by Josh Johnson
Let us take a moment to remember the life of Starburns, or as he kept on insisting, “Alex.” He was a fry-cook, a drug dealer, and had a crippling addiction to stealing unattended backpacks. But most importantly, he had sideburns shaped like stars. He was Starburns, and may he rest in peace.
The creators of “Community” had been teasing the death of a character for a couple weeks, and, as you may have surmised, the victim was the sketchy yet loveable Starburns. His off-screen death was the sad conclusion to “Community’s” otherwise very light-hearted homage to the “Law and Order” series, “Basic Lupine Urology.”
Usually, when “Community” commits to a full-scale parody, the show uses it to move the group emotionally towards a place they couldn’t have reached under normal circumstances. In “Basic Lupine Urology” (the title being a brilliantly subtle tribute to “Law and Order” creator Dick Wolf), the show instead used the references to “Law and Order” solely for the sake of laughs. This cheery tone was especially welcome after last week’s hard-hitting “Virtual Systems Analysis.”
The episode starts with two janitors finding the study group’s yam project for biology class smashed on the floor. Annie immediately suspects foul play, and off we go into “Law and Order” land. Troy and Abed become the detectives, and after realizing that they both can’t say the zinger (“It’s not a short stick, it’s a hot potato.” “Yeah, well, it looks pretty cold to me”), go on to question some suspects.
After accepting Pierce’s alibi (he fell asleep in a sunbeam, which, according to Troy, is “kind of adorable”), the detectives question the group’s nemesis, Todd. Todd proclaims his innocence until his former army officer shows up to defend him. He argues that Todd’s excellent record should exempt him from any suspicion, especially since Jeff won’t reveal how his witness, the soon-to-be-doomed Starburns, can place Todd at the scene of the crime on account of a pinky-swear.
What came next was easily the highlight of the episode. Professor Kane decides to honor the pinky-swear and allow the study group to question Todd in a trial before the rest of the class. Kane is played by Michael K. Williams, who played the shotgun toting stickup man Omar on the greatest show ever made, “The Wire.” Upon reaching his decision to allow a trial, Kane explained his reason with one of Omar’s famous lines: “A man’s gotta have a code.” That sound you just heard is the entire Internet cheering. Oh indeed, Omar comin’!
As the trial unfolds, Todd eventually confesses that he did drop the group’s yam project, but, as is the case with “Law and Order”-type shows, the confession is never the whole story. Jeff figures out that all the projects had been sabotaged before Todd dropped that of the group’s. Naturally, the guy who had only two seemingly innocuous lines earlier in the episode was the real culprit, and in this case, it was Neil. And so we have a successful closed case. Dun Dun!
“Basic Lupine Urology” could have probably have been just as successful if it had scrapped the specific “Law and Order” references (like the theme song and the signature “Dun Duns”) and had just been a general parody of court procedurals. But creator Dan Harmon clearly has a lot of respect for Dick Wolf and company, so the references continued to be charming with becoming tedious. Overall, this week’s “Community” wasn’t as affecting as some of Season 3’s best, but still displayed the show’s vast comedic strengths.
Josh Johnson is music editor. Email him at email@example.com.