Episode Title: "Basic Lupine Urology"
Writer: Megan Ganz
Director: Rob Schrab
As soon as the opening sequence went through a near perfect send up of the original "Law & Order" credits, it was clear that "Basic Lupine Urology" was going to be a standout episode of "Community." They even did the "Law & Order" side-by-side walk at the end of the credits!
Dick Wolf's nearly unkillable television franchise was constantly referenced throughout the episode as Troy (Donald Glover) and Abed (Danny Pudi) became a pair of defacto detectives while Jeff (Joel McHale) and Annie (Alison Brie) were sort of lawyers in a mock trial. Or a kangaroo court, take your pick.
It all started with the body of a dead yam in biology class; which would have given the Greendale study group an "A" if it had lived. Naturally, the thought of a lesser grade panicked Annie into luring Jeff to the lab by the promise of sex and she also got Professor Marshall Kane (Michael Kenneth Williams) to show up by saying that there had been a murder. Despite the ludicrousness of the situation, Kane was sympathetic enough to Annie that she was able to twist his words into the promise of an "A" if the study group could prove that what happened to that yam was no accident.
Enter Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown); whose decade-and-a-half love of procedural cop shows led her to have at least a tenuous grasp on investigative techniques as she slipped into police captain mode and ordered Troy and Abed to find a suspect. And it seems that Trobed have been watching a lot of cop shows too, as they tried to out-riff each other with zingers. I half expected Abed to pull out a pair of shades and do the Horatio Caine move, but that's probably going to have to wait until the inevitable "CSI" parody episode.
Troy and Abed go to the most likely suspects in Pierce (Chevy Chase) and Todd (David Neher) before following up the case with Neil (Charley Koontz) and Magnitude (Luke Youngblood) and catching Star-Burns (Dino Stamatopoulos) in the act of stealing Troy's backpack. Inevitably all suspicion falls back on Todd, the study group's inadvertent nemesis. Todd always seems like a nice guy, but would you trust a man with this Norman Osborn-ish haircut?
He looks like he's about to do horrible things to Gwen Stacy. No offense…
I have to note that "Law & Order" veteran Leslie Hendrix appears as a medical examiner very much like Dr. Elizabeth Rodgers; her long-running character on that storied franchise. Her autopsy of Pam the Yam was yet another comedic highlight.
Which brings us to the "Order," or Jeff and Annie's half of the episode. Once Todd is identified as the main suspect, he appears ready to break until Lt. Col. Archwood (Michael Ironside) shows up and demands to represent his former soldier against the study group's charges. And when the study group refuses to break their "pinkie swear" with Star-Burns about his secret Meth lab in the trunk of his car, it's Professor Kane himself who upholds the pinkie swear as the closest thing to a code of honor that Greendale has.
So, the stage is set for an epic courtroom battle as Jeff and Annie take on Archwood, with the biology class and Kane sitting in judgement of them. Kane manages to intimidate Star-Burns into fleeing town, but Annie proves to be skillfully manipulative in her cross-examination of Todd, forcing him to confess on the stand that he dropped the study group's yam because it was hot and he burned himself in the process.
Let's just say that Annie didn't celebrate her victory with any restraint, as she hilariously performed a victory dance in front of Todd and the class. Every time that Kane has appeared on the show, it's been clear that he doesn't like Jeff… or anyone, really. But in a sidebar, Kane seemed to be truly impressed that Jeff was willing to compromise with Todd for a C grade for both parties because someone else must have heated the water in the pot to make him drop it. Of course, Jeff also had to explain this to Annie as if women had a "codette" instead of a code and honor was an unknown concept to her. Because that's just who Jeff is.
In fact, that entire exchange may been staged by Jeff just so Kane could finally warm up to him. Because the next part was clearly planned, as Jeff exposed the real culprit in his closing statement. Every student in the class had their yam sabotaged by boiling hot water… except for Vicki (Danielle Kaplowitz). However, Neil was quick to step up and admit blame for the incident before any penalties could befall his girlfriend.
This was a real love letter to every "Law & Order" episode that you've ever seen, from the way it was shot to the plot twists. The transition away from Britta (Gillian Jacobs) and her insistence that her Psych major could be useful to the case was particularly hilarious. And although Britta and Pierce were largely sidelined for the episode, the dual pairs of Trobed and Jeff/Annie were riveting to watch. It was just an amazingly fun episode right up until the end…
Just as everyone is enjoying a celebratory drink in Dean Pelton's (Jim Rash) office, Kane gets a call telling him that Star-Burns was rear-ended by a car which ignited his meth lab materials… and killed him. Now, Star-Burns isn't exactly a friend of anyone on the campus and the episode went out of its way to make him seem like a scumbag. It could even be argued that Star-Burns' death was largely his own fault because of what he choose to put in his trunk.
But the inescapable truth is that the study group bears some culpability in Star-Burns' demise. If Annie and the others hadn't made such a big deal about the yam, then they wouldn't have pursued Star-Burns and Archwood wouldn't have run him out of town towards his fiery end. It's a heavy note to end the episode on, but apparently this plot thread is going to be a major part of the next episode and even during the rest of the season.
I'm not sure if "Community" could ever be completely serious, but we've seen some scenes of real drama played out earlier this year between Troy and Abed. So, the show can handle a darker tone on occasion. And it should be interesting to see where this goes.