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Community: Basic Intergluteal Numismatics

“I am the Britta of change. I am the filler of cracks.”

Greendale is being terrorised by the fearsome Ass-Crack Bandit, but not to worry: the crack psychological team of Britta and Duncan and the crack something-possibly-creepy team of Annie and Jeff are on the case. Abed mostly stays out of it because there are too many autistic detectives on TV these days.

One of my favourite episodes of season 3 of Community was the Law & Order spoof. I’ve only ever seen an episode or two of that show, but it’s been around so long, and is so much part of TV history, that I got most of the gags and followed it with no trouble. I also enjoyed 'Advanced Documentary Film-making' and 'Pillows and Blankets' despite not having seen the specific documentaries they were inspired by, and I love several of Community’s less specific homages, especially 'Epidemiology' (though I’ve seen very few zombie movies) and A Fistful of Paintballs' (ditto Westerns).

The strange thing about Community’s latest homage is that I spent the whole thing thinking that maybe I hadn’t seen whatever it was parodying – in fact, I spent the whole episode thinking it was a parody of Homeland, possibly based on the press conference scenes. I’ve never seen Homeland (I keep meaning to watch it) so I spent the entire episode thinking I just wasn’t getting it because I had no frame of reference for the gags. Nosing around The Internet afterwards, it seems that, in fact, this was one of the show’s more general parodies. So I guess either I don’t watch anything at all of the genre under scrutiny, or I just didn’t really get it. Or… it wasn’t that funny. Maybe I’m just not that amused by people talking about butts?

I don’t really mind though, because I’m still just so happy that Community is back, really back. The characters feel like the characters of seasons 1-3 (or better, 1-2), the world of Greendale is crazy but not too crazy (I notice the Dean has been wearing a suit all season) and the Dean is still holding far too many dances in one year and trying to get Jeff to help him coach water polo. While I felt a bit at sea with the parody, this episode was a veritable smorgasbord of continuity nods, including appearances from Neil, Garrett and Vickie (who could easily be doing part-time degrees, explaining why they haven’t graduated) alongside Leonard (who’s had a lot to do this season – I sort of wish he’d replaced Pierce, as Hickey doesn’t interest me much so far) and best of all, the long-disappeared Duncan and believed-dead-by-everyone Starburns. Building on the show’s established history by incorporating Starburns’ faked death into the plot was a lovely touch.

Another recurring theme in legal or politics-based episodes is Jeff and Annie working together and, as the Dean points out, using the excuse to hang out and be cute together. I like both Jeff/Britta and Jeff/Annie as pairings, with maybe a tiny leaning towards the latter, so I liked seeing their relationship addressed again. It did seem a bit of a shame that nothing really happened or changed though – after so much lampshade-hanging, I’d thought they were actually heading somewhere with it this time.

The whole episode, due to the nature of the parody, has a very serious and dramatic tone. (I think all the butt jokes were supposed to lighten this, but I have to confess, people feeling traumatised because someone has forced something into a private place is… not funny to me. Chalk it up to my second serious sense of humour failure in a week). As it turned out, this was building up the revelation that Pierce has been killed off-screen. I think we all expected Pierce to be killed off when Chevy Chase left, and it was likely to be off-screen because that was the only way to do it without using a body double. When Chase actually appeared in the re-pilot I assumed that Pierce would live on after all, so his death here seems a bit anti-climactic – if, indeed, he is actually dead. No one sees a body and this is the same episode that brought back Starburns. So I shall reserve judgement until we see whether or not this comes up again. Whatever happens, at least he hasn’t been forgotten.

I didn’t laugh at this episode as much as I have in the past, but I quite liked it all the same. I always enjoy Jeff and Annie being cute/creepy together (and now that Jeff is a teacher there’s a real obstacle to their relationship beyond a general ickiness that becomes less and less convincing as Annie gets older and Alison Brie gets older still). I also enjoy a good, if unsolved, mystery and I’m a fool for a well-placed continuity nod. So I may not be bowled over, but I’m still happy.

Bits ‘n’ pieces

 - I enjoyed Starburns’ mad cat-car advert at the end, but I really want to see more of Leonard and his roommate reviewing food.

 - I guess the true identity of the Ass-Crack Bandit is left up to the viewer. Annie’s convinced it’s a teacher but I’m pretty sure s/he used the phrase ‘to Britta’ in their message, suggesting a member of the study group… maybe it’s Chang. If in doubt, it’s probably Chang. Or Annie’s Boobs.

 - I think my lukewarm feelings about this particular parody may stem from my disappointment that it wasn’t either a full-blown Sherlock parody featuring Abed, or a Star Trek parody. Come on Community, you know you want to do a proper Star Trek episode…


Abed: Why are there autistic detectives everywhere?

Jeff: I checked out Mrs Plimpton. Airtight alibi. She’s dead.

Dean: Let me be, like, the 50th person at this school to ask – what is this, huh? What is this creepy business?

Duncan: I use an older, British form of Facebook, called Monkscroll.

Not bad, still a good sign that the show is truly back on its feet. Two and a half out of four cat-cars.

Juliette Harrisson is a freelance writer, classicist and ancient historian who blogs about Greek and Roman Things in Stuff at Pop Classics.


  1. My issue with this episode was similar to yours, Juliette. I wasn't sure what it was they were meant to be parodying. At first, I thought it was CSI, but then it got a bit dark and dramatic. I, too, landed on Homeland,, but it wasn't quite dark and dramatic enough.

    While I love the idea of Jeff and Annie, this flirtation thing the writers occasionally bring out has run its course. The teacher/student thing vs. the age thing is a really good point. The writers need to keep that in mind...

  2. It was a spot-on parody of serial killer mysteries/dramas/thrillers specifically films like David Fincher's Se7en and Zodiac. Stuff like the fact that it's always raining, the cold lighting, the whole thing really. Brilliant!

  3. I've noticed a couple of reviews saying it's parodying David Fincher - it's weird, cause I actually HAVE seen Se7en and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (and did he randomly also do the Social Network?). But I didn't pick up on it - I must be having one of those days where things pass me by!

  4. I can't get over Abed's too many autistic detectives/what lazy writing spiel. I loved it so, so much. Dan Harmon isn't afraid to call shit out, even if calling that shit out implicates his parent company more than a bit (I'm thinking of Hannibal).

    Always impressed when a show goes the extra mile and makes a new credit sequence for a particular episode - that can be really expensive.

    Now that Pierce is dead, I'm fully expecting Chevy Chase to show up. Maybe they'll be at his funeral and Pierce will be there in a fake beard, he'll have faked his death. I don't know, I'm just not buying the fact that he's dead. Where they put it was weird and the Dean even mentioned Pierce's storied history of heart attack faking in his death announcement.

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  6. This episode had me cackling like a mad man the whole time. Absolutely hilarious. I actually had to pause it at one point and just lean over because I was laughing so much. This is one of the best episodes in my opinion,

    The parody of all of those thriller type movies with serial killers and the like was spot on. The scene with Garrett overlayed with creepy young boy voices singing, Jeff and Annie knocking over every single shelf in sight, the Dean doing the "trace the call" snap throughout the entire phone call, the dramatic "reveal" of the Bandit, only for it to spiral out of control with more and more possible characters. They had the false reveal with Duncan, only to have him "die", the scene where Jeff putts on the radio and it plays stereotypical serial killer tracking music only for it to end quickly, the music that just sounds like the music you'd hear in one of these movies but it all having to do with butts. And of course, the scene that cemented the fact that I'm gonna miss Troy, when he shakily stood up, slapped Starburns, and sat back down.

    The gag with Abed just walking out of the room after talking about all of the autistic detectives was great. So far I've been liking Abed this season. I suppose it's because they've brought him back down to earth a bit.

  7. The whole episode was so dark that at first I thought something was wrong with my TV. :-)

    I definitely agree with the idea that this is, in part, a Fincher parody--especially Zodiac. I would say it's a Hannibal parody, too. (Hannibal features a detective with magical TV autism, and is very gray.)

    Regardless, I think this was more about creating a mood than poking fun at one particular thing. And it was the right mood in which to experience the news of Pierce's death.

  8. I agree with just about everything you said, Juliette... although I think I laughed more than you did. However, my feeling is one of overwhelming relief that Community is back. I "recognized" it, if you know what I mean. So here's hoping we really do get #sixseasonsandamovie!

  9. Ok, maybe i'm not watching enough crime procedurals, but besides Monk, i don't know any autistic TV-detectives. Closest i can come up with are Sherlock and maybe Jonathan Creek.

    Other than that, i liked the episode.


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