One of Community‘s strengths has always been the bond between the members of the study group. The band of seven misfits are a grab bag of demographics but the difference in their polarities brought them together to form the Voltron of study groups, a force to be reckoned with when they’re together. It’s their friendship that charms us and it’s the kindness and sacrifices they make for each other that make us “Awwww” like Shirley and Annie.

But when it comes to outsiders, these guys can be serious assholes.

“Competitive Ecology” was a fine example of how an episode of Community can work without “special.” There weren’t any blatant jokes about the characters knowing they’re on a television show, there wasn’t any—and I’m getting very sick of this term—”meta” overload. But there was a neck-breaking nod to the fact that these guys spend all their time together. Too much time, in fact.

When Professor Kane informed the gang they’d be paired up with lab partners who weren’t in the study group, their reaction fell somewhere between “we just found out our dog died” and “what do you mean we’ll be getting colon exams from Mr. Giant Fingers?” And it was great. “Competitive Ecology” acknowledged that Community exists in the world of sitcoms without being so overt about it. It was meta on the sly.

But the question I have now is this: Are these guys more lovable because they’re fiercely inclusive? Or do their actions toward Fat Neil, stupid Vicky (ugh! I hate her!), and Big Head Todd disappoint you? Do we want our TV idols to behave how we’d expect them to in the real world? Or is it more entertaining to watch them break a person down simply because that person is not, for lack of a better word, them?

I’m in the camp of wanting to see them treat people in the most horrible way possible. It’s just so much more entertaining, and admit it: You wouldn’t want to be partners with Todd either. But we can’t let the group get off without any consequences. It’s almost as entertaining to watch them crush the egos of their fellow students as it is to see the victims of they’re Mean Girling respond with a well-deserved outburst.

After more than fifty episodes of hanging out with Jeff, Annie, Troy, Britta, Abed, Shirley, and Pierce, I feel like I’m part of the group. And the mob mentality that comes with people having your back is a wonderfully powerful feeling. If you don’t agree, you can kiss my ass. I’ll be hanging out at Troy and Abed’s place. MY FRIENDS!

QUESTION: Is the study group hilariously cruel or obnoxiously arrogant?

Study Notes:
– The Chang storyline, which was almost “special” in that it spoofed the film noir genre, was hysterical. I know there are a fair amount of Chang haters out there, but I’m not one of them. And it’s nice to see him get a real arc instead of just popping up randomly and saying “Wasssssup!?” There were SO MANY quotables in his part of the episode, and Ken Jeong nailed everyone of them. Let’s get a recap of the Chang quotes from last night in the comments section! “She was all dame, legs that went all the way to the bottom of her torso.”

– I’d like to take y’all’s temperature of regarding Michael K. Williams as Greendale’s new biology professor. There are a few aspects of the character that I love, but I’m not sure he’s strong enough so keep up with everyone else. Of course, I would never say that to Omar’s face.

– This season is suffering from a severe Troy deficiency.

– This was my favorite episode of the season so far, without a doubt. The premiere ranks second, and last week episode a distant third.

– Todd: “Your love is weeeeeird!”

Follow writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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