Plot: When the notorious “Ass Crack Bandit” returns to cause havoc at Greendale, Jeff (Joel McHale) and Annie (Alison Brie) get on the case.
This was a weird episode, even by Community standards. While Community is certainly no stranger to playing off popular genres such as Westerns and Sci-Fi, they may have committed themselves too far in this one, going with the dark crime thriller motif. The only episode that was close to this was Season 3’s “Basic Lupine Urology,” which was basically a Law & Order parody. I couldn’t help but think how much better that episode was when watching this. While containing a few good one-liners, and the long awaited return from two popular characters, this one was a bit of a miss for me.
What I did love about this episode though was a return to Annie being a good character. Out of all the bad Season 4 did, Annie’s character got it the worst, reducing her to pretty much a ten year old. The partnership of her and Jeff trying to solve this crime was classic Community, including one of the greatest Dave Matthews Band jokes I’ve ever heard.
Unfortunately, the rest of the core cast was given absolutely nothing else to do. Shirely (Yvette Nicole Brown), Abed (Danny Pudi), and Britta (Gillian Jacobs) were a complete waste, and while Troy (Donald Glover) played a key role, his performance as the shattered victim of the Ass Crack Bandit didn’t work for me at all. Jonathan Banks has been a great addition to the show, but he was completely underutilized here as well. The Chang joke in this episode was also Season 4 level…just awful. As always though, Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) never ceases to amaze me. I’ve never not at least smiled whenever he pops up. I love Rash as this character, and the water polo one-liners were the funniest parts of the episode.
John Oliver returns as Professor Ian Duncan, who hasn’t been seen since the end of Season 2!? The excuse for his absence was…moderately funny. There’s another popular return I won’t spoil, and at first his appearance was underwhelming, but the tag at the end made it all worthwhile.
While not a bad episode, this one just didn’t carry the momentum from the premiere as much as I would have liked. I got some solid chuckles, and there was a really nice call back to one of my favorite Community episodes, “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons,” so I appreciated that. At the end of the day, they played this too much like a crime thriller, and forgot it was a comedy at times. While I enjoyed the Bandit phone calls and letters, the ending was completely and utterly confusing.
Rating: 6.5 out of 10 (Slightly Better than ‘meh’)