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Maybe it’s residual sadness over the departure of Donald Glover’s Troy, but this week’s installment of Community didn’t seem to be on the right track. Sure, there was plenty going on, but the episode felt over stuffed. Perhaps the writers thought that if they threw enough guest stars and storylines at us, we wouldn’t dwell on the fact that the study group is missing two of its original members. Whatever the reason, “Analysis of Cork-Based Networking” is the series’s weakest outing of the season.
This is the first episode of the season to truly have several storylines competing for screen time. Couple that with several notable guest stars (Nathan Fillion, Paget Brewster, and Robert Patrick who are all wasted in their small roles in the Annie and Buzz/Mike from Breaking Bad A-story), and there is just way to much going on to really give the stories enough time to breathe and develop. And it’s particularly disappointing, as I feel that the Annie/Buzz and Britta/Abed storylines would have been enough on their own to carry the episode. The C-storyline, about decorating for the dance, is the biggest miss of the episode, as it once again shows the inability of the series to make Chang at all likeable. Sure, he appears to have made a clear mistake in his choice of decorations, but with Chang’s past, the audience is always going to be second guessing his motives (perhaps even more so than the study group).
I did enjoy the Annie/Buzz storyline, although it was mostly due to the excellent work by both Alison Brie and Jonathan Banks. I’m also quickly becoming a big fan of the Buzz character, as Harmon and Co. continue peeling back the layers on the character in way the series has never done with a recurring character before. The clippings on the bulletin board in his office hint that Buzz’s police career came to an end over a case he was unable to let go of- an interesting discovery considering how selfish and flippant the study group can so often be. Buzz’s decision to hang the bulletin board in the cafeteria at the end of the episode indicates that perhaps that caring cop is still under the gruff exterior that now dominates Buzz’s outward persona. I hope we get a chance to continue learning what makes Buzz tick.
I also liked aspects of the Britta/Abed storyline. As someone who has (inadvertently, I swear) spoiled Game of Thrones for a non-book reader or two (seriously, when people ask you to tell them what is going to happen, and then freak out when you do, it’s not your fault!), I totally can relate to the give and take between Britta and Abed. But what really makes this storyline work for me were the two clear callbacks to seasons past (including season four and the great gas leak). First, Britta accurately comments that occasionally Abed will have an “intense burst of emotion for a girl” and then we’ll never see her again. And, layering onto the joke, Abed finds one of his past objects of emotional attachment (the coat check girl from the gas leak season of 2013), and rekindles their romantic spark. Considering Abed has lost his bromance, I’m glad to see him finding some level of companionship- even though we are not likely to see coat check girl again (at least until season six, if we’re going on Abed’s past track record).
For as much as Community hyped the appearance of Fillion (and, to a lesser extent, Brewster and Patrick), it was pretty disappointing to see them only have a handful of lines. I’m all for a quick cameo appearance, but not when it has been announced and pimped on Twitter for weeks. This week was a bit of a letdown. But, I guess they can’t all be home runs.
— It was pretty funny to watch Abed’s (rather quick) mastery of sign language.
— I loved the two very different interpretations of what Labyrinth is about. And, bonus points to the episode for excellent use of the Dean.
— As a big Sorkin fan, hearing “This just got Sorkin-y” from the Dean was also lovely. And incredibly apt.
— I haven’t mentioned the episode end tags much this season, but this one was awesome. Why am I not at all surprised that bombers can be scrambled via the professor “office supply hotline”?