Friday, 18 April 2014

COMMUNITY, 5.13 – 'Basic Sandwich' (Part 2)

Friday, 18 April 2014

written by Ryan Ridley | directed by Rob Schrab

This was potentially the last ever episode of Community; but that's been true of almost every season finale, so despite notably low ratings this year I'm optimistic it will return somehow and somewhere. "Basic Sandwich" was a much better episode than its predecessor, "Basic Story", and tapped into a style of writing I particularly enjoy about Community: where it's not only fun and amusing, but also creative, adventurous, and happy to take bizarre diversions.

It was a Goonies-inspired half-hour, with the study group mounting an expedition to unearth a lost underground portion of Greendale from the 1970s that may contain a bounty of gold. The first Dean, Russell Borchert (Chris Elliott), turned out to be an IT pioneer who created Greendale Computery College back in the 1970s, and insisted on using gold to construct his microchips. So down into the bowels of Greendale went Jeff (Joel McHale), Annie (Alison Brie), Abed (Danny Pudi) and the Dean (Jim Rash), as Buzz (Jonathan Banks) and Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) tried to block the attempts of Chang (Ken Jeong) and the Subway employees to get to the gold first.

The spirit of adventure was high in this episode, and I always enjoy Community stories where they have fun with genres within the confines of the school. It's essentially "adult make-believe" and there's something incredibly charming about episodes such as this. Naturally, it was also full of some very funny moments; my favourites being Professor Duncan (John Oliver) getting electrocuted after mistaking a wall of tangled of wires for a secret entrance, the Subway worker's ludicrous attempt to "mind rob" Buzz using his alleged psychic abilities, the Dean nearly choking to death on a 1970s toy, Abed apprising Bochert of the aboveground changes ("Dennis Hopper is dead, TV shows get no time for theme songs anymore, and Woody Allen did the voice of a cartoon ant"), and the hilarious collection of fake NBC TV shows that were previewed in the tag.

Given this was perhaps the last thing we'll ever see of Community, I don't think it was the show's best example of a farewell. The third season finale was a much better goodbye, while leaving the door ajar for more episodes. But it was nevertheless a fun episode to leave on, and I was amused by Abed breaking the fourth wall to let fans know that the lack of another season would mean "an asteroid has destroyed all human civilisation—and that's canon".

Overall, this fifth season did what most fans wanted: it erased memories of the largely pitiful fourth season without Dan Harmon in charge. It overcame the loss of Pierce and Troy (mostly by integrating more characters into the central mix, like Buzz and Duncan), and there were some definite classic episodes in this 13-episode run. However, the last half was definitely weaker (post-Troy), and it would still rank as my fourth favourite season (the list runs S2, S1, S3, S5, S4), but like most fans I want that sixth season and a movie. I have no idea if that will happen through NBC renewing it once again, if only because it's popular online and gets critical acclaim, or if Sony will shop it around to other networks or streaming services, but I will miss my weekly trip to Greendale if this is truly the end.

  • The Jeff/Britta marriage proposal didn't turn out to have much impact on anything from last week, but I liked how it was clearly an act of desperation from them in the face of Greendale closing. Did you notice how they grew more distant the closer they came to saving the school, like letting go of each other's hands when the jukebox entrance was discovered?
  • I don't think I mention it much, but I love the running gag that the Dean fancies Jeff. It never fails to tickle me.
14 April 2014 | NBC