Review: 'Community' - 'Remedial Chaos Theory': Crisis on infinite Jeffs

The study group lives out 7 different timelines in season 3's best episode to date

<p>Abed (Danny Pudi)&nbsp;and Britta (Gillian Jacobs)&nbsp;on &quot;Community.&quot;</p>

Abed (Danny Pudi) and Britta (Gillian Jacobs) on "Community."

Credit: NBC

A review of tonight's "Community" coming up just as soon as I refill the toilet olives...

"You guys see what happens when I leave you alone, right?" -Jeff

In honor of the seven timelines that Jeff and Abed's actions created with the Yahtzee! dice, allow me to present seven reasons why I loved "Remedial Chaos Theory":

1)After the first three episodes largely left Troy and Abed on the sidelines, the show's funniest duo were appropriately front and center in an episode that was about the house-warming for their new apartment, allowing for tons of jokes about Abed's pop culture obsessions (the "Raiders" boulder model) and Troy's horrified reaction to Pierce's troll.

2)The multiple timeline gimmick allowed the episode to have its cake and eat it, too: to go for the kitchen-sink realism of something like "Mixology Certification" in moments like Troy realizing how cool Britta is, and then to go insane in other bits like Britta getting engaged to the pizza guy or the horrifying events of the dark timeline.

3)The script by Chris McKenna thought through how this would work, and how each group member's absence would affect everyone's behavior and the running gags. Note, for instance, that Britta finally doesn't do that goofy "Me so hungy!" dance after she and Troy have shared their moment in the bathroom (in part because she didn't have as much time to get high, but also because her head's in a different place because of that chat), or how Pierce's attempts to introduce the Eartha Kitta anecdote get more shameless - and yet when Troy makes the transition genuinely organic by mentioning airport bathrooms, Pierce doesn't think to do it.

4)Even more than last week's episode (which I enjoyed but many of you were turned off by), it delved deep - surprising given how brief each timeline glimpse was - into the relationships and hang-ups the different study group members have with each other: Troy and Annie each wishing the others would view them as adults, Shirley feeling left out as the only (relatively) stable and married one, Pierce resenting Troy for moving out, the usual Jeff/Annie flirtation (and the age-related complications therein), etc. Some people always get along swimmingly, some only with certain other people, and for the most part the group requires everybody together for the dynamic to work.

5)In doing that, it made me look at certain aspects of the group and the show in a new way. We spent most of last season looking at Pierce as the villain of the group, for instance, but is it possible that it's Jeff? I couldn't help but looking at that last timeline, and the way that the "Roxanne" singalong that Jeff had spent most of the other timelines thwarting, and think that maybe the group would be happier and more functional overall if Jeff didn't feel so compelled to police, mock or otherwise judge everyone else's behavior. Britta can be annoying, sure, but sometimes you just wanna sing along with Sting, and it might be fun for your friends to let go of their inhibitions and join in, right? (Or maybe the moral is that the group needs Troy to be present at all times, lest much carnage follow?)

6)The tag, set sometime in the future of the darkest timeline, was insanely funny - particularly Troy singing "Evil Troy and Evil Abed!" through his voicebox - and the sort of thing "Community" can get away with because Abed's aware that he's a character on a show like this, Troy goes along with him, and everyone else is more or less human.

7)Expanding on #2 a bit (and I'm not cheating anymore than Pierce with one of his later Earth Kitt intros), the episode managed to sum up so much of what I love about "Community." It's a gimmick episode, but one focusing on the characters and their relationships with each other. It's one that gives every member of the study group time in the spotlight to be funny, and then to be human (or vice versa, depending on the timeline). There were pop culture references, but they didn't overwhelm the episode (unless you consider the very structure of the episode to be a huge reference to various time travel stories), there were many different tones that all functioned in harmony because they were neatly separated by the different timelines, and the execution lived up to the idea.

Great episode.

What did everybody else think? Do you want Evil Troy and Evil Abed to have a recurring presence for the rest of this season? Would you prefer it if a different timeline had been the "real" one?

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Alan Sepinwall
Sr. Editor, What's Alan Watching
Alan Sepinwall has been reviewing television since the mid-'90s, first for Tony Soprano's hometown paper, The Star-Ledger, and now for HitFix. His new book, "The Revolution Was Televised," about the last 15 years of TV drama, is for sale at Amazon. He can be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com
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