COMMUNITY 5.13 ‘Basic Sandwich’
COMMUNITY Episode 5.13
Episode Title: "Basic Sandwich"
Writer: Ryan Ridley
Director: Rob Schrab
Previously on "Community":
To paraphrase Animal House, “Community” isn’t over until we say it’s over!
The “Community” creative team have created episodes that could have been series finales during the third and fourth seasons. But for the fifth season, Dan Harmon and company spit in the eye of the idea that this could be the last episode of “Community.” There’s some emotional closure and the fate of Greendale is revealed. However, as an ending to the series this would have been a lackluster finale.
“Basic Sandwich” isn’t a bad episode, and in fact it’s quite good in parts. It’s just not a stellar installment of the show or as memorable as some of the best episodes this season. But one of the things that “Basic Sandwich” does well is finding things for almost all of the major characters to do.
For Annie (Alison Brie) and Abed (Danny Pudi), their quest for buried treasure in Greendale is more about maintaining the status quo of their lives rather than just saving Greendale. Annie is also suitably upset that Jeff (Joel McHale) and Britta (Gillian Jacobs) are supposedly engaged. It falls on Abed to comment on how ridiculous it is for Jeff and Britta to couple up and he frames it as a bad pilot for a misguided spinoff series.
Because of his fourth wall awareness, Abed understands that the story can’t really end. At the very least, Abed and Annie can shape the narrative to fit their needs and resist the fictional universe that has temporarily turned against them. As Abed said in the most recent Dungeons and Dragons episode, he wouldn’t be a very good Dungeon Master if he was helping out his characters. Similarly, Ryan Ridley (and likely, the entire “Community” creative team) keep things difficult for the Save Greendale committee and the events are gleefully bizarre to the very end.
Case in point, Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) and Buzz (Jonathan Banks) are left behind to face interrogation by the villainous school board when Richie Countee (Brady Novak) reveals that he has psychic powers and he uses telepathy to pull at their brains. It’s totally off the wall, but it was made even funnier by Buzz’s revelation that he had been thinking about a hang glider as Richie suggested. The tag scene paid this off by giving Richie his own pseudo “Community” spinoff, “Thought Jacker.” Well played, “Community” writers.
Meanwhile, Chang (Ken Jeong) backslid into villainy and he helped the school board foil the plans of Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) and the Save Greendale team. I would have written off Chang’s latest betrayal as a tired twist, but Jeong was just too funny during his attempt to take off his “mask” before admitting his mental illness. Chang’s diamond smile was also a great comedic moment.
Duncan (John Oliver) didn’t have a large role here, but he was great in his brief scenes as Duncan electrified himself and he was largely out of his mind for the duration of the episode. I loved the scene where the entire group (minus Chang) were destroying the teacher’s lounge while looking for clues in all the wrong places. There aren’t too many opportunities for the majority of the cast to play off of each other that broadly and I appreciated it here.
At the heart of this buried treasure mystery is Greendale’s first Dean, Russell Borchert (Chris Elliott); a man who loves computers far too much and he’s not so much dead as he’s secretly living in Greendale’s hidden basement. The ending suggests that Elliott could conceivably recur on this series if it manages to get another season. I’d welcome that, as Borchert was wonderfully crazy as well.
To the surprise of no one, the big heroic moment belongs to Jeff as he uses his warm feelings for the group (and even the Dean) to spark an emotional reaction in Borchert’s lover/computer. Much as Jeff might like to deny it, he doesn’t really want to leave his friends and surrogate family behind. The Jeff and Annie shippers also get a spark of hope when their shared thoughts are revealed and the Jeff/Britta desperation engagement falls apart.
In the end, Subway is driven out and Greendale remains on the edge of financial ruin as it always does. In other words, status quo is restored and it’s time for dancing!
The main problem with “Basic Sandwich” is that it’s not quite special enough to serve as a season finale or as a series finale. There are some funny moments and nice character beats, but nothing that would make it a suitable farewell. Harmon and company are kind of challenging the TV gods on that. However, I believe in this show. And I love “Community.” I think it will be back in some form. I just can’t guarantee it will be on NBC.
If nothing else, the fifth season of “Community” was a much needed reminder of how special this show can be. Against all odds, “Community” was great again this season. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.