meta or mush? “Anthropology 101” attempts, in truly greedy fashion, to have it both ways.

Community, you scamp, we missed you. You’re meta (“TV makes sense,” Abed explains to Jeff. “It has logic, structure, rules. It has likable leading men. In real life we ... have you.”), messy (the less said about Chang’s episode ending Two-Face riff the better), and often too cute for your own good (or maybe that’s just Alison Brie?). But you’re funny. And we’re curious to see if all this crazy creative momentum can somehow make us forget the fact that this episode was a basically a noisy attempt to sweep all the relationship tsuris under the rug — at least until after a few more half-hours of what Abed calls “bigger, self-contained escapades.”

Sharpen your No. 2s, class. It’s going to be a long year.

Related: Community Creator Dan Harmon Explains the Genesis of Every Reference on Last Night’s Episode

Photo: Chris Haston/NBC