11/11/2011 01:52 pm ET | Updated Jan 11, 2012

Community - Season 3, Ep. 7: "Studies in Modern Movement"

"I don't want a candy cigarette. I want our Annie."

There were 3.5 storylines in last night's Community. The quote above is from the only one of them that felt like it belonged to the sitcom I've come to love. In general, this season to date has been a bit of a bust for me, with the notable exception of "Remedial Chaos Theory," which was, without question, one of the best episodes of the series.

As a community college professor myself, I recognize what's happening here. In real life two-years, we sometimes have what one calls the mid-semester itch. A class starts off at full capacity. Textbooks sit atop desks, still in their college bookstore shrink wrap. Students have purchased apparel bearing the school's logo and are proudly donning it. And the professor swans in, with boundless energy and a great introductory monologue--think Michael K. Williams, in the season opener--ready to mold some intergenerational minds.

By midterms, half the class or more has fallen prey to attrition. Everyone's yawning and dragging their heels, full of well-worn reasons why they've skipped, dropped, or failed to deliver the assignment that's due. Before long, students are loudly, wistfully longing for that grand, majestic day when the term is over. And the prof is silently pining right along with them.

Community's having its mid-semester itch.

This week, Annie's moving in with Troy and Abed (who are, awesomely, wearing t-shirts with an #Anniesmove hashtag). Jeff begs the chore off, faking hospitalization, until he runs into Dean Pelton at the mall, who blackmails him into lunching and singing a pretty great karaoke rendition of Seal's "Kiss from a Rose." Shirley's being stereotypically churchy. Britta's being stereotypically atheistic (and also being a killjoy with Annie, which is par for her course). And Pierce is accidentally huffing paint fumes.
That's it. That's the episode. Despite the A storyline, which met expectations--Annie tries to fit into Troy and Abed's very idiosyncratic home-life, before they realize they have to adapt their weirdness to accommodate her--we're experiencing a bit of attrition with the other characters.

Interestingly, it's the "non-traditionally college-aged" characters who are falling off. Jeff, Shirley, and Pierce are suffering from too little to do and are in danger of becoming slaves to their archetypes. We're supposed to believe that Jeff is slowly evolving and treating the group like he would a family, should he grow enough as a person to desire one. But three years in, and he still lies to get out of helping a girl he consistently tries either to father or woo. Shirley supposedly came to college to broaden her mind and improve her job prospects, post-divorce. Three years in, and she's still looking down her nose at everyone's beliefs. Pierce was at his most evolved when he quit the group last year; now he's back to being the butt of geriatric jokes. And even though they've given Britta an academic major, she hasn't gotten much in the way of character development--and such development would be necessary for her to succeed in that major.

Annie, Troy, and Abed are the characters who have most matured since the beginning of the series. Annie and Troy are both slowly shedding their high school reputations, as anal and meds-addled or a shallow jock, respectively. Abed has found a way to make his pop culture preoccupation serve, rather than impede, his social development.

It's no wonder these three are living together--at Abed's suggestion, no less.

With about half the season in the can, it's time to get over the hump. Semester's pretty close to over, guys. Push the so-called "adults" in the study group forward. One way to do this is to give them motivation and nuance. Does Jeff even still *want* to practice law? Let Pierce make peace with aging. And Shirley's a recovering alcoholic who, just last season, wasn't quite sure who the father of her kid was; she could stand to be a little more self-aware and a little less self-righteous, at this point.

Crib Sheet:

- Annie's look of delight during Troy and Abed's housewarming puppet show let me know this living arrangement is totally gonna work.

- The dreamatorium was awesome, but it's better suited to a blanket fort than a four-walled bedroom.

- "Brought to you by the lady-yogurt that helps Jamie Lee Curtis poop."

- "He tweeeeted iiiiit!!!"

- Dean Pelton making Jeff order for him *and* have the mariachis serenade him, while they wore matching shirts, was entertaining. But the karaoke took the cake. Loved it. It was the kind of creepy you'd expect from the dean--especially after we discovered that he'd gotten Jeff to this weird and unsettling place by hacking his student email.

- I loved Troy's "our Annie" and the callback to the candy cigarettes as a gauge of (im)maturity.