community basic story abed annie subway

Community’s fifth season was an improbable gift – one largely spent returning to the wells of what worked earlier in the series. So it makes sense that as we near its uncertain future, “Basic Story,” revisits the notion that Greendale is in peril of being closed down – this time from its own success … and Subway.

The Players:

  • Director: Jay Chandrasekhar
  • Writer: Carol Kolb
  • Cast: Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi, Yvette Nicole Brown, Alison Bree, Ken Jeong, Jim Rash, Jonathan Banks

Episode Title: “Basic Story”

The Save Greendale committee has been so successful throughout the season but they still have a few problems to solve. If you’ve handled an exorcism in the gym, what else is there to do really? There’s time for phone games and soup slurring and the lack of forward momentum is driving Abed crazy. The school is so improved that the insurance assessor sent to gauge its level of liability tells the Dean that it’s valuable. The gang is ready to celebrate to the smooth tunes of Dave [Matthews], but it’s actually a curse in disguise. The school’s so valuable that Greendale becomes attractive to Subway, looking to jumpstart their own product integrated college, Sandwich University (Eat Fresh). The Save Greendale committee is betrayed by Chang, the Dean’s sacked, and it looks like everyone will go their separate ways. Well, except for Britta and Jeff, who decide to find some meaning out of their whole experience by getting married. Just when this episode was starting to feel like a finale, Abed, the Dean, and Annie find a treasure map which could literally save the school. Hickey and Duncan are much less enthused about the discovery. Also, Hickey may or may not have gotten Duncan’s mum pregnant while he was stationed in England.

The Good:

  • Sanity Hunt: Jeff and Britta’s sudden rush to the altar will rub much of tumblr the wrong way, but we dug it for one reason. McHale and Jacobs played it the way we suspect Harmon intends for it to be read. This is a grasp for meaning from a story. Jeff and Britta both want their experiences at Greendale (and their lives more generally) to have been constructive, to have meant something, to have value. They go from wistful to desperate to delusional on a dime. If this was the finale, that’d be one thing. But the show has more complications to throw at them, so it’s just a great scene.
  • Treasure Hunt: But not as great as our three drunk-high treasure hunters interrupting Jeff and Britta before they can go two-for-two. The funniest scene in the episode was the discovery of the treasure map hidden under the portrait of a famous comp-sci alumnus who had sex with a computer once. That entire buildup was Community at its sharpest and most bizarre. We’re pumped for whatever Indiana Jones setpieces await in the finale, but the excitement of perhaps the last genre parody gave us life.

The So-So:

  • Eat Fresh: We put this here, because the product integration was pretty well done. When a company like Subway is game enough be in a niche sitcom and have a bunch of low jokes thrown at it, all prosper. Ken Jeong singing the $5 footlong song was painful in the best possible way. It was just painful, and we hope to never hear it again. Make it a sandwich law.
  • The Skirt: Here’s the deal. We’ve been optimistically mixed on Annie all season. Her regression last year was one of the most painful aspects of Season 4. This has very much been a transition for her. We didn’t notice until this episode, but Annie’s been in pants the whole time, in an effort to make her look more grown up. Obviously, her return to skirts and immaturity is a treasure trove for Alison Brie, who we love to see keyed up. We just hope it’s because the show understands this is a step back, and will be followed by two steps forward, not by Annie ending up on Jeff’s doorstep in the final shot.

The Bad:

  • Shirley Watch: We’re just pointing this out… Wouldn’t you want Shirley to be the muscle on your treasure hunt? Hopefully this will be rectified next week, but her absence at the end has been noted.

Overall:

Greendale is no longer the weird vortex of chaos it once was. Jeff and Britta’s decision is, was a forced effort to make meaning out of seeing that place shuttered. Annie, Abed, and the Dean’s treasure hunt was a retreat into creative thinking to stop such a thing from happening. Television can go on and move beyond its initial premise, or hurt itself by hewing too close (looking at you, How I Met Your Mother). It’s interesting that “Basic Story” isn’t the finale, because endings are almost never neat. Harmon’s given us some measure of closure, returning characters that have changed to a familiar place. Here is the uncertainty. We can’t wait to see what story Community sets up next.

Rating: 8/10

Community airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on NBC.

Will Greendale be saved? Six seasons and a movie? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.