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Community Recap: ‘Basic Human Anatomy’ (Season 4, Episode 11)

Community Recap: ‘Basic Human Anatomy’ (Season 4, Episode 11) 1

Movies & TV

Community Recap: ‘Basic Human Anatomy’ (Season 4, Episode 11)

Trying to recapture the “outside the box” antics that made Community so beloved in the earlier seasons, “Human Anatomy” focuses on Abed and Troy doing a Freaky Friday-style body switch for most of the episode. While no one believes they have actually switched bodies, the rest of the group goes along with it so that they can complete the History project that is conveniently due very soon.

Community - Season 4

Photos © NBC Universal, Inc./Colleen Hayes

In my previous Community recap, I incorrectly attributed last week’s disastrous episode (“Intro to Knots”) to Jim Rash whom I believed penned the script. A reader was kind enough to point out in the comments section that Jim Rash didn’t write “Knots” (curse you, IMDb!). He did, however, write this week’s episode, titled “Basic Human Anatomy,” and the result isn’t much better than the pile of suck that happened last week. The entire plot of “Human Anatomy” hinges on one ridiculous ploy to (once again) convince fans of the show that Community is still as quirky and high concept as ever.

Trying to recapture the “outside the box” antics that made Community so beloved in the earlier seasons, “Human Anatomy” focuses on Abed and Troy doing a Freaky Friday-style body switch for most of the episode. While no one believes they have actually switched bodies, the rest of the group goes along with it so that they can complete the History project that is conveniently due very soon. Jeff just wants to get a passing grade so he talks to Troy as if he’s Abed and Vice Versa (get it?) while Britta tries to work out relationship issues with “Troy” who is really Abed.

As the audience, we are supposed to lump the body switch storyline into the past high concept episodes that I’ll call Alternate Reality episodes. These include “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas,” “Modern Warfare,” “A Fistful of Paintballs,” “Epidemiology,” “Basic Lupine Urology” and others. Essentially, this happens when normal storytelling paradigms are eschewed for the duration of the episode and the characters either willingly or unwillingly, knowingly or unknowingly enter into an alternate reality in which the rules of their world are affected.

For example, from beginning to end, “Basic Lupine Urology” is presented as an exact replica of an episode of Law & Order, down to the music cues and wisecracks. None of the characters say, “Hey, let’s behave like they do on Law & Order,” but they all adhere to its model. They are unknowingly acting in a world that must play by the rules set forth by Dick Wolf (who gets a special thanks at the end of the episode). They never break from the archetypes because, in this episode, that is not what their characters would do.

Another example: “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas.” This was the first episode that took a risk by altering the visual look of the series. Made up predominantly of Claymation, we see little of the actors as they are voicing the Christmas-y characters that Abed has dreamed up for each of them. Even though the study group is unwilling at first, they knowingly go along with the alternate reality and – eventually — willingly abide by the rules of Abed’s world in order to help him deal with his personal issues. The characters are free to point out the Claymation artifice and even mock the world because they are, in a sense, outside of it. But, because they are there willingly, we as the viewer can understand and appreciate the storytelling approach.

“Human Anatomy” fails to fall into any of these categories because, at its root, the episode is not an Alternate Reality episode; it is merely trying to play the part. We know we haven’t officially entered an alternate reality because when Abed and Troy “switch bodies” the lights flash on and off but we then see a maintenance worker who says he is doing a “routine light switch check.” That single line proves that Abed and Troy have not switched bodies, they are only pretending to. They then force the rest of the group – and the audience – to play along. The group knows something is happening but is unwilling to go along so the concept should end there. Instead, “Basic Anatomy” drags out for the full 22 minutes and ends exactly as we expect it to. Jim Rash could have done so much better, but my guess is he had very strict requirements from the show runners.

Watching Danny Pudi and Donald Glover act like one another is funny for about 45 seconds. Glover nails Abed’s mannerisms and speech pattern while Pudi shows his range again by taking on Troy’s cool persona. The only saving grace is watching Rash himself embody Jeff through his only body switch. Rash has every single characteristic of Jeff perfected, only proving that Rash has been underutilized for some time.

Like every episode this season, “Basic Human Anatomy” is a disappointment that will serve only to highlight how good Seasons 1-3 really were. We’re almost at the end, friends, and then we can forget this ever happened.

Matthew Newlin lives in St. Louis, Missouri and has been a film critic for over six years. He has written for numerous online media outlets, including "Playback:STL" and "The Weissman Report." He holds a Master's of Education in Higher Education from the University of Missouri-St. Louis and is an Assistant Director of Financial Aid. A lifelong student of cinema, his passion for film was inherited from his father who never said "No, you can't watch that."



  1. Jones

    April 27, 2013 at 10:32 am

    This was a good and funny episode but reviewers can’t get out of their own way because its hipster cool to say New Community is terrible. Had someone told you Harmon came back for this episode you’d probably be falling all over yourself pointing out clever plot points and witty lines .Some of the episodes this season have fallen flat but not every Harmon episode was a gem that you writers would have the audience believe.
    I don’t believe you reviewers are objectively reviewing the episodes instead you’re consistently attempting to compare the old seasons and forcing yourselves to not like the new ones.


  2. Rikku

    April 26, 2013 at 9:37 pm

    I can’t think of any episodes this season that I’ve really enjoyed all that much. I’d smile and at some points they’d get a few laughs out of me (some episodes more frequently than others) but Season 4 didn’t get to me like the previous seasons.

    That is, until this episode, so I’m going to have to agree with Tariyaki’s comment. I don’t think it’s fair to say that 4×11 reminds the viewer of how the show has fallen. Previous episodes definitely did, but this episode only reminded me of why I loved (and still love) Community and why I still have hope for the show.

  3. Matthew Newlin

    April 26, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    Hi Tariyaki,
    You make an excellent point and it’s understandable that you would assume my bias prevents me from enjoying any more episodes despote their quality. I assure you, though, that deep down I am still rooting for the show to have at least one more good episode before its cancelled. I still look forward to Community each week because I love the characters. They just haven’t gotten the treatment they deserve.
    I’m glad you liked the episode, I just felt it was weak. Thanks for reading!

  4. Tariyaki

    April 26, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    I’ve read a few of your reviews on this season and felt that, although overly harsh, they were quite true about the season not living up to expectation.

    However, this episode was truely well done.

    Brilliant concept, extremely funny moments, and handling the break-up of Britta and Troy in this way felt so perfect and true the Abeh and Troy’s character.

    I honestly feel, intentional or not, you have begun to go into these episode with bias.

    This is of course just my opinion, just as your review is yours, but i feel anyone who could consider this a ‘pile of suck’ cannot of come in wanting anything more.

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