Annie’s path to corruption (and a new bulletin board) begins with Nathan Fillion in “Analysis of Cork-Based Networking.” But lest Community seem too svelte, Chang’s midterm dance theme goes over like a bear at a child’s birthday party. Because his theme’s actually ‘wild bear at a child’s birthday party.’
- Director: Tristram Shapeero
- Writer: Monica Padrick
- Cast: Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi, Yvette Nicole Brown, Alison Bree, Ken Jeong, Jim Rash, Jonathan Banks, Nathan Fillion, Brie Larson, Robert Patrick, Paget Brewster
Episode Title: “Analysis of Cork-Based Networking”
The Committee to Save Greendale has several items on its agenda, including updating the census and the midterm dance. Jeff, Duncan, Chang and Shirley all volunteer for the dance decorations committee, thinking Annie will do all the work. Meanwhile, Britta and Abed work on the census. This is impeded somewhat by the fact that Abed spoiled the first season of Bloodlines of Conquest for Britta, and she’s now determined to spoil the last book for him. He puts on gigantic ear mufflers and conveniently strikes up a friendship with a deaf student to avoid her. Annie delegates the re-hanging of a cork-board to Hickey, but he gets stonewalled by the janitorial staff. He refuses to press the bureaucracy so Annie charges into the thick of the red tape. First, she needs to get the custodial staff’s porn unblocked, then a better parking space for the IT lady, then a bulletin board committee for the head of the parking so that he can use the power to eliminate ride-shares.
Meanwhile, the rest of the group has gone along with Chang’s dance theme of “Bearing down for midterms,” which entails bears in party hats. But Fat Neil arrives and tells them it’s really insensitive, considering the wild bear that got loose a child’s birthday party and mauled a bunch of people. That is, of course, where Chang got the idea. They have to quickly cover and change all the bears to fat dogs. Annie is about to seal all her promises with the Dean when Hickey calls her out on how quickly she became corrupted. The deal collapses and the dance goes on without the new board. The girl Abed has been signing with reveals the ending to Bloodlines of Conquest to him. It was all a setup by Britta. Abed’s devastated, not unlike the entire Vogedash clan, but he runs into Rachel, the cute coat-check girl from “Herstory of Dance.” Hickey takes his own bulletin board from home and installs it in the cafeteria; then Annie defends it from the Dean’s custodial goons. All seems well once Chang starts up his ‘fat dog’ line dance. But alas, Garrett realizes the truth. The bear truth.
- Bearing With It: This is an around-the-study-table episode. So the dance decoration story is a thankless plot engine that probably won’t be remembered. It’s designed to be a come-down, but it’s far from disappointing. In fact, it’s exactly the kind of workhorse that delivers character humor which flashier episodes can build off of. We’re suckers for all things bears, so the props really popped and Chang’s line dance was rewarding. But the Bear Down storyline found exactly the right pitch for Chang. He’s insane and disruptive. Yet it’s that fine balance of maniacal and non-sequitur that keeps the character healthy. Having Garrett yell, “IT’S A BEAR DANCE,” probably helps, too.
- To The Victor, The Spoilers: Abed and Britta’s B plot, involving spoilers around an HBO show only slightly more byzantine than Game of Thrones, is another easy, reliable joke-machine of fictional names and mistranslation humor. It’s very well executed. Gillian Jacob’s commitment to saying “thank you” and signing “sugar” is about as timeless as it gets. But the reappearance of Brie Larson’s Rachel the Coat Checker gives us a little bit extra. It’s an intriguing direction for Abed after Troy. Just please don’t reuse this new fake-show as much as Inspector Spacetime.
- Buddy Cops: Professor Hickey has, by this point, completely cemented himself inside the Pierce-shaped hole in the study group. His relationship with Annie is different enough from Master Hawthorne that the Greendale bureaucracy plot works better for Jonathan Banks’ weary-patrolman professionalism. The bulletin board itself was slightly absurd as an end goal, even for the idealistic Annie. But Alison Brie sold us on it. These two have a great dynamic we hope the show will keep coming back to.
- The Cameo System: Speak your same-sex celebrity crush, and Nathan Fillion appears. Not strictly a complaint, but the sheer amount of guest actors here diminished their impact. Pretty much everyone but Robert Patrick blended it quite well, and it fit the nature of Annie and Hickey’s wheeling and dealing to not spend too long with any one roadblock. It’s a problem of riches. They got such good people we would’ve been fine with an episode just dealing with Paget Brewster’s IT lady.
- Why Obsidian?: We like seeing the nervous (British!) vibe Professor Duncan brings to the study group. And layering in that army general in the background of the custodial party was such a deep ball it’s hard not to admire the payoff of the military protocol Duncan inadvertently activates. But the tag to the episode felt much flatter than the rest. It was much more transparent in its setup and delivery. The Donald Glover-sized hole in the show remains.
Not every episode of Community can be a parody concept or an emotional crescendo. Some just have to bear down and find humor in the day-to-day workings of Greendale. As such, “Cork-Based Networking” definitely fat dogs its way to funny.
Community airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on NBC.
Will the Vogedash slain at the Dead Funeral ever be avenged? Let us know what you thought of all the fantasy-speak in the comments.