A lot of the process of growing up has to do with balancing the desire to change one’s environment and surroundings and accepting that environment for what it is, flaws and all. In season 5 of Community, the study group turned its attention to “saving Greendale;” that is, taking a school that is academically broken but welcoming of its students, warts and all, and making it an acceptable collegiate institution.
The new season of Community, meanwhile, is going a step further and unpacking that idea of change to its logical conclusion: How willing are we prepared to change beyond the superficial? It’s easy to put a cork board in a cafeteria, exorcise a ghost from campus grounds, or take a job you never thought you’d take, but, you realize you need a metamorphosis of your very essence, that’s a bit more difficult. Community has taken on as its mission statement to watch the cast of misfits move beyond their failings and self-sabotage. Now, it’s turning its eye on Greendale Community College itself.
One such hard truth that the faculty and staff have to contend with in “Basic Crisis Room Decorum” is what the worth of a Greendale degree actually is. If the season premiere of season six was all about how much Greendale can change and still be Greendale, this episode flips it and examines how free and loose the school can play with its courses and awarding credits and still be able to call itself a school. Jeff, Annie, and the crew come face-to-face with this stark reality when Annie gets a late-night tip that City College, Greendale’s community college rival, plans on running TV ad smearing Greendale for awarding a degree to a dog. With only a few hours to put out this potentially damaging fire, Annie and Frankie, Greendale’s new administrative consultant, assemble the Save Greendale committee for a last-ditch effort at stopping City College’s slander.
How best to put out that fire, however, leads to heated disagreement within the group. While Jeff wants to argue his way around the situation and use smoke and mirrors to distract from the question whether or not a dog was granted a degree, Annie wants to find out if it’s actually true and if there’s any evidence that it happened. Meanwhile, Abed is creating a counter-attack ad to question both the veracity of City College’s claims and the trustworthiness of City College itself.
The debate as to what to do about degreed dog situation is a microcosm of what the characters should do with Greendale and, ultimately, themselves. Should they continue to superficially wash away the grime on the campus’ veneer, ignoring the fundamentally problems at the school’s core? Or should they dig deep, admit what Greendale is, and use that acknowledgment to move forward? On one end of the spectrum, you have Jeff who just wants to put the matter to bed and move on, while Annie, at the opposite end, cares about what the school actually is at its core.
This is where, as with the previous episodes, the addition of the character of Frankie adds a nice dimension to the proceedings, who falls somewhere in the middle of Jeff and Annie’s respective approaches. Whereas earlier in “Basic Crisis Room Decorum” Annie and Frankie seemed to be bonding over their shared love of efficiency, Frankie’s pragmatism concerning the dog dilemma shows Annie the dangers of taking that efficiency too far.
A surprisingly poignant side-story involves the Dean inadvertently carrying on a texting relationship with two Japanese teenage boys, whom the Dean mistakenly thinks is Jeff. The back-and-forth leads to some pretty chucklelicous throwaway gags involving olives, but takes a more serious at the end of the episode, when one of the teenagers and his father argue over the international texting bill the boy has racked up. An argument ensues discussing the nature of compromise and reduction of self in that compromise which, while it could be played just for the guffaws, mirrors the focus of the episode’s main story perfectly.
“Basic Crisis Room Decorum” once again examines Community’s ongoing theme of self-reinvention, but takes a mature look at the stark reality of what reinvention actually entails, suggesting that it’s not always as easy as disproving whether or not a dog was accidentally awarded a college diploma.
- This is Community‘s 100th episode! They made it, kids! Congratulations to Dan Harmon and the whole cast and crew. Seriously, bravo, folks. The official Twitter page for the show is encouraging users to tweet #Community100 while they watch.
- It’s actually pretty fitting that this 100th episode highlights Greendale’s transformation, as that’s been such a underlying focus of the series.
- Britta takes her lumps on the show, but this episode might highlight her biggest indignity. Poor Britta.
- “Victory! You know, victory in the context of Greendale.”
- “I found the smell. Someone found a taco.” “’Things That Will Otherwise Get Filed Straight to My Things.’”
- I want to see more of Britta and Elroy sharing their love of music. And more of that drunken Britta music video.
- Of course the Dean would have a picture of Jeff on his nightstand.
- “We serve Video, our one true queen, and her consort, Audio.”