COMMUNITY Season 6 Episode 6 Review, “Basic Email Security”
I knew it was coming. The prophecy foretold of an episode of Community that would come early in Season 6 and match the exploits of some of the show’s finest work. It almost came two weeks ago when the Dean came out and Chang tried to be the Karate Kid, but there was something just off about it that kept it from being an all-timer, landing instead among the incredible very-goodness of episodes like “Accounting for Lawyers.” But here the latest installment of The Secrets Revealed Saga (which Abed helpfully identified before I could do so in this review and seem really smart) manages to hit some emotional heights, deliver more than its fair share of laughs, and bows out before it can overstay its welcome. Though it is no Top Ten episode by any means, it was still a damn fine episode of television by any consideration.
What seems most important about Community at this junction of its life is that it’s really funny. Even when its plots don’t quite land the way they used to, I am still laughing consistently and heartily at each and every episode. Keith David in particular has been slaying this year, with Paget Brewster definitely carrying her share of the load in a much less showy role. I also notice just how much I’ve been laughing at Chang recently. When he burst into the cafeteria as the point of explosion for the email scandal, I was laughing myself goofy. Once the forgotten child of Greendale Community College (“Chang was out teacher.” “WHAT?!” “And I haven’t been properly utilized since!”) Chang—and by extension Ken Jeong—has become the show’s most reliable joke machine as of late. What keeps Community fresh and interesting as it transitions out of its best years and into the Home Stretch (however long that lasts) is that it is consistently spitting out episodes that are a B+ or above, and not the middling C+ episodes one often finds in a sitcom past its 100th episode. As long as we’re laughing, the show keeps working. And we’ll keep watching.*
*Apparently, everyone is watching. On a recent episode of his Harmontown podcast, Dan Harmon talked about how more people were watching the show than he could have possibly imagined in the NBC days, where ratings were measured with the tremendously outdated Nielsen ratings system.
Although “Basic Email Security” offers little in the way of new insight into any of our seasoned Greendale mates (there’s almost nothing for Annie and nothing nearly as damning as Abed’s tracking of everyone’s periods in “Cooperative Calligraphy”), it does a splendid job of adding some much-needed layers onto Frankie and Elroy. They get the real showcases in this episode. Frankie’s seething revelation that the sister she came here to tend to has passed on and that she writes letters to her as a journaling exercise was absolutely the emotional hole of the episode, as it claimed. It enriches the comically competent Frankie with a vulnerability not seen since she tried to back away from a mistake by calling everyone in the room a fart back in her debut, and it bodes well for her ability to convey people feelings when the need strikes. Elroy gets the episode’s only real confession in one filled with accusations. He goes on with his sad little story about an email chain longer than anyone in the committee asked him to, and definitely longer than he should have. We already knew that Elroy was lonely, but perhaps we never guessed just how much so. I didn’t. But on Community everyone has a terrible, lonely secret or nine. It has always been and seems determined to continue to be a show about connection for people who don’t get much of it from anywhere else. And though this wasn’t the Frankie or Elroy episode I have been hoping for, it’s a good step in that direction. And if these ratings hold true, Keith and Paget might have some sticking around to do.
Although I can definitely see the point of view of someone who criticizes the structure of this episode and wonders what this whole thing amounted to in the end, I would like to defend both of those as being the point. Sometimes we make sacrifices or take stands and wonder what it all amounted to in the end. Do we still fight for free speech if it’s Gupta Gupti Gupta? His jokes are terrible and racist, but he was so thankful that anyone was willing to pay him to perform again. Is it worth taking a stand if it means that it hurts those around you? Greendale is in shambles because a small group of people decided to take a stand for their beliefs. The lives of an entire school are exposed for reasons none of them could control. More than once I have found myself taking a stand for something I believed in, and not once did it ever work out exactly how I wanted it to. I was left lonely and dejected and wondered what sticking my neck out was even for in the end. Letting things slide by you is so much easier than doing something about them, and those few times that you take action rarely end up the way you envisioned. Although the final scene at the study table where the committee throws words like “terrorist” and “government” together into sometimes random combinations is an excuse for some stupid, stupid wordplay, it also rings so true to anyone who has ever wondered what it was all for. That mixed with some great revelations make up for any of the episode’s flaws because like all great comedy it’s based in truth.
Episode Grade: A
Best Line: “It’s Vietnam now, baby. It’s Vi-et-nam!”
Moment of Brilliance: Although Britta’s Winger speech was good, it has to be the dead heat between Frankie and Elroy’s darkest moments. I hope they enjoyed their first Secrets Revealed!
–I LOVE that the only person to show up to the Gupta Gupti Gupta concert is Fat Neil. What a great, unexpected moment.
–This second mention of Frankie’s in-limbo sexuality means we are not escaping this season without some information.
–According to the Lunch Lady’s emails, Buzz Hickey has perished between seasons. He will be dearly missed. Not a huge fan of Community’s insistence on killing off the older characters when the actors choose to depart the show.
–Apparently, Abed and Rachel are still together. Fitting that the show’s most successful romantic pairing is an offscreen one.
–This episode will partially be judged by its fallout. The events of this episode aren’t something that can be simply shrugged off. The school is in disaray. Because of the Save Greendale Committee. The students are going to revolt. Maybe that’s the plot of the upcoming paintball episode?
–The Definitive Ranking of All of Community’s Categories of Themed-Episodes:
1.) Pop Culture Chaos (“Modern Warfare,” “Intro to Geothermal Escapism,” etc.)
2.) Secrets Revealed (“Cooperative Calligraphy,” “Cooperative Polygraphy,” this one)
2.) Fake Flashbacks (Paradigms of Human Memory, Curriculum Unavailable)
3.) Documentaries (demerits from the Season Four entry)
3.) Dungeons and Dragons (slight demerits from the Season Five entry)