Studies in Modern Movement
Photo: Lewis Jacobs/NBC
Well, that was really sweet. “Studies in Modern Movement” was an episode that had something new around every corner, each turn involving some nice little character moment. There wasn’t a ton of story, but there didn’t really need to be; it was more like “twelve short films about Community” (or whatever number) that brought its lead characters closer together by the end. Like “Remedial Chaos Theory,” without all the troll-doll eating.
The episode only required a modest setup. It’s finally time for Annie to bid her crappy apartment and its neighborhood pee-guy Spaghetti, good-bye. She’s taking Troy and Abed up on their offer to live with them, and her friends have gathered to help her move — some, actually just Troy and Abed and kind of the Dean, are live tweeting the whole thing, too. (SYNERGY.) There are a few things to do around the old apartment to ensure Annie gets her security deposit back, and though Pierce volunteers to hang back and tidy up, he winds up spilling paint and accidentally sealing himself in. Shirley and Britta drive some boxes over to the new place, but wind up bickering about religion. Jeff, wanting no part of this, claims he’s sick and ropes a Gap employee into the whole scam, asking her to shout nurse-ly things into the phone so no one knows he’s out shopping. (And after? “I’m gonna try on some bootcuts … then maybe … a blazer?” None of this, sadly, poor girl.)
There are plenty of episodes in Community’s history that have demonstrated the show’s ability to play with genre, but “Studies in Modern Movement” was a great example of how the show can shift its mood on a dime and still stay on point. It happens a bunch throughout the episode, but my favorite moment — one of my favorites of the series — came after Troy, Abed, and Annie arrive at the apartment. Annie learns that her bedroom isn’t a room at all, but actually a blanket fort the boys have constructed around their living room. Not only is there no privacy whatsoever (nor a place to hang her “Intercollegiate Debate League” award), but Troy and Abed inform her that they’ll be spending a lot of time in her room watching TV. Annie’s upset, but then Troy and Abed put on a shadow puppet show that tells the story of how Princess Annie came to live in their castle. It’s unbelievably mushy and it totally got me. Plus, it came out of nowhere, and it’s kind of astounding that the show stuck something like that in the middle of an episode — a bold move that paid off by deflating all the hot air out of Annie.
Momentarily, at least, because here comes the big shift: Annie’s now so infatuated with the living situation that she wants to make it even better, so she rushes into what she thinks is a linen closet to discover a completely empty, gray room, gridded off with orange tape. It’s like a playroom, but only in the minds of Troy and Abed. And they call it … the Dreamatorium. Things get totally silent as Annie readies her perfect retort. Hard to believe just mere seconds earlier everything was hunky dory. (By the way, did I mention Troy and Abed sleep in bunk beds? Remember when Troy was a total ladies man? The shift from that to, “If the room’s a rockin’, please come a knockin’ because there’s probably something wrong” happened so gradually I hardly noticed.)
While this is going on, at least the shadow puppet portion, the other group members are having their own bonding moments, set to the smooth tunes of Jeff and the Dean singing “Kiss From a Rose.” See, the Dean decided to go to the mall today, too, runs into Jeff, and realizes that he’s blowing off the move. The Dean was diligently following #anniesmove on Twitter. (SYNERGY.) This is a golden opportunity to spend time with Jeff Winger, but only if he blackmails the guy by threatening to tell his friends and expose his lie. So, that’s what he does. He may be a softie when facing the Air Conditioning Annex, but he’s a cold-hearted snake when he’s fallen under the charms of People’s sexiest man alive. They have lunch at a Mexican restaurant, where Jeff orders for the Dean and asks the roving mariachi band to play him a song. Then they sing some karaoke and create lasting memories (and gifs on Tumblr later today), all while accompanied by Pierce — hopped up on paint fumes to the point that he thinks he’s playing the piano for some hula girls — and Shirley/Britta’s hitchhiker, whom Britta only picked up to prove to Shirley that there is a such thing as a secular moral compass.
As that smelly weirdo belts out something about Jesus loving weed, all four subplots come together in a beautiful cacophony of synergy. (SYNERGY.) It doesn’t matter that Annie had to jump through hoops to get her perfect living situation — both literal and metaphorical hoops — it only matters that she found it, thanks to two guys who waste packing materials play-torturing one another. It got me like it got Jeff by the end.