Community "Analysis of Cork-Based Networking" Review: Let's Strike This One from Canon

By Tim Surette

Jan 31, 2014

Community S05E06: "Analysis of Cork-Based Networking"

Sometimes when I'm watching Community, my Notgonnagetthereferenceophobia flares up. I'll be honest, pop culture is moving at a speed that I can't keep up with, so there was bound to come a time when Community spoofed/parodied/paid homage to something that's totally over my head. And I think "Analysis of Cork-Board Networking" was it, because I couldn't understand what the F was going on for half of it. I tried to connect the dots, I made one of those elaborate walls full of print-outs with different colored strings that you see in cop shows, and I cross-referenced Perez Hilton (king of pop culture and appropriate behavior), but I came up empty. Why? Because "Analysis of Cork-Board Networking" was just randomness. 

It was also the weakest episode of Season 5 so far, and I don't think many viewers would debate that. That's due in part to the season being so strong up until this point, and in part to "Analysis of Cork-Board Networking" qualifying as one of those somewhat-amusing-yet-forgettable Community episodes. 

Going in, "Cork" was notable for being "the episode with Nathan Fillion," and the geek prince showed up as the head of Greendale's well-staffed custodial department. But it was also the episode with Kumail Nanjiani, Paget Brewster, Katie LeClerc, and Robert Patrick, resulting in an overstuffed half-hour where none of those deserving actors got enough screentime to justify the addition to their IMDB creds. I'm wondering why the show bothered having all these relatively big names drop by if they weren't going to use them. Surely Firefly and Castle and Dracula 2000 fans were all, "That's it?" with regards to Fillion's appearance. And that goes double for Brewster fans, who saw the Criminal Minds star for all of a sneeze. 

They were all part of the extended Greendale faculty that Season 5 is opening up, and I'm praying to my Harmon shrine that this won't be the last we see of them, because it will have been a waste to bring in so many familiar faces. Maybe some episodes were shot out of order, and they all filmed bigger parts that we'll see later in the season. I'm hoping that's the case; otherwise, all we got was a short blink at this larger Greendale world that has so much potential. 

The gang's smaller world is getting bigger, too, and I'm not sure I've ever been as uncomfortable watching Community than I was when Chang settled into Troy's chair, Professor Hickey occupied Pierce's, and Professor Duncan plopped down next to Jeff. I love Chang, Hickey, and Duncan, but seeing them at the study table made me twitch with awkwardness. The seat Chang was in still has some of Troy's butt warmth on it! Totally unsettling. This is what we're looking at for the foreseeable future, though. You and I will have to get used to the idea of the study group table occupied by this "Save Greendale Committee" and its mix of teachers and students, and I'm not sure I'm going to like it. There's something magical about the idea of students gathered around a table, and that's lost once crankypants Buzz Hickey shows up. And how's Jeff's teaching going? Has the series lost a lot of its identity as the underdog now that teachers have infiltrated the circle of friends? Can I just pretend that Jeff is a student again? Will things ever be the same?

As for what actually happened in the episode, all three stories were pretty bland by Community standards. Annie and Hickey went on a backscratching goose chase to get a bulletin board installed in the cafeteria, hopping from department to department to satisfy various individual needs. The janitors' porn addiction (they wanted the IT department to unblock their web-based smut) probably got the most laughs, but I loved Patrick's diatribe about the sensitive ecology of parking. 

Abed was off on a romantic adventure with a deaf student (Switched at Birth's Katie LeClerc) in what Britta nailed as "another intense burst of compatibility with a girl that we'll never see again." The story was tangled with a riff on Game of Thrones Bloodlines of Conquest spoilers, with Abed wearing headphones so as to avoid Britta's attempts to read ahead in the book series to reveal what would happen in the television series. It was fine, I guess.

But the whole arc took a nosedive at the end of the episode, when Britta paid the deaf girl to sign spoilers to Abed in an act that was about as cruel as it gets. WTF, deaf girl? And WTF, Britta? This makes no sense to me, especially after how compassionate she was to Abed in last week's episode. I'm a Britta apologist, and I love her mean streak, but I don't think she'd ever do something so harsh to Abed, particularly after showing so much empathy to his world. Last week she cloned him, and this week she's breaking nerd code? Reprehensible. But things weren't all bad for A-bed, because later he walked off with Rachel the coat check girl (Brie Larson)—the object of his "intense burst of compatibility" from the "gas leak year"—though I barely recall what happened with her because I've had my memories of Season 4 surgically removed from my brain.

All the leftover characters were heaped together in a thread that had them working on a decorating theme for the midterm dance, and it was mostly all throwaway stuff. We got a new term to throw around, "Fat Dog," which means... what does it mean? "Cool"? Something like that. We did get some great Chang moments, though, including his fake Fat Dog dance and a teary outburst of emotions that was so UnChang-like that it was one of the best things he's ever done. And let's not forget Garrett screaming! 

But overall, "Analysis of Cork-Based Networking" earns a "thumbs mostly down"—let's say just past the diagonal point—from me. The episode must've gotten away from itself somewhere during the script-writing process. And with Britta's inexplicable behavior and the poor use of guest stars, I vote we move to strike this entire episode from canon, because there was a lot of bullshit in it. 

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  • numberonecubsfa Apr 24, 2014

    The wasting of Paget Brewster angered my blood

  • Ridnarhtim Feb 08, 2014

    I liked this one a lot more than Basic Interglutal Numismatics. About average for this season.

  • gilbz Feb 03, 2014

    Hickey: Welcome to the labyrinth, kid. Only there ain't no puppets or bisexual rocks stars down here.
    Dean: What kind of labyrinth have you created? Certainly not the magic kind with puppets and macho rock stars.

    I love this episode! It's a bear dance!!!!

  • FoxZerro Feb 03, 2014

    I actually think this was the strongest showing of the fifth season, so teh call to strike it from continuity in the headline really struck me as odd. The strength came from the show going back to the roots of being a show about a community college. The rest of season five has been one concept episode after another and actually having them deal with a real world problem was not only a refreshing change of pace, but actually gave me hope that the series would soon be returning to its roots.

    The guest stars just having small roles and not being tentpoles for the proceedings was something I really enjoyed. We can't fault the show for NBC promoting these guest stars as having larger parts within the narrative than they did. In fact after five years of knowing this show to have expected anything more than a cameo is wishful thinking on the part of the viewer.

    I also have a problem with you calling out Britta on breaking nerd code. Abed broke it first by blurting out a sea of spoilers about the show and Britta was just retaliated based upon those actions. Also the fact that she is willfully engaging Abed is her way of trying to be there for him to fill the gap left behind by his friend having left. Sure it may seem mean, but considering the fact that he started the war I liked that she had the resolve to see it through to the end.

    Speaking of Troy, I've read a lot of reviews and no one has mentioned that when Hickey was watching the News report about the Bear Massacre the ticker on the bottom read that "Levar Burton and non-celebrity captured by pirates in the gulf of Mexico" which I thought was a nice little tie-in and also hopefully that start of running updates about Troy's trip around thhe world.

    Finally I think you may be watching Community wrong. There was no part of Pop Culture being referenced or spoofed this week so your Beautiful Mindesquepades were unnecessary. Sometimes a show about a community college is just a show about a community college.

  • TonyMutu Mar 15, 2014

    Well, Tim, you got served..

  • pebermynthe Feb 03, 2014

    I don't think the thing with Britta was completely out of character. Plus - she actually gave us some emotional growth from Abed, when all she was trying to do was spoil him. Which I guess means she sort of reverse-Britta'd the whole thing. At the end, when the deaf girl laid down the spoilers and Britta came up to him, Abed looked at her, sort of impassive - but sort of horrified - and said "I'm devastated". And it was obvious that he was more disturbed about the deception of the girl he liked, than about the TV-show. Which is some major, major, major character development, that actually worked out nicely and subtly.

    I hope Britta's words of the disappearing gril's in Abed's life, only ring true for deaf girl and that we'll see more of coat-check girl! She was one of the only things I liked from season 4 (seriously!) and the episode she appeared in (the one with Britta's ridiculous feminist dance) was one of the only episodes I liked from that season. She seems to be up for hi-jinks and she literally met Abed when he was amidst one of his more absurd absurdities (trying to fulfill the trope of being on a date with two girls, at the same dance, while neither finds out) - and she was totally on board and giddily helped out with the shenanigans! Which means that Abed gets to evolve a little and make new friends - without having to change, without anyone making him feel all wrong. I think she could be destined for greatness, while in the trusty hands of Dan Harmon and co.!

  • danmatthews5 Feb 03, 2014

    Strongest episode of the season by far. Far far farrrr

  • kevbuffylost108 Feb 02, 2014

    I see the Guest stars as cameo's only so i wasn't surprised with their lack of screen time. Nathan Fillion was still great in his role, as was Robert Patrick. It's a 20 minute show so why are you disappointed with their screen time. If they had loadsa screen time, you still will be complaining. People love to complain for the sake of it these days.

  • nerkoids Feb 02, 2014

    Tim, usually I'm in sync with your reviews of the episodes, but I think you're way off here. This was by far the funniest episode yet this season. And Fat Dog as an expression works. It's stupid, pointless and perfectly Greendale.

    Also, I didn't feel uneasy with Chang being in Troy's spot, because it's not Troy's spot anymore. Also, I disagree that deception isn't in Britta's nature. She's done this kind of stuff before to others in the group she's been sympathetic -- it's totally consistent with her character.

    As for Nathan Fillion, I think he was introduced wisely. I have a feeling we'll be seeing more of him. I hope we see more of Paget Brewster too.

    As for Ben Chang, I felt there always was a bit of pathos to his madness. Glad to see it getting its due diligence.

  • joejak Feb 02, 2014

    I know this review is just an opinion but I think it was pretty off, considering how great the episode was.

  • edoblaauw9 Feb 01, 2014

    I sadly agree with this review

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