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Recap / Community S3 E03: Competitive Ecology

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Your love is weird!! Offense taken!
Professor Kane assigns the Biology class a terrarium project. When the study group ends up with lab partners from outside the gang, they beg Prof. Kane to let them partner up among themselves, which he grants with some exasperation. However, the partnerships of Troy and Abed, Britta and Shirley, Jeff and Annie, and Pierce and outsider Todd have quickly noticeable compatibility problems and the study group decides to shuffle pairs, which quickly gets way too serious.

Meanwhile, Chang's desire to be a police detective expresses itself as an idiotically mundane Film Noir, which eventually leads to him inadvertently starting a fire and his illegal living situation coming to light.

The Community episode "Competitive Ecology" provides examples of:

  • Alpha Bitch: The study group as a whole decides to adopt the attitude here. They have all the qualifications of being the Girl Posse, and are even called "the mean clique".
  • Bat Deduction: Plenty of insane, blatantly incorrect ones from Chang after he decides he's a detective, which lead to no good.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: The study group asks Professor Kane to switch partners and stay together. They find out too late that working with new people would help their grades and their friendships. Kane refuses to let them switch back after hearing out they hurt Todd.
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  • Beware the Nice Ones: Todd spends most of the episode as an unflinchingly patient Nice Guy while the study group bicker with each other and repeatedly insult him. When their antics lead to Britta almost killing his turtle, however, Todd reaches his Rage Breaking Point and unleashes a well-deserved "The Reason You Suck" Speech on them.
  • The B Grade: Annie faints when informed that they failed the assignment.
  • Brutal Honesty: Kane tells Magnitude that he believes everyone has been laughing at him.
    Kane: At least that's my theory.
  • Butt-Monkey: Todd, Todd, Todd. Before the end of the episode, they even insult his newborn child.
    Troy: He wouldn't stop talking about his dumb baby!
  • Captain Obvious: "[She had l]egs that went to the bottom of her torso. The kind of arms that had elbows."
  • Cargo Ship: Chang x Mannequin Leg. invoked
  • Catchphrase: "Am I crazy?" and "I had to think fast" in Chang's internal monologue.
    • "None taken!" for Todd, who even starts to say it without someone else saying "No offense."
  • The Chew Toy: Todd, if you haven't caught that by now.
  • Continuity Lockout: In-universe with Kane. He's a new teacher with no idea what the hell's been going on. The class gives a Collective Groan at the mention of dioramas, because most of them have been doing it all previous year.
    "You guys have weird reactions to stuff."
    • Then, when the study group asks him to change lab partners, they mention all the stuff they've been through together.
      "What is happening at this school? I have so many conversations that make no sense..."
  • Continuity Nod: The group's study table still has axe-marks from Jeff's attack on it in the first episode.
  • Evil Laugh: Chang's crazy evil laugh when he is promoted to head of security. Inside his head.
  • Film Noir: Chang sees several tropes of the genre that aren’t really there, like a Femme Fatale, or Veronica getting Stuffed into the Fridge.
  • Firemen Are Hot: The Dean certainly thinks so.
  • Forehead of Doom: Todd.
  • Foreshadowing: Chang accidentally starting a fire, and getting a position of authority.
  • Freudian Slip: Britta in The Tag:
    Britta: Haha! Gotcha! This was also a test, and you all penised. ...Passed.
  • Freud Was Right: In The Tag, Britta gives everyone a basic multiple choice psychological evaluation. Troy fills his bubbles to shape a pair of boobs. Britta mistakes all the other sheets for penises.
  • Going by the Matchbook: Chang tries to force this trope with disastrous results.
  • Good Old Ways: Kane's monologue on how Legos have changed while he was inside.
  • Handicapped Badass: Todd is a diabetic, and a war veteran. While he doesn't do any physical stunts in this episode, he proves that he is tough as nails while being nice.
  • Hidden Depths: Todd has a wife, a baby girl, a promise to his dead father to graduate from college, and diabetes, and had fought in Iraq.
  • Hypocritical Humour:
    Jeff: We don't even know him! He's a stranger!
    Pierce: Jeez Jeff, it has feelings.
  • Ignored Epiphany: The group seems to be veering in the direction of learning the Aesop of this episode. But the minute Jeff blames it on Todd, they all blame him as well (even though their troubles started before anyone but Pierce had even talked to him), failing to see how their own immaturity and instability caused all of their problems.
  • I'm Standing Right Here: Everyone talks about Todd with disdain right in front of him. He never takes any offense, though, [until he finally gets up and leaves after giving the study group a verbal lashing.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Chang's 'investigation' quickly becomes this as he is making deductions and connections that make no sense whatsoever.
  • Insult Backfire: Although it apparently doesn't backfire hard enough.
    Jeff: When did you even have time to do that?! You're pathological.
    Annie: It's too late for flattery.
  • I Resemble That Remark!: Annie remarks that Britta would benefit from being paired with the one with the highest GPA. Britta responds by trying and failing to flip her off.
  • It's Not You, It's Me: The study group breaking up with their lab partners. Everyone except Pierce, who gives poor Todd a "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
  • Kicked Upstairs: Chang, who gets the security chief gig after Sgt. Nunez quits in disgust.
  • Left the Background Music On: Chang's Hard-Work Montage wherein he tries to in vain crack the (non-existent) case is accompanied by bluesy saxophone music. One of the montage cuts shows Chang playing the saxophone.
  • Limited Social Circle: Lampshaded.
    Annie: [To Jeff] And who the hell are you always texting?! Everyone you know is here!
  • Malaproper: When Britta tells Shirley that her homeopath said that sugar is like "baby meth," Shirley says Britta's "gay friend needs to keep his opinions to himself."
    • Later, Chang says this about the Arizona Matchbook Company:
      Chang: [V.O.] Arizona backwards is still Arizona! It's a palomino!
  • Married to the Job: Chang, according to his conversation with the Dean.
  • Meaningful Echo: Chang's "Maybe I will" in response to head security guard telling him to detect on his own time is immediately echoed in his Inner Monologue.
  • The Mentally Disturbed: Chang, as Sgt. Nunez points out.
  • Metaphorgotten: Chang does this frequently during his Private Eye Monologues.
  • Mirror Monologue: Chang has one to convince himself to continue following the clues.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Britta stops with her hands over her mouth after she nearly burns the turtle that Todd found. She's genuinely horrified before Todd starts his "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
  • Nice Guy: Todd. But don't push him too far...
  • No Sympathy:
    • Subverted with Professor Kane. He's fiercely protective of Todd after hearing how his night went, including nearly missing his insulin shot. Professor Kane lets Todd pass, since presumably Todd made a terrarium with the turtle he found, and tells off the group for hurting him.
    • The group finds out that Todd could have died if he didn't arrive home to take his insulin shot. Their response is to trash-talk him the next day.
  • Only Sane Man: Todd is able to keep cool all night while the group squabbles and gets more and more insane.He finally snaps and tells them exactly what he thinks of them before leaving. Given his backstory, he is probably the stablest, sanest character on the show so far.
    • Also the Head Security Officer, pointing out that Chang is probably mentally ill (and "it's not even funny"), the Dean is enabling him and that this cannot possibly end well.
  • Opposites Attract: Troy's reasoning for pairing with Britta: they're the opposite gender, have different hair colors, come from different high schools, and are of different races.
  • Papa Wolf: Professor Kane has this attitude towards "his boy" Todd. He is furious with the group for hurting him emotionally and nearly killing the turtle he found. The professor gives the group "The Reason You Suck" Speech and refuses to let them partner up with the other students for fear of them being hurt.
  • Phrase Catcher: Todd. "No offense!" "None taken!"
  • Private Eye Monologue: Done by Chang throughout, although heavy on the Mixed Metaphor and Metaphorgotten. The Dean joins in toward the end, but they monologue simultaneously and drown each other out.
  • Rage Breaking Point: Todd starts off as being nice and amiable towards the study group but his patience begins to wear thing the more they insult him and keep him from going home. After Britta nearly hurts his turtle this is when Todd finally lets them have it.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Professor Kane is this. Todd is one of his good students who called him crying about how his study partners were utter jerks to him and each other. Presumably, he made a terrarium since he passed the assignment and wasn't asked to present. Professor Kane then gives a "The Reason You Suck" Speech to the group for spending their time being nasty to each other rather than focusing on the assignment and tells them now they all get one grade and one microscope so their bullying doesn't affect the other students. Even though Annie made a terrarium, the group fails by virtue of not having enough and for hurting Todd.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Todd delivers a surprisingly awesome one. He tells them off for being toxic friends towards each other and wasting his time.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: The Head Security Officer's reaction to finding out that the Dean isn't going to call the police or otherwise do anything about Chang is to quit on the spot.
  • Serious Business: The group took until the next day to pick lab partners.
  • Shaped Like Itself:
    Chang: My own words rang inside my head, like a bell inside a head.
  • She's Got Legs: Parodied. Chang, in his Hardboiled Detective Inner Monologue:
    Chang: [Inner monologue] She was all dame. Legs that went to the bottom of her torso. The kind of arms that had elbows.
    Vicki: Did you just call me in here to stare at me?
  • Ship Tease: Britta/Troy. And Jeff/Annie as well, considering that they initially gravitate towards each other as lab partners. And let's not forget the "tight sweater" exchange between them either...
  • Single Tear: Poor Todd.
  • Spanner in the Works: Jeff ends up being this for the group. After Abed manages to sort them out into new pairings everyone seems relatively happy with them...except Jeff who's been paired with Todd. When he demands to know why Abed's forced to admit the test was based on popularity which kickstarts a new argument.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: Chang and Dean Pelton, almost disturbingly.
  • String Theory: Chang creates one but it is completely unnecessary, there are only five items in it.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: Troy's reasoning for wanting to be partnered up with Britta:
    "There's only one way to decide this fairly. We go, boy-girl, boy-girl. But everyone has to have a different hair color, and be from a different high school, and be a different race. *Beat.* I guess I'd be with Britta. I guess my hands are tied."
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: The group assumes that biology will be exactly the same as Spanish or Anthropology and all they have to do is read the textbook or make a diorama. Any biology student can tell you that doing a lab is not the same; you have to be focused on the task, doing a write-up of the results you find, and presenting the results of your work. The study group fails their first assignment by failing to do all three of these tasks, albeit with a terrarium rather than a lab writeup.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: After Todd's rough night, Professor Kane implicitly lets him pass. He instead fails the rest of the group for arriving with one terrarium for the whole group and hurting Todd.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: The study group as a whole in this episode as it's shown once again how easily they end up fighting each other. Just that this time, they bring a bystander into the mix.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonists: The whole study group takes up this mantle in this episode while becoming "the mean clique."
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Todd to the whole group on their poisonous "friendship".
    • Kane as well when he calls them "the mean clique".
    • Sgt. Nunez pointing out to the Dean that Chang is mentally ill and shouldn't be enabled.