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Dear Dan Harmon: Thanks for coming back and making Community once again the show we know and love! Sincerely, The Fans
After last week’s great double header, “Basic Intergluteal Numismatics” is the first quasi-high concept episode of the year, with Annie and Jeff teaming up to stop the Ass Crack Bandit. While the episode might not have fully committed to being a completely high concept offering (a la season three’s Law and Order send-up “Basic Lupine Urology,” among others), it still offers a pretty darn awesome send up of a David Fincher-esque thriller.
So much of what went right in this episode fully highlights all that went wrong last year (as much as it pains me to keep harping on last season, it’s hard not to in light of how well things are going again this season- the juxtaposition of the two is pretty amazing to see). The half hour was tightly constructed, with plenty of laughs, meta commentary, the return of a beloved supporting character, and the heartbreaking (much to my surprise) death of a less beloved character.
Apparently, a year ago, someone was going around Greendale dropping quarters into unsuspecting individuals’ ass cracks (another thing that we “missed” in last year’s lost season). After a year of lying dormant, the so-called Ass Crack Bandit (as he – or she – was dubbed by Greendale’s three (!?!) student newspapers) returns to once again terrorize the school (while offering up notes a la the Zodiac killer – albeit very poorly written ones). Once poor Troy is distracted by a teddy bear and attacked, the group kicks into high gear solving the crime. Or, I should say, Annie and Jeff team up to solve the crime while the others circle around them in various supporting roles.
Given a purpose and a strong storyline, Alison Brie again proves that Annie can be a compelling and interesting character. Pairing Annie with Jeff, and having everyone FINALLY start calling them out on their constant desire to pair off for sexual tension filled adventures (a good use of the meta storytelling Harmon loves to use), is a great choice. The characters play so well off each other (even when they don’t resolve the obvious sexual tension, which is now, as the Dean pointed out, verboten due to Jeff’s position as a professor) that it is great to see them working side by side once more.
When the case is seemingly solved (with the requisite blaming of a red herring while the true criminal runs free), it gives us the return of Sideburns, who has been living in the Greendale stables (“We have stables?!?”) all this time. Welcome back, Starburns! But, he’s made a deal with the Dean to take the blame in order to protect the real criminal: a teacher. With this realization, Annie and Jeff take off to catch the real Ass Crack Bandit, and appear to have cornered him (or her) at the “We Caught the Ass Crack Bandit Party.” Just as they close in, Shirley appears in front of them with some incredibly sad news: Pierce has died. And with that, the search for the Ass Crack Bandit (and the rollicking fun) screech to a halt.
What makes Community a great show isn’t that it’s funny (although, its wit and intelligence are certainly necessary ingredients). It’s that the show has an incredible amount of heart. That was the key ingredient missing in season four. “Basic Intergluteal Numismatics” gives us the fun and witty banter we’ve come to expect from the show, but it also displays the show’s heart with the death of Pierce.
I was never a huge fan of the Pierce character, and I felt the show didn’t really know what to do with him in the later seasons. I wasn’t disappointed when Chevy Chase left the series, and I love that Jonathan Banks has stepped into the position Chase held with the cast. But I’ll be damned if hearing Pierce was dead didn’t hit me in the gut. For all the trouble the character was, he was a crucial part of the group’s identity. Seeing their pain over his loss (even when knowing the whole Chevy Chase drama behind the scenes) is a poignant send-off for Pierce. RIP Pierce. You will (surprisingly) be missed.
— This episode is choc full of great Dean zingers. Please keep integrating the Dean into these episodes, writing team. He’s such an asset.
— I’m guessing Jeff’ goal of turning Greendale into a formidable academic institution isn’t going so well, seeing as the Ass Crack Bandit could barely string two sentences together (even if they were Dave lyrics).
— Considering Donald Glover only has two more episodes left as Troy, I am a bit disappointed that he didn’t get more to do. Although, “Troy’s Law” is pretty funny.
— I love having John Oliver back. And I love that he mistook Hickey for Pierce even more.
— Question: How did Shirley get her sandwich shop back? I’m glad she did, but just confused as to how.
— Finally, I love the Ass Crack Bandit song. And the appearance by Ben Folds. Just great all around.