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‘Community’ Review: “Basic Story”

Community Basic Story
NBC

Tonight’s all-new episode of ‘Community‘ brings lots of worry to Greendale Community College, as the Save Greendale Committee finishes its work just in time for an insurance appraiser to show up — and while most of the gang is dealing with keeping the appraisal from becoming the story to end all of their stories, Abed is sent into an existential crisis. And that’s just the beginning of their trouble, and maybe the end of Greendale.

I’m still not entirely sure I’m sold on “Basic Story,” which is a pretty bummer episode that starts divided in two halves: there’s the straight sitcom plot with the gang keeping up appearances and getting into some mild shenanigans as they deal with the insurance appraiser, who’s come to decide whether Greendale is an asset or a liability. Then there’s the wacky and weird ‘Community,’ all reduced down to Abed, who’s been told by Jeff that this appraisal business doesn’t need to become a story because if it does, it will end all of their stories at Greendale forever — this sends Abed into an existential downward spiral, as he comes to realize that there’s no escaping stories because each life is itself a story, and the lives you interact with create more stories, and the things we experience each day are part of stories, and so on and so forth; and all of this is the fabric of one large story. I would have liked to see this expanded instead of used as a silly minor B-plot to keep Abed busy for the episode’s first half.

And then the episode shifts when the appraiser deems the property an asset and the schoolboard starts courting corporate buyers, eventually settling on Subway, which is turning the property into Subway College. “Basic Story” then sort of becomes two episodes in one, which is strange since it’s setting up a two-parter already. And for all that’s going on, it’s sadly devoid of much humor. I get it — it’s a downer of an episode, with Annie herself even desperately mentioning how they should rally support on the internet so people know that the college is worth saving, seeming to reflect the way ‘Community’ itself is forever teetering on the precipice of being canceled, always saved at the last minute … but can Greendale be saved at the last minute, too?

Perhaps, if the scroll Dean Pelton, Annie, and Abed found is to be believed and there is buried treasure somewhere hidden underneath the school. It’s one of the show’s brighter moments, watching the three of them dance around and shout like goons about the treasure which will save their school — but they’re really celebrating the idea of never having to really evolve, of never having to move forward or push themselves beyond the forgiving and cushy limits of Greendale and its basic standards.

As much as I can agree with Jeff and Britta wanting to move on and really start their adult lives, I don’t want them to because then there’s no show — or no story, rather. And I’m glad Abed and Annie and Dean Pelton busted in on Jeff and Britta because really? Jeff and Britta getting married is just about the worst idea since Britta and Troy hooking up or Changnesia. But as a segue for the big buried treasure declaration and the juxtaposition of where Jeff and Britta are versus where the rest of the gang wants to be, it was cleverly done.

I just wish the rest of the episode clicked as much as that moment, and for an episode that should feel so meaningful, it just didn’t always work — at least not until the end. But hey, we’ll always have Dave Matthews.

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