Community season 6 continued today with a fantastic episode. It opened with the Dean finding out that Greendale has been hacked. The hackers make all of the lunch lady’s emails public and threaten to do the same to the activities committee if they don’t cancel a performance by comedian Gupda Gupda Gupda, played by guest star Jay Chandrasekhar, who also directed the episode.
I was wary when the topical subject matter of the episode was revealed, but they handled the material with a clarity and moral sense that’s rare to find. This was a great Britta episode, with her as the only one who refuses to read the lunch lady’s emails (the group asserts that it’s the media who’s violating her privacy, they’re just reading the news) and also the one who pushes for them not to cancel Gupda Gupda Gupda’s performance, even at the threat of losing their own privacy.
Once all of their emails are released, the episode treads the familiar ground of the group having to deal with secrets being revealed. (At the end, Abed refers to this as the third part of their trilogy, not acknowledging “Intro to Felt Surrogacy”). It doesn’t have the brilliant writing of “Cooperative Calligraphy”, but it still utilizes the concept well. There’s not enough emotional weight to the secrets the emails revealed to carry an entire episode like “Cooperative Calligraphy” or “Cooperative Polygraphy”, but it still works because the tension after secrets are exposed just makes up one act of an episode where the real meat comes from the commentary on censorship in comedy.
What makes “Basic Email Security” a really satisfying entry in the conversation is that it doesn’t romanticize freedom of speech in comedy. Britta mentions early on that she’s actually working to have Gupda Gupda Gupda banned from college campuses using the proper channels, but one thing at a time. The point isn’t that his comedy has any merit, Britta and the rest of the group just understand the precedent it would set if they cancelled the show because of an anonymous threat. After all they go through to save the show, Gupda Gupda Gupda performs some non-sensical jokes about black people and Jewish people, then personally calls out Neil in the audience, asking him if he’s going to be one of those fat people who’s always alone.
The scene at the end where they bounce back from the tensions all their exposed secrets caused and start discussing what the lesson from all this is felt very organic. I think the show is embracing the fact that this group has become too close and co-dependent for them to ever pretend there are true stakes. These people have gotten to the point where they’ll always need each other and it’s a satisfying evolution to see.
-When the Dean tells them the police are here, Britta and Chang both start to run off before he adds “to deal with the hack.”
-Frankie and Elroy are shocked to find out that Chang was once their teacher and Chang replies, “Yeah, that’s right, and frankly haven’t been well-utilized since.”
-It’s revealed that everyone has a pool over Frankie’s sexuality. She asks Annie if she was actually trying to win or just to be as disgusting as possible and Annie sheepishly says “I had to pick last.”