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Recap / Community S2 E04: Basic Rocket Science

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"We are 40 light years outside of the Buttermilk Nebula, although it's possible that ...(Beat)... yeah, it's a sticker."

City College and Greendale are locked in a race to be the first local college to claim a simulated mission to space. The study group is tasked with cleaning out the simulator after their latest prank is found out by the Dean. Before they can even begin cleaning, they are locked inside the simulator, sans Abed, and towed away. Now it's a race against the clock to guide the simulator back to the campus and beat City College.

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The Community episode "Basic Rocket Science" provides examples of:

  • Accidental Kidnapping: Annie admits they weren't supposed to be in the simulator and the driver can't hear them. Even so, the Dean of City College shows a surprising lack of empathy that he left six people to rot in the desert.
  • Affectionate Parody/Whole-Plot Reference: The gang gets trapped in a space simulator with Abed as Mission Control parodying space movies like SpaceCamp, Apollo 13 and The Right Stuff.
    • Abed falls into Gary Sinise's role in Apollo 13 (as Ken Mattingly).
  • All Gays are Promiscuous: Heavily hinted at with Dean Pelton. He has a map with truck stops and public restrooms circled and rated.
    Abed: Here. Right next to the truck stop with three thumbs.
    Dean Pelton: (to himself, ashamed) ...those aren't thumbs.
  • Audience Participation: Of the voting variety. Fans designed their own Greendale flags and then voted for one to become official. The winning one was introduced in this episode and the voting was written into the plot as having been done by Greendale students.
  • Advertisement:
  • "Before" and "After" Pictures: Inverted in that the before of the simulator is the nicer of the two.
  • Canis Latinicus: The Pretentious Latin Motto on the study group's flag is "E Pluribus Anus".
  • Cell Phones Are Useless: Cell phones lose their signal inside the simulator, forcing the group to contact Abed (their designated Mission Control) with a two-way radio that is part of the simulator.
  • Claustrophobia: Pierce doesn't like small spaces.
  • The Computer Is Your Friend: S.A.N.D.E.R.S. is an 8-bit image of the Colonel.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: The simulator simulator.
    Leonard: Nice job. I can't believe I'm not really not really in space!
  • Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat: Given how old the simulator is, it's unlikely that the press would have been impressed by the KFC simulator, especially since the study group hadn't cleaned it yet. Yet the dean of City College bribed a Greendale student to sabotage the press conference.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The competition between City College and Greendale recalls The Space Race between the USA and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
    Dean: We make Greendale, not City College, the first community college to pretend to put a man in space.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Abed has a Soviet high-altitude flight suit and corresponding pressurized helmet in his dorm room so he won't be "underdressed" on mock space flights.
  • Electronic Speech Impediment: The first time we hear S.A.N.D.E.R.S.' voice, it's cranking up, indicating the long time the system hasn't been in use.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: In the cold open, it's visible that the Dean's desktop wallpaper is of two people in dalmatian costumes, a Continuity Nod to the season 1 finale.
  • Freudian Excuse: Pierce's final outburst alludes to this.
  • Fruit Cart: Annie drives into one with the simulator.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The KFC space simulator computer S.A.N.D.E.R.S.(Systematic Android Network Diode Energy Rocket System).
    • A second example is the C.C.C.P (City College Cosmic Program), a Genius Bonus when you realize that C.C.C.P. are actually the English letter imitation of the Cyrillic name for the USSR. "C.C.C.P." was placed on the helmet of the first man Russia actually sent into space.
      • For those who are interested: "Union of Soviet Socialist Republics", in Russian, is Cоюз Советских Социалистических Республик (Soyuz Sovietskikh Sotsialisticheskikh Respublik).
  • Hypocritical Heartwarming: After finding out that City College had the space station simulator towed.
    Jeff: We earn the right to pick on Greendale every day by going there. Our school may be a toilet, but it's our toilet, and nobody craps in it but us.
  • Homage
    • The opening scene, where the student runs in and tells the dark conference room that City College has a space simulator, is an homage to the opening scene in The Right Stuff, complete with the room's inhabitants acknowledging that they already know the Russians successfully sent a man into space... er, that City College has a simulator.
    • It turns into an homage to Apollo 13 after the gang gets trapped in the simulator.
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: When Jeff tries to calm everyone down saying that they will be fine, the simulator cabin suddenly starts shaking violently.
  • Insult Backfire: When the dean from City College tells Annie she's not City College material after all, she replies with an enthusiastic "Thank you!".
  • Lack of Empathy: The Dean of City College isn't fazed that his plan led to six people getting kidnapped and stranded in the desert. He only snarks that Annie lost her scholarship.
  • Last-Second Word Swap
    Britta: During high school field trips, we used to sneak in there and get- (glances at Shirley) ... to praying.
    Shirley: That's nice!
  • Made of Explodium: As soon as the gang gets back to campus, the simulator catches fire.
  • Mission Control: Abed plays this to the gang after they get stuck in the simulator.
  • Misfit Mobilization Moment: After Jeff's Hypocritical Heartwarming Rousing Speech.
  • Not Me This Time: When the Dean tells the group that one of them told him their flag was an anus, they all look at Annie for most of the episode. It turned out to be Jeff, who got sick of the Dean not getting it.
  • Oh, Crap!: 8-bit Colonel Sanders' face, when Pierce attacks him.
  • Phony Degree: Implied by a line from the Dean.
    "If you don't get back here in time for the launch, City College wins, and Greendale becomes just another school on my resume that no one can call, because it doesn't exist."
  • Power Walk: Abed has the entire group do one in slow motion.
    Pierce: ...You guys are walking in slow-mo?
  • The Power of Friendship: Only with teamwork is the simulation beaten.
  • Product Placement: It's pretty much a giant commercial for KFC. However, the crew actually approached KFC about it, since they thought the space bus being bluntly sponsored by some product would be funnier.
  • Rousing Speech: Jeff's "Greendale is our toilet" speech.
    Shirley: Now that was inspiring.
    Annie: Seriously?
  • Saying Too Much: Troy does this — and catches on a second too late without even changing his tone.
    Troy: How did you know it was our design? We submitted it anonymously. Whoops.
    • Annie does it later when she admits that she was the one who helped City College sabotage the Greendale "launch."
  • Schmuck Bait
    Jeff: I'm pretty sure they made their way into that thing five seconds after the Dean left.
  • Serious Business:
    • Abed demands people get their slow walk right. Also the Dean's response to City College's space simulator.
    • The Space Race between City College and Greendale.
  • Ship Tease: Britta/Troy and Pierce/Jeff fall into each others arms.
  • Shout-Out:
    • To Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In one scene, Abed is reclining in a chair, next to a desk full of books and diagrams. There is a thick volume on the desk, with the word 'SUNNYDALE' written on it.
    • Abed's orange space suit is incredibly similar to the one the Tenth Doctor wore in The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit and Waters of Mars.
    • Pierce insisting that he feels "fine now" after his bout with Space Madness and entreating the rest of the group to let him out is a brief homage to Blair asking to be let out of MacReady's shack in The Thing (1982).
  • Space Episode: Played with in that they don't go to space, but it runs almost all tropes regarding "space mission gone wrong" totally straight.
  • Space Madness: Pierce succumbs to it when the group is locked in the space simulator. From a combination of claustrophobia and a concussion.
  • Spreading Disaster Map Graphic: The Dean's powerpoint presentation ends with red color spreading from City College over to Greendale, simulating the impending assimilation of Greendale.
  • Stock Scream: Pierce lets out a Wilhelm Scream when he falls.
  • Streaming Stars: Shows up in The Tag.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: The fate of the simulator.
  • Take That!
    Troy: There was a time and a place for subtlety and that time was before Scary Movie.
  • Too Kinky to Torture: Milder than most, but when Jeff threatens to step on the Dean, the latter suggests that he'd be into it.
  • Used Future: The space simulator.
  • Voice of the Legion: S.A.N.D.E.R.S. in Pierce's imagination.
  • Why Don't You Marry It?: Pierce's retort to Annie standing up for Greendale.