After a steady start in its Yahoo residency, this week’s Community fell short with “Basic Crisis Room Decorum.” Going nowhere tends to be a running theme in the series, but in this case the wacky antics and generally pleasing subplots were snuffed out by needless relationship building and character analysis. Two things that were already heavily worked on in the flagship episodes. Taking place primarily in the library meeting room, “Basic Crises Room Decorum” is an episode that could be easily skipped by even the most dedicated viewer.
After a hot tip from a friend turns out to be upsettingly true, Annie wakes the troops in the middle of the night to go on the offensive before a scathing commercial about Greendale is aired. Frankie, now a series regular, is her first alarm sounded. After some split screen texting action, Frankie lets the Dean in on the problem who then texts Jeff and Annie. Turns out, the Dean has been texting with a teenage boy in Japan who pretends to be his beloved “Jeffery” on a daily basis. The group eventually meets up at Greendale (Chang in tow) and they get to work on diffusing the situation; City College is claiming Greendale gave a dog a diploma. Shock and disappointment fills the air, and as the Dean takes a step back from the question “Did we really give a dog a diploma?” the gang does their best to discredit the claim while holding onto their integrity. Britta shows up at one point, drunk and Britta-like, only to soil herself moments later. Chang suggests making a dirty porno at City College to smear them with, and after a “Jeff’s not listening approval” he runs off to do so.
What would normally be fun situational humor (i.e. the Dean’s hapless crush on Jeff going awry once again) turns into a tired joke early in the episode. Jeff’s character has significantly changed from his early persona as the Greendale bad boy; instead, he’s chained to the Greendale name as they “sign his paychecks”. Realistically, there’s no fight left in him; Greendale has won. The whole point of his attending the college in the first place has been replaced with a career, leaving him a neutered dog who still humps things out of habit. Annie it seems has also lost her oomph. The friendship that is budding between her and Frankie came very quickly, shoehorning Frankie into Shirley’s old role of the mother hen of the group. Where Frankie came in strong in the initial episodes, she’s now engaging in shenanigans that she should have at least held out from until episode six or seven.
Realistically the episode should have worked. It had all the factors in its favor. A dog went to attendance based classes for years, earning a bachelor’s degree in the process. The Dean is being tricked into thinking Jeff wants him to bring his least favorite food by the Japanese teenager who assures him that though they text like best friends, he will continue to treat the Dean normally in person. Abed works with basic TV tropes, and Annie is doing what Annie does best—cleaning up after everyone’s mess. Instead, it all clashed in an unfortunate jumble. There wasn’t enough fleshing out of any one sub plot to hold on to.
The best part of the episode came when Britta sat with other new comer Elroy and they listened to “Natalie is Freezing” together while she sobered up. He lent her a pair of his pants after catching her wandering around Greendale pantsless. They bond over the fictional 90s girl rock, and she imagines herself in an elaborate music video singing her favorite song like a pro. Elroy quickly ends the moment as he’s stuck actually listening to her in the real world. It’s very much a Community moment. Towards the end of the episode after we get our resolution and everyone is happy again, Chang returns with a video of him masturbating at City College wearing a Greendale shirt. Hilarity should have ensued. The episode ends with a Yakuza joke that could have landed better, but after the subpar jokes that littered the rest of the episode it warrants nothing more than a chuckle or nod.
Before even starting the episode I read the quick breakdown Yahoo provides next to the Community video screen. “The group has to go on the offensive against a claim that Greendale graduated a dog; Abed creates an attack ad discounting the dog; Britta, after pooping her pants, connects with Elroy over the band ‘Natalie is Freezing;’ Chang shoots a single person porn.” That description is literally the whole episode. Save yourself twenty-five minutes, go breathe some fresh air, and try again next week.