Recap / Community S3 E04: Remedial Chaos Theory

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Just so you know, Jeff, you are now creating 6 different timelines.note 

The study group gets together for a housewarming party for Troy and Abed's new apartment. In particular, they bring attention to a piece of decoration they are very proud of: an Indiana Jones boulder escape scene diorama in the living room. After everyone has shown up, the group starts playing Yahtzee until the pizza arrives and nobody wants to go down to get it. Jeff suggests rolling a six-sided die to decide who gets to go downstairs, and Abed mentions that in doing so he's creating six different timelines. They even come conveniently numbered by the die roll they're associated with.

Just as Abed predicted, the die roll causes the episode to split into six different stories depending on who went down to get the pizza.

Has a YMMV page.

The Community episode "Remedial Chaos Theory" provides examples of:

  • Almost Kiss: Jeff and Annie in one timeline.
    • Subverted in another, where the two successfully make out, only to stop when Annie mentions Jeff reminding her of her father.
  • Alternate Timeline: Six different ones are explored during this episode.
  • Amusing Injuries: The darkest timeline version of Troy destroyed his vocal cord trying to eat the troll doll and now has to speak with an electrolarynx, but its okay since this isn't the "real" timeline.
    Evil Troy: Clearly, you don't understand anything about defeating trolls.
    • In the same scene Jeff's missing arm is represented by one of his expensive suits having a tied-off sleeve.
    • We get to see Jeff hit his head on the ceiling fan multiple times.
  • Bait-and-Switch: In the first timeline shown, Troy suddenly notices something in Annie's purse after she leaves to get the pizza.
    Troy: Uhhh guys, what does a pregnancy test look like?
    Jeff: (not looking up from something he's reading) It's like a thin piece of plastic with a thing on the end of it.
    Troy: (pulls a revolver from Annie's purse) Okay, so this is definitely a gun.
    • In the third timeline, after Troy catches Britta smoking a joint, he pulls out a cigarette case, opens it, takes out what looks like a joint and holds it to his mouth. It turned out to be a candy cigarette.
  • Beard of Evil: In the tag, Abed makes fake Evil Spock goatees these for the group since this is the "dark timeline". Only Troy is willing to wear one with Abed.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Played for laughs; while everyone else more-or-less laughs off the fact that Jeff was manipulating them in order that he wouldn't have to get the pizza and considers making him go down for them a fitting punishment, Pierce seems genuinely offended and outraged by it.
    • Abed does not react well to Shirley's suggestion that they should have her (admittedly very unappetising) home-baked pizzas instead of getting them delivered like had already been arranged.
  • Big "NO!": Troy upon seeing the troll standing amid the chaos of Timeline 5. The reasons have to be seen to be believed.
  • Bittersweet Ending: One way to interpret the last timeline. The last thing we see is Jeff obliviously smiling, unaware that it is because of his absence that the group got the happiest timeline. All the while hinting that he may become the new Pierce for this season.
  • Bloody Hilarious: Happens to timeline 5 Pierce.
  • Bottle Episode: Save for the final scene in the study room the episode takes place entirely in Abed and Troy's apartment. Ironically, though, according to the DVD commentary it was one of the more expensive episodes because it took a long time to shoot.
  • Brick Joke: Several, given the 'alternate timelines' nature of the storylines:
    • In the first few timelines, everyone who goes to the door to get the pizzas makes a point of noting what a creepy weirdo the pizza delivery guy was. So of course, when it's Britta's turn, she falls madly in love with him at first sight and they get engaged.
    • Annie literally finds a brick at the very beginning of the episode, which becomes the catalyst of the different timelines (since the pizza guy can't come straight to the door).
  • Broken Record: Just so the audience understands that we've left one timeline and gone back to the point where the timelines diverged, we hear the door buzzer and Abed explaining the creation of new timelines seven times. There are also several events that happen in almost the same way immediately after those timelines diverge (especially Jeff stopping Britta from singing and hitting his head on the fan when he gets up).
  • Call-Back: "Duh-doy!"
  • Call It Karma: Annie in the real timeline, when Jeff hits his head on the ceiling fan.
  • Cassandra Truth: A metaphysical example:
    Abed: Just so you know, Jeff, you are now creating six different timelines.
    Jeff: Of course I am, Abed.
    [Throws the die; creates a new timeline.]
  • Cerebus Syndrome: Timeline 5 as it gets incredibly dark by the end. But this is Played for Laughs as it has Refuge in Audacity. Also, since it's an alternate timeline, as far as we can know it never happened.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Literally, Annie's gun which is shown off in one time line (first act) only to go off in another (third act).
    • Another is the Indiana Jones temple replica. In each timeline, Abed catches the boulder before it goes over the table... until the timeline where Troy gets the pizza and the boulder causes Disaster Dominoes.
    • Becomes more of a Chekhov's Armoury if one considers the boulder, the gun, the high-proof vodka, Britta's joint, and the troll doll each as their own Chekhov's Gun.
  • Chekhov's Gunmen: The Study Group from the Darkest Timeline become recurring antagonists in season 3 and 4.
  • Continuity Nod: Several.
    • In the aftermath of timeline 5, Shirley becomes an alcoholic again and Annie goes to a mental ward after a nervous breakdown, not unlike her addiction to pills back in high school.
    • In the tag, Regular!Troy and Abed are watching Inspector Spacetime, introduced in the season premiere.
    • The flag that the study group designed for Greendale in Basic Rocket Science can be seen in Troy and Abed's apartment.
    • The refrigerator resembles a vending machine with Troy and Abed stuck in it.
    • Among the apartment's decor is a movie poster for Kickpuncher Detroit.
    • Abed's "suggestive eyebrows" make a reappearance.
    • Annie is described as a good nurse, a phrase used in "Epidemiology".
    • In the first timeline, we discover that Annie keeps a gun. We learned in last season's episode "Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design", that Annie carries a gun due to her apartment's neighborhood being dangerous.
  • Critical Failure: Abed calls attention to that fact that the dark timeline came about because Jeff rolled a 1.
  • Dance Party Ending: In the prime timeline.
  • Dark Is Evil: In The Tag everyone is wearing black, reflecting that they are (a) mourning Pierce's death, (b) the results of the darkest of the seven timelines and (c) the timeline that Abed suggests should be the Evil Twin-filled Mirror Universe.
  • Development Gag: Abed and Troy's apartment is number 303, the production number of the episode. The episode was difficult to make, and as such, it ended up being the fourth episode aired. The first lines of the episode, dubbed in at the last minutes, are Britta and Annie confirming that the apartment number is 303, not 304.
  • Did I Just Say That Out Loud?: Britta in timeline 6. Blame it on the pot.
  • Disaster Dominoes: Timeline 5.
  • Erudite Stoner: Britta in timeline 3 is very perceptive of the root cause of turmoil between Troy and Jeff.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: In the tag set in the "dark timeline" where Pierce is dead, Annie went insane, Shirley is drunk, Troy lost his larynx, Jeff lost an arm and Britta...
    Jeff: Britta, you put one wash-away blue streak in your hair and I lost an arm.
    Britta: Exactly! Life got dark!
    • Jeff's hair is also notably unkempt (well, more so than usual) and starting to prematurely grey from stress.
  • For Want of a Nail: All based on a dice roll.
  • Freudian Excuse: In one time line Shirley eventually admits to Britta that the only reason she bakes excessively is because she feels excluded by the rest of the study group, and baking is her way of feeling needed and included. Unfortunately, this means that Jeff's plan to confront her excessive baking by colluding with everyone to refuse to eat what she cooks unwittingly works to validate her fears of being left out.
  • Funny Background Event: In the tag, Regular!Troy and Abed are watching Inspector Spacetime, introduced in the season premiere.
    • In the true timeline, when everyone is dancing, you can spot Pierce taking the troll doll out of the trash and throwing it out the window instead.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: In the canon storyline, when everyone is calling Jeff out on his manipulation for not getting the pizza in the other storylines, according to the closed captions, someone in the group called him an "asshole".
  • Good Samaritan: Annie, who we learn had to apply a tourniquet to a stabbing victim outside her apartment.
  • Held Gaze: Lampshaded by Shirley, who calls the group a bunch of horny toads making googly eyes at each other. Like in Romantic Expressionism, another set of glances go around, starting with Jeff/Annie and then going from Troy/Britta and ending with Troy/Abed (who does his eyebrow thing again.). On top of that, several of the alternate timelines have Jeff and Annie staring schmoopily at each other and every time they do so, Shirley excuses herself to check on her pies.
  • High-Pressure Blood: The fountain of blood coming from Pierce's leg spreads right up into Shirley's face.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Discussing Shirley's 'baking problem':
    Jeff: I don't like being the bad guy more than anyone.
    Britta: ROXA—
    Jeff:: [Brutally] No.
    • Related to this, Jeff is adamant that Shirley is "not allowed an identity around baking!" Given that we learn in this episode that Jeff keeps his toiletries locked up in a safe, which one way or another suggests incredible vanity, he's probably not the best person to be making decisions about what other people are allowed to base their identities on.
    • Britta says Abed asking what she was doing in the bathroom isn't dignified, then immediately does a very goofy song and dance routine when the pizza arrives. Though it turns out it because she just got done smoking some pot.
    • Seeing as Britta sneaks off to smoke pot, Shirley isn't the only one with a baking problem.
  • In Spite of a Nail: See "Out of Order" on "Competitive Ecology". Despite neither event taking place in this episode's true timeline, in seems that at some point Pierce tells his Eartha Kitt story and Shirley catches Britta getting high.
  • Instant Turn-Off: While Jeff and Annie make out, Jeff is greatly turned off when Annie tells him that his protective instinct reminds her of her father.
  • Irony:
    • In Timeline 5, Troy rushes out of the room to get the pizzas in order to ensure he doesn't miss anything. He not only consequently goes on to miss the most chaotic, action-filled and destructive of all seven times, but in rushing out the door he accidentally triggers Abed's Indiana Jones boulder model, which initiates the entire Disaster Dominoes process. He is thus directly responsible for everything he ended up missing directly because of his eagerness not to miss anything.
    • In six of the seven timelines, Pierce latches on to any feeble pretext to bring up the story of the time he had sex with Eartha Kitt in an airplane bathroom, justifying it by claiming a natural opening appeared in the conversation. In the seventh timeline, a natural opening does actually appear when Troy compares Jeff to an airplane bathroom — but Pierce is cut off before he can reveal the story and doesn't get another chance.
    • Pierce, in one timeline, derides Annie's gun as a "lady's peashooter." Said peashooter kills him in Timeline 5.
  • Killed Off for Real: Pierce in Timeline 5 after being shot in the leg.
  • Killing Your Alternate Self: Evil!Abed upon deducing they occupy an evil timeline: go back to the "prime" timeline, kill their counterparts, and assume their normal lives.
  • Lame Pun Reaction: Defied by Jeff:
    Jeff: Shirley just had a mental breakdown.
    Pierce: More like a mental-
    Jeff: BAKEdown, I know, I didn't say it on purpose.
  • Libation for the Dead: Evil!Shirley pours one out for Pierce. May he Rest In Pierce.
  • Love at First Sight: Britta and the pizza man.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: We never find out if the alternate timelines truly exist or if they're just part of Abed's imagination. later episodes with the Evil Study Group leave it ambiguous as well, although the latter suggests it's Jeff imagining them instead of Abed.
  • Mile-High Club: In six of the seven timelines Pierce shoehorns in his story about having airplane bathroom sex with Eartha Kitt.
  • Missing the Good Stuff: In Timeline 5 Troy has to go get the pizza, saying "I'm gonna go as fast as I can so I don't miss anything." He comes back to find Pierce shot, the apartment on fire, etc.
  • Mood Killer: Troy & Britta and Jeff & Annie bond because Pierce isn't there trying to be the center of attention.
  • My Significance Sense Is Tingling: In the final scene, Abed in the prime timeline, while watching TV with Troy, somehow senses the birth of "Evil Troy" and "Evil Abed" in the "dark timeline". Abed doesn't know what the feeling is though and dismisses it as "nothing".
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!:
    • A downplayed example. Annie removes the brick propping open the apartment door because she reasons that it might allow undesirables to enter the building. Abed points out that it was also what was allowing their guests to enter the building without someone constantly going up and down to the door to let them in. Furthermore, the fact that the brick isn't there to let the pizza man come up kicks off the die roll that creates the seven different timelines.
    • Also downplayed: Jeff colludes with the other members of the group to secretly refuse to eat the food that Shirley bakes in order to get her to confront her excessive baking. In the timeline where this is revealed, Shirley storms out angrily. In another timeline, Shirley reveals that the only reason she bakes so much is that she fears that the other members exclude her and baking is her way of feeling included. Jeff's plan unwittingly validated Shirley's insecurities.
    • Jeff stopping Britta from singing along to "Roxanne" turns out to be a mood killer for the party.
  • Nightmare Fuel: In-Universe, Pierce's Norwegian troll doll which literally gave Troy nightmares when it was placed outside his bedroom at Pierce's.
    • Abed's attempt at a smile, which looks more like barely restrained murderous rage.
  • "Not Important to This Episode" Camp: This episode features only the study group, and thus neither Ben Chang, nor the recently promoted to the opening titles Craig Pelton appear.
  • Off the Wagon: Shirley in the evil timeline tag.
  • On Second Thought:
    Abed: Tonight we offer something far more than boobs and billiards.
    Jeff: What?
    Troy: One word, two syllables.
    Jeff: Don't say "charades."
    Troy and Abed: Yahtzee!
    Jeff: Is charades off the table?
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Averted big time in Timeline 5 when Pierce only gets shot in the leg and dies.
    • It probably didn't help that at the time, the apartment was on fire, and he was obviously the one who'd be least likely to escape it. Crosses into Fridge Horror over how exactly he died.
    • Alternate possibility: Pierce appears to be bleeding from his upper leg, so the bullet may have hit his femoral artery which would cause him to bleed out very quickly.
  • Out of Order: With the previously aired episode "Competitive Ecology", which was ordered by Harmon due to fears that this episode wouldn't be complete in time.
  • Pizza Boy Special Delivery: Pierce mentions that all the good-looking pizza delivery guys must have gone into porn.
  • The Pratfall: Annie pulls off a magnificent one that would have made Pierce proud. That is if she hadn't accidentally shot him while doing it.
  • Reality Ensues: The Stinger shows off the grim aftereffects of Timeline 5: Pierce died from his gunshot wound, Annie went mad with guilt, Shirley became a drunk, Troy destroyed his voicebox after trying to eat the troll, Jeff lost an arm in the fire, and Britta put a blue streak in her hair.
  • Reliably Unreliable Guns: The plot demands that Annie's gun goes off after her purse falls down. "Safety on", my dear.
  • Room Full of Crazy: The episode's creation resulted in a minor Real Life version, apparently.
  • Running Gag: Several, given the nature of the episode, but the most notable is Pierce finding an opportunity in every timeline to mention how he had sex with Eartha Kitt in an airplane bathroom. And Jeff hitting his head on the ceiling fan.
  • Sarcasm Mode:
    Jeff: Of course I am, Abed.
  • Schrödinger's Gun: A literal interpretation of the trope, the gun only goes off in one timeline.
  • Ship Tease: Troy and Britta have a heart-to-heart in the bathroom, Jeff/Annie have moments in almost all of the timelines and make out in one, and Jeff/Annie, Jeff/Britta, Britta/Troy and Troy/Abed share googly eyes. The apparent offer for Annie to move in with Abed and Troy also helps the chances of Abed/Annie and Annie/Troy happening in the future. Also, everything to do with Troy and Abed's apartment is awash with HoYay.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The song "Roxanne" by The Police (which plays on an iPod speaker in six of the seven timelines) becomes this in Timeline 5 during the chaos that erupts with Pierce being shot and the apartment catching on fire.
  • Shout-Out: Abed has a model of the boulder scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark.
  • Squick: Jeff is greatly turned off when Annie tells him that his protective instinct reminds her of her father. invoked
  • Status Quo Is God: In the Prime timeline all the conflict, Ship Tease and Character Development of the other timelines is avoided.
  • Stealth Pun:
    • One of the sources of tension throughout the episode is what is described as Shirley's baking problem. In several of the timelines, Britta also has a bit of a problem with getting baked.
    • Whenever "Roxanne" by the Police comes on the mp3 player, Britta begins to sing along, but is bluntly ordered not to by Jeff. Essentially, he's acting as the behaviour police.
  • Super Reflexes: Abed catching the die in midair is much more impressive when you consider that he did it after coming to the conclusion that the group shouldn't fight against the chaos of the universe, and that Jeff was manipulating them so he wouldn't have to get the pizza. And he had roughly 3 seconds to come to these revelations.
  • Take Another Option: In the 'true' timeline, Abed grabs the die before it hits the table, noting that A: too much of their lives is run by fate already and B: Jeff is a conniving son of a bitch for using a method that ensures he'll never have to get the pizza.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball / Anachronic Order: This particular theory.
    Dan Harmon: "Is timeline 1 real? Is Evil Abed out there? Those are really, really good questions that I think only a really, really good show would answer. Enjoy."
  • Too Good to Be True: Jeff fails to notice something off about the club he's received an invite to:
    Jeff: Look at this place. It's like it was designed for me.
    Abed: It was. I made that in Photoshop and mailed it to you a month ago so you'd keep tonight open on your calendar.
    Jeff: There's no such thing as Single-Malt-Platinum-Boobs-And-Billards Club?! [Realizes] Oh. I guess I never said it out loud.
  • The Unsmile: Abed pulls an absolutely terrifying one when he and Troy open the door for Annie and Britta.
  • Values Dissonance: Invoked; Troy and Abed discuss a handbook they consulted for advice on how to act as hosts for their party. The first piece of advice was "dress to impress". The second was "avoid touchy subjects like 'the Negro problem'". Turns out it was written in the 1940s.
  • Vapor Trail: Britta causes a fire in timeline 5 this way.
  • Watching Troy Burn: Troy in the darkest timeline, followed by a Big "NO!".
  • Wham Line: Abed tells Annie "You should move here".

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