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Even though we knew it was coming, last week’s Community dropped a major bomb on viewers: Troy (Donald Glover) was leaving Greendale to sail Pierce’s boat around the world in order to get millions of dollars (and become a man, or whatever).
“I thought that the writers did a really great job of working it into the script in a really interesting and still very sentimental way,” Alison Brie tells TVGuide.com of Glover’s decision to exit the series. And according to the actress, who plays Annie on the NBC comedy, Thursday’s episode will act as an “amazing farewell” to Troy.
As he prepares to say goodbye to his best friend, Abed (Danny Pudi) organizes a school-wide game of hot lava which soon escalates into a grueling, high-stakes battle where touching the floor means certain (in-game) death. “It’s totally on par with paintball,” Brie says. “I think this is [Dan Harmon's] answer to not wanting to do paintball again, but wanting to give the fans something just as fun and epic.”
Though organized in honor of Troy, the game quickly becomes a ruthless affair that turns friends into foes (at least temporarily). “It’s every man for themselves,” Brie teases. Though, the actress notes Annie finds herself making an alliance with Jeff (Joel McHale) once again. While the pair’s close relationship once again became joke fodder in “Basic Intergluteal Numistatics,” Brie promises Jeff and Annie’s partnership won’t lead to any romantic developments this season. “I think that there will always be a certain level of flirtation between the two, and they certainly care about each other. But I don’t think they’ll ever go all the way.”
And though Jeff and Annie will combine forces in the grueling Mad Max-esque war, the pair only rise to “mid-level badass-ery,” according to Brie, and will still have a tough fight ahead of them. “There’s certainly more powerful forces at work than them,” she explains.
Those forces include Britta (Gillian Jacobs), who will show off “a side of [her] we’ve never seen before,” and Professor Hickey (Jonathan Banks). “He’s a scary presence,” Brie says of the criminology professor. “Everyone’s playing a game and they get really out there in their imagination. But professor Hickey was an actual cop and you’re never quite sure if he’ll actually murder you. He’s like, real-world scary.”
But beyond the fierce action and plunger fights, there’s a real emotional undercurrent to “Geothermal Escapism.” “Whenever it’s hard for Abed to deal with real emotions, he hides behind some theatricality,” Brie says. “It’s really him dealing with losing his best friend for a significant period of time and just not wanting to deal with those feelings.”
And Abed isn’t the only one struggling with Troy’s impending departure. The entire Study Group will struggle to deal with their feelings. “As usual, the Study Group is a pretty selfish group of people so I think their immediate reaction is, ‘How is this going to affect us?'” Brie says.
While Community has already proven it can do just fine without Pierce (Chevy Chase), Troy’s exit poses a much larger obstacle for the series. Unlike Pierce, who probably ranks somewhere above Chang but below Magnitude, Troy is one of Community’s most-loved characters. And his friendship with Abed has proven the most sustainable— and comedic — inter-Study Group relationship over the course of five seasons.
With Troy gone, Community won’t be the same. But according to Brie, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. “Troy leaving opened a door for a lot of different character pairings and character interactions. So, the dynamic of the group changes but in an exciting and fun way … I think it just gave us this opportunity to have story lines and adventures with characters we haven’t spent that much time with.”
Will you miss Troy?
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Check out Alison’s latest interview with RollingStone to discuss Season 5 of Community.
If you’re one of the loyal Community fans that gave up on last year’s Dan Harmon-less season, we have good news. The once-booted showrunner is back, and his presence is immediately felt in Season Five’s first two episodes, which premiere back-to-back tonight on NBC. Community actually feels like Community again – the jokes land and the performances are hilarious, meaning all is how Harmon intended in the hallowed halls of Greendale Community College. To get the scoop on Community’s new season, Rolling Stone chatted with Annie Edison herself, Alison Brie, about having Dan Harmon back in charge and a possible album from her band The Girls.
Are you guys done now?
We’re done – I’m just walking off the lot now. And it’s so strange, because they’ve already broken down the whole set. We’re only shooting these thirteen episode seasons, so they tear down the entire thing. It’s so sad.
And they’ll build it again next year?
Right, right. Or maybe never again. Maybe that’s why it’s sad.
So you’re talking to me instead of celebrating?
Yeah, you’re helping me through the pain.
How does it feel to have the gang back together?
It’s great. I’ve seen the first episode and some of the other ones and they’re just great. It’s so wonderful having Dan [Harmon] back. The material is excellent. I think it’s better than it’s ever been, which is super strange for the fifth season of a show. Having done last season without Dan, I think that everyone was really rejuvenated to have him back and to be back at all. Every year we think that we’re not coming back, especially last year, so there was general excitement just to be back and have Dan back and see what he was going to come up with. And as we shot the season, the material just got better and better.
Was there a feeling of just going through the motions last year?
Yeah, I think so. It was a strange season. Dan, obviously, has always been such a big part of the show. He is the show, basically, so to do a season without him felt really strange. It sort of felt like the constant unknown. I think when Dan is here, we don’t worry about much. We know we shouldn’t ask too many questions. Last year, I think it was a little stressful for everyone wondering, “How’s this going to turn out? What are the loyal fans going to think?”
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Check out Alison’s interview with IGN to discuss Season 5 of Community.
IGN TV: So what’s it like having Dan back this season?
Alison Brie: It’s incredible! It’s been really incredible. The material this year I think is better than any other season. Everything’s just super sharp. Dan’s back, we’re only doing 13 [episodes], and I think he had a year off, and now he has so much work to do and feels like there’s so little time to do it, so every week we’re getting these great episodes. That’s not to say they’re all huge, thematic episodes, but just good, just hitting all the angles. Obviously we’ve had a lot to deal with story-wise in terms of Pierce not being around and Troy leaving and things like that. So we’re getting all that stuff done in really cool ways.
IGN: That leads me to my next question, which is, with those characters leaving, how is the group dealing with the changes?
Brie: You know, it’s fine. We’ve all learned that working on Community means constant change all the time. So I think now, this year, it’s offset by us being so excited to have Dan back, and the material is so great. So there’s not really time to wallow in like, “Oh, not everyone’s here!” We’ve gotten all these great people here, like Jonathan Banks, who’s doing so many episodes this season, and he’s incredible. We’ve had so many cool guest stars coming in. I mean, Nathan Fillion pops by, Tim and Eric are here this week. Also, John Oliver is doing a lot of episodes. You’ll find that the Dean and Chang are much more involved. So the group is just sort of… “Chang’d.” [Laughs]
IGN: Nicely done!
Brie: But it’s cool to see this kind of evolution in a show. It’s the fifth season, and instead of things getting a little dry and worn out, it’s sort of like everything’s been shaken up, and it keeps us all on our toes just having all these new people here. I think we’re all on our best behavior. We’re reinvigorated, just even in our own characters, because we’re working with all these different people and seeing how they interact with new characters, which is always fun.
IGN: So what can you say is going on for Annie this season? How is she doing in her fifth year at Greendale?
Brie: It’s been a really cool year for her. Annie’s matured a bit since we’ve seen her. I tweeted a photo with Joel and Nathan Fillion, and people responded, they were like, “Annie’s in pants!?” I’m like, “That’s right, folks. Annie’s in pants this year! It’s a big deal. It’s a lot of Annie’s in pants.” But it’s funny how something small like that — because it actually does signify a big change for the character. There’s been a little time since we saw them last in Season 4, and she has matured a bit. So it’s kind of back to that great gung-ho Annie that I really love, who’s busting people’s balls and trying to get s**t done. I love that. I have a great episode with Jonathan Banks, where we kind of go toe to toe, trying to work on something together. She’s very challenging to Jeff’s character again. It’s, like, all these things that I think were starting to get a little lost with Annie’s character over the years. She just sort of became like an “Aww!” machine. So now she’s back to that gung-ho-ness, and I’m really enjoying it.