Community began its two-part journey toward *sniff* possibly saying goodbye forever by kicking of its two-part Season 5 finale with a... well, I'm not totally sure. "Basic Story" was an odd episode of Community, even by Community standards, and its effectiveness will be pretty difficult to assess until after we see its follow-up, "Basic Sandwich," next week. A lot will depend on how worthy the set-up in "Basic Story" turns out to be. But it was one of the more untraditionally funny episodes of the season, and it was full of jokes that I found hilarious even though I wouldn't be surprised if they cleared out a few rooms, so I'm giving it a high-five.
As the first part of two-parter, "Basic Story" didn't really stand on its own. Yeah, by definition the first part of a two-parter will be incomplete, but "Basic Story" didn't feel full enough to justify a two-part finale. The idea of Greendale being up for sale took some time to establish, and the discovery of Russell Borchard's treasure map—which sprung up at the very end—felt like the real goal of the episode, intended to launch next week's finale-of-the-finale. Yet I didn't care that much that the episode took its time because it was so darned funny with some great Community banterin'.
The real catalyst of "Basic Story" was a visit by an insurance appraiser (a very funny Michael McDonald of MADtv fame and Leprechaun 2 infamy) who poked around campus looking for flaws, except that the Save Greendale Committee had done such a good job that Greendale was actually deemed a place of value. The drunk school board guys—who've always been awesome and who were particularly fantastic in this episode—decided to sell the school, and there was our crisis. And it was a darned good one, particularly for a finale of a show that is possibly shuffling off to its grave.
The school board guys ultimately sold the school to Subway, whose relationship with NBC cult shows that are perennially on the bubble continues to thrive. The idea was for Subway to transform Greendale into a Sandwich University, which I was totally sold on as soon as the library was renamed to the "Subwayary." It doesn't matter that I still can't even fathom the concept of a Sandwich University; sign me up for French Dip 101 and keep me in detention forever. The gang was bummed about the transaction, but a sense of hope was restored when Annie, Abed, and the Dean discovered a treasure map behind the portrait of an infamous computer f*cker. Also, the sight of Chris Elliot in that wig gave me a huge comedy boner and guaranteed that his appearance next week will be extra special.
And hello there, Jeff and Britta! I don't know what was going on between them when they decided to get married, nor am I sure it was earned. But in keeping with the exaggerated feeling of dire straits in the episode's second half, it was kind of a genius move, as "Basic Story" appeared to be sending up the "big event" finale.
I'm still trying to figure out how I feel about Abed's initial storyline about the episode having no story. At times it worked really well; the beats spent hanging on some random Greendale students looking through bookshelves and then zooming in on some dude slurping chicken noodle soup were bizarre and hilarious. And maybe it was all a self-aware joke about how nothing much was really going on early in the episode ("Basic Story" was very self aware, even slamming the Troy-Britta dating arc of Season 4 because GOOD it deserved to be slammed). But Abed in a beard? And his talk about resisting the story "until it falls apart"? It either went way over my dim head or it really fizzled out.
As a string of individual jokes, I thought "Basic Story" was one of the best episodes of Season 5. As a complete episode, not so much. But it's too hard to tell at this stage, because a lot of it can roll into the second half of the finale. Until then, it was a funny episode that didn't entirely work as a whole.
– Haha, Abed's impression of Shirley at the beginning was great. [high pitched] "I don't think it's nice to pigeonhole people's gimmicks," [low pitched] "You hear me, Two Voice?"
– The city of Greendale defines a dog as any living thing with four legs and a tail.
– The Dean's struggle with the vending machine, and actually the whole vending machine joke, was so good.
– Abed, Dean, and Annie doing the buried treasure dance was great, too.
AIRED ON 6/2/2015
Season 6 : Episode 13