Community: “Basic Sandwich” (5.13) – TV Recap

By Jordan Ferguson


Community: Season 5 Episode 13 “Basic Sandwich”

April 17, 2014, 8:00 p.m. (EST), NBC

Last week, Community dealt with the possibility of its own ending, the chance that the story of Greendale and its occupants was about to come to an end, even if none of us, and none of the characters, were ready for that to be the case. “Basic Sandwich” is almost the exact opposite of that. Where “Basic Story” dared to challenge the ending of this series, “Basic Sandwich” feels comfortable turning in a standard episode. Should this be the end of Community (and “Basic Sandwich” seems sure it will not), it would be an end that completely rejected the importance of endings, and that rejected the idea that this should be taken seriously at all. It would be an ending that asked whether we might prefer an indefinite continuation. It would be an ending that admitted its own fear of the narrative ever coming to a close.

The episode doesn’t fail entirely, nor is it completely unsatisfying. It just pales in comparison to Dan Harmon’s “Introduction to Finality,” or even to last week’s superior queries into the nature of an ending. Instead, it mostly features Jeff vaguely expressing love for his friends (and maybe especially for Annie), and Chris Elliott being Chris Elliott, which is usually fun, but feels just a bit anti-climactic here.

Look, all of this is probably a bit of a joke. When Dan Harmon wrote his last finale, it was a potential end to the show. And so is this. Yet, in all likelihood, Community will ride another day. The show will probably get one more season on NBC, and “Basic Sandwich” feels a little bit sure of that fact, as if it understands how slim the chances of it running for five seasons are, and sees this as a chance to point out that, yeah, it might run one further. I love Community, and I love its meta-commentary, but this episode didn’t register with me the way it might have, and definitely didn’t compare to its predecessor by any stretch.

Season five has been incredibly consistent, over all. It has improved immeasurably on the Harmon-less season four, and it has also, probably, beat out Harmon’s final season as show-runner. But it has also proved to be a potent example of a very good sitcom moving past its prime. It isn’t simply the loss of Chevy Chase and Donald Glover, nor the near total shift in premise that has made this show clearly past its Golden Age. It is a feeling that there are limited stories that can be told here, no matter how far its premise is stretched, and that we are nearing the end of this show’s potential. This is not a phenomenon that is reserved for this show alone (in fact, I have felt it far more so in regards to Parks and Rec over the last season or so); it is just what happens when a show has run for this long, and especially when it has run for longer than it ever seemed likely to run.

If “Basic Story” asked us why Greendale should still exist, and why we should care about these characters and their journeys, “Basic Sandwich” comes up with virtually no answer, and definitely not a satisfying one. Why, ultimately, should Greendale continue to exist? Because we like it, and on television, that’s supposed to be enough. It will be enough, should this show be renewed. But it doesn’t feel like a conclusion so much as it feels like a challenge to NBC to cancel the show here, at perhaps its least satisfying conclusion point (except, of course, last year’s abysmal “Advanced Introduction to Finality,” which, shudder).

It is possible to read this story, about a man who left the world behind, and the computer he is constantly trying to make feel human emotions, as a metaphor for this show as a whole. The students of Greendale have pulled themselves away from any recognizable version of the real world, and are trying constantly to make the progress, to feel the emotions, they would need to succeed in the real world. They are ones and zeros in a world that begs them to accept gray areas, and maybe the best solution is to hide away underground, at Greendale, a place that likes them for whatever they are.

I have been a fan of Jeff and Annie since the first episode this pairing and its potential was introduced, yet the way “Basic Sandwich” tried to force a Britta-Jeff-Annie love triangle didn’t work even remotely. The show acknowledged Jeff and Britta’s desperate need for meaning, and their hope they could find it in each other, last week, but this episode tried to remind us that Jeff and Annie have a true connection, and ultimately, it felt forced rather than genuine. I love these two, but I cannot shake the feeling that “Basic Sandwich” was leaning on our previous affection for its emotional climax.

I can be hard on “Basic Sandwich,” and I will be, a bit. But this is a better, funnier episode, at the end of a better, funnier season, than we have any right to expect. Of course this show feels like it is past its prime. This is season five. We know what Community is doing, and we know what it is capable of. Yet after the mess that was the Harmon-less season four, this season has shown us that there is still life in this show yet, that it, like its characters, might deserve a second chance. “Basic Sandwich” pretends that we haven’t reached the end quite yet. And after this season, I mostly hope its right.

The Roundup

  • -“It was a weird time. The bionic woman won an Emmy.”
  • -“We’re like the goonies. Except our story tracks logically…
  • -“What the hell does your penis look like?” “Obviously a big cluster of buildings. So let’s all have a laugh at the freak!”
  • -“Look at the bottle held by the school’s first, and least acceptable, mascot: Big Chief Drunkie.”
  • -“What does this look like, an hour long episode of The Office? There’s pick-axing and electrical zapping!”
  • -“This is Richie and Carl from the School Board. That’s right, we got names!”
  • -“Abed, stop developing!”
  • -“I’m gonna pull off some Band-Aids here: Dennis Hopper is dead. TV shows give no time for theme songs anymore. And Woody Allen did the voice of a cartoon ant.”
  • -“You’re going to find a hang-glider down there. This much I know!”
  • -“That’s an emoticon. That person wants to convey happiness, but they can’t do it with language, so they misuse punctuation to create a smile.”
  • -“M’lady.” “M’lord.”
  • -“Yeah? Well around here, we call that Wednesday!”
  • -“Yeah. We’ll definitely be back next year. If not, it’ll be because an asteroid destroyed all of human civilization.”
72/100 ~ GOOD. Where “Basic Story” dared to challenge the ending of this series, “Basic Sandwich” feels comfortable turning in a standard episode.
Jordan Ferguson is a lifelong pop culture fan, and would probably never leave his couch if he could get away with it. When he isn’t wasting time “studying the law” at the University of Michigan, he writes about film, television, and music. In addition to writing for Next Projection, he is the Editor-in-Chief of Review To Be Named, a homemade haven for pop-culture obsessives. Check out more of his work at , follow him on twitter @bobchanning, or just yell really loudly on the street. Don’t worry, he’ll hear.