Episode 303: Competitive Ecology
Community Season Three Reviews
S03E03 – Competitive Ecology
“You guys have weird reactions to stuff.”
Poor Todd and his stupid baby. All he wanted to do was make a terrarium with someone, and then go home to his family and his insulin. But the Study Group turned a simple assignment into almost a full day of bickering, insecurity, turtle frightening, and offending Todd.
“Maybe I was crazy…Was I crazy?…Was I crazy?”
“I’m seriously concerned that he’s mentally ill; it’s not funny.”
Chang’s plot. Chang wishes to become a detective, so sets about detecting, noir style. Stapler. Remember early Chang? Sure he was nuts, but he was grounded in reality. He wanted to be accepted by the study group, and loved dancing with his wife. Now he thrusts himself into his delusions and ambitions, and has lost any ability to properly connect with the real world. This does pave the way for later episodes, not just with Chang’s storyline, but with the burning down of the ‘Hot & Brown’ store in the cafeteria.
The Dean was also involved, showing more of Greendale’s budget issues with the new scheme to charge students for drinking water. As well as his willingness to accommodate Chang and his delusions in order to ultimately help the school. The things the Dean does, or ignores, are, in his mind, for the benefit of the school and these students. And sure there could be a selfish aspect to it; after all, where else could the Dean of Greendale get a job? But it’s mostly because the Dean truly cares about this school and its students, even if he shows it by charging them more and putting their welfare at risk.
“Who are these people?!?”
Now back to the study group. The first time I watched this episode, I really disliked how ignorant they were of Todd’s feelings, and how self-involved they came across. (Discussion point: An outsider’s view of the study group – more often than not, it’s bad.) These are characters that I like, and sometimes relate to, and so I want to view them as good people. It’s difficult to watch them being mean and ignorant of the feelings of someone who has done nothing wrong (and has a turtle).
However, after seeing this episode several times, I can start to understand their reasons (even if I don’t necessarily approve of them). Rather than offending other members of the group, the Study Group chooses to pin their pairing-up problems on Todd. After all, Todd is a “non-grouper”, so his feelings aren’t as important as the feelings of those that are like family to each other. There’s also a selfish aspect to it. If everyone is piling on Todd, no-one has to look bad by pointing out anything that could be taken as offensive about another Group member. Words and actions that are nice to, or considerate of, people you like can still have underlying self-serving motives. (As Joey Tribbiani once pointed out, there’s no such thing as a selfless good deed, and being mean to Todd in order to avoid offending each other is hardly a good deed, and much more selfish, but the principle is still there.)
Inevitably, the Group’s true problems with each other come out. People want to be paired with Annie because she’s “a good grade in a tight sweater”, and don’t want to be with Jeff because he’s “a bad grade in a tight sweater”. When it comes to working in close quarters, inappropriate old man trumps woman with a newborn, especially one who is dismissive of any science that may contradict the facts that religion has provided. And loving worms is apparently wrong, though only according to Annie. These are normal issues that groups of friends would come up against, but because the Study Group is so insular, it consumes them (and Todd), leading to the conclusion that their “love is weird and toxic! And it destroys everything it touches!”
This should give the group something to think about. But of course, the ending shows that the group learnt nothing and are still selfish and too insular. Telling Professor Kane that he would have to put them back to their original pairings, when everyone else could complete the assignment? It’s borderline unbelievable in its narcissism. And then, rather than admitting that they might have problems, it’s right back to insulting the innocent Todd. But it’s not necessarily because they’re “the mean clique”. They are just too scared to admit that they have issues, preferring ignorance to the insecurity that they might destroy the group (discuss).
“Who the hell are you always texting? Everyone you know is right here!”
“What happened to Legos? Don’t act like you don’t know what I mean.”
“What is happening at this school? I have so many conversations that make no sense.”
“It’s a palomino!”
“None taken… Offense taken!”