‘Community’ Review: “Basic Intergluteal Numismatics”
Tonight's all-new 'Community' is a 'Seven'-flavored send-up of crime mysteries when Greendale's Ass Crack Bandit strikes again and Jeff and Annie team up to solve the case. John Oliver makes his return as Professor Ian Duncan, and musician Ben Folds joins for a very special cameo in this delightful theme episode that continues to make us grateful that Dan Harmon has finally come back home.
I really hope that I'll eventually stop saying that, but it's hard not to keep acknowledging how lucky we are to have Harmon back at the helm of 'Community.' "Basic Intergluteal Numismastics" is the perfect blend of everything we love about the show: it's got humor and loads of heart adorned with loving and clever metatextual references to television and film. Tonight's episode evokes the work of David Fincher, particularly stuff like 'Seven' and 'Zodiac,' as a dormant prankster known as the Ass Crack Bandit comes back to Greendale to wreak havoc on the butts of unsuspecting students.
Obviously, Annie is taking things very seriously -- she's suspicious of the faculty, while Dean Pelton wants to find an easy scapegoat, like Starburns, who makes an amazingly hilarious return. (He's been hiding in the stables and trying to build a car out of cats.) While we get plenty of great laughs from the dean, there's also an awesome moment where he calls out the dynamic between Annie and Jeff, who seem to always pair off together for little adventures as an excuse to work out their weird romantic tension. It's a keenly self-aware and spot-on assessment, and though it's been addressed before, it feels like something only the dean or Abed can really address in such a specific manner at this point.
Jonathan Banks' Professor Hickey has taken up residence at the study group's table as the old man now that Pierce is gone, and though he only gets a couple of moments this week, they're solid ones. I think a little Banks can go a long way. I'm similarly a fan of the brief cameo from Ben Folds as what appears to be some sort of biology professor -- he's not a great actor, but it's a fun cameo and the scene built around his character and the joke at the end of the reveal are all executed with excellent pacing.
Of everything in tonight's episode, Troy might be my favorite, and maybe I'm a bit partial to Donald Glover since he's leaving us pretty soon, but his Ass Crack Bandit victim with PTSD schtick was beautifully dramatized with a great payoff.
Speaking of payoffs, the way this week's episode builds to its Fincheresque climax -- with Annie and Jeff on the cusp of solving the crime during a big student gathering, a couple of clever misdirects, and then the pair losing their bad guy at the last minute -- only to slide gracefully into Shirley announcing the death of Pierce was quite moving. It really highlights the way that this group exists in their own little Greendale microcosm filled with adventures (like these theme episodes) that distract them from the realities of everyday life, like old friends passing away. While they were busy trying to find a prankster who likes to shove quarters down butt cracks, their friend was off somewhere taking his last breath. Amid all the clever gags and moments of laughter, this show still finds time to have a huge, beating heart in the center of it all, and Dan Harmon balances it all so, so well.