"Community's" German joke-fest on Thursday included the introduction of new professor Malcolm McDowell (plus the return of the Changnesia-stricken Chang), which added some new plot threads to what has become a divisive season between fans and critics.
Alison Brie and Danny Pudi took some time to speak to press recently, and they immediately addressed the elephant in the room: the departure of Dan Harmon, which is still a point of contention among the "Community" faithful.
"It's a tough thing to learn that your showrunner isn't coming back to the show," Brie said.
"He was such a big part of the show, so I think we were a little nervous about what to expect - but that's not really a new feeling, having been here four seasons. When we met the new guys [Moses Port and David Guarascio], they stressed how much they loved the show and wanted to keep it the same, and we all were certainly vocal this season to speak to what our characters would and wouldn't do, so we were all working together to keep the show intact."
"'Community' is a very different kind of show, too, and we were all hoping the show would maintain its level. And would people get it?" Pudi added.
"What we wanted to make sure came across this year was our genuine love for the show," he continued. "There was an extra level of responsibility as actors to stay true to this world of Greendale. You can't replace Dan Harmon, and I'm forever grateful for [what he did]."
After last week's episode, which saw Annie pretending to be Jeff (Joel McHale)'s wife, it seems their relationship will continue to be explored this season.
"I think the last episode saw a progression in terms of their being friends. I think Annie will always have a crush on Jeff and I ever be fully comfortable really getting together with Annie. But at the same time for fans there are some ways, without them actually getting really close, there will be some interesting things for fans later this season just between Joel and I, some certain... I'm trying not to tease too much."
"There will be some certain things in alternate reality," she said, as Pudi hinted, "There's an exploration."
Pudi also talked about the increasing focus on Abed over the years.
"We started in season three diving deeper into Abed's mind," he said. "It would be hard to start our show that way because it would be difficult for people to [follow]. You don't want to see the dreamatorium right away. In some way, I'm relieved when it's not an Abed-centric episode, like in a documentary when I'm literally behind the camera. It allows me a week to not memorize monologues from a movie I haven't seen."
The show has already outlasted one of the most memorable comedies with a small but devoted fanbase (that is, until Netflix came to the rescue), "Arrested Development."
"I've always felt it's a show that's better the second time you watch it because there's so much going on and you catch it later. That's how I felt about 'Arrested Development,'" said Brie, who admitted she caught up on "Arrested" late.
"I hope we can be a show like that. Our fans are amazing right now, but there aren't that many of them," she said. "It certainly would be great to get more fans later."
And what's next for "Community" this season?
"We have a 'Freaky Friday' episode written by Jim Rash (Dean Pelton), who is an Academy Award winner! And there's our finale," Brie said. "This is what I'll say about change [this season]: Hang in there fans! Our season finale is such a special treat, and written by Megan Ganz and it's one of my favorite episodes this season. It has a lot of elements in it that is just made for the fans. It was written as if it might be our last and there's a lot of heart from all of us."