Note: I wrote this review off a press screener, and this particular screener omitted whatever happened at the very end of the episode because apparently it was a big spoiler and Sony TV didn't want us blabbering about it to everyone else before it aired. So, I honestly don't know what happened. All I know is Kane picked up the phone and got bad news. But I have theories: The yam people burst from the Earth and swore vengeance on the slaughter of their babies, Starburns' car-trunk meth lab exploded and killed him, or Vicki suffocated Neil while re-enacting page 72 of the Kama Sutra.
I'll add my thoughts on whatever actually happened as soon as I see it. And whenever I get around to writing about it. Which could be a few minutes from now... or a year... but will probably be somewhere in between. Update! I've added a few more thoughts below.
Some old dude who's probably dead now once said, "Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery." The words stuck, and now that notion is considered truth and a great way for no-talent copycats to justify their rip-offs. Law & Order should be feeling awfully flattered right about now, but Community's imitation should not in any way be considered talent-less copy-and-pasting.
As a two-time reigning Cynicism Champion, I'm still waiting for Community's "homage episodes" to get boring, and they simply refuse to do so. Tonight's "Basic Lupine Urology" had been hyped for weeks; not only did it live up to expectations, it outlived them to become an essential Community episode (which makes, like, 20 now?). The danger of doing a Law & Order episode is that it's relatively easy to do, especially compared to a masterpiece like "Pillows & Blankets," and things that are easy to do are often surprisingly easy to mess up. That did not happen in "Basic Lupine Urology," which merged the worlds of Community and Law & Order so seamlessly that a new mega-world was formed.
I'm no Law & Order-holic, but I've seen enough episodes to know that "Basic Lupine Urology" nailed all the important parts of the legendary procedural. Special shout-out to director Rob Schrab for capturing the look and feel of Law & Order perfectly, and extra big hug to writer Megan Ganz for transposing Community onto Law & Order's framework so well. What really stood out to me was how involved in the case I was, and that's what made this episode so great. Rewinds and pauses were mandatory as the sound of my own laughing drowned out important details in the case of the Yam Bam Thank You Ma'am Killer.
The breakdown of Annie and Jeff as the "Law" and Troy and Abed as the "Order" was about as perfect as it could be. I wish there'd been more of my beloved Britta, but I think she got the biggest laugh as the "computer whiz" archetype, especially when she poked at the keyboard and Instagrammed photo evidence. But what particularly surprised me was Michael Kenneth Williams' performance as Professor Kane. He was actually really funny this time! Also great: The episode's excellent incorporation of several of Greendale's secondary characters...even if Garrett was just the mandatory Law & Order hot dog vendor on a busy New York street with construction signs and steamy manholes. Hee hee, steamy manholes.
I don't know how long Community can keep up its fantastic track record of homage episodes and make them seem fresh. At some point Community is going to announce a Grey's Anatomy send-up or an I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry tribute, and we'll all be like, "Oh boy, this again." Or maybe, just maybe, the show will just keep doing these types of episodes right, like it did with "Basic Lupine Urology," and we'll all be like, "Oh boy! This again!"
[UPDATE] Okay, I SWEAR I didn't know what happened at the end there when I wrote that stuff in the "note" at the beginning of this article. PROMISE. Here's a screenshot of the version I saw as semi-proof:
But WOW! The Yam was not the Community character the "someone on Community's gonna die" news from a few months ago was referring to. Now, the victim in question was the beloved "enhancement" dealer Starburns, who got rear-ended, blowing up the meth lab in his trunk. Normally I don't like to pat myself on the back but I guess I called it? Though how can I really take any credit for it because how would you know I'm telling the truth or not? I guess we have to work on our trust issues.
Still, wow! Starburns. He was one of the characters we suspected would be offed when we listed potential candidates in February, and he was a favorite pick among you guys as well. I don't know how this is going to affect the series going forward, but I hope he gets a great tribute next week. I hope he comes back as a ghost. In the meantime, let's remember our favorite Starburns moments. Mine is that time he was high.
Study Group Notes
– "Keep the change, Garrett. [pause] You know, keep the hot dog."
– "What's a matter, Todd? Cut yourself on an extremely sharp Oscar Wilde play?"
– "Sorry about my partner, he's been on edge ever since we switched."
– Did you all notice Chang's face in the last courtroom scene?
– Fact: Britta looks really hot in glasses.
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom