Community S4E11 – Basic Human Anatomy

“Basic Human Anatomy” is the first Community script to be written by Academy Award winner Jim Rash — best known to Community fans as Dean Pelton — and, as promised at PaleyFest, it has the show foray into the body switch trope.

While the study group debates what to do for their last group history assignment, it’s revealed that the one-year anniversary of Troy and Britta’s first date is the next day, and both of them forgot. On the other hand, Troy keenly remembers it as an obscure movie-watching anniversary with Abed, and has bought him several body-switching movies in celebration. Troy and Abed express the desire to switch bodies themselves, but of course nothing happens, because Greendale inhabits reality.

Community Troy Britta…Until the next morning, when we see Troy wake up next to Britta, looking panicked, and he promptly runs to tell Abed their body-swap worked after all. It’s determined that “Troy,” in Abed’s body, will go on the anniversary date with Britta, while “Abed,” in Troy’s body, goes to help the group work on their assignment. It quickly becomes obvious to Britta (and quite belatedly, Jeff) that Troy and Abed have “switched bodies” in order for Troy to avoid his date with Britta. As “Abed,” Troy explains to Jeff that he wants to break up with Britta but is afraid to, while Abed, as “Troy,” tells Britta that he feels their relationship has run its course. Breaking up through body-swap: better or worse than texting? But Britta seems okay with it, strangely, and even thanks Abed for being such a good friend. Eventually, with Jeff’s encouragement, Troy turns up at the restaurant as himself to break up with Britta in person.

As with any body swap plotline, the most interesting part of this episode is seeing the way the actors play it. I have to say I found Danny Pudi’s performance as “Troy” preferable, while Glover’s Abed gave me an appreciation for the Abed we have on a regular basis. Pudi gives warmth and believability to the role of Abed; while Glover’s attempt to mimic Abed’s tics and behaviours is admirable, the character seems flatter and far more alien in his hands. For the extreme over-analyst, though, perhaps this makes sense. We know Abed is gifted at mimicking people and playing roles — perhaps Troy simply isn’t as good an actor.
Community - Dean Jeff
Back at Greendale, Shirley and Annie learn they’re losing valedictorian to Leonard, and aim to find out how. They seek the help of the Dean, who claims to have been body-swapped with Jeff. Jim Rash as Jeff is by far the comedic highlight of the episode; Rash’s Jeff is a hilarious skewering of the character, and Rash leans into it. Shirley’s horrified reaction to this new Dean, meanwhile, nicely balances out Annie’s significantly more irritating swooning.

What neither Rash’s script nor performance can save, though, is the reality that this episode centers on the Troy/Britta relationship, and that relationship has been woefully underused, underwritten and underdeveloped all season. Troy and Britta, much like Ann Perkins and Tom Haverford from Parks and Recreation, suffered from being two characters that fans wanted to see together, only for the writers to absolutely phone it in. We are told, not shown, every single aspect of Troy and Britta’s apparently year-long relationship. We did not see them begin to date, we did not see them kiss, we did not see them ever seem to enjoy each other’s presence, and ultimately viewers must have been wondering what the purpose of putting them together was.  As the relationship ended, I found myself feeling a loss, not for the relationship we were shown, but rather for one that might have been written and wasn’t.

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