It's hard to judge an episode like "Basic Story" on its own merits, knowing that a second half is on its way next week. There wasn't really much to it, hence its title (and Abed's search for a story line), but there were surely some funny bits. The irony of the Save Greendale Committee doing such a good job that they've made Greendale just valuable enough to sell to Subway is pretty bleak, when you think about it, but also a pretty useful setup for whatever National Treasure–based high jinks are sure to follow in next week’s “Basic Sandwich.”
Jeff insists to Abed early on that the appraiser’s visit not become “a story,” because it being a story would mean trouble for Greendale, the gang, and obviously the Show. Turns out, he’s right: “Because if we are [in trouble] ... ” Abed: “No more stories.” Read you loud and clear, Community.
Since this was technically the first half of this season’s finale (and perhaps the series’, but we’re all crossing our fingers for the satisfaction that a sixth season and a possible movie would bring), naturally there were a few callbacks to the early days of the show to give us a sense of symmetry, like the whole gang (well, okay, minus Abed) being focused on one “mission” and Leonard getting off an excellent one-liner (“Unsubscribe” was the heartiest guffaw the show gave me tonight). But the biggest example is Britta and Jeff’s hasty and assuredly not-long-for-this-world plan to get married (her response to Jeff’s “proposal” was something about olive oil and a very unsure “Okay, yeah”). Jeff’s early infatuation with Britta was the catalyst for the study group coming together in the first place, and the creation of the study group was totally in line with Harmon’s Story Circle concept (step three, the protagonist’s “unfamiliar situation”). But the thing is, Jeff has been around the circle a couple of times now (Annie recognizes it, thus her eye-rolling at Jeff’s “I love Scotch, and myself" assertion; she knows there’s more to the guy at this point). Britta’s not really what he wants anymore; she’s just there, and Jeff is trying to preemptively put her in the impending void that Greendale’s closure will create. Britta’s doing the same thing by agreeing. This should bear itself out next week. There’s no way they’re going to get married, but don’t hold your breath for a Jeff and Annie coupling, either; it would just be more of the same, but with a larger age gap.
The insurance adjustor, played by Michael McDonald (MadTV, not the song “What a Fool Believes”) was great with his endless rabbit hole of definitions, not to mention his challenge to make fun of his name (“Ronald Mohammed. Go ahead, I’ve heard ‘em all”) and his overly enthusiastic Dante quote. We got a few more digs at season four: Mr. Mohammed mentioned the gas leak being fixed, and Jeff felt the inspection would be “the most boring thing that happened here since Britta dated Troy.”
Ultimately, “Basic Story” was exactly what its title would imply, which is a step up from “no story,” for sure, but it felt like the prologue that it clearly was. Next week should be fun, if the Annie-dancing and repeated cries of “Buried treasure!” are to be believed. There had better be some Nick Cage impersonations from Abed.
Some highlights and other observations:
- “According to the demonologists, the gymnasium is clean.”
- "That's control software for some kind of irrigation equipment." I really hope they double back on that next week; it felt like a setup. Maybe the return of evil Chang will bring us back to it somehow.
- "I wrote a paper on those dogs." (chirp chirp). Britta’s the best when she’s the worst.
- "If I come over there, there's gonna be two sounds..."
- Jim Rash has made the Dean such a rich, interesting, disturbing, and hilarious character over the course of the show. I’d go so far as to say I’d watch the pilot of a Dean-based spin-off. He had some wonderful moments tonight, like his “accidental” check-in on the student body over the P.A. There’s a certain kind of sincerity that only Jim Rash can pull off, and the way he said “I love you guys” was like a parent having a fond moment with their children. It was random, but very sweet and funny at the same time. That it’s believable that the Dean would be mostly naked and crying in his soon-to-be-former office near the episode’s end says a lot about the complexity of the character and Rash’s ability to handle him.
- "Raccoons, bears, mountain lions, mice. These are just different sizes of dog."
- When the school board members reveal their plans to sell Greendale, it seemed like Jeff didn’t actually recoil when the Dean collapsed against him, which I think would be a first for the Wingman. It even looked like he might return the embrace for a second there.
- “Oh! Who’s the lucky…?”
- “Hickey, do you stay in touch with any unstable criminals you busted?” “Hmmm...five.” “Get ‘em down here for costume measurements.” I was really hoping that was going to go somewhere, since Abed and Hickey’s joint screenwriting venture seemed to have completely petered out since its inception. With Better Call Saul going into production, that might have to wait for the movie. Then again, Vince Gilligan clearly has a chummy relationship with Community and its people, so I suppose anything is possible. Knock wood…
- Assuming a sixth season gets ordered, what happens if Community gets picked up for a seventh? Yeah, you’re right; that’s just crazy talk.