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The Right Stuff: An Advance Review of Next Week's Space-Fueled Community

Holy Apollo 13 homages! You do not want to miss next week's Community.

Yes, there's still this week's Pierce-centric episode to look forward to, but it was with a certain impish glee that I sat down to watch next week's hysterical and out-there episode of Community ("Basic Rocket Science"), written by Andy Bobrow and directed by Anthony Russo, in which the gang blasts off into to outer space. Well, sort of, anyway.

In true Community style, the gang unwittingly recreates some of the most famous moments from Apollo 13 without actually leaving the earth's atmosphere. It's a masterful and bizarre installment revolving around Greendale's space (simulation) race with their bitter rivals, City College, which is planning to announce its own flight simulator.

Lest Greendale be turned into a parking lot for the rapidly expanding City College, Dean Pelton (Jim Rash, here at his finest) launches a scheme of his own, one involving an old and seriously battered Winnebago, some childhood memories for the Greendale gang, and some gut-busting Kentucky Fried Chicken product integration. (Think "Eleven Herbs and Space" and a HAL-like computer mentor courtesy of Atari.)

I don't want to spoil too much of this deliciously madcap episode, which flies by at light speed, but I will say that the situation that befalls the Greendale study group is a dire one as they lose control of the flight simulator (let's say that it accidentally launches) and are taken on a dangerous journey while facing some internal conflict among the group members.

Will Troy prove that he has what it takes to be the leader? Will Pierce murder Troy? Will the claustrophobic conditions do them all in? And just why is everyone angry at Annie (Alison Brie)? I'm not telling, but I will say that Annie has a distinct agenda of her own and the mission--getting back to Greendale safely--will have repercussions on Greendale itself... while bringing the group back together.

This wouldn't be a true Apollo 13 homage without some ground control drama and Jim Rash's Dean Pelton and Danny Pudi's Abed (here subbing for Ken Mattingly) man things back at the college campus. Yes, just like in Apollo 13, someone gets left behind and the man who was supposed to be on that rocket flight--and knows the system inside out--is stuck on the ground... and it's up to Abed to get everyone back safely, while aboard the Kentucky Fried Chicken Eleven Herbs and Space Bus, all hell is breaking out.

What follows is a worthy successor to last season's "Contemporary American Poultry," a pop culture-laden thrill ride that cleverly leverages a particular film to comedic effect, recasting Greendale's inhabitants as participants in a larger read of the zeitgeist. The episode itself is filled with nice touches: the slo-mo group walk, Dean Pelton's map ("those aren't thumbs"), Abed's cigar-chomping, the intercom system, the power-rerouting suggestion by Ben Chang (Ken Jeong), the intense college rivalry with City College, a hero's welcome at the press conference, and, yes, even those Kentucky Fried Chicken references.

My only complaint? This winning episode was so swiftly paced that it felt extremely short. If ever there was a candidate for an episode super-sizing, it was this one, as "Basic Rocket Science" could have done with an elongated format. Personally, I was hooked on the story and gladly would have stuck around for another 20-odd minutes. But maybe that's the key to Community's success: its inherent weirdness leaves the viewer wanting more each week.

Ultimately, you'll want to wave your own butt flag by the time the credits roll.

Community airs Thursday evenings at 8 pm ET/PT on NBC.


r1pvanw1nkl3 said…
I loved the Goodfellas episode last year and I haven't even seen the movie. Really can't wait for this episode, this show really is the funniest comedy on tv.
Effie said…
Just reading your review made me laugh so I already know that I am going to love this episode. The crazier Community gets, the funnier it is!

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