At this point, following the strong entries of the first two episodes of Community on Yahoo! Screen, I can safely say that the show has hit its stride. Little has changed since its “golden years” on NBC, which is a herculean task considering the loss of so many cast members. But the new storylines and characters that have been presented to audiences here create the best comedy on the airwaves (internet waves?) today. “Basic Crisis Room Decorum” began with Annie calling the gang together at 3 in the morning for an emergency meeting at Greendale. Apparently, City College (Greendale’s long-time rival) has put together an attack ad, pointing out that Greendale not only had a dog named Ruffles attend classes, they also gave her a degree!
The strengths of this episode are, unsurprisingly, in its jokes. Both the combination of the quick snappy one-liners and the running gags work in unison with one another to create a number of gut-busting scenes. The Dean, for example, begins the episode by attempting to call together the gang over his cell phone, only to have been given a fake number for Jeffrey, and is actually talking with two foreign Japanese students via text. This leads to some hilarious scenes of the students asking the Dean to bring Jeff olives, and asking him questions about life in general. The exchange also leads to, once again, the funniest scene of the night right at the end as Takeshi (one of the students) — in an argument with his father — asks the Dean if he’s ever alone. The Dean, thinking the boy is still Jeff, shrugs him off, only for a narrator to state that this was the moment when Takeshi knew he would one day become head of the Yakuza, the Japanese mafia. It’s an amazing buildup and the comedic beats hit all the right spots.
The idea of a dog receiving a degree from a community college is ludicrous in and of itself, but knowing Greendale and its history, it’s something you could definitely see happening. How Ruffles actually received his degree (which took her “28 dog years to receive”) is never explained, and the episode is made all the better for that, as you’re left wondering how the dog kept getting to all these classes and how all the professors were ok with it being there! Such is Greendale, I suppose. While City College’s attack ad was funny, Greendale’s response ads were even funnier with the gang deciding to take the fight to Ruffles, creating a slander advertisement that tore apart Ruffles’ character. It’s absolutely ridiculous, but seeing the gang work as a well-oiled machine with such a ludicrous challenge presented to them is what makes the show what it is. The very idea of creating a commercial meant to sway public opinion against a canine for “eating cat turds, potentially barking at black mailmen, impersonating a lobster, and having 27 puppies with 5 different fathers” is perfect for the show.
Meanwhile, this episode also gave us our first time seeing the new characters with the old, working as a cohesive unit. The shining star in that regard was Keith David’s Elroy, who somewhat takes the spot of Chevy Chase’s Pierce, albeit much more likable (and I’m sure not causing as much behind-the-scenes drama). Elroy drifts in and out of the group, more as a wayward traveler, attempting to bond with people but not quite understanding what is going on — not only with each member of the troop, but in general. You have to laugh and admire Elroy’s attempts to be helpful for something as weird as what the gang is trying to accomplish here (“I just learned that this is something I should care about!”) On the flip side though, I thought Frankie’s addition as the “straight man” to the group could be a tad grating. Clearly, the character is still trying to find her voice amongst the “louder” cast that we’ve already grown to know and love, but while she did offer a chuckle here and there, I think she has a little ways to go before really gelling with everyone else.
Aside from the wackiness, the episode also elicits another of the show’s strongest elements: heart. When the gang is primed to release its retort to City College, Annie comes into conflict with everyone else, stating that Ruffles didn’t graduate simply because of a technicality (unpaid library fees, which again, is funny in trying to think of how she got those in the first place). Ready to leave her friends and school behind to protect her integrity, Annie nearly enrolls in City College until she is presented with another ad created by the gang in which the Dean lays the truth on the line with Ruffles by his side. It’s a nice, touching scene in a preposterous landscape and it’s what makes Community, Community. I am happy to keep saying, “Welcome back, Greendale” with a new episode hitting the web each Tuesday.
Episode Rating: ★★★★ Very good
– Seriously, the end of each episode is slowly becoming my favorite part of the show’s revival. Shirley’s NBC spinoff, “Knee High Mischief,” and now the defining moment of the leader of the Yakuza, play perfectly into the plot of each episode while being their own organic stories. They’re amazing and I’m excited to see what else is coming down the pike.
– I think the show has figured out the perfect balance for Chang. He’s still the outsider of the group, still unstable, but is mostly left to his own devices to deliver a one-two punch of comedy toward the tail end of the episode. Chang’s “porno” sounded terrifying, making it all the funnier, especially when it was brought up to him that a) you couldn’t tell he was filming at City College and b) he was wearing a Greendale shirt with the title of his movie having “Greendale” in it.
– Nod to the show for still recognizing that Britta, is in fact, the worst as she crushes a potential bond with Elroy once she drunkenly belts out one of her favorite songs in his trailer. The music video effects added to this scene really hit it home.
– Elroy’s candy bar rant was another high point as he was mostly ignored, followed by him trailing off.
– Takeshi: “We keep loving in text, but secret forever. Meow!”
– Abed: “Britta may be secretly twins.”
– Elroy: “This internet’s gone too far!”
– Annie: “Things that will otherwise get filed right to my thighs.”
– Takeshi’s father: “Tokyo is a machine, caked with blood, running on flesh!”