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Community Recap: Timeline-by-Timeline Analysis of “Remedial Chaos Theory”

“Bienvenido de la casa Chez Trobed.”

There is a lot to go over in last night’s brilliant episode of Community, “Remedial Chaos Theory,” the show’s most clever way of spending little to no money yet (with the exception of the rights to “Roxanne”), so let’s do this timeline-by-timeline, yes?

Actually, before we get to that, a question: Pierce mentioned that he had sex with Eartha Kitt in last week’s episode, when the Seven speaks to Omar, and no one blinked an eye; does that mean these episodes airdates were swapped? That would explain why their apartment is 303, the episode’s production order. Also: props to writer Chris McKenna, who also penned “Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design” and “Paradigms of Human Memory” (and the best episode of American Dad!, too: “Rapture’s Delight”), for thinking everything out, Lost-style, and evaluating how the Seven would react with one member missing.

To the timelines! Just remember the paraphrased advice your father gave you on your wedding day: if you travel through time, don’t step on anything.

Timeline #1: Annie

(Who is that kid in the top right of the picture frame?)

Everything begins normally, with the exception of Troy finding a gun in Annie’s purse and Britta doing her pizza dance in front of everyone. Jeff hits his head, Pierce laughs, and nobody eats Shirley’s homemade mini-pies.

What does this timeline say about the Seven? It’s tough to tell yet, because this timeline sets up the options for the other ones. A world where Annie’s not around, even for a second, isn’t one that I’d want to live in, though.

Timeline #2: Shirley

As a housewarming present, Pierce gives Troy a terrifying looking traditional Norwegian troll, which Pierce had hanging in his hallway when he and Troy lived together. Everyone forgets to take Shirley’s mini-pies out of the oven, and they’re burned to a crisp. Shirley then calls everyone out for making googly eyes at one another (Annie/Jeff to Jeff/Britta to Britta/Troy to Troy/Abed), and has a nervous BAKEdown.

What does this timeline say about the Seven? As soon as Shirley’s outta sight, she’s outta mind. She’s the mother figure of the group (“You’re not allowed to have baking things as an identity,” Jeff tells her, forgetting her “Here’s Browniesss” speech from season one), and the rest of the Six, even if they don’t realize it, they need their mommies to keep things calm and steady.

Timeline #3: Pierce

Troy catches Britta smoking weed in the bathroom, and the two of them bond over candy cigarettes and discuss why Jeff’s always picking on him. They agree it’s because he’s threatened by Troy (who’s so grown up that he keeps a bowl of olives next to the toilet), and then they make googly eyes at each other.

What does this timeline say about the Seven? Without Pierce around, Jeff’s the oldest one in the group, and because of that, he feels scared. So he makes fun of the male younger than him, and his hostility — and Pierce’s absence — brings Troy and Britta together.

Timeline #4: Britta

Jeff and Annie bond and nearly kiss in the bathroom after he hits his head on an overhead fan, and Pierce threatens Troy with his troll gift (Abed looks momentarily disappointed that he didn’t get a gift, too). Britta, while down getting the food, falls in love with the Khal Drogo-looking pizza guy, her soon-to-be husband.

What does this timeline say about the Seven? Troy tries to act sophisticated and cool when Britta’s around, but when she’s down fetching the pizza, he begins acting like a child with Abed, with talk of bunk beds and secret handshakes. This infuriates Pierce, who’s jealous of what Troy and Abed have. And without Troy around, and without being able to get high, Britta acts even more impulsive.

Timeline #5: Troy

Troy slams the door to the apartment so hard, because he’s racing and doesn’t want to miss anything, that the boulder on Abed’s recreation of the first scene from Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark rolls onto the floor. Annie trips over it, launching potato chip bags and bottles into the air and then, the floor. The gun in Annie’s purse goes off and hits Pierce in the leg, the blood squirting from the wound into Shirley’s face, ruining her mini-pies. A shell shocked Britta drops her joint on the floor, setting the apartment on fire, so she starts throwing water onto the flame, glass-by-glass. Upon his return to the apartment, Troy sees the troll in the middle of everything and screams, “NOOOOO.”

Later, in the episode’s tag, the tragedy continues: the FIVE are back at Greendale. Pierce is dead from the gun wound; Annie, wracked with guilt, is now in a mental hospital; Shirley’s a drunk again; Jeff lost an arm in the fire; Troy can no longer talk without the use of a voice box because he tried to get rid of the flaming troll doll by eating it, destroying his larynx in the process; Britta has a blue streak in her hair; and Abed’s embracing the dark timeline by committing to its evilness, through the use of an Evil Spock goatee.

What does this say about the Seven? Things fall to shit with Troy gone. He’s the one who should be the leader, not Jeff, but no one realizes it yet, with the possible exception of Britta.

Timeline #6: Abed

Britta tries and enjoys one of Shirley’s mini-pies; Shirley confesses that she thinks the only thing she’s good for is making desserts. While the two have a moment alone, and after Pierce gives him his still-unopened housewarming present, Troy thanks Pierce for letting him live with him. Jeff and Annie make out in the kitchen (and she says he reminds her of her father, and then makes a grandfather joke, too), and Pierce tries to take his gift back from Troy, who demands to be housewarmed. Britta lets it slip that the group agreed to not eat Shirley’s pies, and Shirley calls her a “hippie skank.”

What does this say about the Seven? They’re not good at talking about how they really feel about one other, because when they do tell the truth, everyone ends up hating everyone else. They need Abed to discuss their dynamic in pop culture terms, which makes personality faults easier to comprehend.

Timeline #7: Jeff

Abed figures out Jeff’s been cheating (seven people, six-sided die), and he goes to get the pizza. Without the conniving son of a bitch/crafty jackrabbit around, Britta’s FINALLY allowed to sing along to “Roxanne” (love Britta and Shirley’s Sting accents), and everyone else joins in. There’s dancing and camaraderie (and I felt warm and fuzzy), and Abed invites Annie, no longer busy sucking face with Jeff, to move in with them.

What does this say about the Seven? They’re better off without Jeff, the real villain of season three.

What does this recap say about “Remedial Chaos Theory”? It’s one of Community’s best episodes.

Josh Kurp and a friend were trying to decide that if Parks and Recreation is Spoon (always very good, occasionally great), then what band is Community (lower lows, higher highs than Parks)?

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