Alison Brie Thinks This Is When Community Came Into Its Own

When it comes to "Community," everyone has different takes on when the show truly found its voice. Many point to "Debate 109," the episode where the writers first realized that Annie (Alison Brie) and Jeff (Joel McHale) had far more compelling romantic tension than Jeff and Britta (Gillian Jacobs) ever did. Others point to the genre homage episodes later in the season like the mafia-themed "Contemporary American Poultry" or the action movie-themed "Modern Warfare."

But for Alison Brie, the episode where "Community" found its groove came much sooner: episode 7, "Introduction to Statistics." It was the show's first Halloween-themed episode, and even though it was nowhere near as ambitious as the literal zombie apocalypse that happened in season 2's Halloween episode, it was also far weirder than the average sitcom. It gave us Pierce (Chevy Chase) having a bad drug trip (complete with an absurd hallucination sequence), and Abed (Danny Pudi) talking like Christian Bale's Batman the whole episode. It also had Annie give the best line in the series, as she tearfully tells Jeff, "I was so unpopular in high school, the crossing guard used to lure me into traffic."

"We always referred to season 1's Halloween episode as the first where everyone was gelling," Alison Brie told The Independent for a 2020 oral history of the show. "Danny was Batman, weird stuff was happening and the whole group was really clicking. You could start to see what the show would become."

Finding the elements that worked

After the pilot episode got the study group together, the next six episodes seemed to mix up the pairings of characters as much as possible. The writers had a lot of dynamics planned at the start of the show (like Pierce and Troy being a comedic duo) that ended up not working out, in part because they realized early on that other pairings (like Troy and Abed's weird little relationship) were far better.

Most notably, the first six episodes after the pilot featured an A-plot exploring Jeff's relationships with all the other study group members. We watched Jeff reluctantly bond with Pierce over a Spanish class presentation, become Abed's father figure for a film studies project, gossip with Shirley, help Britta escape expulsion for cheating, and trick Troy into joining the football team. 

"Introduction to Statistics" is the one that finally pairs Jeff up with Annie, and it quickly became clear that the show really should've done this sooner. The jaded, laid-back Jeff and the naïve, uptight Annie made for some of the funniest scenes in the whole show. Even before the romantic element was introduced two episodes later, these two were perfect foils for each other. 

The episode also featured one of the first prolonged interactions between Troy and Abed outside of the post-credits clips, the beginning of Pierce's antagonistic treatment of Jeff, and one of the show's first committed movie homage scenes in which Abed saves Pierce and Jeff from a collapsing fort and gives his Dark Knight monologue. "The weirder the episodes got, the more fulfilling it was," Brie explained about the show, and "Introduction to Statistics" was when "Community" really started getting weird.