Community is a true ensemble show: Instead of treating the group as one generic body, the writers give us seven clearly defined individuals who grow and change over time. The main story in this week's episode, "Geography of Global Conflict," was about Annie's latest baby step toward the adult world, and it's a step we all take at some point in college or our 20s. But the real highlight was watching Britta battle it out with Chang in a hilarious push-pull that had them feeding off each other's desire to be tougher than they knew was possible. Britta started out on the show as the obvious sexual foil for Jeff as well as a prickly outsider doomed to loneliness by her piety, but in the years since she's become wonderfully weird, clumsy, awkward, and torn between helping people and wanting to look good doing it. She's a great character in her own right, not just some fragment of a larger whole. As such, her plot didn't feel like filler between scenes with the model U.N. but like its own worthy story.
Chang and Britta made a nice pair, too. Chang has always felt like an outcast, and he's never been able to really crack the study group and become friends with them (even though he introduced them to Magnitude [POP POP]). He's lonely and strange, and for a while he was living in the air ducts. He wants respect and power, and he's constantly refused access to both. He doesn't even get to carry cuffs as a security guard. At the same time, Britta's always been a bit of an outsider within the main group, too. Not an outsider like Pierce is, with the casual racism and sinister plotting; just a bit off. She harangues the group about social issues and they tune her out. She tries to help (like teaching Abed about a British TV show) and keeps failing (the show ended in mass suicide that broke Abed's emotional core). She's just ... wiggles hands ... different, you know? They both want to think they're badasses, when they couldn't be further from it. I'm almost surprised they haven't had a showdown like this before.
Annie's competition with Other Annie was a sitcom staple -- major character butts heads with clone-like competitor, learns lesson about individuality, etc. -- but it was still handled with a humor and punch special to Greendale. And it's a staple for a reason, too. Everyone, especially in college, meets someone they hate for being exactly like them. Everyone has to figure out how to be happy on their own terms, how to grow up, and how to figure out the difference between literal and symbolic victories. Annie beating Other Annie was a little predictable, if only for the clearly telegraphed (if accurate) jabs at the U.N., but it was still good to watch her figure herself out. Plus she and Jeff finally put aside their lingering sexual tension in a great moment that called back to their sarcastic line about hooking up in the musical number from the season opener.
It's too soon to know where the season is heading in terms of specific year-long stories, but the episode was a solid follow-up to the premiere in that they both went out of their way to say: This is who we are, and this is how we do it. Only Britta and Chang would forge a bond through mutual delusion and Lionel Richie. Only Abed would pull a Kobayashi Maru and win the model U.N. contest by positing the existence of parallel dimensions. And only this show could get so much comic and dramatic mileage out of a model U.N. contest in the first place. They don't just win the symbolic victory. They win the real one.
• Professor Cligoris? Professor Cligoris. Always nice to see Martin Starr get work.
• "If embarrassment were bountiful zinc depots, I'd be Zambia."
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• Pierce's "Not Asians, women" and "Not women, Asians" punch lines were fantastic.
• Easy joke: confusing Georgia the state with Georgia the country. Community joke: Troy knows they're different but still thinks the Southern accent applies. "We kindly request y'all mind your Ps and Qs!" Amazing.
• "Abed, what did I tell you? You can't just mumble nonsense. No one's cutting away."