Community "Basic Human Anatomy" Review: A Rough Break-up

By Cory Barker

Apr 26, 2013

Community S04E11: "Basic Human Anatomy"

I struggle to form an opinion any time a show attempts to pull a powerful emotional moment out of a story that's failed to work, or that hasn't been given enough attention before said powerful moment. It's even more difficult when the individual moment works, whether because of actor's performance, or the writers figuring out what they did wrong, or just sheer luck. Am I supposed to be satisfied that a crummy story at least ended on a nice note? Should I be angry that the story could have been better all along? Should I just shut up and be grateful that modern technology shoots entertainment into my idiot box for a small fee? I just don't know. 

"Basic Human Anatomy" made me face these issues head-on, and frankly, it made them worse. For a long time now—an entire year on the show's calendar, actually—Troy and Britta have been a couple. But even though the two exhibited some really fascinating chemistry at times throughout the first three seasons, the heat hasn't really been there since they became a pair. I promise this isn't one of those false Moonlighting assumptions where I'm suggesting that two characters immediately grew boring once they finally got together. Troy and Britta never had much will-they-or-won't-they, which is what I initially enjoyed about their relationship. 

Nevertheless, since they've been a couple, Community has truly failed to convince me of why they've stayed together, or even that there are things they enjoy about one another, other than sex and discussions about chips (which, to be fair, are two valuable things to care about). In fact, the show pretty quickly turned into the skid by making mild jokes about Troy's relationship with Abed taking precedence over his relationship with Britta, and that's all fine and good. We all know that Troy and Abed are this show's forever 'ship. But with all that in mind, it was a little tough for me to fully enjoy the A-story in "Basic Human Anatomy," which involved Abed helping Troy "fake" a round of body-swapping hijinks so that he could break up with Britta. 

To their credit, I did get the sense that Community's writers knew the relationship wasn't really going anywhere. Not only did Troy and Britta not remember their own one-year anniversary*, but neither was particularly excited about going out to celebrate it. Troy was more excited about a silly anniversary with Abed, and there was a sense of malaise permeating through his interactions with Britta. Yet before their misery could continue, Troy and Abed "experienced" a "body swap," resulting in Britta having to go on the date with "Troy" (in Abed's body), while Jeff pushed "Abed" (in Troy's body) to knock it off, mostly so that he could phone in another history assignment.

*I'm wondering if Troy actually did remember the anniversary, considering the he worked with Abed to craft the body swap plan. Or, more likely, Abed remembered.

The body swap conceit was very silly, but because it was carried out by Troy and Abed, and because the two characters committed to it so well while everyone else reacted fairly skeptically, it worked. It was a low-key enough concept that the show could pull it off within this diminished Season 4 state. More importantly, both Danny Pudi and Donald Glover were borderline tremendous in their performances of one another's characters. We've seen Pudi emulate his fellow cast members before, and though this episode didn't ask him to do as much as, say, something like "Basic System Analysis" did, he embodied Troy's slightly confused immaturity very well. This was far from his best performance ever, but it was truly a shame that Pudi won't ever be nominated for an Emmy; he's been wonderful for four years. 

For his part, Glover's been asked to play a regressive version of Troy this year, which is also a shame, because this episode reminded us that he can also do solid dramatic work when called upon. He mimicked Pudi's Abed nicely, but really thrived in the final scene when he admitted to Britta that he's simply too immature for a relationship, no matter how he feels about her.

That final moment, and the suggestion that the reason the relationship failed was that Troy simply couldn't let go of his childhood and friendship with Abed, was both smart and believable. It rang especially true with this version of Troy, the one who'd seemingly stopped caring about being an adult up until this episode, only to come to the conclusion that he's not much of an adult. If you told me three months ago that a difference in maturity level would be the reason Troy and Britta would eventually break up, I would've believed you, but I also would've anticipated that we'd see some explicit exploration of why it couldn't work. Instead, here's how Season 4 handled the story: acknowledged the coupling, quickly starting making jokes at its expense, and then orchestrating the split. There was something missing between the initial coupling and the break-up, and although I liked big chunks of the story, as silly as it was at times, I can't fully buy the conclusion of it for that very reason. I get why the show ultimately ended Troy and Britta's romance, and in this way—but now I just wish there were moments that made the story feel earned as opposed to an implicit apology.

Elsewhere in the episode, Jim Rash (who also wrote it, btw) simply slayed as Dean Pelton tried to make a body swap happen with Jeff. The Dean's actions underscored the goofiness of the entire story, but also reflected just how badly he wants some kind of connection to Jeff. Rash did a pretty solid Joel McHale impression, and his ability to commit to it made it more entertaining than it probably had any business being. Annie's uncontrollable attraction to the Dean was also a nice touch. In some ways, "Basic Human Anatomy" felt like a throwback Jeff episode because all he was asked to do was react incredulously to the stupidity of his friends. McHale was still great at that, and somehow, the show managed to work in a Winger speech about adulthood that worked better than some of the other monologues he's been saddled with this year.

But ultimately, "Basic Human Anatomy" was about Troy and Britta, and mostly just Troy. It's possible that his break-up with Britta will push him toward the adulthood he's so clearly wanted for a few seasons. We know that he saw a relationship with Britta as a big step toward maturity, but now that relationship has failed and he recognizes that it was mostly his fault. But I'm not sure anything will actually change (whether Community gets a fifth season or not). And although I really enjoyed most of this story, particularly the final few scenes, it still feels a little like the show is right there alongside Troy, saying "my bad."  



STUDY NOTES

– Very little Pierce this week, which isn't a surprise since Chevy Chase was on his way out by the time this episode was shot. But I do like that he's basically turned into a harmless—and damn-near warm—old coot. If the show returns for Season 5, I'll miss him.

– Leonard's pass/fail plan to keep his perfect GPA was genius, and I'm happy he's still first in the class. But, isn't Leonard just going to be at Greendale forever? He's not actually in Annie and Shirley's class is he?

– This episode brought back Senor Frogs and the custodial crew, two little touches I enjoyed.

– The outtakes riff in the end tag was really fun, but the messed-up sequence of episodes ruined its impact a little bit, considering the show did outtakes two weeks ago, not last week. But how desperate is the Dean?

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  • foroadso9 Mar 02, 2014


    maybe this will help you

  • numberonecubsfa May 16, 2013

    Hey, look. Another solid episode that you hated. Please don't do these next year.

  • riot76ad Apr 30, 2013

    I dunno. I feel that the review was fair, and it mirrored a fair episode of the show. Britta x Troy always felt wrong. Sure, the moments they had in the past were somewhat touching, but they shouldn't have acted as foreshadowing for an actual real relationship, ever. I really feel like it was a mistake on the writers' parts to include a serious relationship into this season. It not only created a relationship that didn't make sense, but as a result, both Troy and Britta felt disconnected from the rest of the cast this season because of it. Britta has been all over the place, and even Abed/Troy moments just didn't feel momentous at all. Worst decision ever made.

    That being said, now that their relationship is over, we can all sigh in relief, but unfortunately, we're nearly at the season's end. This was the culmination of both Troy and Britta's stories this season, and it's doubtful we'll see much more from them.

    As for the break up scene feeling earned... I don't see that for one simple reason: we weren't shown enough of Troy and Britta's relationship to begin with. Even though the writers wrote the relationship in, it seemed like they wanted to ignore their relationship for the whole season and then end it... which is fine. A lot of us wanted it to end, but to devote a whole episode to something that never should have been and something that was never cultivated seems kind of pointless.

    I didn't hate this episode, but I didn't like it a lot either. I guess the bottom line is that it would have been better to have focused the episode on something else entirely and just let the Britta/Troy relationship gradually fade into obscurity, because really, we never really saw much of a romance form between the two of them in the first place.

  • fevans08 Apr 28, 2013

    I am actually shocked at this review: I can only guess that the reviewer does not appreciate the brilliance of community, Jim rash and Troy and abed. So many parts of this episode where miss understood in so many ways. Firstly and most importantly: Troy and abed did not plan to do the freaky Friday swap as illustrated by the way abed said at the end "that's the best way I've ever been woken up", when Troy wakes abed up there is a moment of realization on abed face that tells him to go along with troys plan. Abed understands everyone more than they understand themselves, mostly with Troy and he was able to know that Troy needed to say something to britta that he was afraid to say because Troy is such a loving, and kind-hearted person. Britta and Troy haven't been dating for a year, after their first date at senior frogs a lot happened before the summer when they actually started dating (Troy went to air conditioner repair school etc). And I think their relationship could have worked if the writers had more time and more episodes to work on it and explore it but also Brittany is older than Troy and Troy knows he has to grow up before he can give Britta what she needs.

    I loved that Oscar-winning screen writer Jim rash wrote this episode because I think he understands the heart of community and this felt 'introduction to film making' (s01e03) because it made me laugh and made me cry. Troys deep emotional issues where lightened by the deans need to connect to Jeff and his brilliant acting while pretending to be Jeff. Like in intro to film making when abeds father watches his film and realizes that abed thinks his father blames him for his mum leaving: Troy has trouble saying to Britta what needs to be said so uses abed to do what he doesn't feel he can.

    This was a beautiful episode that felt like community at its best and how community should be all the time. Please Jim rash should just be made the show runner and write all the episodes from now on!!!

  • chankson Apr 28, 2013

    I really liked the episode, this review... not so much. Kind of a sad, dark review for a comedy, also like the reviewer was using the thesaurus to impress us...

  • Ridnarhtim Apr 28, 2013

    My thoughts as I watched this episode
    -Oh God no, it's a Freaky Friday episode.
    -Oh good, they didn't actually swap, it's not a Freaky Friday episode
    -Oh crap, it IS a Freaky Friday episode after all.
    -Oh well, that was OK I guess.

  • bicelis Apr 27, 2013

    I'm getting the feeling that the whole disappointment over Harmon leaving has almost evolved into some kind of hatred or something.

    There are many fans of the show who just watch it and don't follow TV news at all. I wonder how they would evaluate this season. Yes, they would definitely say it's worse, but this episode was good. It was quite funny and with an interesting bit and it FIXED something that didn't quite work.

    I'm surprised how people are upset that they broke-up Troy and Britta because they had no connection in the first place. Well... That's what happens when people don't have a connection - they break up. And from a TV point of view, something was not working which people agree on and the writers fixed this in a logical way and now people are angry they did that. WTF?..

    The episode was fine, we need to relax. Try watching the show and pretend you don't know who Harmon is, what happened behind the scenes and all that. Just watch and enjoy, it's not the worst show in the world like it's being painted as in the comment section.

  • riot76ad Apr 30, 2013

    I agree with most of your points, especially the point of them fixing something that was broken. Unfortunately though, they fixed it too late in the season. Troy/Britta simply either never should have happened, or ended just as quickly as it began. Having it end at the end of the season kinda wasted both of their characters for the most of it.

    As for the absence of Dan Harmon... I loved Aliens in America and was so glad that David Guarascio and Moses Port were replacing Harmon as showrunner because Aliens in America had a similar feel to Community in general. I won't say I think I was wrong, because I really don't think anyone else could have taken it over and done better... but something tells me that the new showrunners had a lot of respect for Harmon and were afraid to take the show into new directions, and instead tried to stick with what worked, and as a result, the show felt lackluster.

    I still have a huge conspiracy theory regarding the way they canned Harmon. He has such a huge following that the last attempts to cancel Community were nearly impossible due to the fanatic fanbase. So, they canned Harmon... this didn't go over well with the fans obviously, but it wasn't as bad as a cancellation of the show, so no fan uprisings resulted from it. Now that there is a division between Community fans since Harmon's departure, they will have a much easier time of cancelling the show. I really feel like it was planned that way, and it was undoubtedly well played, but it doesn't make it suck any less. I really doubt there will be a 5th season.

  • Ankh49 Apr 27, 2013

    So glad that I'm not the only one.

  • Iodselle Apr 27, 2013

    I agree completely with you! In the beginning of the season I was also very dissapointed in the show, post-Harmon. But I think the show is doing a good job the last couple of episodes. I don't know if "Basic Human Anatomy" was the best episode this season, but I do think it was the funniest episode of season 4.
    Only 2 episodes left, so please Community, lets finish season 4 with a BANG. Please NBC, don't cancel Community!

  • blulemons Apr 27, 2013

    Best Review Ever! I don't understand why people liked this episode. Honestly, it was just bad. There was never a connection between Britta and Troy. I was stunned they even dated.

    Leonard likes this post!

  • JayAtkinson Apr 27, 2013

    It really is a travesty that both Donald Glover and Danny Pudi have not been nominated for awards. This episode also really reminded me of this fact.

  • Zelli42 Apr 27, 2013

    I think this review definetly overanalized the mistakes we saw this week.
    This was a really fun episode, in my opinion the best this season. All the quirks and charactes were well placed, quite opposite to last week and I actually kind of felt the adventorous spirit of the first paintball episode. Well lets not oversell it, but you know, that feeling when everything kind of feels exciting and goes right.

    This made me look forward to Community again.

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