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'Community' recap: The times they are a-Chang-ing

January 21, 2011 |  8:00 am


And we’re back. It’s the start of the spring semester at Greendale and the spring season in TV land. Time to catch up with everybody -- what did you do over that long break of holiday specials and reruns?

Looks like Pierce (Chevy Chase) finally ditched the leg casts and the fancy wheelchair, Troy (Donald Glover) discovered laserdiscs, and Jeff (Joel McHale) worked on a back muscle sure to drive the women wild during tank-top season. But the big news belongs to two of the women in the group (then there's that bombshell Troy accidentally drops to Pierce about Shirley. More on that later).

Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) has gotten back together with her two-timing ex, Andre (Malcolm-Jamal Warner, in a sweater that would make Cliff Huxtable proud). And she's pregnant. Annie (Alison Brie), meanwhile, being the overachiever that she is, joined a campus volunteer group during break and picked up trash. She found a finger and a certain somebody who makes her talk in her "I love butterflies voice" while being coy about his identity. Could he be affiliated with Greendale? Abed (Danny Pudi) and company do their best to find out, but it's time to Chang the subject. Oops! Look who’s eavesdropping from atop a bookshelf in the library, still demanding a spot in the study group. 

On to anthro class. Still no sign of June Bauer (Betty White), so looks like it'll be professor Duncan (John Oliver) for another semester. Only now it's Sober Duncan instead of Drunk Duncan, because of certain problems that not even Viagra could cure. So, prepare for more dioramas and actual teaching. Perhaps their new classmate Rich (Greg Cromer) can help them study. In addition to being a doctor, a guide-dog volunteer and handy in the kitchen, he knows his way around anthropology  -- and, as it turns out, Annie's heart.

This news sends Jeff reeling. Could this be the end of our little group as we know it? Let's throw a mixer and find out, with tropical Skittles, cigarettes and mouthwash for refreshments. Will it be Dr. Rich, Chang (Ken Jeong) or Jeff's pick Quendra ("I spell it with a QU") who joins the group? Rich arrives with enough kettle corn ("I make it in my garage") to buy his way into heaven. Chang gets wind of the party and wants into the group. "Time to chang your view." Insert slow-clap.

A jealous Jeff makes a case for Chang, using his slick, going-in-for-the-kill closing-statement moves on the group. He must be one hell of a lawyer. Anyway, the tie-breaking vote comes down to Shirley, who was swayed by all that skillful Jeff talk. This is too much for Pierce, who spills the beans about Chang's and Shirley's little tango at the Halloween party that nobody remembers. Shirley is horrified. Andre is stunned. Chang finally has answers to the photos on his cellphone. Oh dear, oh dear.

All roads lead to Jeff at Greendale, and he's soon being confronted by Annie over his jealousy of Dr. Rich (shipper alert!) and informed that she's going to ask out Dr. Do No Wrong. Out she goes and in comes Britta (Gillian Jacobs), who demands that Jeff do something about Andre. The two have a man-to-man, and Andre admits that he messed up in the past and that he’s going to stick around and raise the baby. Aw, Theo, you've grown up.

But back to the advancing plot. Jeff finds out that Rich turned Annie down (too young) and gets all John Cusack in the rain. He'll say anything to woo ... Dr. Rich (oh, those wicked writers!) to teach him how to be perfect, so he "can abuse it." And we're back.

Let's see ... we had plenty of character advancement and the usual pop cultural nods, including a sartorial salute to "The Cosby Show."  Not bad, but it was reminiscent of the first week of a new semester, when you're just easing into the material. Here's hoping next week's class will be livelier. 

Extra credit: "Troy and Abed in the Morning," with a special guest star: Dr. Rich and his kettle corn. Rich, also being an overachiever and perfect in every way, carved his kettle corn stirring spoon from an oak tree in his backyard, and made a rocking horse for his nephew out of the leftovers. Of course he did. Annie, you're better off with Jeff. Trust me. Even a Jeff who tries to inject a little reality into Troy's and Abeds world. 

-- Alison Dingeldein

Photo: Andre (Malcolm-Jamal Warner), left, is questioned by Troy (Donald Glover) on "Community." Credit: Lewis Jacobs / NBC