NBC’s Community ended its fifth season (perhaps, the entire series) last night with “Basic Sandwich.”
Part two of a tale that began last week, the Save Greendale Committee searches for a hidden computer lab on campus in the hopes that it will provide a way to stop the sale of the college to Subway. The school board is hot on the committee’s heels. What’s uncovered is more than either side expects.
It’s kind of cool that the season finale is all about saving Greendale. Sure, the committee has been working all season with that goal in mind, but this is a much more concrete version of what they’ve been doing. It’s a set, specific objective with a very finite timeframe in place. The tension builds as it feels like all of their hard work is coming together. Whether they accomplish this last task or not will determine if what they’ve been doing matters at all.
Jeff (Joel McHale), Annie (Alison Brie), Britta (Gillian Jacobs), Abed (Danny Pudi), and the Dean (Jim Rash) plunge deep into the bowels of the school when they find a secret trapdoor in the teacher’s lounge. Amid the 1970s era equipment, Greendale’s founder, Russell Borchert (Chris Elliott, Eagleheart, How I Met Your Mother), still lives with his creation, the robot Raquel. Raquel’s insides are literally made of gold, but it’s the bag of cash Russell has that could save the day. And a contract.
Community is big on pop culture references, but most come from the ’80s and later. Abed, the source of most of those references, is at an almost total loss in how to cope with their new setting, only mentioning a pet rock. I guess for a group of people born after that era has ended (myself included), the ’70s feels like ancient history, a strange environment, confusing. “Basic Story” is sort of a time travel episode, another twist on another genre, which the series does so well.
What’s way more important than the exterior stuff, though, is Jeff’s romantic thread. He and Britta bicker the entire half hour, proving they aren’t right for one another. Annie is appropriately jealous when she learns the news of their engagement. Interestingly, though, it’s Jeff’s feelings for Annie that save the day, as hooked into Raquel, Jeff’s emotions for the rest, including Britta, prove to be not strong enough to open a door. So for those still playing the shipper game in the Jeff/Britta and Jeff/Annie pairings, Annie definitely wins this week.
It’s a little sad to abandon the idea of a Jeff/Britta couple. I mentioned in last week’s review that I am more for Annie and Jeff, but there is an undeniable spark when Jeff and Britta get together. Perhaps it’s all passion and sex, love not really being a factor. After all, the help and growth they provide one another is always accidental, never effective on purpose. I like how the writers play this out once and for all, understated and yet still clear.
Of course, the Dean thinks Jeff’s feelings are for him due to a mistaken glance at the wrong time. The relationship between the Dean and Jeff is one of the highlights of Community, and the Dean thinking he now has evidence that Jeff is in love with him can only strengthen this going forward, should the show be picked up. This could just be a one-off joke, but I really hope it’s something more than that. I want to see a Dean emboldened by his new conclusion, taking things to the next level.
While this plays out below ground, Hickey (Jonathan Banks) and Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) stay behind with an almost-electrocuted Duncan (John Oliver) to stop the school board. Hickey and Shirley are interrogated by board member Richie (Brady Novak, Mash Up), whose powers of mind attack are middling. It’s a terrific moment as the two most hardened cast members stand up to the bully; we haven’t seen have a whole lot of interaction with this pair in the past. Hickey and Shirley is a dynamic that deserves to be explored further.
“Basic Sandwich” ends with Russell coming to the surface, spoiling the Subway rep’s (James Michael Connor, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) appetite for the purchase, since Russell is contractually permitted to advise on any institution on the grounds. This is the best ending we can hope for, triumphant as Annie moves the Save Greendale star from the To Do list to the Done column, and everyone has a silly Dave Matthews dance party with Starburns (Dino Stamatopoulos). All is right with the world, and Community is begging for a sixth and final season, fulfilling their hashtag prophecy.
This finale has plenty of great meta moments. From Chang (Ken Jeong) finally realizing he has a mental illness, to board member Carl (Jeremy Scott Johnson, The Hottie & the Nottie) declaring he and Richie have names, as if that makes them a bigger threat, to Abed speaking to the camera about how if the show is canceled, it means an asteroid has killed everyone and that’s cannon. This is the sly charm that infuses every episode of Community, and thus ensures that if the show does end (though we all strongly hope that it doesn’t), it goes out right. Who could ask for more than that?
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