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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Community Passes "Basic Human Anatomy"

Article first published as Community Passes "Basic Human Anatomy" on TheTVKing.

Just when I'd given up on NBC's Community, they pull a surprise from the bag. This week's installment, "Basic Human Anatomy," gives rich character development for multiple main players, and while not super funny, advances along a couple of plots in a very nice way.

The premise is, Troy (Donald Glover) and Abed (Danny Pudi) switch bodies after holding a video copy of Freaky Friday and saying some words in unison. Except, they don't really switch. Troy is having trouble telling Britta (Gillian Jacobs) that he wants to just be friends, ending their one year relationship, and uses the ploy to escape facing his emotions.

The only issue I have with the setup is that Abed and Troy have been steadily growing apart this season, so seeing them execute a stunt like this, so perfectly in sync, feels weird based on how they have been shown with one another lately. However, much of the schism occurs when Troy focuses his attention on Britta, rather than Abed. When Troy feels the relationship falling apart, it makes sense he would turn to Abed, even if we don't see that development.

Glover is brilliant at playing Abed. Perhaps he does the finger bit just a hair too much, but he captures Abed's speech pattern and mannerisms perfectly. Pudi isn't quite as good, but still makes a serviceable Troy. Watching the two of them swap characters is a serious delight, and provides most of the funny moments in the episode.

I am a little disappointed at Britta's lack of a strong emotional reaction to being dumped, but like Troy, she likely sees this coming, even if the viewers aren't privy to the dissolution of their romance. The fact that neither member of the couple remembers their anniversary is telling. I just can't believe she accepts the news gracefully from Abed, rather than demanding Troy tell her, although maybe she actually is becoming a decent therapist and realizes how hard this is for Troy. She can be understanding occasionally.

Jeff (Joel McHale) makes it his personal mission to fix Troy and Abed, and helps them track down the "missing" video. This provides some wonderful scenes, such as a visit to the janitors' group, having to be told anything picked up would be in the lost and found, even though it's clearly on the board in the study room, and Jeff participating in a terrible gag of checking the functionality of a light switch to support his friends.

"Basic Human Anatomy" gives Jeff another step towards maturation as he realizes he should, and gives advice for Troy to, embrace one's feelings. Is this a sign he might finally be ready to put himself out there with Annie (Alison Brie)? It's certainly further development on the excellent path Jeff has been walking this season towards being a compassionate person in touch with himself.

The best part of the entire half hour is when the Dean (Jim Rash) tries to engineer a body switch with Jeff. It clearly doesn't take, based on Jeff's behavior, and we find out later it hasn't even happened with Troy and Abed, but Jim Rash does a dead-on Jeff impersonation. He even gets the voice so right that he sounds like Joel McHale. It's a comedic triumph for Rash.

While he's "Jeff," the Dean lets Annie and Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) peek at Leonard's (Richard Erdman) transcript, since he's the only one ahead of the girls in the class rankings. It makes no sense Leonard would be allowed to graduate with only one grade, the rest being pass/fail, nor does it make sense that he flees when this is revealed. However, at least it resolves the rankings story, and allows us to move forward with Shirley poised to be valedictorian, a satisfying conclusion.

Pierce (Chevy Chase) is in this episode, staying in the study room during the craziness to make banners for their class assignment. His part is essential to the grade subplot, but his character contributes pretty much nothing to the episode. This installment must have been filmed out of order, since it seems pretty obvious that Chase quits the show most of the way through production of "Intro to Felt Surrogacy," and I almost wish a solution could be had to edit him out of this one, since leaving him in the woods would have been the more concrete ending. But I guess his absence will be dealt with soon. Or not at all.

"Basic Human Anatomy" speaks to me because it allows emotional depth and character development, something lacking through much of this season. While Community's most memorable episodes tend to be their weirdest ones, and this one isn't that weird, this is a very good way to dredge up feelings and deal with them. In an overall weak season, this episode ranks near the top of the list in terms of quality and enjoyability.

Community airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

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