It was a dark and stormy night at Greendale Community College when “Community” was terrorized by the A**-Crack Bandit in “Basic Intergluteal Numismatics.” Not even the returns of Professor Ian Duncan (John Oliver) and Star-Burns — plus a brief cameo from Ben Folds — could alleviate the dim mood.

“Dark,” by the way, is a literal thing in this “Community” episode. With a blue filter on the camera and a whole bunch of mood lighting, the show takes on a new identity. It might be “The Killing.” We could be watching a David Fincher movie like “Fight Club” or “Se7en.”

This makes sense though. When a criminal is sticking coins where the sun don’t shine, there can be no true sunshine for anyone.

Greendale’s worst criminal returns

Star-Burns the meth dealer wasn’t the worst criminal Greendale ever saw. Similarly, Chang’s reign of terror paled in comparison to the true villain of the Greendale Community College universe: the A**-Crack Bandit.

This stealthy and brutal stalker finds unwitting victims when they are bent over and exposed, dropping a single coin into whatever exposed flesh is there. In “Basic Intergluteal Numismatics,” the Bandit returns after a one-year absence, inserting a quarter above the underwear of an unsuspecting Garrett as children’s voices sing “Creep” by Radiohead.

Terror knows no greater manifestation than this.

Jeff and Annie flirt investigate

As is often the case when a mystery confounds Greendale, Jeff and Annie are the ones who must investigate. After all, Shirley is too busy re-opening her sandwich shop, and Abed is caring for Troy — the latest victim of the Bandit’s mischief. As for Britta … She’s probably just avoiding the lecherous advances of Professor Duncan.

But is this investigation about more than just finding a criminal? Cheek-to-cheek phone calls and platonic shoulder-holding do hint that Jeff and Annie get more out of their investigations than mere justice. Still, there is a quest for the truth that leads the two to a staff member and then to a few individual suspects. The most notable of these is a pot-growing professor played subtly by Ben Folds.

‘We have a stable?’

Just when no progress seems possible, a phone call from the Bandit leads the Dean, Jeff and Annie to the Greendale stables. There, hidden amidst dusty corners and drawings of robotic cats, is … Star-Burns?

Sure, viewers have known since the Season 3 finale that Star-Burns didn’t actually die in a meth explosion. What we didn’t know is that he has been using the time since then to hide in a barn and try to get cats to pull him in what looks a little like a dogsled.

Whatever Star-Burns has been up to, it does look like he’s also the A**-Crack Bandit.

Does Dave show the way?

With the Bandit languishing in a cage (of course), it’s time to celebrate the end to the terror the only way Greendale knows how: the We Caught the A**-Crack Bandit Dance.

But is it all over? Jeff isn’t convinced by any of this — he thinks Annie’s theory about it being a teacher is still good — and Annie begins to have doubts when she confronts Professor Duncan in his office. You see, Duncan correctly identifies the sounds of “Ants Marching” as being by Dave — as true fans call Dave Matthews. Star-Burns, meanwhile, only knows it as the song with braying-donkey sounds in the lyrics.

Lingering mystery, sudden death

Just when Duncan seems certain to be the villain, there’s a twist — out at the dance, the Professor gets cracked. The true Bandit is still loose!

Alas, Jeff and Annie cannot catch the coin-loving criminal, because something more important diverts their attention: Pierce Hawthorne has died.

You were wondering how they were going to write Chevy Chase off the show? Well, this is it. The character is dead. It’s pretty final. As Jeff so eloquently puts it:

“Life is weird. It’s a container for all this little stuff. Then the container just … [fart noise].”

This is as much truth as we get from “Community” before the episode fades to a dark closing. The A**-Crack Bandit could still be almost anyone, even if the crackings have finally stopped. As Annie and Jeff share a serious look through the rain, we are left to ponder the darkness and the essential meaninglessness of a stupid crime.

Posted by:Laurel Brown