It can be easy to think of Annie as being older than she actually is. Alison Brie turns 28 this December, and she stars on Mad Men and appears in photo spreads like this one, but Annie Edison is just 20. She's just a kid who is still adjusting to the world around her, still figuring out what it means to be in basic adult relationships. I'm not (just) talking about romantic ones. I mean she honestly doesn't know what to do when it comes to opening herself up or dealing with roommates or negotiating any of the dozen hazardous areas that define your early adulthood. Sure, "Studies in Modern Movement" was packed with typical Community flourishes, but it also dealt with a solid story about growing up with grace and insight, two things that often go missing in mainstream sitcoms. In a real way, moving in with new roommates can be a bigger step than just going it alone, since it requires a new level of diplomacy and openness, and the episode addressed what it means to adjust your expectations and live with other people.
Of course, it wasn't just Annie who had to change. Troy and Abed realized that they were inviting someone into their lives who might not want to go on all their crazy adventures, and who might just want a nice bedroom and a place to get away from it all. Their initial decision to put Annie in a blanket fort was perfectly in line with their childlike, fantastical worldview, but they also learned that they didn't have to give up their own dreams (or Dreamatorium) just to make room for a new resident. Everyone compromised, and everything worked out. That's a familiar but handy lesson, and the show handled it well.
The side plots weren't quite as solid, though. Britta and Shirley seemed to be paired together just to get into another argument about religion, and there have been so many of these in recent weeks that I can't help but wonder if we're due for a major story arc about Shirley's philosophical place in the world and the study group. True, she got a meaty story last year with her pregnancy and paternity issues (though the baby doesn't even get mentioned these days), but she was a positive center of action in that story. In other words, she got to be the one doing everything. Recently, she's been more of a butt for jokes from Britta and the rest. Will her piety cost her? Will she loosen up, or will the gang? Or am I just reading too much into the writers' desire to use her as a punching bag? Sure, Britta and Shirley learned their own lessons about compromise and personal space, but the resolution felt tacked-on at best.
The least connected but most enjoyable tangent was Jeff's wacky day at the mall with the Dean, which had a rocky start but totally soared when it came to the karaoke scene. It was also nice to see the song get a callback at the end, with the gang taking the wind out of Jeff's sails by serenading him in a kind of karmic payback for his decision to bail on helping out during the move. More than ever, it's clear that the gang has come through some tough times but become stronger for it. They push and pull on each other, argue with and love each other. They're a family, and they're growing up.
• "Britta, don't make jokes! You're bad at it!"
• "... including the literal hoops you put in front of the toilet."
• "I liked Horsebot 3000."
• Community's probably one of the few shows to date to incorporate Twitter in a storyline in a fairly normal way. The jokes weren't about the fact that Twitter exists, or that it's got its own terminology (Pierce didn't make some boneheaded comment about it); rather, the characters' specific use of the medium became the joke. Nicely done.