This post contains spoilers through the Oct. 13 episode of Community.
I feel bad that Alyssa doesn’t get to write this Community recap, because I’m sure she will delight in both the use of the alternative timelines and the character development this week’s storytelling device allows for. Alternative timelines let us learn how characters would react in certain circumstances without them actually having to experience them — I still love thinking about how Captain Janeway’s grit and determination was tested in the “Year of Hell” that never actually happened. In the case of Community, it gave the writers a chance to catch up on the character development that seemed lacking in the first three episodes, resolve the tension that was apparent in last week’s “mean clique,” and lay some groundwork for the characters to evolve in forthcoming episodes.
Every character grew or at least demonstrated potential for growth. Pierce showed he was capable of compassion (or at least not being vindictive, which is a step up for him). Annie is still insecure, but taking steps to handle her problems. Shirley doesn’t need to buy the group’s love with baking if she just dances along. Britta is a bit lost, but apparently quite a good listener — and she is taking that psychology course this semester. Troy is learning he needs to grow up if he no longer wants to feel like the little kid Jeff picks on. Abed proved with both his fake invitation and swipe of the die that he can foil Jeff’s authoritarian parenting of the group, and Jeff likewise learned that stepping back and not trying to control the situation can have positive results. Pierce even made that jab about Jeff’s father, so the writers haven’t forgotten there are issues that still need explored in that department. I’d argue that after three episodes of unsure footing, “Remedial Chaos Theory” proves that Community knows its characters incredibly well and is ready to take them new places that make sense.
I do want to take this opportunity to point out that this episode cements for me that the show is not-so-subtly setting up a “Bert and Ernie” problem for Troy and Abed (self-dubbed “Trobed”). Consider the awkward tension in the season premiere when they announced that they were moving in together, the realization last week they spend too much time together, the wall of photos of them together, the bunk beds, and the perhaps painfully obvious green and orange pajamas they were wearing at the end of the episode. And as Alyssa pointed out, neither character has had a meaningful sexual relationship, so there really are no bounds on exploring either’s sexuality. In the spirit of the multiple timelines theme, let me present an argument both for and against the show exploring anything sexual between these two best friends.
I really don’t think Troy and Abed will be gay in any timeline, and while I always favor more visibility for LGBT characters, I don’t think I even want them to be. Still, it seems to me it could at least be plausible. Both are ready to start growing up and discovering themselves, which means they are primed for coming out journeys. Both Pierce and Jeff have been described as “jealous” of their friendship, which suggests there is something special about what they have. And if Annie is going to be moving in with them, perhaps we can expect to see a whole lot more of life in Chez Trobed (or “Indiana Jones and the Apartment of Perpetual Virginity”) and how living together impacts their relationship. Plus, it would be refreshing to see two television characters come out together without any sort of mentor guiding them, and both Troy and Abed are matter-of-fact enough that they could probably even handle it without much conflict. They could even serve as a role model for poor Dean Pelton! Most importantly, I don’t know if I can handle a season of gags about how everyone thinks they’re gay if they’re not.
I’m more hoping, though, that their friendship becomes more meaningful without the need to sexualize it. The sociologist Eric Anderson talks about how a homophobic culture forces heterosexual guys to constantly have to prove their heterosexuality. This creates a lot of obstacles for males to get close with each other and have the kind of intimacy (even physically) that we expect to see from best girlfriends in every single RomCom. One of my favorite moments on film that bucks this fear of guyfriend intimacy is at the end of Superbad when Jonah Hill and Michael Cera’s characters declare their love for each other and cuddle without any hint of sexual tension or awkwardness. Trobed could be the perfect vehicle to continue exploring that Judd Apatow perspective on male friendships without being monopolized by Judd Apatow. And while Troy and Abed’s new proximity could parallel the conflicts Blaine and Kurt are going to be facing over on Glee, I expect in the end we’ll see a very different outcome for how two guys stick together. Besides, Troy and Britta made googly eyes at each other, and I can’t wait to see how that frustrates Jeff.
I was a little unsure where this season of Community was going with its first couple episodes, but I can sleep well now knowing it’s on exactly the right timeline.