Community Recap: ‘Studies in Modern Movement’

My friend Kyle and I constantly play a game where we cast our friends, as well as ourselves, as characters from our favorite shows. For instance, for better or worse, he’s Nate Fisher from Six Feet Under (actually, that’s worse), while my girlfriend and I are David Fisher and Keith Charles. (We’re beyond skin color in this ridiculous game of ours.) It’s firmly established that I’m Bobby from The Sopranos and he’s Finn, Meadow’s over-his-head boyfriend.

We find the game highly amusing, and it usually draws in a crowd of those agreeing and protesting with our choices, but yeah, it’s also really annoying and totally childish of us. It’s no coincidence, then, that I’m Abed and he’s Troy, and for a brief while, we lived together, in his then-recently deceased grandmother’s house in the North Bronx. Living above Dildopolis and dealing with Count Spaghetti might have been preferable.

We had been buddies for a while when we made the decision to be roommates the summer after graduating from college, but like Britta warned Annie in last night’s “Studies in Modern Movement,” good friends probably shouldn’t live together, because what we find charming at the beginning might end up making us want to smother them with a pillow by the end. Then again, the Bronx house didn’t have a Holodeck-like Dreamitorium. (Speaking of: I know Pierce has dressed as a Starfleet officer before, but can Community do a Star Trek episode? I’m casting it in my mind — Jeff as Kirk, Abed as Spock, Shirley as, well, y’know — and it’s perfect.)

Don’t worry, this is going somewhere and that somewhere is: Annie. Unlike Britta, Abed, and Troy, who the writers have done a wonderful job of plotting out, Annie’s a bit of an unknown. (As for the rest: we’ll get to Jeff, while Pierce doesn’t need to go much deeper than incontinent, racist, lonely old man. I don’t think anyone knows what to do with Shirley.) She began the show as a former-Adderall addict, current-do-gooder, and she’s since evolved, but I’m not sure if her moving in with Troy and Abed was a wise, in character plot development. Honestly, I just don’t want to see them become lesser friends from Britta’s foreshadowing. It happened between me and Kyle, and it took us awhile to regain the friendship we had pre-Dildo—er, the Bronx. Yes, the shadow puppet scene was adorable, as was the gleeful expression on Annie’s face as she was watching, but there’s no way that living arrangement will work. Even if the writers are willing to let Annie show more of her playful side this year, she’s still Competitive, A-Student Annie, living with goofy Abed and Troy, who can’t go five minutes without taping themselves to the wall or putting bubblewrap around their heads, and I don’t want disaster to strike three of my favorite TV characters. (My emotional investment to this show probably isn’t healthy.) What could work, I think, is having Abed and Troy act like father figures to Annie, rather than a brothers-sister dynamic (which is what “Modern Movement” showed), only because I want to see them stand up to Jeff when he inevitably emotionally destroys her.

Speaking of: Jeff Winger’s at his best when he’s too cool to care, rather than the bossy, manipulative character we’ve seen far too often lately. This episode — where he gets caught faking sick to get out of moving by the Dean and has to spend the day with him at the mall — felt like a throwback to season one Jeff; he played the straight man (both meaning) to the quips, come-ons, and pure ridiculousness that is the Dean, and that’s the best Jeff. Plus, they were both wearing the same outfit, so +1 there.

This plot did three things: it allowed us to see Jeff having fun singing “Kiss from a Rose” from the Batman Forever soundtrack with the Dean (who has a surprisingly good voice) in front of a green screen showing a bunny and a baby duck cuddling (that song topped the Billboard Adult Contemporary Chart from August-November 1995, replacing previous #1 hit, “I’ll Be There for You,” the theme song for a previous Thursday at 8 p.m. NBC sitcom), and it also continued season three’s theme of the Seven not needing Jeff to get by. In fact, they’re almost better off without him, but that’s something we’ll get into more when the show decides to tackle the issue later in the season. The third and final development: even in an episode that didn’t take place at Greendale, we find out something about the college, namely that the Dean reads student e-mails (and follows Troy and Abed on Twitter, too). I don’t know if the show will ever bring that up again, but it’s a nice little touch on how involved the Dean is with the school, and not in a good way.

(One more note about “Kiss from a Rose”: was that your favorite Community musical moment yet? I’m slightly partial to the “Somewhere Out There” scene from season one, but that’s because I’m a sucker for Jewish mice and Shirley screaming, “HEREEE’S BROWNIE!” Coincidentally, “Modern Movement” might have been the first episode Pierce was nice to Shirley since “Environmental Science.”)

Like “Mixology Certification,” there were many separate, non-Greendale storylines to “Modern Movement,” with the two above receiving the most amount of screen time. The others were Britta and Shirley picking up a homeless, singing hitchhiker named Jesus (played by Brendan Hunt). It was a minor plot without any real pay-off, though I liked Jesus’ song: “I’d like to sing a little song about race-mixing. This one’s called ‘Don’t You Do It’.” The other was Pierce trying to fix up Annie’s apartment so she doesn’t lose her security deposit. He, of course, made things ten times worse, but I liked the continuity of former-slumlord Pierce always having Annie’s back, and even better, the scene of Chevy Chase rolling around in paint. Even at the age of 68, Chase remains a gifted physical comedian, and if the sight of a tux-wearing Pierce playing the piano while two gorgeous women do the hula dance behind him doesn’t make you laugh, I don’t know what will.

When we look back on the season three as a whole in May 2012, I think “Studies in Modern Movement” will be seen as part one of the further development of Annie. I have no idea what parts two and three (and beyond?) will look like — potentially the paternal relationship mentioned above, or maybe the show ditching the “Annie surviving in the big, bad world” plot altogether, or maybe Annie becoming a hardcore Jew — but it’s one of the things I’m most looking forward to as the season progresses.

Josh Kurp would like to thank Hallie for taking over last week. Fittingly, I was moving.

Community Recap: ‘Studies in Modern Movement’