Well what do you know! It may have taken ten episodes but “Basic RV Repair and Palmistry” might just be the best episode of Community in a long time. Or at least in ten episodes. The story this time round has a bit more concept mixed in than some of this season’s past episodes, but it’s well utilized. This episode gives all the cast, including the new players, something to do. Just by not short changing any of the characters…actually make that short Chang-ing because truthfully he’s nowhere to be seen. But that’s okay, as Chang makes a better occasional member.
“Basic RV Repair and Palmistry” sees the whole cast confined to an RV again. This time it’s no spaceship simulator, instead it’s Elroy’s home, and the Committee is travelling cross-country willingly. The show opens with the RV driving along a mountain path with a giant hand tied to the roof. Everyone is inside the RV, and Abed points out that now would be a perfect time to do a “Three Weeks Earlier” flashback to explain the wacky situation. The show stays firmly in the present however, which starts to establish Abed’s dilemma this episode. Elroy is a little put out that everyone is in his home, but is even more concerned with the lack of gas in the RV. He confides in the Dean, who immediately panics and tells everyone else. They panic and immediately take the preventative measure of charging their phones. This instantly kills the RV battery.
After the opening credits we do get a “Three Weeks Later” title screen, at which point we get a flashback that clocks in at under a minute and establishes nothing other than the group’s plan to drive the hand. In the present we get a pretty funny scene where Elroy attempts to explain the technical situation regarding the RV, and Jeff stands next to him and nods and finishes his sentences like he understands how cars work. It’s one of those season six gags that goes on a little long, but it’s funny enough that I feel it can be forgiven. Elroy chuckling says that the back-up battery he plans to use to start the engine should be fine, so long as no one is still charging a phone. There’s a tense standoff as everyone immediately stops meeting Elroy’s eye contact. The battery is dead.
In the back room of the RV Abed sits on Elroy’s bed and concentrates, trying to force a flash-back. Over time, as he tries to flashback, the flashback scene changes a little, but Abed always gets cut off. It seems to be really concerning him. In the present we slowly find out the situation, such as it is. The Dean bought the giant hand with money the school didn’t have, and no one knows why. Frankie found “some freak, excuse me, some bigger freak” to buy the hand for cash. Elroy apologizes for freaking out at the group. Jeff apologizes for Elroy’s crappy RV, then apologizes for his crappy apology. Britta reveals the “skunk” they drove over was actually her getting high, but it turns out the whole group knew that anyway. Annie apologizes for not letting anyone pick the snacks they want. She’s been killing it she says, and has nothing else to apologize for. Frankie agrees and apologizes for the whole situation, at which point the group all look at the Dean expectantly. He meets their gaze and forgives them. Everyone freaks out and Dean Craig Pelton has a pretty funny meltdown. “No! I’m an adult and you cannot make me stop crying!”
They kick the Dean out of the RV and seem perfectly content to let him freeze to death. Abed goes out to see the Dean and explains why he’s concerned about the flashback. A normal road trip structure, he explains, starts with everyone needing to go on a road trip. The first act ends with them leaving, the second act ends with a disaster, and the third act sees them overcoming it. By ending the first act with a disaster, Abed is sure the second act will have an even worse disaster. Sure enough he and the Dean sit on the giant hand just as the straps give away.
Abed forces the Dean to flashback with him to a scene with them suggesting the group use stronger cords. They do, but naturally this doesn’t change the present. From inside the RV the group hears a tremendous sound. Annie asks, “Did something just fall off the roof?” Britta gets a pretty great moment when she replies with, “That’s a dumb question, obviously something fell off the roof, the question is what fell off the roof?” The whole group just quietly looks at her.
They go outside, and believing the hand to have crushed the Dean they lift it up. The Dean then darts in from behind the RV and locks them out. Realizing that Abed bonded with the Dean they try to get him to reason with Craig. Abed is stuck in a flashback loop however. Jeff panics and slaps him before Frankie splits them up and reasons with Abed. Explaining that the present is actually Abed flashing back from the future to help us. Abed than has a flash-forward to space-elder Abed who agrees to travel through time and help diffuse the situation. It’s a nice ending that actually ties in all the episodes threads.
So everyone gets something to do this episode, and Abed gets a nice arc and focus after being shafted in the “Recycled Cinema” episode. The jokes all land, and I quite liked the running jokes at Britta’s expense, which is starting to seem a little easy but generally was funny and is therefore forgiven. This episode also had one of the funniest stings the show has ever had. We meet the man who was planning on buying the giant hand and basically watch his life fall apart for a scene. Overall, definitely one of the season’s best. It seems like generally this season is improving. I hope that continues.