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After nearly an entire season of lackluster episodes that illustrated the obvious growing pains Community has been experiencing without the leadership and vision of creator Dan Harmon, this week’s offering of “Basic Human Anatomy” finally felt like the Community of old. While the episode wasn’t on par with classics such as “Remedial Chaos Theory” or “A Fistful of Paintballs,” “Basic Human Anatomy” gave nearly the entire cast a chance to shine and finally put an end to the confusing and unfunny Britta-Troy relationship.
In classic Community fashion, the episode, written by Jim Rash (Dean Pelton, and winner of the 2012 Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay), took a pop culture reference, the plot of Freaky Friday (the original movie, not the remake, according to Abed), and used it as a conceit for the characters to express their inner emotions. After being reminded by the group that his one-year anniversary with Britta is the next day (something both he and Britta have forgotten about), Troy pretends that his and Abed’s attempt at creating a Freaky Friday body switch actually works, thus allowing him to avoid the obligation of having dinner with (and confronting his desire to break-up with) Britta on their anniversary.
The Britta-Troy romance has been problematic throughout this season, and this episode offers a surprisingly heartfelt means with which to put an end to it. The combined speech given by Troy (pretending to be Abed talking to Jeff) and Abed (pretending to be Troy talking to Britta) shows both how much Troy truly doesn't want to hurt Britta with his realization that they are better off as friends and how wonderful the Troy/Abed friendship is (the emotion Donald Glover and Danny Pudi funnel into the delivery of the break-up speech is wonderful to watch).
However, the body-switch conceit isn't used only for the serious work of ending the Britta-Troy relationship. It also brings about several of the season’s funniest scenes. First, while I found Danny Pudi’s Abed as Troy to be a good effort in general, this episode offered one of Donald Glover’s finest performances of the series. Glover’s “Troy as Abed” impression is top notch, with Glover nailing both the vocal and physical quirks that make Abed Abed.
Troy spends the majority of the episode alongside Jeff (who is particularly nasty to everyone this week -- a trend this season that has served to make him only second to Pierce in the ranking of the show’s unsympathetic characters), searching for the “missing” Freaky Friday DVD so that he and Abed can “switch back” bodies and the group can finish their History project. The characters of Troy and Jeff rarely get a chance to interact one-on-one, and I certainly hope they get a chance to do so more often if Community is granted a fifth season. Joel McHale’s soft brotherly reading of Jeff’s speech to Troy about commitment offers a glimpse of Jeff’s softer side, almost making up for his awful self-centeredness throughout the episode.*
*I know that Jeff, as a character, is meant to be self-centered and vain, but the vitriol and anger he spewed at both Troy and Abed throughout the episode was a bit much, even for him. While I definitely don’t want to see a sweet and caring Jeff, the character can certainly be sarcastic and biting without being plain mean.
The episode’s other stand-out performance come from its writer, Jim Rash. Taking the opportunity to “switch bodies” with Jeff, the Dean spends the episode delivering classic Jeff Winger zingers, working on his upper body, ripping off his shirt, and ensnaring Annie with his devil-may-care attitude. Rash offers a great physical and vocal impression of McHale, and I have to commend the man for having the guts to write his own shirtless scene. All-in-all, it was a strong outing for Community, and I hope the season’s final two episodes continue this upward trend in quality
Final Thoughts and Questions
-- Pierce is back in the flesh after not appearing at all last week and appearing in the Muppet episode in voice only. As the episodes were filmed out of order, Chevy Chase had quit by the time the previous two episodes were filmed, although he was required to complete his Muppet voice over work as a condition of letting him out of his contract.
-- This week does offer something for Pierce to do other than be offensive, as he manages to complete the group’s History project without them, and do a great job with it.
-- Is it just me, or is the show better when Chang is not around? For me, the Changnesia plot has already run out of steam, and, unless there is truly someone spectacular on the other end of his cell phone, I honestly don’t care why he is faking his memory loss.
-- I’m hoping the teasers that there is something magical going on with the Dean (the pendent and the three wishes) bear fruit. The show can never have enough Jim Rash.
-- For as strong as the episode was, the final tag was one of the show’s weakest in a long time.
-- Finally, I’m a bit confused as to the show's timeline. Last week was Christmas, and the gang had just finished their final project for the History course. This week’s episode referenced last week’s, yet they are still in the same History course. Was it a year course and they just didn’t say so earlier?