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