‘Community’ Review: “Basic Lupine Urology”
'Community' is currently on a hot streak, and this week's riff on 'Law & Order' continues that streak with a procedural episode that -- like "Pillows and Blankets" -- relies on dead-pan delivery with a wry sense of humor to stick the landing.
The last several weeks have given us thoughtful episodes filled with meta-commentary, but this week finds Harmon and Co. loosening their ties and giving us a fun episode with "Basic Lupine Urology," a largely procedural send-up of 'Law & Order' that nails both the look and tone of that long-running series.
In the biology lab Annie and Jeff find their yam for their project has been smashed on the ground. Annie is convinced that if they can find the culprit, the professor will still give them an A. Shirley, having watched too many episodes of 'Law & Order' when bored, organizes the gang into an investigative team, sending Troy and Abed off to interview suspects. The pair don suits and ties (with Glover wearing a Spider-Man tie in a clever nod to last year's fan push for Glover to play Spidey in the new film) and their soberest attitudes to play detective.
Detectives Troy and Abed interview a variety of supporting characters including Neil, Magnitude, Starburns, and Todd, the library assistant. Pierce is relegated to supporting status this week, interrogated in one scene only to disappear and never return. Starburns admits that he was in the lab, but only to swipe beakers for the meth lab he's building in the trunk of his car, while everyone else maintains that they were nowhere near the lab or they tried to get in and couldn't.
Todd, a military vet, turns out to be the most likely culprit. His uncle, played by the amazing Michael Ironside (!), comes to defend him in a mock trial set up by the biology professor, played by the always fantastic Michael Kenneth Williams ('The Wire'). Although it would be nice to have Williams on more frequently, it seems as though he's most effective when used sparingly. Still, scenes become automatically more compelling every time he's around.
One of the most spot-on scenes involves a meeting with a coroner, in which Troy and Abed lament (and are nauseated by) the death of the yam just as it was beginning to bloom. The scene is played almost entirely straight, but litte touches like Troy's dry-heaving push it into the realm of comedy just far enough.
With material like this, it's best to play things melodramatic, and the cast matches 'Law & Order' beat for beat on dramatic witness interrogations and courtroom banter.
In another change of pace, this week Jeff teaches Annie something -- that winning and crushing someone else isn't everything and that being fair and honest is more important. Jeff doesn't believe that Todd is really guilty and he uncovers the real culprit: Neil had been watering the yams with boiling water so his girlfriend wouldn't be the only one failing the class. It's also great to see Jeff back in lawyer mode, reminding us of how 'Community' began -- with Jeff's disbarment and subsequent enrollment in Greendale to regain his credentials.
There have been several high concept, gimmicky episodes this season, but Harmon and his team of writers do incredible work elevating these concepts and approaching them in refreshing ways. The word "gimmick" insinuates that something is cheap and that it will rely on a singular concept to coast by -- not so with 'Community,' which proves week after week that it can take a singular gimmick and make something more meaningful. "Basic Lupine Urology" isn't particularly meaningful, but it runs with the concept and executes it with near-perfect hilarity.
News broke this week that someone on 'Community' would die, and die they did. Starburns dies a tragic off-screen death when the meth lab in the trunk of his car explodes. Rest in peace, Starburns. Hopefully you aren't gone for good.
In the opening credits text reads: "His last words were 'pop-pop.'"
"That doesn't make sense. You don't order ketchup, it's a condiment!"
"We named the yam Pam. It rhymed."
" Nothing you say or do can be held against you by anyone, but we'd really like if you would come with us please and thank you."
"No! You zip it, Uncle Knobby, I'm not fighting your wars anymore!"
"Boiling water is the icicle stabbing of yam killing."