Community Episode Review: “Basic Crisis Room Decorum”

Greendale is kind of a joke of a school. We love it because it’s the setting of our show and because its insanity is so much fun to watch, but if you were actually interested in getting an education, you’d never want to enroll there. As Community has progressed and varied up its cast so much, the show has become just as much about Greendale as it is about any of these people, and “Basic Crisis Room Decorum” forces our characters to confront the question: what if Greendale really is an even bigger waste of time than we thought? What if even a dog can get a degree here?

The episode’s conflict largely revolves around the gang learning of an attack ad City College is planning to run in the morning, revealing that Greendale once gave a degree to a dog. Everyone deals with this information differently as they want to help Greendale get out of this PR nightmare. Jeff isn’t too concerned with the truth, using his lawyer know-how for good (?) and suggesting they say Ruffles the dog is not a credible source. Annie, meanwhile, is in denial that Greendale could be that big of a joke and embarks on a mission to get the truth.

She’s pretty heartbroken when she discovers Ruffles the dog really was a student at Greendale with a full, pretty complex transcript. And though he didn’t graduate because of a technicality, it doesn’t matter. Annie, a passionate student who truly cares about her work, is forced to confront the idea that Greendale might be a complete waste of her time and that her grades might mean absolutely nothing. She has a point. Just like in a haunted house movie where we ask ourselves “why wouldn’t they just leave the house?” throughout Community we often have to ask ourselves, “why wouldn’t they just leave Greendale?”

The end of the episode provides as close to an answer as Annie is going to get for now. To paraphrase Jeff in an earlier episode, Greendale may be a toilet, but it’s our toilet. There’s something charming about a place like this and, even in spite of all its flaws and weird quirks, it has truly become these characters’ home. And as silly as it may be, you have to defend your home. The Dean’s commercial at the end of this episode admits that Greendale needs to get it together, but they’re working on it, and after all, Greendale is a place to work on yourself. That’s really what it has been for all these people. Academically, maybe nobody is really getting much out of their classes, but they have all grown tremendously since they’ve been enrolled at Greendale, like a really strange version of purgatory where they can grow, change, and figure out who they want to be.

Aside from all that though, “Basic Crisis Room Decorum” is a pretty hilarious episode, and Paget Brewster and Keith David are integrating into the cast pretty well. I love the way Brewster’s Frankie plays off Annie, making clear how the two are different despite both being extremely high strung and committed to the tasks at hand. Here Annie is more emotional and idealistic, whereas Frankie is practical and straight to the point. Elroy doesn’t have quite as much to do, except offer an older perspective now that Pierce is gone. But it’s only the third episode, so hopefully we’ll see a bit more of him soon.

The episode also gives us a great sense of these people working as a team, even though none of them are taking classes together. The whole episode comes together as Annie calls an emergency meeting, and there’s a great sense of camaraderie as these people are actively coming together to accomplish something. They initially came together just out of a practical need to study for Spanish.

Overall “Basic Crisis Room Decorum” is pretty low key and not exactly spectacular paintball-styleCommunity, but it’s still an excellent episode. It’s funny, has a great sense of the characters, and reminds us of the heart and soul of Greendale, a place that’s falling apart and really needs to get it together, but is still a loving, accepting place to grow, change, and find yourself.

Other highlights:

-This episode has some incredible revelations in the Jeff/Dean storyline, where we find out the Dean has been texting with a kid from Tokyo pretending to be Jeff. This explains so much about the Dean’s relationship towards Jeff, thinking Jeff turns him down in person but then being flirty over text. And the Dean bringing Jeff olives and thinking he knows what’s happening is maybe the highlight of the season so far.
-Dan Harmon has always admitted that he struggles to figure out what to do with Chang, but I kind of love where he is this season: just doing his own completely insane thing, in this episode leaving for some reason to make a porno at City College. I can’t see how this series can end without Chang in a mental institution at this point.
-Britta’s “could a drunk person do this” totally reminded me of her pizza dance from Season 3. I love whenever they play off of Gillian Jacob’s ability to pull off weird, dumb physical comedy like this.
-Dean and Chang are really excited about the idea of a cookie room.
-We also see the brief appearance of some of the show’s side characters like Vicki attempting desperately to be featured in the show. “We’ll be lucky to get in three words before—” Considering how last week ended, it seems like this season will have an ongoing theme of the background characters attempting to break into the main storyline. Maybe that will come back in the paintball episode? Am I sensing some sort of alliance forming?

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