S3E4: Well, Community, you did it again. I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say this is the best episode of the season, which may indicate that the best episodes the series has to offer at this point are the high concept ones. Either that or this is the point during the season that the writers get back on their game.
“Bienvenido de la casa Chez Trobed.” –Troy
This week offers up a scenario we’ve seen on sitcoms before: the series what-if storylines. Only, instead of what-if, these alternate storylines are actual alternate timelines created by the roll of a die. Come on, you can’t expect Community to handle this sort of thing the traditional way. It all starts when Troy and Abed have the study group over to their new apartment to play Yahtzee. When it comes time to let the pizza delivery guy in, Jeff decides they’ll roll the die to figure out who goes downstairs. Because Abed is involved, we learn that this move will create six different realities and as a result, we get to see those six different realities. Somehow, it still creates a cohesive narrative, which is probably why I loved it so much. And now, I shall attempt to recap them in a method unlike the usual weekly format. Bear with me.
Timeline 1: Annie’s Got a Gun
In this first roll of the die, Annie has to retrieve the pizzas. She hops downstairs, leaving Jeff to keep Britta from singing along loudly to “Roxanne” on the radio, Pierce to bring up how one time he slept with Eartha Kitt on an airplane, Jeff to hit his head on the fan, and Britta to outdo herself by pointing out immaturity before trudging down the hall doing the pizza dance. This big issue in this round: Troy finds a gun in Annie’s purse.
Timeline 2: “You’re Not Allowed to Use Baking As an Identity.”
This time Shirley goes downstairs, leaving her pies in the oven unattended. Britta still can’t sing “Roxanne” and Pierce is still talking about Eartha Kitt and Jeff hits his head again, Annie offers to look at it. Jeff mandates that Shirley is too obsessed with baking and that no one is too encourage it. Britta still does her pizza dance when Shirley comes back, but when Shirley sees that no one tended to her pies and they’re burnt, she has a mental breakdown and runs out. The big issue in this round: Jeff creates arbitrary rules, suppresses fun.
Timeline 3: The Romance Begins
When Pierce has to go downstairs to get the pizza, Britta still can’t sing “Roxanne,” Jeff hits his head again, Annie offers to look at it, Troy and Abed’s gift from Pierce is a creepy green troll. Before he hits his head, Jeff teases Troy, who runs into the bathroom, upset that Jeff thinks he’s a kid. There, Britta is smoking a cigarette out the window and the pair enjoys romantic undertones yet again – we’re not sure of the outcome but they come out giggling. Jeff and Annie flirt innocently in the kitchen, but stop when everyone comes out for pizza. The big issue in this round: Britta and Troy sitting in a tree…and Jeff and Annie potentially k-i-s-s-i-n-g.
Timeline 4: The Green Eyed Monster
Britta gets pizza duty in this version of reality, meaning Pierce brags about Eartha Kitt, Jeff hits his head, Annie helps him, Shirley makes her pies and Pierce gives Troy and Abed the creepy green troll. While Pierce terrifies Troy with the troll because he’s jealous of his new roommate, Jeff and Annie get close in the bathroom since Britta isn’t in there smoking. He says he’s protective and asks Annie to move out of her crappy neighborhood (which is probably why she has a gun). Britta comes back upstairs with the pizza guy, who she’s decided to marry suddenly. The big issue here: Pierce’s jealousy, Annie’s crappy apartment, why is Britta acting so strangely?
Timeline 5: The Chekov Indiana Jones Ball
In this timeline, Troy goes downstairs. Britta can’t sing, Pierce brags again, Jeff hits his head, Annie offers to help, and the Indiana Jones Ball from the first few minutes of the episode finally comes into play. Annie gets up to help Jeff, trips on the ball, breaks the table and a liquor bottle, and drops her purse with the gun in it (from Timeline 1) and it shoots Pierce in the leg. His blood spurts up, ruining Shirley’s pies. Finally Britta comes out of the bathroom and is unable to process the commotion. She drops her cigarette where the bottle of liquor broke, which immediately starts a fire. Troy spies green troll in the flames and delivers his signature squeal. The big issue here: we may be dealing with alternate timelines, but everything we’ve seen is important.
Timeline 6: “I Demand to Be Housewarmed.”
Finally, we get to the timeline where everyone ends up hating each other. Abed goes for the pizza and Pierce has shortened his claim to “I banged Eartha Kitt” (which was worth hearing it all the other times), Britta still can’t sing, Jeff still hits his head, Annie still offers to help. Pierce still has the troll, but refuses to give it to Troy when Troy says something nice to him. Britta is still smoking, but this time we find out it’s marijuana when she actually wants to eat Shirley’s pies. And Jeff and Annie make out in the kitchen. These couplings all fall to pieces when Britta and Shirley fight over Britta’s drug habit and Shirley’s addiction to baking; Jeff and Annie are at odds when she cuts the kiss short by saying he reminds her of her dad; Troy and Pierce fight over the box and Troy is furious when he finds out what’s in it. The big issue here: everyone’s differences put the group at odds.
In the real timeline, Abed catches the die to keep from creating the six different timelines. He then outs Jeff for creating a system in which he wouldn’t have to get the pizza – there are 7 people and only six sides to the die. Abed gives a seemingly out-of-place speech about everyone being unique individuals and accepting their differences, but it actually makes sense if you were experiencing the alternate realities in a television timeline like we were. (Okay, my head hurts a little now.) They make Jeff get the pizza and without him there to curtail the fun or distract Annie, everyone ends up singing and dancing together happily. To Abed’s point, they are all accepted as they are and instead they just have a good time together. When Jeff comes back, he doesn’t join in, but on some level he gets it. And we get why he doesn’t join in. Everybody gets everybody.
The wildly out of control story with alternate realities somehow ends up with a more cohesive plot than a lot of shows that only try to occupy one reality. Finally, Community came back to what we love about it: experimental, high-concept television laced with absurd comedy. It’s probably safe to assume we won’t get this caliber of an episode every week, but it’s nice to know the writers still have it in them.