Item the first: Community has been renewed for a fifth season! I am of course very pleased by this. I still love the show and value being part of the online fandom, so having both around for at least another year is something to be excited about. (Of course, I have quite a few friendships that have long outlasted the show we were fans of, and I have no reason to believe that won't be true of my friends from Community fandom as well.)
It's not clear yet whether David Guarascio and Moses Port, the fourth-season showrunners, will be back for the fifth season, but personally I wouldn't mind seeing them back at the helm. I won't deny that the fourth season was a step down in quality from the first three, but I think G & P did as good a job as anyone could have done. They didn't really have the freedom to run the show exactly the way they might have wanted; they had to finish the story of disgraced lawyer Jeff Winger earning a college degree and becoming a better person in the process, and I don't think it's easy to put your own stamp on something when you're working from someone else's outline. I'm interested in seeing what they'll do with a mostly clean slate.
Item the second: I'm still thinking about the flashbacks in the season's penultimate episode, "Heroic Origins," but it hasn't helped. In her picspam for that episode, veritas724 laid out this sequence for the events seen in the flashbacks:
-- May - Annie and Troy's Superlatives party, where she runs through plate glass, then enters rehab and undergoes constructive surgery
-- July/August - Shirley and Andre's anniversary, the same day Jeff gets Mysti cleared of all back tax charges. That same day, Abed yells at the kids, forcing him into therapy the next day, where Annie, still in rehab, is stealing prescription pads and Britta is freeing the monkey
-- August - like a week later, Annie's group is allowed a trip to the mall, where disbarred Jeff, organization-less Britta, newly-separated Shirley, bitter-about-mitochlorians Abed, and still-in-his-fake-cast Troy are getting yogurt.
Interesting! I hadn't considered the possibility that the Troy/Annie flashbacks took place before the others, allowing all the flashbacks to occur in 2008. But I'm not convinced, for several reasons.
First, we know when Troy did the keg flip that cost him his scholarship: at the end of the football season. In "Football, Feminism, and You," Troy says to Jeff, "You know that keg flip that cost me my scholarship? I hurt myself on purpose. ... There was a scout coming to the final game at Riverside and I couldn't take the pressure so I took the easy way out." High school football ends in October or November. Granted, "Heroic Origins" retconned some of what we knew about that event -- in the pilot, Troy's injury was said to be two dislocated shoulders, and in the quote above Troy said he hurt himself on purpose, not that he had faked the injury -- and if Troy's motivation changed, the timing could have changed too. But the rule of thumb concerning retcons is that anything not specifically said to have changed remains the same. So to my way of thinking, there's no reason to assume the keg flip didn't still happen in October or November.
Second, and more important, if Troy and Annie were seniors in May 2008, Annie wouldn't have been 18 in October 2009 ("FF&Y"), nor Troy 21 in 2010 ("Mixology Certification"). In Annie's case, it's not inconceivable that she had skipped a grade and was a 17-year-old senior, but if she was only 17 when she ran through the door, she wouldn't have been able to emancipate herself when her mother refused to send her through rehab ("Celebrity Pharmacology"). And in "Mixology," her belief was that both she and Troy were born in the same year.
And hey, maybe that explains how the writers screwed up! In "Mixology," Annie explicitly states that she was born in 1990. Most high school seniors are 18 when they graduate, so it'd be logical to assume to assume that someone born in 1990 graduated high school in May 2008. But in most school districts, the cutoff date for kindergarten registration is September 1, and we know both Annie and Troy were born after that date (because Annie was still 18 in October 2009, and Troy's birthday was celebrated in December), so they would have graduated high school in 2009, not 2008. With that correction, Veritas's sequence of events works, if you assume that all the flashbacks took place in 2009 instead of 2008.
Except if Annie was still stealing prescription pads in August 2009, she can't possibly have been done with rehab by September. So I'm sticking with my sequence of events, with one or two clarifications:
- The flashbacks in the courthouse, at the restaurant, and in front of the movie theater all take place on the same day in August 2008. (Veritas points to this tweet from the episode's writer that supports that date.)
- The scene at the psychiatrist's office takes place a few days after that. I'll assume the courthouse/restaurant/mall scenes happened on a Friday, and the office scene on a Monday; that allows time for the theater to apply for and be granted a restraining order against Abed, and accommodates Britta's comment that she planned to break into the animal testing lab "next week." Annie is stealing the pad because school will be starting soon and she knows she'll need the Adderall to get through her stressful senior year.
- Next comes Annie offering to tutor Troy in algebra; let's call that October, around the time midterm grades are handed out. That allows for Annie to have heard that Troy needed help in algebra, and is far enough into the football season for Troy to have started to attract attention from scouts.
- The Senior Superlatives scene comes next. As I mentioned before, it's not unheard of for high schools to vote on such things in the fall, so we'll call that November.
- Finally, almost exactly one year after the courthouse scenes, the study group members all happen to end up in the yogurt shop at the same time.
That leaves a lot of unaccounted-for time between the keg flip and the yogurt. But a lot does happen! Annie has her reconstructive surgeries and goes through rehab. Troy finishes his senior year at Riverside High and graduates. Shirley divorces Andre; eventually money gets tight and she tries to return her never-worn nightgown. Gobi is making a last ditch effort to get Abed to apologize. As for Jeff, let's just assume the investigation took a long time, and the bar wasn't able to prove anything until Alan sent them that email a few months later. (In "Accounting for Lawyers," Alan's email can be clearly seen to be dated December 2008.)
It works reasonably well ... if you can overlook Troy's leg still being in a cast nine months after the keg flip, the same two movies being shown at the theater one year later, Shirley's hair going from straightened to natural in a matter of days, and of course the little matter of Jeff saying that it took place in 2008. Sigh.
I am, in fact, willing to overlook all that; it's a sloppy mess of an episode, but I still find it pretty enjoyable. It's not even my least favorite episode of the season. (That would be "Intro to Knots.")
Item the third: I've also been thinking a bit about the season finale. Some reviewers complained that it didn't make sense for the Darkest Timeline dream sequence to have been Jeff's dream. And having thought about it, I agree that Jeff is unlikely to have constructed so elaborate a scenario. But not less unlikely than this:
I don't believe that at the start of "Biology 101," when he was thinking about how things would be better without Pierce around, he was literally imagining an elaborate song-and-dance number about it. (I do believe he was thinking about sleeping with Annie though.) Nor that when he felt his egotism growing out of control in "Contemporary Impressionists," he pictured it in his head as an apple with the word EGO written on it. And I don't believe that when Annie told him to look into his heart, this is what he envisioned:
The fantasy sequence in "Advanced Introduction to Finality" is, I would suggest, of a piece with all those. It's not a literal depiction of what Jeff was imagining would happen; it's metaphorical. Jeff was thinking about rolling a die in hope of sending Abed back into a delusional state, giving him an excuse to stick around Greendale, but before he could do it, he reconsidered, perhaps upon realizing that was a horrible thing to do to his friend. Thus, the invasion represented the delusion he hoped to cause in Abed, and Abed's talk about not needing to worry about lapsing into his old bad habits was his realization that his plan was a horribly bad one. Seems pretty straightforward to me.