Before reading this review, please click play for the accompanying soundtrack:
It wasn’t but last episode recap that I brought up the fact that we hadn’t touched on the Annie and Jeff relationship yet this season, and it looks like “Basic Intergluteal Numismatics” is the closest thing we’re going to get to a resolution on it; namely, that there isn’t a resolution.
And that's okay, because at least we know where we're at now.
My fellow internet reviewers have spent a lot of time talking about the success of the episode’s David Fincher parody, but they've glossed over the fact that there was a narrative about Jeff and Annie shoehorned in there for a reason. While the parody was impressive — though not as cunningly astute as the Law & Order and Goodfellas ones — the Jeff and Annie relationship is the thing that needs to be talked about because almost every single frame of this episode was meant to help answer The Dean’s very direct question asked on behalf of the audience:
“Let me ask you two something…let me be like the 50th person at this school to ask what is this? What is this creepy business? I think you two like to partner up on cutesy capers so you can hold hands in the dark and address your urges in semi-appropriate scenarios.”
However, what might not be immediately realized is that this is the exact same question that the Ass Crack Bandit is asking. And that's because...pause for dramatic effect...
ANNIE IS THE ASS CRACK BANDIT!
With my girlfriend as my witness, I said this was all Annie from the beginning. Annie is the kind of character that is just dumb enough to think she’s smart enough to make a foolproof plan that would help her, and us, finally get an answer to how Jeff feels about her.
And since I’ve always wanted to play the role of a superhumanly observant detective in a Fincher film, please indulge me, and enjoy some of the tip-offs that let me Sherlock my way to deducing what was in the box:
As Annie herself points out, she was the first person to bring the Ass Crack Bandit to our awareness back in the Student Council President episode “Intro to Political Science”
The obsessive notebook adorned in a very Annie-like style in the introduction.
The Charlie-from-Always Sunny brand of poetry in the Crack Bandit’s notes is exactly how a socially-immature brainiac would assume a dumb Crack Bandit would sound.
The Dean’s incorrect red herring, “This is not about you Annie, this is about the school.”
Annie easily could have made up her data that would lead to her “evidence” that it’s a teacher.
When trying to motivate Jeff to help, she says, “You know how this school works. We do it or it doesn’t get done,” then reveals the Ass Crack Bandit’s motive: “Maybe the Ass Crack Bandit’s point is that we’re letting our values slide.” She understands that they haven’t teamed up for a sexually-cathartic caper in a while and outright states that this is a reminder of that. Hell, she squeals when he caves to her request.
She has an un-unproveable alibi when asked where she was during the bleacher attack.
The tape recording would be exactly what a criminal not-quite-mastermind like Annie would think cements an alibi for her, while all it does is actually give away her motive…again.
She wants to give up the case after Jeff asserts their platonism.
She sounds heartbroken when she she resigns, “The case goes cold again…”
Booyah! That's how it's done.
Even though this whole case gets superseded by the even more shoehorned in death of one Pierce Hawthorne, the whole Ass Crack Bandit narrative is a construction to help us see how these two characters — and even Dan Harmon — would answer the question: “So what’s up with Jeff and Annie?”
Annie would say she doesn't know and would want Jeff to answer first. She obviously still has feelings for him and would apparently go through some extreme effort and at least a few dollars worth of quarters to know if he feels the same way.
Jeff would deflect, feigning not to understand why the question even needs to be asked. During this episode though, he is at least made aware that he shoulders some of the blame for the ambiguous nature of their relationship with his “platonic shoulder holding."
But Dan Harmon, the man writing this tale, answers with a non-answer.
The case/their relationship may have "gone cold" but he admits that he “has a feeling” that it won’t always stay that way forever. And that non-answer may be frustrating, but it’s realistic (love is never that simple). And it's a nice barometer to see where, at least at this point, these characters are at and where we can expect to see them head in the future. Hopefully this platonic-for-now dynamic will lead to more non-sexualized comedic performances between the two, like their role-reversal in “Intro to Teaching,” which harnessed their natural chemistry just as well.
ANYWAYS, while that relationship analysis is the main crux of the epsiode — and even if it will be buried underneath talk about the parody — there were some other moments of greatness during this episode that need to be mentioned:
Real Neil With Pipes of Steel gave a surprisingly fitting eulogy for Pierce, and the song that comes in afterwards (co-written by a guest-starring Ben Folds) is going on my iTunes immediately.
Danny Pudi’s meta-performance satirizing shows like The Mentalist was spot-on and a great Costanza (leaving on a high note).
The Dean was back to form, getting to break away from his season-long pigeonhole as Jeff’s stalker. The media conference was acted superbly, and his line about The Mirror and The Gazette was one of the first good laughs of the episode. After an overly-cartoonish first few performances, his role as the relative straight man in all this is a welcome turn.
Troy continues to glow in his final episodes at Greendale. He plays the tortured victim to perfection, and his dignified, cathartic slap at the press conference was one of the episode's highlights.
Starburns is back! After finding out how weird Dino Stamatopoulos is courtesy of an episode of Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, having him back in the mix is going to do nothing but help this show return to its elite, bizarre form. Trust me.
“Et tu pencil?” - Garrett
“This is the biggest PR criss to hit Greendale since we held that rally protesting the wrong Korea.” - The Dean
“I see a man using a social disorder as a procedural device. Wait I see another man; mildy autistic, super detectives everywhere. Basic cable. Broadcast networks. Pain…painful writing. It hurts…” - Abed
“If you’re going to confiscate this, know one thing: it’s a mild, kind saliva, perfect for playing guitar.” - Ben Folds as Professor Bublitz
After finding out that Jeff Winger likes Dave, but hates The Barenaked Ladies, I came up with the:
“Oh Excuse Me for Being Alive in the 90’s and Having Two Ears Connected to a Heart” Playlist, which you can actually find on Spotify because I care this much about something this stupid:
Dave Matthews Band - Ants Marching
Pearl Jam - Daughter
Ben Folds Five - Brick
Counting Crows - Mr. Jones
Radiohead - Creep (he’d like Radiohead to be cool, but only like “Creep” because he doesn’t really like Radiohead)
Stone Temple Pilots - Interstate Love Song
Cranberries - Linger
The Smashing Pumpkins - Today
Gin Blossoms - Found Out About You
Live - Lightning Crashes
Alannis Morrisette - You Oughta Know
Bush - Glycerine
Nirvana - Man Who Sold The World