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“In other ways than I thought, there is a distinct, chemical lack of chemistry between Jeff and Britta.” – That’s Mr. Dan Harmon in this interview published in IGN right before the start of this season.  So if this is how Community‘s showrunner sees this pair’s relationship, what was going on in this episode?

Let’s back up for a second and establish how we got here.  Professor Duncan has a thing for Britta – hinted at back in “Basic Intergluteal Numismatics” (and maybe in earlier seasons?) – because he suspects she may be one of the few women he actually has a chance with.  So, based on Jeff’s advice – with the two of them looking the most genuinely friendly they have ever looked – he announces that he is going to one of those events advertised in “one of the free papers for hippies on the quad.”  And this ultimately leads into a rivalrous romantic storyline, or rather, a rivalrous seduction storyline, and that is not exactly what I was hoping for, because a Britta-Duncan might be enjoyably goofy, but it is not exactly promising.  And as for Jeff-Britta, I agree with what Dan Harmon said, perhaps to an even greater extent.

Before I get to my final judgment on that element, let me focus on Britta’s reunion with Michael (pronounced “Mike-Hale”) and her other old activist friends.  This proved to be a much more satisfying peek into Britta’s past than we saw in last season’s “Heroic Origins.”  Where then all we got was a weird joke about vegetarianism, this time we actually got characters who were decently fleshed out for a one-episode appearance.  These people are clearly a lot like Britta, and it is also clear that they have had similar crises that we have seen Britta have about coming to terms with her activism and where her life is right now.  This is a well-pitched scene, because Britta is right to be offended by the implication that her opinion is less valid than those with a greater financial ability to help causes, but her friends are not exactly wrong in demonstrating the importance of a steady income and declining to “Banksy that mother.”

Britta’s existential crisis leads her into the arms of Duncan, who is all set to take advantage of her vulnerability, but ultimately he has the decency to decide that now is the best time.  Oddly enough, I think this selfless decision can be attributed in part to Jeff’s words to Duncan.  While Jeff wasn’t exactly selfless, he did show that he cared for Britta, and reminded Duncan that she is an actual person who isn’t anybody’s to own.  Also, Britta handling herself well in that situation is attributable to her being in a more secure emotional place than where she was at the beginning of the series.  This is really true of all the characters, and the point that this plot made is that even though life crises aren’t going away for anyone, they are more or less able to handle them on their own.

But what of Jeff’s feelings towards Britta in this episode, feelings that haven’t really been stirred significantly since Season 1 (even including when they were sleeping together in Season 2)?  At first, I thought he was just pretending to get all worked up over here for the sake of egging on Duncan, but that’s not what his eyes were saying.  Jeff claimed that he wanted to go after Britta again because he wants what everyone else wants, but I don’t think that was it, at least not exactly.  Seeing her in her element and at her best, he remembered what made him chase after her all those years ago in the first place.

As much as I think Jeff and Annie belong together, and as much as I think Jeff would realize that if he just thought about it, the fact is, they’re not together, at least not right now.  There is a girl in my own life who I think is perfect for me, but we’re not together either, and there’s nothing serious going on between us.  Sometimes I’m talking with other girls and I really hit it off with them and have intense fantasies about them, which feel great but also don’t feel exactly right, because that doesn’t seem to jibe with my belief that I’ve already found the perfect girl.  Jeff is in a similar position.  He may have stopped chasing after Britta, but when you’ve liked someone that much, your feelings never go away completely.  When Jeff saw Britta thriving in her element, he thought, “What if?”  By tomorrow, or maybe the next day, those feelings will have probably mellowed out.

Ultimately this was a storyline about a successful relationship, with that relationship being Jeff and Duncan.  Britta rightly points out to Duncan that she always forgets that he and Jeff have known each other longer than anyone else in their group of friends because they never really act like friends.  This sort of realization is a precarious, but important, moment when it comes to friendship.  Duncan and Jeff both confront what they mean to each other and decide that they actually do want to be friends.

Abed’s storyline is weird, because we have never really seen him this alone.  The loss of Troy has been profoundly felt, and the camerawork makes sure we know that.  (I wonder why he didn’t ask Rachel to the Kickpuncher premiere; I’m guessing that Brie Larson’s schedule has forced him to take that relationship slow for the time being.)  Anyway, this loneliness leads Abed to attempt bonding with Hickey before heading to the movie, which goes awry in a manner I’m not sure I buy completely (I don’t think Abed would be that careless with those foam ballistics) but which I’m willing to overlook.

Hickey overreacts to Abed’s mess by handcuffing him to a filing cabinet, which he claims is meant to teach him a lesson since everyone else is always coddling Abed.  While his friends do coddle him a bit, people go along with him because it is fun.  Traveling in time because Abed sees a hamburger understandably sounds awesome to a lot of people.  But apparently the real reason Hickey was so upset was creative frustration, which is an odd, but potentially fruitful, direction to go with a new character.  It has already been established how devoted Hickey is to “Jim the Duck,” but apparently he is also jealous, or something like that, about Abed’s effortlessness when it comes to creation.

This storyline had a solid tone and great emotional nuance, but it also had several moments in which Abed acted in ways slightly different than how I would expect him to act.  I guess part of that is because we have never really seen him interact with someone as antagonistically straightforward as Hickey.  But I am also thinking of his naming the main character of his screenplay “Police Justice.”  Abed may have trouble reading people, but his understanding of the world isn’t character-less.  Although, as established in “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons,” he is bad with names, so maybe he couldn’t think of any good normal names, so he decided to just name him after what he represented.  I enjoyed a lot about this storyline, but it was also slightly insane so I am not entirely sure how I feel about it.

Chang has had several great moments this season, but it has been a while since he had his own storyline that worked as well as this episode’s did.  It is ultimately unclear if someone was joking around with Chang (perhaps, but not enough details to say for sure), or if the janitor or the crowd were actually ghosts (almost definitely not), or if Chang is going insane (probably at least partially true).  In any case, it looks like he did actually take a picture with the “Old Timey Photo Club.”  It is unfortunate that Key & Peele already had the funniest Shining homage ever only a few months ago, but there is room in the comedy world for more than one Shining homage, and this one worked well enough at what it was doing.

Funny moments I didn’t get to in the main body of the review:
-Duncan illustrating his point by referencing “those three movies [Dane Cook] was in about Dane Cook getting laid by accident” was a thing of beauty.  That’s Community at his best of deconstructing pop culture to illustrate a point about its characters.
-Chang’s fist pump in response to Annie mentioning that all the bones have been removed from the football field
-“Everyone likes music.  What are you, a fish?”
-Duncan’s trademark Britishisms: Rimples and Splikket – the (unintelligible to American ears) British Laurel and hardy; Duncan insisting that he is banging on the steering wheel because it is on the wrong side of the car