Community: “Basic Sandwich” Season 5 Finale Review

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Dan Harmon capped off his return season with an episode that served as a heartwarming reminder of why Greendale is such a magical place.

Okay, forget everything I said last week. Well, don’t forget it. I still think that “Basic Story” was a subpar setup episode, but it was a setup episode that had a major payoff. “Basic Sandwich” encapsulated everything that made Community such an original show in the first place. There was a great sense of adventure and plenty of whipsmart humor, but most importantly there was a lot of love shared between the characters. Finale episodes are often known to air on the side of sentimentality, but Community managed to charmingly end their season while still keeping their zany tone intact.

As you might have guessed, the plot revolved around the gang trying to look for buried treasure after finding the note behind the picture frame in the last episode. It turns out, the original founder of Greendale built a secret lab where he worked on a machine that could understand emotions. The machine’s circuitry happened to be made with gold. So, in a last-ditch effort to save Greendale from being bought out by Subway, a great search begins.

Things really pick up when the gang finds a secret tunnel underneath the teacher’s lounge. This is when the episode begins to pull from Community‘s meta bag of tricks. Abed, in an attempt to calm Annie down after she learns Britta and Jeff are getting married, describes their relationship as a terrible spinoff show, and Greendale as the main show it originated from. Of course, what he’s really saying is that the writers have more stories to tell, and they’re not ready to go away yet. This statement carries a lot of weight, especially since Community‘s fate is still up in the air.

The scene that really packed a punch, however, arrived when Jeff tries to jumpstart the machine by feeding it a surge of emotion. As he puts on the sensor helmet, he looks around at each of his friends and is reminded just how much he cares for them. Last week Jeff fought off the idea that he was going to miss the school if it was sold, but it looks like that was all a ruse. Community‘s best trait has always been the great group of characters at its center. Through all the wacky antics and high-concept plots, it’s really their bond that keeps me coming back week after week.

That being said, this episode also featured some top-notch humor. Duncan and Hickey’s interaction about the map of the school looking like a penis was hilarious, as was Duncan’s electrocution. The shush-off in the secret tunnel was a great bit of back-and-forth between the group, and Hickey and Shirley’s interrogation where Richie the school board member flies into Hickey’s mind was a great bit of absurdity. I especially enjoyed Abed calling out Annie for doing a “kiss lean.” Even Chang, who’s been pretty hit-or-miss this season, was in his best form. His diamond-toothed smile at the end was perfect. By the time we got to the credits tag, which was basically Dan Harmon giving a big middle finger to NBC, I was in stitches.

(Quick Aside: Did anyone else find the founder of the school to be slightly terrifying, or was it just me? Those nails were disgusting. End of Aside.)

Overall, this was a highly entertaining episode and a wonderful way to end the season. I don’t think it functioned as well as a possible series finale–save for Abed’s brilliant throwaway line about how they’ll be back unless “an asteroid as destroyed human civilization”–but I’m willing to chalk that up to the show being optimistic about its return. I certainly hope it returns as well. After a season like this, I’m ready for six seasons and a movie. Grade: A-


By Mike Papirmeister

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