written by Monica Padrick | directed by Tristram Shapeero
As the first episode not to feature Donald Glover (as Troy departed the show last week), "Analysis of Cork-Based Networking" was a relief. I didn't feel Glover's absence very much, although it helped that this episode utilised almost every second tier character to perhaps obscure any feeling of slack between the lead characters. I was just pleased to see Chang (Ken Jeong) and Professor Duncan (John Oliver) used very well; the latter proving that Community really has missed his presence since the days when he was a season 1 semi-regular.
The storyline this week was also really smart and entertaining, as the show returned to the idea that there's a Save Greendale committee dedicated to ensuring the college isn't shutdown. Annie (Alison Brie) partnered with Hickey (Jonathan Banks) in mission to get a bulletin board reinstated, which led them down an 'old woman who swallowed a fly'-style labyrinth of favours to ensure favours. This allowed the episode to not only develop a rather pleasing father-daughter dynamic between Annie and Hickey, but also enabled some fun celebrity cameos from hitherto unseen Greendale staff: Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Castle) as a janitor with porn filter issues, to Robert Patrick (T2) as the head of campus parking, and Paget Brewster (Criminal Minds) as the head of IT.
While this A-story was fun, it was supported well by others going-on that amused me in equal measure. Jeff (Joel McHale) and Duncan having to contend with Chang's nonsensical idea for a "Bear Down for Mid-terms" party (before being made aware of an upsetting bear attack making the idea extremely bad taste), to Abed (Danny Pudi) trying to avoid spoilers for a Game of Thrones-style TV show and falling momentarily in love with a deaf girl called Carol (Katie Leclerc).
Overall, I thought "Analysis of Cork-Based Networking" was a solid episode with some funny moments and performances (loved the tag with Duncan accidentally triggering a ground-to-air missile assault while trying to order staples on his phone), but it was still the weakest episode of this fifth season. There's always going to be a "least good" episode, of course, so I'm pleased the standard remained this high. I just think it was overloaded with guest-stars and didn't do a particularly good job with any of them. The potential for a geek-out with Nathan Fillion's involvement was squandered, let's be honest, and ditto Robert Patrick—although I guess both could return for a better swing of the bat. Let's hope THE idea of Abed starting to get serious with girls continues, though.
- Did you spot the news ticker on Hickey's TV, reporting that "Levar Burton and non-celebrity companion captured by pirates in the Gulf of Mexico"? I wonder if we'll have other updated about Troy's around-the-world trip over the remaining episodes. My own theory is that he'll return to Greendale in triumph, having inherited Pierce's riches, and save the college from closure.
- There was also a shot of Rick & Morty when Abed and Rachel (Brie Larson) are watching TV, which is creator Dan Harmon's new Adult Swim cartoon—which, ironically, is a huge hit for that network.