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Professor Kane assigns the Biology class a terrarium project. When the study group ends up with lab partners from outside the gang, they beg Prof. Kane to let them partner up among themselves, which he grants with some exasperation. However, the partnerships of Troy and Abed, Britta and Shirley, Jeff and Annie, and Pierce and outsider Todd have quickly noticeable compatibility problems and the study group decides to shuffle pairs, which quickly gets way too serious.

Meanwhile, Chang's desire to be a police detective expresses itself as an idiotically mundane Film Noir, which eventually leads to him inadvertently starting a fire and his illegal living situation coming to light.

The Community episode "Competitive Ecology" provides examples of:

  • Aesop Amnesia/Broken Aesop: What made the study group fall into infighting so quickly? The introduction of Todd, of course! (This might have a thin piece of justification; given how delicate the balance of interaction between the group's members is, it's hardly surprising that the introduction of an outside element would throw off that balance.) Also, apparently Jeff decided to get a new phone since Biology 101
    • It should be noted that the group's pairs had already started fighting with each other, before the matter of Todd was even introduced to them.
      • And they remember what happened with Buddy.
  • Alpha Bitch: Arguably the study group as a whole. They have all the qualifications of being the Girl Posse, and are even called "the mean clique."
  • Anvils That Needed to Be Dropped: New elements to the group can be a necessary evil, as it can both help realize how much you like the other people and can you can see how good something is outside the usual routine.
  • Berserk Button: You can insult him all you want, but don't mess with Todd's turtle.
  • The "B" Grade: Annie faints when informed that they failed the assignment.
  • Brutal Honesty: Kane tells Magnitude that he believes everyone has been laughing at him.

 Kane: At least that's my theory.

  • Butt Monkey: Todd, Todd, Todd. Before the end of the episode, they even insult his newborn child.

 Troy: He wouldn't stop talking about his dumb baby!

 Janitor: Homewrecker...

 Britta: Haha! Gotcha! This was also a test, and you all penised. ...Passed.

  • Freud Was Right: In The Tag, Britta gives everyone a basic multiple choice psychological evaluation. Troy fills his bubbles to shape a pair of boobs. Britta mistakes all the other sheets for penises.
  • Going by the Matchbook: Chang tries to force this trope with disastrous results.
  • Good Old Ways: Kane's monologue on how Legos have changed while he was inside.
  • Hidden Depths: Todd has a wife, a baby girl, a promise to his dead father to graduate from college, and diabetes, and had fought in Iraq.
  • Hilarious in Retrospect / Rewatch Bonus: For a brief moment in the tag, it looks like Jeff is taking his test rather seriously, which is rather unusual for a lazy character like him. But then a couple episodes later, he admits that he filled out his test randomly. Meaning he just looked like he was taking the test seriously in order to get away with his lie.
  • Hypocritical Humour:

 Jeff: We don't even know him! He's a stranger!

Pierce: Jeez Jeff, it has feelings.

  • I'm Standing Right Here: Everyone talks about Todd with disdain right in front of him. He never takes any offense, though, until he finally gets up and leaves after giving the study group a verbal lashing.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Chang's 'investigation' quickly becomes this as he is making deductions and connections that make no sense whatsoever
  • Insult Backfire: Although it apparently doesn't backfire hard enough.

 Jeff: When did you even have time to do that?! You're pathological.

Annie: It's too late for flattery.

 Annie (to Jeff): And who the hell are you always texting?! Everyone you know is here!

  • Malaproper: When Britta tells Shirley that her homeopath said that sugar is like "baby meth," Shirley said Britta's "gay friend needs to keep his opinions to himself."
    • Later, Chang says this about the Arizona Matchbook Company:

 Chang: Arizona backwards is still Arizona! It's a palomino!

  • Mirror Monologue: Chang has one to convince himself to continue following the clues.
  • Nice Guy: Todd.
  • Only Sane Man: Todd is able to keep cool all night while the group squabbles and gets more and more insane. He finally snaps and tells them exactly what he thinks of them before leaving. Given his backstory, he is probably the most stable and sane character on the show so far.
    • Also the Head Security Officer, pointing out that Chang is probably mentally ill (and "it's not even funny"), the Dean is enabling him and that this cannot possibly end well.
  • Out of Order: Shirley recognizing Britta's marajuana lighter and Pierce revealing he had sex with Eartha Kitt both refer to events in alternative timelines of the next episode to air "Remedial Chaos Theory". This introduces a little Fridge Logic when you remember that the events that allowed both of these things to happen never happened in the 'real' timeline of the previous episode, but both can be easily explained as having happened differently at some point between episodes anyway. Or, if you prefer more of a Mind Screw, the Word of God-debunked but still popular theory that what we think is the 'real' timeline isn't the real timeline...
  • Phrase Catcher: Todd. No offense.
  • Private Eye Monologue: Done by Chang throughout. The Dean joins in toward the end, but they monologue simultaneously and drown each other out.
  • Serious Business: The group took until the next day to pick lab partners.
  • Shaped Like Itself:

 Chang: My own words rang inside my head, like a bell inside a head.

 Troy: There's only one way to decide this fairly. We go, boy-girl, boy-girl. But everyone has to have a different hair color, and be from a different high school, and be a different race. *Beat* I guess I'd be with Britta. I guess my hands are tied.

 Todd: I'm going to hold my wife and my child close, and I am FINALLY GOING TO TAKE MY INSULIN SHOT!

  • What the Hell, Hero?: Todd to the whole group on their poisonous "friendship".
    • Kane as well when he calls them "the mean clique".
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