This will be a two-parter review for episodes Community 5×05 & 5×06.
Episode 5×05: Geothermal Escapism
We finally get to witness what happens when a member of the Study Group voluntarily leaves to start their own life. Troy Barnes makes his decision to leave his friends to travel the world, and now this is his last day at Greendale.
In honor of his other half, Abed’s goodbye present to Troy is a campus-wide game of Hot Lava with a prize worth $50,000, because nothing at Greendale can be done casually. The entire school goes on panic mode as Britta desperately tries to convince the Study Group to stop avoiding reality and enjoy their last few moments with Troy.
It’s Buzzkill Britta with a Psychology degree in the making, but this version of Britta is genuinely well-intentioned and adaptable. She continues to play the game in the hopes of talking to Abed along the way. Having “therapized” Abed a few years ago, she knows when he’s avoiding emotional situations and how that can affect him negatively. A game of The Floor Is Lava is just regressing the issue to the point of fester.
Abed’s incentive of $50,000 has people going crazy. Professor Duncan is ready to knock Britta off her feet just before Jeff and Annie take him down. Chang got himself a bunch of Locker Boys, a la Lost Boys from Hook (1991), to terrorize the halls. Professor Hickey made himself a steampunk vehicle to knock people over so he could win the prize to buy flowers for his sons’ wedding. Everyone is taking this game seriously, even to the point of naming chair formations (Centipede, Inch Worm, etc.) and creating their own religion
Troy: By the vapors of Magmarath, we will restore it.
Britta: You have gods??
It’s refreshing to see Greendale find other ways to destroy the school without the use of paintballs. In fact, the entire episode is a homage to apocalyptic tropes, with Shirley’s Island (a table/chair fort in the middle of the cafeteria) as a safe haven to rest and the whole “survival of the fittest” ideology in who makes it to the end.
Troy and Abed leave Britta behind in the hallways but would always remember her as “kind of slowing [them] down and complaining a lot.” It’s a hilarious, in-the-moment decision, but even Troy reflects later that he doesn’t want his last day to be one where everyone hates him. Troy, despite having fun, maintains a reality of the game. This shakens Abed, who is trying to forget that his best friend will be leaving him (maybe forever).
Britta comes back with a battle cry and duels with Jeff over chairs and Knock, Knock jokes. This is the Britta who ruins fun and refuses to follow comedic patterns, thus returning to us a season 1 Britta Perry with a triumphant “WHO’S THERE, BITCH?? FLOOOOOOOOOR!!!”
Britta and Hickey chase Troy and Abed down to the basement full of shelves and filing cabinets. The game is close to ending, and Troy is excited because it’s either Troy and Abed. But Abed doesn’t want the game to be over. He is seeing actual lava on the floor because Troy is leaving. If Troy decides to stay back, the lava will disappear and everything will be alright.
Themed episodes on Community work because they go beyond playing with tropes and genres. At the core, we see the characters and their relationships to others, and how deeply connected friendships can be. Troy is setting off to be his own person because he’s ready, but by doing so he’s leaving his best friend whom no one really understands. Each member of the Study Group had moments when they truly connected with Abed, but no one more consistently than Troy Barnes.
Britta shoves Hickey out of the game, immediately understanding the seriousness of the situation. Despite her nagging for everyone to face reality, she understands that Abed sees a different reality and deals with emotional matters differently as well.
Britta is a psychologist, but she’s very hands on because these people in the Study Group are not her patients but her friends. She’s able (or at least tries to) adapt to situations to help her friends without belittling their world and working on their terms. Troy knows he was the only person who understood Abed, at least a little, and that him leaving means Abed is back to square one. He’s part of the study group, but he’s losing the one person who always looked out for him imaginatively & emotionally. Britta understands that. She was the first person in the study group to appreciate Abed and include him in a larger circle of people. She empathizes and cares about her friends. Even if she doesn’t have the same innocence and imagination as Troy did, she’s learned over the years to not treat Abed’s vision of the world lightly (remember “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas”?).
Unable to cope with the loss of Troy, Abed commits pretend lava-suicide and he lies on the floor with his eyes closed. Knowing Abed immersed himself so fully into the game, Britta and Troy try to revive Abed by making a clone version of him. Britta tries her hand at sci-fi lingo (Troy gives her a “Are you serious?” look whenever she sounds overboard) and together, she and Troy bring a version of Abed back to life. Clone Abed is an exact replica, except he doesn’t have emotions. He’s finally able to let Troy go.
Troy, however, admits he’s scared about starting this new chapter in his life. He, too, falls to his pretend death and comes back as a clone. Troy and Abed found a way to deal with this great emotional goodbye by letting go of who they were and becoming who they will be.
When Troy finally says his goodbyes to the Study Group, everyone is ready. They all died in Lava World and returned as clones. Abed notes that Clone Troy has infused DNA from a homing pigeon, so he might experience the compulsion to come back home.
Pierce, even after death, still shows how much he loved Troy. To make sure Troy doesn’t cheat on his journey around the world, Pierce hired LeVar Burton to travel with him. Unlike the last time they met, Clone Troy isn’t weepy in his presence or singing “Reading Rainbow.” This is a Troy Barnes on his way to be a man. The two of them are driven away while standing on Troy’s new boat, Childish Tycoon. I see what you did there, Harmon. A fitting farewell for a beloved character in sitcom history.
Highlights & Other Observations:
- Guest appearance by Starburns who thinks he won and wants to spend his $50,000 on 50,000 lottery tickets.
- WE HAVE THE RETURN OF “I LIVED IN NEW YORK.” THANK YOU, DAN HARMON, FOR THE RETURN OF BRITTA.
- Magnitude is actually British!! (Oh, Lee Jordan, you!)
Episode 5×06: Analysis of Cork-Based Networking
After a huge, emotional concept episode like “Geothermal Escapism,” it makes sense that Community chose to do a filler episode that didn’t add to anything to anyone. Troy wasn’t even mentioned, and his lack of presence didn’t affect the characters.
Abed and Britta were paired up this time with a fun B-plot based on a Game of Thrones-esque TV show and book series and how to deal with spoilers. It made for great jokes, especially when Abed connects with a hearing-impaired woman who ultimately sides with Britta for money. The way the B-plot ended was weird, because Abed walks away sad, in defeat, until he runs into Coat Check Girl from the Gas Leak Year and suddenly that’s happening again.
Meanwhile, the Save Greendale Committee actually continues to exist with the Study Group, plus Duncan, Chang and Hickey, saving Greendale one bulletin board at a time. Annie gets another Annie-centric episode, teamed up with Professor Hickey as they try to get a bulletin board back up in the cafeteria.
Greendale, of course, has a hierarchy of power which takes Annie and Hickey from the janitors to custodians to Internet access people to parking services to Dean Pelton. Nathan Fillion guest stars as the chief custodian, but it’s a waste of a role on someone who is both Chang’s same-sex celebrity crush and got a lot of buzz just for being on set. Other guest star Kumail Nanjiani had more comedic timing to play with than Fillion’s custodian who just wants to watch a lot of porn using work computers.
Probably the funniest bit in the episode was that Annie left Jeff, Shirley, Duncan, & Chang to come up with a theme for the midterm dance and Chang chimes in with “Bear Down For Midterms.” Each of the other character have their own beautiful exasperation expressions going on until Chang breaks down and asks if this has anything to do with a race thing? The group ends up following through with Chang’s weird idea of decorating the cafeteria with angry bear cutouts and a birthday party setup until Neil walks in and is horrified. Apparently, that morning, a bear attacked a children’s birthday party and mauled some of those attending.
Neil: Too soon.
The dance for midterms quickly gets adjusted to “Fat Dog for Midterms” and the bear cutouts are revamped into scary looking dogs. Chang created a “We did not make this up” dance and hopefully Fat Dog will catch on in the real world. You know, just Fat Dog!
Highlights & Other Observations:
- I completely missed it, but according to Community’s Wiki page for the episode, Troy was actually mentioned: “A news ticker on Hickey’s TV updates us on Troy’s progress: “BREAKING NEWS: LeVar Burton and non-celebrity companion captured by pirates in the Gulf of Mexico.”
- Umm, what a couple of beautiful references to David Bowie and his stellar performance in the muppet movie, Labyrinth.
- Apologies for a lack of a real review of this last episode. It just…there wasn’t really a point to it?