The most recent episode of NBC’s “Community” is, in some ways, one of its most meta and self-referential outings. Greendale Community College’s motley study group always seems to be spending more time arguing and screwing off then actually studying (a serious complaint from the show’s critics). In “Competitive Ecology,” the writers, in their unique way, address those who take issue with that aspect of the show.
The team’s Biology professor, Dr. Kane, tells the class that they’ll be partnering up to build a terrarium which will be due the next day. Instead of letting the students choose their partners, Kane tells them they will be paired up with the person sitting across the table from them. Since the group rarely interacts with anyone outside their circle, they are obviously very upset and convince Kane to let them partner together. The only problem is there are seven of them which leaves Pierce stuck with his random lab partner, Todd (David Neher).
Quickly, the partnerships deteriorate and the group decides to re-shuffle, but no one wants to be stuck with Todd, who doesn’t take any offense. They try ranking each other in terms of popularity, but that fails miserably. Britta’s suggestion that those with the lowest GPAs should be paired with the highest GPAs irritates Annie. And whoever gets stuck with Todd is constantly trying to get out of it, though, again, he doesn’t take any offense to it.
Where the writers’ brilliance comes through is in the character of Todd (whom everyone hates for no reason) who keeps suggesting they start working on their projects. Essentially, the writers are saying, “Yes, the characters spend more time talking then working, but it’s a television show. It doesn’t have to be realistic.” Todd eventually loses it and storms out of the library, leaving the group in shambles as they realize they’ve been arguing all night and have 15 minutes before class starts and no terrariums.
The other story going on in this episode is Chang who has taken up residence in the school’s boiler room and begun a relationship with a mannequin leg. Chang quickly delves into an over-the-top film noir narration as he convinces himself that there is a massive conspiracy happening on campus. As he keeps messing things up, Chang reads deeper and deeper into the “clues” which further prove to him that there is a massive criminal activity taking place. The entire Chang storyline is ludicrous and a little too much, but Ken Jeong is so hilarious that it almost doesn’t matter.
Though it isn’t the show’s best episode, it does let the writers play around a little bit and the addition of Nesher as Todd is amazing. Hopefully we’ll see Todd again in the future and the group will be a little nicer to him.