Thursday, January 28, 2010

Community 1.14: "Interpretive Dance"

“What part of being a single, white slacker makes you people so jaded?”


Although I wouldn’t say it was one of my favorite episodes, I liked “Interpretive Dance” well enough. It featured an unconventional character pairing of Troy and Britta, and the plot gave both of those characters more dimension. Pierce was used sparingly enough to be funny instead of annoying. I wasn’t really thrilled with how Jeff and Britta’s relationship was handled in this episode (I think I’m the one person left on Earth who still wouldn’t mind seeing them together), but the good in the episode most definitely outweighed the bad. I don’t think I ever laughed out loud during this episode (give me an episode of HIMYM or The Big Bang Theory if you really want to see me laugh uncontrollably), but it was an enjoyable enough way to spend half an hour.

The episode opens on a meeting of the study group. Or the entire study group minus Pierce, to be more specific. Annie wants to address what she calls the “back door conundrum.” The back door to the library, which is much more convenient for the study group to use, is usually locked by the time study group starts. Annie first suggests they move study group half an hour earlier, but Britta and Troy mysteriously (and obviously) say that the earlier time won’t work for them. The group agrees that somebody will just have to hold the door open for everyone else. Once that’s settled, the group finally realizes that Pierce is missing. Abed says he tried calling Pierce and there was no answer. Just as the group begins to worry that Pierce might be dead, Pierce arrives at the study room. He guesses pretty quickly what everybody had been thinking, and he’s kind of offended. Offended that people don’t say they wish he was dead to his face anymore.

It’s soon obvious why Troy and Britta didn’t want to move study group up to 4:30. They both are taking a dance class. Troy is taking modern dance, and Britta is taking tap. The dance class plot was really a great opportunity for Donald Glover to show off his physical comedy chops and Gillian Jacobs to show a softer side of Britta. When Troy and Britta run into each other in the dance rehearsal space, they laugh, but they really do think it’s cool that they aren’t alone in their love of dance. Britta thinks it would be a great idea if they both “come out” as dancers to the rest of the study group at the same time. They can even invite everybody to the upcoming dance recital!

Jeff has been trying to keep his own secret from the group, and he fares no better than Troy and Britta. He’s been dating the statistics professor from the Halloween episode for several weeks now. Student/Professor relationships are taboo at Greendale, even when there isn’t really an age difference, so they’ve been trying to keep it on the down low. The secret starts to unravel when Britta discovers a brunette hair on Jeff’s shoulder. Jeff says he’s seeing someone, but he refuses to say who. The cat is out of the bag, however, when Professor Slater wants to make out with Jeff in the library. He thinks he’s hidden from the study group by the blinds that cover the study room windows, but the group isn’t in the study room. They’re waiting outside to be let in via the back door, and they see everything.

Once everybody’s settled in the study room, and Professor Slater has left feeling a little mortified, Britta announces that she and Troy have their own announcement. My favorite part about this scene is Annie gasping in horror when she thinks the announcement is that Troy and Britta are dating and Britta quickly shooting that idea down. My least favorite thing about the scene is that Troy doesn’t fess up to being a dancer. I guess it’s true to the character- it just didn’t impress me because plenty of TV shows have gone to that well before. There was an episode of Greek earlier this season, for instance, where Evan and Calvin were both supposed to come clean about their secrets to the rest of the Omega Chis, but only Evan actually went through with it.

Jeff is feeling some betrayal himself (so I really only just realized how many parallels there are between Jeff and Britta’s stories in the first half of this episode…interesting). Within minutes of his relationship with Professor Slater being revealed to the study group, the Dean barges into the room demanding to see Jeff and Professor Slater in his office. Turns out word gets out fast around Greendale- especially when somebody is stupid enough to show Pierce how to use Twitter.

Britta is really upset that Troy chickened out with his confession. Troy tries to explain that he has more at stake than Britta with the whole dancing situation, since dancing isn’t generally thought of as masculine. I thought the excuse was kind of pathetic, and Britta seems to agree. Shirley interprets Britta’s bad mood as being upset that Jeff is seeing someone else. Shirley does have a pretty good point- whatever Jeff had with Britta did help turn him into the person that could be ready to try a relationship with Professor Slater. Britta doesn’t agree with Shirley, though. She doesn’t really think Jeff is the problem here.

Jeff has his own problems to deal with. The Dean want Jeff and Professor Slater to fill out very detailed “teacher/student relationship forms.” Overall, I liked this scene because of the overt silliness of the forms. It reminded me of Emma’s helpful guidance counselor pamphlets in the early episodes of “Glee.” The Dean is getting a little too creepy for my taste, though. For all that he worries about the potential lawsuits stemming from professor/student relationships, he certainly makes plenty of inappropriate comments of his own. I’m sure plenty of people find the Dean’s antics funny, but it’s just a bit much for me. Anyway, the Dean’s creepiness isn’t Jeff’s only problem by a long shot. Jeff is hesitant to define his relationship with Professor Slater, and this, naturally, does not make the Professor very happy. She breaks up with him right then and there.

The break-up doesn’t last long, though. Jeff runs right to her office and tries to explain himself and make one of his trademark inspirational speeches. Professor Slater thinks his “afraid of commitment” excuse is weak, but after talking things out, they reach an understanding, and they are officially a couple. This wrapped up a bit too neatly for my taste. I think I would have found the story a little more compelling if Jeff had to work a little harder to win Professor Slater back.

The study group (plus a bunch of other random people Abed invited) show up at the big dance recital. Britta’s tap class does a number to “Tea for Two” from “No, No Nanette.” Britta is the star of the number, dressed in a kind of ridiculous teapot costume. Britta’s going through her routine just fine until she sees Jeff and Professor Slater happily sitting in the audience holding hands. She had expressed her disbelief several times earlier in the episode that Jeff could actually be in a conventional, committed relationship, and seeing him like that throws her for a loop. That might actually be an understatement. She kind of gets frozen in one part of her routine, doing the same step over and over.

Troy finally steps up and comes to the rescue, which I appreciated. He rips off his jeans, revealing dance clothes underneath. He guides Britta out of her feedback loop of sorts, and then they perform a quick modern dance number before leaving the stage. Nobody thinks less of Troy once they learn he’s a dancer. Abed even tries out a little tap himself once the auditorium is deserted. My favorite moment of the episode was when Jeff gave Britta flowers. He wanted to thank Britta, because being her friend made him think he might be able to handle a girlfriend. I know I mentioned early in this recap that I was irked by how the Britta/Jeff relationship was handled in this episode. I guess what irks me is Professor Slater. Sure she’s cool and funny, but she feels like a bit of an artificial road block. Artificial relationship roadblocks in TV shows always irk me somewhat. “Chuck” is a major offender in this category. I’m willing to ride it out for now, though, and try to enjoy the show for all the other fun character interaction and quirkiness.

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