I know that I may sound like a broken record at this point, but this season of ‘Community’ has consistently been at its best when it keeps things focused on the group and keeps the group at Greendale. This was perfectly displayed in last Thursday’s episode, ‘Basic Human Anatomy’. Not only was it one of the funniest episodes of the season, but it was the one that felt the most like it could have come from the Dan Harmon era.
In the wake of their little dust-up with their history professor, the study group has a new assignment: Take any moment in history and talk about it. “Be creative, or don’t. I don’t care,” the assignment reads, before the professor halfheartedly signs almost his whole name. The group decides to make banners about the American Revolution, which Jeff praises because it is both doable and passable. Things go awry when Troy and Abed do a ‘Freaky Friday’ bit where they switch bodies for the day, in order that Abed, acting as Troy, can break up with Britta so that Troy won’t have to.
There’s a lot to love about ‘Basic Human Anatomy’. First, the characters all have very clear motivations. Jeff wants to get a passing grade on his history project, and will stop at nothing to ensure this gets done. Troy can’t handle a break-up with Britta, and enlists Abed to help him through an inspired bit that feels like the ‘Community’ of old. Annie and Shirley are both concerned with losing their valedictorian status (from Leonard, of all people), while the dean just wants to get closer to Jeff. Even Pierce is given something to do, albeit mainly off screen, but it’s more than he’s gotten lately.
Even better, this episode really gets Troy and Abed, why they do the things they do, and how their relationship works. When Troy, acting as Abed, wakes Abed up and tells him that a body switch has occurred, you can see Abed falling into character. At the end of the episode, Troy apologizes to Abed for dragging him into the middle of his relationship with Britta. Abed replies, “It’s the best way I’ve ever been woken up,”, which really sums up exactly what makes those two characters click. And watching Glover and Pudi imitate each other is always good for a laugh. The pair even get a good meta joke out of the credit outtakes.
Even better is the dean, who, upon hearing of Abed and Troy’s body switch, pretends to have switched with Jeff. Jeff isn’t amused, but the dean commits to the bit anyway, leading to the episode’s funniest moments. Pelton’s lost some sense of dimension this season, simply becoming a drag queen. This episode allows him to play against type, which is refreshing. And Annie falls right in to it, unable to help herself from falling for even a fake Jeff’s charms.
Jeff provides the hub for all of these narrative spokes, trying desperately to get Troy to drop the act while fending off the dean and, most of all, being concerned about his doable, passable project. When Jeff gives Troy his expected emotional speech, this time it really feels emotional, because the writers have bothered to include some real empathetic beats. Who would have expected that such a fun, touching and memorable episode of ‘Community’ would spring up from Troy and Britta’s relationship?