|Episode no.||Season 3
|Directed by||Anthony Russo|
|Written by||Maggie Bandur|
|Original air date||October 6, 2011|
Professor Kane tells his biology students that their lab partners for their new terrarium project and the rest of the semester will be the people sitting across from them. The members of the group realize that the people they sit across from are not only unknown to them, but also to the audience.
The group enters Professor Kane's office and requests that they be able to partner up with each other. Professor Kane grants their request, and the group goes to tell their partners why they can't be with them. Afterwards, the group tries to figure out how they're going to divide up. Pierce, of course, is left out, partnering with apparently easy-going Todd.
Chang goes to Sgt. Nunez and tells him that he's ready to be a real detective. Sgt. Nunez tells him that Chang has only been there a month and has barely done anything. After this conversation, Chang delves into a Film Noir montage in which he resolves to solve any crime at Greendale.
Over lunch, Annie realizes Jeff isn't listening to her at all. Troy and Abed are excited to be lab partners (along with roommates and study group members) but also realize they may spend too much time together. Shirley, meanwhile is getting on Britta's nerves by showing her numerous pictures of her children. In an attempt to get away from their respective partners, Britta and Troy find each other outside and realize that they want to partner up. The rest of the group finds out that they're thinking of changing partners.
They meet in the study room to try to decide on a fair way to split up – Troy suggests the boy/girl/boy/girl scenario, while Abed suggests they go by age. Annie finally puts her foot down, saying that they need to decide so they can get their project done so Jeff suggests they make a list of names, with a preferred order of who they would like to work with.
Back in Chang's Film Noir fantasy, he finds a matchbook in the bathroom and tries to figure out who might have left it there. After a few phone calls, he attempts to solve the crime by putting together a crude evidence board that will help him solve his case. His work backfires when a ball of yarn catches fire, essentially destroying his room and all his work. Dean Pelton, finding out there's been a fire, comes to check out the situation. He ends up backing up Chang's conspiracy theory story when Sgt. Nunez tells him to call the police, and Sgt. Nunez becomes upset with Dean Pelton's actions. He quits his position, leaving Dean Pelton to promote Chang as the new Head of Security.
In the study room, the group has used Jeff's suggestion to divide up, leaving Troy with Britta, Annie with Shirley, Todd with Jeff, and Abed with Pierce. Abed makes the mistake of saying he put the least popular and most popular people together, which leads the group to fight about who is more popular and who is more liked within their social circle. Annie says that Shirley is too religious, Shirley says Britta won't dissect anything with heads, and Annie says that people don't want to academically carry Jeff all year. The group fights over who's more popular and Todd tries to leave but Jeff won't let him until they've decided something. When Britta lights the results list on fire and almost kills Todd's turtle, Todd finally loses it. "What is wrong with you people? I thought you were supposed to be friends! I thought you were supposed to love each other!"
The group shows up to class, but without their terrariums as a result of not being able to resolve their issues (Annie does actually complete hers, causing Jeff to label her as pathological.) Troy says that their ideas didn't work out. Jeff suggests they just have to work with their original lab partners. Professor Kane calls them "the mean clique," saying that Todd called him crying about the way he was treated. This seems to sober the group up enough to realize their mistakes. However, they later blame Todd for all their problems.
The tag for the episode is the study group filling out practice evaluations for Britta's psychology class, where all she can see is male genitals instead of penciled-in bubbles.
The episode was written by producer Maggie Bandur, her first writing credit for the series. It was directed by executive producer Anthony Russo, his 13th directing credit for the series. A number of references are made in this episode to jokes from "Remedial Chaos Theory" (including Pierce sleeping with Eartha Kitt and Shirley's knowledge of Britta's marijuana use), due to a change of the episode order. The revised order is referenced in the latter's opening joke, and was suggested by Gillian Jacobs.
The episode received positive reviews from the critics. Andrea Towers of TvOverMind wrote, "From the group's teamwork conflicts to Chang's Film Noir, this episode was not only enjoyable in all its plots but also in what it gave us as viewers. It was great to see some reminders that the Troy/Britta relationship is still alive and well (and maybe soon to be even more explored!) and to see the study group calling themselves out on some of their more apparent personality traits in a rather hilarious way that resonated with the audience."
Emily Cheever, of Ology, said of the episode, "I liked this episode not just because of it's [sic] simplicity but also because it really reminded me of last season's episode "Paradigms" which made almost a mockery of the Community formula. But there's really nothing wrong with the formula and it would be a shame for Community to mess with success (or at least, success in the eyes of a fan). Of course, I feel that with the taste of the two part "Paintball" finale last season, Community is going to have to push a little bit harder for an episode that makes me beam with joy."
- "Megan Ganz Twitter". October 14, 2011. Retrieved October 14, 2011.
- "Competitive Ecology" at NBC.com
- "Competitive Ecology" at the Internet Movie Database
- "Competitive Ecology" at TV.com
- "Competitive Ecology" at TV Tropes