…an episode reminding us all the importance of a “banana train.”
Let’s get this first bit out of the way right off the bat: we can agree this was quite noticeably the worst episode of Community‘s otherwise outstanding fifth season, right? I mean, I know it; you know it. We both love this show so much that it kind of hurts to admit it, but it’s okay. This was a lesser episode of Community, though that’s not to say it didn’t elicit a handful of laughs.
Writing the episode that follows the departure of a beloved character cannot possibly be easy. And when the departing character in question is a fan-favorite like Troy Barnes, the task’s difficulty must seem even more daunting. Though Harmon did his best to show us that this show can–and will–continue without Troy, the results were muddled at best. Take that wide shot of the study room: Hickey in Pierce’s old seat, Chang in Troy’s, and Professor Duncan cozying up next to Jeff. Look, I’m all for an expansion of the central study group, but I’ll admit I still cringed. The heart doesn’t heal overnight.
Unfortunately, what makes Troy’s absence so palpable in this episode is the simple fact that the script just seemed a bit…lazy? Don’t get me wrong; I found myself chuckling during Annie’s descent into the bureaucracy of Greendale with Hickey in tow because, let’s be honest, it had its moments. But those B and C plots? Mildly amusing at best. Sorry, but you know I’m right.
The episode’s predominant narrative involves Annie and Professor/Amateur Cartoonist Buzz Hickey cutting through the red tape to get a bulletin board repaired, and it’s a road paved with an almost exhausting lineup of guest stars. Because nothing at Greendale can happen without a custodial work order, Annie and Buzz infiltrate them first. Enter Nathan Fillion as the Chief Custodian, a slippery dude who agrees to bump up the work order (putting it well ahead of the pending one to lower the flag for Reagan’s death) if Annie can get the IT head to remove the porn filter on his computer. Back door deals indeed!** But faster than you can say quid pro quo, turns out the IT head is sick of parking with the reprehensible lunch ladies, so she won’t turn off the blocker until she gets a better spot.
**Yes, the same Nathan Fillion that is Chang’s male celebrity crush. I hoped they would return to this gag from a few weeks ago (seemed perfect), but Fillion had very little to do. Too little, actually.
This leads Annie and Buzz to the head of parking, Walden (played by Robert Patrick because why not?). He’ll agree to give the IT head the spot if the Dean appoints him in charge of all bulletin boards across campus. You see, bulletin boards are the breeding ground of carpool notices, the very downfall of the parking industry. Makes sense. More than any reason I can come up with as to why Patrick took this role. Anyhow, they wind up at the office of Dean Pelton, who agrees to Walden’s appointment as long as Annie and Buzz toast him with a salutation of “easy peasy lemon squeezie.” #DeanLogic Buzz refuses, accuses Annie of perpetuating the sketchy goings on of Greendale just to prove a point, and storms off.
I appreciated some of the slams on the bureaucratic nonsense of schools and liked the friendship that began to form by episode’s end when Hickey begrudgingly nailed up his personal bulletin board in the cafeteria. I’ll allow it. I also love that we caught up with additional departmental facets of Greendale here, but I hope this is not the last we will see of them.
Had the episode just focused on this story, I might have been a bit more forgiving. But the whole Britta story turned out to be the absolute WORST. Last week, she showed a depth of compassion for Abed that was truly moving. But this week? She resorts to buying off a girl Abed likes just to out-spoiler him (via sign language of course) in regards to a current favorite show, Bloodlines of Conquest, an obvious Game of Thrones allusion.*** It sort of undid the growth we saw in Britta last week, and for what purpose, exactly?
***Basically, it amounted to a backhanded allusion to GoT‘s infamous Red Wedding sequence, which begs the question: why bother fabricating a different fantasy show when the jokes and parallels were so transparent? Community is no stranger to incorporating actual shows into their comedy (Troy and Abed’s obsession with The Cape springs to mind), so this just felt lazy and half-baked.
The final storyline sees the remaining characters (Jeff, Chang, Duncan, and Shirley) coming together to plan a theme for the Midterms Dance. I couldn’t motivate myself to care one little bit, though Garrett screaming, “It’s a bear dance!” at the episode’s conclusion almost (almost) made up for it because if Community had an episode featuring Garrett screaming for its duration, it would be amazing. Dude is hilarious is my point. But the rest of the plot? I suppose if you find Chang’s theme inspiration being drawn from a bear attacking a children’s birthday party funny, then it was. Not so much for me.
Hey, look. Not every episode can be a home run. Sometimes, you need one that bunts a ball foul for its third strike to make those actual home runs more exciting. #BaseballAnalogies After a string of solid installments, it’s just a shame that Community went into its Olympics break with such a weak one.
Oh well. I have absolutely no doubt that it will recover. Harmon always does.
Quotes from the Refurbished Study Room
– Professor Duncan: “They really get the incest right!”
– Professor Buzz Hickey: “Welcome to the labyrinth, kid. Except there ain’t no puppets or bisexual rock stars down here.”
– Dean Pelton: “Man, this got Sorkin-y.”
– Annie [about what she wants allowed through the blocker]: “EVERYTHING!”