Episode 307: Studies in Modern Movement
(Studies in Modern Movement is my second favourite episode of Season Three, behind only Remedial Chaos Theory. This level of love for an episode would usually lend itself to a long, long review with many personal opinions. While I have strived to keep up the standard of previous reviews, I realised that the reason I hold this episode up so high is because, simply, it's so much fun. So while my review may not be as passionate as my ranking would suggest, please know that I like it. I like it a lot.)
This episode is visually different from most, mainly due to it taking place completely outside of the Greendale campus. There's also a change in wardrobe. Britta, Annie and, of course, Troy and Abed are all wearing tops I couldn't imagine seeing them wearing to the study group. The ladies' hair is similarly different; wore up for practicality. These basic changes in appearance signal early on this episode's distance from Greendale. SiMM may have been an early tester for the writers to prove the show could work once the characters had no reason to return to school. There may be more like this to come in Season Five.
Britta is prescient in the early scenes, describing how #annie'smove will pan out later in the episode, before taking it all back per Annie's request. I see this as a subtle commentary from the writers on the nature of typical sitcom storylines such as this. Yes, we've seen it before. Yes, the audience knows what's coming. Hell, even the supposed ditsiest character sees it coming. Nothing to say it still can't be fun. Taking this analogy further, Britta is suddenly distracted by Annie's cuddly toy, breaking her from her tangent. This is similar to how TV audiences can be manipulated and how their attention can be moved away from the important stuff by, say, a royal baby.
SiMM is a very strong episode for Britta. In the early stages of the episode, she acts as Annie's spiritual mentor, using her worldly experience to break out some hard truths. This particular exchange brought me back to Spanish 101, where Britta was the one the girls went to for guidance. The Shirley-Jesus car ride is a fun take on the 'upper-hand is constantly switching' gag and again Britta gets to act like a rational adult with strong beliefs that she isn't afraid back down from. Additionally, consider that it is Britta who leads the Seal rendition to ridicule Jeff, and then is the more mature audience member while watching the admittedly heart-wrenching demise of Horsebot 3000. Britta for the win? Britta for the win.
The writers seem very aware of Troy and Abed's status as the 'breakout' characters. I think it was a smart decision to show the other side of them in SiMM, which most viewers wouldn't consider. Yeah, they're hilarious, but what if you actually had to live with them? I think each viewer's enjoyment of this episode depends on their tolerance for Troy and Abed silliness. If, like me, you enjoy Troy and Abed's antics even when they're supposed to be annoying, you're going to have a great time. If you appreciate what the show is doing to show them in a different light, you're going to have a decent time. If you appreciate what the show is doing but already found Troy and Abed annoying before this ep…you might just want to skip past this one. As someone who likes Troy and Abed at their silliest, strangest and potentially dangerous-est, I leave it up to the comments to be more critical of this storyline. Or is that cheating? Oh well, I'll take an S-.
When this episode first aired, I remember (or possibly misremember) a lot being made of Jeff's mental state. First, there's the casual dismissal of the attractive clothes store employee. A sign Jeff has grown from his womanising ways, or simply has no interest in people at all. Secondly, there's the revelation that Jeff emailed his therapist, explaining he wanted to be alone that weekend. Lastly, his emotional breakdown over the Troy and Abed's puppet show. With hindsight, it's easy to write off both his non-flirting and crying scene as nothing more than slam-dunk laughs. At the time, though, it seemed like we were building up to a serious gamechange moment for Jeff. While it's true that we DID get a big moment like that (Contemporary Impressionists) I think we were all expecting something a bit less Hulk-y. I was on board with Harmon making the show more serialised, but with a twenty-plus episode network sitcom it's always going to be a tough ask. A slow Jeff meltdown could've been great and I'm sure McHale would've knocked the dramatic scenes out of the park (see Season 4's 'Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations').
Keeping one of your most comedically talented actors' separated from the rest of the cast is not the best sign for a comedy. In season one, Pierce was an integral part to many storylines, often being the one to ground the silliness in wise advice come the end of an episode. At this point, the writers are clearly struggling to fit Pierce into the stories they want to tell. When the episode cuts back to Pierce, it is a signal that the audience can rest for a minute; Pierce is unimportant to the storyline but we have to show him doing something. Despite this, I love Pierce's side adventure in this episode. Chevy Chase is still fantastic at physical humour and I'd wager that he probably enjoyed being given a B-plot like this; in his wheel-house, as it were. His line about painting the floor being 'quite calming for some reason' rings true to me. There's something about watching a skilled comedic actor such as Chase make gold out of a basic idea that is very soothing. With the central plot of the episode dealing with how the new, lovable double act of Troy and Abed can be grating after too long, this small part of the ep reminds us that while the old ways of comedy may not be the best, they still get the job done.
I hope I've raised some points you hadn't considered before (which, let's be honest, is damn hard at this point!) and given you the desire for a rewatch. As a closing argument, I'll say it again: it's a lot of fun.
Oh, I didn't even mention the freaking 'Kiss From a Rose' montage. Remember that? That was a good bit.
My original idea for this review was to make everything dance-related, based on how the episode title connotes dancing. The section titles I came up with were:
Annie & Troy and Abed – The Ballerina
Britta and Shirley – Headbanging
Jeff and the Dean – '…And the Men Are Going to the Ballroom'
Pierce – The (Old Fogey) Hokey Cokey
But ultimately I couldn't get past the first paragraph…because I know nothing about dancing.
I wondered whether the writers were aware how similar the bubble wrap gag was to a joke on Friends, but the 'Schwimmer Fatigue' joke right after tells me they were in the know.
How did you feel Jeff's emotional arc was handled in this episode, and the season as a whole? What would you have done differently?
Did you ever fall out of love with Troy and Abed? If so, when?
Ideas for how the show could have made Pierce relevant again?
08/19/2013 – 07:19 PM – 21 LIKES