Community: “Analysis of Cork-Based Networking” Season 5 Episode 6 Review

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Things get a little murky as Community settles into its fifth season, but this week’s episode was solid nonetheless.

Dan Harmon’s return as showrunner has given Community a second life. I was a bit concerned that he wouldn’t be able to fix all the show’s problems, but this season has been nothing but a pleasant surprise. The show has brilliantly bounced back to its old self, with a slew of episodes that highlighted exactly why it was so enthralling in the first place.

A lot of people talk about Community as a concept show. They usually refer to its frequent use of meta-humor and pop culture parodies. These things are certainly staples of the series, but I would argue that they don’t fully encompass its message. At its heart, I really think Community is just about people who are stuck in some facet of their lives, banding together as a way to pick themselves back up again. The humor comes from each of the main characters, especially when they allow their various quirks to be exposed. Sometimes I worry that the show gets too bogged down with its riffs and references, and forgets to showcase the amazing ensemble it has.

“Analysis of Cork-Based Networking” was not a concept episode. After a series of storylines that tried to build the new world of the show–Pierce’s death, Troy leaving–we finally got a no-frills half-hour of Community.  Not everything worked, but it was nice to see the series fully settled back into its old self.

Getting back to the idea of the committee to improve Greendale, the episode split off into two main plots that saw some interesting character dynamics. Annie teams up with Professor Hickey to try and put up a bulletin board that fell down in the cafeteria, and discovers a whole mess of bureaucratic red tape.

First she must make a deal with the head of the custodial staff (a completely underused Nathan Fillion), then the head of the IT department, then the school’s parking manager, and finally the Dean. The joke of of the whole thing lost steam after a while–after all, it’s just a bulletin board–but the plotline was not without its funny moments. Annie screaming “EVERYTHING!” at the IT director was pretty perfect, as were the sneaky references to Labyrinth, which I suddenly have the urge to re-watch. Come on guys, it’s got puppets and macho rock stars in it.

Meanwhile, Shirley, Jeff, Chang, and Duncan all set out to decorate the cafeteria for the midterm dance because Greendale is always having dances at inopportune times. The whole plot revolved around them going along with Chang’s strange “Bear Down for Midterms” theme, and then having to cover their tracks after finding out there was a bear attack on the news that morning. Again, there were some great moments here–“fat dog it” might be my new favorite expression–but the joke didn’t really sustain itself over the length of the plot. On the plus side, this is probably the one time where I didn’t find Chang incessantly annoying, so kudos to the writers on that.

There was also a C-plot involving Britta trying to spoil the plot of a Game of Thrones-esque show called “Bloodlines of Conquest” for Abed, which resulted in Abed befriending a deaf girl. Abed’s a surprisingly compelling romantic lead, and his scenes with the girl were pretty adorable. Additionally, Britta’s realization at the end of the effect of her revenge plan was hysterical.

The one thing I didn’t get was why the show brought back Brie Larson’s Rachel from the “Herstory of Dance” episode last season. Don’t get me wrong, I love Brie Larson and I hope she sticks around a little longer, but why build up a new relationship for Abed if it was just a precursor for an old one? It felt very disjointed, although I did enjoy Abed referring to last season as “the year of the gas leak.”

In comparison with this season’s previous episodes, “Analysis of Cork-Based Networking” is probably the weakest entry so far. It should be noted, however, that each of the other episodes had a clear purpose, whether it was to say goodbye to a beloved character or create a horror/mystery homage. This episode was merely the show being itself, relying on its wonderful array of characters to be their wonderful selves. In that respect, I think it did just fine. Grade: B+

 

By Mike Papirmeister

 

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