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. 




Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 6/2/2015

Season 6 : Episode 13

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The wasting of Paget Brewster angered my blood
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I liked this one a lot more than Basic Interglutal Numismatics. About average for this season.
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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!!!!
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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.
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Well, Tim, you got served..
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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.!
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Strongest episode of the season by far. Far far farrrr
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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.
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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.
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I know this review is just an opinion but I think it was pretty off, considering how great the episode was.
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I sadly agree with this review
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It was great. Though i've heavily felt the absence of Troy and Pierce. Also there wasn't much of Dean.

Britta's comment on Abed and a girl we never see again.
Chang's breakdown / his idea for dance theme.
Hickey becoming a legit part of Greendale.
With brief moments but great guests.
Ending with Duncan was hilarious:

Arcadia initiated.
- What's your clearance level? - Top.
You really want to activate this, sir? Yeah.
Oh! No.
No! Can you Cancel it.
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looks like a lot disagreeing with you Tim and many times I do the same but I'm totally on board with you on this one. Pretty bad ep. and totally wasted guest star appearances. Was extremely dumb worrying about getting some cork board along with all the bear stuff. The Abed / deaf girl stuff could have been great but she sold him out. Thinking the coat check girl being back will be a plus down the line. I know many like baldy guy from Breaking Bad that's the professor but can't stand him.
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I'm afraid I have to disagree. This was the closest to a season 3 episode I've seen since season 5 started, and felt like Dan was back in the groove for the first time since his return. Your mileage may vary, it's true, but this was the first episode this season where I laughed out loud so many times I lost count. Lighten up, people, or I swear I'll make you watch the season with the gas leak over and over again. *grin*
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I really, really, really, really cannot stand one second of Chang screen time. I get angry and irritated and want to smash everything around me. I really hate the character. Really do.
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Yep, they've totally destroyed Chang since after Season 1.
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I am surprised to see no mention of Troy. Did anyone else catch the news ticker??

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Go all the way down, flyboy... you were not alone.
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It's a shame Tim didn't mention it in his review.
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cool, great eye.
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The past 5 episodes have been awesome, but that doesn't make it fair to give this one a 'mostly thumbs down', if this episode had aired during the gas leak year Tim would be singing its praises...
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Tim, I will say you're not wrong in a lot of your individual criticisms, but I disagree with your conclusion that it should be wiped from the canon. I finished it feeling like it was a soft episode of Community, and wasteful for sure (Kumail Nanjiani is hilarious, yet here he's given nothing), but still was a watchable episode of Community. I voted it was okay.

Troy and even Pierce's weight was felt by their absences in this one, definitely, and Chang was just the edge of too much in Troy's place, but ultimately the characterizations held together (sorry Shirley for virtually no lines).

Busting Abed's balls was acceptable because A) he just did it to Britta; and B) it's already a book, it's not a secret. Abed didn't seem as wounded here so Britta didn't need to walk on eggshells with him, made sense to me that she'd go for the jugular, and it was good stuff.

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I agree, it's probably on the lower end of Dan Harmon's Community for me, but it's definitely not even close to being season 4's level of bad. It was still enjoyable in its own way, and had a few very funny moments.

As for Britta, for me it's not really her spoiling the book that's the bad part, it's how far she went to do so. For all she knew, Abed could have really liked that girl that Britta paid, and knowing that she was paid to get close to him in order to spoil the events of the book could have really hurt him, more so than a simple spoiler. The fact that he quickly hooked up with Brie Larson's character again does kind of soften that betrayal, but that doesn't really change the fact that Britta didn't even consider that he might get hurt by what she did.
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The lengths Britta went to spoil the book is really no different than the lengths Abed and Troy go to for other things. And any emotional pain Abed may have felt about the "betrayal" by someone he was opening up to, well he did the exact same thing to Annie two episodes back, with no remorse.
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I would say it's on season 4's level of problems, but has its characterizations on the ball better and the jokes were reined in better.

Abed did exactly to Britta what Britta did to him, he simply didn't want to take it so she had to force it. She didn't pay the girl to get close to Abed, she only paid the girl to spoil it. And Abed seemed pretty resilient after the coat check girl last year, I think that's why Britta called him out on it - that's why it was safe to take that risk, he never fully invested with female companions.
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The weight of their absences, I meant. WHAT?!? IT'S LATE!
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Surprised Chang didn't run into his same sex celebrity crush NATHAN FILLION!!!!!! and guess Paget Brewster picked up some skills from Penelope Garcia
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like many Community episodes, they're pretty much just random episodes that have no overall string tying them together apart from the cast.. but this was fine, the guest stars are kind of funny.. and I liked how Britta brought up Abed having a random intense connection with a girl we'll never see again, even though Brie Larson was actually on the episode at the end, which was nice.

wonder if the Levar Burton and Troy being captured by pirates will ever be a storyline somehow or if it was just a random easter egg.
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The only thing I agree with is that the guest stars were not used properly.
Other than that, this episode was HILARIOUS.
Britta spoiling Bloodlines of Conquest for Abed was justified and it didnt seem out of her character. Atleast to me. Also, the chang moments. Is this a racial thing? Classic.
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I debate you. Possibly my favorite episode of the season. The small moments, the details, made it so much more than it appeared. I had to rewatch about two minutes after Annie's "EVERYTHING" because there was so much color in the stream that followed I started missing stuff due to the laughter. It was brilliance without relying on gimmick. The real sign of Harmon's strength.
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I agree completely. This was probs my favourite episode of the season so far...even without Troy, which is really saying something.
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Duncan was underused in season one, but maybe now that John Oliver is going to have to try to promote his new show he will take more time to make appearances. He is ALWAYS funny.
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I hate Garrett. Especially when he's screaming. We need more Fat Neil. He seems to know what's up.
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This was the second time Brie Larson was on community and I didn't recognize her. I miss united states of tara : (
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I agree the guest stars were underutilized but I'm not huge fans of any of them, I enjoy Nathan Fillion where I can get him, the same goes for the rest of them for the most part but their small parts didn't ruin it for me, they were more cameos than guest roles which is fine. I really liked the episode all around, Abed signing nonsense was great, it's a bit used in alot of shows and movies (usually with people speaking foreign languages rather than sign though) but it was really well done here, and I enjoyed the Game of Thrones-y stuff. This just goes in a long line of thing Tim hated that I didn't take issue with I guess.
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I liked Annie and Britta getting so caught up in a goal that they lost sight of morals. I think that's perfectly okay for their characters - they're both very intense and that's part of who they are.
I liked the guest stars - you don't always have to have a big storyline. It'll be cool if they return, but if not, I'll see this as like a cameo in a movie. I hate it when the guest star is fawned over and the storyline is twisted simply because of a big name.
I also liked that they are now a committee rather than a study group. The show either has to keep them in stasis and have everybody accept that, or they can have changing lives but still make a place for each other in their lives. Hickey is really the only new element and I think he's a promising one, while Chang and Duncan are great to see again. It's especially great that they're both in contact together, rather than switching off. With their history, it's great to see them interact.
I liked the acknowledgement of this thing they did with Abed and a possible solution to it. They made this new girl well-rounded (she seemed sincerely nice... but money is money, and how long ago did she meet Abed? Not that long! She seemed reasonable to me) and I liked the return of the girl from before.
To end, holy shitballs it was awesome how Annie attacked that guy, how the group (most of them confused as hell, I imagine) gathered together in defence of each other and the bulletin board, and also how Duncan did whatever happened, ordered an air strike miracle (?!?!?) just for the hell of it and because he didn't know how to stop once he'd started. After which he took absolutely zero seconds to go, 'Oh, there's my staples!' as if nothing's happened.
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Kill this episode with fire. It reminded me of season four. It was that bad. I've loved this season so far but this episode was a stinker.
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- What's your clearance level? - Top.
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Chang crying is almost as good as Troy crying.

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This feels less like an even review and more like a 'I had a bad day and now I have to review Community sans my favorite characters' review. If you think it was the weakest episode, fine (I think it was RePilot), but I think we can all agree that any weak episode of Season 5 thus far does not equate to a bad episode of Season 5 thus far. I've rewatched this episode 4 times already and it's just brilliant. Peak at IGN's review (http://www.ign.com/articles/2014/01/31/community-analysis-of-cork-based-networking-review), and have a rewatch, then consider Fat Dogging this episode.
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I completely agree with you. The Repilot was the weakest episode imo too.
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This episode was pretty great! Have you ever tried get a bulletin board put up at work??? I have, and this episode was SPOT ON. SPOT on and hilarious.

I'm so glad Harmon Community is back. So glad the horribleness of season four wasn't all in my imagination. Kudos to all those who were positive during the gas leak year, really, but I couldn't watch it anymore after the puppet episode. Now my favorite show has returned!

Much love to Troy but I love the additions to the group too in his and Chevy's absences. Chang is just crazy enough, not too much. Oliver is ALWAYS fun, and Breaking Bad Man is something new & different. I couldn't possibly complain about this episode after PUPPETS. I don't think anything could be worse. Also am I alone in not missing the Dean dressing up every five seconds? I like him better now. Also I want his lunch. Was that fajitas?
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I gave your comment a Thumbs Up because I agree with everything you said except one thing:

I really, really dislike the Chang character. Haven't liked him from the very beginning. He's had like 5 personalities and I haven't enjoyed a single one of them.
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i have been anxiously waiting for the day that Troy Barnes is not a part of community anymore and this episode did not disappoint. I was so sick and tired of all Troy's (donalds) attempts at trying to be funny i had to mute the tv every time he spoke. EVERy other character plays it straight and honest and true while donald would mug mug mugh with his horrible one liners.

The new (old) characters at the table are great. John Oliver is a comic genius as is ken jeong. I cannot wait to see more of them in season 5.
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I was always indifferent to Troy. He had some great lines, but I just never got into his character. I didn't dislike him. Just lukewarm. I don't miss him.
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I have to disagree to the most epic degree. Donald Glover took his lines and made them his own and his relationship with Abed is/was one of the cornerstones of the show.

That being said, my worries with his absence have been lessened (not resolved completely). My personal worst character is Jeff. No offence to Joel McHale, the writers or the character but I feel he serves more for setting up jokes than pulling them off!
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Duncan's post-credits scene was awesome. More Duncan.
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Wow. Were we watching the same episode Tim? I loved how easily Annie 'sold out' in her determination to get the bulletin board up. I loved how Professor Hickey stepped in to help save her integrity, how the group stuck up for each other no questions asked, how Annie and Hickey developed a new found mutual respect for each other, I LOVED the rolling news update about Troy and Levar getting kidnapped by pirates (Poor Troy!), I loved the game of thrones ref, and Britta crazy attempts to spoil the ending for Abed. And yeah it was bit horrible to see him 'upset' BUT I think it may have helped his understanding of how he sometimes upsets people without realising it - it seemed to make him more sensitive to the Brie Larson's character and how he might have hurt her feelings by not calling. Plus which how you can not love the fantastic Labyrinth reference by Hickey and, my personal favourite line of the episode - "Things just got Sorkin"
Keep up the good work Harmon. Glad you are back. Six seasons and a movie!
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Wait, WHAT??? There were news announcements in this episode about Troy and Levar getting kidnapped by pirates? I'm gonna have to re-watch it!
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I agree. I kinda hope that with Troy leaving/ Brie Larson's character coming back that we are going to see a slight 'humanisation' of Abed.
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Somethings I noticed-
The main theme of this week's episode was Game of Thrones.
* Annie trading favors(alliances) with other departments(houses) at Greendale(Westeros) and willing to do anything to get the board in the cafeteria(murder/conspiracy) is the basic plot of GoT.
* Guest stars are over-stuffed intentionally to bring out the flavor of GoT(Huge cast=less screen time for each character).
Certainly not a random,weak episode.
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Wow, that's really deep! I do know Harmon loves to go way into meta, so that makes total sense that he'd do that with the guests.

Harmon's Community has layers and layers of comedy. And, maybe the people who don't like it are just not seeing the layers.
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This is on course to being Community's strongest seasons yet.

Another briliant episode.
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I liked it bear-y much! Underused guest stars I agree with but I really enjoyed the dance decorating stuff. I like how they mixed the teams this week.
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I miss the dean's costumes...
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I don't. The Dean was a far better character in season 1, before he drifted into the shallow, obsessed with Jeff to the point of creepiness, cross dresser. The jokes were no longer about the character, but "what ridiculous outfit will he be wearing this time?"
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Hunty knew how to werque those outfits and serve up some serious realness.
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Ok even if I hate to admit this episode was a bit weaker than the other 5. Still awesome but not as much. I also think that a bad episode of community is better than a good episode of some shows (of most shows really) so I'm ok with it.

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"Levar Burton and non-celebrity companio captured by pirates in the gulf of Mexico" LOL
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You mean the custodial staff's porn addiction
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I think this episode served as a way for the group to truly accept Hickey and Chang as a part of itself, instead of just having them being forced on the group as fellow "Save Community" members.

I mean, when Annie jumped those guys going after Hickey, and the rest of the group backed her up (backing him up through her), it was symbolic of the group accepting Hickey into it. When Chang broke down in front of Shirley, Jeff, and Duncan... and they humored him and his idea, because they realized they had been dismissing him because he's been crazy (and still is), that was his symbolic entrance into the group.

Normally, the group treats outsiders pretty bad (see: Todd), but the way they treated Chang and Hickey this episode is similar to how they treat each other (e.g. they forgive one another, have each others' backs, etc.). So, while I feel like it would have been bad to recast Pierce and/or Troy, I like that they're adding more people to their group. And I liked the way this episode achieved that, to a degree.
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True about the group supporting Chang, but I also think there was a bit of a dig on how many times people blame their own poor performance or ideas on racism. I thought that was so funny. They're not really buying any of it but then he says maybe it's because of race and they're all like, "wo, no, no. Hey, it's a great idea."

Our culture is overly sensitive to being called a racists, and I laughed at how they embraced a really bad idea just to avoid that accusation.
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Burn me at the stake if you must, but having caught up with Eagleheart, I've got to argue that pound for pound, minute by meta-minute gag total, EH is better than Community...Before you start the fire beneath my feet, can I say goodbye to my family first?
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I agree wih this, when the episode ended I had already forgotten what had happened. It as weird to ser Chang on Troy's chair, but I didn't feel that way with Duncan and Hickey, I just love Duncan so much.
I loved Britta reference about all the giros Abed met but de never got to ser them again, also Rachel is the best, I tope we'll ser ver again.
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I'm sorry for all the spelling mistakes, autocorrect sucks!
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"It was also the weakest episode of Season 5 so far, and I don't think many viewers would debate that."

I will at least object to it. This one was good, or at least good enough. Last week (hot lava) was bad. That was the worst episode of the season. It would have been a weak episode even in the gas leak year.

Yes, the famous people were underused, and Britta was far too cruel to Abed. I agree about those things.
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"the famous people were underused"
Wasnt that exactly the point?
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I don't understand this reply. How is it a point?
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In Britta's defense, Abed DID spoil some of it for her first. I probably would have killed someone if they spoiled something big from GoT or even Lost (such as Locke's S1 reveal).

But... Abed was right, that it's annoying to have to tip-toe around someone that's a whole bunch of seasons behind. Especially if there's a group that WANTS to talk about the show but can't because some random person is like 4 seasons behind.

Abed spoiled something because he doesn't believe the group should be inconvenienced due to one person. Britta spoiled something out of spite.
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Having a show spoiled for you will make you do crazy things. So I totally get Britta! HE STARTED IT!
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So I stop reading these reviews now, you are way to detailpicky and don't appreciate this show enough imo. I don't know what you could possibly want more out of community.
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I enjoyed the episode. I like how they filtered in all of the guest stars and seriously that is how you throw in guest stars. I think it was a dig at all of the missed opportunities with the guest stars that they misused last season.

But for me the overall greatness of the episode was Alison Brie. Now I am partial to Miss Brie and think she can do no wrong. But she stepped up in a huge way this episode and in large part it was about her and how far she can go. This was Annie stepping into adulthood and getting a look at how the world is and getting a look at how well a person like her can do in that world. I enjoyed every aspect of it, especially when she jumped in the guy and how way she started to deal with the guest stars and their bureaucracy. It was fantastic.
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Tim, You went for Dracula 2000 over Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog? Ugh.
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I'd go for Slither before Dracula 2000.
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I liked it. I wish Nathan Fillion had a bigger part, but it was great seeing him on the show.
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